Getting To Carlingford Lough with UFO Drive
Map Your Carlingford Lough Drive and Things to Do Around Carlingford Town
Where to Stop on the Way to Carlingford Lough from Dublin
Battle of the Boyne Visitors Centre
Blackrock in County Louth
Proleek Dolmen was definitely a major highlight of our Carlingford road trip. Park at Ballymascanlon House Hotel and walk across the golf course following the signs until you reach the dolmen. It takes about 10-15 minutes on a well-marked path.
It was absolutely worth the detour to see Proleek Dolmen and wedge tomb on the way to Carlingford. This is the tallest and most impressive dolmen I've see in Ireland! Proleek Dolmen is a Stone Age tomb dating back to 2000-3000 B.C. The capstone weighs 40 tons. Thinking about how the ancient people constructed the dolmen truly captures the imagination.
The grounds and walled gardens at Ballymascanlon House Hotel are also worth exploring on the way back from Proleek Dolmen to the parking lot.
Where to Stay in Carlingford Town
We paid approximately 200 EUR per night for our 3 night stay in Carlingford. We were simply delighted by Ghan House Hotel. Our room was spacious and quiet. I also loved the kitties wandering around outside. I counted at least four during our stay. The Ghan Fry for breakfast is included in your stay and lays a solid foundation for a hike in the Cooley Mountains near Carlingford.
Ghan House is also home to two electric vehicle charging stations which was another reason we chose to stay here. Plug in at night and you're fully charged and ready to go in the morning.
Where to Eat in Carlingford Town
McKevitt's Village Hotel
Ghan House Hotel
Feeley's Fish and Chips
Things to do in Carlingford Town
Take a Carlingford Photowalk
Carlingford Ireland is perfect for a photowalk. Definitely take a walk around Carlingford during golden hour for some spectacular photo opportunities. Carlingford is so colorful!
If you really want to have Carlingford to yourself for a photowalk, head into town at 10 am on a Monday morning. You won't be bothered by cars and won't have to contend with people blocking that perfect shot.
Visit Carlingford Priory
Carlingford Priory is pretty bad ass and definitely a sight to behold. Dating back to the 12th century, the ruins are spectacular on a sunny day. There is even an old mill on an overgrown trail behind the priory.
Watch the Sunset over Carlingford Lough
Time a walk along Carlingford Lough for sunset. The Mourne Mountains across the water in Northern Ireland create a moody backdrop. Look for pale orange rays lighting up King John's Castle.
Pick out a hike to suit your level of fitness. We embarked on the Commons Loop Trail which takes less than two hours. This Carlingford walk starts with a vigorous uphill hike from Carlingford Town. We were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Cooley and Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough.
The Commons Loop Trail threads through a couple of sheep pastures and we made some new friends along the way including a curious lamb. We also spotted content cows, chirping stonechats, and a lazy little goat on our Carlingford walk.
If you like birdwatching, keep an eye on the bracken (dense ferns) in the Cooley Mountains above Carlingford. You'll be delighted by the little birds you see (like stonechats and goldfinches).
Tour King John's Castle
For a fiver you can take a 45 minute tour of King John's Castle. Sometimes referred to as Carlingford Castle, you can only get inside the castle ruins by joining the daily tour that starts from the Carlingford Tourism Office. King John's Castle dates back to the Norman period.
Drive the Mourne Coastal Route in Northern Ireland
Take the Carlingford Lough Ferry to Northern Ireland
Book a ticket for the Carlingford Lough Ferry from Greenore to Greencastle. The ferry departs every 30 minutes starting at 10:30 am and the ride across Carlingford Lough takes about 20 minutes. You can get out of the car and have a look at the surrounding mountain scenery. We even spotted a few dolphins!
Explore Kilbroney Park
Kilbroney Park near Rostrevor is worth a stop on your drive around Carlingford Lough in Northern Ireland. We hiked the Narnia Trail at Kilbroney Park along the Mourne Coastal Route. C.S. Lewis credits the area as the inspiration for Narnia. There is also a lovely Fairy Trail along a babbling stream.
Tour the Quotes in Rostrevor
Kilbroney Park exits into Rostrevor which is just the cutest town. Not only did it inspire C.S. Lewis' Narnia, but it also has fabulous doors.
