The Cooley Peninsula is located in County Louth, about halfway between Dublin and Belfast, east of Dundalk, and just south of the Northern Ireland border. It’s miraculous that this beautiful spot has managed to stay off the tourist trail.
As you make your way along the peninsula, you’ll be rewarded with great views of the deep blue waters of Dundalk Bay, the Irish Sea, and Carlingford Lough. Inland roads bring visitors over the rugged Cooley Mountains where you’ll find several hillside rest areas perfect for catching views out over the sea with the Mountains of Mourne to the north on the other side of the lough.
It’s not too surprising that many of the visitors who do make the trip to this region end up staying for longer than they originally expected. As you drive into Carlingford, the principal town on the peninsula, you may spot a shoreline dotted with women and men collecting mussels from the coast. It’s a wonderful opportunity for some photos before moving on.
The town’s train station turned tourist office is next to a free car park, and you can pick up a map for a walking tour of the town here, as well as book accommodation for the night. Many of Carlingford’s streets are little changed since medieval times, and you’ll see churches, shops, and restaurants with age old façades. The biggest attraction in town tough, is the ruined castle which you can freely explore. King John’s Castle was completed in 1261 by the Normans, and still looms large over the surrounding countryside today.
B&Bs remain the most common type of accommodation on the Cooley Peninsula, and many offer great views out over Carlingford Lough and the Mountains of Mourne beyond. Carlingford is an ideal base for venturing into Northern Ireland, and you don’t need to worry about passport checks or border crossings – there aren’t any.
Unlike some other regions of Ireland, this part of the country doesn’t have a clear divide between locals and tourists making for an entirely different experience and if you venture out into a pub in the evening chances are most of the customers will be locals, giving you the perfect chance to socialise.
Located around an hour from Dublin, the Cooley Peninsula really is something of a hidden gem and will give a different view of Ireland away from the urban centres and the tourist hotspots.