The breathtaking ruins of Inch Abbey, Co. Down
Northern Ireland has a long and rich Christian heritage which is enshrined in our abbeys, monasteries and churches, while the St. Patrick’s Trail will take you on a journey through a host of Christian sites all with strong links to this patron saint.
From the more modest to the more impressive, these sites have been able to tell us much about our past way of life.
Part of the St. Patrick’s Trail and built around a flowing stream through a secluded valley in Downpatrick, Struell Wells was a popular place of pilgrimage from the 1600s until the mid-1800s – with the waters believed to hold curative powers.
Bonamargy Friary, County Antrim was built close to the mouth of the Carey and Shesk rivers by the Rory MacQuillan clan in 1500. Their rivals, the MacDonnell’s fought for and claimed the friary from the MacQuillans in 1588.
Apart from the building’s thatched roof, the friary has been well preserved over the years with many interesting features to see including the east window, staircase and a burial vault.
Situated along the north bank of the Quoile River in County Down, Inch Abbey was founded by John De Courcy in atonement for his destruction of Erenagah Abbey. The buildings are mainly from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries with the church believed to be even older than that.
Founded in 1193 by John de Courcy’s wife, Afreca and located in the grounds of the eighteenth century Rosemount House, visitors to Grey Abbey can walk amongst the ruins and lawns of this breathtaking abbey church – including a ‘medieval’ physic garden at the onsite visitor centre.
Another stop on the St. Patrick’s Trail, Nendrum Monastic Site is believed to have been set up by St Machaoi in the fifth century. The monastery consists of three round dry stone walled enclosures set within each other – and is thought to be the best example of a pre-Norman monastic site in Northern Ireland.
In a secluded island in the stunning Fermanagh Lakelands, you’ll come across the island of Devenish, home to the ruins of a parish church, St Mary’s Augustine Priory and an impressive round tower. During the years the island has been raided by Vikings and devastated by fire before re-flourishing in the Middle Ages.
Little is known about the remarkable ruins of Dungiven Priory, Derry~Londonderry but it is believed that it hosted a pre-Norman monastery and by 1200AD was home to an Augustinian monastery. Tradition has it that the site was founded by local clan, the O’Cahans, but this is doubtful. What we do know is that the tomb of Cooey-na-Gall, an O’Cahan chief, can be found in the priory.
Maghera Church and Round Tower
The historic remains of Maghera Church and Round Tower marks the site of an early church founded by the sixth century St Domongart (Donard) who gave his name to the highest peak in the Mourne Mountains.
Visitors can explore the remains of a medieval parish, oval graveyard and pre-Norman cross-carved stones on the site.