Irish: Ráth Fraoileann
 Rathfriland shown within County Down
Population 2,740 (2001 Census)
CountyCounty Down
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post town NEWRY
Dialling code 028
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK ParliamentSouth Down
NI AssemblySouth Down
List of places
Northern Ireland

Coordinates: 54°14′17″N 6°09′40″W / 54.238°N 6.161°W / 54.238; -6.161

Rathfriland (from Irish: Ráth Fraoileann, meaning "ringfort of Fraoile")[1] is a town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is a hilltop Plantation of Ulster settlement between the Mourne Mountains, Slieve Croob and Banbridge.


In older English documents, the village's name was usually spelt Rathfylan or Rathfrilan.[2] It was once the capital of the Magennis family. The ruins (south gable 30 ft x 25 ft) of an old castle may still be seen on the hill upon which Rathfriland sits. It was a square building of 3-4 storeys with a stone barrel vault at the ground floor to lessen the risk of fire. The castle was once much bigger but most of it was pulled-down by Mr William Hawkins of London, the first Protestant proprietor there after the rebellion of 1641, and the rest destroyed by General Ireton on Oliver Cromwell's orders. The stones were used to build the Town Inn (the building of which still stands on the corner of The Square and Newry Street) and other houses in the village. In 1760 the Market House, which dominates the main square, was built for the linen market by Miss Theodosia McGill. An old map of 1776 prepared for the Meade Estate shows streets, lanes, tenements and gardens forming the early village.

A clock-faced war memorial stands in the square on the southeastern side. To this day, the names Meade, Maginess and Hawkins live on in Rathfriland, most notably in Iveagh Primary School where the three surnames are the name of the 'houses' or teams on sports day.

The Dolly's Brae conflict took place between Rathfriland and the nearby town of Castlewellan on 12 July 1849. Up to 1,400 Orangemen marched from Rathfriland to Tollymore Park near Castlewellan, County Down. When 1,000 barely armed Ribbonmen gathered, rocks were thrown at the Orange parade. Catholic homes were burned and 80 Catholics killed.[3]

Rathfriland lies in the county of Down, the baronies of Iveagh Lower, Lower Half and Iveagh Upper, Upper Half, the townlands of Rossconor and Lessize, the district electoral area of Knockiveagh, and the civil parishes of Drumballyroney and Drumgath.

Notable people

Famous personalities with local connections include:

Church of Ireland baptismal records for Drumballyroney between 1838 and 1871 were made available on the Irish Family History Foundation[4] website on 14 May 2014.


The following churches are located in the town and several more are found in the surrounding countryside:

All local Protestant churches are strongly evangelical.


Education is provided by three schools:


Rathfriland was served by Ballyroney railway station, only a few miles away. Goods and passengers were transported from the station to the village. The former GNR (I) line between Banbridge and Newcastle was shut down in 1955 by the UTA.[5]

Rathfriland has many services run by Translink, including Ulsterbus and Goldline routes to Newcastle, Banbridge, Newry and Downpatrick.


Rathfriland Rangers F.C. play association football in the Northern Amateur Football League.

Other sporting clubs include:


Rathfriland is classified as a village by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) but is described as a town by most residents. On the most recent census day (27 March 2011) there were 2,740 people living in the ward of Rathfriland. Of these:

This represents an increased population from 2,079 in April 2001. The population had increased from 1,886 in 1971 to 2,243 ten years later but had then decreased to 2,126 in 1991 and had continued to fall. New construction had increased the population to an estimated 2,575 (within the settlement development limit) in 2008. More details are available from the Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service.


The town has had its own newspaper (The Outlook) since 1940.


  1. Toner,G Ó Mainnín, M (1992). Place-Names of Northern Ireland Volume One. County Down I. Newry and South-West Down, p.126. The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project, Department of Celtic, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast. ISBN 0-8538-9432-9
  2. Placenames Database of Ireland: Rathfriland/Ráth Fraoileann (see archival records)
  3. "Parades and Marches - Chronology 2: Historical Dates and Events". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  4. enquiries@rootsireland.ie
  5. "Ballyroney station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
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