Newcastle, County Down

Coordinates: 54°12′54″N 5°53′24″W / 54.215°N 5.890°W / 54.215; -5.890
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Newcastle from Donard Forest
Newcastle is located in County Down
Location within County Down
Population8,298 2021 Census
• Belfast32.5 miles (52.3 km)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBT33
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°12′54″N 5°53′24″W / 54.215°N 5.890°W / 54.215; -5.890

Newcastle (Irish: An Caisleán Nua) is a small seaside resort town in County Down, Northern Ireland, which had a population of 8,298 at the 2021 Census.[3] It lies by the Irish Sea at the foot of Slieve Donard, the highest of the Mourne Mountains. Newcastle is known for its sandy beach, forests (Donard Forest and Tollymore Forest Park), and mountains. The town lies within the Newry, Mourne and Down District.

The town aims to promote itself as the "activity resort" for Northern Ireland. It has benefited from a multi-million pound upgrade to the promenade and main street. The town is twinned with New Ross, County Wexford, in the Republic of Ireland.


A photochrom print of Newcastle in the 1890s
View from main street in Newcastle towards Slieve Donard, the highest peak of the Mourne Mountains.

The name of the town is thought to derive from the castle built by Felix Magennis of the Magennis clan in 1588, which stood at the mouth of the Shimna River. This castle was demolished in 1830.[4][5] The town is referred to as New Castle in the Annals of the Four Masters in 1433, so it is likely that he built on the site of an existing structure.[6][7][8]

The Montgomery Manuscripts record that Newcastle was besieged and later captured by Sir James Montgomery of the Ards in April 1642 in the aftermath of the 1641 Rebellion (pp. 128–134). Prior to 1641 the Castle belonged to the Magennis', but after the rebellion the property was confiscated and granted to Robert Hawkins, great grandfather to Robert Hawkins who assumed the surname of Magill. The date 1588 was inscribed on a stone placed over the front entrance of the Castle, built by Felix Magenis. Newcastle passed from the Magills to the Mathews, and subsequently to the Annesleys. In the late 1700s the Castle was modernised by the Matthews and then the Annesleys, and rented by the Board of Customs for the accommodation of revenue officers. Around 1830 the castle was demolished and the 'Annesley Arms Hotel' was constructed within the original castle compound. The 3rd Earl Annesley built a new 'marine residence', called 'Donard Lodge' on the lower mountain slope above the town (it was demolished in 1966). St. John's Church was also opened on 'The Rock' in 1832 to accommodate the visitors and growing population in Earl Annesley's developing seaside resort.

The Newcastle fishing disaster occurred on 13 January 1843 when boats from Newcastle and Annalong 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.[9] 73 men perished, 46 of whom were from Newcastle. They left twenty-seven widows, one hundred and eighteen children, and twenty-one dependents. A public subscription was raised and the cottages, known as Widows Row, were built for the widows and dependents.[10][11] A local song about the disaster says "Newcastle town is one long street entirely stripped of men"[12]

In 1910 Harry Ferguson flew a small plane across Newcastle beach in one of the first engine powered flights by aircraft in Ireland. He completed the flight in an attempt to win a £100 prize offered by the town for the first powered flight along the 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.

Information on the town's history 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 whose 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 the towns 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 path through the mountains, is named so because of the illegal brandy smuggling that took place through the area. Another example is Bogey Hill just above the 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 (the future 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.

A process of preserving the local history has begun since 2014 via a community Facebook page 'History of Newcastle, Co. Down'. Photographs and information on the area's history are being collected via the page, and a history of the town will be published. Greater historical detail about the town will be added to this page as part of this research process. It is hoped that this collective history will enhance the experience of both locals and tourists by promoting an informed historical appreciation for the area.

Newcastle was fortunate enough to escape the worst of the Troubles and its residents both Catholic and Protestant lived in relative peace with each other though there has been considerable objection to loyalist band parades in the town.[13]


2021 Census[edit]

As of the 2021 census there were 8,298 people living in Newcastle.[3] Of these:

  • 69.1% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic faith and 21.7% belong to or were brought up in a 'Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related)' faiths.[14]
  • 43.9% indicated that they had an Irish national identity,[15] 37.4% had a Northern Irish national identity[16] and an additional 25.7% had a British national identity[17] (respondents could indicate more than one national identity).

