On a wall of the Doges Palace in Venice the sixteenth century map of Renaissance Europe highlights the edge of Venetian temporal and spiritual interest in the west of Europe as the diocese of Templemore in the North of Ireland, in the Barony of Inishowen.
Here in the north east of that diocese lie the Three Glens with its own story and its connections to the stories of wars and peace, heaven and earth and all things in between.

War and Peace


At the end of the clan wars the defeated McLaughlins retired to the Long Glen in Inishowen. There are McLaughlin families still here today. Some local families can trace themselves back almost a thousand years.


There are no remains of a documented fort at Glenagivney built in Norman times to complement the protection of the entrance to the Foyle. There are the remains of a fortification at Greencastle.


The beach offered a false haven from the September storms of 1588 during the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to defeat the Elizabethan land and sea defences. The Spanish ship, La Trinidad Valencera, was ship wrecked on the rocks at Kinnagoe Bay. The sailors, who managed to get ashore, were offered shelter and food by the local people but herded to their death by the nearby English garrison. Two sailors who escaped back to Spain wrote in their report to the Spanish King that the local women were very beautiful.


For those who want to hear the story of “history in the making”, Archie Jack, an original member of the Derry Sub Aqua team, which found the Valencera, is available to talk to visitors at the shore in summer time about the excavation and artefacts can be found preserved in Derry Museum.

In more recent times ships were tracked into safe harbour in the Foyle by a look out point above Balloor by Lloyds of London. One ship, The Mary Snow, did not make it round to Strove and foundered on the rocks on the opposite side of the shore to the Valencera. Songs and poems have kept the memory of these events alive locally.



The coastguard station at Balloor was blown up by the IRA during the war of independence. The tracks to the look out post make a beautiful and bracing walk with panoramic views to Inishtrahull, Rathlin Island and the Western Isles of Scotland (Islay, Mull of Kintyre etc).


Off the coast, from the Swilly to the Foyle, are the remains of the Second World War German North Atlantic submarine fleet, which surrendered at Derry at the end of the war. There is war ordinance dumped in these waters. Many local fishermen have foundered in bad weather along this coast. Their passing is remembered at the maritime museum in Greencastle. The Montgomery family home is at New Park in Moville. Field Marshall Montgomery of Alamein spent his summers on holiday at New Park. It is quite possible that he visited the beach at Kinnagoe.


It was to the beach at Kinnagoe Bay that John Hume brought world and local political leaders and ambassadors to relax, clear their heads and stretch their legs during breaks in the long process of peace making in Northern Ireland.
Kinnagoe Bay also offered a place of beauty, inspiration and privacy to Brian Friel and the Field Day Company as they transformed their genius and creativity into a cultural vehicle, which spoke to the world about the hope and potential for the arts in a time and place of war.


Heaven and Earth


Recent archaeological digs have supported known and newly uncovered evidence that northeast Inishowen was a religious centre of many small monastic establishments. These include Cooley, Carrowmore, Clonca and Culdaff. It is known that St Patrick visited Cooley.


The last place Saint Colmcille set foot on Irish soil was at Port Cill (near Stroove). From Stroove Head he had his last sight of Derry and Inishowen before he set off on that famous voyage to Iona in Scotland. From Iona he and his followers spearheaded the sparkling period of Irelands influence on temporal and Christian Europe.


As more digs and research occur the story of this collection of early Christian communities will be uncovered. One story shows that the monks moved between these sites. The Three Glens is part of this unfolding story.


All Things In Between


The entrance to the Long Glen is marked by a church and graveyard. The notice in the chapel courtyard displays the names of local people buried there. The current church is the second on the site. The first church dates back several hundred years. On the right the Long Glen river rises and flows parallel to the road down to Kinnagoe Bay in a deep and quiet valley through native trees and shrubs into a small hazel wood, under a bridge and into Kinnagoe Port. It is the third cleanest river in Donegal.


The undulating hills are covered with heather and have turf cut every year.


Further into the Glen on the left hand side is Crockbrack hill known as Wallace’s hill after a local landlord. On top of this hill is a megalithic tomb  called the Giants Grave and on the National Monuments Register. It is evidence of habitation going back more than two millennia. In the shade of Wallace’s hill there is a sweathouse at Lecamy (Lecamy means religious flagstone in Irish). There is a mass rock off the Altara road. On the side of the hill is Ballymagaraghy, the oldest inhabited clachan in Ireland. There are standing stones close by. A children’s grave is closer to the coast on the Balloor road overlooking the beach.


The gentle slopes of Crockbrack hill are laid out in an ancient farming system of fields known as Rundale. The strip fields are verdant, well-tended pasturelands with ancient and new hedges running up the hill to the commonage.


Along both sides of the Long Glen road from the church to the bay and round to Glenagiveny there is an almost complete, well-maintained spectacular fuchsia hedge at its best in July and August.


Watercourses, limekilns, nineteenth century two story farmhouses and yards bear witness to a self-sufficient rural community.

When looking at the map (Map 6) Carrowmenagh and Ballymagaraghy are easily recognised as communities because they are a small village and a clachan. The housing in the Three Glens is of a linear nature, dictated by the road network, the field system and access to water it is a community. There are music evenings in Glenagiveny, dancing in Meenletterbale, community barbecues on the beach and Christmas carols round the tree. We have one of the longest running residents groups in a rural setting in Inishowen.


In the community, and visiting this community and its landscape, there are artists, musicians, poets, painters, singers and historians who all pay testimony to the spirit of this place that inspires their work.   


For locals and visitors there are opportunities for rock and shore fishing, paragliding, hill walking, cycling and bird watching. There are many bird species (some of which are rare but not yet endangered) such as buzzard, merlin, skylark, kite, hen harriers, sparrow hawks and peregrine falcons. Wild geese and swans migrate up the Long Glen in the autumn and spring. If you are out at night you will see or sense bats. The shore line is protected by European legislation.


The absence of light pollution offers spectacular opportunities to see the stars and on special occasions, the Northern lights. There are holiday homes in the glen and bed and breakfast at Tremone. The area has been recognised for its uniqueness by its inclusion in the Wild Atlantic Way.

Finally for those who want to hear the story of “history in the making”, Archie Jack, an original member of the Derry Sub Aqua team, which found the Valencera, can make himself available to talk to visitors at the shore in summer time about the exciting excavation and artefacts found that are preserved in Derry Museum.

Toni Devine.


March 2014.


[email protected].