Green Castle in County Down is one of two castles (the other is King John’s Castle in Carlingford) which were built on opposite banks of Carlingford Lough, early in the thirteenth century, to defend the Earldom of Ulster.
Together, the royal castle – set on a rocky height on the lough’s northern shore – and its twin, clearly visible on the southern shore, commanded the waterway.
Green Castle, a large, four-storey, rectangular keep, was originally surrounded by outer walls and defended by towers at each corner. Throughout its history it was a frequent target for attack by Scottish, Irish and Cromwellian forces, and consequently required significant repairs and modifications. The current structure reflects these various alterations. Access is limited for wheelchair users and those who have difficulty walking.
The castle had one distinguished previous resident: Edward the Bruce (brother of Robert the Bruce) lived in it very briefly during his short-lived reign as ‘King of Ireland’. Edward was killed at the Battle of Faughart, near Newry, in 1318.
In times past, a ferry ran from the pier in Greencastle to connect with Irish Sea services operating out of Greenore, on the opposite shore. Nowadays, a modern vehicle ferry runs across the lough, linking with the picturesque port village of Greenore. The crossing takes only 15 minutes, offering unrestricted views from the water of the serene lough shore and the spectacular mountains of Cooley, Slieve Gullion and Mourne, with the majestic lighthouse of Haulbowline seawards.