2011 Census[edit]

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). As of the 2011 census there were 7,672 people living in Newcastle.[18] Of these:

  • 98% were white
  • 70.3% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic faith and 24.4% belong to or were brought up in a 'Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related)' faiths.
  • 36% indicated that they had an Irish national identity, 36% had a Northern Irish national identity and an additional 33% had a British national identity (respondents could indicate more than one national identity)[18]


Climate data for Murlough (12m elevation) 1981–2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 8.2
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 2.5
Average rainfall mm (inches) 106.6
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 14.2 10.6 12.7 10.4 11.2 10.1 10.0 11.3 10.0 13.0 13.4 13.2 140.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 46.3 76.2 108.5 147.7 180.6 140.1 146.5 148.9 121.1 99.5 61.3 31.1 1,307.8


Newcastle is a popular seaside resort and attracts visitors from elsewhere in Ireland and from overseas. In 2006, the new promenade won a number of National awards including a Civic Trust Award for Excellence in the Public Realm.[20] In recent years, the town has started a large Halloween festival, with a carnival-like atmosphere. The free event includes fireworks and a fancy dress competition. The crime rate in Newcastle remains relatively low, although there is a stronger police presence during peak holiday periods due to the increase in petty crimes.[21]

Newcastle is close to Northern Ireland's highest mountain, Slieve Donard, which is nearby in the Mourne mountain range. Visitors come to walk in the Mourne Mountains, made famous by the song by Percy French. Another popular attraction in the town is Royal County Down Golf Club (venue for the 2007 Walker Cup and 2015 Irish Open), now recognised as the no.1 golf course in the world, and is said to be one of Tiger Woods' favourite golf courses.[22] The town is also known for 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 was used to make the base of the 9/11 memorial in New York.[23]

Since 2010, Newcastle has held an annual 'Festival of Flight' airshow which attracts upwards of 100,000 people to the event. The RAF Red Arrows are usually the star attraction of the show which is heavily supported by both the RAF and Irish Air Corps as well as the Irish Coast Guard. Many of the UK's top civilian air displays have also visited Newcastle on a regular basis.

Places of interest[edit]

Sandy beach and Dunes, 2 miles north from Newcastle.
Slidderyford Dolmen
Widows' Row. This is a terrace of twelve small houses built by public subscription to house the widows and orphans of 46 fishermen lost in the storm of 1843.
  • The Mourne Mountains lie south of the town and the local area includes the Tollymore Forest Park and Donard Park. The Shimna River flows through Tollymore Park and enters the sea at Newcastle.
  • The Murlough Nature Reserve is situated between Dundrum and Newcastle. The rugged sand dunes and beach are National Trust property.
  • Slidderyford Dolmen is a neolithic portal tomb located near the entrance to Murlough Nature Reserve. It is composed of four stones, two granite and two slate.[24][25][26]
  • Saint Patrick's Stream – in popular mythology, the Mourne Mountains was the site where Saint Patrick banished the 'snakes' from Ireland, and that in his first landings to Ireland he visited the Mournes and even converted the local hill folk to Christianity.[citation needed] The small stream is said to mark the boundary of the Kingdom of Mourne and legend has it that there is a rock in the stream with his hand print in it where he knelt down to drink the water.
  • Newcastle Harbour – In 1820, Lord Annesley created a pier as a loading point for the famous Mourne granite.
  • The Bloody Bridge – The bridge and the Bloody Bridge River, were so named because of an incident during the 1641 Rebellion, during which a massacre of Protestants took place.[27] The bridge is sometimes visited by tourists who go to see the '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 can still be seen.
  • Widows Row. A set of listed cottages just south of the harbour, built by public subscription after the Newcastle Fishing disaster of 1843.


There is one post-primary school in Newcastle, Shimna Integrated College, founded in 1994 as an all-ability, non-selective, 11-18 school. There are four primary schools. St. Mary's Primary School was formerly St. Mary's Boys Primary School and St. Mary's Girls Primary School. The school became mixed in September 2001 but remained split over the two sites, younger children at one and older children at the other until recent years.[28] A new building, large enough to support all the students has since been built. All Children's Primary School was founded in 1986 and was the first primary school outside Belfast that was fully religiously integrated.[29] The other two schools are Newcastle Primary School, founded in 1962, and St. Joseph's Primary School, founded in 1838. There is also a Technical College in the town.


Newcastle F.C. plays in the Northern Amateur Football League.

Tollymore United F.C plays in the Mid Ulster Football League.

Newcastle Harbour is home to Newcastle Yacht Club who regularly sail and race in Dundrum Bay.

Bryansford GAC are the local GAA team.

