Little Village, Big Tales

Rostrevor 2

The Village of Rostrevor

The title of this post could apply to numerous places in Ireland. One such place is Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland. Even its name comes with a story. A man named Edward Trevor founded the town in 1612 and named it after himself and, apparently, after his new wife Rose. A romantic beginning for such a scenic place. Of course, there is at least one other opinion. Trevor may have taken the word “ros” from Irish word rois, meaning wood. The area is wooded, but personally I like the first theory better.

Rostrevor today has approximately 2400 residents and lies at the foot of Slieve Martin.


A Mysterious Bell

Being a history buff and someone who loves a good tale, one of my favorite stories about Rostrevor involves St. Bronach’s bell. For many generations folks claimed that when the wind blew near the ancient ruins of a church associated with St. Bronach, they heard a bell ringing. A fairy bell? Why not? There was no bell anyone could find, but they heard it, and so went the story year after year, decade after decade, even century after century. Then one day in 1888 a storm knocked down a massive oak tree in Kilbroney churchyard. When the men cut up the tree for firewood, guess what they found? An ancient bell, the kind the monks used in the monasteries. Apparently the bell had been hung in the tree and forgotten. When the tree grew around it, no one could tell it was there.

That story has fascinated me for some time. For the Irish, a fairy bell was a perfectly acceptable explanation. I wonder, did they accept that the sound actually had a physical cause? What fun is that?

Photo courtesy of Cindy Thomson

The bell itself is now located in the Catholic Church. It can be dated to around 900 based on its construction. See the little hammer? That’s how the bell is rung. After 1888 it was used in the church.

More Tales from Rostrevor, Ireland

There are some other interesting things I learned about Rostrevor after visiting there. I guess that means I’ll have to go back and check them out.

  • There is a monument on Shore Road built in 1826 to honor the birthplace of Major General Robert Ross, the man who captured Washington during the War of 1812. He is credited with giving The White House its name (the white paint was used to cover the burn marks on the building.)
  • Kilfeaghan Dolmen, a 5,000 year old portal tomb, is located approximately three miles from Rostrevor on the Kilkeel Road.
  • The Giants weren’t just busy up at the Causeway. They were also near Rostrevor throwing boulders at each other it seems.

The Giant's Grave

  • Cloch Mor (or Cloughmore) is a great place from which to view the beauty of Rostrevor. It’s located in a wilderness area where you can park your car and hike.

The Cloch Mor, or Cloughmore Stone. Anthony Cranney Photography

  • Singer/songwriter Tommy Sands and his family live in Rostrevor.
  • Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, lived in Rostrevor with her family.
  • Rostrevor is the birthplace of Ben Dunne, founder of the chain store Dunnes Stores.
  • The Rostrevor Forest contains one of the few remaining oak groves on the island and gives the visitor a glimpse into what the landscape of ancient Ireland might have looked like.

More Tales to Come

For me, at least, this is the stuff from which stories are made. A legend about a fairy bell that turns superstitions around, colorful characters who once lived there, famous figures who hail from there, a land of incredible natural beauty, rock formations that inspire wild tales…

Cindy Thomson is the author of Celtic Wisdom and Brigid of Ireland. She enjoys exploring Irish history, especially the Early Christian period. She has written numerous articles on Irish genealogy. Visit her blog Celtic Voices and her web site where you can sign up for her monthly newsletter.

Click photos for image credit.

Author: Cindy

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  1. that whole area is very beautiful, and filled with music too. this July will be the 24th year the Fiddler’s Green Festival has been held in Rostrevor, for example. close up against the border as it is, it is an area with many stories from the Troubles. as well.

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    • It’s as beautiful as it looks, or more so. I think the origin of place names is really interesting too. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Whilst it was common for the English/Scots who were planted here, to name towns after their family name, I was also just wondering if maybe the name has a different origin. Simply: Rostrefuar. A ros being a promontory (it does have a significant promontory into Carlingford Lough, a tad to the west of the current town centre; and it’s a common enough word/name down the east coast. Then “tre” being a farmstead (I think this was part of the Kingdom of Dalriada, and “tre” would have been in use in the language). And finally “fuar” still meaning cold today in Irish. So maybe a farmstead on a cold promontory gave rise to the name… maybe Trevor just privatised it. I don’t know I’m just speculating.

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    • Place names are so fascinating to study. Your theory is as good as any!

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  3. If it has legend it’s for me! My research for all fairytale places is never ending. Thank you for posting this Corey. I’m still reading all the links you sent, thank you agai.

    The Fairytale Traveler

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