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County Town: Monaghan
Population: 55,816
Area: 1,294 sq km
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Monaghan is not a place to blow its own trumpet, even though it enjoys some of the most enchanting scenery to be found anywhere in the country. Visitors to this quiet, unspoiled county bordering Northern Ireland will be thrilled to discover unimagined beauty around every corner. The forested mountains of the north west and the east contrast dramatically with tranquil lakelands and rivers, and there are untold miles of rolling, green drumlins - the gentle, egg- shaped hills that give the county its name: Monaghan means The Land Of The Little Hills. Unsurprisingly, this is perfect countryside for outdoor pursuits. The simple pleasures of hiking and cycling, hill- walking and climbing, fishing, riding and golf are unhurried and peaceful here. Lough Muckno Leisure Park, near Castleblaney, provides activities such as sailing, canoeing, windsurfing and waterskiing. Elsewhere, sporting opportunities include gorge walking, clay pigeon shooting and archery, while daredevils may rise to the challenge of rally driving at the school near Scotstown, or quad biking at Carrickakelly. Monaghan takes great care of its heritage, from prehistoric and megalithic sites to ancient religious monuments, historic buildings, elegant town squares and imposing country mansions, many now offering accommodation (including Glaslough's glorious Castle Leslie, where former Beatle Paul McCartney married Heather Mills). Past times are colourfully revisited in heritage centres and the award-winning County Museum in the principal town of Monaghan, while the local lace-making tradition is preserved in Carrickmacross and Clones - also the hometown of boxing champion Barry McGuigan. Monaghan has other famous sons, prominently poet and writer Patrick Kavanagh, whose work contributes to the great creative atmosphere around these parts. Visitors will not want to miss Inniskeen, Kavanagh's birthplace and the location of the Rural and Literary Resource Centre named in his honour, as they explore the charming, friendly market towns of this inspiring county

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