Ardmayle Castle – County Tipperary

Ardmayle Castle is located in the barony of Middlethird, County Tipperary, 3 miles north of Cashel. A 13th century motte and bailey with remains of 16/17th century square towerhouse, situated opposite a medieval church still in use and also well worth a visit.

Around 1225 Richard Mór de Burgh, 1st Lord of Connaught (c. 1194 – 1242), Justicar of Ireland, aquired this land and its castle when he married Egidia de Lacy, daughter of Walter de Lacy, and Margaret de Braose. With this alliance he gained the cantred of Eóghanacht Caisil.

The castle later belonged to the Butlers, before it passed into the hands of the Cootes, the last proprietor having been hanged by Cromwell on the capture of the castle.

The castle has an almost hidden staircase built into the wall that leads to the roof and is perhaps best known for its secret chamber, which can be accessed via the passage leading to the castle’s latrine chute. Outside the latrine passage there is a small hole in the floor which leads to the secret chamber and staircase. It was designed so that it could be covered with a flagstone and is possibly one of the only “en suite” secret chambers in an Irish tower house.

During our visit however we found access to to the upper levels of the castle restricted, possible for safety reasons. The lower level however is open and accessible.  The castle is located on privately owned land, but can easily be viewed from the roadside.

O’Dea Castle – County Clare

O’Dea Castle, also known as Dysert O’Dea Castle, is an Irish fortified tower house, situated at Dysert O’Dea (Irish: Dísert, meaning “hermitage”), the former O’Dea clan stronghold, 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the village of Corofin, County Clare just off the R476 road. When driving to Corrofin from Ennis, look for the sign posts, then follow the track and finally the castle, which is slightly hidden, but well worth a visit.

The Battle of Dysert O’Dea, which drove the Anglo-Normans from the region for over 200 years, took place at this site on 10 May 1318. The castle was built some years later, between 1470 and 1490 by Diarmaid O’Dea, Lord of Cineal Fearmaic. The Earl of Ormond took the castle from the O’Dea clan in 1570 by force. By 1584, however, they had regained it and at that time, Domhnall Maol O’Dea was listed as owner. Domhnall supported the northern Chiefs in the Nine Years’ War of 1594-1603 and subsequently Dysert Castle fell to the Protestant Bishop of Kildare, Daniel Neylon, who in 1594 bequeathed it to his son, John. The castle however eventually returned to the O’Dea clan…

After the fall of Limerick in 1651 to the Cromwellian forces, they maintained a small garrison here, but as soon as they left, the soldiers demolished the battlements, upper floors and staircase. The Neylon family then returned but during the reign of Charles II, Conor Cron O’Dea managed to regain the castle. Conor’s sons, Michael and James, supported the cause of James II and once again lost the castle though. The lands passed to the Synge family but the castle eventually and gradually fell into ruin.

In 1970, John O’Day of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin (USA) purchased the tower and had it restored. The castle was then leased to the Dysert Development Association, which, with support from the Irish Tourist Board, opened it as “The Dysert O’Dea Castle Archaeology Centre” in 1986. It showed an exhibition of local artefacts from the stone age to 1922.

The tower won the “Clare Tourism Award” for being one of the most authentically rebuilt castles in Ireland.

It is open to the public for a small entrance fee and well worth a visit and exploration. We were able to explore the castle at our leisure and even go onto the roof, where we were treated by amazing views of the surrounding countryside.

Nearby castle:  Leamaneh castle, County Clare


Amazing Places in Ireland – Kilfane Church, County Kilkenny

The main feature of this lovely ruined 14th Century church is is the Cantwell Fada, an effigy of a knight built in the 1320s/30s, but during our visit we were pleasantly surprised by a real treasure-trove of interesting and well-preserved features.

Three original doorways in the north and south walls headed by ogee stones, remains of an altar, piscina, book rest and multiple recesses all grace the interior walls.

Carved from a single slab of limestone standing against the North wall, the Cantwell Fada (long man) is famous for its intricate detail, historical relevance, and at over two metres in height, the tallest such effigy in Ireland and Britain. With legs crossed (possibly signifying that he had been on the Crusades), wearing a fine suit of chain mail, spurs and accompanied by sword and shield bearing the arms of the Cantwell family, it is believed that the figure represents Thomas de Cantwell who died in 1320. The effigy is beautifully carved, well preserved and definitely worth the trip to this wonderful church.

A 13th century sedilia near the altar is believed to have come from an earlier church at the site. In addition, the church has an adjoining original 3-storey fortified presbytery and bell tower which is definitely worth exploring.

Things you should NOT do or say in Ireland

The Irish are wonderful, laid back, easy going and very friendly people and visitors will often be completely unaware of any slips that offended or upset anyone. With that in mind though, here are a few things that you should avoid saying or doing when visiting or coming to live in Ireland:

  • North, South and everything in-between.

With Easter and memories of the Easter Rising events from 1916 fresh on everyone’s minds at the moment, I’ll start with “the troubles”, the North, Republic and the IRA. Do not make any insensitive comments or attempt to quiz the Irish about those events or the resulting situation. Some of them may answer your questions, but they much prefer not to talk about it and I want to ask you all on behalf of the Irish and English residing here to respect that. Things have been and are peaceful in Ireland and between the North and the Republic, the past is in the past and though the events are remembered, especially around Easter time, it brings up painful memories for many and is not something the Irish people like to discuss.

Which brings me to the next “don’t”:

  • Black and Tan and “Irish car bombs”

Do not go into a bar and order a “Black and Tan” or ask for an “Irish car bomb” Both drinks’ names evoke memories of troubled times and loss of lives and is found insensitive and decidedly unamusing by the Irish. A friend of mine here used to work as a barmaid in a pub and was asked for the former by a visitor trying to be funny. She calmly asked him if he’d like to drink it, or wear it. Enough said. Not all reactions will be as thoughtful as hers, but in general asking for either drink is best not recommended.

  • Claiming to be Irish

Unless you are a native and have lived in Ireland, or have Irish parents, don’t claim to be Irish or go around saying “I’m Irish”. Surprisingly a lot of people do and not surprisingly it annoys the genuine Irish a little. With that said, during your time in Ireland chances are that some Irish locals will at some point ask you about your ancestry and whether or not you have any Irish in you and would be happy to hear if you do.

  • Quizzing or joking about potatoes

This may sound like a strange no-no, but keep in mind that the potato played a big part in Ireland’s history, notably around the famine, when potato crops were lost to blight and many, many Irish people either starved to death, or left Ireland. Nowadays potatoes are the local staple carbohydrate and I recall someone once saying it’s hard to find a meal in Ireland with no potatoes in it! I found it not quite true, but they do manage to slip onto your plate with surprising frequency and they are delicious, so enjoy them with your meals, but don’t joke about them, or make too big a deal of them.

  • Leprechauns and Hollywood born cliche’s and sayings

Leprechauns are for tourist amusement only and tolerated by the Irish, with the exception of those who would sell you a souvenier of one. Outside of that small percentage of the population most Irish won’t appreciate jokes about them and would definitely not appreciate being called one. If you are interested in genuine Irish myths and legends, there are plenty of those to enquire about.

The only time you will hear “top of the morning to you” will be when an Irishman mocks the silly Hollywood born greeting. The Irish do have some fun sayings and expressions and I love how they play with words, but that phrase is not one used here and you will more than likely get an eyeroll if you try it out yourself, so best leave it.

  • “Do you know so and so…”

It’s a surprisingly common question and the answer is, with a population of over 6 million people, chances are slim to none that the Irish person you are talking to will know the other Irish person you know from that region or city. With that said, it’s something I find amusing and wonderful, whenever I introduce two Irish friends, they always start quizzing each other until they find someone they both know. The average Irish person do know a lot of people, but they don’t know everyone!

