On the face of it, the town of Raphoe is a pretty, well cared for plantation village in East Donegal, with a warm and friendly community atmosphere. Scratch the surface however, and it soon becomes apparent that Raphoe has many more strings to its historical bonnet. Raphoe, deriving from the Irish name ‘Ráth Bhoth’ meaning ‘fort of huts,’ has its origins in the early Christian period, having begun as a Monastic settlement under the patronage of St Columba and St Eunan. However, Raphoe also boasts one of the largest Bronze Age Stone Circle in Europe, located at Beltany, on the outskirts of the town, which predates the early Christian period by approximately 1200 years.
Leaping forward in history, the town as it stands today finds its basis in the Ulster Plantation, with its trademark diamond centre, Church and market place. Further to this, Raphoe is also home to one of the five Royal Schools of Ulster, set up as per the Charter of King James I, 1608.
Perhaps the crowning glory of the historic town of Raphoe is Bishops Palace, built in 1636 by Bishop Leslie of Raphoe. The Palace today stands in ruins as a result of accidental fire in the 1800s. However prior to this, the castle endured its fair share of damage and fire as a result of rebellion and uprising even falling prey to the forces of Cromwell during his plantation of Ireland.
All in all, Raphoe is nothing short of an historical gem which serves as a working timeline of our nation’s history from the earliest of times to the present.