Lively town on the Cooley Peninsula and the shore of Carlingford Lough, backed by the Sliabh Foye peak of the Cooley Mountains, founded by the Vikings. The entrance to Carlingford Lough and the surrounding area was ruled by the English from King John’s Castle built in the 12th century. The King visited the castle for a few days in 1210 before heading north to a battle with Hugh de Lacy at Carrickfergus Castle in Antrim. Saint Patrick was also said to have landed at Carlingford briefly in the 5th century before travelling on to County Down.
The Holy Trinity Heritage Centre is housed in an old church has exhibitions and shows a video about the history of the area. Other points of interest include the 16th century Taffe’s Castle tower house which has a statue commemorating Thomas D’Arcy McGee who was born in Carlingford in 1825 and emigrated to Canada, where he rose to prominence, old Thosel town gate and a ruined 14th century Dominican friary. One hour and day cruises on Carlingford Lough leave from Carlingford. Carlingford also has a very popular oyster festival and fair in August, accommodation, eateries and pubs. There are also lovely views to the Mourne Mountains in County Down across the Lough.
Carlingford makes a good base to explore the wild boggy, mountainous and forested countryside of the Cooley Peninsula, which was the setting for the Celtic legend The Cattle Raid of Cooley (or the Tain Bo Cuailnge) in which Queen Maeve of Connaught marched her armies to Ulster to steal the famous brown bull of Cooley to match her husband’s white bull. When she came to Ulster, the men of Ulster were struck down with labour pains and only Cuchulainn was able to guard the pass at Glendhu, near Slieve Gullion. He fought day and night until he was forced to kill his own half brother Ferdai. While Cuchullain was struck down with grief Maeve stole the bull during the Cattle raid of Cooley, but it was subsequently killed by the white bull, which also died after the fight.
The Tain Trail, a 25 mile walking trail around the Peninsula, which runs through the Cooley Mountains and the Peninsula ring road both start at Carlingford. There is a beach and caravan and camping park at Gyles Quay near the end of the peninsula. A passenger ferry runs to Warrenpoint in County Down across Carlingford Lough from Omeath.
Ruined castle built by the prominent de Verdon ruling family in the 13th century, near Dundalk
Jumping Church of Kildemock
Near Ardee town, the jumping church of Kildemock was so named because legend says its walls moved in 1715 to leave the grave of an excommunicated member outside the church
Site of the first Cistercian abbey in Ireland founded by Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh who invited members of this strict French order of monks to Ireland to set an example to the Irish monks in 1142. Mellifont, (from the French for honey fountain), was Ireland’s first monastery built in the formal French style and became the mother house for 21 Cistercian monasteries in Ireland, housing up to 400 monks at its peak and 150 monks up until 1539, when the Cistercian monasteries were outlawed by Henry VIII. A Tudor Manor House was built on the site of the monastery in the 16th century by the Moore family and the Irish leader Hugh O’Neill stayed here after he was defeated by the English at the Battle of Kinsale, before he left Ireland during the flight of the earls. However the ruins of some of the original monastery buildings remain on the site including a well preserved octagonal lavabo built in 1200, where the monks washed their hands before meals, the chapter house, the abbey church part of the Romanesque cloister.
Monasterboice Monastic Site
Monasterboice Monastic site, a few miles north of Drogheda off the N1 has two of the most impressive and best preserved Celtic high crosses in Ireland. It also has a 110feet high round tower and two small ruined 9th and 13th century churches on the site in a graveyard.
The location of the site itself, along a country lane, with nothing but a house nearby, gives it an enchanted atmosphere if you are the only visitor. The monastery was founded in the 6th century by a follower of Saint Patrick called St Buite (the Irish name is Mainstir Buite, Buite’s monastery). The Boyne River and Valley were also named after St Buite. When Buite died in 521AD his monks continued his work and the monastery became renowned as a centre for learning in the 9th and 10th centuries.
Neolithic dolmen tomb just north of Dundalk on the Cooley Peninsula reputed to be the grave of the Scottish giant Para Bui Mor MhacSeoidin who came to Ireland to fight the legendary Ulster Giant Finn McCool. The dolmen has a massive cap stone resting on three upright boulders. There is also a wedge tomb near the dolmen.
Saint Mochta’s Church
Small 11th century church on the site of a monastery founded by Saint Mochta an English follower of Saint Patrick in the 6th century
Termonfeckin High Cross
10th century high cross in the graveyard of a 6th century monastery founded by Saint Feichin from Cong County Mayo.