Is Ballymote Famous

…… I was just asked

Yes, Ballymote and its surroundings famous for a lot of things.

I’ll add photos and video clips to this asap ….

Nearby Culfadda is the family home for both mother and father of Michael Flatley who often visits and attends mass at the church next to where I currently live, as well as play flute at local Ballymote and area sessions.

Father Walfrid founded Ballymote Celtic football club and then in 1887 went to Glasgow to found Glasgow Celtic football club. There is a shrine to him here in Ballymote that attracts 1000s of Celtic supporters every year.

1391  Book of Ballymote was written at an abbey  by the monk scribes Manus O'Duignan, Solomon O'Droma, and Robert McSheedy, for the clan chief Tonnaltagh McDonagh but was seized by the O'Donnell clan who donated it to Trinity College, Dublin in 1620, but was stolen from there and mysteriously disappeared until 1785, thought to have been seized back by the McDonaghs.

This book commences with a drawing of Noah's Ark followed by a description of the ages of the world, then a history of the Jews; a life of Saint Patrick, a copy of The Book of Invasions, The Instructions of King Cormac, (who was born nearby in Keash Caves), stories of Fionn Mac Cumhail and Brian Borumha, genealogies of various clans and kings,  The Book of Rights, and the Ogham Treatis. The end of the book is a collection of Greek and Latin works on the fall of Troy, with a bit of the Aeneid thrown in.

The abbey today has served as a cemetery for the travelling folk, the tinkers, for a few hundred years.

The abbey is connected to Ballymote Castle a Norman castle built by order of Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, to defend his newly captured lands of Connaught. It was captured by the O'Connors of Sligo in 1317, captured by the Ulster based Mac Diarmada clan in 1347 and then by local clan, McDonaghs, in 1381 who held onto it for some time. The O’Connors took back the castle, by treaty, in 1571 who surrendered the castle to James 1 of England in 1577 who re-granted the castle back to the O’Connors.  In 1584 its was finally seized for the English by Richard Bingham, Governor of Connaught.

However, for all the changing of hands the castle was not actually lived in from 1317 until 1584 except for short residences by some of the kings of Connaught. 

The O'Connors, O'Hartes and O'Dowds often raided the castle from 1584 and in 1598 the English surrendered it in to the MacDonaghs who sold it shortly afterwards to Red Hugh O’Donnell. It was from here that Red Hugh O'Donnell marched to his disaster at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, which included the forced surrendering of the castle to the English again in 1602, but by this time Ballymote castle was turning into a ruin. There were some attempts to make it residential until 1690 when the moat was filled up and the castle left to fall into ruins.

Going back into ancient times

Around 200 AD, Cormac mac Airt was born in nearby Cheis Coarran mountain. Mac Airt translates as “son of the Wolf” and in legend Romans called him Urterus. Legends of the area are very similar to the Arthurian legends of Glastonbury, especially as the mountain of the cave Cormac was born in is also known as Morrigan’s mountain. Airt is pronounced “art” and then at a bit of “urterus” and the story clicks. Cormac mac Airt rules from Tara with tales so similar to the Arthurian legends too, and these Irish stories are older than the Arthurian legends.

I often feel that Ballymote deserves the traditions and reputations of Glastonbury and I think it may well do over the next 10 years.

Going back further the lands now Ballymote were an important settling area of the incoming Tuatha De Dannan around 1500 BC. It is said that Dagda’s brother Ogma set up the first “university” in Ireland here which included teaching the Ogham language, one of the most ancient duplicating international languages based on the imagery of trees as well as providing the earliest musical notation. The ogham language was still used by farmers in Ireland to notify the boundaries of their lands, by wooden post carvings, up until the 1930s.

This was also said to be an area where the Tuatha de Dannan taught and spread their was of abundant agriculture. Earlier legend speaks of Morrigan giving birth to Bhride  through the Cheis Coarran caves where her broken waters flooded then fertilised the land to enable abundant yields from crops. The earliest discoveries of European agriculture have been found in this area as well as in Co. Mayo. Ceide Fields is the most famous.

Bhride evolved to become known as Bride, Brideog, Brighid, Brigid, Brigit, Britten and Britannia with deviations leading into Caitlin, Kathleen, Catherine and Grainne and Grace along with Maire, Mary and Murhy, Murray.

Going back to the opening page of the Book of Ballymote it sometimes feels like this is where Noah’s Ark really landed, but from the “Deluge” of around 1500 BC there were probably several arks, and I am sure at least one found its way to Ballymote, “the Beltaine town of the mound”.

Would you like to visit Ballymote and its surroundings?

We serve day tours, short breaks and longer tours exploring the local ancient sites, traditions, and stories of the Ballymote and Ballinafad regions of Co. Sligo from our Celtic Ways centre between these two townlands. This commences from our local 5500 year old Carrowkeel passage cairns and Cheis caves plus a walk up Morrigan’s mountain for the energetic along. For those staying longer we venture into the sites, scenes and traditions of counties Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Cavan, Fermanagh and sometimes Donegal, Derry, Tyrone, Galway and Clare. 

You can also spend some time trying out our labyrinth garden, from November this year and tradition ceilis in our Two Worlds little theatre.

Local accommodation arranged, farmhouse B&B or very relaxing and pampering spa hotel that is perfect for a day or two of jet lag wind down

Contact me



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