Carlingford: The Prettiest Village in Ireland’s Ancient East

Nestled on the east coast of its eponymous lough, Carlingford is a small town with big charm right along the Northern Irish border. But with a name dating back to the Viking days of Ireland (Carlingford means Kerlingfjǫrðr, or fjord of Carlinn in Old Norse) it’s clear that there’s more than meets the eye here: indeed, this scenic seaside dwelling is awash with history – as is the rest of Ireland’s Ancient East.

Although I only had a few hours to explore, I immediately fell under Carlingford’s powerful spell, with its luxuriant rose bushes and crooked centennial houses. This awe only grew stronger as I settled in a pub for the evening, indulging in proper grub and good olde’ craic. This is Ireland, after all; best to do as the locals do.

Carlingford – Beautiful Villages in Ireland

Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East

The weather was gloomy and muggy when I got to Carlingford —again, this is Ireland we’re talking about, there’s a reason everything’s so green and lush— but nothing could keep me away from the romantic waterfront cottages I saw peeking through the thick fog ahead of me. I squinted my eyes just enough to make out the silhouette of castle ruins in the distance: that would be the remains of what once was the massive fortress of King John Castle, Richard the Lionheart’s brother, who visited Carlingford in 1210. My visit wasn’t off to a bad start at all.

Carlingford’s lack of heavy industry, unlike the rest of Ireland, allowed its mediaeval layout and archaeological artefacts to remain relatively intact; in fact, Carlingford’s old town is often dubbed “Ireland’s best-kept secret” as it features an almost unaltered 15th-century public building named tholsel, one of the few left in the country. They’re thought to have served a myriad of purposes, from city hall to courthouse, from guild hall and to customs house. And as I walked further into Carlingford from the harbour I crossed this highly historic town gate and entered the pedestrianised area, dotted with colourful pubs and sprawling terraces filled with locals enjoying an after-work pint.

Indeed — Ireland’s Ancient East is full of surprises.

Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East
Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East
 
Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East
Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East
 
Carlingford Ireland's Ancient EastCarlingford Ireland's Ancient East Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East

A Night At the Pub – Carlingford

Clearly, I knew better than sitting this one out. First timer in Ireland? Listen up: if you ever come across the opportunity to spend an evening at an Irish pub with locals, don’t even think it over, for this will undoubtedly become the highlight of your trip. Irishmen and women are just as part of the experience in Ireland’s Ancient East as the sights themselves. There’s just something impossibly compelling about these wholesome, genuinely kind Irish folks that makes you warm to them instantly. Even I, a notorious non-people person, know that resistance is futile.

There’s also something oddly comforting in seeing a succession of Irish clichés we expect and hope to be true come to life before our eyes:

  • Fish & chips with a generous share of Guinness
  • Céilí and set dancing
  • A characterful and funny singer
  • Plenty of sing-alongs
  • (more Guinness)
  • And, most importantly, memorable craic

Carlingford Ireland's Ancient EastCarlingford Ireland's Ancient EastCarlingford Ireland's Ancient EastCarlingford Ireland's Ancient East

If you’re truly lucky you might also get invited to partake in an Irish coffee lesson at PJ O’Hares; trust me when I say there’s much more to this late-night kicker of a cocktail than just whisky, coffee, and thick cream. It’s an art!

Did you know, by the way, that Irish coffee was conceived by a fella named Joe Sheridan in County Limerick, who, on an awfully cold 1940’s winter night, added whisky to coffees he handed to Pan Am flying boat passengers in order to warm them up, immediately dubbing his rather clever creation “Irish coffee”. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East
Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East
 
Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East
Carlingford Ireland's Ancient East
 

Carlingford – Know Before You Go

This post was brought to you as a result of the #IrelandsAncientEast blog trip, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Tourism Ireland. To Europe And Beyond maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.

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25 Comments on Carlingford: The Prettiest Village in Ireland’s Ancient East

  1. Paula
    July 25, 2016 at 11:58 am (3 years ago)

    This looks absolutely gorgeous! Love the moody waterfront. I imagine it’s really quite nice on a sunny day!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      July 28, 2016 at 11:32 am (3 years ago)

      I guess I’ll have to go back and find out!

