Newcastle Co Down

Newcastle Co Down is the premier seaside town of Northern Ireland where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

Newcastle is a small town on the coast in the Dundrum Bay in County Down, Northern Ireland. It had a population of 7,444 people recorded in the 2001 Census. The popular seaside resort lies on the Irish Sea coast at the base of Slieve Donard (the tallest mountain in Northern Ireland), one of the famous Mourne Mountains. Newcatle Co Down is reknowned for its beautiful sandy beach and the world famous Royal County Down Golf Club. Newcastle Co Down lies within the Down District Council area.

Newcastle promotes itself as the activity resort for Northern Ireland and its most special attribute is its location at the foot of Slieve Donard of the Mourne Mountains.

Newcastle Co Down has benefitted from a multi million pound upgrade to the promenade which makes the beach a high quality seaside attraction which is more accessible.

The name of the town Newcastle is thought to derive from a castle which was demolished in the 19th century and originally built by Felix Magennis in the late 16th century which stood at the mouth of the Shimna River. Although the town has been mentioned by the name of Newcastle as early as 1433, so it is likely that another castle had previously stood there.

In the 17th century Ulster ports began to rise in prominence. In 1625 William Pitt was appointed as Customer of the Co Down ports of Newcastle, Dundrum, Killough, Portaferry, Donaghadee, Bangor and Holywood.

On 13th January 1843, boats from Newcastle Co Down and Annalong Co Down set out for the usual fishing stations, and were caught in a gale. 14 boats were lost in the heavy seas including a boat which had gone to the rescue. Only two boats survived, the Victoria and the Brothers. 76 men perished, 46 of whom were from Newcastle Co Down. They left twenty seven widows, 118 children, and 21 dependents. A Public Subscription was raised and the cottages, known as Widows Row in Newcastle, were built for the widows and dependants. A local song about the disaster says "Newcastle town is one long street entirely stripped of men"

In 1910 Harry Ferguson flew a small plane across the Co Down beach in Newcastle in one of the first engine powered flights by aircraft in all of Ireland. He completed the flight in an attempt to win a £100 prize offered by the town for the first powered flight along the Newcastle strand. His first take off ended badly, but according to a modern newspaper report "He flew a distance of almost three miles along the foreshore at a low altitude varying between fifty and five hundred feet". This event is recorded by a plaque on the promenade behind the Tropicana.

Information about Newcastle is available on signs throughout the forests and hills. The Mourne Mountains is the setting for many local myths and legends. There are stories of The Blue Lady, a woman abandoned by her husband who's ghost still haunts the mountains, and more recently the idea of a wild cat living in the Mournes. Many of the stories although have true origins are only folklore and give many of Newcastles attractions: their names, such as Maggie's Leap being named after a local girl called Maggie, who leapt over the impressive chasm to her death while fleeing soldiers with a basket of eggs. Many other places in the Newcastle area get their names from other sources, The Brandy Pad, a popular spot in the mountains is named so because of the illegal brandy smuggling that took place through the area. Another example would be the Bogey Hill just above Newcastle harbour at the Southern end of the town, which is named after the carts that carried Mourne granite from the quarry on Thomas' Mountain down to the harbour. In 1897, T.R.H the Duke and Duchess of York (George V and Queen Mary), grandparents to Queen Elizabeth II, visited Newcastle to open the Slieve Donard Hotel. Afterwards they visited Hugh Annesley, 5th Earl Annesley at Castlewellan Castle.

Population of Newcastle Co Down

Newcastle is classified as a small town by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (i.e. with population between 4,500 and 10,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 7,444 people living in Newcastle Co Down. Of these:

  • 23.5% were aged under 16 years and 21.7% were aged 60 and over
  • 47.4% of the population were male and 52.6% were female
  • 69.3% were from a Catholic background and 28.4% were from a Protestant background
  • 4.1% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

Newcastle Co Down Location

New Castle Ireland map location
New Castle Ireland map 

Newcastle Co Down is a popular seaside resort and attracts visitors from elsewhere in Northern Ireland and from further away. The new promenade has won a number of National awards including a Civic Trust Award for Excellence in the Public Realm. In recent years the town has started a large Halloween festival (Hallotides), with a carnival-like atmosphere. The free event includes fireworks and a fancy dress competition. Newcastle is home to Northern Irelands largest mountain Slieve Donard which is in the Mourne mountain range.

Visitors come in order to walk in the Mourne Mountains, made famous by the song by Percy French, to play golf at Royal County Down (venue for the 2007 Walker Cup), or to just stroll up the prom and relax on the beach. The town is famous for:

  • Slieve Donard Hotel - a four star hotel at the North end of Newcastle, which has held host to many famous people
  • Royal County Down Golf Club - The golf course in the town is one of the ten best in the world, and is said to be one of Tiger Woods' favourite golf courses.
  • Mourne Granite - which was quarried here for many years and shipped all round the world. It was used to make paving stones in many cities including London and New York. Mourne granite is also being used to make the base of the 9/11 memorial in New York.

Newcastle Town

Voted Northern Ireland’s best kept town a few years ago, Newcastle offers activities to interest all ages. Steeped in history, Newcastle has for many years been one of the most popular resorts in the country, below are just some of the major highlights which any visitor should experience during a stay at this special and lively town.

