Graveyards and church sites of the Ards Peninsula

Discover your Ancestral Roots

Discover your family tree from the inscriptions on old headstones dating back to the plantation of Ulster.

Other cemeteries still in use today include: Kircubbin, Greyabbey New, Kirkistown, Portaferry, and Ballyvester.

St Mary's Ardkeen

This is on the southern slope of a hill projecting as a peninsula into Strangford Lough in the townland and parish of Ardkeen It is approached through impressive gates and along a track skirting an inlet known as the Dorn On the top of the hill stands the old motte and later castle of the Savage family as a conspicuous sillouette against the sky The gates are to the west of the main Portaferry road 4 miles south of Kircubbin opposite the junction with a road leading to Cloughey The present church building probably dates from the late thirteenth century, soon after the Savage family arrived. The aumbry and the lancet windows in the north wall are probably original but the walls were heightened and a west door and south and east windows added, during the eighteenth century. An Anglo-Norman coffin-lid with cross and sword was found during clearing in 1898 and is erected in the chancel. A portion of an ancient stone cross has been also set-up under a thorn-tree to the southwest of the church. Another Anglo-Norman slab was found of red sandstone with chamfered edges, a simple incised cross and a pair of shears to the left of the cross-shaft. The church was in ruins in 1621 and was not fully restored until 1761. It was almost a private chapel of the Savage family who provided several of the incumbents. A bell exists inscribed "Henry Savage, Esq, Rock Savage AD 1784" which was probably donated in that year. The church registers however date from 1745 and have all survived. A storm in 1839 unroofed the building and another storm soon after led to the abandonment of the site for another in the townland of Kirkistown. The new church was consecrated in 1847 and the memorials on the walls transferred The door and windows of the old church were built up but the ruin was in a chaotic state in 1884 when G F Savage-Armstrong had it tidied. Since then the church has again returned to its untidy as well as derelict condition. The gravestones are widely scattered. The Savage slabs are in the chancel of the church or immediately outside the building.

Ardkeen Church of Ireland

The Quarter, Ardkeen - This is in the townland of Kirkistown and parish of Ardkeen on a minor road in the centre of the Ards Peninsula, and is 2.5 miles north-east of the Ardkeen peninsula. It was built in 1847 by the Rev Alexander Bullick who abandoned the old church at Ardkeen to destruction, presumably for the convenience of the majority of the parishioners. There are no stones prior to 1865 in the graveyard. All the church registers dating from 1745 have survived. On the outside of the tower over the door is this inscription:"Christ Church, Ardkeen, consecrated May 27th 1847: Rev Alexr Bullick, rector. This tower was built in 1891 by public subscription: Rev Hugh Stowell, Rector: J Mitchell, N Ennis, Churchwardens, Ps CXXII, 1".


This is on a minor road to the west of the main Belfast-Portaferry road about 3 miles north of Portaferry. It is in the townland and parish of Ardquin and is a pre-reformation site, being mentioned in the Taxation of 1306. No church existed from mediaeval times until 1829 when the present building was erected. The old church registers were destroyed in Dublin and the present baptismal register dates from 1885, marriage from 1846 and burial from 1887. The vestry book goes back to 1827. The graveyard is rough, with graves to both north and south of the church. It has been used by both Protestant and Catholic; the Catholic gravestones are further from the church and to the north. The oldest headstone dates from 1769. There is a cross-slab of uncertain date.

Ballyblack Presbyterian

This is in the townland of Ballyblack and parish of Newtownards on a secondary road from Newtownards to Carrowdore. The secession synod first records the congregation in 1811. The burial register is modern, the oldest stone dates from 1847. The baptismal register dates from 1854 and the marriage register from 1845. The graveyard is small, lying to the south and west of the church.

Ballycranbeg Roman Catholic

The church with its high spire, on a hill, is conspicuous on a minor road two and a half miles south-west of Kirkubbin. It is in the parish of Ardkeen. The land was bought in 1872 and the church completed in 1876 but there is one stone in the graveyard with the date 1833.

Ballycopeland Presbyterian

This is in the townland of Ballycopeland, parish of Donaghadee and village of Millisle, on the seaward side of the road. The congregation was organised in 1773 in association with the Anti-Burgher Secession Synod, taking with them some families from the Millisle congregation, though the two congregations have re-united in 1906. The oldest recorded date of death is 1849. The graveyard slopes markedly towards the sea and is very wild, with foundations of the old church barely detectable.

