The Loughinisland Churches are the ruins of three churches on what was once an island in a lake of the same name in County Down. The churches can now be reached by a causeway from the west, and they are a stunning sight to behold. The earliest records of a parish church on Loughinisland is recorded in the 14th century and it is assumed this refers to the oldest of the three churches, the middle church. It is thought the middle church dates from the 13th century, understandably the church is the most ruinous of the three, with only walls measuring a metre or two at most. Some features of this church still remain such as the narrow splayed windows on the north and south walls, also the remains of a small wall cupboard on the southeast of the structure and the east window remain.
The north church is the largest of the three and holds the highest point on the island. It is believed to date from the 15th century and was probably built as a replacement for the middle church. There are doorways in its west and south walls, with the south wall showing evidence of a later rebuild. Possibly the oldest inscribed grave slab in the graveyard has been incorporated into the wall of the church, belonging to the Byrne family, dating from 1617. This church was once used by both Catholic and Protestants who used to hold services there, many times directly after one another. Sometime around 1720 this peaceful agreement broke down, some records say due to the Catholics wishing to remain in the church during a storm, but whether or not this is true, the Protestant congregation soon after removed the church roof and brought it with them to a newly built structure at Seaforde.
The south church, known as MacCartan’s chapel is located at the southern end of the island, it appears this may have been a private chapel and is the resting place of many of the MacCartan’s who are referred to many times in the Annals as the Chiefs of Kinelarty, the area around Slieve Croob. The tiny west doorway is carved with the initials PMC and the date 1636 and could refer to Phelim MacCartan who died in 1631 or his son or grandson, both named Patrick.
The graveyard is overgrown in parts and well manicured in others, with an array of gravestones, mostly dating from the 18th and 19th centuries but up to the present day.
GPS: 54.33726, -5.81238