24 hours in Monaghan: Family magic and modern Irish food
Monaghan offers a host of things to do and fun for the family within a short drive, says Jillian Bolger
Jillian Bolger maps out hours of family magic around Co Monaghan.
Get a sense of Monaghan's famously hilly topography with a morning's exploration on two wheels. Drumlin Trails, in Emyvale, offers bike and electric bike hire (a cinch on those hill climbs) alongside an app with scenic routes from 6km to 65km. Click your screen to enjoy a narrative by local amateur historian, Paddy McQuaid, revealing each route's secrets.
How: drumlintrails.com; bike hire from €15 per day (electric bikes from €35). Child seats and trailers available.
Step back in time at Monaghan County Museum, where a Monaghan Spitfire exhibition centres around life on the border during World War II, and the RAF aircraft that plunged into an Emyvale field in 1942. The collection of eye witness reports, artefacts, historical documents, weapons and local memorabilia will fascinate all ages.
How: monaghan.ie/museum, open Mon-Fri, 11am-5pm and Sat 12-5pm. Free entry.
Time for lunch, and the excellent pastries, sourdough sambos, quiches, soups and cakes at Matilda's Artisan Bakery in Carrickmacross are worth the drive. Afterwards head around the corner to Carrickmacross Workhouse, one of 130 poorhouses built across Ireland in the 1840s. One of only a few that's been restored, a tour here reveals the realities of life for 2,000 destitute men, women and children 'inmates'.
How: €6pp (one-hour tours); Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm.
Unleash your sense of adventure with an exhilarating quad biking session. With a 100pc safety record, the pros at Irish Country Quads train you thoroughly before taking you out on a fun off-road obstacle course on this all-terrain vehicle. It's a brilliant bonding experience in all weather and younger kids can ride with staff, if they wish.
How: irishcountryquads.com offers a range of activities, including quad biking from €45pp for a 1-hour session; €30 for under-12s.
Rossmore Forest Park, just outside Monaghan Town, has a new resident giant that the kids will love. Roddy Den Drum (geddit?) is the first of 10 Drumlin Giants to be created here. Once the estate of the Rossmore family, trails take you past barely-there remnants of their 19th-century castle. Colourful azaleas and rhododendrons, a yew walk, picnic tables and lakes make it a haven for wildlife and birds.
How: coillteoutdoors.ie; 8am-4pm (winter); free.
Monaghan Spice is the kind of curry house every neighbourhood should have. Its Bangladeshi team whips up aromatic and outstanding dishes, from Indian classics to signature nawabi khana and Parsi curries. Children are made especially welcome and you'll leave here envying the locals who frequent this gem.
How: monaghanspice.ie, open 7 days for dinner.
Three to try
A top class adventure playground, Castleblayney is justifiably proud of Wilbert's Enchanted Garden, at Lough Muckno Leisure Park. When the kids tire of sand pits, zip wires and climbing frames you can explore the 900 acres of woodland in this popular walking spot. It's open all the time during daylight hours.
Moving to a bright new space in Market Square, tiny Carrickmacross Lace Gallery celebrates the ornate lace first made in the town in the 1820s. As well as beautiful pieces on display, you may be lucky to see a lace maker in action. Open Mon-Sat, 9.30am-5.30pm; see carrickmacrosslace.ie for more info.
Traditional and welcoming, with a good pool, golf course and helpful staff, the 4-star Nuremore Hotel & Country Club (nuremore.com) outside Carrickmacross has two nights' B&B and one evening meal from €350 per family. Gartland House (gartlandhouse.com; €35pp) is a comfy B&B offering a warm welcome near Ballybay.
Fancy a paddle? On Dromore River, loquacious local Oliver Gibson will take you out on two aluminium canoes he's cleverly connected, so a group can row together, stopping en route for a picnic in this untouched part of the county. Just magical. Prices from €20pp; allow three hours. Book with Oliver (086 083 5748) at Gartland House.
Conor Mee's modern Irish cooking at his Courthouse Restaurant (courthouserestaurant.ie) in Carrickmacross is special. Front-of-house, Charlotte Carr makes sure the imaginative menus meet warm hospitality.
Jillian Bolger and family travelled as guests of Monaghan Tourism. To plan your visit and for additional itinerary ideas, events and activities see monaghantourism.ie.
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