Louth Main Towns


Once a small port on the southern part of Dundalk Bay, eastwards from Castlebellingham village on the N1 roadway, its harbour pier is now silted up, due to changes in the direction of the currents in the bay. Situated on the confluence of the Glyde and Dee rivers and providing a sea outlet for the barony of Ardee, its strategic location has never been lost of by a succession of peoples. At first if was the northern boundary of the Fir Arda Cinnachta, from whom it was captured by the Norsemen, who established a settlement there in 831 contemporaneiou with their other settlement at Dublin. A large earthwork known as Lios na Rann is pointed out as the site of their settlement.

Ardee is the place where Cu Chulainn fought Ferdia, who was hired by Queen Maeve of Connaught. Part of the Tain Bo Cuailnge epic, Ferdia was slain by Cu Chulainn at the ford of the river Dee. The town derives it name from the fallen warrior – Ath Fherdia, Ardee, the Ford of Ferdia. Just before Ardee is a 15th century tower which has a murder hole above the main doorway, and has a wonderful view from the roof.

Situated on the northern part of the Boyne Estuary, eastwards from Drogheda, this village north of Beaulieu on the road to Termonfeckin is the home of the County Louth Golf Club and is an area of considerable importance for its birdlife such as ducks, brent geese, waders including black-tailed godwits, terns and ringed plowers.

Situated within a mile distance eastwards for the roundabout of the N1 with the main road to Carlingford, the name is derived from Scanlon, son of Fingin chief of Ui Meith who died in 672. His descendant MacScanlon is credited with a defeat of the Danes in Dundalk bay in 833. In the Norman-English period the Ballymascanlon destrict extending northwards to Carrikarnon was granted by Hugh de Lacy to Mellifont Abbey and after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century the property passed to the Moores, the grantees of the monastic properties of Mellifont abbey. In the latter part of that century it was with its tower house, long since demolished, for a short time in the hands of Hugh O’Neill earl of Tyrone.

Today the restored village of Blackrock is a thriving commercial shopping and leisure area. The restored main street in the village contains shops, pubs and restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets. Jack O Rourke, a traditional Irish pub , is well worth a visit. At one end of the main street are Logans Restaurant and the quaintly named Potters Bar. At the other end of the main street is Blackrock and Frascate Shopping Centres. At weekends, there is an open market located just off the main street.

Carlingford is located on the shores of Carlingford Lough, directly across from County Down, “where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea”. The town is overlooked by the Norman castle of King John, who visited in 1210. Many architectural features bear testimony to Carlingford’s medieval past including the Tholsel, the Mint, Taaffe’s Castle and the Dominican Friary. Carlingford’s medieval past, together with the fine food and accommodation on offer today, make for a worthwhile visit.

Largely the construction of the Bellingham family descendants of the a captain in Cromwell’s army who received a grant of the confiscated lands of the Gernons of Gernonstown in the 1650’s. The castle was situated on the site of the present Bellingham Castle Hotel, a building of early 18th century construction, formerly the home of the Bellinghams and substantially remodelled at the end of that century. Later remodelling include the towers turrets and entrance gateway. The river Dee can be accessed fromthe grounds of the hotel. The village includes a group of Widow’s Almhouses, cottages and other dwelling houses constructed by the Bellingham family probably to the design of William Vitruvius Morrison. The roadside crucifix was carved from Royal Oak.

Clogherhead is located 14km north-east of Drogheda. It is a fishing village with a harbour and pier called Port Oriel. In the face of the headland is the “Red Cave” which gets its name from the red stain left by a fungus. There are excellent beaches nearby and this area has strong links with Saint Oliver Plunkett. It is said that he ordained many priests at Glasspistol, 1km south of the village.

Situated south of Ardee on the road to Dublin via Slane, Collon is now the remains of a manorial village of the Foster family. Originally the home of chief baron Foster who settles his demense here in the 1750’s, his son John who succeeded him was the celebrated speaker of the Irish house of Commons until its closure under the act of Union in 1801. The village architecture is of the late 18th century and consists of two rows of two storey estate houses with a grassy market place in the upper end. On the north-eastern corner of the crossroads stands Collon House built c1740 by the chief baron Anthony Foster with a later 18th century addition. The Church of Ireland parish church at the lower end was built in 1810 to a design by Daniel Augustine Beaufort.

Drogheda is a major port which traditionally served the Boyne Valley. Hugh de Lacy founded two towns here in 1180 one on either side of the river. These were united following a spirited sermon by a Dominican priest. From the start, the walls and gates were built rapidly and the town was divided into burage plots for the colonists from Bristol and the Severn Valley, whom de Lacy brought over from his place of origin. Of the gates, only one survives – this is the Butter Gate. Saint Lawerences Gate is a barbican defensive complex, an imposing structure. Dominating the town is the railway viaduct which was built in 1850, and still in use

This village located 3km north west of Dunleer takes its name from the Druim Fionn or “Finns Ridge” upon which it was built. The ridge marks the boundary between north and south Louth and from which the surrounding countryside can be viewed. Once the site of a Columban monastery founded by Saint Finnian of Moville, tradition has it that it was here that Columcille copied the manuscript of the Four Gospels without Finnians consent and which gave rise to a dispute as to the ownership of the copy, on which the High King adjudicated that “as the calf belongs to the cow, the copy belongs to the book copied”. Columcilles refusal to accept this adjudication subsequently led him into exile in Iona in Scotland in 563.

