Creevelea Abbey, which should actually be called a friary, as it was a Franciscan house), is located on the outskirts of Dromahair, in County Leitrim, about 16km by road, east of Sligo Town.
Creevelea Abbey, founded in 1508 by Owen O’Rourke, Lord of Breifne, and his wife Margaret O’Brian, daughter of the Chieftain of Thomond, are some very well preserved ruins, standing in some romantic settings beside the River Bonet.
This monastery of the Franciscan third order, was one of the last abbey’s founded in Ireland before King Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries throughout Ireland and England.
The remains of this extensive friary consist of the church, the cloister and domestic buildings. The tower, which stands above the church, was converted for use as living quarters in the 17th century, though it would originally have served as a bell-tower. At one point in its history the church was covered with a thatched roof. There is also a cloister that features interesting stone carvings, including one of Saint Francis of Assisi preaching to birds.
Sir Teigue O’Rourke (died 1605) was buried here, as was the Franciscan Thady O’Rourke, Bishop of Killala (died 1734) whose headstone was restored by Father Cormac McSherry, builder of St Patrick’s Church.
In 1590 Sir Richard Bingham stabled his horses in the Friary during his pursuit of Brian Na Murtha (O’Rourke), for sheltering the survivors of he Spanish Armada.
Since the mid 17th century the Friary has been used as a place of burial, its fabric deteriorating until designated a National Monument, and becoming the responsibility of the Office of Public Works which has halted its decline.
The most convenient access route to Creevelea Abbey is to leave Dromahair on the R286 road, taking it easy, as shortly you will see, on the right-hand side, a sign for Creevelea Abbey, this small road brings you right beside the abbey where there is a car park.