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Laytown (Irish: An Inse, meaning 'the holm') is a village in County Meath, Ireland, located on the R150 regional road and overlooking the Irish Sea. Historically it was called Ninch, after the townland it occupies. Together with the neighbouring villages of Mornington and Bettystown it comprises the census town of Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington with a combined population of 10,889 at the 2011 Census, which is part of the wider area collectively known as East Meath. The 2016 Census recorded a population of 11,872 in the area which is now called Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington-Donacarney.
The surrounding area is known to have been settled for around 1500 years; recent excavations have revealed settlement at Laytown since at least the 6th century AD.
One of the most notable historical finds in Irish history was made on Bettystown beach in 1850. A local woman claimed (rather implausibly) to have found the Tara Brooch in a box buried in the sand. Many think it was in fact found inland and the claim was made to avoid a legal claim by the landowner of the actual find site, wherever that was. The Tara Brooch is now on display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
More recent archaeological finds include, for example, a blue glass bead of the Early Christian Period which was found in 1976 at the rath at Ninch West. The rath is traditionally associated with Laeg mac Riangabra, Cuchulain's charioteer, from whom Laytown is said to take its name. The glass bead is now also in the collection of the National Museum of Ireland.
Also in the late 1970s, an earthen mound known locally as 'The Mote' and overlooking the River Nanny at The Ninch, was partially excavated by P. D. Sweetman for the National Monuments Section of the Office of Public Works. Two Iron Age interments were found.
19th and 20th century developments
Many of Laytown's larger buildings, including the train station master's house and the large terrace homes facing onto the beach, were built in the mid-nineteenth century. The architecture of the Church of the Sacred Heart is of particular note, with its facade retained from the original nineteenth century, but the main building being to a 1970s circular-plan. It is a single room with a large window overlooking the Irish Sea. On the hill behind the window is a twenty-foot wooden cross.
Laytown was once a small coastal village, but in the early 21st century, the town has seen a large population and economic boom. With the ever-developing and growing city of Dublin, Laytown, along with other villages and towns all along the east coast, has seen population growth. This has brought problems with overcrowded schools.
Laytown is 50 km (30 mi) north of the nation's capital, Dublin. Laytown and neighbouring village, Bettystown, sit on one of Ireland's most scenic beachfronts. The beach stretches from Mornington at the River Boyne, which borders County Louth to Gormanston at the River Delvin, which borders County Dublin.
Laytown sits on the mouth of the River Nanny, a tidal estuary where mullet, trout, eels, gobies and flounder can be caught - but no salmon. According to local folklore, Saint Patrick banished all the salmon from the river. By an old schoolhouse overlooking the river there is a spring known as St Patrick's Well, though the access path to it is overgrown.
There are two primary schools in Laytown/Bettystown which follow a Catholic ethos. They are Scoil Oilibhear Naofa Junior School and Scoil an Spioraid Naomh Senior School. Scoil Oilibhear Naofa is a recently built state-of-the-art school and the Department of Education has plans for a complete redevelopment of Scoil an Spioraid Naomh..
There are also two multi-denominational schools outside the town that service East Meath and South Drogheda. They are Le Cheile Educate Together National School and Gaelscoil an Bhradain Feasa. These schools teach an ethical programme and a basic type of comparative religion. If parents want the children to have faith formation in any particular religion, they have to arrange that in after school classes.
Transport and communications
The village is a commuter town for people working in Dublin, who are served by the rail line into Dublin Connolly station, and the M1 motorway linking the north east of the country to the capital. The village is served by the Northern commuter train line linking Drogheda and Dundalk to Connolly station in Dublin. Laytown railway station opened on 25 May 1844 and was renamed as Laytown & Bettystown in 1913. An express coach service links Laytown, Bettystown and Sonairte with Parnell Street in Dublin. Bus Éireann has changed from route 190 to the D1 which provides several daily services to/from Drogheda via Bettystown and Mornington.
The East Meath area also has a free monthly magazine known as the Meath Coaster. This magazine, solely supplied in East Meath, showcases images of the coast's scenery, local schools' and clubs' achievements as well as an update from the Meath County Council.
The town has a garda station and a primary school called Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh. Coláiste na hInse is a co-educational secondary school in Laytown which was founded in 2008 and had an enrollment of over 1,000 pupils as of 2018. The village also has three pubs, two newsagents, a pharmacy, two take-aways and a railway station.
Sonairte, the National Ecology Centre, is half a mile from the station on the Julianstown road (R150).
Laytown on film
Both Irish and American movies (The Crying Game and Michael Collins) and television shows have been filmed all over Laytown, mostly on the beach. The Crying Game was filmed locally in the village of Laytown in 1991 using the carpark as a fair-ground and the former long wooden pedestrian bridge over the River Nanny as a location.
Since 1868 Laytown has hosted a single annual horse racing meeting on its beach - one of only a couple on sand (held on the beach) race meetings run under official rules of racing in Europe. The BBC have made it the subject of a documentary, titled Racing the Tide, and have included passages in their Coast and Countryfile programmes. The horses used to run along the beach, make a U-turn and run back. The onlookers used to stand just feet away from them to watch the racing, with no barriers in between. In 1994 a terrible accident occurred when one of the horses became spooked by a small river stream on the course and bolted into the crowd. This caused panic amongst some of the other horses too. One jockey was taken to hospital, several people in the crowd were injured, and, tragically, three horses had to be put down because of the injuries they sustained. The races were abandoned for a few years and when they did restart, several safety measures had been put into practice. Barriers were constructed, the crowd were separated from the runners and now watch from a field next to the beach, the number of runners in each race was limited and the races were limited to much shorter distances with no turning round.
- http://www.cso.ie/census and http://www.histpop.org Archived 7 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Figures include totals for Mornington, listed separately until 1971, and Donnycarny, listed separately until 1851. No census town was recorded in the census years of 1871, 1881, 1891, 1911 and 1926 as there was no cluster of twenty inhabited houses. Separate hamlets of Baymore (population 123) and Colpe (population 71) were recorded in 1831. 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, 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.
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- Sweetman, P.D. 1982-3 ‘Reconstruction and partial Excavation of an Iron Age Burial Mound at Ninch, Co. Meath’. Ríocht na Mídhe VII, 2, 58-68.
- "Excavations.ie. Searchable database of Irish excavation reports". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
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- Crampton, Thomas (25 January 2007). "The Irish, Young in 'Old Europe,' Strain Schools and Housing". The New York Times.
- "Laytown and Bettystown station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
- "Timetable - Route 190" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2013. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
- "Department of Education and Skills - Subject Inspection Report" (PDF). Department of Education. 22 February 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
Colaiste na hInse, Bettystown, is a co-educational school with a current enrolment of 1009
- "Information for New Staff" (PDF). colaistenahinse.ie. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
Coláiste na hInse is a [..] school in Baile an Bhiataigh Co. na Mí. Established in 2008
- "Main Page - Sonairte". Archived from the original on 17 May 2008.
- "Laytown". Horse Racing Ireland. Retrieved 4 May 2020.