Please note: No public access. Church Island is located within a protected Nature Reserve with no formal right due to the sensitive nature of the area. Free parking and viewpoint is provided at Longpoint Wood.
Church Island is a small island on Lough Beg - 1.5 miles from Bellaghy, which can be viewed from the amenity at Longpoint Wood, recently installed by Mid Ulster District Council. The ruins of a Medieval church survive on the island, the tower and spire of which was built for Bishop Harvey in the late 1700's to enhance the view from his house at Ballyscullion. Church Island appears to have been in use at virtually every period, as far back as the late Mesolithic. Before the construction of the existing church, an Early Christian foundation was sited here, one remnant of which is a bullaun stone. Local anecdote has it that the hole in the stone was made by St. Patrick as he knelt to pray.
The church has been ruinous since 17th century, but was used as a garrison in 1641. The feast day of St Thaddeus falls on the 7th September and the local annual pilgrimage to the island in honour of the Saint still takes place on the first Sunday in September.
The fields surrounding Church Island are famous Wetlands where many species of geese, ducks and swans are to be found. Botanists from all over the world also come to see the rare orchid 'My Lady's Tresses' which blooms there in August. The island is an important nature reserve for bird and wildlife.
Church Island is located within a protected Nature Reserve, with no formal right of way in place. This land is grazed by cattle during spring to summer, and in winter becomes flooded and impassable. In order to protect the sensitive wildlife and habitat, a view point has been constructed at Longpoint Wood, to provide a safe place from which to appreciate the site, and where car parking and useful information is provided. Dogs are not permitted within the Nature Reserve, in order to protect the ground nesting birds, and ensure the safety of livestock. Please respect this sensitive environment and help protect it for future generations.
Other historic places you can visit: