10 Charming Heritage Towns & Cities in Ireland’s Ancient East

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IN IRELAND’S ANCIENT East, take in medieval castles, Viking strongholds, Norman keeps, early Christian monasteries, Georgian homes, thatched cottages, traditional pubs, and museum treasures. These heritage towns are saturated in stories of the past – just ask any local and they’ll regale you with fantastic folklore. We’ve included iconic sites, new tours, and spots the locals frequent.


This seaside village is a listed medieval heritage town. The 13th-century King John’s Castle juts out into the water, and is backed by a small town with a maze of laneways now bustling with lively pubs and eateries. Walk through the Tholsel, the arched gate into the once-walled town, and note the two fortified tower houses – the Mint and Taaffe’s Castle. Check out the soaring arches of the Dominican Friary established in 1305. You can visit the Carlingford Heritage Center, or better yet, hear the town’s stories firsthand on a walking tour with Carlingford Walks. Then head to PJ’s Oyster Bar & Restaurant established in 1777 to enjoy Carlingford oysters, Taaffe’s Red Ale, and live music. You can take the Scenic Carlingford Ferry to check out Greencastle Royal Castle guarding the other side of the lough.

The arched gate of Carlingford’s Tholsel is one of the last remnants of of the medieval walls protecting the town.


The ruins of Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, dominate this heritage town along the Boyne River. The 12th-century fortress surrounded by a curtain wall and moat was featured in the movie Braveheart (1995). A bridge connects the castle to medieval ruins across the river – the Yellow Steeple at St. Mary’s Abbey and Talbot Castle, former home of author Jonathan Swift. Take the River Walk along the Boyne to the ruins of the 13th-century Priory of St. John the Baptist and Saints Peter & Paul Cathedral. A number of old-fashioned pubs offer traditional music, including The Old Stand, James Griffin Pub, and Marcie Regan’s Pub. Stay in nearby Bellinter House, a stone Palladian mansion built in 1750, and treat yourself to afternoon tea or a traditional seaweed bath at the Bathhouse Spa. Nearby, walk along the Gothic arches of the Cloisters at Bective Abbey founded in 1147.

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