The Kingdom of Mourne gained its name when it was seized in the 12th century by immigrants from Monaghan. These people were the tribe of the MacMahons, and were descendants of Colla Nais, King of Ireland A.D. 323-326. Time has clipped the name they gave the country until it eventually became Mourne.
The Anglo-Normans secured possession of the district shortly after their arrival, and their two chief strongholds were Dundrum Castle in the north and Green Castle in the south.
Fast forward to 1820, Bradshaw’s General Directory tells us that the district of Mourne was bestowed in the Twelfth Century to the abbey of Newry, then under Queen Elizabeth it was transferred to Sir Henry Bagnal and afterwards to his daughter, who married into the Needham family. It takes its name from the 14th Century St. Colman’s church cill-caol, which means the ‘church of the narrows.’ As of 1820, it remained in possession of Lord Viscount Kilmorey.
Lord Viscount Kilmorey said of the area; particularly Kilkeel;
“The inhabitants of this place, and the surrounding country, are noted for their hospitality and attention to strangers.”
It’s clear to see that not much has changed in the last 204 years, and Kilkeel and the surrounding area of Mourne is just as welcoming as before.
The Kilmorey Arms Hotel has provided lodgings and accommodation since before the 1850s. In the 1800s the Market House and Court House were also situated at the top of the present day Knockchree Avenue where a market was held every Wednesday and fair held on the first Tuesday of every quarter.
Long cars and horse drawn coaches once collected and deposited passengers from the Court House and the Kilmorey Arms Hotel. The Court House was also a neutral meeting place where “Penny Readings,” concerts and dances took place in the 1800s and early 1900s.
The trough just outside the Kilmorey Arms Hotel was a gift to the town by Ellen Constance Lady Kilmorey and was originally situated at the corner of the Harbour Road and Bridge Street. Lady Kilmorey was known for her love of animals and also her work as commandant of the South Down Nursing Corps during the second world war.
The gifted trough was used by cattle, horses and sheep until the 1960s when it was removed to its present site and is a constant reminder of the link between the Kilmorey Arms Hotel and the Kilmorey Family.
The Mourne area was also used to prepare in the months and days before D Day during the second world war. Winston Churchill stayed in the Kilmorey Arms Hotel and is rumoured to have planned some of the D Day preparations in the hotel. General Eisenhower also addressed his troops just outside Kilkeel.
American troops were stationed in Mourne park and the area just outside Kilkeel known as Dunnavil was dug up and turned into an Aerodrome. The Kilmorey Arms hotel also held balls and dances for the American Troops and locals girls, much to the dismay of their parents!
Nowadays the Mourne area is revered for its world class hospitality, areas of outstanding natural beauty and exceptional locally grown and caught cuisine. Why not experience it all for yourself? Click here to book a stay at the award winning Kilmorey Arms Hotel.
There is no other place in Ireland that can boast such a richness and diversity of myth and legend, folklore and story than Carlingford and Mourne.
Mourne and Carlingford are known as the lands of the great Celtic warrior Cúchulainn, and is the place that sets the scene for the greatest story of Irish Celtic mythology.
It is the land where Cúchulainn died tied to a rock that still stands in Knockbridge just outside Dundalk. It is the place where the giant Finn McCool stood astride the Cooley Mountains, and fought with Ruiscaire, the giant of the North, as he stood atop Slieve Ban in the Mourne mountains, above Rostrevor in Co Down.
This is the place where the Last Leprechauns of Ireland live below the Slate Rock, all 236 of them and now protected for eternity from hunters and fortune seekers by law. Here you will find the “Magic hill of the Mournes” where stationary cars roll up hill instead of down.
In Carlingford you will find two Proposal stones used by lovers in the 14th and 15th centuries where couples sat and pledged their love for each other in sight of fairy mounds, so that love and life would be protected in the years ahead. And still they come.
In Kilbroney you will find The Well of All Healing, and close by is The Whitethorn of the Dancing. Not far from there you will hear the story of the Weird Weaver of Warrenpoint,
and if you move South towards Greencastle, stories of the skeleton at De Courcey’s wedding feast, are still told in hushed tones, and the Hidden Bell of Bronach still sounds in Rostrevor. This is truly a land of Myth and Legend.