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County Leitrim ( ) is one of the traditional counties of Ireland and is located within the province of Connacht. It was named after the town of Leitrimmarker ( ).

Leitrim is the 26th largest of Ireland’s 32 counties in area and smallest in terms of population. It is the smallest of Connacht’s 5 counties in both size and population.


In ancient times Leitrim formed the western half of the Kingdom of Breifne. This region was long influenced by the O'Rourke family of Dromahairmarker, whose heraldic lion occupies the official county crest to this day. Close ties initially existed with East Breifne, now County Cavanmarker, and the O'Reilly clan seated there. The Normans invaded in the 13th century and occupied the south of Breifne. Much of the county was confiscated from its owners in 1620 and given to Villiers and Hamilton. Their initial objective was to plant the county with English settlers. However, this proved unsuccessful. British Deputy Sir John Perrot had ordered the legal establishment of "Leitrim County" a half-century prior, in 1565. Perrott also demarked the current county borders around 1583. The County takes its name from Leitrim Villagemarker which is situated on the banks of the Shannon within Co. Leitrim. Five forests are traditionally said to have stood in Leitrim up till the 17th century. With soil suitable principally for cows and potatoes, Leitrim's 155,000 residents (as of the 1841 census) were ravaged by the Great Famine and the population dropped to 112,000 by 1851. The population subsequently continued to decrease due to emigration. After many years, the wounds of such rapid population decline have finally started to heal. Agriculture improved over the last century. Leitrim now has the fastest growing population in Connacht.
Photo of the Leitrim countryside
Working of the county's rich deposits of iron ore began in the 15th century and continued until the mid 18th century. Coal mining became prominent in the 19th century to the east of Lough Allen in Sliabh an Iariann and also to the west in Arignamarker, on the Roscommon border. The last coal mine closed in July 1990 and there is now a visitor centre. Sandstone was also quarried in the Glenfarne region. William Butler Yeats spent the turn of the twentieth century fascinated with Lough Allenmarker and much of Leitrim. In the northwest, 11 km from Manorhamilton can be found Glencar Waterfall, which was an inspiration to Yeats and is mentioned in his poem The Stolen Child.


In Legend - At the time of the arrival of the de Danann, Eochaid was king of the Firbologs. Messengers came to him at Teamhair (Tara) and told him that a new race of people had come into Ireland but it was not known whether they were of the earth or the skies and they had settled at Magh Réin. – Magh Réin is the ancient name for South Co. Leitrim.

The last wave of Celtic arrivals, the Milesians came around 150BC, reputedly from modern-day Spain. The defeated the Tuatha Da dannan at the battle of Tailtiu. These people gave us the first kings we recognise as historic characters.

All of these various peoples co-existed in Ireland, up to historic times, gradually losing their separate identities – in the same way that one no longer considers someone called Fitzgerald to be a Norman.

One of the most impressive remains from this period is the Doon, an earthen rampart running along the west bank of the Shannon, and across the peninsula between Jamestown and Drumsna. Its functioned as a defence against invasion from the North - since the Shannon is fordable at Drumsna. Archaeologists estimate that the fortifications could have required the work of 10,000 people for two years, 50,000 to 60,000 trees, and removal of 150,000 cubic meters of earth. They suggested that they date from the Iron Age, two thousand or more years ago at the time of the Táin and of the troubles between Queen Maedhbh of Connacht and the peoples of the north. "Wood from the base of the bank at Drumsna was felled in the mid-fourth century BC" [IL]. More information is here. See map.

464AD (From the Annals of the Four Masters ) Conall Gulban, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages (from whom are descended the Cinel Conaill), was slain by the old tribes of Magh Slecht, he having been found unprotected, and was buried at Fidhnach Maighe Rein (Fenagh), by Saint Caillin, as the Life of the aforesaid saint relates. -

(Niall of the Nine Hostages was the king of Ireland is associated with taking St. Patrick to Ireland as a slave. The "old tribes" in the entry above are referred to as "a clan of the Firbolgs" in "The Story of The Irish Race" by Seumas MacManus).


Glencar Waterfall at Glencar Lough
Leitrim has a dramatic hilly and mountainous landscape in its northwest and is relatively flat in the southeast, each separated from the other by Lough Allen in the middle of the county. It is an unspoiled, tranquil area of great natural beauty, consisting of lofty mountains, deep valleys, pastures, lakes, rolling hills and rivers. Leitrim is not a landlocked county as it has a short length of Atlanticmarker where Tullaghan lie. Coastline (5 km) between Sligo and Donegal in the northwest. Neighbouring Leitrim are the Ulster counties of Donegalmarker to the north, Fermanagh to the northeast, and Cavanmarker to the east, the Leinster county of Longfordmarker to the south and, to the west, the Connacht counties of Roscommonmarker and Sligomarker. Fermanagh is in Northern Irelandmarker while all the other neighbouring counties are within the Republic. Leitrim offers scenic panoramic vistas of Lough Allen and the River Shannon. The Shannon is linked to the Erne via the Shannon-Erne Waterwaymarker.

Lakes in Leitrim





  • Leitrim has the fastest growing population of any county in Connacht. As measured by census, the population rose by 12.2% between 2002 and 2006 to 29,000.
  • 2005 HEA statistics identified that Leitrim has the highest rate of participation in higher education in the Republic with 75% of 17-19 year olds being admitted to a higher course.
  • The county town is Carrick-on-Shannonmarker (3,505 inhabitants). It is a highly developed, prospering river port on the River Shannon and many tourists hire cruising boats here to explore the Shannon and the Shannon-Erne Waterwaymarker -a 63 km canal linking the two river systems. It is amongst the fastest growing towns in Ireland having grown by 25% in the past few years.
  • According to 2008 statistics, Leitrim county has the third highest suicide rate in Ireland and the lowest male life expectancy at 72.8 years (average is 75.6).
Bridge in Carrick-on-Shannon


The area is renowned for traditional Irish music and regular sessions take place in pubs and venues throughout the county.



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