Where better to start your visit to Drogheda than at the imposing structure of St. Laurence’s Gate. Regarded as one of the finest medieval gates of its kind in Europe, it is on occasion opened to the public. Continue down Laurence’s Street to the excellent Highlanes Gallery (admission free; 10.30am-5pm Mon-Sat). Housed in a former Franciscan church, the permanent collection of important Irish art is complemented by exciting temporary exhibitions. Also on display, are the ceremonial sword and mace presented to Drogheda Corporation by King William III after the Battle of the Boyne.
After checking out the Highlanes, continue down to The Tholsel. Built in 1770, it served as the centre of municipal authority for 130 years. The building also regularly hosted sessions of the Irish Parliament. Today, it is the tourist information point for the town and broader Boyne Valley. It is also from here that the town’s historic guided tour starts (adult/child €3/1.50; 3pm Tue-Fri Jun-Sep; pre-booking essential)
Only a stone’s throw away is St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. Amongst one of the finest Gothic Revival Churches in Ireland it houses the preserved head of St. Oliver Plunkett (1625–81), the last Catholic martyr to die in England. If you are drawn to the macabre, take a quick trip up Peter Street to visit St Peter’s Church of Ireland. In the cemetery you will find a fine example of a 16th century cadaver tomb.
A stroll across the river from North to South and up Pitcher Hill Steps brings you to the Millmount Complex (museum and tower combination ticket adult/student/child €5.50/€3/€2.50; 10am–5.30pm Mon-Sat, 2pm – 5pm Sun). No visit to the town would be complete without exploring the Martello tower which can be seen from almost any point in Drogheda and offers great views of the town. When the Anglo-Normans came to Ireland in the 12th century, Hugh De Lacy built a defensive Motte and Bailey on this site. In 1649 during Oliver Cromwell’s attack on the town it is believed that much of the slaughter took place in Millmount, with up to 2,500 men killed. Later the complex served as an army barracks and in 1808 the Martello Tower was built. The tower was later badly damaged during the Irish Civil War in 1922. In 2000 it was restored and now houses part of the Millmount Museum. Exhibitions cover the town’s military history, local archaeology and geology. There are also displays on the area’s industrial heritage and daily life during the 19th century.
Just a few kilometres outside of the town is the site of the Battle of the Boyne (1690). The battle between James II and William of Orange determined who sat on the British throne, French dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland. The visitor centre is located in the fine Georgian house of Oldbridge Estate (adult/senior citizen/child & student €4/3/2; 9.30am-5.30pm Mar-Apr, 10am-6pm May-Sep, 9am-5pm Oct-Feb). Not far from Oldbridge is the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre (combination ticket for exhibition Newgrange and Knowth adult/senior citizen/child & student €11/8/6; 9.30am-5.30pm Feb-Apr, 9am-6.30pm May, 9am-7pm Jun-mid Sep, 9am-6.30pm mid Sep-end Sep, 9.30am-5.30pm Oct, 9am-5pm Nov-Jan). One of only three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland, the Neolithic complex of Brú na Bóinne is stunning in the number of tombs present, their size, their engineering, and their beauty. The Passage Tomb at Knowth alone contains one third of Western Europe’s megalithic art. Do yourself a favour and simply go there!