Moyry Castle – a small, rectangular, three-storey fort – was built by Lord Mountjoy in 1601 during the Nine Years War, in an effort to quell the power of the Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O’Neill. It lies south of Jonesborough in County Armagh and is easily seen from the Belfast to Dublin train.
The castle was constructed at the ‘Gap of the North’ – a mountain pass between modern-day Newry and Dundalk, which controlled the route between the English-dominated Pale and wilder Ulster. In Irish mythology, the Fianna warriors were said to have used Moyry Pass when they attacked the Leinster tribes.
Moyry is a very basic castle. It was built without stairs, so the living quarters, on an upper floor, could only have been reached by ladder. Originally, it stood inside a protective bawn, or enclosure wall, fragments of which can still be seen to the south-east of the site.
To understand Moyry Castle’s strategic importance visitors must visualise the countryside as it was four hundred years ago, when the Castle’s mountainous surroundings were boggy and wooded, and incredibly difficult for armies to cross.
Visitors can reach the castle, which offers great views of the countryside, via a short walk on a grassy path. It is always open and has no facilities.