The North Midlands Lakes
Lough Ennell, Lough Owel, Lough Derravaragh and Lough Lene.
Lough Ramor, the northernmost of the big Midlands Lakes, is one of the largest lakes in County Cavan stretching approx. 7km in length by 1km at the narrowest point and feeds into the Blackwater and Boyne river systems. It is a popular lake with anglers and a wide variety of fish species are to be found including pike, bream, roach, hybrids, trout and eel. Some record catches have been recorded in recent times, and most noted with visiting anglers from Britain.. It is particularly popular for pike fishing.
Corronagh Forest Park near Virginia is the location of a number of large wooden vacation “cabins”.
Munterconnaught (Muintir Connacht) is a civil and ecclesiastical parish of County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland. It is located between the southern shores of Lough Ramor and the county boundary with County Meath.
The name Munterconnaught has often been mistaken as being derived from the Irish Muintir meaning people and Connacht being the western province. However, it actually has nothing to do with this and is named after Choncur, one of the 13 sons of the O’Reilly’s of Breffni. The O’Reilly Clan ruled the area of Cavan and Leitrim which was known as Breffni for centuries.
Munterconnaught consists of drumlin country, lush farmland and lakeshore.
Munterconnaught is one of the few locations in Ireland to have early census returns that survive. The destruction of the Public Records Office in the Four Courts in 1922 destroyed all surviving Irish census records from before the 1901 census, and most Church of Ireland records, with rare exceptions. Munterconnaught’s census records from 1821 survived the inferno significantly intact along with some other parishes in Cavan.
Munterconnaught’s Gaelic Athletic Association club has won many championships and leagues since its re-affiliation in 1969. The team was originally formed in 1926 but records date the playing of some form of football in Munterconnaught as early as the 1860s. Munterconnaught GFC was featured in an advertising campaign by Coca-Cola sports drink Powerade in 2008 which described the underdog GAA club as a ‘never give up’ team.
Church of Ireland parish
Munterconnaught Parish Church, Knockatemple was built in 1831. It is one of the Church of Ireland places of worship in the Virginia Group of Parishes in the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh. The other churches in the group are Lurgan Parish Church in Virginia (built 1821), Killinkere Parish Church (built 1817), and Billis Church (built 1844). The four churches were amalgamated under one incumbency in 1972.
Munterconnaught Parish Church , County Cavan (1831). Munterconnaught church was built in 1831 as a Chapel-of-Ease for Virginia Parish church to provide a place of worship for Anglicans who live on the other side of Lough Ramor.
Roman Catholic parish
The Roman Catholic Parish of Castlerahan and Munterconnaught is one of the parishes in the Diocese of Kilmore. St. Bartholomew’s Church, Knockatemple (built 1847) is the Munterconnaught part of the parish, and St. Mary’s Church, Castlerahan (built 1834) and St. Joseph’s Church, Ballyjamesduff (built 1966) are in the Castlerahan part of the parish.
Lough Sheelin (Loch Síodh Linn – “lake of the fairy pool”) is a limestone freshwater lake straddling the borders of Counties Meath, Westmeath and Cavan near the town of Granard in County Longford. The lake is over 7km long, more than 3km wide and covers an area of 1800 with extensive shallows, islands and rocky shores fringed with woodlands.
According to legend the lake was originally a fairy well that villagers were allowed to use as a water supply on condition the lid was replaced every time water was drawn from it; one day, a woman forgot to replace the lid and the waters gushed out, drowned the entire village and thus created the lake.
Church Island, the largest island in the lake, formerly called Inis Oughter (upper island), has the remains of an early Christian oratory dating from the C5th AD.
Louth Sheelin lay in the ancient territory of Cairbe Ui Gaibre, a principality centred around Granard in Co. Longford. This was part of the kingdom of Breifne, the traditional territory for an early tribal group known as the Uí Briúin Bréifne. The Bréifne territory included the modern Irish counties of Leitrim and Cavan, along with parts of County Sligo. The O’Rourke’s were early kings of Bréifne, and later Princes of West Bréifne, an area which corresponds roughly to present day County Leitrim. The O’Reilly’s were early Lords of East Bréifne, an area which was centered in present day County Cavan. In the late medieval period the lake was closely associated with the O’Reilly family.
