Carlingford and it's medieval roof scapes.
Carlingford on the shores of Carlingford Lough in Co Louth is a virtual outdoor museum of Medieval Ireland. Carlingford's narrow streets offer the visitor a close up view of the old Carlingford's ancient buildings while enjoying all that modernity has to offer - the finest dining in the bistros and restaurants, traditional Irish pubs, cafes and Tea Rooms, top class accommodation, couture shopping, artisan craft shopping, and an endless amount of year round EVENTS, FESTIVALS and ACTIVITIES to while away the hours.
The first place to visit upon arrival in Carlingford is the Cooley Peninsula Tourist Office in the old Railway Station directly opposite the Harbour where the visitor will find a wealth of information on the locality including maps and guides. Be sure to pick up a copy of the Cooley Peninsula Scenic drive brochure (free) and the "Medieval Carlingford Town Trail" an historical trail which will take the visitor to all of the medieval sites on a self guided tour. Another invaluable book on Medieval Carlingford is "Carlingford Town – An Antiquarian's Guide".
All of the historical sites are within a short distance of each other as Medieval Carlingford was (and still is) a small town and easy to stroll around at your leisure. A guided tour is available but must be booked in advance (minimum of four people – cost €6.00 p.p.) bookable at the Carlingford Tourist Information Office. The Tourist Office is open 7 days a week throughout the year from 9.30am to 5.00pm – Tel: 042 9373 033. Now it's time to begin exploring.
Medieval Carlingford Self Guided Tour – Allow 3 hours
Begin your visit with King John's Castle on the Harbour where you can walk around its perimeter (it will be possible to enter the castle as part of a group tour in 2016 upon completion of O.P.W. repairs currently underway). There is a viewing area on the shore side with magnificent views across Carlingford Lough towards the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down and seaward to the Irish Sea. The castle, named in honour of King John after his brief stay in 1210 was built circa 1192 by Hugh De Lacy (there have been a number of additions to the original structure as medieval Carlingford grew and prospered in the 13th, 15th and 16th centuries). De Lacy was also responsible for the building of Trim Castle in County Meath and the original Narrow Water Keep (c.1212) further up the Lough just beyond Omeath and also for the building of the castle at Greencastle (c.1230) on the northern entrance to Carlingford Lough.
From the castle cross the bridge and walk back towards the town centre down Newry Street where you pass by the "Watch House" (c.1400) and opposite you can view the remains of a medieval building which still has a stone face mounted on the gable. Taaffe's Castle (c.1500) is just beyond, the front of which is a pub, pop in for a visit (walking through the pub will take you to the old castle where you can view part of the Castellations).
Walk onto the Market Square, here and on Tholsel Street and Dundalk Street at the centre of medieval Carlingford there are pubs, restaurants and cafes as well as Ladies Boutiques, a Hotel, Gents Outfitters, Antique Shop, Supermarket etc. so lots of options for lunch, refreshments and browsing. Stroll up Tholsel Street to view the "Mint" (c.1450) a fortified Town House with ornate window decorations believed to have been added in the 16th century. Further up the street is the "Tholsel" the only surviving Town Wall Gate which served many purposes including that of Jail and a room in the building served as the local "Parliament" (meeting place of the towns "Burgers").
From here continue on to the Carlingford Heritage Centre (entrance is free) in the old Holy Trinity Church (there has been a church on this site since 1267). Inside, the history of Medieval Carlingford is on display in triptych display units, a video presentation about Carlingford is available to view and well worth it too! (The Heritage Centre opens from Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5.00pm during the summer visit www.carlingfordheritagecentre.com for further information). From the grounds of the Heritage Centre there are great views of Carlingford and the Harbour, a walk between the old headstones reading as you go may throw up a few surprises, two of the headstones are believed to date back to the 14th & 15th centuries while the earliest legible headstone dates from 1701.
Leave the Heritage Centre grounds by the main entrance gate heading towards the Dominican Friary which will be in view over the roof tops and only a few minutes away. The Friary along with King John's castle are probably Carlingford's most photographed buildings and make fantastic backdrops for wedding photos so don't be surprised to stumble upon a wedding shoot when you arrive. Built in the early 1300s (c.1305) the tower was added about a century later, the Friary fell victim to King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries Act in 1535 after which it never functioned as a religious centre again. Through the late medieval era it served as a hostel for migratory fishermen following the seasonal Herring and Mackerel shoals and even served as a hospital for the Williamite Forces in the 1690s.
Leave the Friary returning to the town centre for some well deserved refreshment.