The east shoreline of Ireland was secured by many manors to give solid safeguard and contact with Dublin. The whole coastline and sea course from Dublin to Newry incorporated Drogheda, Dundalk, Carlingford and Greencastle. Narrow Water Keep secured the centre of Carlingford Lough and as such was the primary level of defense after King Johns Castle which only had a minimal vantage point on the lough.
A prior stronghold motte, constructed in the late twelfth or thirteenth century, which can even now be seen closer to Warrenpoint, it might have been hereabouts that King John’s armed force crossed the lough by what most likely was a Pontoon Bridge in 1210. The later nineteenth Century manor is still being used on the opposite side of the street and hosts a yearly christmas arts and crafts fayre. One story connected with the Keep is that of Lassara, a youthful lady, being kept as a prisoner who heard her soul mate calling and tossed herself from the highest point of the tower to her deathly demise on the stones beneath. Old Narrow Water Keep which is now a national monument. It is an excellent example of a tower-house and bawn built about 1568 at a point where the Newry River meets Carlingford Lough, a strategic spot. (Children under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult).
There has been a keep on this site since 1212. It was originally built by Hugh de Lacy, who was the first Earl of Ulster, The building primary purpose was to prevent attacks on Newry via the river, as part of the area’s Norman fortifications. The original building was most likely destroyed in the 1641 Rebellion.
Although apparently built for military purposes, Narrow Water Castle is a typical example of the tower houses found throughout Ireland from the 15th until the earlier 17th century. This form of building, normally rectangular in plan and three or more storeys high, comprised a series of superimposed chambers, with stairs, closets and latrines skilfully contrived within the walls or sometimes contained in projecting angle turrets.
The tower house was given into state care in 1956 and is one of the finest 16th century buildings in Ireland.
The importance of Narrow Water Castle is the fine condition of its tower and the detailed account of its building. When it was built in 1570, John Sancky was paid £361 4s2d and as a warden of the castle he was paid 2 schillings a day and had a garrison of 12 foot soldiers and 6 horsemen.
- By 1580 Hugh Magennis, Chief of the Mournes, held the castle & “ he also had castles at Newcastle and Castlewellan.
- In 1596 the castle was retaken by the English but granted to Sir Arthur Magennis on condition that the English could use it if they needed it.
- In 1641 Sir Conn Magennis took it, but in 1644 it was defended for the King against Parliament. In 1670 it was sold to Francis Hall and the family owned it until 1956.
- In 1744 till at least 1819 a saltworks was built inside the walls and in 1834 it was used as kennels.
Features to look out for:
- The tower is built of rubble with wrought granite and carboniferous limestone quoins and some similar limestone dressings.
- The tower is three storeys with an attic in height and measures 39 feet by 33 feet internally.
- The walls measure 4½ to 5¾ feet thick.
- Arrow loops on the corners, no blind spots.
- Door protected by drophole above.
- Fine straight staircase, older castles had spiral ones.
- Vault built in Irish style supported in cagework (hazel rods).
- Corbelled roof of latrines also Irish work.
- The outer wall or bawn (restored in the 19th century) is rubble built and of irregular plan.