County Cavan

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County Cavan
Irish: Contae an Chabháin
Republic of Ireland
Lough Oughter
County Cavan
[Interactive map]
Province: Ulster
Area: 746 square miles
Population: 73,183
County seat: Cavan

The County of Cavan is a landlocked shire of Ireland, one of the three counties of the ancient province of Ulster to be part of the Republic of Ireland. Cavan lies along the border with the United Kingdom.


Cavan borders six counties; Leitrim to the west, Fermanagh and Monaghan to the north, Meath to the south-east, Longford to the south-west and Westmeath to the south. Cavan shares a 43½-mile border with Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. Cavan is the 19th largest of the 32 counties in area and the 25th largest by population.[1] It is also the sixth largest of Ulster's nine counties in size and the seventh largest by population.

The townlands of Crockawaddy, Drumarigna, Leganamer and Lisroughty in the parish of Drumreilly form a detached part of the county, locally situate in County Leitrim.[2]


There are eight baronies in the county:

Civil parishes and townlands

Townlands are the smallest officially defined geographical divisions in Ireland, there are approximately 1,979 townlands in the county.

Towns and villages


The county is characterised by drumlin countryside dotted with many lakes and hills. The north-western area of the county is sparsely populated and mountainous. The Breifne mountains contains the highest point, Cuilcagh at 2,182 ft.

Cavan is the source of many rivers in Ireland. Shannon Pot on the slopes of Culicagh is the source of the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland at 240 miles. The River Erne is a major river which rises from Beaghy Lough, two miles south of Stradone in Cavan and flows for 75 miles to Lough Erne. Other rivers in the county include the Blackwater River from Lough Ramor which joins the River Boyne at Navan. the Dee which springs near Bailieborough, the River Annalee which flows from Lough Sillan and joins the Erne, the Cladagh river rises from Culicagh and flows into Fermanagh. The Glyde and the Owenroe also source in Cavan.

Cavan is known as 'The Lakeland County' and is reputed to contain 365 lakes. At 7½ square miles, Lough Sheelin is the county's largest lake situated in the south of the county and forms a three way border on its waters between the counties of Meath, Westmeath and Cavan.[3] A large complex of lakes form in the north and west of Cavan into designated Specially Protected Areas (SPA), example of this being Lough Oughter. Other important wildlife protected lakes such as Lough Gowna and Lough Ramor are in the south and east of the county. Cavan has a mainly hilly (drumlin) landscape and contains approximately 17,000 acres of forested area, 3.6% of Cavan's total land area. The county contains forests such as Bellamont Forest near Cootehill, Killykeen Forest Park at Lough Oughter (a Coillte state forest concern), Dún na Rí Forest Park and the Burren Forest.


Met Éireann records the climate data for Cavan from their station at Ballyhaise. Under Köppen climate classification, Cavan experiences a maritime temperate oceanic climate with cold winters, mild humid summers, and a lack of temperature extremes. The average maximum January temperature is 8°C, while the average maximum July temperature is 19.1°C. On average, the sunniest months are May and June, while the wettest month is October with four inches of rain, and the driest months are May and June with two inches respectively. Humidity is high year round and rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, with the annual precipitation at Ballyhaise being 33 inches.

On average, snow showers occur between November and March. In 2010, record low temperatures for November, December and January were recorded in Cavan. In late December, the temperature at the station fell to -15.4°C, its lowest ever. On Tuesday 21 December 2010, a daily maximum of -9.4°C was recorded at Ballyhaise, the lowest daily maximum ever recorded in Ireland. Summer daytime temperatures range between 15°C and 22°C, with temperatures rarely going beyond 25°C.[4] Like much of Ireland, the county experiences long summer days and short winter days. The annual sunshine hours the county receives on average range between 1,300 hours in the north to 1,500 hours in the south.[5]


In mediæval times, the area of Cavan was part of the petty kingdom of East Bréifne or Brefney O'Reilly after its ruling Gaelic family. This in turn was a division of the 11th-century Kingdom of Bréifne. For this reason the county is colloquially known as the Breffni County.[6] A high degree of defence was achieved by using the natural landscape of drumlin hills and loughs. The poorly drained heavy clay soils contributed as an obstacle against invasion.

