Down a narrow, twisty road in the middle of nowhere stands a four-star gem: The Monaghan Wildlife Educational Centre. Opened in June of 2000, it displays one of the largest, privately-owned collections of mounted birds and mammals in Ireland, with 200 species of Irish fauna in 5 designed habitats: Coastal, Moorland, Woodland, Farmland, and Garden. Each display is intended to depict the mammals and birds in their natural environment.
Owner and tour-guide extraordinaire, Peader Morgan, a retired wildlife ranger with a passion for heritage and animals, has privately funded this amazing facility which offers not only mounted displays but outdoor exhibits, an infirmary, and a sanctuary populated by a variety of unusual species including his pet barn owl, fifty brightly coloured parakeets, two Chinese geese (that double as guard dogs), a recovering fallow deer, and a soon-to-be-released rare kestrel.
The tour continues into the Ballyfin House where Peader displays priceless antique mounted specimens acquired during the renovation of Ballyfinn Hall. Among the most striking is a magnificent Sea Eagle, its wings spread upward, its talons wrapped victoriously around its small prey. Dated from 1905, the display is a treasure. Another notable features a collection or rare mounted butterflies dated 1904.
Next door is the Heritage Centre. On display there are various tool, implements, and farming machines from the 1800's. An additional site is planned: a cottage house with an original Irish fireplace, an outdoor well, and a thatched roof. Up the pathway is the Audio-Visual centre which seats up to 60 people and is home to the famed Giant Elk Skull, believed to be 11,000 years old, found in a bog near the Centre's site. The Centre is perched atop Listinny Hill, 500 metres above sea level and gives a commanding view of 5 counties: Monaghan, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Armagh, and Louth. Listinny Hill, made famous in song and battle, has its own history as the home of the famed Battle of Clontibret during the Nine Years War between the forces of Queen Elizabeth and the warriors of Hugh O'Neill. O'Neill's victory marked the first set back for the Royal army.
With such rich history and his abiding love for animals, Peader Morgan has created a unique centre which honours Ireland's history and protects and conserves her wildlife. It is a must-see attraction for the young and the young at heart. The Wildlife Centre caters to groups of any age, is kid-friendly, and easily manoeuvrable for the mobility impaired.
Admission: Adults, €5; Children, €4
Open all year. Call for arrangements.
T: 047 80632
How to get there:
From Dublin: N2 to Clontibret (7km from Monaghan Town). Continue 2km to Wildlife Centre sign. Turn right. Follow numerous signs 5km to Centre. Uphill all the way on small, twisty roads, but signs will guide you directly there.
From Belfast: A3 to Monaghan Town. N2 toward Dublin. Approx 5km from Monaghan Town, look for Wildlife Centre sign on left. Follow numerous signs. Beautiful drive along country roads. Well worth the effort.
Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007