I took a walk back through time this afternoon whilst visiting the Keep at Narrow Water Castle, situated outside the town of Warrenpoint, County Down. This 16th Century Keep lies along the shores of Carlingford Lough where it meets the Newry River.
There has been a Keep here since 1212, built by Hugh de Lacy who was he first Earl of Ulster. Later during the 1560’s the tower-house and walled bawn was built and in 1641 the original Keep was destroyed during a rebellion. The style of the Keep was very typical for the period and would be found throughout Ireland.
The Keep is a building that I have grew up with, seeing it throughout every season, year after year. I have photographed it from many positions outside the grounds and from mountain tops overlooking it, but being inside was something special. Today was the first time that I have been able to explore within the walls and it was worth the wait.
It may be selfish, but I was so happy that the place was completely empty so I could explore everything alone. I ventured through the impressive doorway and found a large room with a wooden beam ceiling and some very small windows. For such a beautiful sunny day outside, it was pretty dark with such little light peaking through the windows so I imagine when the keep was in use that a vast amount of candles and fires would have been required for lighting. I began to make my way upstairs and this included a steep narrow staircase. This brought me to such an impressive room. The ceiling of the entire 1st floor of the keep is a semi-circular arch built in stone. This room also had larger windows and a latrine. The largest window boasted a beautiful view of the water and was facing North towards Newry. It is what I assumed to be an early bay-style window, but I was wrong, very wrong. I discovered that this is what was called the “Murder Hole”. And there it was, a hole through the ground at the window which was right above the entrance to the building, which would have been used by defenders to fire or throw objects or weapons towards any attackers. I’m sure they could have even used boiling oil if needed here. I’m aware that during any Medieval themed film that I have seen that there has definitely been a scene using a Murder Hole but it still surprised me to see this beautiful and quaint section of the keep to be titled with such a grim name. So, I finally continued on to the 2nd floor which had more little rooms running off it with tiny windows peering out into the Lough. These rooms could have been sleeping quarters, or kitchens or for storage, I would love to know. Sadly, the roof of the keep is closed off to the public, but I would love for them to change this as the view from the top would be amazing.
Whilst looking around I can’t help but picture the soldiers that would have been manning the keep. I stood where they would have stood, manning the fort through those little windows. I felt very thankful to them, because they protected what is now my home; the busy community driven town of Warrenpoint.