County Leitrim

County Leitrim (/ˈltrəm/ LEE-trəm; Irish: Contae Liatroma) is a county in the Republic of Ireland. It is in the province of Connacht and is part of the Border Region. It is named after the village of Leitrim. Leitrim County Council is the local authority for the county, which had a population of 32,044 according to the 2016 census.[3] The county encompasses the historic Gaelic territory of West Breffny (Bréifne) corresponding to the northern part of the county,[4][5] and Muintir Eolais or Conmaicne Réin, corresponding to the southern part.

County Leitrim

Contae Liatroma
Coat of arms
The Wild Rose County
Coordinates: 54.117°N 8.000°W / 54.117; -8.000
Dáil ÉireannSligo–Leitrim
EU ParliamentMidlands–North-West
County townCarrick-on-Shannon
  TypeCounty Council
  Total1,589 km2 (614 sq mi)
Area rank26th
Highest elevation631 m (2,070 ft)
  Density20/km2 (52/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC±0 (WET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing keys
F91, N41 (primarily)
Telephone area codes071 (primarily)
Vehicle index
mark code


Glencar Waterfall at Glencar Lough

Leitrim is the 26th largest of the 32 counties by area (the 21st largest of the 26 counties of the Republic) and the smallest by population on the island.[6] It is the smallest of Connacht's five counties in both size and population. Leitrim is bordered by the counties of Donegal to the north, Fermanagh to the north-east, Cavan to the east, Longford to the south, Roscommon to the south-west and Sligo to the west. Fermanagh is in Northern Ireland while all the other neighbouring counties are within the Republic of Ireland.

Leitrim has a hilly and mountainous landscape in its north-west and is relatively flat in the south-east, each separated from the other by Lough Allen in the middle of the county. Leitrim has the shortest length of coastline of any Irish county that touches the sea. At Tullaghan, the coastline is only 4.7 kilometres (2.9 mi) long.[7] The Shannon is linked to the Erne via the Shannon–Erne Waterway. Notable lakes include:


In ancient times Leitrim formed the western half of the Kingdom of Breifne. This region was long influenced by the O'Rourke family of Dromahair, whose heraldic lion occupies the official county shield to this day. Close ties initially existed with the O'Reilly clan in the eastern half of the kingdom, however a split occurred in the 13th century and the kingdom was divided into East Breifne, now County Cavan, and West Breifne, now County Leitrim. The Normans invaded south Leitrim in the 13th century but were defeated at the Battle of Áth an Chip in 1270.

Much of the county was confiscated from its owners in 1620 and given to Villiers and Hamilton. Their initial objective was to plant the county with English settlers. However, this proved unsuccessful. English Deputy Sir John Perrot had ordered the legal establishment of "Leitrim County" a half-century prior, in 1565. Perrott also demarcated the current county borders around 1583.

Leitrim countryside.

Long ago Ireland was covered in woodland,[8][9] and five great forests are traditionally said to have stood in Leitrim, with a 19th-century county survey stating- "a hundred years ago almost the whole country was one continued, undivided forest, so that from Drumshanbo to Drumkeeran, a distance of nine or ten miles, one could travel the whole way from tree to tree by branches".[10] Many of these great forests were denuded for the making of charcoal for iron works around Sliabh an Iarainn.[8] Working of the county's rich deposits of iron ore began in the 15th century and continued until the mid 18th century. Coal mining became prominent in the 19th century to the east of Lough Allen at Sliabh an Iarainn and also to the west in Arigna, on the Roscommon border. The last coal mine closed in July 1990 and there is now a visitor centre.[11] Sandstone was also quarried in the Glenfarne region.

The Stone bridge at Drumsna that connects counties Leitrim and Roscommon.

Writing in 1791, the geographer Beaufort suggested the county housing population encompassed 10,026 homes with "upwards of 50,000 inhabitants", the primary agriculture being cattle production, and the growth of flax sustaining the linen industry.[12] Leitrim was first hit by the recession caused by the mechanisation of linen weaving in the 1830s and its 155,000 residents (as of the 1841 census) were ravaged by the Great Famine and the population dropped to 112,000 by 1851. The population subsequently continued to decrease due to emigration. After many years, the wounds of such rapid population decline have finally started to heal. Agriculture improved over the last century. Leitrim now has the fastest growing population in Connacht.

The Book of Fenagh is the most famous medieval manuscript originating here. In the 19th century the poet John McDonald (of Dromod) lived in the county, and William Butler Yeats spent the turn of the twentieth century fascinated with Lough Allen and much of Leitrim. Glencar Waterfall, 11 kilometres (7 mi) from Manorhamilton, inspired Yeats and is mentioned in his poem The Stolen Child.