3km north of Castlebellingham, this was an important ecclesiastical centre from the time of Saint Patrick. It was residence of the Archbishops of Armagh during the 14th century, one of whom Milo Sweetman died here in 1380. The early monastic foundation was frequently plundered by the Danes of Annagassan and was eventually abandoned, the monks taking refuge in Saint Mochta’s of Louth. The remains of a round tower still survive from this period, standing in the churchyard of the Church of Ireland Parish Church, the site of the earlier monastery.There are also the remains of a ringed-cross in the Celtic style and a carved spiral pillar of ninth/tenth century, part of the old church doorway. 1.6km west of the village stands a 15th century tower house.

The county town of Louth, Dundalk has about 29,000 inhabitants. The origins of the town can be viewed to the west of the town itself – a large motte and bailey built in the later 12th century by the Anglo Norman de Vernon. This site has an early Christian souterrain, which was probably intended for refuge. There are indications of an earlier structure on the the site which is now vanished, possibly a fort large enough to give the town its name – Dun Dealgan, the fort of Dealga. The town later moved from here to flatter lands nearer to the sea. In the town, there are the remains of the 13th century Franciscan monastery, the Seatown Windmill, the 1820’s Courthouse, and the 19th century Catholic Church, Saint Patrick’s.

Dunleer is the principal town in the barony of Ferrad and was formerly a municipal corporation of 17th century foundation. It was the site of the early Irish monastery of Lann Leire or church of Leire the Lann being derived from the Welsh Llan suggestinga Britonic origin. Mentioned in the Irish Annals between the years 720-1148 mostly records of plunder by the Danes and Normans, it was probably situated on the site of the existing early 19th century Church of Ireland in the town centre. In the porch of the church will be found 3 crosses inscribed stones of the early Christian period one of which carries the inscription “Or Do Maelph” or “A prayer for Maelph”. The Church Tower may date from the 13th century.

Situated in Cooley north off the main road to Greenore is the small village of Grange, formerly the possession of the Cistercian abbey of Newry. The latter being the “Irish Quarter” the English lordship in the 15th century confiscated the property and granted it to the Meryman family until the Cromwellian confiscations of the 17th century. Probably a church site from the earlier period, the present Roman catholic church built in 1750 continues this tradition. It is now the oldest of its kind in CountyLouth and is a beautiful church of wimple “penal days” design recently refurbished.

This late 19th century village at the mouth of Carlingford Lough was a development of 1873 when the railway connecting Newry and Dundalk to the deep water port of Greenore was first opened. The port itself was opened in 1867 to provide a passenger and freight link with the west coast of Britain. While port and railways were closed down in 1951, the former survived, shipping cattle and other freight to Britain and continental Europe. There are fine views of Carlingford Lough, Slieve Foy and the Mourne Mountains, access to a gravely seashore where fish can be caught by rod and line and by no means least the popular Greenore Golf Club.

Gyles Quay
Situated off the main Dundalk-Carlingford road about 11km from Dundalk this 19th century pier is the boarding point for pilots bringing ships into Dundalk port. With its sand and gravel beaches it is a popular summer resort and caravan site and with its former coastguard houses, forms a pretty picture when approaching when first viewed from the approaching roadway.

13km west of Dundalk, this village has now only vestigal remains of its former status as a medieval civitates or city, seat of a bishop of Louth and the 12th century O Carroll kings of Oirghialla. Originally the site of a shrine to the Celtic god Lugh, it was brought over to Christianity by Saint Mochta disciple of Saint Patrick who appointed him bishop of Louth and who established a monastery here. His death is recorded in 535. Burned and plundered frequently by the Danes from 829-968 it was occupiedwith the rest of County Louth by Donnchadh O Carroll king of Oirghialla who founded the monastery of Saint Marys for Austin Canons here in 1148, the remains of which can be viewed inside the graveyard.

Located midway between Castlebellingham and Ardee is the hamlet of Mansfieldtown, known for its church.

Omeath was the last native Irish speaking district of north Leinster where an Irish School was maintained in the earliest part of the present century in what is now the Park Hotel before it was moved to Rannafast in County Donegal. In addition to the Tain Holiday village, the village and the area itself are well supplied with hotel and guest houses and other catering facilities including pony and trap rides from Omeath.

Ravensdale Village nestles along the southern slopes of Clermon Mountain and bordered on the South by a long valley formed by the Flurry river, the centre of a linen bleaching district throughout the 18th century. It is approached by the N1 road north of Dundalk branching right at a road junction at Annaskeagh waterworks, across the Flurry river to a Tjunction, turning right into Ravensdale. The townland of Dulgary to the right is possibly the Learga of the Tain Bo Cuailgne while a mile further on the gateway entrance to Clermont Patk is reached. Various lanes lead off the road up to the mountain side, one of which to Lissachiggel, a large ringfort in the townland of Dulgary. More than a dozen huts were found when excavated in 1940.

A county prize winner in the National Tidy Towns competition, Tallanstown is a manor village associated with the Plunketts baron of Louth, no longer resident, whose ancestral mansion house stands south of the village towards Ardee. To the west there are the remains of a motte-castle. Also in the vicinity is Knock Abbey or Tallanstown House which incorporates a 15th century tower house while on the eastern side stands Glyde Court, the home of the 19th century philanthropist Vere Foster.

Formerly the seat and castle of the medieval and later Protestant primates of Armagh until 1656, this was the site of an early Irish monastery dedicated to Saint Feckin, only the high cross of which now stands in Saint Feckins churchyard within which is listed the Church of Ireland parish church to a design by Francis Johnston and built in 1792. At the south end of the village is the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception designed by William Hague and erected in 1883. Termonfeckin Castle is a 15th century tower house associated with the Brabazon family.