Fore valley is a valley between two hills in Ireland. Located about a 30-minute drive from Mullingar in County Westmeath. It is a place with lush green scenery and attracts people because of St Fechin’s church.
St Fechin established a monastery in AD 630 where 300 monks lived. Not much remains of the structure now as it was on fire 12 times. But of the remains, there are 7 wonders with wonderful spiritual tales behind them.
Fore valley is a deeply atmospheric place with sweeping views across the valley. The town was also renowned for its erudition and it was called Baile Leabhair, “The Town of Books”.
There is a small rural coffee shop on the site of a monastery in the beautiful little village of Fore. An information Centre, public toilets and a pub can also be found in the area. People can park their cars in the parking available near the church and priory ruins. Genealogy service also available. People can buy local crafts and paintings which are on sale. Local tour guides are also available on request.
Geography of Fore Valley
The majority of the people in Fore Valley live in the mountainous region. This region experiences an average annual rainfall of 90 inches, much of it happens in the rainy season which lasts from December to March.
Untouched forest constitutes the majority of the landscape. Grassland areas and clear spaces are seen in locations where people had used these plots of land for cultivation in the past or are using it in the present. Two rivers, largest in the valley, Lamari and Yani flow through it and are tributaries to another large river called the Purari River.
History of Fore Valley
Fore was named after the well of Saint Féchín (Féichín). It was founded by St. Feichin around 630 AD and ‘Fore’ is the English version of the Irish name Fobhair meaning ‘water-springs’.
The Norman Lord of Meath, Hugh de Lacy, built a Bendictine priory at Fore in the 13th century. It was dedicated to both St Féchín (Féichín) and St Taurin, the abbot of the parent monastery at Évreux, Normandy in France. Many of the structures that remain today are from the 15th century.
Seven Wonders of Fore Valley
Here are the best places that are known as Seven Wonders of Fore Valley that you can visit:
1. The Monastery Built on the Bog
One of the main attractions of the valley, the ruins of the Monastery Built on the Bog, constitute the only Benedictine site remaining in the entire country. The structure seems more of a castle rather than a monastery, because of its fortress-like built. Legend says that it was built on a rock in the Centre of a quaking bog.
2. The Water that Flows Uphill
An optical illusion that makes it appear as if the water if flowing ‘uphill’ instead of down. The story has it as Saint Féchín used his staff to coerce water to flow uphill. It was suggested by John O’Donovan that the original name of the site, prior to its association with the saint, was Gleann Fobhair, or “Valley of Streams.
3. The Mill Without a Race
The tales have it that St. Féichín had a mill built in this place where there was no water. The carpenter who was asked to do so scoffed at the idea. Once the mill was completed the saint began the flow of the water from Lough Lene when he thrusted his crozier into the ground. The flow subsequently increased for the mill to operate. The flow of water drowned the carpenter who was doubtful of this venture who was then resurrected by the saint. The mill is said to be used till 1857 and it was replaced after that. The triangular millpond is now mostly silted up, but the springs that once filled it, whether created by the saint or not, still bubble up nearby
4. The Tree that Won’t Burn
This tree is also known as the “The Tree with Three Branches,” Many pilgrims hammered copper coins into its bark which is why it was also called the ‘Money Tree’. This practice has led to the death of this tree. It is now replaced by the sapling seen in the VR tour, festooned by pilgrims with colorful rags and personal mementos rather than copper coins. Locals believe that this tree whose branch was once cut down by a man was found dead the next day.
5. The Water that Doesn’t Boil
Fore Valley is home to two holy wells-Doaghfeighin (St Féichín’s Bath) and Tobernacogany (the Well of the Kitchen). The former is where St. Féichín knelt and prayed while immersed in the cold water. St Féichín was said to have cured sick children by immersing them into this well. The latter was known to have healed the sick, curing headache, toothache, and other infirmities. The old people tell the belief that the water of these wells cannot be boiled and anyone who would try to do so has to face the worst of the fates.
6. The Anchorite In a Stone
The tower known as the Hermit’s Cell is situated above Saint Féchín’s church. It was once house to Patrick Beglin- the last “anchorite hermit” in Ireland. Once he entered his cell he never left, praying and meditating in his small dark space, with food and water brought to him by local supporters.
7. The Lintel Stone Raised by St. Féichín’s Prayers
The huge lintel that is placed above the west doorway in St. Féichín’s church has an interesting tale behind it. When this massive stone which is 2.5 tons in weight and 6 ft. in length was being struggled to raise by the workers, the saint gave them a break to go and have breakfast. He then started praying and after some time he took the stone in his arms and without any difficulty placed it over the doorway. There are a lot of interesting tales that encompass the world in the fore valley.
The sites are in plain sight wondrous and fascinating. Near the shores of Lough Lene, the emerald-green Fore Valley, 5km east of Castle Pollard, is a superb place to explore by bicycle or on foot. There is not much left from the initial establishment but there are three buildings that are associated with the seven wonders of the valley.
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If you want to enjoy the beauty of the fore valley, this guide will help you. There are seven wonders of Fore Valley that you must visit. I hope, your Ireland trip will be pleasant.