Armoy Round Tower is an 11th century structure that stands in the grounds of the 19th century St Patrick’s Church of Ireland near the village of Armoy, County Antrim. It is recorded that a monastic site was founded there by a follower of St Patrick named Saint Olcán in the 5th century, however the founding of monasteries by followers of St. Patrick are widespread in Irish literature so should always be viewed with that in mind. Regardless of this the site has other features that give an idea of its antiquity, archaeological work has revealed a medieval parish church underlying the base of the current St Patrick’s. In 1997 during roadworks near the church a souterrain and a stone passage were discovered that dated circa 1000AD. During this 1997 excavation multiple burials were found within the church including the severed feet of a leper thought to be at least 400 years old.
The Round Tower is one of the shortest in the country, measuring just 11 meters, but excavations in 1843 by Edmund Getty showed that the base of the tower is actually two metres below the current ground level outside the tower. At the bottom of this tower a head with part of the spine attached was found buried in the earth, due to how it was carefully severed from its body and the placement within the tower it may have been the head of an important member of the local clan, kept in the tower for protection. When the 19th century church was constructed the tower served as a bell tower, Samuel Lewis’ 1837 Topographical Dictionary of Ireland sates, “the present rector has enclosed the upper part with a dome of wood and stone, in which is placed the church bell.“ A belfry was completed in the current church in 1846. Though small, Armoy Round Tower is a striking edifice and well worth a stop if you are visiting North Antrim.
GPS: 55.13474, -6.31075