Newry has been a place of continuous human settlement since way back in 4,000 BC, so it’s no surprise that the city has a rich and colourful heritage. Sitting handsomely among modern structures are elegant 18th-century Georgian townhouses and a lovely mid-19th-century courthouse. Down by the quays, brick canal buildings with attractive terracotta façades are still in place with their original features.
A former sugar mill, once occupied by American soldiers during World War II, has been converted into a textile design business with an art gallery and café, while a flax and spinning mill on Cornmarket has been restored and is now used by community groups. Find out all about the history behind these structures on The Newry Heritage Trail, which begins at the historic Bagenal’s Castle and snakes around the city.
Hidden for centuries and rediscovered in 1996, Bagenal’s Castle has gone through a remarkable restoration process and comprises a 16th-century fortified tower and a 19th-century warehouse. Now home to the Newry Tourist Office and a museum, it’s definitely worth a visit. Look out for the "Promise Stone", a black-speckled granite slab featuring a ringed Latin cross, found in the wall on Castle Street. It got its unusual name from the deals that were struck over it on market days by bakers who touched it for good luck.
3. Cathedral culture
Newry’s churches and cathedrals are powerhouses of history. Stand high on the grounds of St Patrick’s Church, and a view of the surrounding countryside and city centre unfolds before you. The church itself was founded in 1578 and was one of the first Protestant churches built on the island of Ireland.
Next stop is the Cathedral of St Patrick and St Colman – the primary place of Catholic worship in the city. Known for its vibrant stained-glass windows, this cathedral was opened in 1829, and has wonderful interior marble works with Italian craftsmanship.
4. Appreciate the “navvy”
Chiselled and carved to perfection, the face of the Newry Navvy sculpture looks down from his plinth on Sugar Island. The bronze statue, erected in 2011, celebrates the men who built the Newry Canal in 1742.
5. Eat cake!
The Shelbourne Café is a Newry institution. It’s where weary shoppers and lunchtime strollers converge to indulge in cake and pastry loveliness. Manageress Edel Farrell describes it as “a family-run business for families that has been part of the fabric of Newry for generations".
For over 100 years, the tantalising aroma of newly baked goodies fills the air as the in-house bakers do what they do best in the kitchens. We’re talking chocolate fudge cake, banoffee pie, Pavlova, tarts… the list goes on. Up on the walls hang works from local artists, as well as pieces from one of Ireland’s hottest artists: Graham Knuttel. Our favourites are his portraits of Bono and Van Morrison.