Infobox Irish Place
name = Kilkeel
gaeilge = Cill Chaoil

motto =

pin coords = left: 155px; top: 150px
north coord = 54.059 | west coord = 5.992
area = | elevation =
province = Ulster
county = County Down
NI district = Newry and Mourne
UK constituency = South Down
EU constituency = Northern Ireland
stdcode = 028, +44 28
posttown = Newry
postcode = BT34
population = 6,338
census yr = 2001
web =

Kilkeel (derive|Irish|Cill Chaoil|church of the narrow place) is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is the main fishing port on the Down coast, and the town’s harbour houses one of the largest fishing fleets in Ireland. It had a population of 6,338 people in the 2001 Census. The town contains the ruins of a 14th century church in the centre, winding streets, terraced shops and a fort also dating from the 14th century. A much newer attraction is the Nautilus Centre.


Kilkeel is situated on the most southeasterly point of County Down, east of the city of Newry and south of Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast. It is located by the sea and is surrounded by the Mourne Mountains. It is approximately four miles away from the famed Silent Valley Reservoir which supplies most of the tap water to Belfast.

Four miles from the town itself is Cranfield [ [Cranfield point] , which is a European Blue Flag beach. Facilities there include a shop, tourist information, a lifeguard station, toilets, children's play area and popular caravan parks.

The town lies in what was formerly the "016937" telephone area code along with nearby Warrenpoint and Rostrevor, which changed in 2000 to become "(028) 417x xxxx". All local lines commence with "4176 xxxx".


Kilkeel takes its name from the old church overlooking the town, it being the anglicised version of the Gaelic 'Cill Choal'. For many years it was thought to translate to 'Narrow Church' however nowadays it is thought to mean 'The Church of/in the Narrow Place' and because of its location, on an elevated narrow site this seems to have been confirmed.

It is believed that this old church was financed by a Spanish noble family after their son had been drowned and washed ashore and given a Christian burial by the locals. However there are references to Kilkeel as a Christian settlement as far back as the 11th century. Kilkeel is the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Mourne and even today the surrounding area is referred to as the Kingdom of Mourne.

The old church, dating back to the 13th century was dedicated to St. Colman and was known in 1388 as 'St Colman Del Morne'. It was thought to be the principal Church in a group which included Kilmegan and Kilcoo despite the fact that Kilkeel was very sparsely populated in the Middle Ages. The cemetery attached to the church was used for burials until the early years of last century. Some of the victims of the collision between two steamers in Carlingford Lough in 1916 were the last people to be buried there.


The harbour at Kilkeel bustles with the province's largest fleet, and is busiest during landings and at auction time when fish, including herring, are sold on the quay. There are fish-processing factories around the port, pleasure angling off the piers and miles of lobster pots along the coast.


*The town is also known as the location where William Hare died.
*Robert Hill Hanna (1887 - 1967), was an immigrant Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross. He was a Company Sergeant-Major in the 29th (Vancouver) Bn., Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I when on 21 August 1917, he led a courageous action at Hill 70 Lens, France. He was born near Hanna's Close in Kilkeel and still has many members of family remaining in the area. His personal sword is on the wall of Kilkeel British Legion

Tullaghmurray Lass

On 14 February 2002 The Tullaghmurray Lass left Kilkeel Harbour to fish for prawns. When the boat failed to return when expected a huge search mission was organised involving local fishing boats, the RNLI, HM Coastguard, the Royal Navy and the Irish Navy.

Two months later the main body of the wreckage and the bodies of the three crew were recovered. Tragically, the three victims were from the same family. Michael Greene (54), his son (32) and grandson (8), both of whom were also called Michael, died in the accident. An inquest found that a gas explosion on the boat causing huge damage caused it to sink.

2001 Census

Kilkeel is classified as a Small Town by the [ NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)] (ie with population between 4,500 and 10,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 6,338 people living in Kilkeel. Of these:
*26.2% were aged under 16 years and 18.2% were aged 60 and over
*48.4% of the population were male and 51.6% were female
*3.5% of people aged 16-74 were unemployed.

The Religious Divide

The town of Kilkeel has a strong Unionist heritage. But while, in 2001, the ward of "Kilkeel Central" was recorded as 69% Protestant (21% Catholic, 10% other), the ward of "Kilkeel South" was only 37% Protestant (55% Catholic, 7% other). Although this division has led to remarkably little serious violence, it is made clear in the way in which different regions of the town are still marked up in the colours and slogans of the locally dominant grouping, and in the frequent marching of the various bands.

In the past, the Kilkeel Urban Council (now defunct) area , despite being predominantly Roman Catholic, returned a Unionist dominated council for many years.

Kilkeel now sits within the administrative area of Newry and Mourne, which is recorded in the 2001 census as being 80.6% Catholic.

For more details see: [ NI Neighbourhood Information Service]


*Brackenagh West Primary School
*Grange Primary School
*Holy Cross Primary School
*Kilkeel High School
*Kilkeel Primary School
*Mourne Independent Christian School
*St. Colman's Primary School
*St. Columban's College
*St. Louis Grammar School


Most popular sports in the Kilkeel area include:


AFL star Martin Clarke played gaelic for local club An Riocht, and he comes from Cranfield, just outside Kilkeel, while World University Golf champion Danielle McViegh also comes from Kilkeel. Danielle won individual gold in the Universities World Championships held in Bangkok in June 2007.

Football Clubs in the area:

Ballyvea F.CKilkeel F.C
Valley Rangers F.C

Gaelic Clubs in the area:
[ An Riocht]

Kilkeel Golf Course
Cranfield Pitch and Putt


* [ Culture Northern Ireland]

See also

* List of towns in Northern Ireland
* List of villages in Northern Ireland
* List of RNLI stations

Kilmorey Arms Hotel

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