Grey Abbey

The ruined abbey is on the outskirts of Greyabbey village, at the entrance to Rosemount Estate.

The Rosemount Estate was granted by Sir Hugh Montgomery to his son James in 1629 and has been in the hands of the Montgomery family ever since. James, who was killed by pirates in 1652, completed the first house on the site in 1634. This was burned down in 1695 and the family was forced by mounting debts to sell the estate to a cousin, William Montgomery. The present house, one of the finest Georgian country houses in Ireland, was built in 1762.

The atmospheric ruins of Grey Abbey itself, built by Anglo-Norman John de Courcy in 1193, are also part of the estate and contain many fascinating Montgomery memorials. Grey Abbey was burned to the ground by Sir Brian O’Neill, whose grandson Con was forced to grant two thirds of the O’Neill’s land to Sir Hugh Montgomery and Sir James Hamilton, the co-founding founders of the Ulster-Scots. Even so, when Sir Hugh Montgomery arrived in 1606 it was one of the few ruins left standing in the area. The nave of the church was converted for Protestant worship in 1626, the year Montgomery established his chaplain, David McGill, as the curate there.

Alexander Byers, one of the historic characters of the novel about the 1798 Rebellion, Betsy Gray or Hearts of Down, is buried in the graveyard here.


Private group tours of Rosemount Estate can be arranged. Visit or call 028 4278 8666 for details. The ruins of Grey Abbey can be visited. Parking nearby.

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