There’s heaps of things to do in Carlingford and, while some say it’s just a town for ‘going on the lash’, that just isn’t the case!
From leprechauns and zip-lines to hiking, ferry trips and water-sports, historic Carlingford has so something to offer both young and old alike.
In the guide below, you’ll find heaps of things to do in Carlingford along with a couple of places to visit nearby.
Our favourite things to do in Carlingford
The first section of our guide is packed with what we think are the best things to do in Carlingford – these are things that one or more of The Irish Road Trip Team have done before and enjoyed.
Below, you’ll find everything from places to grab a tasty breakfast/lunch to some glorious walking trails and more.
1. Kick-start your visit with breakfast
There’s some excellent restaurants in Carlingford, however, only a few dish-up a notable breakfast. We’ve two favourite brekkie spots in the town – Liberty Cafe and Ruby Ellen’s.
The former is a lovely little spot on Thosel Street where you can get everything from fluffy pancakes and flavour-packed omelettes to burgers and salads.
The latter, Ruby Ellen’s, will make you feel like you’ve stepped into your Nan’s house, with its quirky, cosy decor and it’s delicious breakfasts make from fresh ingredients. Get in and make your belly happy.
2. And then do the Slieve Foye Loop
Next, burn off those calories and guilt with a scenic but challenging 8km Slieve Foye Loop. It takes about 2.5 hours to complete as you navigate along laneways, forest trails and minor roads. This national route starts from the town centre and follows blue arrows.
Make your way past the village square to River Road and enter the forest. You’ll steadily climb the mountain slopes following the waymarked trail which includes stiles and gates. Here’s a guide to the hike for more info.
3. Or rent a bike and cycle the Carlingford Greenway
If you prefer exploring on two wheels, the Carlingford to Omeath Greenway is the ideal route around a scenic chunk of the Cooley Peninsula. It is 7km each way and takes about 90 minutes to complete, but you need to allow for plenty of stops to enjoy the sights.
The Greenway follows the Carlingford Lough shoreline along a former railway line. Lough and Mourne Mountain views are outstanding.
Bike hire is available from Carlingford Greenway Bike Hire, Escape HQ or from On Yer Bike at the Carlingford Marina.
4. Spend a wet evening at the Carlingford Brewery
If you’re wondering what to do in Carlingford with a big group of friends, look no further than our next stop. Where better to spend a wet night than in the cosy warmth of the Carlingford Brewery?
As well as having an unsurpassed choice of craft beer on tap, the brewery also serves stone-baked woodfired pizza with all your favourite toppings including Meat Lovers and Pulled Pork on a delicious crust. Located at the Old Mill in Riverstown, Carlingford Brewery also offers guided tours led by the brewery owner, Des Goldrick.
5. And a sunny morning at Carlingford Adventure Centre
For outdoor adventures to get the adrenaline racing, head to the Carlingford Adventure Centre. Ideal for groups and families of all ages, they offer endless competitive team activities such as Canadian canoeing and raft building.
Brush up your map reading skills and go orienteering through nearby forests and mountains, collecting letters along the way. 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.
This is a handy option for those of you looking for things to do in Carlingford for families, as there’s something for young and old alike.
Related read: Looking to stay in the town? Check out our guide to 9 of the best B&Bs and hotels in Carlingford for families and groups.
6. Kick-back with post-adventure pints in one of the towns many pubs
Adventuring is thirsty work, so head to one of the MANY cosy pubs in Carlingford. A personal favourite is PJ O’Hares Anchor Bar. The old school interior, tile floor and rustic bar have seen many a pint pulled and savoured. Their speciality, besides a well-pulled pint, are fresh oysters.
They also have a massive beer garden. Other popular spots for a Guinness or two are Taaffe’s Castle Bar which has many original architectural features including castellations in keeping with its 16th century castle origins.
Finally, Ma Bakers is a quintessential Irish pub on Market Square with a historic black and white facade and a cosy bar with gleaming woodwork
More popular things to do in Carlingford
Now that we have our favourite Carlingford activities out of the way, it’s time to see what else the town has to offer.
Below, you’ll find everything from drives and walks to castles, boat tours and much more.
1. Tackle the Cooley Peninsula Scenic Drive
If you’re wondering what to do in Carlingford when the weather’s bad, the Cooley Peninsula Scenic Drive is a great option. It’s the setting of the legendary tale of “Táin Bó Cúailgne” cattle raid and has spectacular mountain and lough scenery at every turn.
Steeped in ancient history, the Cooley Peninsular has many ring forts, 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. Here’s a guide with a Google Map of the drive.
2. Throw on your hiking boots and ramble along the Tain Way
The Tain Way is Louth’s premier walking route. It’s a scenic 40km loop trail that takes two days to complete. Depending where you start from, book a night in Carlingford, Omeath, Carrickdale (hotel) or Ravensdale where the pub offers camping facilities and showers for walkers.