Lismore Castle, Co Waterford

If you take the N72 via Cappoquin to the lovely town of Lismore in Co Waterford, the sight pictured above is what welcomes visitors to the town of Lismore. Followed by an equally impressive view of the castle as you enter the village and cross the bridge into the town itself.

Lismore Castle (Irish: Caisleán an Leasa Mhóir) was built in 1185 by Prince John to guard the river crossing. The castle site was originally occupied by Lismore Abbey, an important monastery and seat of learning established in the early 7th century. It belonged to the Earls of Desmond, subsequently to the Cavendish family from 1753 and is currently the Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire. The Duke, who succeeded to the title in 2004, continues to live primarily on the family’s Chatsworth estate. His son and heir, Lord Burlington, who maintains an apartment in the castle, has been given management of it, and in 2005 converted the derelict west range into a contemporary art gallery, known as Lismore Castle Arts, which is open to the public.

The remainder of the interior is not open to the public, but is available for rental by groups of up to twenty-three visitors. The castle’s superb gardens however are open to the public. The upper garden is a 17th-century walled garden, while much of the informal lower garden was designed in the 19th century. More information and opening times can be found here:

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle is one of the best known and most visited castles in all of Ireland and rightfully so. This massive, beautifully restored castle dominates its section of the city center of Kilkenny. It has been opened to the public after extensive renovations and offers tours as well as access to its park, a haven of beauty, quiet and nature in the busy city center.

Kilkenny formed part of the lordship of Leinster, which was granted to Strongbow. Strongbow’s daughter and heiress, Isabel, married William Marshall in 1189. The Earl Marshall owned large estates in Ireland, England, Wales and France and appointed Geoffrey fitz Robert as seneschal of Leinster. So began a major phase of development in Kilkenny, including the construction of Kilkenny Castle, the first stone castle on the site, construction started in 1195 and was completed in 1213. This was a square-shaped castle with towers at each corner. Three of these original four towers survive to this day.

James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde, bought the castle in 1391 and established himself as ruler of the area. The powerful Butler family were to remain the owners of the castle for over 500 years, until in 1967, after a period of neglect, James Arthur Butler, 6th Marquess of Ormonde, sold Kilkenny Castle to Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. The Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee then handed the castle over to the State and it has since been refurbished and opened to visitors.

The castle is well worth a visit and has a lot to offer its visitors. For art lovers art of the National Art Gallery is on display in the castle and some truly beautiful paintings adorn the rooms of the castle’s walls. For nature lovers the extensive park offers hours of walking along the river or through the woods, where you can find an abundance of birds, waterfowl and squirrels. There is also a lovely play area in the park, for families with young kids.

And finally, for those interested in the paranormal, read more about the castle’s ghosts in Haunted Ireland – Kilkenny Castle

Haunted Ireland – John’s Bridge, Kilkenny

John’s bridge is one of two main bridges in Kilkenny city, situated on the edge of the city center, it offers a spectacular view of Kilkenny Castle and Green’s bridge, a sort distance upriver. John’s Bridge was first built in or around 1200 and has since been rebuilt many times. The current structure has stood since 1910.

During the flood of 1763, Green’s Bridge, a short distance upriver, succumbed to the force of nature and collapsed. Not knowing or perhaps not considering the dangers, a small group of spectators gathered and stood transfixed on John’s Bridge, to observe the events unfolding upriver. Tragically John’s bridge then also collapsed, plunging all who stood on her into the murky, swollen Nore below. Sixteen people died.

Since that tragic day many locals and visitors have reported seeing ghostly shapes, leaning on the walls of the new structure, gazing in the direction of Green’s Bridge, or scrambling in the water below, attempting to mount the river banks.

