The President’s home run: Joe Biden will receive a warm welcome at his ancestors’ Irish village today – and so will you
Just across Carlingford Lough, the crags of the Mountains of Mourne overlook the spit of land that is the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth.
This is where President Joe Biden will head today in honour of his Irish ancestors, the Finnegans, and with a big Gaelic nod towards the electorate back home now that he’s let slip his probable bid for a second term.
Just three miles from the village of Carlingford, within view of the ever-restless Irish sea, is Lily Finnegan’s pub. The President may well stand in front of this cosy, white-washed building and gaze up at the gaunt ruggedness of Slieve Foye, the highest peak in the Cooley Mountains.
He probably won’t have time to hike in the hills, but if he does, they’re easy to access. The main street in Carlingford leads directly on to a mountainside track that many have used before — hunters, shepherds, rebels, soldiers, smugglers. All have trudged up the pathway through the gorse and bracken, past wild horses grazing on the sparse grass.
On the other hand, Carlingford is ideal for relaxing. It’s just six miles south-west of the Northern Ireland border, an easy drive from either Belfast (50 miles to the north) or Dublin (70 miles to the south). Factor in a few days to soak up the cuisine, culture, music and Guinness.
Joe Biden is visiting the town of Carlingford in County Louth as part of a trip in honour of his Irish ancestors. Mal Rogers travels to the town and discovers that it’s ‘ideal for relaxing’
Biden’s Ireland tour will be a ‘big Gaelic nod towards the electorate back home’. Pictured: The President with First Lady Jill Biden
The visceral nature of Irish history has left this medieval village with two castles, a friary and a handful of fine Georgian buildings — not bad going for a place where two people meeting on a pavement can cause a traffic jam.
The ground floor of 16th-century Taaffes Castle is a pub and the best place to watch Gaelic games. Joe Biden may even catch a match featuring local Gaelic football team the Cooley Kickhams. Rob Kearney, the former British & Irish Lions player, still turns out for the Kickhams — he’s a distant cousin of President Biden.
The 12th-century King John’s Castle at the edge of Carlingford Lough was the northerly outpost of The Pale, the territory under the control of the English crown. At the main gates a ‘murder hole’ is sited just above the welcome mat. If it turned out you weren’t that welcome, boiling water, tar and rocks would rain down on you.
The medieval village of Carlingford features two castles, a friary and fine Georgian buildings
Ghan House has double rooms for £175 b&b, (ghanhouse.com; +353 42 937 3682). Carlingford is 70 miles from Dublin airport and 55 miles from both Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport.
The Cooley Peninsula is also home to the Tain Way, a 40km walking trail, which begins in Carlingford and threads a spectacular route through the hinterland.
Both McKevitts Hotel and the Carlingford Arms have traditional Irish music seisiuns (sessions) going full throttle most nights, while the Heritage Centre puts on everything from rock to baroque.
Where the harbour heaves into view, you’ll see the high stone walls of Ghan House — perfect lodgings in an elegant Georgian pile abutting the ruins of a medieval friary. The first-floor dining room offers an unbeatable combination of views and luxury dining.
Peep over the salted rim of your margarita and you can choose between two ranges of mountains — the Cooleys behind you and, across the lough, the Mountains of Mourne sweeping down to the sea. They look as if they might have tumbled out of a fairy tale.