Nestled at the foot of Slieve Foye and the Cooley Peninsula, the popular coastal town of Carlingford attracts visitors throughout the year, with many looking to simply get away from it all, while others travel to Carlingford in seek of an adventure break that is up there with the very best in Ireland.
With a land that is steeped in history and folklore thanks to the tales of Cúchulainn and Finn McCool and the place where the last leprechauns in Ireland live, myth and legend are just another reason for so many to consider a short break to Carlingford. Below we look at some activities you can look forward to when spending 48 hours in Carlingford.
Day One – Explore Cooley Peninsula
When you arrive in Carlingford, the first thing on your list of activities for the weekend should be exploring the Cooley Peninsula. This impressive landscape offers the perfect location to get outdoors and discover Carlingford on foot. With amazing scenery out to Carlingford Lough, Mourne Mountains and the Ring of Gullion, there are walking routes to suit all abilities.
A new greenway has been added between Carlingford and the neighbouring town of Omeath, providing a 6km route to explore on foot or bike. This greenway has provided walkers and cyclists with a safe track when getting familiar with the surrounding area, with spectacular viewpoints along the Carlingford coast as you go.
There are also a number of popular looped walks around Carlingford, with the 40km ‘The Tain Way’ walk attracting hikers across the year. While the walk itself can take two days, you can cover sections of it to enable you to become more familiar with the landscape during your short break in Carlingford.
Aim to give yourself most of the day to explore the Cooley Peninsula on foot or two wheels, so be sure to bring a packed lunch so you can enjoy a picnic at one of the many great vantage points along the way. With your legs suitably walked off you, it’s time to head back to Carlingford for your evening meal.
Shopping in Carlingford
Before you head out for your evening meal, take some time to explore the quaint and boutique shops of Carlingford. Walk along the cobbled streets and check out some of the popular shops like McArdles, Boutique, Kajo Boutique and the Carlingford Design House, or cure that sugar craving by visiting the Candyford Sweet Company on Old Quay Lane.
Eating Out in Carlingford
There is no shortage of eating options when it comes to visiting Carlingford, with the 2AA Rosette Ghan House and Maggies Bistro popular with the locals. If you want to venture somewhere a little further, then Fitzpatrick’s Bar & Restaurant (recently featured in our best Irish pubs in which to enjoy St Patrick’s Day) is just a 15-minute drive around the peninsula while the Ballymascanlon Hotel is just a further five minutes away. Liberty Cafe, Ruby Ellen’s Tea Rooms and Schooners Restaurant are all great options for something light, while Ma Bakers is just the spot if you’re looking to reward yourself with fish and chips following your hike in the Cooleys.
Enjoy the Famous Carlingford Nightlife
Carlingford is a popular area for stag and hen parties, but don’t let that put you off if you’re looking for a quiet weekend away, as there are plenty of great pubs to choose from to relax and unwind in the evening. PJ O’Hares is perhaps the best known of Carlingford’s pubs and was voted the best Gastro Pub in Louth in 2017, while the family-run, traditional Ma Bakers pub is also popular with many visitors to the area. The Carlingford Arms is another great bar to visit when in Carlingford, with a tasty menu of pub classics drawing regular crowds.
If you’re looking for something outside of the town centre, look no further than Lily Finnegan’s in Whitestown, a 5km drive from Carlingford. This charming pub has remained untouched over the years, and an open fire and friendly team await you. Relax with a drink in one of Carlingford’s pubs before taking a gentle stroll along the marina and coast and calling it a night.
Day Two – Action and Adventure Awaits
Kick off your second day in Carlingford by visiting the impressive Carlingford Adventure Centre where you can enjoy a range of land-, sea- and sky-based activities. The adventure centre is popular with groups visiting Carlingford, and has a number of activities on offer for families and couples, should you just be looking for something different on your break to the Cooley Peninsula.
Among the most popular activities at Carlingford Adventure Centre are the Ziptopia zip line (which delivers amazing views out towards Carlingford Lough), rock climbing, kayaking and frisbee golf. This is the perfect way to begin your second day and a great tonic for those of you feeling a little delicate from the famous Carlingford hospitality from the night before. Find out more about Carlingford Adventure Centre.
Time to Hit the Water
With your early morning activities out of the way, next up is a boat trip around this stunning peninsula. Visit the tourist information office to get yourself booked onto one of the popular boat trips of Carlingford Lough, with tours lasting an hour and providing wonderful views of the Mourne Mountains and Cooley Mountains.
Sit back and relax and enjoy Carlingford in all its glory as you find out about the medieval history of the land. If you’re travelling with children, be sure to ask about the children’s fishing trips and get your spot booked in advance. This is the perfect way to just sit back and forget about everything. Be sure to bring your camera as there will be plenty of great photo opportunities along the way.
Discover Carlingford’s Medieval Past
With your boat trip behind you, head back into the village and grab yourself a spot of lunch before setting off on foot to explore Carlingford’s medieval past, making the Carlingford Heritage Centre your first stop. The centre tells the story of Carlingford’s development from Norman and Medieval times, right through to the modern day. Indeed, the name of Carlingford translates in Scandinavian as ‘Fjord of Carlinn‘ with many historians suggesting this is due to the fjord-like appearance of Carlingford Lough.
Carlingford is home to many charming medieval buildings and the best way to explore these buildings, and indeed the story behind them is to join the Carlingford History Tour, a walking tour through the narrow streets of Carlingford. The expert guides share tales of the history of Carlingford including the Viking raid in the 8th and 9th Century. The tour will see you come across many famous Carlingford landmarks including King John’s Castle, the Mint, Taaffe’s Castle, the Tholsel and the Dominican Friary, which you may want to explore at your own leisure.
Another popular tour, especially for families, is the Leprechaun tour at Leprechaun Cavern where you’ll discover the legend of the last leprechauns to live in Ireland. To celebrate the connection to leprechauns in Carlingford, an annual leprechaun hunt is organised in May at Slieve Foye Mountain, ensuring a fun day out for all the family. Find out more about the world-famous Carlingford Leprechaun Hunt.
Finish Your Carlingford Trip with a Brewery Tour
Call an end to your 48 hours in Carlingford by visiting the popular Carlingford Brewing Company and joining the popular tour of the brewery. The beers brewed here take inspiration from Carlingford’s famous landmarks with King John’s Stout, Friary Pale Ale, Tholsel Blonde and Taaffe’s Red all available. Enjoy a guided tour of the brewery and enjoy sampling the great selection of beer that is brewed in this 13th-Century Mill. It’s a great way to finish your trip to Carlingford.
Plan Your Carlingford Trip Today
Has this 48-hour guide to Carlingford got you excited about making the Cooley Peninsula the getaway for your next weekend break? With the famous sites of Newgrange and Hill of Tara a short drive away and Dublin only an hour’s drive, there’s plenty of reason to add Carlingford to your list of staycation destinations to visit in Ireland this year.
Images via Faílte Ireland.