Best Things to See and Do in Carlingford, Ireland

A walk up Slieve Foye takes you high up above the town and the lough
A walk up Slieve Foye takes you high up above the town and the lough | © Gareth McCormack / Alamy Stock Photo

The small town of Carlingford, popular with outdoor activity enthusiasts, sits just across the border from Northern Ireland. It has been voted the best place in Ireland to live – many leprechauns apparently agree.

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Laser Tag
Up in the hills above the town itself, you can enjoy frantic adventures at Skypark. Typically combining zip-lining, climbing, balancing and falling off, you’ll be trained to navigate the cables that bring you around an obstacle course covering hundreds of metres of ground, with plenty of thrills and spills along the way.

Escape HQ

Sports Center

© Neil McAllister / Alamy Stock Photo

Escape games are all the rage, and Escape HQ in Carlingford is one of only a few indoor activity options in the town, with two variations on the now-get-out-of-that theme, and an hour to use clues to set yourself free. Put yourself under pressure: get your team together, start the clock and follow the subtle hints to make your escape.

Carlingford Adventure Centre

Sports Center
A huge hub for outdoor types, Carlingford Adventure Centre is both a massive hostel and a focal point for all the adventure activities that have grown up around the place. Drop in (or better, call in advance) to book kayaking, canoeing, water-trampolining, laser combat, archery, paddleboarding and rock climbing plus most of the other outdoor activities on this list. Endless adventure.

King John’s Castle

Historical Landmark

© Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Dominating Carlingford’s skyline, this 12th-century ruin of King John’s Castle sits on an outcrop overlooking the lough, and is said to have hosted King John of England for a few days in the early 13th century. While it’s now little more than thick but crumbling exterior walls, it’s easy to imagine the grandiosity that once existed here, and the ruins make a historic and picturesque landmark.

Foot Golf

Sports Center
A popular modern sporting adaptation, Foot Golf combines soccer skills and extra-large golf holes, marked with flags. Simple in principle but difficult to master, this is a great sport that’s becoming internationally renowned, with established rules and competitive players.

The Last Leprechauns of Ireland

Natural Feature
Ireland’s full of fun and quirky events, but Carlingford’s annual Leprechaun Hunt might just be our favourite of all. The leprechauns – small figurines – are hidden across a mountainside. Individuals and families buy a hunting licence and stream across the hills searching for the little figures, each of which can be traded in for a cash prize. There’s an entire little festival built around it, and proceeds go to charity.

Slieve Foye

Natural Feature

© Lynne Nieman / Alamy Stock Photo

The highest peak in the Carlingford Mountains, Slieve Foye is best accessed by a well-marked walking route (follow the blue arrows) and rises to 589 metres directly over the lough. The mountains are ruggedly beautiful, and have an interesting history, including the legend of the battle at Medbh’s Gap. The outline of the mountains is said to resemble the sleeping giant Finn MacCumhaill.

Carlingford to Omeath Greenway

Hiking Trail
A seven-kilometer (four-mile) walk to nearby Omeath (after which you can grab a coffee, turn around and head back again), the Greenway follows the route of an old railway, right next to the lough, and offers spectacular views as you walk. It’s popular with walkers, runners and cyclists, and is a great way to see the lake off your own steam.

Carlingford Abbey

Abandoned as a place of worship back in the 18th century, the crumbling remains of Carlingford Abbey still sit fairly centrally in the town today. The stone walls date back to 1305 and, while there’s relatively little of the old structure left, it makes for a pleasant place to stop on your way around.

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