The seaside village of Blackrock, located just south of Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland, was once a bustling resort area for the landlocked people of Monaghan and Cavan. At the time, in the 1950s and 1960s, sand had to be brought into the village from coastal towns further south as the local sand continually washed away. When the tide goes out, the sea all but disappears, moving as much as 3 miles away from the shore, leaving in its wake dense sand and mudflats, providing a great habitat for wading birds.
First noted in the Book of Dundalk in 1752, Blackrock was initially a tiny fishing village. In 1841, the village boasted 507 inhabitants and 95 houses, mostly thatched cottages. After visitors complained of the lack of accommodations in the middle of the 19th century, local landlord Thomas Fortescue undertook the building of a wall along the main beach and several lodgings including the Blackrock Hotel, The Swans, and the Clermont Arms, which precipitated the rapid development of Blackrock as a popular holiday retreat, with people visiting from neighboring counties and as far away as Belfast and Scotland.
Today, the small and quiet village offers pleasant sandy beaches with sweeping views of Dundalk Bay and Cooley Mountains, backed by a promenade, which houses possibly the largest sundial in Ireland, the Millennium Sundial, built in 2000. Situated on a large paved area in the center of the walkway, the sundial is over 23 feet in diameter and the shadow giver is a nine foot bronze sculpture of a female diving figure.
Directly across from St. Oliver Plunkett’s Church in Blackrock is the sandy stretch of beach known as Ladies Beach. The sea wall at this point was constructed in the 1850s as a defense against the high tides and flooding. Part of the wall was made higher to allow the Victorian women privacy at the beach. Down the road a bit, across from the Café Acqua is a small but generous spot of beach just brimming with sea glass, begging you to fetch it off the sandy shore.
It’s not unheard of to collect 100 pieces in just about a half hour.
Where to Stay
Keernaun House Bed & Breakfast. Awarded Guesthouse of the Year, this guest house is located just 0.6 miles from the village of Blackrock, offering cooked-to-order breakfasts, free parking and free Wi-Fi. Dundalk town is 10 minutes’ drive away, and Dublin can be reached in 55 minutes by car.
Heritage Bed & Breakfast. Few miles further but with a rural setting, the Heritage B & B offers tea and coffee upon arrival, free Wi-Fi, and a lovely outdoor garden sitting area.
Check This Out
Wetlands and Wildlife Sanctuary. For nature lovers and bird watchers, the seashores around Blackrock provide habitats rich in diversity—wetlands salt marshes, river and shallows. Visit The Loakers Marshes and Wildlife Sanctuary on the north side of the village, and The Fane Estuary and Wetlands on the south side.
The Architecture. The oldest remaining fisherman’s cottage still stands on the street alongside other more elaborate buildings such as The Brake, and The Clermont, which date back to the 1840s. Other noteworthy buildings include the A.O.H building, the Boathouse, and other Victorian homes around the village.
The Clermont Arms. A well appointed place, with much of the original building features, showing a satisfying menu, nice wine list, and warm and friendly staff. Good option for well-presented fare in a small town.
The Brake Tavern. A pleasant family owned restaurant with an excellent reputation for good food and friendly atmosphere.
Café Acqua. Quaint and small. Stop in for a quick bite, beautiful croissants, or traditional breakfast. Their version of the “Americano” coffee is really quite delightful.
This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine March/April 2018 issue.