A trip south along the edge of the River Foyle. The map above is a copy (with colour added) of the earliest map known of the area. This was drawn in 1601 by the English to record their fortifications along the river during the Nine Years War. .
At the start of the road from Derry~Londonderry towards Strabane. This is the former terminus of the County Donegal Railway as viewed from Craigavon Bridge. This railway followed the river south to Strabane where it crossed over into County Donegal. The narrow gauge line opened in 1900 and closed in 1954. Parts of the former station have since been used for a variety of uses including restaurant, shirt factory, bathroom showroom, office furniture showroom and bonded warehouse
The road between Derry~Londonderry and Strabane passes along relatively flat and fertile country beside the River Foyle. To either side however the landscape quickly rises into a series of small hills. At Strabane is formed by the junction of the River Strule from the South East and the River Finn from the South West.
Moving south along Victoria Road an interesting building is hidden among the trees on the slope above. This is a house by a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1952 by Sean Kenny. When seen from the other side of the river it fits very well into its wooded surroundings
Just above is Prehen House, Dating from 1740, this elegant Georgian mansion was once set within a large demesne and rendered. Though a U shaped building, it was deliberately designed to look square as the front and side elevations are of the same length. Its architect was Michael Priestly, who also designed Lifford Courthouse
Behind the house the remains of an earlier bawn was excavated in 2013. The foundations of a circular flanker tower were uncovered. A fragment of the tower with a musket loop had become part of the boundary wall of the property. Its discovery resulted in the excavation. The tower was found to be large for the type, yet a fortified building at this location is not indicated in early Plantation maps. The excavators have tentatively suggested a date between 1620 and 1640 for the structure.
Rossnagaliagh, just outside New Buildings is recorded as the location of a medieval convent. Ruins were recorded in the 1830’s and a holy well was still looked after in 1978 and recorded in poor condition in the 2000’s. I found no trace of this in January 2015. The field, however, is atmospheric and has a lot of rubble stone along its margins.
Further south along the river is Dunnalong. This has been translated as the ‘fort of the ships’ and was the location of a tower house in late medieval times. This drawing is a copy, with colour added, of the first map of the area from 1601. This shows the fortifications erected at the site by the English during the Nine Year’s War. It can be seen that the settlement was nearly as big as Lifford further up stream at the time and much bigger than Strabane. After the war its importance declined and at present there is very little to see at the site. Only the faint outline of the ditches and a few fragments of the tower house remain. There was a detailed archaeological investigation in 2012.
The two angled stones at the base of this door are, according to archaeologists, fragments of the tower house which once existed at Dunnalong.
This was constructed around 1568 by Turlough Luineach O’Neill who had been appointed chieftain the year before. Dunnalong was the O'Neill’s main connection to the sea (and Scotland) via Lough Foyle. Further North was O'Cahan country, while to the west, across the river, were O'Donnell lands. The site was fortified by the English during the Nine Year’s War but declined very quickly afterwards.
Further south is Grange Graveyard. This has an elegant entrance arch, with a date stone, marking the rebuilding of the boundary wall in 1866. The site, however, is much older. A grange or monastic farm associated with the Augustinian Abbey in Derry (The Dubh Regles) was located here in the middle ages. Extensive remains were noted in the 1830’s but none can be seen today .