Newry is a town straddling the historic boundary between County Down and County Armagh in Northern Ireland, and five miles north of the border with the Republic of Ireland. In 2002 Newry was upgraded to a city but it continues to feel like a medium-sized town, with a population of 26,967 in 2011. The counties of Northern Ireland have been abolished and since 2015 it's been governed as part of Newry, Mourne and Down District.
Mountains obstruct the route from Dublin north along the coast into Ulster, but at Newry there's a gap, so roads (and later a canal and railway) head inland up the valley towards Portadown before swinging east into Belfast. The gap is a U-shaped glaciated valley that deepens into the fjord of Carlingford Lough, so there's also sea access. This was more of a curse than a blessing in the first millennium since if there was one thing the Vikings enjoyed more than sailing into fjords, it was burning and pillaging the nearby settlements. The Normans put a stop to this, secured the area and founded an abbey. The town remained small until the 18th century when the growth of industry and transport made its position more important.
Ireland was divided into counties, which acquired local government councils in the 19th century, and Newry fell on the boundary of three. West of the river and fjord was County Armagh, east was County Down, and the town hall was symbolically built straddling the river. Five miles south was County Louth, which from 1921 belonged to a separate nation, the Republic of Ireland. Between them lay a higgledy-piggledy, porous and often dangerous border, with the main road checkpoint at Killeen, and for the rest of the 20th century this dominated Newry. There were killings and bombings during The Troubles from 1970, a heavy military presence, and a flight of industry and employment.
The turning point was the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which largely ended The Troubles, and rendered the crossing from Louth to Armagh as trivial and hassle-free as the crossing from Armagh to Down had been. Traffic sweeps past on the N1 / A1 with little more to denote the border than a sign advising that speed limits are in miles per hour, or in kph if you're driving south. In 2002 the town was re-awarded its city status, which nowadays is just ceremonial. It draws a lot of cross-border traffic and is even a commuter town for Dublin, with trains taking little over an hour. The big uncertainty is the effect of Brexit upon the border, as the Republic of Ireland remains within the EU.
Newry is midway between Dublin and Belfast, so you can use either city's airport or ferry port and travel onward by train or bus. By car follow M1 / A1.
The Enterprise Train runs eight times M-Sa, five times Sunday, taking 70 min from Dublin Connolly via Drogheda and Dundalk, and an hour from Belfast Lanyon Place via Portadown. Commuter trains between Bangor, Belfast and Portadown extend to Newry in rush hour.
1 Newry railway station is a mile northwest of town centre. The railway comes into the station over the Egyptian Arch Bridge (it's supposed to resemble a pharaoh's head-dress, you'll need to use your imagination) and continues north over the 18-arch Craigmore Viaduct.
Goldline Express Bus 238 runs hourly from Belfast Europa bus station via Hillsborough and Banbridge, taking 75 min to Newry.
2 Newry Buscentre is on The Mall in town centre.
Newry is relatively small, and can easily be explored on foot.
Bus 160 plies between Newry, Killeen and Dundalk every couple of hours, taking 35 min.
- 1 Newry Cathedral (Cathedral of St Patrick and St Colman), 38 Hill St BT34 1AT. Built 1825-29 in neo-Gothic style, this was the first Roman Catholic cathedral to open in Ireland after the penal laws were relaxed, so its construction attracted many European craftsmen. The masonry is local granite; the stain glass windows are German and the marble altars and statuary are Italian. The cathedral holds a relic of St Teresa of Calcutta (Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu 1910-1997), a muslin cloth stained with her blood and set in a cross.
- 2 St Patrick's Church, 25 Church St BT34 1HH. Built circa 1578, which makes it the first Protestant church in Ireland after the Reformation, but it was rebuilt in 1866. Still in use as a C of I church, it's a distinctive part of the town skyline, with four little spires at each corner of its clock tower, atop a hill east bank of the river.
- 3 Newry Town Hall, Bank Parade BT34 1DQ. This was built in 1893 over the Newry (or Clanrye) River, the boundary between Counties Armagh and Down. The site was part diplomacy but also a creative use of space in a town divided by river and canal, and the building looks as if it belongs in Utrecht, if you can ignore the hills behind. (The bus station likewise spans the river.) The council offices have moved half-a-mile west to Monaghan Row, and the Town Hall now hosts the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre. This sometimes has art exhibitions but is mostly a performance venue, see "Do".