Ballygalget Roman Catholic

This is on a minor road two and a half miles north-east of Portaferry in the townland of Ballygalget and parish of Ballyphilip. The church was built in 1784 to replace an earlier thatched building of 1760 built where the Parochial House now stands. It was enlarged in 1835 and rebuilt in 1878. The baptismal register dates from 1828 and the marriage register from 1852. There is no old burial register but the oldest stone in the graveyard dates from 1839. The graveyard is all round the church and well kept, with stones of all periods mixed together.

Ballyhalbert Graveyard

This old graveyard lies on the landward side of the north-south road through the village, near the Portavogie end. The earliest record of the parish is in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas of 1306 at which time it was called Talbetona after the Talbot family who acquired land there in the Norman conquest. In 1622, when most of the churches of County Down were in ruins, it is described as "repayred". Throughout these centuries, certainly until 1605 Blackabbey had the patronage of the church and received the tithes. The surviving registers baptisms from 1846 and burials from 1855. The graveyard is large with burials on all sides of the ruined church and inside it. The wall was built (or rebuilt) in 1852 and repaired in 1905. The stones are widely spaced but as elswhere in the Ards the majority are of slate and very readable. Only a few are of sandstone or cement and have suffered from the wind. The graveyard receives little care now but being largely in grass, the stones are readily accessible even in summer. There is only one vault in the graveyard. The oldest stone dates from 1716.

Ballyhalbert Church of Ireland

This is at a road junction 1 mile south of Ballyhalbert village and 3 miles east of Kircubbin. It is in the townland of Ballyesborough and parish of Ballyhalbert. The old church and graveyard of Ballyhalbert is in the village but with the settlement of the Ards by Scots and the establishment of Presbyterian congregations the parish churches fell into disuse. In the nineteenth century the numbers supporting the established church grew and a new church for Ballyhalbert was built in 1850. The church registers date from this period and the oldest date of death recorded in the graveyard is 1854. The main graveyard is in good order with nineteenth century stones on all sides of the church. There is a modern extension to the north-east.

Ballyhemlin Non-subscribing Prebyterian

This graveyard surrounds the church in the townland of Ballyhemlin and Parish of Ballyhalbert. It is on a minor road, 2 miles north-east of Kirkubbin. The church was built in 1834 and the oldest date of death recorded in the graveyard is 1853. There are 3 modern gravestones, as well as tablets on the 2 vaults behind the church.

Ballyphilip Church of Ireland

This is round the new Church of Ireland Church in Portaferry, one entrance being opposite the old graveyard on the Belfast Road. The Church was built in 1787 and one of the Savage memorials was transferred to it. Apart from the memorials, the oldest recorded date of death is 1807. The parish registers all date from 1745 but most burials during the nineteenth century continued in the old graveyard. This is in the townland and parish of Ballyphilip and town of Portaferry. The origin of the site is unknown, the old name, Temple Cranny suggesting that it is of some antiquity. The ruins are possibly as old as the sixteenth century but there was an older parish church in the rectory grounds which was accidentally destroyed about 1784. Temple Cranny was dismantled in 1787 when the modern parish church was built across the road. The Savage memorial was then transferred to the new church and a replica placed in the ruins. The parish registers all date from 1745. The graveyard is uneven but the grass is kept cut by the local Council; this results in a tidy appearance beneath which many old flat stones are probably concealed. Some of these were uncovered with difficulty to copy for these transcripts. A few stones of sandstone or shale and irretrievably lost by flaking. The oldest dates from 1659 and, as there were few stones without dates before 1864.


This is 1 mile south-east of Portaferry on the north side of the inland road from Portaferry to Ballyquintin. It is in the civil parish of Ballytrustan and the Church of Ireland Parish of Ballyphilip. It contains the ruins of a mediaeval church and the north-east corner is at the top of a high steep bank. The oldest stone dates from 1759 but there are many uninscribed stones and a few illegible ones. The graveyard is rough with the stones widely scattered. It has been mainly used by Roman Catholics but is almost abandoned now.

