Just over an hour’s drive northwest of Dublin on the M3, and you’ll find yourself in the historic town of Kells in County Meath.
Boasting ancient sites aplenty, this corner of the Boyne Valley is packed with tales from history for you to discover.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Kells to where to eat, sleep and drink. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-know before visiting Kells in Meath
Although a visit to Kells in Meath is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Situated in the heart of County Meath, Kells is the largest of the county’s towns, and it’s one of its most iconic. It’s a 20-minute drive from Navan, a 25-minute drive from Trim and a 40-minute drive from Drogheda.
2. The Book of Kells
Although there are several theories about where the Book of Kells was created, one theory states that it was created in the scriptorium in the town. One thing is for certain, however, the Book of Kells called the Abbey of Kells home for centuries, and this is where it got its name.
3. A great base to explore Meath
Many visitors to Meath tend to stay in the likes of Trim, but Kells is an excellent base to explore many of the best places to visit in Meath, from the ancient sites at Bru na Boinne to the incredible Loughcrew Cairns, the Hill of Tara and much more.
A speedy history of Kells
Kells is an ancient town. The original Gaelic name ‘Ceannanas’/’Ceannanus’ eventually becoming ‘Kells’ after the 12th century.
In 1929 Ceannanus Mór was officially recognised as the town’s Irish name.
Home to kings
But long before this, the site was home to the High King Cormac mac Airt, who relocated his home there, abandoning the traditional site of the Hill of Tara.
One of his descendants, an Irish abbot and missionary by the name of Colmcille, acquired Kells as recompense after a family incident in 560 AD.
Abbeys, Saints and the Book of Kells
Colmcille went on to found an Abbey in Kells and it was here that the Book of Kells was kept until the 1650s.
The abbey he founded still stands, in varying forms, with the present monastery believed to date to 804 AD, it’s here that the Book of Kells is said to have been written.
Things to do in Kells (and nearby)
There’s a handful of things to do in Kells and there’s endless places to visit a short spin from the town.
Below, you’ll find everything from historical sites and unusual attractions to one of our favourite walks in Meath.
1. Kells Round Tower and High Crosses
A part of St. Columba’s Church, the Kells round tower oversees much of the town and has provided a vantage point for the town for hundreds of years.
Unlike many other round towers, Kells’ tower is unique in that it has five windows on the top floor; one for each cardinal point, and one over the main road.
The churchyard is open to the public all year round, with the round tower visible from inside and outside the property.
Also located on the grounds of St. Columba’s Church are four of the five Celtic crosses dating back to the 9th-10th centuries. They vary in completion and wholeness, as several have been victims of vandalism by Cromwellian soldiers in the 18th century.
Each cross is unique, with the fifth one being located outside the Old Court House Heritage Centre. Parking is available on the street outside the churchyard, and the site is accessible to all.
3. The Spire of Lloyd
Just to the west of Kells is the very quirky Spire of Lloyd. Part of the People’s Park, it is a heritage building built in the 18th century and it’s Ireland’s only inland lighthouse!
The impressive structure that can be seen from miles around, not to be missed is the Pauper’s Graveyard, for victims of the Great Famine, which is also located in the park.
Open to the public on Bank holiday Mondays, the Spire of Lloyd offers views across the county. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Kells and nearby, get yourself here!
4. Causey Farm
To the south of Kells, off the R164, is Causey Farm, open year-round with endless activities, events and unique attractions.
The farm is a popular venue for team building exercises like milking cows, baking traditional bread, or learning to play the bodhran (a traditional Irish instrument).
They also cater to hen parties and host the award-winning Farmaphobia. They also have an annual Pooka Spooka event that is a lot of fun for all the family.
5. The Girley Bog Walk
Only a short drive from Causey Farm, the Girley Bog Walk is a wonderful trail through a raised bog and nature reserve. With two car parks at opposite ends of the bog, it’s recommended to park at the southwest, but do note there are no amenities on-site, and parking is limited to approximately 20 cars.
The walk itself takes between 1-1.5 hours in duration, and covers 5.6kms/3.5mi in length. It is way marked as a National Loop and carries walkers over a wide variety of landscapes and environments.
Note the scrub of bracken, birch, and willows, which indicate peat bog that has been cut to use as fuel in centuries passed.