- 4 Bagenal's Castle, Abbey Way BT34 2BY. Sa 10:00-16:30. It's surprising how you can mislay an entire castle. A Cistercian Abbey was founded in Newry in 1153, with extensive lands. To the south was "The Pale", that part of Ireland directly ruled by the English monarchs. The abbey lands were literally beyond the Pale, but Edward III just grabbed them anyway, dissing the abbey as "mere Irish, conversing only with such, and spending their rents and profits in abetting the said Irish". In the 16th C all monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII. The lands were awarded to Nicholas Bagenal (1509-1591), who fled England a wanted man for murder, but who rose to be Marshal of the Army in Ireland (and thrice fell and rose again). He demolished the abbey and built his own fortified house on the site. His direct family died out in the 18th C and his "castle" was sold to a merchant, becoming McCann's Bakery. Historians and map makers entirely lost sight of the place, though everyone at the bakery knew - the old human bones and medieval carvings were a clue. If only some historian had bought a bap here . . . , but not until the bakery closed in the 1990s was the castle re-discovered. It's been partly restored and now houses the Newry and Mourne Museum. Free.
- 5 John Mitchel Statue, maybe, St Colman's Park BT34 2BX. Should he stay or should he go? John Mitchel (1815-1875) was a militant Irish nationalist whose early life was around Newry. He acted as lawyer for Catholics set upon by Orangemen, and was further radicalised by the Famine. His writings were considered seditious; he was convicted of treason in 1848 and transported to penal labour in Bermuda, but escaped to the US. In New York he continued to campaign for Irish liberation but threw most of his energy into advocating slavery. No apologist he - he proclaimed slavery as a great benefit, for the slaves as well as their owners and the public wellbeing, and it would be even better if the Atlantic slave trade could be re-established so more of Africa could benefit. His logic was uncannily similar to that of English overlords declaring what should be done for the betterment of the Irish peasantry. He lost support after the US Civil War and returned to Newry in 1875, getting elected as MP but disbarred by his criminal record, and dying shortly thereafter. His statue, for the moment, is in the park just off John Mitchel Place, which perhaps is destined to be re-named Hill Street. In 2020 a petition was got up to remove it, and in June the council set up a committee, in terms as windy as the plaque on the statue.
- 6 Derrymore House, Derrymore Rd, Bessbrook BT35 7EF. Grounds year-round dawn to dusk. This elegant thatched cottage was built in 1776 as a summer lodge. A pseudo-Georgian mansion was tacked on in the 20th C but demolished when the place was acquired by the National Trust. The Treaty Room is where the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 was negotiated, but the interior is seldom open, you come for the extensive grounds and exterior view.
- 7 Slieve Gullion is a mountain of 573 m / 1880 ft rising sharply southwest of town. Its Irish name Sliabh gCuillinn has a long mythological derivation or a short prosaic one: it means "steep hill". It's the central stump of the Ring of Gullion, the collapsed and fractured walls of an ancient volcano caldera, though the present peak is geologically more recent. It's usually climbed from the car park on the west flank, allow 4 hours and expect much mud. Great views from the top when it's not raining. Near the summit is a small lake with two burial cairns. The larger southern cairn is a passage tomb from circa 3000-3500 BC, the smaller northern cairn may be Bronze Age: both were damaged in World War II when the mountain was a US Army training range. Also on the slopes above Killeavy Castle (see "Sleep") is a ruined medieval convent. You can hike the 58 km trail round the lesser hills of the entire Ring, but most visitors are content to drive the 10 km loop road.
- Sean Hollywood Arts Centre puts on various shows. It adjoins Town Hall, box office +44 28 3031 3180.
- Newry Musical Feis is a series of events between Feb and May, often as competitions for young performers. It includes ballet & theatre dance, Irish dance, Irish trad music, other music, and speech & drama.
- Hike or bike along Newry Canal and you can even sail along its lowest stretch. It was built 1731-41 to bring coal from Tyrone via Lough Neagh to Newry and the sea at Carlingford Lough, though it mostly carried grain and general goods. It was managed as badly as it was built, and fell into disrepair even before the railways took away its business in the 1850s. The inland section from Newry to Portadown and Lough Neagh is long abandoned, but has a good firm towpath for hiking or cycling with multiple access points. Enough water trickles down its reedy bed for angling and for wildfowl. It lies parallel to Newry River, forming an island strip which in town broadens into Sugar Island. The lower broader section (known as the "ship canal") runs 5 miles south from Newry to Victoria Lock where it joins the tidal river. This stretch has been restored for navigation, craft maximum is 61 m length by 10 m beam by 3.4 m draught with no height limit.
- Omniplex Cinema is on The Quays.
- 1 Newry Leisure Centre is on Cecil St west side of town. There's a gym, sports complex and 25 m swimming pool.
