Carlingford, County Louth


Carlingford Town from above

Location in Ireland

Coordinates: 54°02′35″N 6°11′10″W / 54.04294°N 6.18609°W / 54.04294; -6.18609Coordinates: 54°02′35″N 6°11′10″W / 54.04294°N 6.18609°W / 54.04294; -6.18609
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
County County Louth
Elevation 1 m (3 ft)
Population (2011)[1]
  Urban 1,045
Irish Grid Reference J185115

Carlingford (from Old Norse Kerlingfjǫrðr, meaning "narrow sea-inlet of the hag";[2] Irish: Cairlinn) is a coastal town and townland in northern County Louth, Ireland. It is situated between Carlingford Lough (to the east) and Slieve Foy, sometimes known as Carlingford Mountain (to the west), It is located within the Cooley Peninsula. Located on the R176/R173 roads between Greenore Point and Omeath village, Carlingford is approximately 27 km north east (by road) from Dundalk (15.6 km directly), 90 km north of Dublin and 11 km south of the border with Northern Ireland. Carlingford won the Irish Tidy Towns Competition in 1988.

Carlingford has a number of mediaeval streets — the main one being Tholsel Street which holds the remnants of an old Toll Gate and a Mint.



Carlingford was occupied in the 12th century by Norman knight Hugh de Lacy after laying the foundation stone for a castle on a strategic outcrop of rock. A settlement sprang up close to this fortress. The construction of this castle is ascribed by tradition to King John about the year 1210. The castle is an extensive ruin seated on a solid rock - the sides of which are enclosed by the sea. Mountains rise on the inland side, at the foot of which is a narrow pass which was formerly commanded by the fortress.

Prosperous years

Carlingford's strategic position on the east coast of Ireland (along with Carrickfergus and Drogheda) made it an important trading port. This trade led to its relative prosperity during the 14th, 15th and early 16th centuries. Carlingford's early prosperity faltered when, in 1388, the town was burnt to the ground, by a Scots force under the command of Sir William Douglas of Nithsdale. This was a punitive raid, following Irish attacks on Galloway, the Lord of which was Nithsdale's father, Archibald the Grim.

Carlingford received five charters in total; the first in 1326 by Edward II and the last in 1619 under James I. The increased trade encouraged a mercantile class to build in the area, the results of which can be seen today in the remains of the Mint and Taffe's Castle.

In 1637, the Surveyor General of Customs issued a report compiled from accounts of customs due from each port and their "subsidiary creeks". Of the Ulster ports on the list, Carrickfergus was first, followed by Bangor, Donaghadee, and Strangford. Carlingford and Coleraine each had £244 customs due and had equal ranking.[3]

Carlingford was regarded for its Green Finned Oysters which remained its main employment source. The oysters were noted around the world and gained responses when mentioned in related texts.[4]

War and ruin

The 1641 Rising by the Irish of Ulster, the Cromwellian Conquest of 1649, and the subsequent Williamite wars of the 1690s all took their toll on the local economy. As recorded in the Journal of Isaac Butler, Carlingford the town was in a "state of ruin" by 1744. However, the final nail in coffin was the desertion to open water of the prosperous herring shoals that occupied the lough by the early 18th century.

Modern era

Carlingford's inability to develop a heavy industry allowed its mediaeval layout and archaeological artefacts to remain relatively intact. The area was opened up to tourism in the 1870s by the Dundalk, Newry and Greenore railway, which passed through Carlingford. This line closed in 1951. These transport links led to tourism being a key source of employment. Fishing was also important economically; particularly oysters and crabs from the nearby harbour. The town hosts the annual Carlingford Oyster Festival usually held in August. A passenger ferry operates daily out of the village of Omeath, 5 km (3.1 mi) away, during the summer months.

On the day of the Irish general election, 1918, the Camlough Company of the Irish Volunteers traveled by train from Newry to Carlingford. On arrival they found large numbers of Carlingford inhabitants wearing Union Jacks. The Volunteers ordered all the Royal Irish Constabulary men they saw on duty on the streets or at the polling booths to return to their barracks and to remain in them whilst the Volunteers were in Carlingford. A series of attacks were made on the Volunteers from by mobs on the streets. The Volunteers took control and sought to protect voters going to record their votes until the polling booths closed. Seamus Lyang from Dundalk was polling clerk in Carlingford and when the booths closed the Volunteers had to take Lyang under their protection and escort him out of the Carlingford. All the pubs and shops in Carlingford were hostile to the Volunteers and refused to serve them. After the closing of the poll the Volunteers marched back to Camlough.

Cultural references

The Irish singer-songwriter Tommy Makem wrote a melancholy song about the town, "Farewell to Carlingford", covered by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and The Dubliners. In the Dublin Penny Journal they advised that in AD 432 St Patrick's second landing in Ireland was according to some authorities effected here.

Places of interest

The Tholsel


Carlingford railway station opened on 1 August 1876, but finally closed on 1 January 1952[5] when the Dundalk, Newry & Greenore Railway ceased operations. In 1948 the film 'Saints and Sinners' used various locations around Carlingford including a scene at the beginning at the station of a DN&GR train arriving. A regular bus route serves Carlingford from both Dundalk and Newry (Bus Éireann route 161). There are five weekday journeys to Dundalk - all except the last journey of the day serve Greenore en route. There are three journeys each weekday to Newry via Omeath. On schooldays there is an additional morning journey to Newry. There is no service on Sundays or Bank Holidays.[6]

Former railway station on the Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway.

Carlingford also has a marina.


See also


  1. "Census 2006 – Volume 1 – Population Classified by Area" (PDF). Central Statistics Office Census 2006 Reports. Central Statistics Office Ireland. April 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2011-06-08.
  2. "Carlingford", Placenames Database of Ireland, retrieved 8 December 2011
  3. O'Sullivan, Aidan; Breen, Colin (2007). Maritime Ireland. An Archaeology of Coastal Communities. Stroud: Tempus. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-7524-2509-2.
  4. Philip Dixon Hardy (1832). The Dublin penny journal . Volume 1, Issue 1. Carlingford: JS Folds. p. 25.
  5. "Carlingford station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
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