6. Loughcrew Cairns
At the dawn of the Iron Age, while Stonehenge was also under construction, so too was Loughcrew Cairns. Dating back to 3000 BCE, the Cairns are Neolithic burial chambers with stone carvings and rock paintings.
Once known as the Hills of the Witch, daily visitors can now explore them either on their own or as part of a guided tour. It’s recommended to wear sturdy footwear, as the ascent to Cairn T is steep. Unfortunately, there is no access for wheelchair users.
Places to eat in Kells
There’s a handful of excellent restaurants in Kells for those of you that fancy kicking-back in town with a bite-to-eat after a long day of exploring. Here are our favourites.
1. The Bective
Situated on Bective Street, on the southern approach into Kells, The Bective restaurant is bound to impress with its smart-casual atmosphere and a la carte dining. Come for a cocktail like their Espresso Martini, and stay for dinner; the Irish half honey-roasted aromatic duck is highly recommended. Bective is cosy and comfortable, and sure to become a firm favourite.
2. The Headfort Arms
Choose from the Kelltic bar and Courtyard, the Headfort Lounge, or the Cafe Therese all depending on your mood or need. Start with a cocktail at the Kelltic to whet your appetite, and then head to Cafe Therese to try their Grill menu, finishing with a nightcap at the Lounge.
3. Khyber Garden
Eat-in, takeaway or contact-free delivery, Khyber is open 6-days a week (closed on Mondays), and you won’t find better Indian cuisine in Kells. Try their chicken Pasanda for something different, and be sure to book a table online, or place your order there too for takeaway and delivery.
Pubs in Kells
There’s plenty of pubs in Kells, with something to tickle the fancy of young and old alike. Here are a few of our favourites to nip into.
1. The West Way
Well known for its homely atmosphere and traditional setting, the West Way is a classic Irish pub that’s popular with an older local crowd. Enjoy a quiet pint, and a bit of conversation, or linger longer with friends, no one will hurry you on from here.
2. O’Connor’s Bar
A more upmarket pub in Kells, you’re bound to find a lively bit of Craic happening with some good music, friendly staff, and happy locals. Open 7-days a week, from 10:30am until late, and you can always catch the televised games here with a drink or two!
3. Smith’s Pub
Pop in off the street and warm yourself in this quaint pub. With all the atmosphere you’d expect in a small Irish drinking institute, there are wooden seats, or lean against the bar, perhaps grab a table with your mates and put your drinking arm to use. Smith’s Pub is in the heart of Kells, near the crossroads.
Accommodation in Kells
And finally, if you’re looking to base yourself in Kells in Meath for a night or three, you’re in luck – there are several excellent places to rest your head.
Note: if you book a hotel through one of the links below we’ll make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
1. Headfort Arms Hotel
Located in the heart of Kells, the Headfort Arms Hotel is a 4-star hotel; offering simply furnished modern rooms with en suite bathrooms, free WiFi, and in-room tea and coffee making facilities. Rooms with special features like jacuzzis, fireplaces, and high ceilings are available, but not as standard. Breakfast is included, and room service is available.
2. Eureka House
Just around the corner from the Kells Heritage Centre, Eureka House is centrally located to everything you’ll want to see and do in Kells. The accommodations are simple and modern, with a touch of the traditional about them. Large Victorian rooms, with picture windows over the hotel’s gardens, are sure to impress.
3. Tom Blake House
Nestled within a 130-year-old house, the Tom Blake combines the best of Irish hospitality; warmth, comfort, and everything you could need during your stay. Not your average B&B, it offers a more luxurious boutique hotel-style stay. With well-appointed and beautiful rooms, a renowned breakfast, and welcoming hosts, you’ll feel right at home.
FAQs about visiting Kells in Meath
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is Kells worth visiting?’ to ‘Where is there to stay in the town?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Kells?
Visit the round tower and High Crosses, see St. Columba’s Church, tackle the Girley Bog walk and visit the nearby Spire of Lloyd.
Is Kells in Meath worth visiting?
If you’re in the area, it’s well worth visiting Kells to see the round tower and high crosses, and to discover the story about the origins of the Book of Kells.
Katherine is an food and travel writer with family-roots in Ireland. She enjoys hitting the road at every given opportunity, and can often be found with an atlas and notebook to hand planning the next big trip.