Monday, 29 May 2017

Nostalgic Ballydugan

Yesterday I paid a visit to Inch Abbey, Downpatrick and Ballydugan.

It is such a long time since I have visited Inch Abbey, that extensive, ruined monastic site on the banks of the river Quoile, just outside Downpatrick, county town of County Down.

These visits always fill me with a sense of nostalgia, a taste of former times, picnicking, glorious meadows in the summer.

Inch Abbey, by the way, is an idyllic picnic spot, if the weather is clement enough.


It was a monastery from about 1180 till 1541, when it was dissolved by HENRY VIII.

The graveyard adjacent to the little car-park at Inch Abbey is dominated by the tomb or vault of the Perceval-Maxwells of Finnebrogue.

They were the landowners and presented Inch Abbey to the state in 1910.


Thence I jumped into the two-seater and made my jolly way in a south-easterly direction, over the river, to the historic town of Downpatrick.

Down Cathedral stands proudly to the extreme west of the town, overlooking Inch Abbey across the Quoile.

I made a bee-line for Down County Museum, which is located in the historic buildings of the former County Gaol of Down.

The Gaol was opened in 1796 until its closure in 1830, when it became a military barracks.

I ambled up the hill to the cathedral.

The cathedral's graveyard lies directly opposite the west front.

The most commanding vault, almost like a little chapel itself, boasts stone pinnacles (larger versions of which adorn the cathedral) and stands at a corner of the graveyard directly overlooking the cathedral's west front.



It has an inscription in capital letters, viz. HASTINGS.

A black cat was sleeping on a grave further along.

Any reader who knows me shall be aware that I never pass a cat without greeting it cordially, and this occasion happened to be no exception.

In fact I persevered and at length my feline devotee was roused and befriended me; to the extent that it followed me into a field and up to the threshold of the cathedral.

Incidentally, the Perceval-Maxwells, like many other landed families of County Down, were patrons of Down Cathedral.

Their armorial bearings are resplendent on large, carved, colourful plaques along the walls of the nave.

Thereafter I motored in a south-westerly direction towards the townland of Ballydugan, a truly heavenly spot in the county.

Ballydugan is a hop, skip and jump away from Downpatrick; yet you are struck by its tranquillity and "olde worlde" charm.


A cursory glance at the map shall indicate that we are within riding-distance of Downpatrick Racecourse.

I have already written about Ballydugan House.

The old flour mill of Ballydugan is now a guesthouse and undertakes weddings and other functions.

It was built in 1792 by one John Auchinleck of Strangford, County Down.

Rubble masonry was used in its construction.

It is six bays in width and six storeys in height, plus two attic storeys; an impressive, stone-walled forecourt and a gatehouse.

A lofty, tapered brick chimney stands behind the mill.


A mere thirty or forty yards along the road from the mill stands the Lakeside Inn, a former coaching inn, post-office and spirit grocer's.

Margaret Ferguson, whose family owns the inn, has traced the building back to 1840.

Margaret has run the inn for seven years, since the death of her mother Meta.

Her grandfather, Thomas Hutton, ran it in 1899; and his brother, Bernard, took over till 1890.

It came into the family in 1925 when Margaret's grandfather, Thomas Hutton, bought it after 26 years working there.

He died in 1959, and his daughter Meta ran it thereafter.

Meta Hutton died in 2012 and Margaret with her husband Geoffrey have taken the helm.


The two-seater was parked beside the charming little lake at Ballydugan.

I strolled along the road on its eastern side and several hundred yards further along The Old Town emerged.

It was almost akin to stepping back in time.

This is what the Irish call a clachan, a small cluster of buildings huddled together, usually inhabited formerly by extended families and neighbours.

A Christian community known as The Old Town Community is based here.

Ballydugan Cottages have been turned into holiday accommodation.

The Old Town overlooks Ballydugan Lake.

A wooden sign nailed to a tree declares that Belfast Anglers Club has the fishing rights.

Back at the lakeside car-park, I munched my sandwiches and gave a few crumbs to the sparrows outside.

The Lake House in 2014

At the north side of the lake stands an old cottage known variously as Lake Cottage, Ballydugan Cottage, and Lake House.

Its address is Drumcullan Road.

This building and its location interest me, and I intend to write an article about it and its inhabitants soon. 

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