Thursday, 20 April 2017

NEWCASTLE



Not on the Tyne, but at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, Newcastle is the first place which can be described as a resort when heading north from the border with the Republic.  We once stayed the night in a pub in Newcastle while exploring the coast of Northern Ireland.  It was quiz night, and we were persuaded to join in what turned out to be a very entertaining evening.  We shared a table with an elderly gent who sounded a bit like Ian Paisley, and who had a crush on the female quizmaster and was trying to get us to play matchmaker.  Looking at Google Streetview I can’t see the pub, so I’m not sure if it’s there any more – pity.

Newcastle’s backdrop is spectacular, dominated by the aforementioned mountains and with a 3-mile crescent of golden sand arranged around Dundrum Bay.  When we were there, there were signs of impending regeneration of the seafront, and now, £14m and several years later, the revamp is complete.  It has styled itself as an activity resort, with mountaineering and canoeing among the activities on offer.  For more relaxing pursuits, the resort boasts the UK’s only seaweed bathhouse for those in pursuit of the physical and mental benefits of soaking in seaweed.  There are two outdoor alternatives for bathers, at the Tropicana which has heated water and slides for the kids, and at the 1930s era Rock Pool for hardier souls, being unheated.  Fans of Game of Thrones should head out to Tollymore Forest Park, the Haunted Forest of the series.

Newcastle gets a mention in the medieval chronicles known as The Annals of the Four Masters, where it is referred to as New Castle.  The castle in question, this being 1433, was presumably a forerunner of the later castle which was built by the Magennis clan in 1588 at the mouth of the Shimna River, and which was demolished in 1830, having changed hands several times following the 1641 Rebellion.  One of  the most tragic events in the town’s history occurred during a storm in January 1843.  14 fishing boats from Newcastle and Annalong were caught up in the storm, resulting in 76 deaths, 46 of them men from Newcastle. There is a row of cottages in the town called Widows' Row, built to house the widows and orphans of the dead fishermen.


File:Beach Avenue, Newcastle - geograph.org.uk - 1132435.jpg
Photo by Albert Bridge, via Wikimedia  Commons


Thursday, 6 April 2017

ANNALONG



This town’s name derives from the Gaelic ‘Ath na Long’ meaning ‘ford of the ships’, probably dating from the time of the Vikings, when the mouth of the Annalong River provided shelter for longships.  The harbour at Annalong was built for shipping out locally quarried granite to other parts of Ireland and to the UK, and it also developed into a fishing port.  The 18th century corn mill, once used for milling oatmeal, has a multi-media exhibition about the milling process as well as other aspects of local heritage.  It is also the start of a pleasant coastal walk leading to the bays of Arthur’s Port and Springwell Port, where a variety of birds such as oystercatchers and redshanks can be seen pottering around on the shore.  If you are lucky you may catch sight of a friendly seal popping up out of the water to check you out.  Herring fishing boats known as yawls used to be launched from here during the autumn herring season.  Visitors with kids in tow should head for the Marine Park, where there is parking and a play area.

File:Annalong harbour - geograph.org.uk - 241419.jpg
Photo by Aubrey Dale, via Wikimedia Commons