Donard Park

This is often used by ramblers as their starting point for treks to the Mourne peaks. The park itself boasts an extensive car park and picnic facilities, but its main attraction is the various pitches where soccer and hockey matches are played, but also where many families play during the summer, whilst working off the effects of a day at the seaside and an ice cream too many. Also beside the park is a golf driving range where visitors are made most welcome. Glen River runs along one side of the park, and this is used as a walkway to many sign-posted treks, including the most famous trek of all, to Slieve Donard itself, king of the Mourne peaks.

Newcastle Harbour

In the 1820’s Lord Annesley created a new pier here primarily to function as a loading point for the famous Mourne granite, which was extracted from the overlooking hills. Blocks of this granite were used to build docks in Belfast and Liverpool, as well as help construct the Albert memorial in London.

Gateway Mournes

Today the harbour still holds some fishing boats and also has pleasure crafts for water sports.

St. Patrick’s Stream

This stream has great importance as it marks the boundary of the ancient kingdom of Mourne. According to legend, a rock on the stream’s banks is hewn with the impression of St. Patrick’s hand, which the saint made when he bent down to drink the water.

Armours Hole

An isolated cleft in the cliffs above Dundrum bay provide the rugged backdrop to a murder centuries old. It is believed that a man called Armour murdered his father after a row over a young girl on the way to the fair at Downpatrick. When the man returned home he claimed he had left his father behind in Downpatrick, but the fathers body was washed up at nearby St.Johns Point and the son later admitted to killing him and flinging the body into the sea at the spot now known as Armours Hole after this grisly tale.

The Bloody Bridge

Although the name evokes images of battles fought on this site, it is not known from where exactly this beautiful yet wild coastal area derived its poignant name, although the 1641 rebellion is often thought to be the impetus. What is certain is that it’s beauty is widely appreciated by tourists who flock to see the old ‘Brandy Pad’, called after the trade of illegal brandy which was smuggled down this route and from there onwards at the dead of night to Hilltown. The remains of an ancient church and the old bridge which once carried the coast road has made the bloody bridge a must see area.

Tipperary Woods

If you cross the Tipperary bridge(or mile bridge) you will come to the Tipperary woods. This is part of the Ulster Way long distance footpath and unsurprisingly is a very popular walkway.

Tiger Woods a regular visitor to Royal County DownRoyal County Down Golf Club

Newcastle can lay claim to a course which many believe to be among the most beautiful and the most competitive courses in the whole world, indeed many professional players have included it as among their top ten courses in the globe. With this in mind it is obvious why the golf club continues to be a prominent attraction for visitors to Newcastle.

Newcastle: A Natural Beauty

Despite the foregoing, there is little doubt that the greatest attraction of Newcastle is not the history, nor the various arcades or parks, or even the golf club. Rather, it is the unique natural beauty of the town which makes it stand out as a jewel in the prize winning coast of Down. Various wildlife including the mysterious raven and Peregraine Falcon are found in the nearby slopes and on the slopes themselves many beautiful plants vie for attention with the more rugged heather and bog.

The combination of a long, clean, tidy beach to one side and the overbearing sulking mountains of Mourne to the other gives the place a special feeling which many poets and artists have tried to convey in word and deed. However one can only truly appreciate the unparalleled beauty of the town by experiencing it first hand. Newcastle remains peerless as a busy coastal resort blessed with the brooding mountains of Mourne still sweeping down to the sea.

Sporting Activities in the Newcastle area:

  • Golf at Royal Co. Down Golf Club
  • Horse-riding
  • Angling
  • Swimming
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Cycling
  • Hill walking

Areas of Local Interest:

  • Tollymore Forest Park
  • Silent Valley
  • Castlewellan Forest Park
  • The Mourne Mountains
  • Donard Park
  • Tyrella Beach
  • Butterfly House, Seaforde
  • Murlough Nature Revserve
  • Turnip House Knitwear
  • American Car Museum
  • Mournes

Mountains of Mourne, By Percy French

William Percy French, celebrated poet, painter and composer must surely have had the picturesque town of Newcastle in mind when he penned his celebrated verse of exile ‘where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea’. The imposing presence of the purple peaked Mournes looms large over the town and provides a breathtaking background to this bustling Capital of the coast.

Oh Mary this London's a wonderful sight
With people here workin' by day and by night
They don't sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat
But there's gangs of them diggin' for gold in the street
At least when I asked them that's what I was told
So I just to a hand at this diggin' for gold
But for all that I found there I might as well be
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

I believe that when writin' a wish you expressed
As to how the fine ladies in London were dressed
Well if you'll believe me, when asked to a ball
They don't wear no top to their dresses at all
Oh I've seen them meself and you could not in truth
Say that if they were bound for a ball or a bath
Don't be startin' them fashions, now Mary McCree
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

There's beautiful girls here, oh never you mind
With beautiful shapes nature never designed
And lovely complexions all roses and cream
But let me remark with regard to the same
That if that those roses you venture to sip
The colors might all come away on your lip
So I'll wait for the wild rose that's waitin' for me
In the place where the dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea.

Alternative Newcastle Co Down pages

  • newcastle county down
  • newcastle ireland
  • newcastle