Carrowdore Church of Ireland

Approached from a small road between Carrowdore Castle and the sea, it is in the townland of Ballyrawer and in the civil parish of Donaghadee. There was a chapel of St Kolman in 1306 which stood in the towniand of Grangee nearby, but was ruined in 1622. From mediaeval times the area has been included in the parish of Donaghadee but in 1843 a new parish was carved out and a new church built. The church was paid for by Lord John George Beresford, uncle of Mrs George Dunbar of Woburn and built on land given by Nicholas De Lacherois Crommelin of Carrowdore Castle. The nave alone was opened in 1843 and the chancel, vestry and spire added in 1859. On the spire is inscribed:- "To the Glory of God and in memory of a beloved niece Harriette Isabella Delapoer, daughter of Lord George Beresford and wife of George Dunbar, Esq This tower and spire were erected by John George, Archbishop of Armagh, with whom she resided from her childhood until her decease April the eighteenth 1859". The original registers from 1841-2 were destroyed in the Four Courts and present registers are:- baptism from 1873, marriage from 1846 and burials from 1875. The enclosure of the De Lacherois Crommelin family is to the east of the church, and that of the Dunbar family to the north-east. There is a new section of the graveyard to the north-west, which contains one stone of the 19th century.

Cloughey Presbyterian

This is a small graveyard on the seaward side of the main road in the townland and village of Cloughey. It is in the civil parish of Castleboy and the Church of Ireland parish of Ardkeen. The congregation is modern with registers dating from 1844 (baptismal) and 1845 (marriage) with few inscriptions of earlier than 1865, the earliest dating from 1851. The graveyard is crowded but well kept with most of the older stones towards the inland side.

Glastry Presbyterian

Glastry is 2 miles east of Kircubbin in the townland of Glastry and parish of Ballyhalbert and contains both Presbyterian and Methodist churches. The congregation became independent in 1720 with its first minister in 1725, and was originally known as Ballyhalbert. The present church is T-shaped and was built, according to the inscription over the front door, in "Anno Dom 1777 Rev W S Dickson, Minister". Over the back porch of the church is the instruction "Serve the Lord with gladness". The baptismal and marriage records of the congregation date from 1728 but there is no early burial register and the oldest date of death in the graveyard is 1838. Although there are 17 stones with dates of death prior to 1865, many of the actual Stones are of later date and it seems that the graveyard was only extensively used in the later nineteenth century.

Greyabbey Graveyard

This is just outside the present abbey grounds. It is densely packed with headstones and contains a large number of eighteenth century stones. The parish registers (Church of Ireland) all date from 1807 Presbyterian registers date from 1875 (baptismal) and 1845 (marriage). The graveyard is very uneven with many broken stones and some lying face downwards. Several of those recorded required extensive digging before they could be read and others may be still undiscovered. In the summer the graveyard is a wilderness of nettles and other weeds.

Inishargy Church of Ireland

This is on a secondary road crossing the Ards Peninsula, about two miles south of Ballywalter. It is in the townland of Balligan and parish of Inishargy. This church was built in 1704 to serve the needs of the parishes of Ballyhalbert, Ballywalter and Inishargy since the churches of the two former were in poor repair and old Inishargy church had been in ruins for many years. It served the whole area till the 1843-50 period when new churches were built for Ballyhalbert and Ballywalter and a new parish was created at Kircubbin. Inishargy church then decayed until 1966 when a careful restoration was undertaken. The church registers survive dating from 1783. The graveyard is very tidy but only contains eight gravestones. The oldest stone dates from 1802. A brass tablet on the west wall of the church reads:- ""This brass commemorates the Priory of Saint Andrew of the Ards (commonly called the Black Abbey) founded circa 1200 A D for the brethren of the Order of St Benedict to which this church was appropriate. The Priory was disolved after the Order issued in the 33rd year of the reign of King Henry VIII and this church was rebuilt in the year 1704 A D. We laud and bless Thy Holy Name for all thy faithful servants who through the centuries have served Thy Church in this place. We pray Thee help Thy servants whom Thou has redeemed with Thy Most Precious Blood make them to be numbered with Thy Saints in Glory Everlasting.

Kirkcubbin Presbyterian

This church and graveyard are to the seaward side of a small square in the village and townland of Kircubbin and civil parish of Inishargy. The church is barely visible from the road and the square is approached by a small entry from the main road. The congregation was originally part of Glastry, but in 1777 the people here applied to be erected into a congregation and the first minister was ordained in the following year. A tablet above the door reads "Kirkcubbin Presbyterian Church, founded 1777. Church rebuilt 1861. Entrance reconstructed 1953" The baptismal register has survived from 1785 but there are no comparable marriage or burial registers Kircubbin Church of Ireland church, which dates from about 1840. The baptismal register dates from 1847, marriage register from 1867 and burial register from 1896. The Inishargy registers go back to 1783 and there are baptisms and marriages in the vestry book from 1728 (burials from 1769). The graveyard extends on all sides of the church with old graves in all areas. The oldest stone dates from 1800.

