History of Carlingford and Cooley Peninsula

Medieval Carlingford and the Cooley Peninsula, County Louth, Ireland

King John's Castle

King John’s Castle was built in the 12th century on a rocky outcrop overlooking Carlingford Lough.   The Castle dominated the Lough, the harbour and the developing town.  This was the first stone building built in Carlingford and under the shadow of the castle the town grew.  It is said that King John of England stayed here for a few days in 1210 AD.  

The original Castle consisted of an enclosed D-shaped courtyard with two rectangular towers at the entrance.   The eastern part of the Castle was built in 1261 and this included a number of rooms and a great hall.

The Tholsel

One of the last surviving gates into the town.  It functioned as a tollgate where taxes were levied on goods entering the town.  Originally it would have been a more formidable looking structure with at least two storys above the arched gateway.   From its design and the character of the stonework, the Tholsel appears to be of late-mediaeval date.

The Mint

This fortified Tower House was build by a wealthy merchant with stone, three storys high on a burgage plot, only the wealthy could afford to build a stone house.   The Mint dates from the 15th Century, and is an impressive building with lovely limestone windows, most probably inserted in the 16th Century.   Earlier windows were most likely made of sandstone.  Motifs with Celtic heads & knots are an example of the revival of interest in Celtic culture among wealthy classes.

Taaffe's Castle

This Tower House was constructed in two phases; the older portion was built in the early 16th Century.  It still has many original features.  The annex was built probably about 50 yrs later to provide more living accommodation.  It was owned by the Earl of Carlingford, Nicholas Taaffe, who was killed at the battle of the Boyne fighting with King James in 1690.

The Dominican Friary

Under the patronage of Richard de Burgo, Earl of Ulster the Dominican order established the Friary in 1305, it was dedicated to St. Malachy.   It was dissolved under Henry the Eight in 1530.  Reoccupied by the Dominicans in the early 18th Century. 

Shelling Hill/Templetown Beach

Templetown was awarded the coveted blue flag,  these beaches have the finest stretches of sand on the peninsula.  There is excellent parking, toilet facilities.  Ideal location for family picnics

Grange Church

Grange Parish church is the earliest pre-emancipation church still in daily use in the Archdiocese of Armagh.   It is built in the ‘barn style’ and is the only whitewashed church in the country.   It was  built in 1762.


Prior to the famine of the 1840’s Whitestown was a typical clachan – a loose cluster of houses – dominated by three related families (kin groups) – the Murphys, Finegans and Kearneys.  These were the landed families, while most of the population of the village were landless labourers who used the conacre system of farming.


An Tain Bó Cuailnge the national epic of Ireland is centralised on the Cooley Peninsula. Here Cuchulainn, Queen Maebh and the renowned Brown Bull of Cooley met their fate. Their route can be followed across Ireland to the Cooley Mountains. This national marked way is known as The Táin Trail.



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