History

Ireland’s Ancient East Connecting 5,000 years of history and creating a never to be forgotten experience on Ireland’s East coast. The Boyne valley offers more than enough activities for the visitor to immerse themselves in the history and culture that makes Ireland such a unique destination to visit.

The Boyne River is the key to unlocking this part of the Ancient East. Rising in Kildare and flowing 70 miles through Meath and entering the sea at Louth it provides one of the most concentrated areas of heritage on the planet!

Boyne River – The Boyne river and its valley has a rich archaeological, historical, and legendary legacy.

The ancient sites at Bru na Boinne and Loughcrew, the Battle of the Boyne, the Hill of Tara where the ancient kings of Ireland were said to sit, the town of Kells (remember the book of Kells!),Trim castle, Slane castle, Mellifont Abbey and the medieval town of Drogheda. Legend says that the Fionn Mac Cumhaill discovered the salmon of knowledge in the Boyne river and thus created the most intelligent of Irish people in the Boyne valley! Throw in the discovery of ancient log boats and Viking ships and you can see how important the Boyne river has been to the people of the area over thousands of years.

Boyne Canal – Construction began in 1748 to connect the towns of Drogheda, Navan and Trim and ultimately the plan was to connect on to the Royal canal and the Shannon. However only two section were completed: The lower section connecting Drogheda to Slane (1760s) and the upper section connecting Slane to Navan (1800). The canal was never a commercial success but it did help to open up county Meath more and made it easier for goods to be transported to market.

The canal was transferred into private ownership in 1915 and fell into disrepair over the subsequent years until it was bought by An Taisce for £1 in 1969. Work is ongoing to restore sections of the canal with the first section at Oldbridge nearly finished by a voluntary group led by the Inland Waterways of Ireland – IWAI Boyne Navigation Branch. In 2016 it is hoped to be able to travel by small boat from the sea through Drogheda, around the Battle of the Boyne and on to Bru na Boinne.

Bru na Boinne – UNESCO world heritage site with the ancient monuments of Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth at its heart. Pre-dating the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge these passage tombs offer a unique insight into the lives of our ancestors and the importance they placed on their location both physically and spiritually. Situated only 4km upstream from the Battle of the Boyne.

Battle of the Boyne painting

Battle of the Boyne

As the only major river system/natural boundary between Dublin and the North of Ireland it is no wonder the Boyne plays a big part in our recent history. The forces of King William III and King James II battled it out in 1690 to decide who would be King of England. The battle was the single largest gathering of troops ever on the island of Ireland with 60,000 on the battlefield. The result of which still resonates today.

Ireland’s very own game of thrones!

Summary of the Battle of The Boyne

King William’s forces reached the Boyne on 29 June and set up camp at Tullyallen on the northern side of the river Boyne. On the day before the battle – June 30th – King William was fortunate to escape with his life when he was hit by an artillery shell on the shoulder whilst surveying the potential fording points for the crossing of his force. How different history may have been if he had sustained fatal wounds, we will never know?

The battle took place on July 1st 1690 according to the old calendar or July 11th on the new one. Where the modern day Boyne canal navigation loops around Oldbridge House is where the river was at its shallowest and thus provided the best place to ford the river. It was at this point, where the fighting began and the Williamite force crossed the river Boyne.

In what proved to be a decisive move, William sent a quarter of his men upstream to cross at Roughgrange and attempt to flank the Jacobite forces. In reply, James sent half of his force to repel such an advance. In the end neither gained from the movements as the poor ground and deep ravine forced the combatants into a stalemate. The effect was to leave James with a more weakened force to defend Oldbridge.

Wiliam’s forces led by General Schomberg pushed across the river and came under sustained, heavy fire. During this initial assault, General Schomberg was fatally wounded but once the Williamite horses had crossed the ford they were able to hold off the Jacobite defences and push them back to Donore.

For such a large scale battle there were relatively few casualties. 1,500 on the Jacobite side to 500 on the Williamite side. Much of this is owed to the skill of the Jacobite cavalry to counter attack and defend the retreating Jacobite army from the oncoming Williamite forces.

The lasting effect was to disperse the Jacobite force and give the Williamite forces control of Dublin. This left Ireland under the rule of the protestant king William and solidified a division between Catholic and Protestant citizens for hundreds of years to follow, most recently felt in the North of Ireland during the ‘Troubles’in the latter stages of the 20th century.