Kells, County Meath
Kells is a town
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

 in County Meath
County Meath
County Meath is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Mid-East Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the ancient Kingdom of Mide . Meath County Council is the local authority for the county...

, Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

. The town lies off the M3 motorway, 16 km (10 mi) from Navan
-People:Navan was the childhood home of Pierce Brosnan, who appeared in the television series Remington Steele and was the fifth film actor to play James Bond. TV personality Hector Ó hEochagáin, and comedians Dylan Moran and Tommy Tiernan also hail from Navan....

 and 65 km (40 mi) from Dublin. In recent years Kells has grown greatly with many Dublin commuters moving to the town.

Until the opening of the new motorway in June 2010, Kells stood as a busy junction town on the old N3 road with over 18,000 vehicles passing through the town each day. Kells was a renowned traffic bottleneck from both the N3 national primary route (Dublin, Cavan
Cavan is the county town of County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland. The town lies in the north central part of Ireland, near the border with Northern Ireland...

, Enniskillen
Enniskillen is a town in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is located almost exactly in the centre of the county between the Upper and Lower sections of Lough Erne. It had a population of 13,599 in the 2001 Census...

 and Ballyshannon
Ballyshannon is a town in County Donegal, Ireland. It is located where the N3 and N15 cross the River Erne, and claims to be the oldest town in Ireland.-Location:...

) and N52
N52 road (Ireland)
The N52 road is a national secondary road in Ireland. It links the M7 motorway from just south of Nenagh, County Tipperary to the M1 motorway north of Dundalk in County Louth.The road is long.-Quality of Road:...

 national secondary route (Dundalk
Dundalk is the county town of County Louth in Ireland. It is situated where the Castletown River flows into Dundalk Bay. The town is close to the border with Northern Ireland and equi-distant from Dublin and Belfast. The town's name, which was historically written as Dundalgan, has associations...

, Tullamore
Tullamore is a town in County Offaly, in the midlands of Ireland. It is Offaly's county town and the centre of the district.Tullamore is an important commercial and industrial centre in the region. Major international employers in the town include 'Tyco Healthcare' and 'Boston Scientific'. In...

 and Nenagh
Nenagh is the county town of North Tipperary in Ireland. It is the administrative centre of North Tipperary and in 2011 it had a recorded population of 7,995. It is a civil parish in the historical barony of Ormond Lower...

) passing though the town centre. The new M3 motorway significantly reduces the journey time to Dublin, as well as the numbers of vehicles in the town.


The name Kells derives from Kenlis, an anglicisation of the Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 word 'Ceann Lios'. Ceann Lios, meaning "head fort" appears to be another form of the name Ceannanas Mór. Kells, Kenlis and Headfort all feature in the titles taken by the Taylor family
Marquess of Headfort
Marquess of Headfort is a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created in 1800 for Thomas Taylor, 2nd Earl of Bective. Despite the official title, the family unfailingly use the alternative rendering Marquis of Headfort, and this is the spelling more commonly encountered in references to family...

, and all contribute to local place names.


The monastery at Kells is thought to have been founded around 804 A.D. by monks fleeing from St Colmcille's Iona
Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It was a centre of Irish monasticism for four centuries and is today renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty. It is a popular tourist destination and a place for retreats...

 monastery to escape Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...


In 1152, the Synod of Kells completed the transition of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 of Ireland from a monastic church
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 to the diocesan church
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 that continues today. While called the Synod of Kells, this important Synod was transferred to Mellifont, Co Louth, and held there in March 1152. Kells was raised to a Diocese by the Synod, but was later reduced to parochial status. At the end of the 12th century Hugh de Lacy was granted the whole of Meath and under the Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 the religious establishments at Kells flourished.

Kells became a border town garrison of the Pale
The Pale
The Pale or the English Pale , was the part of Ireland that was directly under the control of the English government in the late Middle Ages. It had reduced by the late 15th century to an area along the east coast stretching from Dalkey, south of Dublin, to the garrison town of Dundalk...

 and was the scene of many battles, between Bréifne Irish
Kingdom of Breifne
The Kingdom of Breifne or Bréifne was the traditional territory for an early Irish tribal group known as the Uí Briúin Bréifne...

 and Hiberno-Norman
The Hiberno-Normans are those Norman lords who settled in Ireland who admitted little if any real fealty to the Anglo-Norman settlers in England, and who soon began to interact and intermarry with the Gaelic nobility of Ireland. The term embraces both their origins as a distinct community with...

s, both of whom had heavily intermarried. Since the Tudor
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

 from 1561 to 1800 Kells returned two Members of Parliament. During the rebellion of 1641, Kells was burned by the O'Reilly's during their attacks on the pale.