Starting from Carlingford, the route offers superb lough and Mourne Mountain views. After Omeath it climbs along narrow tracks to Clermont with spectacular views of the lough, Cooley Mountains and Slieve Gullion.
Descend through Ravensdale Woods and then head to Ballymakellett with views of the Irish Sea before returning to Carlingford.
3. Take a tour of Carlingford Castle
History buffs looking for things to do in Carlingford should look no further than Carlingford Castle. Also known as King John’s Castle, this is a noteworthy landmark in Carlingford town overlooking the lough and marina. Built by Hugh de Lacy in 1190, this Norman-built fortress was an important defence over the centuries.
It was badly damaged by Jacobites during the Williamite War. By the early 18th century it had been abandoned. Access to this National Monument is by guided tour only (€5) and visitors can see the surviving parts of the curtain wall, double height hall, tower and gatehouse.
4. Or see some of the town’s many medieval features
Carlingford has a rich mediaeval history. Check out the Water House (circa 1400) on Newry Street and the building opposite which has a carved stone face on the gable. Taaffe’s Castle is now incorporated into the fascinating pub of the same name.
The Mint on Tholsel Street is a 1450 fortified town house. Nearby is the surviving Town Wall Gate, once used as a protected entrance, gaol and Burger meeting hall. Carlingford Heritage Centre is in the former Holy Trinity Church and has fascinating displays of the town’s history along with audio visual presentations.
5. Test your nerve at Skypark Carlingford
Aerial adventures are what Skypark is all about, in fact it is the largest Aerial Adventure Course in the whole of Ireland! Visitors can tackle over 30 aerial obstacles and 7 zip lines along with monkey bars, giant log swings and other land based activities.
Or arrival you will be assessed by staff and fitted with a zip-line harness if you plan to soar along the 140m zip-line which is suitable for those with limited mobility.
Slide, swing, jump and climb your way around the Skypark on challenges that are up to 12m above the ground. This is another excellent option for those of you looking for family friendly Carlingford activities.
6. Soak up the views on the Carlingford Ferry
Hop aboard the Carlingford Lough Ferry for a fun cruise across the mouth of the lough. It connects Greenore Port with Greencastle, Co. Down which is known as the Gateway to Northern Ireland. Adult passengers and cyclists pay just €4.00 while vehicles pay €15.50 including passengers for a single crossing.
You can book tickets ahead of time or purchase onboard with cash or contactless payment. The trip takes about 15 minutes and delivers unforgettable mountain and sea views in both directions. This is one of the more popular things to do in Louth for good reason.
7. Head off in search of the Last Leprechauns of Ireland
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Carlingford for families, our next stop is worth checking out! If you fancy an encounter with a Leprechaun, you need to visit their hideout below Slieve Foye Mountain where 236 of the Last Living Leprechauns live. Explore the cavern and tunnels on the shores of Carlingford Lough and learn the history and folktales in the company of the Leprechaun Whisperer, “McCoillte” Kevin Woods.
He lobbied to get the leprechaun spirits recognised as a protected species and was granted it in 2009 by the EU under the European Habitats Directive. It’s the chance of a lifetime to learn more about Irish leprechauns in a family friendly attraction that’s perfect on a rainy day.
8. Or visit one of the many beaches near Carlingford
There’s a handful of stunning beaches near Carlingford, several of which are under a 15-minute drive away. The pick of the bunch, in my opinion, is nearby Templetown Beach.
This is a gorgeous spot for a saunter along the sand. Another solid option is Gyles Quay Bay Beach. These beaches are quiet throughout the year, but keep in mind they’ll get busy on warm summer days.
9. Nearby hikes and walks
If you’re looking for things to do near Carlingford, you’re in luck – two of arguably the best walks in Louth can be found a short drive from the town.
The Annaloughan Loop Walk (20-minute drive) is a gorgeous ramble that takes you through lush forest and offer stunning views.
Another is the Ravensdale Forest Walk (25-minute drive). The walk here takes around an hour and, although it doesn’t compare with the Annaloughan Walk when it comes to views, it’s well worth doing.
What to do in Carlingford: What have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant Carlingford activities from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best things to do in Carlingford
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What Carlingford activities are good for families?’ to ‘What are the most rewarding walks?’.
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.
What are some good things to do in Carlingford today?
The Slieve Foye Loop, the various activities in the Carlingford Adventure Centre, the Greenway Cycle and any of the things mentioned above are worth doing.
What is there to do in Carlingford for families?
So, depending on how old the kids are, you have the Carlingford Adventure Centre, which has endless activities for kids of all ages to get stuck into.