the roads of the North East
are three main arteries cutting through the Louth/Monaghan
border the N2 between Ardee and Carrickmacross, the
R178 from Carrickmacross to Dundalk and the N53 from Dundalk
to Castleblayney (albeit via a slice of south Armagh). One
Saturday in late October 2005, we took a trip along all
three. By Gerry Robinson.
The network of roads between Louth and Monaghan has altered
and improved no end in recent times. The N2 has benefited
most from recent upgrades, while the N53 has always been
a good stretch of road. Though perhaps most testing to the
motorist, the R178 offers the most scenic route of all,
slicing hypnotically through a swathe of rural Ireland while
simultaneously screaming out for some TLC.
When one travels from Monaghan to Louth or vice versa, they
move between two counties and also between two provinces.
Ulster and Leinster meet along the Louth-Monaghan border,
which is traversed by three main roads the N2, R178
and N53. All three routes have evolved beyond recognition
in the past decade, dramatically reducing travelling times
between Ardee, Carrickmacross, Dundalk and Castleblayney.
Wee County 2005 trekked along all three pathways
to gain a grasp of the current lie of the land. This is
how things were in October 2005, but, of course, they are
in a constant state of change.
We start our journey in Kingscourt, where the four counties
(Louth, Monaghan, Meath and Cavan) meet and snake down the
hill towards Carrickmacross, with Dun na Ri on the left,
hanging a right at OReilly Concrete towards Drumconrath.
Within seconds, weve left Cavan and are in the Royal
Ignoring the lure of Ballyhoe Lake and Meath Hill to the
drivers left, we stick to the tried and tested route
to Drumconrath, arriving at the heart of the village seven
miles later. Manfully fighting off the temptation to turn
off towards Carrick on the approach to Drumconrath
(the editor wouldnt be impressed), we soldier on along
the R165 towards Ardee town.
Exiting the village, a sign claims that Ardee lies 8km away.
A kilometre later, a second sign says that its still
8km til we get to Ardee. Ill never get used
to this French innovation known as the metric system.
Onto the N52 and within a mile the not-yet-weary traveller
is welcomed to County Louth, Land of Legends. The next sign,
speaking on behalf of the Department of Transport/NRA, warns
that speeding could result in four penalty points. We get
Besides, theres little chance of speeding with all
these roadworks going on. Roadworks are a bit of a Catch
22 we cant have better roads without them but
we cant have good roads with them! Theres a
new stretch of roadway being constructed on the Kells Road
out of Ardee and the traffic lights are red, of course.
No harm, though well get the time back somewhere
Ardee sucks me in but any chance of enthusiasm welling up
inside is obliterated by the announcement that this is a
Pay Parking Area now. Ill stop for a drink somewhere
There are a lot of new shops in Ardee, and certainly no
shortage of traffic. The congestion is as bad as ever and
theres no chance of getting through this bottleneck
in anything resembling a hurry. The new roads bypassing
the town have made little difference. It seems people are
determined to drive through Ardee, not around it.
For those who prefer public transport, the bus stop is now
situated at the bottom of town on the left hand side. No
point hanging around outside Tennantys any more.
And so the journey begins in earnest: Ardee-Carrickmacross.
Louth County Council and the NRA have carried out a splendid
N2 Ardee-Rathory Improvement Scheme, which a dapper blue
sign reveals was 85% funded by the Cohesion Fund of the
The junction out of town now comprises a trinity of roundabouts.
The first gives way to a fork in the road, leading to two
more roundabouts. To the right is a continuation of the
N52 or an escape route to the motorway; to the left we encounter
a roundabout offering Carrickmacross (Derry) via the N2
or Tallanstown via the R171.
Before departing towards Carrick, one stops on the
northern approach to Ardee to inspect the striking lump
of modern art rather dubiously entitled the Ardee Helmet,
known to others as the Fallen Warrior. You can stand inside
it and read the graffiti. Its class. Allegedly, well
be in Carrickmacross in 19km. Thats 11.875 miles.
The speed limit is 100kmph. The journey should take 11.4
minutes. Well see
Tributaries slip off the N2 in all directions, each promising
its own magical journey. The open countryside is all around
us, field upon field of lush greenery, and the road too
is wide open before us, ideal for tipping along. Though
Im not holding back, the number of vehicles that bomb
past is nothing short of alarming.
