Killydonnell Franciscan friary

Beautifully situated by the shore of the river Swilly and draped in ivy, the enclosed ruins and cemetery overwhelmed us with a sense of stillness and timelessness, like stepping into a frozen piece of history. The Friary was founded in 1471 by the O'Donnells, ruling clan of Donegal, for the Franciscan Friars on the site of an older church, possibly 10th Century. It was completed in the early 16th Century by Calvagh O'Donnell. In 1603, with the Plantation of Ulster, the land was given to Captain Basil Brooke who closed down the Friary. It has remained a burial ground for the local community since closing.

The ruins consist of a nave and chancel church with a southern transept. There are a number of buildings attached to the north. These originally had two storeys but little remains of the upper level. The lower storeys are vaulted. There are two large recesses in the east wall of the transept. The small vaulted chambers to the north of the church may have been the sacristy and has been converted for use as a vault for the remains of the last of the Stewarts of Fort Stewart. There is a legend that the bell of Killydonnell was carried off by raiders from Tyrone who put to sea with it in a boat. A storm came up and they were drowned. The bell is heard to toll once every seven years at midnight.


Situated: Two miles SE of Rathmelton.

Discovery Map 2: C 2500 1829. Last visit Apr 2010.

Longitude: 7° 36' 33" W

Latitude: 55° 0' 41" N

Google Map.

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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