Brief History of Newry
Right in the centre of 2 Areas of Outstanding Beauty - the Mountains of Mourne and the Ring of Gullion, Newry is a feast for the eyes surrounded by nature at its very best.
Legend has it that St Patrick planted a yew tree at the head of the strand of Carlingford Lough, which pointed towards the heavens for 700 years. The city’s name originates from this story, with the old name being Iuir Cinn Tra (The Head of the Strand), which eventually was revised and shortened to the word Newry.
Sandwiched between The Mourne Mountains and The Ring of Gullion, Newry itself is an historical Treasure trove.
Founded in 1144 as a Monastic settlement around a yew tree planted by Saint Patrick, it became Ulster's most important port following the opening of the Canal in 1742. Newry and Mournes Museum hosts many exhibitions reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the local area. Collections include Newry's Cistercian foundations, the building of a Merchant town and the first summit Canal in the British Isles.
The Newry Canal was the first summit level canal in the British Isles. It opened for traffic in March 1742. Eighteen miles in length, it extended through a series of locks from Newry to Whitecote Point, 2 km south of Portadown. The last lock before the canal joins the River Bann is known as Moenypenny's Lock.
The Moneypennys were lock keepers for 85 years and operated the lock gates. They also took note of the barges, which passed through the lock carrying a great variety of cargoes including Linen Cloth, Farm Produce, Coal, Grain and Flax Seed. However, with the growth of the Railway Network, the use of the Newry Canal began to decline and the last known commercial journey through the lock was in 1936.
Newry City Hall or The Hall over the River. Designed by William Batt, constructed in 1893, this was one of the last works of the Old Newry Town Commissioners. The most unusual feature about the building is that it is built on a three arched bridge astride the Clanrye River. The reason was, reputedly, to settle the rivalry between the people of Armagh and Down over in which County it should be sited.
Newry Cathedral is undoubtedly the most commanding building in the City Centre and is arguably the most important work executed by Newry's greatest native architect Thomas Duff. Built in 1829 it was the first Catholic Catheral opened after the granting of Catholic Emancipation. The interior marble work and Mosaics took five years with craftsmen coming from Italy to undertake the work.
St Patrick's Church of Ireland. This was the first Protestant Church to be built after the Reformation in Ireland and commands a panoramic view of the city below. The earliest part of the building was built by Sir Nicholas Bagenal in 1578. The church was almost destroyed in 1641 and was not fully restored until 1866. It is one of the oldest churches in Ireland still used for worship. Dean Jonathan Swift is said to have preached in this church during his visits to Newry. The headstones in the graveyard provide a fascinating insight into the characters of the 18th & 19th century town.
Newry for Shopping. Newry is the Shopper's haven boasting two large Shopping Centres: Buttercrane Shopping Centre and The Quays Shopping Centre. Both Shopping Centres are only a 5 minute walk from the Hotel.
Hill Street & Monaghan Street are also host to many boutiques and unique shops. Highly recommended for those of you who wish to 'Shop till they drop'.
The Heritage Trail takes you through the many attractions of Newry City. The long trail lasts about 1 hour 45 minutes, the short trail approximately 45 minutes.
Ideally you could spend a day wandering through Newry, visiting the many historical sights along the way. Pick up the heritage trail at Newry Tourist Information Centre and explore the history and heritage of the ancient town - now a city.
Newry Tourist Information is located in Bagenal's Castle - the sacred site of the Cistercian Abbey which was founded in 1153 by Patrick McLoughlin, king of the Cenel Eoghainn. In 1543 Arthur Magennis successfully petitioned Henry VIII to allow Newry Abbey to be converted for secular use as a collegiate Church.
Take the walk up to the famous 40 tonnes 'Cloughmore' or 'Big' Stone. It is a spectacular remnant of The Ice Age, however local legend claims the giant Finn McCool placed it there. Set in the 4,000 acre Rostrevor Forest, there is a sharp rise from 30m to 500m above sea level. Take the breathtaking two mile forest drive with views over Carlingford Lough.
