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Dungiven Priory is located in the small town of the same name on the main Belfast to Derry road. It is situated where the rivers Roe, Owenreagh and Owenbeg converge at the foot of the 1,525ft Benbradagh Mountain, next to the famous drive that is the Glenshane Pass where the road rises to over 1,000ft. Dungiven has a population of 2,993 people. It functions as an important retail, service and employment centre for the surrounding rural hinterland, providing a comprehensive range of educational, health, commercial, social, community and recreational facilities.
The original nucleus of Dungiven was established in the vicinity of the Castle and theChurch of Ireland church at the eastern end of the town, later developing westwards along Church Street and Main Street towards the bridging point on the River Roe. Because of the location of the flood plain of the River Roe, and the line of the proposed by-pass route defined by both previous area plans, residential development has been concentrated to the east and north of the town. It functions as an important retail, service and employment centre for the surrounding rural hinterland, providing a comprehensive range of educational, health, commercial, social, community and recreational facilities.
The ruins of the Augustinian priory date back to 1100, when it was founded by the O’Cahans. The chancel contains the magnificent medieval tomb (considered to be the finest of its kind in Northern Ireland) of Cooey-na-Gal, a chieftain of the O’Cahans, who died in 1385. The tomb is ornately decorated with a traceried canopy and a row of finely sculptured warriors in kilts, representing Scotsmen, who were foreign mercenaries of the chieftan.
In the 17th century the priory fell under the ownership of the Skinners’ Company and was remodelled by Sir Edward Doddington, who incorporated the building into a plantation manor house. Only the foundations of this later structure now remain. Also at the site is a hollowed out stone, called a bullaun stone, which was once used by the monks for grinding grain. The hollows in such stones are said to have been caused by saints kneeling in prayer, and the stone at Dungiven is a pilgrimage site for people seeking cures for illnesses.