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About Roscommon

The name Roscommon comes from the Irish word 'Ros', meaning a gentle terrain and 'Coman', referring to the name of an Irish Saint. An inland area, Roscommon is the only county in Connacht without any sea coast. 100km in length and 64km at its greatest width, the county boasts magnificent preserved forest land with abundant wildlife. Beautiful Lough Key Forest Park near Boyle, is a mixed woodland with lakes, islands, and medieval ruins and farming accounts for 30 percent of employment in the county.

On the Boyle Road outside the town, Roscommon boasts the impressive remains of Roscommon Castle. Built by the Normans in 1269, the castle was later burnt down by the Irish and then rebuilt in 1280. Another integral part of Roscommon's heritage is the Abbey, a ruin located on the other side of town. The Celtic Saint, St Comain (after whom Roscommon derives its name) was the very first bishop here. Having close ties with the famous Abbey at Clonmacnoise, the abbey here also became well known as a seat of learning. The priory ruin, dating from 1253 was Dominican, however, and despite the religious persecution that followed the Reformation and the Plantations, remained in Dominican hands until well into the nineteenth century.

The market town of Strokestown is a particularly well known landmark in the Roscommon area. Developed around Strokestown Park house, the town owes its existence to the Mahon family, who owned the Park House estate. In fact, it was one of the early Mahon's who designed the incredibly wide main street with a view to creating Europe's widest street! One of the last major eighteenth century manor houses to survive in County Roscommon, the 12,000 hectare estate was granted to Nicholas Mahon by Charles II as a reward for supporting the House of Steward in the English Civil War.

Unhappy with the style and magnitude of the house, Nicholas' grandson later commissioned Richard Castle to built a grand house in the Palladian style (a fashion popular at that time). Apart from some further alterations made in the nineteenth century the house remained unchanged. With time however, the estate along with family fortunes slowly diminished. Strokestown Park House stayed in the Mahon family until 1979, when it was bought by a local firm who restored and opened it to the public. The estate had whittled down to 120 hectares at that stage, although practically all its original contents had stayed intact.

The Irish Famine Museum is also housed at Strokestown. The museum is twinned with Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site, Grosse Ile, Quebec, Canada. Over 5,500 Irish people who emigrated during the famine years are buried in mass graves at Grosse Ile. The Museum also has a strong educational focus and seeks to create a greater awareness of the horrors of contemporary famine by demonstrating the link between the causes of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840's and the ongoing spectacle of famine in the developing world today.

Some other attractions to look out for in Roscommon area include:

Frybrook House
Frybrook house is a rare example of an original late eighteenthcentury town house and garden. The house has many interesting architectural features, including some fine examples of Georgian decorative plasterwork and an Adams fireplace.

King House is one of the most important provincial townhouses in Ireland and Britain. Beautifully restored, King House has a series of exciting interactive exhibitions focusing on Gaelic Ireland, the King Family and their time as landlords, the construction of the house and its military history.

County Roscommon Heritge and Genealogical Centre
The Roscommon Heritage and Genealogical Centre offers a family research service to people with County Roscommon roots. There is a permanent display dealing with Roscommon surnames.

The Roscommon County Museum
Roscommon's county Museum houses a unique collection of artefacts relating to the history of the county, the town and its people.


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