Two kilometres south of St Johnston and 12 kilometres from Derry, lie the remnants of Mongavlin Castle. The structure is in ruins now but the site has a distinguished history.
In the late sixteenth century, it accommodated the main home of Finola McDonnell – Ineen Dubh, ‘the black-haired Queen of Donegal’ – whose son, Red Hugh O’Donnell, fought to oust the English from Ireland. Red Hugh, the ‘fighting prince of Donegal’, was one of the leaders of the Nine Years War (1593-1602), the native aristocracy’s unsuccessful, last ditch attempt to preserve Gaelic Ireland.
In the early seventeenth Century, the castle and surrounding lands were acquired by the 2nd Duke of Lennox, and assigned to Sir John Stewart, who built the last castle on the site. In its heyday it was an impressive structure, standing three storeys high and with an iron portcullis. King James II stayed there in 1690, en route to the besieged city of Derry.
Mongavlin Castle was later acquired by the Abercorn family. It began falling into disrepair around the mid-eighteenth century and was eventually abandoned, although the Abercorns retained the surrounding farmland and access to the Foyle, one of Europe’s foremost salmon-fishing rivers.