Manorhamilton is a town in County Leitrim in northwest Ireland, 26 km east of Sligo. With a population in 2016 of 1466, it's the only town of any size in the northern part of the county, from Lough Allen north to the Atlantic coast. This page therefore describes sights and amenities throughout this thinly-populated district, including the villages of Glenfarne, Kiltyclogher, Rossinver, Tullaghan, Glenade and Dromahair.
Originally a settlement called Cloneen lay on the west bank of the little River Owenbeg. In 1620 soldier-of-fortune Sir Frederick Hamilton was awarded lands seized from the Irish chieftain O'Rourke; he built up the castle, created the town on the east bank, and named it after himself. The castle from which he waged his campaigns by fire, sword, noose and legal writs is now the TIC.
Bus Eireann 458 runs daily every 2 hours from Ballina to Enniscrone, Sligo (for trains and buses from Dublin), Manorhamilton, Belcoo on the border, and Enniskillen (for buses from Belfast). Sligo to Manorhamilton takes 30 min. The main 1 bus stop is at the central crossroads. These buses also stop at Our Lady's Hospital east edge of town.
A Local Link bus on Tu, Th, Sa sets off from Manorhamilton around 09:00 and runs south via Dromahair, Drumshanbo and Leitrim to Carrick-on-Shannon, in time for the midday train from Sligo to Dublin. It sets off back once the 13:00 train from Dublin to Sligo arrives, to reach Manorhamilton for 15:00.
Local Link Bus 567A runs 3-4 times M-Sa from Drumshanbo, taking just under an hour.
By car from Dublin follow M4 / N4 towards Carrick and Sligo, but at Drumsna cut across country on R299 / 280 via Leitrim village, west bank of Lough Allen, and Killargue. If night is falling and you're unsure of your navigation, you might prefer to stay on N4 to Sligo then take N16 east through Glencar.
The bus can take you along N16 to Glenfarne, Manorhamilton itself, Glencar Lough for the waterfall, and Sligo. But that's a narrow east-west corridor through an area that stretches away north-south, so you need your own wheels to explore it properly.
A sporadic Local Link bus runs a triangle from Manorhamilton to Rossinver and Kiltyclogher then back to town. It runs M around 10:30 and F 10:30 and 13:00, so it's not much help for sight-seeing.
- Manorhamilton Castle, on Castle St strangely enough, is the shell of a fortified house built 1634-38 - the deeply unpopular Sir Frederick Hamilton needed stout walls to hide behind. It was burnt out in 1652 during the Cromwell wars. It now houses the TIC, open M-F 09:30-15:30.
- First Protestant Church, a block south of Main St, was built about the same time as the castle and is just as ruined.
- 1 Glenade Lough is in a U-shaped glaciated valley between the Dartry Mountains west and the Arroo Mountains east. The best view is near its south tip, by the lane signposted off R280. You're unlikely to spot the lough monster, the Dobhar-chú, pronounced “Dowarcoo”, which hasn't eaten anyone since Grainne Ni Conalai in 1722. Grainne's husband shot the monster then was pursued by its mate, but this too was slain. Still, there might be offspring biding their time.
- 2 Glencar Lough is a scenic lake straddling the boundary with County Sligo. A couple of crannogs indicate its prehistoric importance, and a trail leads up Benbulbin. The main sight is Glencar waterfall feeding its northeast end, 8 km west of Manorhamilton off N16. It inspired WB Yeats to describe a child being stolen away into the spirit-world: in pools among the rushes / that scarce could bathe a star . . - though he may have had an imperfect grasp of stellar masses.
- 3 Rainbow Ballroom of Romance at the junction of N16 and R281 is a preserved dance-hall of the showband era 1950-70, now a museum of those Brylateen evenings. It's open M-F 09:00-17:00, €5.
- Glenfarne Demesne is a forest park, entered from R281 just after it turns off N16 at the Ballroom. This was the estate of Sir Edward Harland, co-founder of Harland & Wolff shipbuilders. Myles Big Stone is a megalith close to the entrance. Drive down the narrow lane branching right for 3 km to the shore of Upper Lough MacNean; there are walking trails with sculptures, and the ruins of Glenfarne (or Tottenham) Hall somewhere in the undergrowth. Pity about all the monotonous commercial conifers.
- 4 Seán Mac Diarmada's Cottage is in the middle of nowhere, along the back lane which parallels R281. Mac Diarmada (1883-1916) was executed for his part in the Easter Rising. The cottage is now an exhibition of farm life in that era. You can only visit as part of a tour of Kiltyclogher Heritage Centre, but you need your own transport between.
- 5 Corracloona Court Tomb is 3.5 km south of Kiltyclogher on R281. It's often called Prince Connell's Grave, though that fellow lived and died 1000 years later in the 5th century. A "court tomb" has a small courtyard with burial chambers leading off; there's just a single chamber here.
- 6 Kiltyclogher Heritage Centre is open M-F 11:00-15:00. It has a small exhibition about Seán Mac Diarmada, but the main display is in the cottage 5 km southeast.
- Black Pig's Dyke nuzzles its snout across several counties but has well-preserved sections near Kiltyclogher and Rossinver - ask the Heritage Centre to point them out on a map. It's a ditch with embankments that probably once had a wooden palisade. One stretch in County Monaghan dates to 390-370 BC, so that rules out construction by Romans, giant black boars, or (the other popular legend) a huge worm. The dyke was discontinuous and doesn't look to be a border defence like Offa's Dyke - maybe it was to block cattle-rustling routes.
