Located on the south shore of Carlingford Lough, the mediaeval town of Carlingford makes a great base for exploring the stunning Cooley Peninsula.
From ferry boats to Slieve Foye hikes and water-sports to great places to eat and drink, Carlingford is a beaut of a town for a weekend away.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Carlingford to places to eat, sleep and drink. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows about Carlingford in Louth
Although a visit to Carlingford is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Situated on the scenic Cooley Peninsula, Carlingford is situated in the northeast corner of Country Louth, a 25-minute drive from Newry and a 30-or-so-minute drive from both Dundalk and Blackrock.
2. Part of the Cooley Peninsula
Carlingford is well located for exploring the amazing Cooley Peninsula, arguably one of the most underrated corners of Ireland. As well as ancient ringforts, neolithic tombs, castles, timeless villages and mediaeval buildings there are oodles of hikes including Ravensdale Forest, Slieve Foye and the lough-side Greenway.
3. The perfect spot for a weekend break
The historic town of Carlingford is beautiful. Alongside the remarkable castle and historic Tholsel, there’s plenty of social activity. The pubs are buzzing from early on at the weekend and there are plenty of great spots to dine well on oysters and local seafood.
Carlingford is situated on the shores of a sea inlet within the shadow of Slieve Foye and the Mourne Mountains.
The mediaeval town features narrow streets dotted with ancient relics including Taaffe’s Castle, now an atmospheric pub. The town was a strategic port that led to its prosperity from the 14th century, although it later suffered several raids and a siege.
One of the oldest landmarks is Carlingford Castle, built in the 12th century by Hugh de Lacy. It was renamed King John’s Castle after the king took control of the castle for himself.
Tholsel Street was where the surviving town gate or Tholsel can be seen complete with murder holes. The gateway tower controlled entry to the town, collected taxes on incoming goods and doubled up as the local gaol.
Packed with interesting bars, restaurants and outdoor activities, Carlingford has much to offer as a thriving tourist destination.
Things to do in Carlingford (and nearby)
Although we have a dedicated guide to the best things to do in Carlingford, I’m going to take you through our favourites below.
You’ll find everything fro cycling trails and toughish hikes to food, pubs, boat tours and more. Dive on in!
1. Slieve Foy
Slieve Foy (also spelt Slieve Foye) is the highest mountain in Louth at 148m elevation. Located on the Cooley Peninsula, it overlooks Carlingford Lough and offers excellent views for those hiking to the summit.
The Slieve Foye Loop is a challenging 8km hike which takes about 3 hours to complete as you navigate along forest trails, footpaths and minor roads. This scenic national route starts in the car park near the Tourist Office in Carlingford and is marked with blue arrows.
2. The Carlingford Greenway
For cyclists (and walkers!) the Carlingford Greenway connects the town with Omeath, about 7km away. The Greenway follows the lough shoreline along a former railway line and the views of the lough and Mourne Mountain across the water are outstanding.
You can hire bikes from Carlingford Greenway Bike Hire on Newry Street or from On Yer Bike based at Carlingford Marina. Allow 90 minutes to complete if you’re cycling, and a little longer if you’re on foot. Either way you want to make lots of stops for photos and to enjoy the views.
3. Carlingford Ferry
The Carlingford Ferry offers a fun way to enjoy the scenery as you cross the mouth of Carlingford Lough. The ferry service connects Greenore Port in Co. Louth with Greencastle, Co. Down, which is known as the Gateway to Northern Ireland.
Tickets for adults and cyclists are just €4.00 while vehicles pay €15.50 including passengers for a single crossing. You can book online or pay onboard with cash or contactless payment. The trip takes about 20 minutes and delivers unforgettable mountain and sea views in both directions.
4. Carlingford Adventure Centre
Calling all outdoor adventurers who are up for some wet and wild fun! Carlingford Adventure Centre offer endless competitive team activities for families and visitors of all ages and abilities. Try you hand at Canadian canoeing and raft building as a team effort or polish up your map reading skills and go orienteering through nearby forests and mountains on a challenging treasure hunt.
There’s also water trampolining, Skypark high ropes courses (one specially for juniors), foot golf, frisbee disc golf, stand-up paddleboarding, archery and laser combat. As an adventure centre, it certainly lives up to its name as the top adventure centre in Ireland.
5. The Last Leprechauns of Ireland
You can’t get more Irish than a leprechaun, a wee character steeped in Irish folklore and known to be fond of a little mischief and practical jokes. Don’t miss the unique chance to visit them at their hideout below Slieve Foye Mountain.