Crover Castle, which is built on a small offshore island in the lake, was reputedly erected by Thomas O’Reilly in the late C14th. Thomas O’Reilly was the grandson of Giolla Iosa Rua, and pushed O’Reilly power into modern County Meath.
In the later Middle Ages the lake was seen as the border between the Gaels, mainly represented by the O’Reilly family, and. the Anglo-Normans, and the English. The village of Mountnugent, originally known as Daly’s Bridge in honour of the local landlord, was on the border between the two.
In the late C14th the O’Reillys moved the seat of their power to Tullymongan above Cavan town. As the O’Reilly clan were in the fortunate position to occupy the border between the Gaels and the Normans they were in a unique position to exploit all the advantages that living on the border provided. However, by the late 1500s the Tudor state was extending its power throughout Ireland. The border region of Breffni was among the first to feel the pressure, with the Anglo Norman Nugents and Plunketts from Meath beginning to assert their power in Breffni on behalf of the English crown, and as the century progressed the pressure became greater. In 1566 the O’Reilly family were compelled to sign the Treaty of Lough Sheelin with the Earl of Sussex. By 1584 Breffni was shired and became the county of Cavan. The O’Reilly power finally collapsed in the wake of the Nine Year War (1594-1603). In 1601 Edmund O’Reilly (of Kilnacrott) was killed in Cavan. He was the last of the family to hold the title “The O’Ragahallie’.
The lake is naturally populated by brown trout whose native stocks had depleted in recent years, hence the Central Fisheries Board stocking with farm reared the lake for the pleasure of anglers. Trout stocks are estimated to be over 100,000.
The lake is classed as a mainly trout fishery which permits pike angling subject to the regulations of that fishery. However, all angling on the lake closes in early October. Lough Sheelin is considered an attractive lake to visit because of the size and quality of the trout that are caught there and the range of fly fishing techniques that may be used. Fishery scientists estimate that Lough Sheelin has the largest trout carrying capacity to carry a bigger stock of brown trout of any lake in comparable size in Ireland – over 100,000 trout with at least 40,000 of them between 2lb and 4lb.
However, Lough Sheelin has faced numerous pollution problems over the last number of years. The environmental problems initially stemmed from the development of an intensive pig fattening industry in its catchment area. In recent times the pollution problem has been brought under control and the lake has demonstrated an amazing ability to recover from the years of pollution it had to endure.
The fishing season begins in March at which time the trout are feeding mainly on freshwater shrimp and freshwater louse. The best fishing in March and early April is mainly along rocky shores and exposed points and favourite areas among fishermen are Chambers Bay, Kilnahard Shore, Merry Point, Arley Point, Curry Point, Ross Bay and the south shore of Derrysheridan. The high season is the period from about the 15th May to the middle of June.
Thereafter, the action switches to the south side of the lake, roughly south of a line from Kilnahard Point to Inchicup Island. It is then that areas like Chambers Bay, Rusheen Bay, Gorepoint Bay, Bog Bay and Waffy’s Rock area start producing fish. June to mid July sees the advent of perch fry and roach fry.
A song called Lough Sheelin’s Side and recounts the tale of an eviction. It is not known for certain whether the song is of Cavan, Meath or Westmeath origin as the lake borders all three counties, and there were extensive clearances of tenants in the post Famine years in both Cavan and Westmeath. However, there was a mass eviction one cold February night in the late 1840s at a place called Tonagh, then a thriving village located near Ross on the Meath shores of the lake and not far from Mountnugent. Some 700 poor souls were thrown from their homes.
Lough Sheelin waterway is well serviced with public access points and car parks at Kilnahard pier, Crover Pier and beside the River Inny at Finea.
Ross & Mountnugent
Ross is a village situated on the south side of the River Inny as it enters Lough Sheelin, famous for trout, pike and perch fishing. Its origins go back to the early iron age, with many remains of dolmen stones, ring forts and Norman fortifications found in the immediate area.
Construction of the stronghold later known as the Castle of Ross was begun in 1533 by Richard Nugent, 12th baron of Delvin / 4th Baron Delvin, who had completed the tower by his death in 1537, while the Great Hall and further extensions were finished two years later by his orphaned grandson, Richard Nugent (1523-1559), 13th / 5th Baron Delvin.
