\ Towns and villages
Newry, the area's largest town and
administrative centre, has a population of 22,000 and has a long
and distinguished commercial history.
St Patrick planted a yew tree at the
head of the strand of Carlingford Lough, which pointed its dark
green fronds towards the heavens for 700 years. The town'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.
The monastery founded by St Patrick
was burnt in 1162 along with the yew tree. Newry became an important
centre in the area under the rule of DeCourcy, the Anglo Norman
subjugators of Ulaidh. He built a castle which was later burnt by
Edward Bruce in 1315 and after being rebuilt it was gain destroyed
by the O'Neills. A Cistercian Abbey was founded in 1157 by Maurice
McLoughlin, King of Ireland and its charter was confirmed by Hugh
deLacy, the successor of DeCourcy. After its dissolution the monastery
and its Lords were granted by Edward VI to Nicholas Bagenal, who
adopted the Abbot's house as a residence for himself. In many ways
Nicholas Bagenal seems to have been the real founder of the town
of Newry. He colonised it, rebuilt the castle and in 1578 erected
the Parish of St Patrick's, perhaps the earliest Protestant church
When the forces of King James II were
retreating before William during the Williamite war, they set fire
to the town in 1689 and only six houses and the castle survived.
Within decades, however, the town's fortunes were rising.
The town was rebuilt, had the busiest
port in Ulster and the first summit level canal in the British Isles,
which was completed in 1742. This stimulated the flow of goods (brown
linen, butter and linen) and led to a period of prosperity which
explains the many fine buildings and public places that can still
be seen today.
St Mary's church dates from 1819 and
has a tower and spire 150 feet in height. The Cathedral in Hill
Street is a handsome perpendicular style building. The imposing
Town Hall constructed in 1893 is unusual in that it was 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 as to which County the Town Hall should be sited (the river
is the county border).
The railways arrived in 1849 bringing
not further development but subordination as traffic on the inland
canal dramatically decreased and Belfast's dominance in Ulster grew.
However, a ship canal from the Albert
Basin to the sea and the loss of much cotton to the world market
because of the American Civil War allowed Newry and Bessbrook, which
were linked by an innovative tramline, to develop a flax spinning
industry. The Newry Mills were located to the west of the town.
By 1881 the population of Newry had
reached its 19th century zenith of 15,590 but from the turn of the
century until the 1960s there was a period of decline as the inland
canal, the mills, the tram and the railways all closed.
Newry is one of the country's foremost
shopping destinations with an array of traditional independent traders
and multi-national retailers, which combine to provide great shopping
opportunities. Hill Street in the heart of the Newry is the focal
point for shopping in the town and holds a market every Thursday
and Saturday. This town's main shopping street provides a fine range
of family owned businesses. Modern, extensive shopping and entertainment
complexes include the Quays and Buttercrane Centres. The town that
was built on its trading traditions today still provides some of
the best shopping in Ireland.
Newry has a vibrant nightlife with
excellent restaurants and bars. It offers value for money cuisine,
great entertainment and a relaxing atmosphere in its range of traditional
bars, modern themed pubs and restaurants. A wide variety of accommodation
exists in the town including bed and breakfast, guesthouses and
four star hotels.
Newry Town Trail takes you through
the towns many attractions and is a useful way of absorbing Newry's
interesting and varied architecture.
here for details of the Newry Town Trail.