Newry nestles in a low river valley with the eastern end of the Ring of Gullion on its western side, and rocky outcrops of Newry granite on its eastern side. Along the shore towards Warrenpoint on the east side of the estuary is the only flat access road – except of course for the parallel road to Omeath and Carlingford just across the water.
Although these lie geographically to east and west of the river estuary, the latter is spoken of as the road to The South. This apparant paradox is resolved when you remember than Warrenpoint is in Northern Ireland and Omeath and points beyond belong to the southern Republic of Ireland. In any case, you are travelling south, along the west side of the estuary.
Few people realize that the Lough runs from north to south. From the Warrenpoint Road you have an excellent view of the tree-covered sheer rock face of Fathom Mountain all the way to the seaside resort. Except for the more temperate climate you could believe you are following one of Norway‘s fjords.
Please don’t drive everywhere! Get out and drink deeply of the natural beauty that surrounds you. There is a forest to your left and access to it through a disused quarry some halfway to Warrenpoint. Pleasant paths through the forest have been constructed for your pleasure. Beyond is the Hall’s estate at Narrow Water. You will see Narrow Water Keep at the water’s edge just before you reach the famous Warrenpoint Links Golf Course. Several such Norman edifices were built up to eight centuries ago to defend Carlingford Lough.
Make time to visit King John’s Castle and the other preserved remains of the ancient and walled town of Carlingford on the other side of the Lough. Carlingford is for many, the jewel in our crown, although technically outside of our jurisdiction. I must share a secret with you. Please do not reveal your source. My friends in Newry would feel I had betrayed local chefs and restaurateurs. But it is well established that the place to dine out is Carlingford, especially on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Although it has more than a dozen fine restaurants, you must book in advance to avoid disappointment. Dine early and leave time for a stroll through the village before nightfall. It is perhaps the best-preserved old Norman town in all Ireland. Its unique Oyster Festival in late summer attracts tens of thousands who wish to partake not just in that local delicacy, but in all the carnival fun provided by the organisers.
Do not leave without visiting the new and fast-extending marina. I have sailed out of here frequently and must recommend it. You must make your own arrangements. The complex is open to diners from and to celebrating parties at all times, no matter what is their excuse for celebration.
King John’s Castle is matched on ‘our’ side of the Lough by Greencastle, which is some ten miles further along on your present route from Warrenpoint. And just beyond that is Cranfield, the most southerly beach head of Northern Ireland. It is wholly a creation of that last retreating glacier. It is also an excellent bathing and recreational facility. For the casual sun-bather it provides too the regular spectacle of large sea-going vessels plying into and out of the Lough at almost hailing distance. Water sports facilities like yachting and water-skiing are available. Several hundred caravans in adjacent parts testify eloquently to the popularity of this remote resort. Three miles further brings you to Kilkeel, Northern Ireland‘s largest fishing port. It is also a beautiful village with a character all its own. Make time to visit it.
I have omitted to tell you about Rostrevor. I have several friends who reside there and who commanded me not to reveal its many charms, for fear this unique village, reputedly with Mediterranean climate and flora, be overrun with thousands of eager tourists. Someone before me let the cat out of the bag and it has become our most popular retirement capital. The many high value shoreline apartments of recent years have brought some controversy, with locals complaining of steep rises in property values. I don’t want to add to this so, I’ll say no more!
Nearby Kilbroney Park possesses excellent all-round recreational facilities. It can be approached through the Fairy Glen, though I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Its quiet charms may entice you so much that you will never wish to go further!
[Come away, O human child,
To the waters and the wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping,
Than you can understand].
You are on the lower slopes of Slieve Martin, which is heavily wooded with conifers. However there is an ancient oak forest, one of the finest in Ireland that runs parallel with the Killowen Road.
It is well worth a visit. An upper slope boasts the Cloughmore Stone, a large erratic borne here from Scotland on board a retreating glacier in that last Ice Age.
That’s if you believe in that kind of thing.
You may prefer the legend of competing giants of old, slinging rocks in anger at one another across the Irish Sea. Our man, Finn MacCool, in retaliation for this stone cast at him, ripped a giant clump of earth and threw it back at the English giant. The hole left behind filled up with water, but his shot fell short, into the middle of the Irish Sea. Anyone can see it today, for it’s called the Isle of Man, and the water hole is today’s Lough Neagh.
If you don’t believe me, check them on the map. They are the very same shape!
What more proof do you want?
I’m not at all sure why, but the seaside resort of Warrenpoint is my most favoured local spot of all. Perhaps it’s because I spent the happiest days of youth on outings by train to this idyllic paradise. True, it is handicapped by the lack of a fine sandy beach, but its pebbled shore is all I now need. I learned to swim almost fifty years ago in its outdoor, unheated swimming pool. I still have the salt smell of its seawater in my nostrils and its taste in my throat.
Stroll aimlessly through its streets, lanes and parks. I promise you will not be disappointed by its variety of architecture, its old world charm or with the friendly people you will meet on your rambles. A new pleasant promenade now fronts the shore road and a pier extension allows the rambler to approach within touching distance of the container ships plying into and out of its busy maritime port, for Warrenpoint has taken over where Newry port of old left off.
The sleepy village of Omeath across the Lough in the Republic of Ireland seems within shouting distance. A boat trip across used to be the highlight of our seaside visit. The clinker boats could take up to twelve passengers and as it sped across, the water seemed to sweep up to and over its prow. Adults would return with smuggled drink and cigarettes, for duty was lower in the other jurisdiction. Any scene as beautiful as this must also be seen from the vantage point of the water. The noise and hustle and bustle is absent, and one can enjoy in peace and tranquillity an unrestricted view of the mountain slopes, peppered with little white cottages and trees.
That’s the Omeath Park Hotel over there, where my sister’s (and more recently, my son’s) wedding reception was celebrated. The view from its gardens, looking back in this direction, is every bit as impressive. Warrenpoint comes alive at night, with many fine restaurants, clubs and discos. It has that enticing buzz of people enjoying themselves. Stroll among them, even if loud music in not to your taste. Their sense of fun is infectious!
Children can enjoy the fun fair in the Square.