Situated in the province of Leinster, County Longford is characterized primarily by flat and agricultural land. A few hills make up the northern lands of the county, while low-lying land comprises much of the topography in the southern areas of Longford. Over the course of the year, temperatures in Longford range from 36 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average high of 62 degrees in the summer, and an average high of 49 degrees during the winter. It is recommended for tourists to visit the county from late June to late August, as temperatures tend to be more decent compared to other seasons of the year. Many of the main attractions in the county are historical sites or outdoor attractions where visitors can explore the area. Quaker Island is a particular place that many people visit to view Longford’s landscape and scenery. For those who take interest in learning more about the county’s history, the Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Center strives to teach about the site’s historical significance.
County Longford, located in the central northern region of Ireland, derives its name from the town of Longford. “Longphort” is the county’s Gaelic name, which signifies a fortress; however, from the 9th to the 15th centuries, County Longford was known as “Annaly.” Longford originally referred to old circular forts, then, later on, it referred to stone castles. As reported by the 2022 census, the population totals 46,634 residents, making Longford the second smallest of the 32 counties by population. With regards to the county’s size, Longford is the fourth smallest county in Ireland, additionally being the fourth smallest of Leinster’s 12 counties by size and population.
One notable attraction located in Longford is Quaker Island, a nature area where visitors can explore the county’s environment. Quaker Island is comprised primarily of grasslands with some trees and shrubbery along the wetland shores. Another area that draws a considerable amount of tourists is the Knights & Conquests Heritage Center, adjacent to Ireland’s tallest Norman Motte. This medieval expedition is interactive and the theme encompasses Norman Motte and the Viking legacy in southern Italy.
A number of attractions can be found throughout the county, especially those of a historical sense. One such attraction is the Center Parcs, located near Ballymahon. A variety of indoor and outdoor activities are provided at the Center Parcs, in addition to a dome-covered swimming pool. Nearly 400 lodges are provided for visitors to rent as well, some of which contain steam baths, hot tubs, and saunas. The Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Center is another attraction that tourists can visit, as it teaches guests about the history of the village. The center is an old schoolhouse that has previously hosted several musicians and artists including Oliver Goldsmith, Maria Edgeworth, Turlough O’Carolan, and Sir Walter Scott. Also occupying land in the village’s nearby surroundings of Ardagh are two churches, a clock tower, and the ruins of the St. Mel’s Cathedral.
The topography of County Longford is primarily flat with an abundance of agricultural land. Agriculture is one of the most prominent aspects of County Longford and it fuels the economy significantly. Nearly 67.6% of the county’s area as a whole is farmlands, totaling about 73,764 hectares. Furthermore, approximately 126,904 cattle reside in the county as well. Raising cattle is one of the biggest focuses of some Longford farmers, mainly for the reason of exporting them to the richer and larger farms of Meath. Most farms cover an expanse of about 30 acres, with some of the major crops being oats and potatoes.
The northern third of the county is comprised of some hills, forming a portion of the drumlin belt and Esker Riada, which stretch across the northern midlands of Ireland. Low-lying land makes up much of the topography in the southern parts of Longford, with expanses of bogland areas. Longford’s border with the neighboring county Roscommon is made up of the river Shannon. The rivers Inny and Tang, on the other hand, make up a sizable portion of the borders with Westmeath. A fair amount of lakes are also scattered throughout the county, namely Lough Ree in the south where Longford, Roscommon, and Westmeath meet, Kinale Lough, Lough Gowna on the Cavan border, and, finally, Lough Forbes on the Roscommon border.
Longford’s summer season tends to be relatively long with cooler temperatures, similar to the winter season, which is also long and cold, typically with a fair amount of windier days that receive a considerable amount of precipitation. Year-round, the weather is generally cloudy and temperatures vary from 36 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm season, from June to September, has an average daily high temperature above 62 degrees Fahrenheit, with the hottest month being July. This particular month averages a high of 66 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 53 degrees. From November to March, which is considered the cold season, temperatures reach a daily high of about 49 degrees, though January, the coldest month of the year, has an average high of around 45 degrees. Based on the tourism score from those who previously visited Longford, the best time of year to visit the county is presumably between late June and late August, especially for those who are hoping to engage in outdoor, warm-weather activities.
The time period between the 9th and the 15th centuries was when Longford had been known as “Annaly.” The Norman Invasion took place in the 12th century, which resulted in Hugh de Lacy taking over the county as part of the Liberty of Meath. It wasn’t until the year 1856 that Longford had officially become a county, during the reign of Elizabeth I. During the 16th and early 17th centuries, English settlers inhabited Longford. Later on, the county’s involvement in the Catholic Confederacy took place in 1641, defeated by Cromwell in 1649. The population increased from 107,570 people in 1821 to 115,491 in 1841. During a tragic event known as the Great Famine, which lasted from 1845 to 1847, a significant decrease in the population dropped the number of inhabitants to 82,348 in 1851.
One of Longford’s most historically significant sites is said to be the St. Mel’s Cathedral, which was a church of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, built between 1840 and 1856. The architectural design of the stone building is neoclassical. Harry Clarke studios designed the tainted glass windows in the transepts of the structure. The site has been considered by many to be Longford’s “landmark building,” “one of the finest catholic churches in Ireland,” and the “flagship cathedral” of the Irish midlands region. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mel, who came to Ireland with St. Patrick and was additionally ordained bishop at Ardagh in County Longford.
Much of County Longford’s early history is evident within the various sites that can be found throughout Longford, as well as Christian and medieval monasteries such as Abbeylara, Ardagh, Abbeyshrule, and Saints Island. One particular draw for those who appeal to such history of County Longford is the remains of a wooden Iron Age bog road in Kenagh at the Corlea Trackway Visitor Center. These remains are said to date back to 148 BC.
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