Carlingford and The Cooley Peninsula

Carlingford and The Cooley Peninsula is located one hour’s drive from both Dublin & Belfast cities and airports on the East Coast of Ireland. Carlingford is a medieval town and has a magnificent setting on the edge of the lough, with the sweeping backdrop of the green Slieve Foy – the highest mountain in Co. Louth. The scenery here, around the beautiful and dramatic Cooley Peninsula resounds with legend, myth and folk tales. The area has witnessed the building of Neolithic tombs such as the Proleek Dolmen and Clontygora Court Grave, the footsteps of Cuchulainn, the settlement of the Vikings, the fortification of the Normans, the laying of the Long Woman in her grave at Omeath and Greenore, a purpose built railway village. Carlingford and The Cooley Peninsula’s strong position within the home market directly reflects its unique product and outstanding commitment to quality, consistently raising standards and a keen response to visitor needs alongside a high respect for the local environment, landscape, traditions and heritage There are a full range of visitor services available on The Cooley Peninsula from , churches, medical services, shopping, taxis, boat hire, guides, and a heritage centre. There is also a high level of innovation within the tourism industry in the area – the adventure centre is constantly evolving and diversifying its product range, using the natural environment and sustainable materials as much as possible. Within the last few years the adventure centre has opened Irelands largest zip wire course and has extended the rock climbing capacity. The areas offering includes: ? Two adventure centres that offer over twenty outdoor activities from archery and kayaking to raft building and zipwires. ? Two equestrian centres including the award winning equestrian centre in Ravensdale, which recently opened its new indoor arena and offers full day treks, including lunch on the Cooley Mountains. ? The Cookery School in Ghan House runs a series of courses which include a fishing trip followed by cooking lessons of your catch of the day with a stop en route at the local oyster farm for your appetiser. ? A sea school in Carlingford and also angling operators that offer boat trips with a full day’s fishing inclusive of lunch. A full calendar of sailing courses and sailing races are available at Carlingford Sailing Club. Carlingford also has a fully equipped marina that offers dining and bar facilities. ? These are in addition to: ? 15 Heritage Sites ? 7 Galleries / Craft Workshops ? 10 Pubs & Bars ? 4 Walking Routes ? 10 Fishing Points ? 2 Golf Course ? 15 Restaurants ? 57+ accommodation including hostels ? The Cooley Peninsula has almost all the tourism products a visitor could wish for: a medieval village; adventure/activity; sailing; angling; painting workshops; golf; cookery school; beauty treatments; horseriding; designer shopping; birdwatching; cycling; and guided walking tours of Carlingford Town, which is a virtual outdoor museum of medieval Ireland. The area is known for its gastronomy and a great live music scene including Trad seissuins and concerts. History of Carlingford & Cooley Peninsula: More than a thousand years ago Vikings established a trading post in the sheltered bay beneath the Cooley Mountains. They named it ‘Carlin Fjord’. Carlin is still a common personal name in Scandinavian countries. Fjord simply meant a bay to the Vikings – but to geographers it is a very special kind of bay, deep inside with a very shallow opening. There are hardly any other fjords in Ireland, giving Carlingford another little bit of uniqueness. This Special Preservation Area is particularly interesting to naturalists who come to watch the hundreds of seals and variety of birds that have made their home there, also providing a habitat for the most delicious oysters for which Carlingford is justly famous. After the Vikings came the Anglo-Normans, attracted by the oysters, the anchorage and the superb quality of the pasture in the lowlands. They built the great castle to defend both the harbour and a narrow pass over the mountains. Many a battle took place between the English and the displaced Irish – but the English stayed in control and built and fortified the town. That is one of its greatest attractions and it is now a listed Medieval Heritage Town – having more historical buildings than any town of the same size in the whole of Ireland. Extensive town walls have survived, together with the ruins of monasteries and, most important of all, of civic buildings – an extremely rare happening in Ireland. In 1467 the King permitted the citizens to mint their own coins and the building where this took place can be seen to this day. The ancient gate-house and tholsel still stand, as does one of the fortified houses of the kind that the wealthy people built for themselves. The friary ruins, which are still visible, date back to 1305. The town was also granted seven Charters reflecting it’s importance during the Medieval period. Myths & Legends of Carlingford & The Cooley Peninsula: Ireland has been synonymous with Leprechauns as far back as anyone can remember. It was no surprise therefore when in 1989 a man from Carlingford Co. Louth informed the world that he had found the first authentic suit and bones and four gold coins belonging to the little people on the Cooley Mountains. The man P.J.O’ Hare didn’t realise at the time that they had been left there in an attempt to attract human kind to their desperate plight. They would need human help to survive. Millions of the little people had lived in Ireland from the beginning of time but now only 236 survive. P.J. died not knowing why the artefacts were left for him to find. The suit and bones remain in his pub to this day on display but no one knew the whereabouts of the 4 gold coins. Some years after he died a disbelieving friend of his Kevin Woods was mending a wall on Ghan Road Carlingford and found a leather purse with 4 gold coins in it. They were the same as those that had been found years before. He brought them to the mountain and to his amazement saw 3 leprechauns. They told him that he must get more people to believe in them otherwise the 236 remaining would not survive. Woods and a local committee lobbied the E.U. for 6 years and the leprechauns were granted E.U. protection as a species in 2009 under the European Habitats Directive. Woods was directed to two tunnels along the shoreline one of which ran from Foy Mountain to that point and another which ran below Carlingford Lough to the Fairy Glen in Rostrevor in Co Down. He claims that each morning as the sun rises leprechaun and fairy spirits travel through the tunnels and meet to dance below the earth, but return each day as the sun reaches half way up in the sky. These are now open to the public on a guided tour basis by Woods who is known locally as Irelands last leprechaun Whisperer. The tour takes 1 hour and offers an insight into every story ever told about Leprechaun’s; it offers a rational explanation to the belief that there is a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow and dispels many of the untruths told about them. The legends of the Celts (or Gaels) are among the oldest in Western Europe. While they are not literally true they most probably are based on actual events. Most legends on The Cooley Peninsula centre around the mythological character of Cuchulainn. Many fascinating stories are written but the most famous one is that of An Táin Bo Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) Ireland’s greatest legendry tale and national epic. The first transcript dates back to 1200. It tells the story of a great cattle raid, the invasion of Ulster by Queen Meadbh of Connaught and her armies seeking to carry off the great Brown Bull of Cuailnge (Cooley) while the men of Ulster are afflicted by a debilitating curse leaving 17 year old Cuchulainn to defend Ulster alone. The passionate, sometimes gruesome story culminates on the Cooley Mountains when Cuchualinn makes the lethal mistake of letting Meadbh go in an act of compassion resulting in the capture of the great bull…. The Irish giant Finn Mc Cool, who is known for the creation of the ‘8th wonder of the world’- The Giants Causeway as a result of an argument between himself and the Scottish giant Fingal, lies on the side of Slieve Foy with his feet resting in Carlingford Lough – where the old town of Carlingford is said to reside after the eruption of the volcanic Slieve Foy Mountain which majestically overlooks the present village today.