Ardglass is a coastal village, townland and civil parish in County Down, Northern Ireland and still a relatively important fishing harbour. It is situated on the B1 Ardglass to Downpatrick road, about 6 miles (11 kilometres) to the south east of Downpatrick, in the Lecale peninsula on the Irish Sea. It had a population of 1,668 people in the 2001 Census, and is located within the Down District Council area. It is called Ardgless in Ulster-Scots.
The village is a commuter centre for workers in Downpatrick and Belfast, a seaside resort and a local service centre providing housing and a variety of shops and services largely concentrated in Castle Place, Quay Street, Kildare Street and Bath Street. A Conservation area was designated in Ardglass in 1996, focused on its early 19th century street pattern. The village has eight archaeological sites within the area and another two nearby. There are a number of listed properties located on Castle Place, Kildare Street and The Crescent. St Nicholas's Church, King's Castle, Ardglass Castle, Isabella Tower, the disused railway station, the North Pier and the inner Dock are also listed.
Ardglass grew from a place of little note in the 13th century to a modestly prosperous port in the 15th century. It was an important town and port in the Middle Ages, but no harbour works seem to have been constructed until after 1812. Then William Ogilvie, who had acquired the Ardglass estate, had a harbour built. Further extensions to the pier and a lighthouse were made, but in 1838 a great storm undermined the lighthouse which fell into the sea along with the end of the pier. Work on the piers was completed by 1885 and they remain in use to this day.
Ardglass contains more medieval tower-houses than any other town in Ireland, a total of four, reflecting its importance as Ulster's busiest port in the 15th century. It also has probably the most extensive network of warehouses from the period surviving in Ireland. These were important in the substantial grain export trade of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Fortifications survive in the town from the fifteenth century, including Jordan's Castle, the most imposing of a ring of towers built around the harbour to secure the then important Anglo-Norman trading port, King's Castle and Cowd Castle. Nearby are the ruins of 15th century Ardtole Church.
Account of Ardglass in 1833
The Dublin Penny Journal of 30 March 1833 describes Ardglass as follows: