Carlingford 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). 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.
Carlingford was occupied approximately 800 years ago 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 Prosperous Years
Carlingford's strategic position on the east coast of Ireland (along with Carrickfergus and Dundalk) made it a vital 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 the rich mercantile class to build, 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.
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.
The Modern Era
Carlingford's inability to develop a heavy industry allowed its mediaeval charm 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. Better transport led to tourism being the main source of employment. Also significant is fishing, particularly of 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, away, during the summer months.
Historical Artifacts of Interest