kids encyclopedia robot

County Meath facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
County Meath

Contae na Mí
Coat of arms of County Meath
Coat of arms
The Royal County
Tré Neart le Chéile  (Irish)
"Stronger Together"
Anthem: "Beautiful Meath"
Location of County Meath
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
Region Eastern and Midland
History Date
Kingdom of Meath Antiquity
Lordship of Meath 1172
Shired 1297
Division of Meath 1542
County town Navan (1898-)
Trim (1297-1898)
 • Type County Council
 • Total 2,342 km2 (904 sq mi)
Area rank 14th
Highest elevation 276 m (906 ft)
 • Total 195,044
 • Rank 8th
 • Density 83.281/km2 (215.70/sq mi)
Vehicle index
mark code

County Meath ( Irish: Contae na Mí or simply an Mhí) is a county in Ireland. It is in the province of Leinster and is part of the Eastern and Midland Region. It is named after the historic Kingdom of Meath (from Midhe meaning "middle" or "centre"). Meath County Council is the local authority for the county. At the 2016 census, the population of the county was 195,044. The county town of Meath is Navan. Other towns in the county include Trim, Kells, Laytown, Ashbourne, Dunboyne, Slane and Bettystown.

It is one of only two counties outside the west of Ireland to have an official Gaeltacht (the other being County Waterford, which has the Ring Gaeltacht) and the only county in Leinster to have an official Gaeltacht.

Geography and political subdivisions

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. 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. County Meath also has the only two Gaeltacht areas in the province of Leinster, at Ráth Cairn and Baile Ghib.


There are eighteen historic baronies in the county. They include the baronies of Morgallion and Ratoath. While baronies continue to be officially defined units, they are no longer used for many administrative purposes. Their official status is illustrated by Placenames Orders made since 2003, where official Irish names of baronies are listed under "Administrative units".

Local government and politics

Meath GAA crest

There are 40 elected members in Meath County Council. Fine Gael hold 13 seats, Fianna Fáil hold 10, Sinn Féin hold 8, and there are 9 independents. There are 2 Dáil constituencies, Meath West and Meath East. Before, there was only one constituency. Fianna Fáil has held three seats out of five in the Meath constituency since 1987, Fine Gael has won the other two seats at each in four of the five general elections in that period, with the exception of 1992, when it lost a seat to the Labour party (which was regained in 1997). The two current constituencies are within the borders of the county. The constituencies also include part of the neighbouring county of Westmeath. Together they return 6 deputies to Dáil Éireann. Part of the county along the Irish Sea coast, known as East Meath which includes Julianstown and Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington are part of the Louth constituency for general elections. Fianna Fáil currently hold no seats, Fine Gael have 2 in each constituency, Labour has 1 in the East constituency and Sinn Féin have 1 in the West constituency.


The county is colloquially known by the nickname "The Royal County" due to its history as the seat of the High King of Ireland. It formed from the eastern part of the former Kingdom of Mide (see Kings 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 counties Meath, Fingal and Westmeath as well as parts of counties 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, Co Meath, Ireland, 1840
Dangan Castle

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.


Main immigrant groups, 2016
Country of birth Population
 United Kingdom 9,699
 Poland 4,229
 Lithuania 3,131
 Romania 1,402
 Latvia 1,092
 Nigeria 945
 United States 930
 India 465
 Moldova 456
 South Africa 442

Meath had a population of 195,044 according to the 2016 Census; an increase of 10,327 since the 2011 Census of Ireland. Population growth from 2011 to 2016 included a natural decrease of 553 people (-0.28%) since the last census, coupled with an increase of 10,880 people (5.9%) due to net migration into the county. Immigration from outside Ireland resulted in a net increase of 1,537 people, and migration within the country, primarily from County Dublin, produced a net increase of 9,343 people. Owing to its proximity to Dublin, Meath is the least indigenous county in Ireland, with just 67,798 usual residents (34.9%) recorded as being born within the county. Approximately half of all Meath residents (49.9%) were born elsewhere in Ireland, and the remaining 15.4% were born abroad. The county's population density was 83.2 people/km2 in 2016, making it one of just 7 counties in the state with a population density above the national average (69.1 people/km2).