Although the castle was supposedly erected to guard the western reaches of the Pale against the indigenous Gaelic clans and septs across Lough Sheelin in what now Cavan, the Nugents fell under increasing suspicion of subversion as the century advanced. They started to commune with the natives, and the surname O’Reilly began to appear in the family annals.
Sir Christopher Nugent (1544 – 1602), 14th / 6th Baron Delvin, having played an important role in the Plantation of King’s and Queen’s Counties (Laois and Offaly) and fought against Shane O’Neill, remained “obstinately attached to popery” and was implicated in lord Baltinglass’ uprising of 1582. Although he was restored to Royal favour, and wrote A Primer of the Irish Language for the Queen, he remained under suspicion in Dublin. He was granted extensive O’Reilly and O’Farrell lands in 1597, during the unrest accompanying the Nine Years War, he later made formal submission toHugh O’Neill, for which he was arrested by Lord Mountjoy, and died in Dublin Castle while awaiting trial for treason. His eldest son by his wife Mary (née FitzGerald, daughter of the 11th Earl of Kildare) was Richard Nugent (1583-1642), who was made Earl of Westmeath in 1614.
In 1573 Christopher’s brother William Nugent (1550-1625) scandalously abducted and married Janet Marward of Skryne, the young heiress ward of their uncle Nicholas Nugent (c. 1525–1582), Baron of the Irish Court of Exchequer and Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas. William was involved in several uprisings, for which he was imprisoned and lucky not to be hanged. In 1580 he created considerable disturbance with the Ó Conchúir and Kavanagh septs on the borders of the Pale. The Crown responded with rapid repression, and the dashing young rebel, attainted and deprived of his property, was forced to spend the winter without shelter. His friends were afraid to communicate with him. Janet, “out of the dutiful love of a wife to husband in that extremity,” managed to send him some shirts. She was found out and punished with a year’s imprisonment.
In January 1582, William escaped to Scotland, and from there made his way to the Continent to engage in various plots and schemes against the Queen. His uncle Nicholas, who had already been removed from his office as Chief Justice, was convicted of inciting him to rebellion and hanged – the only member of the Irish judiciary ever executed for treason.
In summer 1584 William made his way back to Ulster, disguised as a friar. The Lord Deputy, Sir John Perrot, aware that he was being harboured by northern chieftains, but that he had not otherwise met with much support, decided to offer him a pardon. Nugent formally submitted in December. Meanwhile his wife had, on the intercession of the Earl of Ormonde, been restored to her ancestral property, and the couple quietly recovered their old positions.
Apart from an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to have the Chief Justice, Sir Robert Dillon, a hereditary enemy who he regarded as responsible for all his family’s problems, charged with maladministration of justice, the rest of William’s life was uneventful. A startling claim by the Anglo-Irish author, journalist and local historian Elizabeth Hickey (1917–1999) in The Green Cockatrice(1978) that he was the real author of William Shakespeare’s works still attracts supporters.
William’s attainder was never formally reversed, although King James I consented to his restoration and he repeatedly begged the authorities to facilitate his inherited right to Ross Castle. He and Janet had three sons, the youngest being James Nugent, later Marshal of the army of the Kilkenny Confederates and Governor of Finagh, whose rebellion led to the forfeiture of the family estate during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
The Castle of Ross came to its final fame in the summer of 1644 when Myles “the Slasher” O’Reillyspent in its walls the night before the Battle of Finea. There, confronting Parliamentarian troops on the bridge the next day, he himself was slain. In retribution the English reduced much of the Castle of Ross to ruins.
The tower of the same and some outbuildings were rebuilt by a later descendant in the C19th. In 1864Anna Maria O’Reilly also installed a large plaque, commemorating her heroic ancestor in the tower hall.
One hundred years later Sir David Nugent rebuilt the entire complex as a family estate in its present outline. At that time modern conveniences were added to the building. The Castle is now available forself-catering holiday rental.
Ross House, the C18th Manor House of the Nugent family, is the centre of an estate straddling the vorder with Couty Cavan, and taking in the Mountnugent Equestrian Centre near the village of that name.