2.10 Tullaghobegley

The ruins of the late medieval Tullaghobegley Church and graveyard lie on a small mound just to the south of Falcarragh. This tulach - or ‘low hill’ or ‘mound’ - was probably used for tribal inauguration ceremonies or other gatherings.

Remains of other ancient monuments can be found nearby including burial grounds, a holy well and the prehistoric Cloghacorr Court Tomb. This suggests that the area was a focus for rituals as far back as c.3000BC.

The parish of Tullaghabegley covers a large area of this northwest corner of Donegal. The area is named after and connected with a local saint - Bigill, Tulcha or Bigill of Tulach. It is possible that this saint and the practice of celebrating his feast day on 1 November, have their origins in pre-Christian pagan belief when the feast of Samain was celebrated on this same day.

The name of the mythical figure of Lug may offer another explanation for the origin of Tullaghobegley. An early name for this mound and its church was Talgalug in Latin or Tulach Logha in Irish which means the ‘mound or assembly place of Lug’.

Locally the saint is also known as Beigbhile or Beaglaoch and is claimed to have been a relative of Colmcille. Beaglaoch appears in the story of how Colmcille came to convert Tory Island by winning a staff-throwing contest - Begley’s staff only made it as far as Tullaghobegley which is why he built his church on this site.

Another story collected locally claims to explain why the church was here:-

Beaglaoch was traveling through the Muckish Gap, wandering ‘with no fixed destination … except that he knew that God was telling him to keep on going.’ He had no possessions, except for a donkey which he had found lost and wandering. The donkey was ‘unbiddable’. As evening came on, the saint sat down to rest, leaving the donkey to range free in the fresh grass. As he sat there, the saint had ‘some sort of vision’ and realized that he had reached his destination.

Wherever the donkey settled himself for the night was the site for the new foundation. So the saint tracked down the donkey, and found him easily enough, settled down for the night on a grassy mound – a place, as it happened, where the local pagans engaged in their heathen practices of celebration and commemoration of their gods. Beaglaoch [St Begley] took possession of the place. He blessed it in the name of the Lord. He expelled the superstitious heathens. And that is how God brought Beaglaoch to the tulach.

(quoted from: Tulach Beaglaoich inné agus inniu. Glór na nGael, An Fál Carrach, agus Cumann Staire is Seanchais Chloich Cheann Fhaola)


Getting there

From Ray head back west to Falcarragh. In the middle of Falcarragh turn right towards Letterkenny on the R256.

On the edge of the town take a right fork. As the road bends round to the right, you will see a signpost for Tullaghobegley on the left. Park in the lane and walk up to the graveyard.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.1 An Chros Tau

    As you arrive in Tory the first site to greet you is the Tau Cross. Sitting high on a plinth, the T-shaped stone cross is a symbol of the island’s Christian heritage.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.2 The Old Graveyard

    The graveyard is believed to be on the site of an Teampull Buí - the main church of a monastic settlement on Tory.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.3 The Bell Tower

    The Bell Tower is the only surviving round tower in Donegal. Although nearly 13 metres tall it is among the smallest of such structures in Ireland. Its date is not known but could be as late as the 12th century.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.4 St John's Altar

    This altar dedicated to St John the Baptist is just beside the Bell Tower. There are a number of stones here - including a stone trough, decorated stones and slabs, a quern (millstone) and the remains of the base of a cross.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.5 St Brigid's Oratory

    The stone altar of St Brigid lies between the islanders’ houses. On top of the altar are three quern stones (used for grinding corn) and two granite slabs.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.6 Church of the Seven

    These are the only chapel remains on Tory Island. Móirsheisear translates as ‘big six’ which is an old Irish word for the number seven.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.7 Rock of the Hound

    Local tradition says that when Colmcille first set foot on Tory, he was met by the local king, Oilill who refused to let him land.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.8 Cnoc na Naomh

    Local legend says that Colmcille stood on this hill - Cnoc na Naomh - with his companions Saints Fionán, Dubthach and Begley.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.9 Ray Church

    This extraordinary 5 1/2 metre high cross stands inside the ruins of Ray Church. It was found broken in the graveyard outside the church, rebuilt and erected inside the church walls for protection.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    2.10 Tullaghobegley

    The ruins of the late medieval Tullaghobegley Church and its graveyard lie on a small mound just to the south of Falcarragh. This tullach - or ‘low hill’ or ‘mound’ - was probably originally a place used for tribal inauguration ceremonies.