In 2016, the racial composition of the county was:

  • 94.1% White (84.4% White Irish, 9.2% Other White Background, 0.5% Irish Traveler)
  • 1.6% Black
  • 1.3% Asian
  • 1.3% Others including mixed
  • 1.9% Not stated

The five largest foreign national groups in Meath are: British (5.0 percent), Polish (2.2 percent), Lithuanian (1.6 percent), Romanian (0.7 percent) and Latvian (0.6 percent).

Several major immigrant groups within the county experienced a decline in population between the 2011 and 2016 Census, chiefly the British (-4.4 percent), Lithuanians (-2 percent), Latvians (-4.8 percent) and Americans (-4.9 percent). Meath's sizable Nigerian community, which is mostly centered around Navan, experienced the most marked decline, decreasing from 1,206 in 2011 to 945 in 2016 (-21.6 percent). The fastest growing of the major immigrant groups during this period were the Polish (15.6 percent), Romanians (84.2%), Brazilians (50.7 percent) and Moldovans (55.7 percent).

In 2016, 8.1 percent of the county's population was reported as younger than 5 years old, 23.8 percent were between 5 and 19, 57.5 percent were between 20 and 65, and 10.6 percent of the population was older than 65. 4,328 people (2.2 percent) were over the age of 80. Females made up 50.44 percent of the population, with women outnumbering men by approximately 1,300.

In 2018, there were 2,597 births within the county, and the average age of a first time mother was 31.0 years.


Religion in Meath – 2016
Religion Percent
Roman Catholic
Other Christian
Other Stated Religions
None or Not Stated

According to the 2016 Census, published by the Central Statistics Office, 89.9% of County Meath's residents identify with a religion. 88.4% affiliate with Christianity and its various denominations, and the other 1.5% are adherents of non-Christian religions. The remaining 8.1% have no religion, with 2% of people not stating their religion.

The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2016 was the Roman Catholic Church with 160,140; followed by the Church of Ireland, England, Anglican and Episcopalian with 4,134; Orthodox Christianity with 2,915 and all other Christian denominations including Presbyterian and Pentecostal with 3,306 adherents. Among the non-Christian denominations, Muslims are by the far the largest group, with 1,564 adherents, followed by Hinduism with 336 and Buddhism with 235. Additionally, 35 people (0.018%) identified as Jewish, and 3,565 people did not state their religion.

The Cathedral of Saint Patrick in Trim was the seat of the former Diocese of Meath, which is now the Diocese of Meath and Kildare in the Church of Ireland. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Meath has its seat at Mullingar, County Westmeath. A former cathedral was located at Clonard Abbey, however it was destroyed by fire in 1206. Thomas Deenihan is the current Bishop of Meath. The county's largest Presbyterian church is located in Kells, and the Navan Muslim Community Centre, which is primarily used as a mosque, is located on Kennedy Road in Navan.

Continuing the trend which has been observed throughout Ireland since the Census of 2006, a significant increase in the number of people who identified as having no religion was observed between 2011 and 2016. This demographic increased by 97.5% from 7,990 in 2011 to 15,783 in 2016. People with no religion now account for 8.1% of the county's population.

Population trends

Population Graph of Meath 1841-2016
Graph showing the population change in Meath 1841-2016

The population of Meath suffered significant decline between 1841 and 1901, decreasing by almost two thirds (183,828 to 67,497); it stabilised between 1901 and 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 then 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 1970s baby boom. The census of 2016 gives a figure of 195,044, including a dramatic increase in inward migration to the county. Meath is now one of only 5 counties in the state which has a population higher than its 1841 pre-famine peak.