Lisbane Roman Catholic

This is on the west side of the main road from Newtownards to Portaferry, 2 miles south of Kircubbin. It is in the townland of Lisbane in the civil and Roman Catholic parish of Ardkeen. The old chapel of Moyndele was nearby within the townland, and mass was celebrated during the penal period on the site of the present church. A cross-shaped tablet on the inner side of the west wall reads:- "Lord I have loved the beauty of thy house and the place where thy glory dwelleth. This house was erected AD 1777, Daniel O'Doran PP". The church is an attractive little building with a roof of thick old Tullycavey slates. It was reduced to the status of mortuary chapel after the new church was built at Ballycranbeg in 1876 and it became rather delapidated, to be restored again in the late 1960's. The graveyard is fairly level and well-kept with most of the graves in front of the church, the area to the seaward side being largely rock The oldest stone is said to be of 1829 though there is one with the date 1808. There are many stones of 1865-1900.

Millisle Presbyterian

This is by the seashore in Millisle village in the townland of Ballymacruise and parish of Donaghadee. The congregation was established and church built in 1773. The baptismal register dates from 1773 and the marriage register from 1838 but there is no old burial registers. The oldest date of death on a stone in the graveyard is 1850 presumably because most families continued to use Templepatrick graveyard until it became too congested.

Old Templepatrick

This is in the townland of Miller Hill and parish of Donaghadee, on the seaward side of the road from Donaghadee to Millisle, one mile north of the village. Nothing is known of the history of the site and all traces of a church have disappeared, but there was a well on the seaward side of the graveyard known as St Patrick's well and there is a tradition that St Patrick landed here. There is also a small "watch-house" in the centre of the graveyard. There is no local burial register but the Donaghadee Parish registers which still survive date from 1771. The graveyard is densely packed with well-preserved slate stones. There are 190 stones. The oldest date of death recorded is 1678.

Portaferry Roman Catholic

This is at a junction of secondary roads half a mile south-east of the centre of Portaferry. It is in the townland of Tullyboard and parish of Ballyphilip. There was a "Mass-house" on the site at least as early as 1744 but the present church was built in 1762, rebuilt in 1831 and enlarged in 1845. At this last date an acre of land was acquired for the large graveyard and school nearby. The older stones are scattered widely through all of the graveyard near the church the oldest dating from 1847, though there is a stone refering to those who died during the famine 1846-47.

Slans Graveyard

This is half a mile south of Cloughey in the civil parish of Slanes and Church of Ireland parish of Ballyphilip. It has the ruin of a mediaeval church in the centre which is probably the "Ardmacossce" of the 1306 Taxation, and is on a prominent hill surrounded by a white wall. The oldest readable date of death is 1677. Most of the stones are of slate and are well preserved but the graveyard is very rough and many stones are hidden by earth and weeds. Outside the graveyard is a souterrain said to be 50 yards in length.


This old graveyard is on a tertiary road from Ballyboley to the north end of Ballywalter, half a mile out of the town. The church is mentioned in the Taxation of 1306 as the Alba Ecclesia, a translation of its Irish name, the Archaeological Survey of County Down dates it from the 13th century. There are fragments of 3 Norman grave-slabs which have been mounted on the outside of the NE end of the building; they are of the standard pattern and 2 have swords and one a pair of shears. Transepts were added about the 15th century but that on the south has disappeared completely while that on the north is partly incorporated into modern grave enclosures. The church survived the Elizabethan and Cromwelliam wars and was still in use in 1657 though with only a thatched roof. It was finally abandoned after the new church had been erected at Balligan in 1704 to serve the needs of Ballywalter, Ballyhalbert and Innishargy parishes. The old site was then used purely as a graveyard and when a new church was needed for the rising population of Ballywalter it was built in the town (1849). Parish registers of Ballywalter date from the period of the new church: baptisms from 1845, marriages from 1850 and burials from 1844. First Ballywalter Presbyterian registers also exist; baptisms from 1824, marriages from 1845. The second Presbyterian Registers for baptism date from 1820 and marriage from 1845. The oldest gravestones are in the church but unfortunately are broken and worn. One of these has a date 1663 and the Makie stone is probably earlier. The oldest complete stone is dated 1667. Most of the older graves are to the south of the church both inside and beyond the circular path The Dunleath (Mulholland) enclosure is to the north of the church.

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