- Watch football at 2 Newry City AFC, who play in the NIFL Championship, the second tier of soccer in Northern Ireland. Their home stadium The Showgrounds is on the east river bank a mile south of town; it has a nominal capacity of 7900 but is restricted to 2275. City play in the same colours and at the same ground as their predecessor Newry City FC, who went bust in 2012. (Their most famous player was goalkeeper Pat Jennings, b 1945, later of Watford, Spurs and Arsenal.) Many fans and players then decamped to Warrenpoint Town FC a few miles south, who play in the top tier, the Premiership.
New Variety Market is on Thursday and Saturday 09:00-17:00, east bank of the river off St Mary's Street.
Newry's modern retail strip is along the west bank of the canal. Downstream of William St / Bridge St, where the canal broadens into Albert Basin, is The Quays. The strip upstream to the next bridge at Mill St is The Buttercrane. All the big "High Street" names are here, ie the ones you seldom nowadays see on High Street.
Dalmolly retail park is a mile north of town at the junction of A27 and A28.
Newry draws many cross-border shoppers. Sometimes this is driven by VAT differences on goods, and sometimes by swings in currency, whenever the Republic's euro buys more against the UK £.
- Grounded, 25 Merchants Quay BT35 6AH. Daily 06:00-22:00. Coffee shop, also does burgers and similar fast food, and very close to the bus station.
- 1 Art Bar Funkel, 3 Monaghan St BT35 6BB, ☏ . M-Sa 11:00-21:30, Su 12:00-21:00. Bright modern place, mostly Med-style food.
- 2 Sapori Italiani, 16 - 17 The Mall, Bachelors Walk BT34 1BG, ☏ . Th-Sa 17:00-22:30, Su 16:00-21:30. Good quality Italian fare, big portions.
- The Shelbourne, 69 Hill St BT34 1DG. M-Sa 08:00-18:00. Large cafe for daytime meals.
- Crozier's, 16 Upper Water St BT34 1DJ. A well liked bar.
- The Bridge Bar, 55 North St BT34 1DD. M-F 15:00-23:30, Sa Su 12:00-23:30. Pleasant pub with three bars, beer garden at back.
- The Phoenix, 2 Upper Water St BT34 1DJ. Su-Th 12:00-01:00, F Sa 12:00-02:00. Cosy sports bar with lots of screens for watching.
- McSwiggan's, 59 Lower North St BT34 1DD. Su-F 12:30-02:00, Sa 10:30-02:00. Great range of drinks, live sports, Friday nights is karaoke.
- Nan Rices, 7 Francis St BT35 8BQ. Daily 11:00-23:00. Friendly bar with trad music Friday nights.
- McGuigan’s, 48 Monaghan St BT35 6AA (opposite Railway Bar). Daily 11:00-00:00. Sports and music bar.
- Railway Bar, 79 Monaghan St BT35 6AY. Daily 11:30-23:00. Lively bar with trad music Thursday nights.
- The Bank, 1 Trevor Hill BT34 1DN, ☏ . Daily 11:00-01:30. Extensive bar and bistro with six function rooms and nightclub.
- 1 Mourne Country Hotel, 52 Belfast Rd BT34 1TR (Damolly Roundabout, junction of A28), ☏ . Low-rise place two miles north of town centre, looks like a Young Offenders Institute but decent enough for what you're paying. Saturday nights are C&W gigs 23:00-01:00. B&B double £90.
- 2 Canal Court Hotel, Merchants Quay BT35 8HF, ☏ . Boxy modern building but comfy, value for money, and handy for town and transport. Has conference facilities. B&B double £90.
- 3 Flagstaff Lodge (formerly Newry Golf Inn), 11 Forkhill Rd BT35 8LZ (B113 off A1), ☏ . Clean comfy place with good food by A1 two miles south of town centre. They often host weddings and similar events. B&B double £90.
- Bed and Breakfasts around Newry are closed for the 2020 season.
- 4 Killeavy Castle Hotel, 12 Ballintemple Rd, Newry BT35 8LQ (off B113 Drumintree Rd), ☏ . Mansion built 1810-20 as a cod-medieval castle, now an upscale hotel and spa. People sometimes book the whole place for weddings. B&B double £200.
Newry has a good mobile and 4G signal with all UK carriers. As of Aug 2020, 5G has not reached this area.
- The Mourne Mountains rise close to town.
- Newcastle for the seaside.
- Armagh has long been the ecclesiastic capital of all Ireland, with two cathedrals and a prehistoric "fort" that was clearly a religious centre.
- Dundalk, south across the border in the Republic, is little more than a transport hub. Continue south for historic Drogheda and the Boyne Valley.
|Routes through Newry|
|Belfast ← Banbridge ←||N S||→ continues as → Dundalk → Dublin|