Newcastle and District A.C.- running club


Newcastle railway station began operating on 25 March 1869 and closed on 2 May 1955.[30] The Belfast & County Down Railway Station and Clock Tower is a B1 listed, red brick building, built in 1905;[31] It is currently a Lidl supermarket. The Great Northern Railway of Ireland Station Building is used by Ulsterbus, which runs buses to the Europa Buscentre next to Belfast Great Victoria Street railway station in Belfast, as well as other towns in the area.



Newcastle is located at the foot of the Mourne Mountains on the east coast of Northern Ireland, and at the confluence of three rivers, the Shimna, the Burren, and the Tullybranigan. In relation to other settlements, Newcastle is 19 kilometres from Downpatrick and 51 kilometres from Belfast.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2001 annual report in Ulster-Scots" (PDF). North/South Ministerial Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 August 2010.
  2. ^ St Patrick in County Down (Ulster-Scots translation) Archived 3 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine DOE.
  3. ^ a b "Settlement 2015". NISRA. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  4. ^ "About Newcastle". Newcastle Lifeboat. Archived from the original on 23 October 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  5. ^ Stewart, Linda (5 January 2013). "See the Wood for the Trees". Belfast Telegraph. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  6. ^ Forde, Hugh (1928). Round the Coast of Northern Ireland: Antrim Derry, and Down. R. Carswell. p. 203.
  7. ^ John Cooke (M.A.) (1902). Handbook for Travellers in Ireland. E. Stanford. p. 87.
  8. ^ Meginness, John R. (1891). Origin and History of the Magennis Family: with Sketches of the Keylor, Swisher, Marchbank, and Bryan families. Heller Brothers Printing Co.
  9. ^ O'Sullivan, Aidan & Breen, Colin (2007). Maritime Ireland. An Archaeology of Coastal Communities. Stroud: Tempus. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-7524-2509-2.
  10. ^ "Recalling a sea tragedy as medal is discovered". Down Recorder. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  11. ^ "January 13". History Ireland. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  12. ^ Evans, E. Estyn (1989). Mourne Country, Landscape and Life in South Down, fourth edition. Dundalk: Dundalgan Press (W. Tempest) Ltd. pp. 227–229. ISBN 0852210086.
  13. ^ Clark opposes Newcastle parades [permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Religion or religion brought up in". NISRA. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  15. ^ "National Identity (Irish)". NISRA. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  16. ^ "National Identity (Northern Irish)". NISRA. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  17. ^ "National Identity (British)". NISRA. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  18. ^ a b "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Newcastle Settlement". NISRA. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  19. ^ "Climate Normals 1981–2010". Met Office. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Newcastle Promenade Redevelopment wins Arts Council-sponsored Civic Trust Award". Arts Council of Northern Ireland. 5 April 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  21. ^ "Northern Ireland's crime rate now at a 15-year low". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Links Courses - Links play in Northern Ireland is the closest to extreme sport golf can get". Discover Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  23. ^ Ireland. Lonely Planet. 2007. pp. 628. ISBN 9781741046960.
  24. ^ "Built Heritage of Mourne AONB". DOE NI. Archived from the original on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  25. ^ Hayward, Richard (1946). In praise of Ulster. W. Mullan. p. 122.
  26. ^ J. P. Mallory; T. E. McNeill (1991). The archaeology of Ulster from colonization to plantation. Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University of Belfast. p. 63. ISBN 9780853893523.
  27. ^ "Off The Beaten Track, Bloody Bridge River". BBC Blueprint. BBC. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  28. ^ "St. Mary's Primary School". Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  29. ^ "Submission to the Inquiry into Shared and Integrated Education" (PDF). Northern Ireland Assembly. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  30. ^ "Newcastle station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2007.
  31. ^ "Historic Building Details - Tower at former railway station, Railway Street, Newcastle". DOE NI. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  32. ^ "Richard Rowley". Ricorso. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  33. ^ "Richard Rowley". Ulster History Society. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  34. ^ "Places That Time Forgot". Sea View Apartments. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  35. ^ Rogers, Mal (28 July 2023). "Tollymore — a literary sort of woodland in Co. Down". The Irish Post. Retrieved 14 November 2023.
  36. ^ "Eddie Polland". BBC. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  37. ^ "In Tune Presenters: Sean Rafferty". BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  38. ^ AFP (16 June 2013). "Irish golfer Simon Thornton dedicates triumph to late dad on Father's Day". The 42. The 42. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  39. ^ "Me And My Home: Once upon a time...". The independent. 23 March 2005. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2021.

External links[edit]