The cavern and tunnels on the shores of Carlingford Lough are said to be where 236 of the Last Living Leprechauns live. Take a guided tour with the Leprechaun Whisperer, “McCoillte” Kevin Woods. and learn more about these colourful characters. It’s a family friendly attraction that’s perfect for a rainy day.
6. The Cooley Peninsula Scenic Drive
The best way to see more of the area around Carlingford, is with a scenic drive around the Cooley Peninsula. Pick up a map from the Tourist Office and chart your own route around the main landmarks. Covering the south side of the lough, the scenic drive has spectacular mountain and lough scenery.
The area is stepped in prehistoric sites including many ringforts, neolithic tombs, castles, timeless villages and mediaeval buildings that are well worth stopping for. Don’t miss Proleek Dolmen near Ballymascanlon House and the pretty port village of Greenore.
Now, we have a guide to the best hotels in Carlingford, but I’ll take you through our favourites in the section below.
Note: if you book a stay through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
1. Four Seasons Hotel, Spa & Leisure Club
The modern glass facade of the Four Seasons Hotel in Carlingford sets the tone for this stylish newly renovated hotel. Decor includes classic chandeliers and comfy couches along with a contemporary twist. The restaurant and service are superb, as is the Luxe Spa with thermal suite and Sun meadows light therapy treatment.
2. McKevitts Village Hotel
In the heart of historic Carlingford, McKevitts Hotel, Bar and Restaurant on Market Street is a charming place to spend your evenings. This family run establishment has 14 well appointed bedrooms with TV, Wi-Fi, tea and coffee and ensuite bathrooms. The premises were owned by Hugh McKevitt in the 1900s and have passed through the generations to the present owner.
This Failte Ireland approved B&B has three self-catering units allowing up to 4 guests to make themselves at home. Shalom accommodation has comfy beds and a modern kitchen/dining area with fridge. Enjoy beautiful lough views from your balcony, just 5 minutes walk from the town centre.
Places to eat in Carlingford
There’s some incredible restaurants in Carlingford, with a little bit of something to tickle most tastebuds, from cheap eats to swanky places to eat.
Below, you’ll find three of our favourites – Kingfisher Bistro, The Carlingford Brewery and Bay Tree Restaurant.
1. Kingfisher Bistro
The Kingfisher Bistro on Dundalk Street offers a unique dining experience with tasty European cuisine. Run by a brother and sister who are passionate about perfection this modest restaurant has 42 covers. It’s conveniently located near Carlingford Heritage Centre and is open Fridays through Sundays only.
2. The Carlingford Brewery
As well as having an unsurpassed choice of craft beer on tap, Carlingford Brewery is also known for its delicious wood-fired pizzas with tasty toppings. Located at the Old Mill in Riverstown, Carlingford Brewery also offers guided tours. If you fancy a take-away, order a pizza and a resealable growler of beer to-go.
3. The Bay Tree Restaurant
The Bay Tree Restaurant and Guesthouse is located on Newry Street overlooking the lough. The restaurant is renowned for its fresh local fish dishes and organic ingredients grown in their own polytunnel at the rear of the restaurant. No wonder it has a host of awards, including being featured in the Michelin Guide!
Pubs in Carlingford
Although we have a guide to the cosiest pubs in Carlingford (with an emphasis on those that do great Guinness), I’ll show you our favourites below.
There’s are places that we find ourselves returning to over and over again.
1. PJ O Hare’s
PJ O’Hares is a personal favourite for a pint and a chinwag with the locals. It has an authentic old school interior, tile floor and a rustic bar. Their speciality, besides a well-pulled pint of Guinness, are fresh oysters. The pub also has a huge beer garden.
2. Taaffe’s Castle
If you want really old, Taaffe’s Castle Bar is in part of the original 16th century castle and still bears the name of Taaffe’s Castle. This historic pub has a maze of passageways and rooms with many original architectural features including castellated walls.
3. Carlingford Arms
The popular Carlingford Arms is a well established bar, restaurant and pub on Newry Street and boasts the best craic in Carlingford. The traditional Irish restaurant serves freshly caught seafood and local Carlingford oysters as well as prime cuts of beef. Try the warming Carlingford Seafood Chowder….Mmmm.
FAQs about visiting Carlingford Town
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Are there many things to do in Carlingford?’ to ‘Where’s good to eat?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Carlingford worth visiting?
Yes! The town of Carlingford is home to plenty to see and do. There’s also excellent pubs and restaurants for those of you staying the night.
Is there much to see and do in Carlingford?
Yes! You have the Slieve Foye Loop, the Carlingford Brewery, the Carlingford Adventure Centre, King John’s Castle and lots more.