Overview

The ruins of this ancient church stand on the extremity of the Coolera peninsula and the name in Irish means “the church of the Bishop Brón”. Killaspugbrone church dates back to the period between 1150 and 1220, but the original structure was reputedly built some time in the fifth century. Its former name “Caisle-Irrae” suggests it was most likely enclosed by a circular stone fort or cashel – typical of an early Irish monastic settlement. This is a location steeped in history, set against the spectacular backdrops of Ben Bulben and Knocknarea mountains and the Atlantic ocean.

The sound of the lapping ocean, the birds singing and the slight chance of catching sunset from here make it a must do for every visitor. Behind the church is a small sandy beach which looks directly at Coney Island. Relax, unwind and forget all your worries in this unforgettable corner of our little secret.

History

Saint Patrick is reputed to have visited the church of Killaspugbrone. On crossing from Killaspugbrone to Coney Island, he was surrounded by the incoming tide and took refuge on the small inlet, which can be seen directly in front of the church as you look towards Sligo town. Now called Dunan Padraig (Patrick’s Little Fort), it is well-known that no matter how high the tide rises, the islet will never be covered.

On the occasion of visiting the church, Saint Patrick reputedly tripped on rough ground and lost a tooth. As a mark of friendship, he gave the tooth to Bronus who enshrined it in the church. The relic was regarded with reverence and documents show that at some stage during the 14th century, Thomas de Birmingham, Lord of Athenry, whose family owned property in Killaspugbrone, enshrined it in a golden casket. However the shrine fell into the hands of local chieftains who mistreated it until it was acquired by the Abbot of Cong. The shrine can be viewed today in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin – more in our history section.

Graveyard

The graveyard was used right up until 1961 and a local man named Thady Higgins was the last to be buried here. You will notice that many graves do not have gravestones, as many could not afford such a luxury. The majority of graves have “marker stones” to define sites and this was common in graveyards prior to the 16th century.

The graveyard is multi-denominational and many of the landlord families of the region are buried here. Within the one-acre site there is an estimated 700 graves inside the boundary walls and many burials were stacked, as was common at the time. Walk around the graveyard and you will see gravestones marking the resting places of young babies and a man aged 102.

Directions

Whether its a fresh walk to clear your head on a Sunday morning, a unique spot to watch the summer sunset, or a moment’s tranquility, Killaspugbrone will welcome you with open arms. Starting from Sligo Airport, enter through the gate on the left 100 metres before the airport car park. This road will take you towards the coastline, parallel to the runway. Take your first right turn, which is a footpath which will bring you around the top of the runway. Continue on this path as it loops back towards the church, which you will see ahead of you in the direction of Sligo town.