20 Jul Rathmullen, County Donegal
Rathmullen, a pleasant village overlooking Lough Swilly, was the scene of the ‘Flight of the Earls’ (14 September 1607), when the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel set sail for Spain with about 100 minor nobility and followers (the final episode of the Elizabethan wars in Ireland). They failed to land in Spain and went to Louvain, reaching Rome six months later, where they unsuccessfully agitated for Spanish aid for their cause. Both died there, without ever returning to Ireland. The ensuing confiscation of the earls’ extensive estates led to the Plantation of Ulster and all the subsequent events. The Flight of the Earls Heritage Centre is in one of the six Napoleonic batteries (1810) which guard the mouth of the lough. The events leading up to the Plantation of Ulster are shown in documentary style, providing a useful background to the contemporary conflict.
The ruins of a Carmelite priory can be seen in the town. The tower and chancel were erected by the MacSweeneys in the 15th century, while the west portions were rebuilt in 1618 by Bishop Knox of Raphoe (to whom the lands of Turlough Og MacSweeney were awarded after the confiscations).
On 12th October 1798 the French frigate Hoche, with Wolfe Tone on board, was intercepted by Sir John Warren’s squadron, and its crew landed at Rathmullen. Tone was identified in Letterkenny, and transferred to Dublin Castle, where he committed suicide.
Rathmullen is a hidden gem and worth a visit on your tours of Ireland.