Carlingford And The Cooley Peninsula (Ireland)
Resounding legends, myths and folk tales await travellers to Ireland’s east–coast town of Carlingford. Just one hour’s drive from both Dublin and Belfast, it is perfectly located for a quick stop over. Given its beauty, however, time should not be a constraint. The place is known for its Lough whose sweeping backdrop of Slieve Foye – the highest mountain in County Louth – gives it unrivalled natural appeal.
The magic of Carlingford
Travellers can visit neolithic tombs such as the Proleek dolmen and Clontygora court grave, walk in the footsteps of the legendary Cúchulainn, discover the Viking settlement and the Norman fortification – all of which add to the charm of this magical island.
Myriad myths and legends surround the area – from the Celts to national tales and the epic An Táin Bo Cuailnge (the cattle raid of Cooley); the Irish giant Finn McCool lies on the side of Slieve Foye with his feet resting in Carlingford Lough; and Fairy Hill on the Cooley Peninsula reputedly has the special power to magically pull parked cars up its slopes.
More than a town - an experience
Carlingford was originally a Viking settlement and even its name originates from its Viking history – Carlin Fjord’ (Fjord simply meant a bay to the Vikings). It is also listed as a Medieval Heritage Town – having more historical buildings than any town of the same size in the whole of Ireland. Extensive town walls have survived, together with the ruins of monasteries and, most important of all, of civic buildings – an extremely rare happening in Ireland.
Carlingford Town, which is a virtual outdoor museum of medieval Ireland, offers various adventure activities to tourists like sailing, angling, painting workshops, golf, beauty treatments, horse riding, designer shopping, bird watching, cycling and guided walking tours. Carlingford even offers a pottery workshop, Irish traditional music workshops and a range of cookery courses taught using local produce and traditional recipes.
There is also a high level of innovation within the tourism industry in the area – the adventure centre is constantly evolving and diversifying its product range, using the natural environment and sustainable materials as much as possible.
There is a full range of visitor services available on the Cooley Peninsula, ranging from banks, churches, medical, shopping, taxis and boat hire to guides and the heritage centre. In addition, there is an abundance of activities on land and sea including archery, kayaking, raft building, zip wires, horse riding, fishing, sailing, trekking and golfing. Two equestrian centres offer full- day treks, including lunch on the Cooley mountains.
The Nearby towns of Omeath, Greenore and Ravensdale are also worth visiting. Ravensdale along the southern slopes of Clermont mountain is a quiet, pretty village with its main tourist attractions one kilometre outside it: a forest park and, an equestrian and trekking centre. Greenore village offers fine views of Carlingford Lough, Slieve Foye and the Mourne mountains.
Key tourist activities in the area include an extensive exhibition on the history of Greenore port and the railway village, fishing from the seashore and golf at the beautifully situated Greenore golf club. Greenore is also the location of an angling festival in July.
Calendar of events
The area hosts a full calendar of sustainable events which include regular concert recitals in the Holy Trinity heritage centre, a recently introduced Irish American festival, Ceol Carilinn, a traditional Irish winter school (February) and a Christmas craft and food fair where the local children recite Christmas carols.
Festivals built around the myths and legends of the destination encourage visitor participation in local traditions.
- ‘Birds on the Bay’ (February/March) includes » walks and talks on the area’s wildlife, raising awareness of the local natural heritage.
- The Oyster Festival (end August) promotes Carlingford as a food destination, focusing on fresh local seafood during the popular Chowder Day which is the highlight of the event.
- The Táin Walking Festival (March) concerns the legendary tale of the attempted theft by Queen Maedbh of Connacht of the brown bull of Cooley and the exploits of Cúchulainn, the Ulster hero, to protect the bull and Ulster from her armies. It features a series of walks and cycling routes.
- The Cooley Vintage Show (August) includes a vast array of vintage farm machinery which descends on the Cooley peninsula in an attempt to break the world record.
- The Carlingford Challenge (July) triathlon is spread over mountain, sea and road with cycling, swimming and running and is organised in aid of charity. It is an extremely popular event and attracts big crowds.
- Poc Fáda (August) is a hurling competition.