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 parts of the county, principally owing to inward migration to districts that have good proximity via road to the business parks on the western outskirts of Dublin. The accession of Poland and the Baltic States to the European Union in 2004 resulted in a significant influx of workers from these countries to work in sectors such as agriculture, quarrying, construction and catering.

Irish language

Giving way to Irish in the Baile Ghib Gaeltacht - - 704757
Irish-language road sign on a road junction in the southeast of Baile Ghib
Meath Gaeltacht Areas
Gaeltacht Areas (Green) within County Meath.

Meath contains Leinster's only Gaeltacht areas, at Ráth Chairn, close to Athboy, and Baile Ghib, located northwest of Navan. With just 1,771 native Irish speakers between them, spread over a total area of 44 km2, they are the two smallest Gaeltachts in Ireland.

Unlike the Gaeltachts of the west of Ireland, the Meath Gaeltachts are the result of a government gaelicisation scheme to reintroduce the Irish language to the east of the country. In total, 5 Irish-speaking settlements were set up in Meath between 1935 and 1939 - Ráth Chairn, Baile Ghib, Cill Bhríde, Cluain an Ghaill and Baile Ailin. They were established on fertile land which had been allowed to fall into disrepair by absentee landlords and was consequently repossessed by the Irish Land Commission. In total, 122 Irish-speaking families moved to the county. They were primarily from Connemara, but some families were also from Kerry.

Over the years Cill Bhríde was subsumed into Ráth Chairn, and Cluain an Ghaill was subsumed into Baile Ghib. The fifth and final Gaeltacht to be set up - Baile Ailin - failed after a generation, as several Irish-speaking families moved away and day-to-day use of the Irish language failed to take hold amongst the children of those who remained. The two surviving settlements were officially recognised as Gaeltacht areas in 1967.

According to the 2016 Census, 38.6 percent of Meath residents were able to speak Irish. Of that, there were 2,533 Gaeilgeoirí (people who speak Irish in their day-to-day lives) in County Meath. In addition, there are 1,304 pupils attending the seven Gaelscoileanna outside the Gaeltacht areas. The Greater Dublin Area has the highest number of Irish-medium schools in Ireland.

Urban areas

Navan is the county town and by far the largest settlement in Meath. It is also the 5th largest town in the state, excluding cities.

Meath is predominantly an urban county, although a large percentage of its residents live in rural areas. According to the 2016 Census, 58.9 percent of the county lived in urban areas, and the remaining 41.1 percent lived in rural areas. Just over half of the county's population (51.3 percent) live in the ten largest towns. Historically, the largest towns in Meath were located in the north and west of the county, such as Trim, Navan and Kells. However, in recent years settlements in the south and east of the county such as Ashbourne, Dunboyne and Bettystown have expanded significantly, and many of the county's largest and fastest growing towns are now located in these areas.

Largest cities or towns in Meath (Census 2016)
Rank Pop.
1 Navan 30,173
2 Ashbourne 12,679
3 Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington 11,872
4 Ratoath 9,533
5 Trim 9,194
6 Dunboyne 7,272
7 Kells 6,135
8 Drogheda (Southern Environs) 5,000
9 Duleek 4,219
10 Dunshaughlin 4,035

Irish language

There are 2,603 Irish language speakers in County Meath, with 1,299 native speakers in the Meath Gaeltacht. In addition there are 1,304 attending the seven Gaelscoils outside the Gaeltacht area. The Greater Dublin area has the highest number of Irish-medium schools in Ireland.



The county is served by four motorway routes. The M3 connects Navan to Dublin and runs from just south of Kells to Clonee, a distance of 48 km (30 mi). The M4 passes through the south of the county and serves as the main road to both Sligo and Galway, when it divides at Kinnegad into the N4 and the M6. The M1 Dublin to Belfast route traverses East Meath for 17 km (11 mi) before bypassing Drogheda.