The period of the Great Famine saw the population of Kells drop by 38% as measured by the civil census records of 1841 and 1851. The Workhouse
In England and Wales a workhouse, colloquially known as a spike, was a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment...

 and the Fever Hospital were described as full to overflowing.

Places of interest

  • The Abbey of Kells
    Abbey of Kells
    The Abbey of Kells is a former monastery located in Kells, County Meath, Ireland, 40 miles north of Dublin. It was founded in the early ninth century, and the Book of Kells was kept there during the later medieval and early modern periods before finally leaving the Abbey in the 1650s...

    , with its round tower
    Irish round tower
    Irish round towers , Cloigthithe – literally "bell house") are early medieval stone towers of a type found mainly in Ireland, with three in Scotland and one on the Isle of Man...

    , is associated with St Colmcille
    Saint Columba —also known as Colum Cille , Colm Cille , Calum Cille and Kolban or Kolbjørn —was a Gaelic Irish missionary monk who propagated Christianity among the Picts during the Early Medieval Period...

     (also known as Columba), the Book of Kells
    Book of Kells
    The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created by Celtic monks ca. 800 or slightly earlier...

    , now kept at Trinity College Dublin and the Kells Crozier, exhibited at the British Museum
    British Museum
    The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

    . The round tower and five large Celtic cross
    Celtic cross
    A Celtic cross is a symbol that combines a cross with a ring surrounding the intersection. In the Celtic Christian world it was combined with the Christian cross and this design was often used for high crosses – a free-standing cross made of stone and often richly decorated...

    es can still be viewed today. Four of the crosses are in the churchyard of St Columba's church. The other Celtic cross was positioned in the middle of a busy crossroads until an unfortunate accident involving a cumbersome school bus. It now stands in front of a former courthouse. A roof protects the cross from the elements. Curiously, a replica is completely safe from the elements inside the museum.

  • Close by the graveyard of St. Columba's church stands a small stone roofed Oratory (St. Colmcille's House). This probably dates from the 11th century. Access to the monks' sleeping accommodation aloft is by ladder. This small rectangular building is positioned at one of the highest points in the town. The Oratory is kept locked, but visitor access can be arranged.
  • Just outside the town of Kells on the road to Oldcastle
    Oldcastle, County Meath
    Oldcastle is a town in County Meath, Ireland. It is located in the north-west of the county near the border with Cavan, approximately 21 km from Kells. The R154 and R195 regional roads cross in the town's market square...

     is the hill of Lloyd, named after Thomas Lloyd of Enniskillen, who camped a large Williamite army here during the wars of 1688-91 against the Jacobites. Here also stands an interesting towering building called the Tower of Lloyd, which is an 18th century lighthouse folly in the form of a giant Doric column, surmounted by glazed lantern, erected to the memory of Thomas Taylor, 1st Earl of Bective, by his son. The tower is around 30 m (100 ft) high. From the top one can see magnificent views of the surrounding countryside as far as the Mourne mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland on a clear day. The tower was used to view horse racing and the hunt in the nineteenth century. The plaque on the tower reads: 'This pillar was designed by Henry Aaron Baker Esq. architect was executed by Mr. Joseph Beck stone cutter Mr. Owen Mc Cabe head mason Mr. Bartle Reilly overseer Anno 1791'. The area around the tower has been developed as a community park (The People's Park), and includes the Paupers' Grave. This cemetery was a necessity in the times of great poverty in the country. Mass is still celebrated there annually and the cemetery is a grim reminder of the Workhouse and extreme poverty engendered by changes in farming practice in the 19th century and during the Famine.


The population of Kells town (according to the official 2006 Census of Population) stands at 2257 persons. This represens a slight decrease in population over the 2002 Census. There was a 24.8% increase in total population between 1996 and 2002.