Historically, Cavan was part of the western province of Connaught, but was transferred to Ulster in 1584 when Bréifne was shired and became the county of Cavan. In the south, the Lough Sheelin area was part of Leinster until the late 14th century.

Parts of Cavan were subjected to Norman influence from the twelfth century and the remains of several motte and bailie fortifications are still visible mainly in the east of the county, as well as the remains of stronger works such as Castlerahan and Clogh Oughter castle. The influence of several monastic orders also owes its origins to around this time with abbey remains existent in locations such as Drumlane and Trinity Island.

The Plantation of Ulster from 1610 saw the settlement and origins of several new towns within the county that include Bailieborough, Cootehill, Killeshandra and Virginia. Existing towns such as Cavan and Belturbet became over time more important as trading centres. Wars during the mid-seventeenth century aimed at trying to unsettle the Plantation only led to further plantations of English and Scottish settlers into the county and the beginnings of a thriving flax and linen industry.

Some areas of Cavan were hard hit by the Great Famine potato blight between 1845-49. The winter of 1847 is particularly noted for the high levels of deaths nationally caused by diseases such as typhus and cholera. Several instances of eviction also occurred during the nineteenth century, with one such story where the local landlord in Mountnugent parish decided to evict over 200 people. The famous ballad "By Lough Sheelin Side" is based on this event witnessed by the local Catholic priest.

Edward Saunderson, founder of the Ulster Unionist Council, was born in the County. However, when the Irish Unionist Party met on 9 June 1916, the delegates from Cavan learnt that they would not be included in any "temporary exclusion of Ulster" from Home Rule; they agreed only with very great reluctance.[7]

Places of interest

Natural Attractions



Two national primary routes pass through the county, The N3 road and the N16 road. The N3 is the longest route in Cavan, crossing the county for 37 miles from the Meath border at Whitegate near Virginia and through Belturbet into Fermanagh. The N16 begins in Sligo and ends at Blacklion in the far northwestern tip of Cavan, it crosses the county for roughly four miles.

Three national secondary routes pass through the county. The N87 roadbegins in Belturbet and passes through Ballyconnell and Swanlinbar before crossing into Fermanagh where it becomes the A32. The N54 route from Monaghan and Clones joines the N3 at Butlersbridge. The N55 links Cavan to the large town of Athlone via Ballinagh and Granard.

Bus Éireann provide bus services to villages and towns across the county, including a direct route from Cavan to Dublin Airport.


In the mid-1850s the Midland Great Western Railway built a line between the Inny Junction in Co. Westmeath (along their expanding network which was eventually to reach Sligo) and Cavan town. The first railway station to open in Cavan, was Cavan railway station in 1856. Many notable railway stations were built in the 19th century such as Kingscourt railway station and the Cavan and Leitrim Railway. The railways were an important part of the economic development of Cavan and carried passengers and freight to all over Ireland. The railways also helped the popularity of GAA in Cavan grow, spectators could travel easily between towns.

After World War II, due to the shortage of coal in the country, uneconomic lines were terminated. In 1947 all passenger services were terminated though the transport of freight and livestock continued. The Great Northern Railway (G.N.R.) continued to serve the Cavan and Leitrim Railway. However, in 1959 all services along the remaining rail lines were terminated and the stations along their routes were closed.


In the historical context and before water levels in lakes were lowered, water transport in the region was once very important through the complex of lakes and waterways that fed into the major river systems such as the Erne, Shannon and Boyne. Today however this is mainly confined to leisure craft on the River Erne and Shannon-Erne Waterway from Belturbet and Ballyconnell as well as for angling activities.


In Gaelic football, Cavan GAA competes annually in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, which it has won 5 times between 1933 and 1952. The team is currently in division 3 of the National Football League and division 4 of the National Hurling League. Hurling is a declining sport in the county and the Cavan county board has discussed disbanding the senior team to promote the sport at junior level.[8] GAA football player Seanie Johnston was born in the county.