A 13 km (8.1 mi) stretch of the N2 from Ashbourne to the Dublin border at Ward Cross was upgraded to the M2 motorway in 2009. Two national primary routes pass through the county, The N3 and the N2. The M3 becomes the N3 south of Kells before continuing on to County Cavan, a distance of 12 km (7.5 mi). The N2 begins at Ashbourne and crosses the county for roughly 30 km (19 mi) before entering County Louth near Collon. Two national secondary routes pass through the county. The majority of the N51 Drogheda to Mullingar route is located within Meath, and crosses the county for 40 km (25 mi), passing through Slane, Navan and Athboy.

The N52 which stretches from Nenagh, where it joins the M7, to Dundalk, where it joins the N1, crosses the county for 36 km (22 mi) and passes through Kells. Bus Éireann, as well as private coach operators, provide bus services to villages and towns across the county. Areas close to Dublin city in southern and eastern Meath such as Clonee and Dunboyne are also served by Dublin Bus.


M3 Parkway railway station - 2014-05-15
M3 Parkway railway station

Irish Rail provides frequent rail services from Dunboyne and M3 Parkway to Dublin city centre. Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington as well as Gormanstown also have a commuter rail service and are located long Dublin's 'Northern Commuter Line' which runs from Dundalk to Dublin. A commuter train service (Western Commuter Line) passes through Enfield, although the service is less frequent as the station is primarily used for the long-distance Irish rail routes to Longford and Sligo.

Navan is currently served by a freight-only spur railway line from Drogheda on the Dublin-Belfast main line, for freight traffic (zinc and lead concentrates from Tara Mines in Navan to Dublin Port) connecting at Drogheda. Currently, the only commuter rail from Dublin to Navan must also pass through Drogheda. The direct Dublin–Navan railway line remains disused, though still intact. In June 2018, the Department of Transport stated that it would review reopening the line by extending the link past the M3 parkway in 2021.


For commercial and international flights, Meath is serviced by Dublin Airport, which is the closest international airport to the county and has good road links with most major towns. For light aircraft and recreational flying, there are several airstrips located throughout the county which serve as the base of operations for local flying clubs.

The Trim Aerodrome is primarily used for microlight flying. The Ballybog Airstrip opened in 1990 and provides a number of recreational aviation activities such as hot air balloon rides and air shows. There are also airfields at Navan and at Moyglare, across the river rye from Kilcock, County Kildare.

There is also a military landing strip at Gormanstown Camp which is not actively used for aircraft. However, the Irish Defence Forces continue to utilise the airstrip for ground to air combat training.


The Central Statistics Office estimates that Meath's Total Household Income in 2017 was €5.253 billion, ranking 6th among Irish counties. Meath also ranks 6th in the country by per capita disposable income, at €20,493 or 95.8% of the State average. Meath residents are also the 6th highest per capita tax contributors to the State, returning a total of €1.311 billion in taxes in 2017 – roughly equivalent to the entire Midlands Region. Major industries include services, retail, agriculture and food processing, mining, manufacturing and tourism.

Services, retail and hospitality

Cú Chulainn Coaster Arial View
Cú Chulainn, Ireland's biggest rollercoaster.

Services, retail and the hospitality industry are the primary employers in the county. Navan was historically a manufacturing town, and involved in the household goods sector. Navan was also a centre in the Irish carpet-making industry, before this was lost to overseas competition.

Tourism benefits from the abundance of historically important pre-historic and early Christian sites, as well as castles and manor houses within the county, many of which are in currently in use as hotels. Due to its rich history, Meath is marketed by Fáilte Ireland, the country's national tourism agency, as “Ireland's Heritage Capital”. Good local infrastructure means that most of Meath's tourist attractions are located within a one and a half hour drive from Dublin Airport. Despite this, Meath received just 162,000 overseas tourists in 2017 - placing it 17th out of 26 counties. Tourism is worth in excess of €50 million to the local economy each year.

