County Leitrim

Worth seeing on any Ireland tours.

County Leitrim is a maritime county in the province of Connacht, with an area of 613 square miles, it has the smallest population (25,815 @ 2002 census).  Historically, the reason for so few inhabitants was that the county’s poorly drained land forced many to leave in search of a better living elsewhere.  Because of this, the county’s landscape, which is divided into two separate sections north and south of Lough Allen, remains unspoiled and majestic.  The name comes from Liath Druim, the gray ridge, suggesting the hilly terrain that takes up much of the county.  Interspersed, however, are a number of coarse angling lakes (Melvin, Macnean, Allen, and Gill), which it shares with Roscommon, Fermanagh, and Sligo.

Traditionally, Leitrim was the territory of the O’Rourkes of Breifne, but the areas around the eastern end of Lough Gill were taken over by the English Jacobean planters in the early seventeenth century.  An English settler built Parke’s Castle around 1620 on Lough Gill.  Excavations in the 1980s showed this to be the site of the home of Brian, one of the last O’Rourke chieftains.

Leitrim has the shortest coastline of any Irish maritime county, a mere three miles near Tullaghan, where it is wedged between Sligo and Donegal.  Its main boating activity is based in the fine inland marina at Carrick-on Shannon, the county capital.  Leitrim’s second major town is Manorhamilton.  Dromahair has a seventeenth century castle and the fine Franciscan friary of Creevelea, one of the last houses of the order to be founded before the Reformation.  The accomplished stained glass artist Wilhelmina Geddes (1887-1955) was a native of Drumreilly, and the writer most associated with the county is John McGahern who, though born in Dublin, has made his home on a farm near Fenagh.