One the most impressive sites we visited in Down recently were the three churches on Loughinisland. This was a natural island but is now connected by a causeway. The first church we came to was the south church at the bottom of the hill. Known as Macartan's chapel it was built in c.1636 and was probably a private chapel for the family. The Macartan's appear in the annals as chiefs of Kinelarty and one of their principal seats was Annadorn on the other side of the lake. The west doorway has the initials PMC (Phelim Macartan) and the date 1636 carved at the top. High above the doorway is a weathered mask.
On our way to the middle church we noticed some 18th century tomb inscriptions around the Macartan Chapel. One of them reads "Here lieth ye body of John MacArtan, the Macartan of Kinelarty who departed this life ye 26th day of Sept. 1736 aged 96 years......"
The oldest church on the island is the middle church which is believed to have been built in the 13th century. As we made our way up the hill we could see the building is quite ruined. The entrance in the 11 metre long south wall has been destroyed and most of the walls are only about 3 metres high. From here we wandered over to the lake. This really is a beautiful serene site and the weather was ideal for our visit.
Perched on top of the hill is the largest of the churches, built in the 15th century as a replacement for the earlier middle church. The church was in use by both Catholics and Protestants up until 1720. There is an entrance in the west gable and another arched entrance in the south wall. Similar to the south church there is a weathered mask high up on the west gable. Built into the south wall is the oldest tombstone from the graveyard. The translation from latin reads " Maurice Birn lies covered by this pile of stones which, whilst living, he erected at his own expense A.D. 1617". A path runs around the bottom of the hill offering superb views across the lake.
Situated: From Clough in Down head north on the A24 for 2.8 miles then turn right onto Loughinisland Rd. Then next right 100 yds. 0.5 miles take another right. Then 0.4 miles turn right. 100 yards turn left.
Discovery Map 21: J 4232 4533. Last visit July 2013.
Longitude: 5° 48' 42" W
Latitude: 54° 20' 12" N
Photos: Jim Dempsey.