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Irish: Contae na Mí
Republic of Ireland
Tara stone.jpg
Lia Fáil on the Hill of Tara
[Interactive map]
Province: Leinster
Area: 904 square miles
Population: 184,135
County seat: Navan

The County of Meath is a shire in the province of Leinster in the Republic of Ireland. It is named after the ancient Kingdom of Meath (meaning "middle"). The population of the county is 184,135 according to the 2011 census.[1]

Trim Castle, Trim


The county is drained by the River Boyne.

Meath is the 14th largest of Ireland’s 32 counties in area and 9th largest in terms of population.[2] It is the second largest of Leinster’s 12 counties in size and third largest in terms of population. The county town is Navan, where the county hall and government are located, although Trim, the former county town, has historical significance and remains a sitting place of the circuit court.


There are eighteen historic baronies in the county.[3] They include the baronies of Morgallion and Ratoath.


The county is colloquially known by the nickname "The Royal County" due to its history as the seat of the High King of Ireland.[4][5][6] It formed from the eastern part of the former Kingdom of Mide but now forms part of the province of Leinster. Historically, the kingdom and its successor territory the Lordship of Meath, included all of the counties of Meath, and Westmeath as well as parts of the counties of Cavan, Longford, Louth, Offaly and Kildare. The seat of the High King of Ireland was at Tara. The archaeological complex of Brú na Bóinne is 5,000 years old and includes the burial sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, in the north-east of the county. It is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

Places of interest

Dangan Castle
  • The Hill of Tara, an ancient historical site.
  • Castles at Trim, Slane (private), Dunsany (limited opening), Killeen (a hotel).
  • Religious ruins at Trim (two), Bective, Slane (two), Dunsany, Skryne (Skreen).
  • 2500-year-old mound structures of disputed origin at Teltown. Teltown is home to Ireland's pre-Olympic Games, which some records date back to 1869 BCE.
  • Brú na Bóinne Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Loughcrew, an ancient historical site.
  • Dangan Castle (Summerhill), the family home of Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington, Lord Arthur Wellesley, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS.

Trim contains Ireland's largest Norman castle and was the setting for many Norman-Irish parliaments.
Meath is also home to Kells, with its round tower and monastic past, and Ireland's only inland lighthouse, the 18th century Spire of Lloyd.


Graph showing the population change in Co. Meath.

The population in Co. Meath has been characterised since 1861 as being in a period of significant decline. Between 1861 and 1901 the population was almost halved (110,373 to 67,497), the population stabilised from 1901 to 1971 (67,497 to 71,729) and there was a substantial increase between 1971 and 1981 to 95,419. This increase was mainly due to a baby-boom locally. The population continued to increase at a constant rate, before increasing at an explosive rate between 1996 and 2002, from 109,732 to 134,005. This is due primarily to economic factors, with the return of residents to live in the county, and also an echo effect of the 70s baby boom. The census of 2011 gives a statistic of 184,135 to include a dramatic increase in inward migration in the county, much of it from neighbouring Dublin, and Drogheda.

This population growth has seen divergent trends emerge in recent years, with mild depopulation in the north and west of the county being more than offset by large increases in the population of the eastern and south eastern part of the county, principally due to inward migration to districts which have good proximity via road, to the business parks on the Western outskirts of Dublin. The accession of Poland and Lithuania to the European Union in 2004, has resulted in a significant influx of workers from these countries to work in low wage sectors including agriculture, quarrying, construction and catering.

Urban areas and populations

Town Population
Navan 28,158
Ashbourne 11,355
Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington 10,889
Ratoath 9,043
Trim 8,268
Dunboyne 6,959
Kells 5,888
Southern environs of Drogheda 5,000[7] [8]
Duleek 3,988
Dunshaughlin 3,903
Stamullen 3,130


  • Good land, with a strong farming tradition has been prominent historically for cattle, dairying, potatoes and grain. Recently production volumes have decreased due to competition for labour from other sectors of the economy. Migrant labour from Eastern Europe has helped however. Meath is Ireland's leading county producer of potatoes, and a significant producer of beef, barley, milk, wheat, and root vegetables.
  • Quarrying and Mining. Europe's largest underground lead-zinc mine, Tara Mines, has operated since 1977, at a location to the west of Navan. Current ore production from the mine is 2,600,000 tonnes of ore per year, containing over 200,000 tonnes of zinc metal. Glacial deposits of gravel exist in a band stretching from the Offaly border at Edenderry, to the sea at Laytown. This is the basis of a long running quarrying tradition. A large cement plant near Duleek is situated in this territory.
  • An increasing proportion of Meath residents commute into Dublin, with a resulting shift to a services based economy in the developing dormitory towns.
  • Meat processing in Clonee, and Navan.
  • Historically Navan was a manufacturing town, involved in the household goods sector. Navan was the centre of the Irish Furniture industry. Gradually this has declined as a source of employment, though it has acted as a source of inspiration for other ventures producing finished products for the construction industry.
  • Navan was the centre of the Irish Carpet making industry, before this was lost to overseas competition.
  • Horse breeding and training.
  • Localized tourism in Trim, Kells, Tara and the Boyne Valley.
  • In common with other counties with thriving agricultural and traditional local industrial sectors like Westmeath, Wexford, Kilkenny and Monaghan. Meath has few multinational investment facilities. Drogheda, Blanchardstown, Swords, and Leixlip are neighbouring towns that provide employment to multinational investment facilities.



  • The M1 motorway linking Dublin and Belfast.
  • The N2/M2 motorway linking Dublin and Londonderry.
  • The N3/M3 motorway linking Dublin and Cavan.
  • The N4/M4 motorway linking Dublin and Sligo.


  • Hansfield, Dunboyne and M3 Parkway have a frequent service to Dublin City Centre.
  • Laytown has a frequent commuter service. The station is located on Dublin's 'Northern Commuter Line'
  • There is a commuter train service (Western Commuter Line) from Enfield. Although the service is very infrequent (only 8 trains a day to Dublin with no direct trains 4 pm - 9 pm), not many villages like Enfield have a commuter service at all.
  • Navan is currently served by a freight only spur railway line from Drogheda the on the Dublin-Belfast main line, for freight traffic (zinc and lead concentrates from Tara Mines in Navan to Dublin Port) connecting at Drogheda. The direct rail line remains abandoned, though its path is reasonably intact, and plans are drawn up to reopen it in line with current government transport policy. However, this plan has now been put on hold due to the economic downturn.


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Meath)
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