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Trim – An Introduction

Seat of Power on the Banks of the River Boyne


Trim Castle

Trim Castle

© 2011 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Today, only those heading for Trim will visit trim – it is slightly off the main roads and you'll have to prepared for taking a detour to get here. But the time spent will be worth it, as the former importance of this Meath town becomes apparent when one sees the remains of Ireland's once largest castle. Here power was wielded, power second only to Dublin at times.

Trim in a Nutshell

Trim today has a population of around 7,000 and though no longer the county town (that title now belongs to modern, yet bland Navan) still retains some of its historical importance as a Heritage Town. Part of the Dublin “commuter belt” and yet deep in the country, the town centre has rescued some old world charm despite large major developments adjacent to historic sites.

Trim can be approached on many routes, maybe the most dramatic is to leave the M3 at Dunboyne and then drive past Newtown Trim, along the Boyne and straight towards Trim Castle. A trip to Trim can be combined with a visit to Bective Abbey.

A Short History of Trim

The name Trim derives from the Irish “Baile Átha Troim”, literally “the town at the ford of elderflowers”, a monastery was founded here by Saint Patrick himself (so the legend goes), led later by Saint Lommán (Loman, c. 500). During the 12th century the monastery was raided and burnt, to be rebuilt as the Augustinian St. Mary's Abbey - home to "Our Lady of Trim", a miraculous wooden statue making Trim one of the top Irish pilgrimage sites in the 15th century.

But secular power was far more important at the ford through the River Boyne: Western Europe's largest Norman castle was built next to the river in the late 12th century, when Trim and the surrounding area was granted to Hugh de Lacy. In fact, Trim became so important in establishing Anglo-Norman rule over the “Pale”, that is almost was made capital of Ireland.

After some centuries of mixed fortune, Victorian times led to a modern redesign of large parts of the town – new buildings included Trim Courthouse, St. Loman's Catholic church, St. Patrick's Anglican church, the Wellington Column (the victor of Waterloo was born nearby), the Bank of Ireland building and the whole of Castle Street. After the Great Famine Trim also flourished as a market town.

Part of these improvements were dramatically undone in the War of Independence. The Irish Republican Army occupied Trim RIC Barracks, secured the arms and then burnt the building down. Reprisal was swift and cruel - large parts of Trim were destroyed by the British forces on 26 September 1920.

Places to Visit in Trim

Trim would be well worth a day's visit to take in all the sights and savour the medieval flavour:

  • Trim Castle – built over centuries and once the largest castle in Ireland, it has an impressive donjon (main tower) and a extensive walls with a massive gate. Not in best repair, but with room to explore and a good guided tour.
  • The Yellow Steeple – located opposite the castle and still the tallest building in Trim, this is the last remnant of St. Mary's Abbey. The name derives from the colouring at sunset.
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral, Church of Ireland – to be found in Loman Street and maybe the oldest Anglican Church in Ireland (disputed). The original church's ruins are located behind today's church.
  • Trim's Town Walls – mostly gone, but the "Sheep's Gate" still stands near the Yellow Steeple and castle. Part of the wall can be found in Loman Street,near the cathedral.
  • Boyne River Walk – connects Trim with Newtown there and back again takes around three quarters of an hour.
  • Newtown Abbey – a magnificent ruin now used as a graveyard, once was the largest church in Ireland (you'll have to trace the foundations to imagine just how big it was).
  • St. John the Baptist Hospice – the still impressive ruins are found just across the Boyne from Newtown Abbey (take care when crossing the narrow medieval bridge). A fortified “hospital” once offering refuge for pilgrims.
  • Trim Circuit Courthouse – a “youngster”, built in the 19th century and recently dramatically extended, the courthouse overlooks the castle.

Trim Miscellany

Largest castle in Ireland and major pilgrimage site? As if this was not enough, Trim has some other interesting claims to fame:

  • Classic rock aficionados will want to see the Town Hall (Market House), where seminal Irish band Thin Lizzy gave one of their very first concerts.
  • Those in love with all things old and rural should not miss the Trim Haymaking Festival in mid-June – making the first hay by hand and by old-style machinery, with fair and market alongside.
  • Movie buffs should recognize Trim too: Trim Castle stood in as York Castle in “Braveheart” and (less known) parts of “The Big Red One” were also shot in Trim Castle.

And Finally ... the Trim UFO Flap!

In August 2008 an unidentified flying object (UFO) was reportedly seen by locals. Then in July 2009 a whole flock of UFOs was filmed, apparently vindicating those who reported the earlier aerial activity (which could not be verified). Unfortunately the luminous spacecraft turned out to be Chinese lanterns released at a wedding. Nonetheless those with an open mind might want to watch the dark skies over Trim too ...

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