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County Londonderry
Ballykelly village.jpg
Ballykelly village centre
Location: 55°2’40"N, 7°-0’57"W
Population: 1,836  (2001)
Post town: Limavady
Postcode: BT49
Dialling code: 028
Local Government
Council: Causeway Coast & Glens
East Londonderry

Ballykelly is a village and townland in County Londonderry. It stands 3 miles west of Limavady on the main Londonderry to Limavady A2 road and is 15 miles east of Londonderry. In 2001 the population of Ballykelly (excluding Walworth) was 1,827.

The village's name is from the Gaelic Baile Uí Cheallaigh, meaning "O'Kelly's Townland".

Ballykelly contains some of the most interesting buildings erected in Ulster by the Plantation companies, being largely developed by the London Company of Fishmongers during the 18th and 19th centuries. It features Tamlaghtfinlagan Parish Church, built by Earl Frederick Hervey, 18th Century Bishop of Derry, amongst many traditional buildings. The Presbyterian Church, Drummond Hotel and North West Independent Hospital, were all built by the London Company of Fishmongers.[1]

William Makepeace Thackeray travelled through the village during his Irish tour in 1842. He wrote about the Presbyterian Church, championing its architecture over the 'sham-Gothic ecclesiastical edifices' which were apparently in Ireland at the time.

The village enjoys views across Lough Foyle to Inishowen in County Donegal and is bordered by Ballykelly Forest which was the first State Forest in Northern Ireland. Although there are good health and educational facilities available, there is only a limited retail sector relative to the population of the village.


The Anglican Parish of Tamlaghtfinlagan originally was located a mile southwest of the current village; it is recorded in Papal Bulls of the mid C12th. The name Tamlaghtfinlagan comes from the Irish, "the resting place of Finliganus", one of Columba's monks who was, according to tradition, the founding abbot of the abbey. This abbey building still exists, although in ruins. In the mid C16th the parish church moved to Walworth, where it was gutted by the retreating troops of James II following the defeat in the battle of the Boyne, 1689.

The current church was dedicated in 1795, and is a simple perpendicular church, with three aisles, a small chancel and a gallery, much of which was built by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers.

  • Church of Ireland: Tamlaghtfinlagan Parish Church
  • Presbyterian: Ballykelly Presbyterian Church, built in 1827 by the Fishmongers Company.[2]
  • Roman Catholic: St Finlough's
Sampson's Tower


The village was originally laid out as a Plantation settlement. The development of the nearby Second World War airfield greatly enhanced the size and significance of the village. There has been considerable expansion throughout the post-War period, particularly since the 1990s, with a series of private residential developments west of the historic core along Clooney Road.

RAF Ballykelly opened in 1941 as a base for RAF Coastal Command. It closed in 1971 and the site was handed over to the British Army, who renamed it Shackleton Barracks. The Army was due to leave Shackleton Barracks in early 2008. During Second World War an RAF bomber on a training run clipped a telephone line behind a church in Ballykelly and crashed, claiming the lives of the crew. The aircraft was carrying out a trials mission involving low level parachuting, but a parachute became entangled with the tailplane, putting the aircraft out of control.

During the Troubles the Droppin Well bombing occurred in Ballykelly, killing 17 people in a local disco and bar. Although one of the most fatal single incidents of the conflict, it was the only fatal Troubles-related incident to take place in Ballykelly.

Places of interest

Ballykelly Forest

Ballykelly Forest is west of the village. The land was purchased in 1910 and it became the first state forest in Northern Ireland, with the planting of 11 acres of Douglas-fir commencing in 1912. The forest now has walking trails.[3]

The woodland was once known as the Camman Wood and was a popular haunt for highwaymen terrorising the coach road from Coleraine to Londonderry.[4]

Other sights

  • Rough Fort, between Limavady and Ballykelly, one of the best preserved earthworks in Ulster. It covers approximately one acre and was one of the first properties to be acquired by the National Trust in Northern Ireland.
  • Sampson's Tower is a fortified structure built by public subscription in memory of Arthur Sampson who for 40 years was an agent of the London Worshipful Company of Fishmongers.
  • Shackleton Barracks, which became famous when a commercial airliner on a Ryanair service landed there by mistake on 29 March 2006, instead of at City of Derry Airport.[5]


  • Ballykelly has good road links to Londonderry and Limavady. A proposed Ballykelly by-pass would, when constructed, provide a 4½-mile single carriageway road taking the bulk of through traffic away from the village. Construction is due between 2013 and 2018.[6]
  • The Broharris Canal was built in the 1820s when a 2 miles long cut was made on the south shore of Lough Foyle near Ballykelly in the direction of Limavady. It served both as a drainage channel and for transport with goods being brought from Londonderry Port, as well as shellfish and kelp from the sand banks along the shore.
  • Ballykelly railway station opened on 29 December 1852 and closed on 20 September 1954.[7] There are currently no rail links serving Ballykelly, although the Londonderry to Belfast line runs nearby.


  • Cricket: The Nedd CCM[8]
  • Football: Ballykelly United Football Team
  • Gaelic Football: Glack GAC
  • Camogie: also at [[Glack GAC, for Ladies.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Ballykelly)