  • The M3 motorway (opened June 2010) and a nearby toll plaza charges €1.30 each way. A second toll plaza closer to Dublin charges the same amount, meaning that the whole M3, costs €5.20 for a return journey to Dublin.
  • Kells is presently serviced by a regular bus service from Bus Éireann
    Bus Éireann
    Bus Éireann provides bus services in Ireland with the exception of those operated entirely within the Dublin Region, which are provided by Dublin Bus. Bus Éireann, established as a separate company in 1987, is a subsidiary of Córas Iompair Éireann. The logo of Bus Éireann incorporates a red Irish...

     which takes about 1.5 hours to Busáras
    Busáras is the central bus station in Dublin, Ireland for intercity and regional bus services operated by Bus Éireann. Busáras is also a stop on the Red Line of the Luas system, just before the terminus at Dublin Connolly railway station. Áras Mhic Dhiarmada is the official name of the...

     in Dublin.
  • Meath on Track are seeking reinstatement of the Navan railway link, and on to Dublin. It is estimated that a Kells to Dublin City Centre rail service would take approximately 60 minutes depending on stops.
  • The original Kells railway station serviced a line between Oldcastle
    Oldcastle, County Meath
    Oldcastle is a town in County Meath, Ireland. It is located in the north-west of the county near the border with Cavan, approximately 21 km from Kells. The R154 and R195 regional roads cross in the town's market square...

     and Drogheda
    Drogheda is an industrial and port town in County Louth on the east coast of Ireland, 56 km north of Dublin. It is the last bridging point on the River Boyne before it enters the Irish Sea....

     via Navan and opened on 11 July 1853, closed for passenger traffic on 14 April 1958 and finally closed to all traffic on 1 April 1963.

Kells in popular culture

  • The Butcher Boy
    The Butcher Boy
    The Butcher Boy is a 1992 novel by Patrick McCabe. It was shortlisted for the 1992 Booker Prize and won the 1992 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Fiction.The Butcher Boy is set in a small town in Ireland in the late 1950s...

     was filmed at Headfort House
  • The Secret of Kells is an Oscar nominated animated film set in Kells

  • Jim Connell
    Jim Connell
    Jim Connell was an Irish political activist of the late 19th century and early 20th century, best known as the writer of the anthem "The Red Flag" in December 1889.-Life:...

     of Crossakiel b. 1852, Kells wrote the Socialist anthem "The Red Flag
    The Red Flag
    The Red Flag is a protest song associated with left-wing politics, in particular with socialism. It is the semi-official anthem of the British Labour Party, sung at the end of conference. It is the official anthem of the Irish Labour Party and sung at the close of national conference.-History:The...

  • Dick Farrelly
    Dick Farrelly
    Dick Farrelly born Richard Farrelly was an Irish songwriter, policeman and poet, composer of "The Isle of Innisfree", the song for which he is best remembered. His parents were publicans and when Dick was twenty-three he left Kells, County Meath for Dublin to join the Irish Police Force...

     Composer of the "Isle of Innisfree
    Isle of Innisfree
    The Isle of Innisfree is a song composed by Dick Farrelly , born Richard Farrelly, who wrote both the music and lyrics. Dick got the inspiration for "Isle of Innisfree", the song for which he is best remembered, while on a bus journey from his native Kells, County Meath to Dublin...

    ", 1952 hit for Bing Crosby and theme of the film, "The Quiet Man".

  • Damien McGrane
    Damien McGrane
    Damien McGrane is an Irish golfer.McGrane was born in Kells, County Meath, Ireland. He turned professional in 1991.McGrane has had full status on the European Tour since 2003, and has earned over €3.5m in prize-money...

     b. 1971 professional golfer is a Kells man.
  • Munster Rugby
    Munster Rugby
    Munster Rugby is an Irish professional rugby union team based in Munster, that competes in the RaboDirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup.The team represents the Irish Rugby Football Union Munster Branch which is one of four primary branches of the IRFU, and is responsible for rugby union in the Irish...

     full back Denis Hurley was born and bred in Kells.

  • Edmund Sheridan of Sheridan Transport, Cavan Road, Kells. Tel: 0872670056

See also

  • Kells, County Antrim
    Kells, County Antrim
    Kells is a village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, near Ballymena. The area encompasses Kells and the village of Connor which are very close together and have a joint primary school, library, development association etc. It had a population of 1,745 people in the 2001 Census...

    , a village in Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

  • List of towns and villages in Ireland
  • Market Houses in Ireland
    Market Houses in the Republic of Ireland
    Market houses are a notable feature of many Irish towns with varying styles of architecture, size and ornamentation making for a most interesting feature of the streetscape. Originally there were three, four or even five bays on the ground floor which were an open arcade. An upper floor was...

External links

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