In addition to historic attractions, Meath is home to scenic lakes, beaches, wooded areas and several European-designated areas of ecological significance. The only permanent amusement park in Ireland is Tayto Park, located in Ashbourne, which has 3 roller-coasters, including Cú Chulainn, Ireland's largest roller-coaster.

Meath also has a growing science and biotechnology field. In 2018, Shire, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, opened a €350 million international disease research centre in Dunboyne, which employs 400 people.


Silage Harvesting Cadamstown
Silage harvesting in Clonard.

The agricultural products of the county are beef, pork, dairy, poultry, vegetables and cereals. Meath has a strong farming tradition and up until the 1911 Census the most commonly listed occupation in the county was farm labourer. Meath is ranked 2nd in the country for the production of vegetables and 2nd for the production of rapeseed oil.

As of 2018, Meath has the country's 8th largest cattle herd with 275,301 cows. Dairy production was the largest and most profitable agricultural sector in the county and 63.7% of all cattle were dairy cows. The remaining 36.3% were beef cattle. The county also has Ireland's 9th largest sheep herd (150,571 sheep) and 14th largest pig herd (40,259). Meat processors such as Kepak and Dawn Meats are large employers within the county.

There are 4,620 farms in the county, with a total farmed area of 194,886 ha (481,574 acres), accounting for 83% of land area. Of this, 31,201 ha (77,099 acres) was under tillage, the 3rd highest in the country. Although Irish agriculture is heavily dominated by pasture farming, Meath's favourable climate and easterly location gives it a much greater capacity than most counties for agricultural diversification, reflected in its robust tillage and vegetable production sectors. The average size of a farm in the county is 42 ha (104 acres), well above the national average of 31 ha (77 acres).

Agriculture supports thousands of jobs within the county and, according to the Irish Farmers' Association, the total value of agricultural produce from Meath in 2018 was €541 million, ranking it 6th in Ireland.

Extraction and energy

Zinc fragment sublimed and 1cm3 cube
Meath is the largest producer of Zinc in Europe.

Due to the geology of the area, Meath has enormous reserves of Lead and Zinc, which are extracted at Tara Mine in Navan. Tara is both Europe's largest and deepest mine, and is currently owned by Boliden AB. The mine has been in continuous operation since 1977, and a total of 85 million tonnes of ore have been extracted from it, producing 2.6 million tonnes of zinc ore annually.

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 quarrying tradition. The local availability of large deposits of the limestone and shale also gave rise to a significant cement production industry within the county. The two largest cement facilities are at Kinnegad and Platin, the latter of which is owned by Irish Cement and has the capacity to produce 2.8 million tonnes of cement per annum, which is primarily transported via rail to Dublin for use or export.

Ireland's first waste-to-energy plant opened in Duleek in 2011 and produces 17 MW of electricity per annum. SSE Airtricity aim to build a 208 MW gas-fired power plant south of Drogheda. Meath has a small but growing biomass industry, however other forms of renewable energy such as wind power and hydroelectricity have stalled due to widespread objections. There is an abundance of natural subterranean faults where water from hot springs, such as those Enfield, rise to the surface at 25 °C. There is potential for these to be used for Shallow Geothermal Energy generation.



Croke Park fans on the hill
Meath supporters (green and yellow) at an All-Ireland Qualifiers game against Tyrone.

Gaelic football is the most popular sport in the county, and Meath GAA competes annually in Division 1 of the National Football League, the provincial Leinster Senior Football Championship and the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. Meath has long been the second power of Leinster football, behind rivals Dublin, and 26 Leinster Senior Football Championship Finals have been contested between the two, of which Meath emerged victorious on 9 occasions. In total, Meath has won 21 Leinster titles, making the county the second most successful in the province after Dublin. Given the pre-eminence of Dublin in recent years, Meath's rivalry with Louth is now often regarded as the most heated contest, especially after Meath's highly controversial win over Louth in the 2010 Leinster Final.

