History of Carlingford Lough
Carlingford Lough itself is a glacial fjord or sea inlet in north-eastern Ireland
Forming part of the border between the North of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the south.
On the North side we have the Mourne Mountains and the towns of Warrenpoint, Rostrevor, Greencastle and Cranfield.
On the South side we have the villages of Omeath and the picturesque villages of Carlingford and Greenore backed by the Cooley Mountains.
The picturesque village of Carlingford that sits at the foot of Slieve Foy. The village has a medieval layout with its notable narrow lanes and small streets.
The true founders of the village were the Normans who recognised the Loughs strategic significance as the vital stretch of water to the ‘Gap of the North’ and inland Ulster.
The Normans, determined to control access to Lough, constructed three castles, two at its entrance, Carlingford village on the southside and the other at Greencastle on the Northern side. The third castle was built at Narrow Water further up the Lough.
The castle at Carlingford became known as King Johns Castle following a visit by the King in 1210. The area opened to tourism when the Dundalk Newry and Greenore railway opened in 1870 and led to tourism being a key source of employment. The village is known for it’s beautiful setting, and for it’s oysters which are renowned throughout Britain and Europe.
Greenore port is the only privately owned deep water port in Ireland. It is one of two ports within Carlingford Lough, the other one being Warrenpoint Port which is further up the Lough. The port was built in 1867 to provide links to Heysham and Liverpool. The London and North-western Railway constructed a substantial hotel and railway station to serve passengers using the Greenore to Holyhead ferry service. The Port was purchased by the Aodhogan O’Rahilly in 1959.
Aodhogan O’Rahillys son Ronan O’Rahilly was co-founder and mastermind of the infamous vessel ‘Caroline’ apparently named after JF Kennedys daughter. The vessel was fitted out in one of the berths at Greenore port. When she set sail to the North Sea, she gate crashed the BBC airwaves to change the airways forever and became world famous as ‘Radio Caroline’
The glorious hotel that once stood as a reminder to times past, was demolished in 2007 to bring the port up to the standard she is today. The port is now owned by Doyles Shipping Group. It plays a very significant role in the Irish economy as it is the Republic’s only deep-water port outside of Dublin Port on the east coast of Ireland.
In behind the port is GREENORE VILLAGE. The entire village is an Architectural conservation area of Victorian residential and industrial buildings. The village was built by the London and North Western Railway Company and it is the only completely planned village in Ireland and at the time it was considered state of the art.
The village consisted of a railway station built inside a magnificent hotel on a quayside with luxury passenger liners sailing for Holyhead in Wales.
Two streets of houses were built, Euston St and Anglesey Tce to house employees of the railway, it also included a schoolhouse, police barracks, coast guards, beach café, Greenore Lighthouse, Greenore Hotel and Greenore Golf Club.
The railway closed in 1951 with ferry services soon after that.
FINN the Dolphin our wild solitary bottlenose dolphin, has taken up residence in the Lough for the last few years. He comes over to the boat to visit us sometimes and swims in front and alongside, then quietly returns to whatever he was doing. We hope he will stay with us for a long time he brings a lot of joy and delight to people.
MOURNE MOUNTAINS OR sometimes called The Mountains of Mourne, situated in County Down. They are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is a total of 93 peaks and points, the highest being Slieve Donard at 2790ft.
The Mourne Wall was started in 1904 and completed in 1922. It crosses fifteen of the summits and was built to enclose the catchment basin of the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs and are the main water supply for city of Belfast.
The Mournes can be seen from Dublin, Belfast, Isle of Man and parts of Scotland.
The mountains are immortalised in the 1896 song composed by Percy French ‘Mountains o Mourne’. It appealed to the Irish Diaspora, highlighting the beauty of their homeland where the ‘Mountains o Mourne sweep down to the sea’. The song was recorded by many artists including Don McLean.
The Mountains of Mourne are also mentioned in John Lennons song ‘The luck of the Irish’ on the album ‘Some Time in New York City’
The scenery of the Mourne Mountains have also provided the backdrop for several productions, most notably HBO’s Game of Thrones.
