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Surrounding towns and villages
Leagan GaeilgeTourism \ Towns and villages

Newry City

Newry, the area's largest town and administrative centre, has a population of 22,000 and has a long and distinguished commercial history.

The town's history
Industrial Newry
Newry today

The town's 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 in Ireland.

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).

Industrial Newry

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 today

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.

Click here for details of the Newry Town Trail.

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