      Reply
  2. Jain Amit
    August 9, 2016 at 1:20 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you Marie Eve for sharing beautiful pictures of Carlingford located in Ireland’s ancient east. The views and scenery are breathtaking and the lush green environment , waterfront , restaurants definitely seem worth of exploring.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 17, 2016 at 2:01 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks for the kind words Jain!

      Reply
  3. Jojo Paul
    August 24, 2016 at 1:51 pm (2 years ago)

    Great !!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 29, 2016 at 11:31 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks Jojo!

      Reply
  4. Kathleen menary
    September 18, 2016 at 5:50 pm (2 years ago)

    So glad you enjoyed your stay in Carlingford. You chose the right pub Pj O Hares for the best food and I see from the above picture you were served by my handsome son John.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      September 19, 2016 at 6:39 pm (2 years ago)

      That’s amazing! What a small world we live in :-)

      Reply
  5. Jackie
    September 20, 2016 at 6:18 pm (2 years ago)

    HI Marie Eve.
    You picked a good night to visit PJ’s with Henry Mac on guitar. Great place to relax and enjoy as the world spins around you. There is also fantastic walking opportunities in the local Cooley Mountains. You should come back if you get a change!!

    Reply
  6. Crystal
    December 28, 2016 at 7:16 pm (2 years ago)

    Gosh, I’ve always wanted to travel to Ireland. This looks like such a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 30, 2016 at 9:15 pm (2 years ago)

      2017 sounds like a great time to visit Ireland! ;)

      Reply
  7. Edel
    January 16, 2017 at 3:59 pm (2 years ago)

    Carlingford is so beautiful! I was there on New Year’s day, it was just gorgeous!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm (2 years ago)

      Glad you liked it too! Such a gorgeous town.

      Reply
  8. Agnieszka
    February 21, 2017 at 11:57 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Marie-Eve! I stumbled upon your blog though a link on Pinterest and I’m glad I did! So many great tips! I live in the south of Sweden and I’m trying to find an interesting place for our summer holidays. Would you know by any chance if it’s relatively easy to travel from Dublin to Carlingfird by train?

    Reply
    • Joel
      February 24, 2017 at 10:39 am (2 years ago)

      Hi there, i live in carlingford, there is no direct train, but you can get a train from Dublin to a town called Dundalk (about an hour) and then a bus from Dundalk to Carlingford (about 30 mins). Anyone in a train/bus station can help you. Check out http://www.buseireann.ie for buses :)

      Reply
      • Marie-Eve
        March 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm (2 years ago)

        Good to know, thanks!

    • Marie-Eve
      March 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm (2 years ago)

      Glad you like the blog Agnieszka! Hope the previous commenter answered your question.

      Reply
  9. Susy Sams
    April 9, 2017 at 10:47 pm (2 years ago)

    Just started planning a 10 day trip to Ireland next Spring. After seeing your blog I may have to change my itinerary to include Carlingford. Looks like a lovely place to visit.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 26, 2017 at 4:49 pm (2 years ago)

      I would highly recommend you include Carlingford, as well as notable sights in Ireland’s Ancient East such as Newgrange.

      Reply
  10. E.G. O'Hare
    April 20, 2017 at 1:09 am (2 years ago)

    My husband grew up in Warrenpoint & Newry, across the Lough. Carlingford was their holiday destination during his childhood. I fell in love with Carlingford, & it will probably always be my favorite place in Ireland.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 26, 2017 at 4:37 pm (2 years ago)

      How wonderful it must have been to go to Carlingford on holiday as a kid! It’s a very beautiful place to spend summertime.

      Reply
  11. Shawn
    July 6, 2017 at 10:59 am (2 years ago)

    I came across this post by accident and am so glad I did. I am visiting Scotland and Ireland in 3 weeks and this little town looks like a place I need to visit. Loved your pictures!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 15, 2017 at 2:55 pm (2 years ago)

      Enjoy Scotland!

      Reply
  12. Rexanna Baumann
    October 24, 2017 at 11:01 am (1 year ago)

    I had a pumpkin spiced latte and scone with clottedcream and jam at the Liberty Cafe. Lovely. This town is a must see!

    Reply

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