The first GAA club founded in Cavan was Ballyconnell in 1885. However the club didn’t affiliate to GAA Central Council until March 1886 so that can be taken as the founding of the GAA in Cavan and Ulster.[9] The most successful club in Cavan is Cornafean with 20 Senior Football Championship titles, their last title was won in 1956. The most successful club in recent years has been Cavan Gaels GAA which has won 8 of the last 11 Senior Football Championships. Cavan Gaels are the current senior football champions, defeating Castlerahan in the 2011 decider. No team from Cavan has ever won a national or provincial title.

There is a strong history of athletics]in Cavan, with a 300m Tartan track in Shercock and other athletics facilities throughout the county. There are five athletics clubs in the county at present, but there have been many more over the years. The current athletics clubs are Annalee AC, Bailieborough AC, Innyvale AC, Laragh AC and Shercock AC.

Cavan has two rugby football clubs, the main one been Virginia Rugby club, both teams compete in the Ulster qualifying leagues.

Fishing is a very popular activity in Cavan because of its complex of large rivers and lakes.

Below is a list of various sporting clubs in Cavan:

Club Sport League
Cavan Gaels GAA Gaelic Football Cavan Senior Football Championship
Killinkere Basketball North East League
Bailieboro Celtic FC Football Meath & District League
Mullahoran GFC Hurling Cavan Senior Hurling Championship
County Cavan Rugby Football Club Rugby Ulster Rugby
Bailieborough AC Athletics Cavan County Championships
Cornafean GAA Gaelic football Cavan Junior Football Championship


As of 2011, Cavan has a population of 73,183 making it the 25th largest county by population, ahead of Sligo and behind Offaly.[10] In 2011, Cavan (according to CSO statistics) had a natural population increase of 742 people (1,286 births minus 544 deaths).[10] Cavan has a higher percentage than the state average of people in the dependency age, 0-14 and over 65 with 34.7% in 2006, which is a drop from 36.6% in 2002. Cavan had a high age dependency ratio in 2002 of 66.91%, this was due to the migration of people who went for third level education elsewhere or who looked for work, most likely in the Greater Dublin Area. The language spoken in the county is predominantly English, with just 35% of the Cavan population also Irish speaking. The national census of April 2011 shows net migration slowing to a rate of 16.2% over that of previous periods. Between 2002 and 2006 Cavan had a population increase of 13.2%, and of this growth 83.4% was due to inward migration.

The 2011 Census results (published in April 2012) show a County Cavan population increase of 14.34%, the largest population growth in Ireland after County Laois. The population rose from 64,003 to 73,183 persons with an average increase of 15% seen in electoral areas in the southeast of the county. This increase is due to the continued population growth of N3/M3 proximity commuter towns such as Virginia, Ballyjamesduff, Bailieborough and Mullagh. Virginia is now the second largest populated town in the county. However, a continued decrease as seen from earlier census results in areas of the north and west of the county, including urban areas such Cavan and Cootehill towns. The 2011 preliminary census results also listed the highest percentage of partially constructed and vacant houses situated in the north and west of the county, representing over 20% of its dwellings vacant.[11]


Religion in Cavan - 2011
religion percent
Roman Catholics
none or not stated

The 2011 Census results, published by CSO,[12] reported that of Cavan's 73,183 residents, 85% of people were identified as Roman Catholic, 5.8% (4,230 people) were affiliated with the Church of Ireland, and 1.4% (1,030 people) were identified as either Presbyterian, Methodist or Wesleyan. Other stated religions made up 3.4% of the population and 0.02% (17 people) were identified as Jewish. 2,276 people were identified as having no religion, an increase of 56.1% from the 2006 Census, and up from just 291 people twenty years earlier in the 1991 census. 1.3% of people did not state their religion.

The Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Felim in Cavan town, is the seat of the Bishop of Kilmore and the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kilmore. St Fethlimidh's Cathedral, also in Cavan town, is one of two cathedral churches in the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh in the Church of Ireland. The Cavan Baptist Church is located in Oldtown and the Islamic Cultural Centre, which is primarily used as a Mosque, is located in Cavan town. There are two Methodist churches located in Ballyconnell and Corlespratten. There are a number of Presbyterian churches throughout the county and a restored 1800's Wesleyan Chapel in Bailieborough.


Nationality 2011 Irish British Polish Lithuanian European Union Rest of World Not Stated Total
Number 63,106 2,118 1,889 1,326 1,429 1,647 1,017 72,532
Percentage 87% 2.92% 2.6% 1.83% 1.97% 2.27% 1.4% 100%

The county's largest town is Cavan and the population density is 96 persons/sq mi

Cavan town, the county town, is the most populous town in Cavan


Agriculture is the largest industry in the county, especially dairy milk processing as well as pig and beef farming. Much of Cavan's land consists of Clay soils, which are rich in minerals, but heavy and poorly drained, making pasture farming the dominant farming system in the county.[13] There is a total farmed area of 356,496 acres in the county, and there are approximately 219,568 cattle in Cavan. Lakeland Dairies Group, which is based in Killeshandra and has manufacturing sites located throughout Cavan, is Ireland's second largest dairy co-operative with an annual revenue of €473 million.[14]

Cavan and Cork are Ireland's leading counties in pig production and Cavan farms represent 20% of the national pig herd. Pig farming regulations have put pressure on the industry, which is highly dependent on affordable credit.[15] Traditionally an agricultural economy, Cavan has since expanded in other industries, chiefly quarrying, energy production and manufacturing facilities. As of April 2012, Cavan produces 122.02 Megatwatts of wind energy, the largest wind farm is at Bindoo, which produces 48 MW of energy.[16] Peat cutting exists in the northwest of the county, in the Cuilcagh range. Major industries such as Quinn Quaries and Gypsum Industries are also important employers within the county. There are a number of quarries located in the county and the Quinn cement facility is located in Ballyconnell.[17]

By disposable income per person, Cavan ranks between Clare and Laois at 17th out of 27 in Ireland, at 91.3% of the State average (€19,246), roughly €5,000 behind Dublin, Ireland's richest county.[18][19]

As of December 2012, there are 6,994 people on live register in the county. An unemployment rate of 9.6%, 5% below the national average.[20]


  1. Corry, Eoghan (2005). The GAA Book of Lists. Hodder Headline Ireland. pp. 186–191. 
  2. Townlands of Crockawaddy, Drumarigna, Leganamer and Lisroughty in the parish of Drumreilly: 54°4’33"N, 7°45’19"W
  3. [1] - Shannon regional Fishers Board
  4. [2] - Irish Times, Coldest Day in Ireland
  5. [3] - Met Éireann - Monthly Weather Bulletin
  6. Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Uladh. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  7. p154 WS Ref #: 687 , Witness: M.J. Curran, Rector, Irish College, Rome, 1921, Bureau of Military History
  8. [4] - Cavan County Board
  9. [5] - Cavan GAA
  10. 10.0 10.1 [6] - Students Corner: Facts about your County - Cavan
  11. [7] - Census 2011 Preliminary Results
  12. [8] - Census 2012 Principal Demographic Results, CDD36
  13. [9] - Cavan Co. Council, Soils
  14. [10] - Lakeland Dairies Annual Report
  15. [11] - Pig farmers face worrying times
  16. [12] - Irish Wind Energy
  17. [13] - Quinn Cement
  18. [14] - Irish Counties by Disposable Income
  19. [15] Irish Examiner - Dublin 3k ahead of average income
  20. [16] - Facts about your county, Cavan

Outside links

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about County Cavan)
Counties of the Republic of Ireland

Carlow • Cavan • Clare • Cork • Donegal • Dublin • Galway • Kerry • Kildare • Kilkenny • Laois • Leitrim • Limerick • Longford • Louth • Mayo • Meath • Monaghan • Offaly • Roscommon • Sligo • Tipperary • Waterford • Westmeath • Wexford • Wicklow