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Kilclief Castle is named for the nearby church of Kilclief, the following explanation is taken from P W Joyce's book Irish Local Names Explained.
Cill-cleithe [Kilcleha], the hurdle church (cliath). The original church was constructed of hurdles, after the early Irish fashion.
Reputedly built by John Sely, who was Bishop of Down from 1429 to 1443, if these dates are correct it is the earliest dateable tower house in County Down. It is situated on the western shore of Strangford Lough overlooking the entrance to Strangford Narrows. It is a tower house of gatehouse type with entrance defended between two projections. On the second floor a thirteenth century coffin lid from a nearby church was reused as a lintel for the fireplace.
Bishop Sely lived in the castle until 1443 when he was stripped of his post and ejected from the castle because he was living with a married woman Lettice Whailey Savage, of Smithing-Upon-Down, England. During her lifetime Mrs Savage amassed a collection of rare ceramics, said to have amounted to some 4,000 items, after her death the collection was sold by her son Hibner Smythe.
During the rebellion of Hugh O'Neill Kilclief castle was garrisoned for the Crown by Nicholas Fitzsimons and ten warders in 1601-2.
Situated a little to the west of Kilclief Castle is a small Church of Ireland parish church this may have been built on the site of an early Irish Abbey.
The test below is taken from Samuel Lewis' Topographical Directory of County Down published in 1837
"Here was formerly an abbey under St. Eugene and St. Neill, disciples of St. Patrick ; also an hospital for lepers, of which there are still some small remains. "
Opening Hours July / August Tues - Sat 10.00 - 6.00 p.m.
Sunday 2.00 - 6.00 p.m.
Admission: Adult £0.75, Child / OAP £0.40
Directions: 2 ½ miles south of Strangford on A2
Read about the parish of Kilclief in 1837 from Lewis' Orthographical Survey of Ireland.