Warrenpoint is a small port town and civil parish in County Down, Northern Ireland. It sits at the head of Carlingford Lough, south of Newry, and is separated from the Republic of Ireland by a narrow strait. The town is beside the village of Rostrevor and is overlooked by the Mournes and Cooley Mountains. Warrenpoint sprang up within the townland of Ringmackilroy (from Irish Rinn Mhic Giolla Ruaidh, meaning ‘McIlroy’s point’), and is locally nicknamed “The Point”.
Warrenpoint is known for its scenic location, the Maiden of Mourne festival, the Blues on the Bay music festival, the passenger ferry service between Warrenpoint and Omeath and the nearby Narrow Water Castle. Warrenpoint Port is second in terms of tonnage handled by ports in Northern Ireland. It had a population of 8,732 at the 2011 Census.
The area of Warrenpoint was formerly known as Rinn Mhic Giolla Ruaidh (“McIlroy’s point”), anglicised Ringmackilroy, which is still the name of the townland in which it sits. Earlier, it was also known as Portyneil, which may come from Port Uí Néill (“O’Neill’s port”) or Port an Aoil (“port of the lime”).
The earliest reference to the settlement of Warrenpoint is in 1744. It is believed to come from the English surname Waring. By 1780 there were only two houses in the village, “with a few huts for the occasional residence of the fishermen during the oyster season”. In the following fifty years, however, its scenic beauty and coastal location seem to have hastened its swift growth and by 1837 it had 462 houses.
Fairs were held once a month and a market every Friday. In the mid-19th century, Newry merchants obtained a government grant to create a tidal dock at the village, as prior to 1850 ships of above 150 tonnes could not get further up the lough than Narrow Water.
A railway connection opened on 9 May 1849, increasing Warrenpoint’s popularity as a holiday destination. and Warrenpoint became popular as a resort town. Thousands flocked to the resort every year, where most took the passenger ferry to Omeath in County Louth. The Warrenpoint railway station closed in January 1965. The Ferry remains in operation but only in the summer months from May to September.
A bandstand in the town park provided concerts and a saltwater swimming pool was built in 1908. The baths were opened by Captain Roger Hall on Whit Monday, 8 June in that year, but they are now closed to the public.
On 6 February 1921, during the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Republican Army ambushed an Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) patrol in Warrenpoint. The ambush took place on Seaview Road and one USC constable was killed.
During World War II, on 15 July 1944 two Royal Air Force aircraft (an Airspeed Oxford (LX 598) and a Miles Martinet (MS626) from No. 290 Squadron RAF) were taking part in a civil defence demonstration at Warrenpoint. In misty conditions the planes collided, the pilots only having seen each other at the last minute. The resultant explosion killed all on board, and pieces of the planes fell onto Church Street, Duke Street and Queen Street and into Carlingford Lough. The bodies of the airmen were recovered and taken to the mortuary in Newry
On 27 August 1979, during “the Troubles“, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) ambushed a British Army convoy at nearby Narrow Water Castle. Eighteen soldiers were killed in what became known as the Warrenpoint ambush – the British Army’s greatest loss-of-life in a single incident during the conflict.
Narrow Water Castle just outside the town is a three-storey tower house built in 1560 to protect the entrance to the Newry river estuary. Across the road, to the east, is the new Narrow Water Castle, really a stately home, built in 1840.
Today a small but modern passenger ferry service operates out of Warrenpoint to the village of Omeath in County Louth. The trip takes about fifteen minutes. Other cruises include trips to Narrow Water Castle, Ross Monument in the neighbouring town Rostrevor and Bay & Harbour Cruises.
Two small inland lakes, the “Mill Dam” and the “Waterworks” offer a variety of fishing opportunities. A permit is needed to fish these lakes, which are located about 1 mile from the town centre.
The Bridal Loanan is one of the biggest cul-de-sac’s in Europe and has the Magennis Investiture Stone at its peak.