Political subdivisions

Geographically, the county is almost evenly divided along north-south lines by Lough Allen, the River Shannon and Sliabh an Iarainn. Uniquely among Irish counties, there is no way to cross from the north of the county to the south (or vice versa) by road without leaving its boundaries. North Leitrim is slightly larger than the south, comprising 51% of County Leitrim's land area. However, South Leitrim, with towns such as Carrick-on-Shannon, Ballinamore and Drumshambo, is significantly more populous, containing approximately 65% of the county's population as of 2016.[13]

North Leitrim
South Leitrim


There are five historic baronies in the county. While baronies continue to be officially defined units, they are no longer used for many administrative purposes. Their official status is illustrated by Placenames Orders made since 2003, where official Irish names of baronies are listed under "Administrative units". They are Carrigallen, Drumahaire, Leitrim, Mohill and Rosclogher.[14]

Largest Towns in County Leitrim

As of the 2016 census:[15]

  1. Carrick-on-Shannon*, 4,062 (A small part of Carrick-on-Shannon is in County Roscommon)
  2. Manorhamilton, 1,466
  3. Kinlough, 1,032
  4. Ballinamore, 914
  5. Drumshanbo, 902
  6. Mohill, 855
  7. Dromahair, 808
  8. Leitrim, 594
  9. Roosky*, 564 (Most of Roosky is in County Roscommon)
  10. Dromod, 555

Towns and villages in north Leitrim

The ruins of Creevelea Friary, near Dromahair.

Towns and villages in south Leitrim

Bridge in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Civil Parishes


Leitrim is Ireland's most sparsely populated county
  • Leitrim has the fastest growing population of any county in Connacht. As measured by census, the population rose by 12.2% between 2002 and 2006 to 29,000.[17]
  • 2005 HEA statistics identified that Leitrim has the highest rate of participation in higher education in Ireland with 75% of 17- to 19-year-olds being admitted to a higher course.[18]
  • The county town is Carrick-on-Shannon (population 3,314).[15] It is a highly developed, prospering river port on the River Shannon and many tourists hire cruising boats here to explore the Shannon and the Shannon–Erne Waterway, which is a 63 km canal linking the two river systems. It is amongst the fastest growing towns in Ireland having grown by 25% in the past few years.[19]

Local government and politics

Leitrim County Council is the local authority for the administrative county. The county is divided into three Local Electoral Areas for the purpose of elections: Ballinamore (6 councillors), Carrick-on-Shannon (6 councillors), and Manorhamilton (6 councillors). The following were elected at the 2019 Leitrim County Council election:

2019 seats summary

Party Seats
Fianna Fáil 6
Fine Gael 6
Sinn Féin 2
Independent 4

For elections to Dáil Éireann, Leitrim is in the Sligo–Leitrim constituency. This constituency existed from 1948 to 2007, but from 2007 until Sligo–Leitrim was re-created in 2016, County Leitrim was divided between two constituencies: Roscommon–South Leitrim and Sligo–North Leitrim. This proved controversial, and at the 2007 general election there was no TD elected whose domicile was in the county.


A typical country lane near Carrigallen.







See also

References and notes

Primary references

  1. "The History of Leitrim".
  2. "County Profiles – Leitrim". Western Development Commission. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  3. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: County Leitrim". Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Archived from the original on 18 October 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  4. Hayward, Richard. Ulster and the City of Belfast. A Barker, 1949. p.234
  5. Shearman, Hugh. Ulster. R Hale, 1949. p.393
  6. Corry, Eoghan (2005). The GAA Book of Lists. Hodder Headline Ireland. pp. 186–191.
  7. An Article on the geography/history of Leitrim
  8. Boate 1653, pp. 120.
  9. Henry 1914, pp. 243.
  10. Correspondent 1882, pp. 37.
  11. Sliabh an Iarainn Visitor Centre Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Beaufort 1791, pp. 69.
  13. "ROI Saps Mapping Census 2016". Maynooth University.
  14. "Baronies of County Leitrim". Placenames Database of Ireland. Government of Ireland – Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Dublin City University. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  15. "Population and Actual and Percentage Change 2011 to 2016 by Alphabetical List of Towns, CensusYear and Statistic". Central Statistics Office. May 2017. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  16. [ for post 1821 figures 1653 and 1659 figures from Civil Survey Census of those years Paper of Mr Hardinge to Royal Irish Academy 14 March 1865 For a discussion on the accuracy of pre-famine census returns see JJ Lee "On the accuracy of the pre-famine Irish censuses" in Irish Population Economy and Society edited by JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson (1981) p54 in and also New Developments in Irish Population History 1700–1850 by Joel Mokyr and Cormac Ó Gráda in The Economic History Review New Series Vol. 37 No. 4 (Nov. 1984) pp. 473–488.
  17. "Census - CSO - Central Statistics Office".
  18. HEA statistics 2005[dead link]
  19. "IDA Population information on Carrick-on-Shannon". Archived from the original on 13 November 2008.
  20. "Locomotives - County Leitrim - The Cavan and Leitrim Railway". Home.

Secondary sources