Ireland’s Ancient East covers the whole area, excluding Dublin, between the Shannon and the Irish Sea. Its 500 kilometres of coastline enclose 17 counties and end at Carlingford Lough.
Visitors are invited to discover “a region of legends and stories, from ancient times to modern day – a place brimming with culture, attractions, festivals and fun”. Bounded by the Mournes and the Cooley Mountains, the southern shore of Carlingford Lough boasts one of Ireland’s most picturesque landscapes.
The region enjoys a distinguished place in Irish mythology as the location of An Táin Bó Cúailnge – the Cattle Raid of Cooley – in which the great teenage hero Cú Chulainn single-handedly defended Ulster against Queen Medb of Connacht, after her armies stole the fabled Brown Bull of Cooley.
Carlingford Heritage Centre is a good place to start exploring the region’s history. There’s evidence Vikings landed here in the ninth century although Carlingford was founded by an Anglo-Norman knight. The Normans’ architectural legacy is evident throughout the village.
The annual four-day Carlingford Oyster Festival in August bills itself as “probably the most relaxing seafood festival” in Ireland, while the Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School – named after a local journalist, turned rebel, turned politician – wrestles with major issues of the day.
Cooley is a fabulous playground for indoor- and outdoor-types with fishing, hiking, walking, sight-seeing, music and craic.