The Craigmore Viaduct is a railway bridge near Bessbrook, County Armagh, locally known as the 18 Arches. The bridge was designed by John Benjamin Macneill, an eminent Irish Civil Engineer, with construction beginning in 1849 for the Dublin and Belfast Juction Railway. The bridge was formally opened in 1852. It spans the valley of Camlough River. The viaduct consists of 18 arches of 60 ft span, the highest being 126ft, making Craigmore the highest viaduct in Ireland. It is around a quarter of a mile long and was constructed from granite stone blocks from the nearby Goraghwood quarry, which for many years supplied ballast to the Dublin & Belfast Junction Railway’s lines. The Dublin - Belfast railway line still crosses the bridge.
On 2 March 1989, a bomb damaged Craigmore Viaduct, it exploding just four minutes before a passenger train from Dublin was due to leave nearby Newry Station. A clearance operation had to be mounted and the railway line was closed and not reopened until 8 March 1989.
The White Linen Hall in Newry was built in 1783 to promote the direct export of linen products manufactured in Down and Armagh areas and bypass the dealers in Dublin. On the piers of the East Gate there are motifs of a spinning wheel and a crown that dates from 1783.
When economic changes in the Linen trading went into decline, the Newry Linen Hall soon became redundant. It was in the early 19th Century that the Government purchased it for use as a military barracks. Then, the barracks had accomodation for over 600 men and included hospital quarters for thirty. All that remains of the Linenhall Barracks now, is the Arch which can be seen from the Towpath.
Bessbrook Village lies about 3 miles west of Newry, founded in 1845 as a 'Model Village'. It takes its name from Elizabeth or 'Bess' Nicholson, wife of Joseph Nicholson whose family carried on a Linen business in the district from 1806 to 1845. The 'brook' comes from the stream which runs through the outskirts of the village.
Among the principle on which the village was based there was a philosophy of the "3 P's" - no Public House, no Pawn Shops & no need for Police. To this day there are still no Public Houses or Pawn Shops but there is a PSNI station.
At one time, Bessbrook Linen was among the finest in the world, and the Linen Mill provided most of the employment in the village. Tenement houses were constructed for the mill workers, many of which were os such good quality that they are still inhabited today. Each house had an allotment garden for growing vegetables for supply to the locals.
Bessbrook saw some of the worst violence in the Troubles, the Linen Mill was converted by the British Army into a military base and a helicopter landing area was extablished to supply other outposts in the area. At one stage the little village was reportedly the busiest heliport in Europe. On 25th June 2007 the British Army withdrew their military presence from Bessbrook and closed all their facilities leading to some recovery for the village.
If you travel southeast along the coast road you will find yourself on the beautiful Cooley Peninsula. Once a part of the historical Province of Ulster the Peninsula lies in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland. It's a place of fresh green hillsides, woodland, mountains and myths. This was also the home of the giant Finn McCool.
Cooley Peninsula's capital is Carlingford which is full of character and one of the best preserved medieval villages in Ireland. Raided by the Vikings in the 8th and 9th Centuries, historical records show that the Vikings occupied Carlingford Lough. Today the inherent natural beauty can be equally appreciated on land or sea.
The popular song by Percy French has made The Mournes the best known mountains in Ireland. Slieve Donard is the largest of the mountains and from the top you can see the Isle of Man, the full length of Strangford Lough and Lough Neagh. The Mourne Mountains emerged 50 million years ago during the Ice Age.
The Silent Valley Reservoir was built to gather water from the Mourne Mountains and is now the main water supply source for most of County Down and a large part of Belfast. Ringed by mountains 'The Valley' located within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, houses beautiful parkland, lakes and a pond. You will enjoy the peace and solitude of this mountain area with its unique landscapes and varied wildlife.