A Ramble Around Rostrevor

Located in one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, Rostrevor has changed little since its Edwardian heyday, when it was one of the most popular tourist resorts in the country.

On this walk through Rostrevor’s past and present, we’ll be visiting the inspiration for Narnia, travelling back to the dawn of Irish Christianity, meeting some rather unfriendly folk from another realm and discovering the village’s connection to the American national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner.


The Rostrevor Inn

We’re starting at the Rostrevor Inn, housed in one of the village’s oldest buildings in Bridge Street. It’s believed to have been built at some point in the 1700s and we know that by 1853 it was being operated by the Crawford family as a grocery.

The family also opened a hardware store next door. In the 1980s, the McAllisters took it over and Crawford’s became the Glenside. The current owners have stripped the building back to its original walls of local stone and brick, and retained the original timber beams too.

In 2007 the old hardware store was turned into a traditional bar for the filming of Maeve Binchy’s ‘How About You’ with Vanessa Redgrave and Brenda Fricker. It has been kept as a traditional bar and named for the Crawford family, while the cobblestoned stables area, where the Guinness was bottled as recently as the 70s, is now an atmospheric snug.
©Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Kilbroney Park

At the beginning of Fairy Glen is the entrance to Kilbroney Park. It was once the estate of the Bowes Lyon family, where the present Queen and her sister regularly holidayed. Today Kilbroney Park belongs to everyone.

CS Lewis said the view from here overlooking Carlingford Lough was his idea of Narnia. Walk up to Fiddler’s Green, past the ancient oak forest, and you can share his inspiration looking over the lough.

That’s why the charming Narnia Trail has been created in the park. The forest park above is the location for world-class mountain bike trails and wonderful hiking trails. In the foothills of Slieve Martin, the first of the Mourne Mountains, it is the start for trekkers across the Mournes.

Original Rostrevor Inn

Around the corner from Fairy Glen is Water Street, the oldest part of Rostrevor, where you can still see the building which housed the original Rostrevor Inn. Back in 1814, local man General Ross enjoyed his farewell meal here before departing for America, where he led British forces on their campaign, capturing Washington and burning down the White House before setting in train the events that led to the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. The house is now privately owned.

Chapel/St Bronagh

Around the corner is St Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic church. The church hosts the famous St Bronagh’s Bell, which dates back to the 9th century. A disciple of St Patrick, she founded a religious settlement here in Kilbroney, which means the valley of Bronagh.

For hundreds of years after St Bronagh's church became a ruin, a bell was heard ringing during stormy weather. The mystery was solved in 1839, after the 'night of the big wind' (a hurricane which terrorised Ireland) when it was discovered in a large tree that had blown down. According to local folklore, if you pray to Bronagh and ring the bell three times, your prayer will be answered.

Kilborney Graveyard

Bronagh founded her religious settlement here in what is now Kilbroney old graveyard. The ruins here are of a 12th century church built on the site of her settlement and St Bronagh herself is believed to have been buried here. People still come to the holy well here seeking cures for throat and eye ailments.

One of the largest granite crosses in the graveyard belongs to the grave of Giant Murphy, once the world’s tallest man. It is said to be the same height as him, over 8 feet tall.

If you continue up the Hilltown Road you will find yourself at the first Benedictine monastery to be built for 800 years in the north of Ireland. Holy Cross, in the valley of St Bronagh, is a deeply spiritual place where all are welcome and many stay on retreat.

Church of Ireland/Barrack Green

Back in the village, bordering the Square is the former Barrack Green. Here, one of Rostrevor's most enduring heroes is said to have been flogged nearly to death. Tom Dunn was a hedge schoolteacher, whose barn was used by United Irishmen revolutionaries who fought for liberty and independence from England.

Built on land donated by the Ross family, the parish church still has the communion silver donated by General Ross's grandmother, Ann, at this time. A monument to him was erected in the parish church.

The Square/Fiddlers Green

Rostrevor’s Square has changed little over the centuries. Here, where General Patton once exhorted US troops stationed in the village to redouble their efforts to defeat the Nazis, the space is now used for a more peaceful purpose each July.

The Ceilidh in the Square is one of the highlights of Rostrevor's annual Fiddlers Green Festival. Over the years some of the greatest names in Irish music have performed at the festival from the Dubliners and Clancy brothers to Mary Black, De Dannan and Sharon Shannon. 2016 will see a special 30th anniversary festival in July.
Ross Monument

Ross Monument

As befits one the area’s most famous sons the 100ft obelisk erected to General Ross at the entry to the village towers over all. It was erected by the men who served with Ross on numerous campaigns, as well as local citizens. It is situated on the site overlooking Carlingford Lough where he and his wife Elizabeth had were to build their dream home had he not been killed at the Battle of Baltimore.

Crag Graveyard

Across from the Square is the old Crag graveyard in the heart of the village. The ruins here are those of St Pauls, the village church which was dedicated in 1732. By 1822 it was too small for a growing village and the new parish church was built in the Square. People continued to be buried here – sailors, farmers and gentry alike – for some years. The most famous to rest here is Elizabeth Ross, widow of the White House burning general.

Now it’s just a short walk back to the Rostrevor Inn!