On 20 May 2017 members of Bangor Historical Society travelled to the west of the province for their annual spring outing. Our first destination was Killymoon Castle in County Tyrone, a privately owned house. We were given an excellent talk on the castle when we arrived.

In 1666 James Stewart came to Killymoon and bought 600 acres from Adam Cook, the founder of Cookstown. In 1671 he completed the first Killymoon Castle and lived there with his wife Barbara Lindsey from Scotland. His descendants lived in the castle until the nineteenth century.

Colonel James Stewart was born in 1742. He attended Trinity College, Dublin and went on the Grand Tour with his friend the Duke of Leinster. In Rome he had his portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni. He followed a military career and then became M.P. for County Tyrone in the Irish Parliament and subsequently sat in the Westminster parliament. He married Elizabeth Molesworth daughter of the third Viscount Molesworth.

In 1801 the castle was burnt to the ground. He decided to rebuild it on a larger scale and employed the architect John Nash to design the new castle – his first in Ireland. The completed castle incorporated part of the old and cost £80,000 in 1803.

Colonel Stewart was a rather extravagant man and was fond of cards. In a game with the Prince Regent he lost a great deal of money and finally placed the key to Killymoon Castle on the table. He lost, but the following morning the Prince returned the key and the castle, as he had no need of a cabin in Ireland!

On Colonel Stewart’s death in 1821 the castle was inherited by his son William. The latter did not marry. On his death in 1850 the castle was inherited by his sisters in turn, first Mary Ellen and then Louisa. Louisa gave it to her son Henry Clements. He sold the castle for £100,000 less a tanner in 1852. It was then owned by several families until Gerald Macura bought it in 1916. His financial difficulties meant it was taken over by the Bank of Ireland. A local farmer, John Coulter bid £3,400 for the land which adjoined his own, but his bid was rejected. He then paid £3,500 for both estate and castle, thus effectively buying the castle for £100.

The castle remains in the hands of the Coulter family and is currently owned by Godfrey and Dorothy. The building was in a bad state with a leaking roof. They replaced the roof and began restoring the castle room by room. Dorothy did much of the work herself until recently. Furniture was bought at local auctions.

After the talk we enjoyed an excellent lunch specially prepared for us. Then we were taken on a tour of the castle, including rooms which had yet to be restored.

Our second stop was at Beaghmore Stone Circle. On the short journey there we enjoyed beautiful views of the Sperrins and a short hail shower!

There are seven stone circles dating from the early Bronze Age. They were only discovered during peat cutting in the early 1940s by local historian George Barnett. All of the circles are associated with cairns and a stone row runs towards them. Various explanations have been suggested for their building: religious or social gatherings, an attempt to restore fertility to the soil during worsening weather conditions or as an astronomical observatory.

We returned to Bangor at 6pm after an excellent outing which members enjoyed very much.