Doonfeeny Church and Standing Stone - Visit North Mayo

The village of Doonfeeny is only a stone’s throw away from Ballycastle. Just a short 3.5km drive west of Ballycastle village you’ll find one of North Mayo’s hidden gems, Doonfeeny Church and Standing Stone.

The ruins of Doonfeeny Church that can be seen today are not those of the original Patrician church but one built on the same site. Some local historians believe it to date to the 7th Century.

History of the church itself is scarce. It is not known when the church went into decline. Due to the condition of the building itself a barrier enclosing the church was erected to prevent visitors from entering the church. This was erected in order to protect what remains of the building and to keep visitors safe.

Before the parish of Ballycastle was established in 1810 the western part of the parish was called the parish of Doonfeeny. Local legend says that anyone born to the parish of Doonfeeny shall not be struck by lightning. It’s one piseog (Irish superstition) we’re not keen to test!

The graveyard that encompasses the church is also rather old. We advise visitors that some headstone markers are overgrown and may or may not be visible which may make walking the graveyard hazardous. The oldest known headstone in the graveyard dates back to 1671 which is quite rare in an Irish graveyard. Many of the graves in Doonfeeny graveyard were never marked with headstones because the families were too poor, in some cases a stone was used to mark a grave. Many of the older headstones are too weathered to be read.

Across the road in the southern end of the ‘new’ graveyard you will find the majestic Doonfeeny Standing Stone. Like other Standing Stones this stone is of pagan origin. Ogham markings can be seen on the stone. The Standing Stone was later Christianised. A double-line Maltese type cross was etched into to the stone, possibly in the sixth or seventh century.

Doonfeeny Standing Stone with Downpatrick Head in the background
Doonfeeny Standing Stone with Downpatrick Head in the background

The Doonfeeny Standing Stone is the second highest Standing Stone on the island of Ireland measuring 4.5 meteres or 14 and a half feet. In Pre-Christian Ireland Standing Stones were thought to have been ‘fertility stones’ by women wishing to become pregnant.

Visitors to Doonfeeny will be able to view the majestic Downpatrick Head and Dun Briste sea stack.

For more information on the headstones located within Doonfeeny Graveyard please visit Golden Langan