There are no filling stations between Ardee and Carrick,
but theres a mobile chip van, much to the haulage
fraternitys evident glee. Passing Knockabbey Castle
to my right, I decline two invitations to re-visit Drumconrath
and instead reach Aclint Bridge the Monaghan-Louth
border six miles outside Ardee, almost exactly equidistant
between the two towns.
Entering County Monaghan, we learn that its twinned
with the city of Miramichi, New Brunswick, in Canada as
well as the harrowing reality that 45 people have been killed
on Monaghan roads in the past four years.
Were in Killanny. The new Carrickmacross Bypass results
from a joint venture between the Department of Transport,
Monaghan County Council and the NRA, assisted by the European
Regional Development Fund. Nine kilometres of single carriageway,
the road opened in January 2005, three months ahead of schedule.
Aimed at reducing journey times, it does exactly what it
says on the tin.
This is a stunning stretch of road, taking Carrick
completely out of the equation for northbound traffic. The
road is smooth and straight but with just enough curves
and dips to keep it interesting and enjoyable to drive on.
It links directly to the Carrick Straight and the
next stop from there is Castleblayney.
For the purpose of this exercise, however, we take a quick
left as we reach CMX, then another and approach a roundabout
offering Dundalk and Inniskeen to the left. The R178. Were
on the road from Carrick to Dundalk and have only
travelled 10.6 miles since leaving Ardee. Following much-needed
refreshments for both man and car at the Statoil station
across form the graveyard, we delve back under the Carrickmacross
Bypass and begin to dream of Dundalk.
A crooked crossroads imparts the wisdom that Killanny lies
right and Inniskeen is to ones left. The first five
miles is like the road that time forgot. Its bumpy,
bendy and unsmooth. An interesting ride, in keeping with
the rural tone of the area unspoilt, rugged and unkempt.
One can readily imagine what it was that fuelled Kavanagh.
We see old houses, old barns, plenty of new houses too.
Theres an odour of Old Ireland in the air. At the
crossroads for Louth village and Inniskeen, theres
a house with a thatched roof. Nice.
Back into County Louth and drawing closer to Kilkerley,
the road improves beyond recognition, serving up a new black
surface, flat and simmering in the October sun. Encroaching
upon Dundalk, we dive under the Dundalk Western Bypass,
which opened in September 2005, five months ahead of target.
The speed limit is back to 50. Town. Another pay-to-park
zone. Dundalk is twinned with Reze in France.
No need to travel through town on a Saturday afternoon when
one has the option of bearing left past the Clans pitch
and out onto the N53, which seems to enter Dundalk almost
parallel to the R178. Having travelled 14 miles since leaving
Carrick and approximately 25 since departing Ardee,
Im now eyeing Castleblayney and the final leg of my
A mile up the road and we encounter twin roundabouts, a
unique looking double intersection that probably resembles
a large tarmacadam Number 8 viewed from the sky. A left
turn off the first roundabout and one is Dublin-bound on
the M1; right off the second heads towards Belfast. Why
not just one bigger roundabout with four exits altogether?
Well leave that one to the architects and engineers.
We proceed directly ahead and learn that a maximum fine
of 1,900 euro applies to anybody caught dumping. And theres
that seatbelt reminder again.
This is an average enough road for a while, but things improve
at Callans. Theres a hedgecutter blocking my
side of the road another excuse to shift through
the gears. Through a crossroads offering Forkhill (right)
and Knockbridge (left) and down to a patch of road about
to be immortalised in this writers mind as the one
where a northern driver pulled out right in front of me
only to veer off almost immediately towards the Naomh Malachi
pitch. Im sure he/she had his/her reasons. Its
raining. Monaghan must be close.
Six miles from Dundalk, the road is wide again and its
plain sailing. A brief flirtation with south Armagh (the
roads in the North used to be better - or so they said
but now were catching up), where the speed limit falls
by 2.5 mph. At Culloville, a chance to double back into
Carrick via bandit country is resisted and we soon
cross the bridge back into County Monaghan.
The N53 isnt the newest road weve driven on
today but its more than adequate. Im in Blayney
in no time. A sign tells me that its 37 km to Ardee.
My trek crisscrossing the Lough-Monaghan border took over
40 miles. Ardee to Castleblayney via Carrickmacross and
Dundalk. Shouldnt have stopped taking the medication.