New York’s pretty close to Ireland so I get a lot of requests from friends for what to see and do while they’re visiting. Itineraries almost always starts and end in Dublin and I’m happy to simply forward my list of Dublin favourites which I update anyway during each visit. Recently, however, I finally had a chance to share another list, covering where I grew up: in and around Drogheda. Of course, Newgrange was (quite rightly) the primary reason for the visit but there was a hotel booked, time to be spent in the town itself, and recommendations were sought.
My list is reproduced below but, first, why was a request for Drogheda recommendations so long coming? As a large-ish, historic town situated only thirty minutes by train from the capital Drogheda could be flooded with visitors: smaller towns in remote parts of country (Kenmare, Lisdoonvarna, Carlingford, etc.) offer a lot more to visitors without having anything like the the mind-blowing attraction of Newgrange nearby. However, public transport is poor: the express train only runs a few times each day from a small station located almost 2km outside the town centre and those hoping for a bus onwards to Newgrange will, if they can find it at all, discover the schedule bearing little relation to the visitor centre’s opening hours. Consequently, Newgrange has become, for tourists, a day trip from Dublin before they hit the rest of the country rather than a short excursion from the town itself (a pattern repeated across Ireland but it does seems particularly unfortunate in the example of Drogheda, situated on a major train line so close to Dublin).
Thanks partly to this, Drogheda’s really only worth a half day or so in conjunction with Newgrange and Carlingford – but here’s how you can spend that time well (note that this list is short on pubs only because most of my friends back home live in Dublin – suggestions welcome):
- You’ll get a good lunch at Bare Food Company on West Street, the town’s main drag.
- Traders Coffee House, at the westernmost end of West Street near The Tholsel (now a tourist information office – formerly a toll booth, a bank, place of execution…basically, worth popping inside) serves the only decent (and occasionally very good) coffee in town.
- See what’s on show at The Highlanes Gallery. They operate on strange opening hours so check their website first.
- St. Peter’s Catholic Church, on West Street, is famous for housing the remains of St. Oliver Plunkett – specifically, his head. Free, and not as gruesome as it sounds.
- View the Boyne Viaduct from one of the town’s many bridges. It’s a railway bridge connecting Dublin with Belfast and was one of the largest of its kind in the world when it was built back in the 1850s.
- For dinner, go to Eastern Seaboard beside the train station. They offer good, modern Irish food and drink in a bustling, warehouse-like space. It’s as close to Brooklyn as you’ll find in Drogheda. Call ahead to reserve as it’s very popular.
- If Eastern Seaboard is full, consider:
- D’Vine on the quays north of the river (a few minutes walk from West Street). It’s a mish mash of Italian and Irish but pretty decent and serves local beer too.
- Scholars Townhouse, a few minutes walk north of West Street. I’ve only been for Sunday lunch but it was excellent.
If it’s a nice day and you’ve a few hours to kill, consider walking or bicycling along the banks of the River Boyne on the Boyneside Trail. From town, you can access it from the Ramparts Park on the south side of the river. This will take you all the way to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre and under the Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Bridge. In fact, you might consider spending the morning at Newgrange before finding a ride down to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre – roughly a ten minutes drive – and walking along the river into town.