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Fifty kilometres northwest of Dublin, Trim (Web: www.trimtourism.com ) is one of the most attractive towns within striking distance of the capital. Its imposing Anglo-Norman castle overlooks the curving, tree-flanked River Boyne and some picturesque ruins across on the north bank, while green meadows run downriver to the extensive remains of two medieval churches and a fine bridge.
The town's outstanding centrepiece is TrimCastle (Easter– Oct daily 10am–6pm; Nov– Easter Sat & Sun 10am–5pm; last admission and tour 1hr before closing; 3.70 for admission to the castle grounds plus 45min guided tour of the keep, 1.60 grounds only; Heritage Card; Web: www.heritageireland.ie ), which is intact enough to have been used as a location for Mel Gibson's 1995 film Braveheart. In 1172, Henry II, fearing that the adventurer Strongbow might try to establish his own Anglo-Norman kingdom in Ireland, granted the lordship of Meath to Hugh de Lacy, who along with his son Walter gradually built the most impressive castle in Ireland, the "keystone of the Pale", at this important ford over the Boyne. It's well worth taking the illuminating guided tour of the keep, and leaving yourself enough time to poke around the enclosure's assorted towers, ruined buildings and mighty curtain-wall.
The beautiful remains of thirteenth-century Newtontrim (SS Peter & Paul) Cathedral stand in the meadows on the north bank of the river. The priory of Newtowntrim was founded here under the protective gaze of Trim Castle in 1202 by Simon de Rochfort, Bishop of Meath, and was soon elevated to become the seat of his diocese instead of Clonard. As a sign of Trim's pre-eminence, the largest and most sophisticated Gothic cathedral in Ireland was constructed here. Substantial parts of the nave and chancel can still be seen, alongside a ruined refectory.
Just across the river is another fine ruin, the Priory of St John the Baptist, also founded by Simon de Rochfort in the early thirteenth century. It was used as a hospital and guesthouse (with its own brewery) by the Fratres Cruciferi, the Crutched (or Cross-bearing) Friars, Augustinian monks who had attended the Crusaders. Between the cathedral and the priory, the Boyne is spanned by the wonderful Norman St Peter's Bridge, which is reckoned to be the second oldest bridge in the country.