Image © Paul_McGuckin
Ramelton, one of the five designated Heritage Towns in Donegal, is a vibrant and visually stunning town, nestling on the slopes of the Lennon River. Its rich cultural heritage lends the town a distinctive visage with many well preserved Georgian buildings. According to archaelogical evidence thee have been settlements in the Ramelton area since the early Stone Age and there is evidence of a Viking settlement from the 10th century.
Ramelton enjoyed a strategic importance in Donegal in the mid 18th century resulting in a prosperous time for local leading families such as the Watts and the Stewarts. (Sir William Stewart was granted 1000 acres following the Flight of the Earls in 1607). The 18th century saw the town prospering and growing with the port being used for the busy linen industry. In the 19th century this industry declined but a left a rich legacy in the fine Georgian houses which stretch along the Mall facing onto the River Lennon. The Grand Jury, (precursor to County Council), had its sitting in Ramelton during that period. At the start of the 20th century Ramelton had seven churches and was known as the ‘Holy City’ in recognition of its religious diversity.
Ramelton lays claim to many notable figures of historical importance – Francis Makemie (1657-1708), the founder of American Presbyterianism; Dave Gallaher (1873-1917), Captain of the first New Zealand All-Blacks and James Buchanan (1791-1869), the 15th President of the United State of America.
Today, Ramelton is a gateway to the wild coastal region of the Fanad Peninsula reached by the three-arch bridge over the River Lennon. Looking back into the town from the bridge, the main street extends in a slow curve along the river from the bridge through to the quays on the east side of the town. This street or as it is known, The Mall, houses an impressive terrace of two –storey houses, retaining many original features of Georgian Architecture from its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ramelton is fortunate in having a dedicated local group committed to preserving the historic character of the town.
The thriving local community is involved in many projects keeping the town alive and vital in the 21st century. Each week the Town Hall hosts a Country Market, with artisan food and crafts available to locals and visitors. The Community Centre hosts various activities throughout the year, available to all comers (firstname.lastname@example.org). The town has good restaurants, good pubs and a warm and friendly ambience. There are many distinctive things about Ramelton too numerous to mention but for a flavour of this unique Heritage town check out: Football Special, the unique soft drink created by McDaid’s & Sons; Conway’s Bar – the unique thatched pub with open fires and traditional music sessions; the Bridge Bar, home of great music and great food; Swilly Rovers F.C.; the Salmon Leap Waterfall, two minutes walk from the centre of the town.
The Ramelton Audio Heritage Tour is a free audio guide to the built and cultural heritage of Ramelton produced by Mary Phelan of Sound Woman Productions. The script of the audio heritage tour is based on the booklet ‘Ramelton – an illustrated guide to the town’ by local historian Mary Haggan and is narrated by Mary Phelan and Declan Gibbons. It is available free-of-charge in mp3 format along with an accompanying brochure that outlines the heritage tour route. The audio file can be downloaded from the County Donegal Heritage Office, Donegal County Council website at www.donegalcoco.ie/heritage