Bradshaw’s General Directory of 1820 tells us that the district of Mourne was bestowed in the Twelfth Century to the abbey of Newry, then under Elizabeth it was transferred to Sir Henry Bagnal and afterwards to his daughter, who married into the Needham family. It takes its name from the 14th Century St. Colman’s church cill-caol, which means the ‘church of the narrows.’ As of 1820, it remained in possession of Lord Viscount Kilmorey;

“Kilkeel, a handsome village, is situated near the sea, and distant from Rosstrevor, seven miles. A new church has lately been erected here, which adds much to the beauty of the place. There is a dissenting meeting-house, attended by a most respectable congregation, and a Roman Catholic chapel is nearly completed, in the neighbourhood of the town. The inhabitants of this place, and the surrounding country, are noted for their hospitality and attention to strangers. In the summer season, the shore might be made the resort of bathers and invalids, from the fine sandy beach…there is not the least doubt of many visitors preferring it to its rival, Newcastle… Annalong, a small village situated on this coast is principally the resort of fishing boats.”

Not much has changed since 1820 it is plain to see. Kilkeel is still the welcoming town it was almost two hundred years ago. The town has grown in size and popularity, becoming a popular tourist attraction due to the beautiful views of the Mourne Mountains and the picturesque harbour, now home to Northern Ireland’s largest fishing fleet.