- 7 Rossinver is a village near Lough Melvin, the large lake on the border with Northern Ireland. Within the village is The Organic Centre, with gardens open daily 10:00-17:00, €4. Take the little lane west from the village to Fowley's Falls, which is a cascade rather than a waterfall, in a scenic limestone gorge. There's another cascade 5 km north across the border at Roogagh, and continuing along the north shore lane will loop you back into County Leitrim and approach Tullaghan.
- 8 Four Masters Bridge is an attractive three-arch bridge built circa 1780 across the River Clowes, the boundary with County Donegal. A plaque commemorates The Four Masters, scholars who in 1632-36 compiled the "Annals," one of our main primary sources for early Irish history. At least one author was a Franciscan friar from Donegal Abbey, which was blown to smithereens in 1601 so its surviving friars based themselves somewhere near this bridge; so it's thought the Annals were written hereabouts. (Good to know: "Smithereens" is Irish smidiríní, which are even tinier than smiodar, fragments.)
- 9 Tullaghan is the village on County Leitrim's 4 km of coastline, which is not worth a special trip - there's better coast a few km west at Mullaghmore. If you're passing, note the 3 m High Cross, tilting as if it's quaffed a skinful in the Diamond Bar opposite. Its origin is unknown: the story goes that it was found on the shore, a remnant of a washed-away monastery, but no other ruins have been found to confirm this. In 1778 a local worthy erected it here to draw attention to the village market, a poke in the eye for rival Ballyshannon market up the road; retail really was different in those days. You glimpse the cross from N15 but turn off into the village for a better look.
- 10 Parke's Castle: see Sligo for this substantial 17th century castle. It's on the north shore of Lough Gill, which straddles the boundary with County Sligo.
- 11 Lake Isle of Innisfree, on Lough Gill just across the county boundary, is a frankly disappointing islet with scrubby bushes. See Sligo for this and other sights around the lough: in summer boat trips visit from the city.
- Upper River Shannon: see County Cavan for its course from Shannon Pot. It enters County Leitrim at Dowra village (which has sections of the Black Pig's Dyke) to flow south into Lough Allen: it's not navigable above the lough.
- What's on: check the Leitrim Observer.
- Milltown Wood on the ridge above Lurganboy 2 km west of Manorhamilton has easy walking trails.
- Benbulbin: see Sligo for the ascent of this limestone scarp north of Glencar Lough.
- Wonder what a red van's doing here. Royal Mail, up a remote Irish back lane? EIIR in Eire - what's going on?? No, the van hasn't strayed, you have. That little bridge one km back was the border, and you've crossed into County Fermanagh in the United Kingdom, and have left the EU. So you begin to fathom the implications for communities on both sides if this ever again became a "hard" border.
- Mace is open M-Sa 07:00-23:00, Su 08:00-23:00. Rooney's Supervalu is open M-Sa 07:00-21:00, Su 08:00-21:00.
- There's a filling station east side of town where Main St meets N16.
- The Ulsterbank and Bank of Ireland both have ATMs.
- Apache Pizza on Main St does takeaway daily 15:00-01:00.
- Mountain View is a Chinese restaurant on Main St open daily 16:00-02:00.
- Loft Cafe on Main St is open M-Th 09:00-17:00, F Sa 09:00-17:00, 18:30-21:00, Su 11:00-19:00.
- ÓstaW8 is on Church Lane, see Sleep. The café is open daily 10:00-17:00 and the restaurant Th-Sa 12:00-21:00, Su 12:00-19:00.
- Connolly's Bar, 6 Castle St. Old-school pub renowned for its Guinness and for Joe the owner's singing - he reckons have a repertoire of 3000.
- Others in town centre are Milestone, O'Mahoney's and Heraghty's.
- 1 W8 Village, Church Lane, Manorhamilton, ☏ +353 83 383 3615, firstname.lastname@example.org. Modern self-catering accommodation in town centre, units have 3 bedrooms (sleep 5) so they're for family stays rather than couples. OstaW8 cafe / restaurant is on site. Rooms €180.
- Five Glens Inn in town centre may have rooms. B&Bs in this area didn't open in 2020.
- 2 Ard Nahoo Eco Retreat, Mullagh, Dromahair (1.5 km north of Dromahair village), ☏ +353 83 134 6242. Three self-catering cabins: Hawthorn sleeps 1-3, Holly and Willow both have three bedrooms, sleep 7. One week minimum stay in summer. On site are yoga classes, massage and an outdoor hot tub. From €180 per cabin per night.
- Consider basing yourself in Sligo, which has much more choice.
As of July 2021 Manorhamilton has a 5G signal from Eir, and 4G (though patchy) from Three and Vodafone.
- Sligo, west, is surrounded by brooding cloud-wraithed limestone crags and prehistoric monuments.
- Carrick-on-Shannon, south, is a complete contrast, a pastoral landscape of river boats and fishing lakes.
- Donegal Town, north, has a ruined abbey, but that county's main attractions are its wild scenery further north.
- Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, east, has the obligatory ruined castle, and two outstanding Georgian mansions. Come this way for the loughs of Erne.