ARDGLASS

From The Story of Belfast by Mary Lowry (circa 1913)

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ARDGLASS takes its name from "Ardholl" the High Green from the lofty ward hill. It was in former days a place of great importance, a corporate town and a royal borough sending members to Parliament. It was once the second town in Ulster, and was next to Carrickfergus as a seat of trade, being one of the most important seaports, and it was also a place of immense military strength. No other town in the country ever was so well fortified. It has a most imposing situation and an extensive view of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man, and the blue hills of Galloway along the horizon.

The great number of fortified and castellated edifices gives the place a unique appearance, which renders its present obscurity all the more remarkable.

Ancient records tell us that a monastery was there which was founded—as usual—by St. Patrick, but it is not like the kind of place where a monastery would probably be built. Safer and more sheltered situations were more frequently used.

There was a large parish church on the top of a hill where a terrible disaster once occurred. On a Christmas night when there was a large congregation assembled, a hostile clan descended upon them, and there was a dreadful scene of murder. After this outbreak the church was abandoned and another built lower down. Ardglass is now chiefly remarkable for the number of very old castles, nearly all in ruins, but all pointing to the broken glory of departed days. Only the shell of some remain, but even those old walls are vibrant with romance. Some of them are said to have been built by De Courci and most likely were, as they date from the twelfth century. The largest is King Castle, a fortress of great size.

Jordan's Castle was besieged for three years in the time of Queen Elizabeth. It was a finer building than any of the others, and a place of considerable strength. The armorial bearings of the family are cut in the stone, a cross and three horseshoes. There is Margaret's Castle and Tower and Horn Castle, so named from the possession of some curious horns found near Ardglass Castle. A strange name is Coud Castle, which means "without horns." Another stands detached beside a most remarkable pile of buildings which were erected by Shane O'Neill in the year 1570. It is a long range of castellated houses extending for 234 feet. A battlement surmounts the inward side, and a wide platform is built along the front, and there are three towers at equal distance, fifteen arched doorways of cut stone, and sixteen square windows. They may have once been used for shops. The upper storey is exactly the same, and each has a separate stone staircase, but there is no fireplace in all the building. This strange line of old houses tells its silent tale of the past. It is rather sad to see a place so full of ruins, and with so much buried history that we shall in all probability never now find out.

After the rebellion of 1641, Ardglass rapidly declined, until now it is a veritable sleepy hollow, and its fishing industry is almost all that is left of its former greatness.

The railway may—let us hope—prove a benefit to the town, and also the golf links. Ardglass has all the natural advantages that go to make a prosperous watering-place. It has most lovely surroundings, fine air, and a wide open sea front with a stretch of view unsurpassed. It only requires to be better known, for, to a great many people, Ardglass is only a name.

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