Meath has won the national football league 7 times, between 1933 and 1994, the fifth most titles in Ireland. Additionally, Meath has won the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, the most prestigious competition in Gaelic football, on 7 occasions between 1949 and 1999, also making it the fifth most successful county in Ireland. Meath has also won Leinster's O'Byrne Cup on 10 occasions, the second most after Kildare.

Within the county, gaelic football clubs compete annually in the Meath Senior Football Championship. The first championship was played in 1887, in which Dowdstown beat Kells by 1 goal to nothing. The most successful club in Meath is Navan O'Mahonys with 20 Senior Football Championship titles. The most successful club at provincial level is Walterstown, which has won 2 Leinster Senior Club Football Championship titles in 1980 and 1983. No team from Meath has ever won the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship.

In Hurling, the county competes in Division 2 of the National Hurling League, as well as in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship and the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Meath is not a dual county, and has never won a provincial or national hurling title.

As with football, the Meath Senior Hurling Championship is held every year. The first championship in 1902 was won by the Navan Hibernians. The most successful hurling club in the county is Kilmessan, with 29 titles, followed by Trim, with 26. No club team from Meath has ever won the Leinster Senior Club Hurling Championship, and have therefore never qualified for the All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship.

Horse Racing at Fairyhouse
Horse racing at Fairyhouse.

Equestrian activities

Horse racing, horse breeding and horse training are popular in Meath. There are 54 studs within the county, including the Dollanstown Stud and Estate, which is one of the most expensive private properties in Ireland. Race courses within the county include Navan, Fairyhouse and Bellewstown, which host both National Hunt and Flat horse races, such as the Brownstown Stakes, the Bobbyjo Chase, the Lismullen Hurdle and the Irish Grand National. The latter has been held at Fairyhouse since 1870. Beach horse racing also takes place at Laytown.

The Tattersalls Country House and equestrian grounds, which hosts the International Horse Trials and Country Fair each year, is located opposite to the Fairyhouse Racecourse near Ratoath.

Artist Letitia Marion Hamilton from Dunboyne won an Olympic bronze medal for oils and watercolours in the 1948 Summer Olympics for her depiction of The Meath Hunt Point-to-Point Races.

Other sports

Killeen Castle 18th Hole
18th Hole at Killeen Castle

As with much of the rest of Ireland, association football is a popular spectator sport within Meath. The two most prominent football clubs in the county are Parkvilla F.C. and Dunboyne A.F.C., which both compete in the Leinster Senior League. The lower-tier Meath and District League comprises clubs from counties Meath, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan. Despite being one of the most populous counties in Ireland, Dunboyne's Darragh Lenihan is the first and only player from Meath to have represented the Republic of Ireland national football team, after making his debut in 2018.

Golf is also widely played, and there are numerous golf and links courses in Meath. Killeen Castle in Dunsany has an 18-hole championship golf course which was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2009, and was the venue for the 2011 Solheim Cup. Knightsbrook Golf Club in Trim also has a championship golf course which was designed by Christy O'Connor in 2006. The County Meath Golf Club in Trim and Royal Tara Golf Club near Navan are two of the most popular golfing locations in the county. Links golf is also played adjacent to the Irish sea coast at the Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club.

Athletics within the county is organised by the Meath Athletics Board, which overseas the county's 18 athletics clubs. The board is based in Claremont Stadium in Navan, which is a 400m Tartan Athletics Track and Field Stadium. Sara Treacy of Dunboyne AC represented Ireland in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Several teams from Meath compete in the Leinster League in Rugby union, most notably Ashbourne RFC, Athboy RFC, Navan R.F.C. and North Meath RFC. Former Leinster and Ireland wing Shane Horgan, from Bellewstown, played for Boyne RFC in Drogheda at youth level.

Notable people

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Meath para niños

kids search engine
County Meath Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.