Known as Ireland’s ‘Lake Country’, Cavan is a dream destination for anyone with a penchant for the outdoors. Obviously, angling, boating and hiking are top pastimes in Cavan, but that’s only the beginning. The countryside is also sprinkled with quaint towns, prehistoric stone circles and charming B&Bs. With roots going back to the days of the druids, Cavan has been a key player in Irish history for millennia – even into the 20th-century uprisings that ultimately led to Irish independence. In so many words, there’s something in County Cavan to interest just about anyone.
Visitors who don’t drive into Cavan from Dublin or another nearby city typically arrive by bus. Hourly buses arrive from Dublin (2 hours), with other daily routes to Donegal (2 hours), Belfast (3 hours) and Galway (3 hours, 15 minutes). The bus station is on Farnham Street, roughly 3 km from the Cavan rental car depot on Dublin Road.
This is a particularly rural stretch of Irish countryside, punctuated by the Ciuilcagh Mountains and cut by the rivers Erne and Annalee. The actual town of Cavan is a natural base from which to base excursions into the countryside. With that in mind, you’ll probably spend the odd afternoon or evening shopping and exploring the town. However, most visitors rent a car and immediately head for countryside.
Cavan town lies at the intersection of the N3 and the N54. In town, the N3 becomes Dublin Road, which is one of the major thoroughfares through town and, as you probably guessed, ultimately leads to Dublin. Farnham Street and Ballinagh Road are also prominent avenues through the town centre. There is ample parking available in the town centre.
One of the main attractions in the town centre is what remains of the old Franciscan friary (also known as St Mary’s Abbey). It was built in the 1300s and all that remains of the original structure is the prominent bell tower. However, as you drive through the town centre, you’ll note a several historic structures built from stone. Many of these used stones from the ruins of the Abbey. In a sense, the abbey lives on in the architecture of Cavan town.
Cavan also has a long history of crystal production. The local crystal factory is the second-oldest of its kind in Ireland, and visitors can examine and purchase local wares at the Cavan Crystal Showroom on Dublin Road. Traditionally produced Cavan crystal is mouth-blown and hand-cut, and the craftsmanship is second to none.
While driving around town, you’ll notice several attractive buildings, including the Cavan Courthouse and the Cathedral of Saints Patrick and Felim (both on Farnham Street). Even more impressive is the Cathedral of St Feidhlimidh, which is located a few kilometres south-west of Cavan in the town of Kilmore. It’s famous for its Romanesque arch, which was actually built for St Mary’s Abbey before it was moved here in the 15th century.
As mentioned, the best of Cavan is found in the countryside. Whether you’re on casting a line in one of 366 county lakes or hiking through the mountains, you’ll need access to four-wheeled transport to make it happen. With so many outdoor activities to enjoy, you’ll get plenty of use out of your Cavan hire car.
There is plenty to tempt into the surrounding countryside. Anglers will find outfitters in the town centre that can set them up with fishing tackle and advise them on applying for permits. Furthermore, there are several tour operators who can organise in-depth and fully catered fishing outings.
Golfing is popular in the area as well – and a morning on a local course is worth it for the views alone. Belturbet Golf Course, the Championship Golf Course at Slieve Russell Hotel and Cavan Golf Course are all popular courses. You can also arrange to go horseback riding in the county. Cavan Equestrian Centre is the largest operation in town, and it’s easily taking Cathedral Road north of the town centre.If you’re keen on exploring on foot, head to Dún an Rí Forest Park, just north-east of Kingscourt. A network of well-maintained walking trails ties this 225-hectare park together. You’ll also spot plenty of wildlife in the area (particular birds, otters and mink).
Finally, be sure to leave time to visit Lough Oughter. This is one of the most scenic lakes in the countryside, highlighted by a man made island crowned with the spectacularly ruined Cloughoughter Castle. Most of its construction was carried out by the O’Reilly clan, and it later served as a stronghold of Irish revolutionaries in the 1600s.
Whether you are interested in angling, mountain biking, hiking or golfing, County Cavan has several days’ worth of activities on tap for you. Better yet, Cavan is still relatively unknown to tourists. With a hire car in Cavan, you’ll be able to explore the surroundings at your own pace and without having to fuss with public transport schedules or lay out extra funds to join organised tours. There’s no better way to tour the county.
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