At the foot of the Mourne Mountains and at the edge of the Lough we see Greencastle, the Norman castle on the landscape marks the spot. This is one of the three castles built by the Normans to guard the entrance of the Lough.
Greencastle itself was formally known as RAF Greencastle USAAF 237. The village is a former Royal Air Force airfield and stretched as far as Cranfield bay where you see the mobile homes. It was opened as an RAF bomber operational training unit in April 1942 but it was immediately transferred to the United States Army Air Forces.
During construction, households were given three days to vacate their houses, without any obligation from the Air Ministry to find them alternative accommodation. When some refused, the station was literally built around them.
The station was established to handle the overflow form the extremely busy parent station at Langford Lodge. Servicing of war weary aircraft was huge part of the work at Greencastle as was the training of bomber crews. Air gunners were trained at RAF Greencastle by the USA Air Force.
In July 1944 alone, 330 trained heavy bomber crews left Greencastle.
There continues to be a landing strip at Greencastle today, however this is now privately owned. However if you take a trip to Greencastle, you will still see evidence of the RAF base, with it’s strange walls and buildings.
As we head towards the lighthouse we pass over many sunken wreck sites most notably the SS Falavee which sank in 1942. Out beyond the lighthouse lies the wrecksites of the SS Connemara and the SS Retriever which collided and sank on 3rd November 1916 with the loss of 97 lives. There was only one survivor, James Boyle – a fireman on the Retriever and former caretaker of Warrenpoint Town hall, and a non-swimmer. Both captains were experienced sea men and the accident was due to atrocious weather conditions on the night.
The Lough has numerous scuba diving spots, including wreck and shelf diving with an abundance of fish life. It is fast flowing on the incoming and outgoing tides and dive planning is of utmost importance before venturing out.
To our bow we have the Haulbowline Lighthouse noting the entrance to Carlingford Lough. The lighthouse was built in 1824 and is described as an elegant tapering stone tower. It is located at the entrance to Carlingford Lough, the nearest land being Cranfield point on the Northern side. She is 112ft high.
It was built on the Haulbowline rocks, which were a navigational hazard at the mouth of the Lough, so the lighthouse was built to mark the spot and also to guide ships leaving the lough at night. The lighthouse has an extra display light in case of problems with the leading lights. The lighthouse was automated in 1965
Heading up the lough we have Omeath village on the southern shore. Omeath was a village that sprung up around the old Omeath railway station in 1876. It borders Co Down east of Newry. Omeath can be accessed by the Carlingford-Omeath Greenway, which is being extended to Newry. You can grab a bike in Carlingford village and enjoy the scenery of the Cooley Mountains and the Lough.
On the right we have Rostrevor Co Down, a town at the foot of Slieve Martin and near Warrenpoint. It is the former home of former President of Ireland Mary McAleese.
On ahead we have the town of Warrenpoint. It sits at the head of Carlingford Lough, South of Newry and is separated from the Republic of Ireland by a narrow strait called ‘Narrow Water’.
Warrenpoint is the second Port within the Lough and amongst the many ships received, it provides two commercial sailings a day to Heysham.
As we arrive at the inner part of Carlingford Lough, we reach Narrow Water and Narrow Water Castle. Hence the name Narrow Water, the nearest point between the North of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland along the Lough.
Narrow Water Castle is one of the three castles built by the Normans to secure the Lough. The building in it’s present form was constructed in the 16th century. It was damaged in the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and was subsequently then sold to the Hall family who lived there until they built the current mansion (also called Narrow Water Castle) in the early 19th century.
The Hall family still reside at the Narrow Water Mansion and remains their private residence.
On 27 August 1979, 18 British Army soldiers were killed when an IRA bomb was detonated by the IRA on the roadside at Narrow Water Castle. It was the greatest single loss of life for the British Army during The Troubles.
With the ongoing Peace Process, the future looks very bright, and the long awaited construction of the Narrow Water Bridge is now at tender stage.
The proposed bridge will cross Carlingford Lough and link Omeath in Co Louth with Warrenpoint in Co Down. It is a cross-border project and involves authorities on both sides of the border.
It will be a cable-stayed design that will open to allow tall ships and other vessels access Victoria Lock in Newry.