Local Stories: Meath's Magical Moments

Martin Shortt was born and bred in the grounds of Loughcrew, with the cairns and rolling fields serving as the backdrop to his childhood. These days, he helps run the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre and Maggie Heaney’s Traditional Irish Cottage with his son, Niall and his son’s partner, Sarah.
Aerial view of Loughcrew cairns

See Martin's Story

See Martin's Story
Martin’s attachment to his beloved homeland in County Meath is evident, and he is a veritable font of knowledge on the history of Loughcrew (and its stunning nearby attractions). Though the Megalithic site is a tranquil spot most of the year, he describes the community spirit found during the spring and autumn equinoxes: “There’s a festival atmosphere up there... everybody talks to each other, and you don’t have to book an appointment to talk to the person next to you!”

Visitors can also enjoy some of the best views in the country. “The Loughcrew cairns are 969 feet above sea level. There’s a 360-degree view of surrounding Ireland from there. I remember my grandmother used to take myself and my brother up there – that was our playground.”
Loughcrew cairns beneath dramatic sky
Loughcrew hill and view from cairns
Stone carving detail in Loughcrew passage tomb
Left: The view from Loughcrew cairns | Middle: Loughcrew hill | Right: Stone carving detail in passage tomb
Twice yearly, the alignment of the sun at the Spring and Autumn equinoxes lights up the chamber in the Megalithic tomb. This illumination is quite a sight for visitors to behold – one that captures the ancient spirit and purpose of Loughcrew. Only an hour from Dublin, the area is – as Martin notes – the gateway to Meath, Cavan and Westmeath. With guided tours in the summer months and a campsite for accommodation, Loughcrew is also a good base for active holidays in the region.

Ten minutes’ walk from the cairns is the Megalithic Centre, home to Nelly’s Cafe and Maggie Heaney’s cottage – a building that holds a very special place in Martin’s heart. “When Niall and Sarah decided to go into the tourism business, they asked me for advice. I said it would be lovely to do up the old house I was reared in and make it a museum. It dates back to the 1700s, and I hope it will stand for another 300 years. I just have a great grá [love] for that family home.”
Entrance to Loughcrew passage tomb
Coffee being poured
Vintage containers on mantelpiece
Left: Entrance to Loughcrew passage tomb | Middle: A tasty cuppa at Nelly's Cafe | Right: The mantelpiece in Maggie Heaney's Cottage
There’s an abundance of things to do in the area, and according to Martin, a perfect weekend in the Boyne Valley would involve a visit to Brú na Bóinne (including the passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth). He also likes the occasional spot of fishing, and Lough Sheelin is the perfect place for a day out on the water – being the largest brown trout fishing lake in Europe.

For adrenaline junkies, he recommends the adventure centre at Loughcrew Estate and Gardens, where activities include ziplining, rock climbing and archery. For a pastime that’s a little more contemplative, the gorgeous gardens on the estate are not to be missed. Additional beautiful walks can be found only 15 minutes from Loughcrew – at the ruins of Fore Abbey in County Westmeath, which is set in a peaceful valley in the village of Fore.
Newgrange exterior
Stone buildings and graves on Loughcrew Estate
Woman admiring the stone cloisters at Fore Abbey
Left: The iconic exterior of Newgrange | Middle: Loughcrew Estate and Gardens | Right: The cloisters at Fore Abbey
Martin believes that Loughcrew itself is an unrivalled location. “It’s the nature, the people; it’s the welcome. Loughcrew is definitely the best-kept secret in Ireland’s Ancient East. No doubt about it!”


There’s so much to do in and around Meath, why wait to start planning your visit?
Enjoy your escape in Ireland's Ancient East!

For more attractions and activities
check out the See & Do section