I’m dreaming about the Cooley Peninsula today… one of those places we visited on a whim and drove away wondering how it has stayed off the tourist radar.
Traveling the perimeter of the peninsula offers deep blue views of the Irish Sea, Dundalk Bay and Carlingford Lough. Inland routes take travelers over the rocky Cooley Mountains with hillside perches looking out to sea. It’s easy to see why visitors who do discover the area stay longer than expected.
As we rolled into Carlingford, the peninsula’s main town, the tide was out and the shoreline was dotted with men and women collecting mussels. We stopped for photos, but resisted the temptation to walk out and join them. Looking back, mussel collecting would have made a wonderful memory.
In town, we found easy, free parking at the train-depot-turned-tourist-office. That’s also where we picked up a crude walking tour of town and booked our B&B for the night. The medieval streets of Carlingford make for easy walking to the ruined castle, churches, restaurants and shops.
B&Bs are still the primary accommodations on the Cooley Peninsula. Our’s was a little out of town, up the hill, with views of the Lough Carlingford and the leisure craft and giant freighters that share the waterway.
After exploring town we took an evening drive into Northern Ireland to explore the other side of Lough Carlingford where the Mountains of Mourne “swept down to the sea.” Equally as impressive as the sites from earlier in the day coupled with an amazing network of wetstone walls lining every field and road.
Tourism in this region is interesting as it coexists with the farming, fishing and shipping industries. Locals and visitors share the roads, restaurants and pubs without the usual divide between them. Must say, it was a refreshing experience.
The Cooley Peninsula is located in County Louth about halfway between Dublin and Belfast, just east of Dundalk. You can read notes from our trip report at http://irishfireside.com/2008/05/31/carlingford-and-cooley/.