Ramelton > History (English)

The name Ramelton derives from the Irish name "Ráth Mealtain", which means "The fort of Mealtain".

Archaeological evidences have shown, that in the Ramelton area were settlements since the early Stone Age.

From the 12th century this area had been the homeland of the O'Donnell's, the ruling clan of Donegal.

In the 15th Century the heir to the chieftaincy, Calvagh O'Donnell, resided in his stronghold at Rossreagh, which was on an island, now the site of the present quay. The castle was burnt down in the 1640th during the Irish rebellion. Today there are no visible remains of the old castle.

In the early 16th century, the Killydonnell Friary, situated above Lough Swilly, was also built by Calvagh O'Donnell as a Franciscan Friary.
It is suspected that there was an earlier church here, which possibly dated back to the 10th century.
Other evidence of Viking settlement in this area is provided by the archaeological discoveries.
The Friary was closed down at the time of the Plantation. Since then it has been a burial ground for the local community.

Killydonnell Abbey        




Lough Swilly

In 1610, during the plantation of Ulster, William Stewart, originally from Wigtownshire in Scotland, came to Ramelton and got 1000 acres of this area from the English king. After he was knighted, he built the first town and lived in the O'Donnell castle for a short time.

He built a fort on the Lough Swilly shore and the first Reformation church, which still stands. He brought in families from Scotland to live in the new town. The Stewarts continued as resident landlords into the 20st century.

Early in the 20th century, Ramelton had 8 churches, 6 of them in use and earned the name: "The Holy City". At the start of the 21st century 6 of them stand but only 3 are still used for worship:
St. Paul's, St. Mary's and Wallace Memorial church.

1714 to 1830, Ramelton grew and prospered and was at the height of its prestige. The old Plantation Houses were replaced or transformed
by Georgian Houses.
Fortunes had been made from linen, because Ramelton had Donegal's biggest linen bleaching works.
Ships from the Caribbean anchored in Lough Swilly and unloaded exotic cargoes at Ramelton in exchange for linen, corn, meat and fish.

Later in the 19th century Ramelton's port changes the methods of transport from sailing to steam ships and continued to prosper.
A steamboat connected the new railway line to Derry.
The gentry bought, proceeded and exported the produce of the "Scottish Presbyterian Settlers", who had become "strong farmers".
There was a rapidly growing workforce of Catholics, some of whom had started small business and were rising in the commercial sphere.

Pictures of the past
click here

In the late 19th and early 20th, Ramelton rivaled Letterkenny to be the most important town in the north of the county.

The rivalry came to end in 1909 when the railway came to Letterkenny but not to Ramelton.

Nevertheless, this town with its extremely friendly inhabitants will always exist and be


To find even more details about the Ramelton-History
click here:

Legends of Ramelton
(for more details click on the photos)

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