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The town of Kilkeel is located at the foot of the Mourne Mountains on the South East coast of Co. Down, N Ireland approximately 20 miles north of Newry City. The name comes the old 13th century church ruins in the center of the town, cill-caol (Gaelic) meaning the church of the narrows. It is believed that the original church was financed by a Spanish nobleman after his son was drowned and washed ashore and given a christian burial by the locals. However there are references to Kilkeel as a christian settlement as far back as the 11th century. In 1836 there was a Church of Ireland, a Presbyterian, United Brethren, Catholic Church, 150 houses and 2 schools here. In the early 19th century a track was dug through the sand at the mouth of the Kilkeel River to form a landing place for small boats. Work on the harbour began in 1850s and a pier built in 1868. It wasn’t until the South Pier was built in 1885, the old dock in 1886 that trading schooners started to arrive. In 1916 the harbour was extended to cope with expanding trade and fishing fleet. Kilkeel is known as part of the Kingdom of Mourne having been the capital of that ancient Kingdom. Kilkeel’s population is just over 6000, and the Kingdom of Mourne population is around 10,000. Being on the coast, there is a long association with the deep sea fishing industry and until recent years boasted the largest fleet in Ireland. An RNLI Lifeboat Station was established in the Harbour in May 1986 and has been instrumental in saving lives and helping those in trouble at sea since that time.
Kilkeel has varied activities to offer visitors, Tennis Courts, Bowling, Swimming all at the local Leisure Center. Sea & Game fishing, Walking and climbing, an excellent 18 hole Golf Club and driving ranges, 18 hole Pitch & Putt course, popular beach at Cranfield just outside Kilkeel, which wins awards every year, Riding, good food and drink, excellent hospitality and friendly locals.
There are also a number of interesting places to visit in the local area; Kilkeel Harbour to see the Kilkeel RNLI Lifeboat Station, fishing boats and the fishing exhibition at the Nautilaus Centre (visit the tourist office there for help and guidance); Silent Valley with new walks Spelga reservoirs; “magnetic hill” at Spelga Dam; Cornmill at Annalong just to mention a few. Just thirteen miles from Kilkeel is Newcastle with its seaside attractions including beach, promenade and park walks. Tollymore Park with its camp and caravan sites, river walks attracts large numbers of visitors during the summer months.
See the KilkeelTouristMap