During the 12th century, Killyleagh and the other towns and villages around Strangford Lough were under threat from invasion by the Vikings. But the area had already been conquered during the same century by Normans, including a Norman knight called John de Courcy, who came to Ireland from Somerset. While there he built a number of castles with the aim of keeping the Vikings at bay, and one of these was Killyleagh Castle, believed to be the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. As well as its current permanent inhabitants the castle offers self-catering accommodation for tourists, and it is also used as a concert venue, with past appearances by Van Morrison among others.
The village lies in a tranquil setting on a small inlet on the western shore of the Lough, the pastel-hued cottages giving the waterfront an attractive appearance. The town was recently reported as being the last predominantly Protestant settlement in the Strangford constituency, a contrast from the mainly Catholic Downpatrick just down the road. Apart from a bomb in a Catholic-owned bar in 1975 the village escaped the worst of the Troubles and now has a prosperous air. The parish church, in a slightly elevated position with views of the Lough, is dedicated to St John the Evangelist and lies on a site previously occupied by an old pre-Reformation church. On the road into the village from Downpatrick is Delamont Country Park, with a seasonal miniature railway, a large heronry, camping facilities and the Strangford Stone, a modern-day megalith erected in 1999.
For events in the area, including the Killyleagh Summer Festival, see the town's Facebook page.
|Photo by Bob Jones, via Wikimedia Commons|