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.
If you are lucky enough to live close to or have visited the seaside town of Warrenpoint the above image is probably very familiar to you. This is The Flagstaff viewpoint which overlooks all of Carlingford Lough and Warrenpoint. For me, it is the most iconic view of my local area as I have grown up with Flagstaff paintings on my walls.
As it is an image that has been replicated rigorously I haven’t tried to photograph it before as I didn’t think it was possible to capture anything different to those before me. However, on this morning I ventured out to the viewpoint because Storm Hector was in full force and I thought that this might make for an interesting view from The Flagstaff. So of course, with weather warnings on the news I expected dark grey heavy skies over Carlingford Lough, but I was wrong. As I drove the narrow, winding, rising road towards my destination, the clouds broke and that amazing Irish sunshine came out. And yes, I am a typical Irish girl, so I got very excited because our sunshine never lasts too long so I knew I had to make the most if it.
When I reached the viewpoint, it was simply breath-taking, and what made it more special was that I was completely alone. I find it better to experience places when alone to really take it all in, so I was very lucky this time. Instantly I forgot about why I came there, I just wanted to run to the highest point to see as far and wide as possible. Although it was a similar view to what I have always seen, everything seemed different, the colours that I could see were more vivid. The blues were somehow bluer and the greens greener and I watched as the sea changed colours as the shadows of the clouds passed over. I love photography because a photo can give me so much inspiration but I am very glad that in this case I went to experience this view first hand and I found it extremely serene and beautiful.
One thing I learnt this day was that when it comes to Ireland the weather is never going to do what you want it to do!!
A few days ago, I had a sudden urge to visit a place that I hadn’t been to since I was very young. A place that I drive past almost every day, but it is so well hidden that most people are oblivious to its existence. Just a few steps off a busy dual carriage-way directing cars between the towns of Newry and Warrenpoint is a stone quarry. Although it is extremely saddening to have a quarry in action for so long in my local area, the forest around it has been relatively well protected over the years. Bigwood is a wild escape from the busy traffic that runs parallel to it, filled with trees and shrubbery and of course its famous Bluebells. I went in search of the bluebells which naturally thrive in this area and I was very lucky to find some still in good condition, as they came into bloom in early Spring.
Although the paths look like they have been well used by the local hikers, dog-walkers and of course the odd mountain biker, they still emit a sense of ruggedness and privacy. The tall and numerous trees help to block out the surrounding noise pollution, creating the illusion that you are somewhere very different to what is true.
Looking around the landscape, the vegetation is extremely diverse, from Pine trees to Holly bushes to Buttercups and Dandelions. I also spotted the infamous Rhododendron ponticum, a beautiful purple flowering plant which is a typical invasive species to be spotted across Northern Ireland. I swear I saw a patch of vegetation that was almost Bamboo-like which I would like to investigate some more.
As always when exploring I take my camera, so luckily I snapped some different shots of the pathway so check out my Instagram, I hope you enjoy them!!!