Carlingford is like taking a step back in time and seeing the Ireland that would have been half a millennia ago. Except if you visit on a Saturday in the summer and then it’s more like taking a step on to a Geordie Shore night out. This is because the town has seen a surge in hosting hens and stags and because it’s so small, there’s not a lot of room to avoid them. Please don’t let this put you off though because the town is truly beautiful and if you go mid week or on weekends off-peak then you will experience the serenity it can offer.
Carlingford is situated in Co. Louth on the east coast of Ireland and is only an hours drive from Belfast making it the perfect spontaneous destination for us city slickers. Andrew and I drove down on a random Sunday in February that saw the sun come out and gave everyone the hope that the winter was finally coming to a close. The breeze was cool and we were able to stroll in the sunshine through the ancient streets hunting for a good scone and a strong cup of tea.
We managed to find the sweetest tea rooms called Ruby Ellen’s that had very tasty scones with fresh cream and homemade jam. It felt like walking in to my granny’s house with floral wallpaper, a dresser full of cakes and buns and mismatched teacups. Definitely a place to take the women in your life although Andrew didn’t seem to mind throwing the scones in to him at a rapid rate. They also had such friendly staff with an old doll manning the till. I think it took her a good half hour to calculate our bill but she was so lovely and the place felt even more authentic for it.
The town itself was first settled in the 12th century and there’s evidence everywhere of a town that was once a thriving trading port. Some places you should definitely try and see are:
- The Mint – this limestone stone house dates back to the 15th century and has amazing Celtic design around the windows
- Taafe’s Castle – thought to be owned by the Taafe family, a rich merchantile family who later became the Earls of Carlingford
- The Tholsel – this is the town gate where the taxes used to be levied against goods entering the town. It’s amazingly terrifying to walk under – it’s bound to crumble on of these days!
- Dominican Priory – believed to have been founded by Richard de Burgo around 1305 but after the dissolution of the monasteries the priory fell in to disrepair (blame Henry VIII the wee skitter)
- Church of the Holy Trinity – this medieval church has been restored and has a heritage centre detailing the history of Carlingford dating back to the Vikings. It has an amazing stained glass window at the back which I loved 🙂
There are also lots of antique shops dotted around the town that you can pop in to as well as artisan shops selling local products. It’s a perfect spot for a dander because of it’s size but there’s also a great walk between Carlingford and the neighbouring village of Omeath. The trail is about 7km and follows disused railway tracks that used to connect the marina to the village. It has some great views across the lough to the town of Warrenpoint and the Mourne Mountains towering behind it.
Visit Carlingford if you fancy an impromptu adventure in to a forgotten past or pop down for a session on a weekend where you won’t be short of a few pints of the black stuff.