One of the most notable features of Carlingford Lough, at the northernmost point where it narrows into the Clanrye river and just before the canal begins, is Narrow Water castle, a tower house which is typical of the fortified towers built between the 15th and 17th centuries. It was built to provide a watch tower for ships approaching Newry (to the north) from the Lough and it was a crossing point from the western, Cooley Mountain side. There was a recent plant for a bridge at this point but it has been shelved due to lack of funds.However, a ferry crossing across the Lough much further south has been proposed.
In 1212, a keep was built on the site by Hugh de Lacy, the first Earl of Ulster to prevent attacks from the south on Newry. This has always been a natural crossing point and in 1210 King John crossed here on a pontoon bridge and again in 1600 Lord Mountjoy, Lord Deputy of Ireland under Queen Elizabeth 1 crossed with infantry in boats when Gaelic chieftain Hugh O’Neill blocked the route south from Newry.
The present castle dates from 1560 and it cost £361.4s.2d. It was armed with 12 armed Irish foot soldiers and six horsemen. John Sancky built the castle and was paid 2s (10p) a day as warder. It has passed into various hands over the centuries and in 1744 was used as a saltworks and a century later was the kennels for the local hunt.
Rather confusingly, to the north east, across the A2 is the more recently built, larger, Narrow Water Castle where, controversially, a ‘lewd, erotic festival’ was held this year. It is not the same place and the castle pictured can be seen by parking in the nearby layby but seems not to be accessible though it may be in summer.
This spot is also remembered for the attack on British Army soldiers in August 1979 by the Provisional IRA when 18 soldiers were killed in an ambush, the greatest single loss of life for the British Army during the ‘Troubles’.