I loved all the inspirational quotes posted around Rostrevor by Poetic Action Rostrevor. For example: "Sometimes we win and sometimes we learn".
Visit Ross Monument
There is a well-placed parking lot on the water just across from a giant obelisk between Rostrevor and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland. Pull over and check out the ostentatious Ross Monument.
Ross Monument was erected in honor of Major General Ross whose claim to fame was burning down the U.S. president's house (this act pre-dated the White House) and inspiring the American national anthem during the War of 1812.
Grab a Coffee in Warrenpoint
Warrenpoint is a good stopping point on the Mourne Coastal Route for a coffee. Get a cappuccino to takeaway at Fulla Beans and then walk along the shore and through the park which is home to a gorgeous Victorian-era bandstand.
Stop at Narrow Water Keep
What have we here? Narrow Water Keep guards the entrance to the Newry River about a kilometer from Carlingford Lough. There is also a cool round tower across the river.
Victoria Lock and the Greenway
On a whim, we pulled in at Victoria Lock and discovered the Greenway in the middle of the Newry River. The views were simply idyllic. Catch a glimpse of the Cooley Mountains as you walk the gravel path. We spotted an adorable wren singing a sweet song on the Greenway near Victoria Lock.
Go for a walk on the Greenway to stretch your legs after a day of driving around Carlingford Lough.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you know that the Great Western Greenway in County Mayo is an awesome area of natural beauty ideal for exploration on an electric bike?
Last stop of the day before returning to Carlingford: Omeath! Omeath is back in the Republic of Ireland. We enjoyed views of Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland from across Carlingford Lough. We grabbed a sneaky pint of Guinness at Hotel Granvue, and picked up a delicious slice of strawberry cheesecake at Cafe Rosa. Note that while we visited Omeath by car, one of the most popular outdoor activities on the Cooley Peninsula is to cycle from Carlingford to Omeath along the Carlingford Lough Greenway.
Where to Stop on the Return from Carlingford Lough to Dublin
Castle Roche is a great stopping point on the way from Carlingford to Dundalk. The castle is easy to spot on a hill but it's on a tiny road with essentially no parking. There is a small bump-out you can pull into for a few minutes. Make sure to put your flashers on and then walk up the hill and onward through what was once the drawbridge and transport yourself back to life in the 13th century in your imagination.
Dundalk is the largest town in County Louth. Park in Dundalk (pay and display) on the return from Carlingford for a wee wander around. Highlights include the cathedral, cool and colorful Georgian doors and the Dundalk windmill. The windmill dates back at least to 1790 but it may have been constructed as early as the 12th or 13th century. Dundalk is also an epicenter of Irish mythology with the great warrior hero of Medieval Irish history, Cú Chulainn, hailing from Dundalk.
Dundalk is a great stopping point for lunch. Grab an outdoor table at Cafe Adelphi. We enjoyed well-crafted cappuccinos with a giant chocolate chip cookie with Nutella dollop (I'm a big fan of eating dessert first!) followed by halloumi salad and a falafel wrap.
Dromiskin Round Tower and Monastery
Make time for a stop at Dromiskin round tower and monastery which dates back over 1500 years. The site has a Celtic cross that was erected in the late 800s. The monastery was plundered by Viking and Irish armies in the 10th and 11th centuries.
A Detour to Kells
I'll admit, Kells is a bit out of the way, but is a good detour on your return from Carlingford to Dublin, especially if you want to time your arrival in the capital to avoid rush hour. Kells is about a 45 minute drive (50 km) from Dromiskin and will add about 45 minutes to an hour to your drive back to Dublin over what it would have been if you had skipped this stop. The abbey in Kells is the namesake of the famous Book of Kells. We saw a really cool remnant of a Celtic high cross. Just outside the cemetery next to the Garda station is St Columcille’s House which dates back to the 10th Century. Such a sturdy stone house! It's rare to see a house with a stone roof like this in Ireland.
There is an ESB charging station near Supervalu in Kells so plug in that Tesla and get a bit of juice before setting out on foot to explore the town. There is also a state-of-the-art rest area just a couple minutes away by car: Park Rí. You'll find a convenience store, fast food restaurants including the punnily named "Cook of Kells" and clean toilets. Fuel up here for the final leg of your return trip to Dublin.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other scenic drives in Ireland? Have you considered: