Bonamargy Friary, Ballycastle, County Antrim

Theres always a great atmosphere coming across a place like this as the Sun is starting to set. Creepy, yet hauntingly beautiful, we saw the old ruins from the road as we approached Ballycastle and had to loop back for a visit.

Bonamargy Friary in Ballycastle is a late Franciscan foundation established in 1485 by Rory MacQuillan. It is said that the first battle between the warring MacDonnell and MacQuillan clans was fought on nearby land. At the main entrance to the friary is a small, two storey gatehouse which opens into a store and workroom. Well worn steps lead directly to the dormitory above. Traces of an altar can still be found in the adjoining church, and the locked vaults hold the remains of the celebrated chieftain, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and several of the earls of Antrim.

Perhaps the Friary’s most famous resident was the 17th century prophet and recluse Julie MacQuillen. Known as ‘The Black Nun’, MacQuillen wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. A worn celtic cross (rounded with a hole in the centre) marks her grave at the west end of the main church.

Around 1822 four manuscripts were found in an old oaken chest in the ruins of Bonamargy Friary. One of these manuscripts is described as “Saint Bonaventures Life of Christ” and/or “A History of the Blessed Scriptures” Another manuscript contained a large portion of one of the principal theological works of Saint Thomas Aquinas, written on vellum, in very contracted Latin and extending to about 600 quarto pages. The earliest date appearing on it is 1338 and the latest 1380. It originally belonged to the Monastery of Saint Anthony, of Amiens in France.

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The entrance to Bonamargy

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Very atmospheric in the fading light of a February evening.

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The old surrounding graveyard and buildings

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One of the tombstones

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The circular stone disc at the bottom of the picture is said to be the marker for the grave of the “Black Nun”

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Quite a bit remains of the 16th century friary …

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The scene of many battles, death, and bloodshed, Bonamargy must have some tales to tell.

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As the Sun set, we left the friary to this fantastic view.

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