Ardee has the unusual distinction of having two castles. Previously on the northern edge of the Pale, Ardee boasts two 13th century castles on its main street. An easy distinction can be made between the two castles: Ardee Castle has square corners while Hatch's Castle has round corners. Ardee Castle is in the process of being restored and houses a museum while Hatch's Castle is still a private residence.
Ardee is the principal town of the rich farming countryside of mid-Louth takes its name from the Irish Atha Fhirdiadh, the ford on the river Dee where the legendary hero in Irish folklore Cúchulainn fought, defeated and killed his friend Ferdia in the course of the Táin Bo Cuailgne.
Between the 12th and 17th century it was in the hands of the English until the O'Neills briefly took it over. Later in the same century James II used it as headquarters for the months prior to the Battle of the Boyne.
After Dundalk and Drogheda, Ardee is the busiest town in County Louth. Originally it was a market town and it's long wide main street is evidence of this.
The river Dee runs through the town and has a picturesque riverside walk. Close to the river is a statue of Cúchulainn carrying Ferdia.
The Battle of the Ford or how Ardee got its name
Cuchulainn and Ferdia after the battleThe Ford as it was known is located 300 yards west of the existing bridge across the river Dee in Ardee, county Louth and was the site of one of ancient Ireland’s epic battle between former friends Cúchulainn and Ferdia during the legendary tale of the Cattle Raid of Cooley or the Táin Bo Cuailgne.
Cúchulainn, warrior and defender of Ulster with the men of Ulster opposed the advances of Queen Maebh of Connaught who was progressing east with her army to steal the famous Brown Bull of Cooley.
In the army pf Queen Maebh only one man Ferdia was a warrior strong and skilful enough to face Cúchulainn and have a hope of victory. But Ferdia and Cúchulainn having being fostered together as children were true friends and Ferdia did not wish to fight.
Knowing this, Queen Maebh put Ferdia under a géas (spell) and tricked him into fighting his comrade Cúchulainn (cuchulainn). “They fought at the Ford for four days with such ferocity and skill that it was not seen before in this land”, while at night they would eat together as brothers and tend each others wounds, Cúchulainn begging Ferdia not to continue. On the fourth day, Ferdia struck the first major blow but was slain by the greater might of Cúchulainn (cuchulainn) the Ulster champion. Cúchulainn carried Ferdia’s body to the northern bank of the River, where the waters swelled and turned red with blood and bitter tears.
Ferdia was given a royal burial at a large mound to the east of the ford on the southern bank of the River Dee, the mound intact until the end of the 19th century. The Ford on the river became known as “Atha Fhirdiadh” (the place or ford of Ferdia), later anglicised to Ardee.