Inch Abbey, Down, Ireland

The Abbey at Inch is a beautiful 12th century structure situated on the north bank of the Quoile River just outside the town of Downpatrick. A monastic settlement has existed at this site since 800AD known as Inis Cumhscraigh however traces of this are only visible via aerial surveys. This early monastery was attacked and plundered in 1001AD by a Viking raid led by Sitric Silkbeard and again by the native Irish in 1149AD, and probably was still in existence when the Anglo-Normans arrived. A Knight named John de Courcy destroyed a monastery at Erenagh in 1177, south of Downpatrick and to atone for this destruction he founded the abbey at Inch between 1180 and 1188. The abbey was distinctively Anglo-Norman and John de Courcy invited monks from the Cistercian Abbey at Furness in Lancashire, England, to found the new abbey, along with some of the remaining monks from Erenagh. The Cistercians who as a order valued self-sufficiency and remoteness were satisfied with the placement of Inch which was still an island off the north bank of the River Quoile at this time. The Abbey remained a strong centre of English influence throughout its life due to the barring of any native Irish from the community. In 1318 accusations were made about the monks of Inch Abbey hunting the native Irish with spears and then singing Vespers in the evening! Monastic life continued right up until 1542 and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the property was passed through several hands culminating in the Perceval Maxwell family who granted the ruins into State care in 1910.

GPS: 54.33659, -5.72962

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