Bishop Leslie – Raphoe Castle

Raphoe Castle

Raphoe Castle

Although still awaiting restoration, Raphoe Castle is probably the most impressive castle in Donegal. In 1633, John Leslie was translated from the Scottish See of the Isles to become the Bishop of Raphoe. Marrying at the age of 67, absorbing the Bishopric of Clogher at the age of 90, Leslie dominated the area until his death, aged 100, in 1671. Feeling threatened in his new location, he built himself a new palace on a hill overlooking the town using stone from an ancient Round Tower in 1637. This proved fortuitous when rebellion broke out in 1641 and the Bishop was forced to shelter in the “castle”, as it has come to be known, until relieved by the Lagganeer army.

Eight years later, Leslie, a Royalist was besieged by Cromwellian troops. This time, he was forced to surrender but unlike virtually every other bishop in Ireland, Leslie survived and was returned to his See at the Restoration in 1660. A leading figure in the Established Church, Bishop Leslie was no friend of either Catholic or Non-conformist. In 1664, he ordered four dissenting Presbyterian ministers to appear before his court, and when they failed to appear, had them arrested and imprisoned in Lifford gaol. A century later, in 1798, the castle was attacked again,this time by the United Irishmen, three of whom were killed. The castle was destroyed in an accidental fire in 1838.

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