COUNTY LONGFORD A focal point of the northern midlands where the provinces of Leinster, Ulster and Connaught converge, Longford, where history and literature, tragedy and triumph are all woven together, takes its name from the ancient stronghold of the O’Farrell family (Long Fort – Fort of the O’Farrells).
Bordered to the west by the majestic River Shannon, Longford is a county of rolling plains and picturesque stretches of water, of quiet farmlands and brown bog, with occasional low hills and pleasant views of lake and river. It is bordered by Counties Leitrim, Cavan, Westmeath and Roscommon – being separated from County Roscommon on the west by the River Shannon and its lakes. The highest point of the county, Cairn Hill, is only 279m high, but from atop the summit glorious views in all directions are afforded. Farbuide Fer Benn, renowned in Irish mythology for revenging the death of his mother who was killed by Queen Maeve, is supposedly buried here. The county offers angling, hunting and shooting, and should interest the lover of literature in the association with Oliver Goldsmith, Maria Edgeworth, John Casey and Padraic Colum. The general aspect of the county of Longford, viewed from a height on a fine summers day, is inviting and pleasing. Taking one’s stand on the summit of Lisduff, and looking due north, the visitor will see a deep rolling plain stretch out before him for a distance of perhaps ten kms. bounded by historic Cairn Hill. On the right and left of this hill the country slopes down to a fertile level plain, beautifully wooded, through which the Camlin flows to the Shannon. In a north eastern direction the rising country about Granard looms up in a succession of hazy hillocks, with bright green pastures and dark green plantations. Looking to the east is the view of Ardagh’s woody heights, beyond which lies a lovely stretch of fertile country.
The present county came into being under the Tudors in 1547, based largely on a region which had previously been known after two of its most prominent rulers, Queen Teffia(pre 800 AD) and King Annaly (post 800 AD). From the eleventh century the region has been ruled by the descendants of Ferghall (‘the valiant one’), a hero of the Battle of Clontarf (1014 AD), who had marched westwards and forcibly taken control of the area.
It was in Longford that some of the fiercest fighting of the 1798 rebellion took place when the ‘Year of the French’ came to a bloody end at Ballinamuck, where Edgeworth and Goldsmith were inspired to write several of the most acclaimed works of the English language and where General Sean MacEoin, ‘the Blacksmith of Ballinalee’ conducted the War of Independence with cunning and bravery during the early 1920′s. Longford’s motto emblazoned across its county crest declares it to be Daingean agus Dilis – Strong and Loyal; without doubt it has lived up to its self-set standards and profoundly influenced the Ireland of today.
North County Longford is sometimes described as a fisherman’s paradise due to the lakes of the Upper Erne system commonly grouped together as Lough Gowna and the many lakes which straddle the Longford Leitrim border. In addition to fishing amenities, there is beautiful scenery for walking, cycling and horse riding, dotted with archaeological and historical sites.