Few people nowadays, when pausing to enjoy the views offered from this vantage point, know that the bridge played part in a tragedy many years ago. A tragedy that still haunts the city to this day…

Haunted Ireland – Malahide Castle

In 1185 King Henry II of England built Malahide castle for his dear friend Sir Richard Talbot in the pretty seaside village of Malahide, Co. Dublin. The castle has been occupied and used as family homes for around 800 years and over that time collected at least 5 known spirit residents and gained a reputation as one of Ireland’s most haunted spots.

The best known of these apparitions would be the former jester, Puck. In the 16th Century the Talbots always had a jester among their retinue of attendants. One of these jesters, “Puck” by name, was also at that time the resident caretaker, his main function when not entertaining to keep watch and sound the alarm in case of attack. He lived in a turret of the Castle, now known as Puck’s Staircase, where he carried out his duties as watchman. According to legend Puck fell in love with a kinswoman of Lady Elenora Fitzgerald, who was detained at the Castle by Henry VIII at the time, because of her rebel tendencies. One December night the jester was found close to the walls of the castle stabbed through the heart, still dressed in his gay jester suit and cap and bells. It is said that before he died he swore an oath that he would haunt the castle until a master reigned who choose a bride from the people, but would harm no one if a male Talbot slept under the roof.

It is said that Pucks spirit continued living on in the castle, appearing at numerous times over the years when the castle was in danger. His dwarfish figure has appeared in a number of photographs taken in the castle and grounds and many a Talbot family letter makes reference to his continued protection of the castle. Puck’s last appearance were reported during the sale of the contents of the Castle in May 1976.

Another resident spirit said to haunt the castle is the spectre of young Lord Galtrim, Sir Walter Hussey, son of the Baron of Galtrim, who in the 15th Century was killed in battle on his wedding day. It is said that Lord Galtrim wanders through the castle at night, groaning and pointing to the spear wound in his side. It is said he haunts the Castle to show his unhappiness towards his immediately widowed bride, who wasted little time marrying Lord Galtrim’s rival after the lord himself lost his life in defence of her honour and happiness.

Lord Galtrim’s widow, Lady Maud Plunkett is said to haunt the castle as well, but as she looked in later years, when she married her third husband, a Lord Chief Justice. During this time she had become notorious as an un-equalled virago, and her ghostly appearances chases her husband through the corridors of the castle.

Another of the castle’s ghosts is that of Miles Corbett, the Roundhead to whom Cromwell gave the castle and property during his protectorate. At the Restoration Miles was relieved of his property and made to pay the penalty of the many crimes he had committed during his occupancy, which included the desecration of the chapel of the old abbey near the castle. He was hanged, drawn and quartered and when his ghost first appears it seems to be a perfectly whole soldier in armour, which then falls into four pieces before the eyes of anyone who has the unpleasant experience of meeting it.

The 5th recorded ghost is that of the unnamed White Lady, of whom a painting hung in the Great Hall of the castle for many years. Nobody appears to know her identity or the identity of the artist who portrayed her. According to legend from time to time she would leave her painting and wander through the castle in the quiet of the night. Many people have reported sightings of this mysterious lady’s ghost.

In the castle grounds is a field known as Our Lady’s Acre, which is also reputed to be haunted. On a few occasions two grey-haired, sad-faced ladies have been seen on the field, wandering aimlessly. Some sources suggest that they are ghosts of Danish women who never found rest after the Norman Talbot drove the Danes from Malahide.

Haunted Ireland – Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle plays host to a number of ghost stories, unsurprising really, given that there has been a castle on the site in one form or another since 1195 and, like most of the ancient buildings in Ireland, it has seen its share of deaths and tragedy.

Kilkenny Castle was home to the Butlers of Ormonde until it was sold to a Castle Restoration Committee in 1967, before being passed into the hands of the OPW. There are as many as 41 ghosts rumored to roam its grounds, many of them said to be of the Butler family. The most frequently sighted being the castle’s “white lady” who has often been seen roaming the castle’s gardens and adjacent river banks below. She had also been seen wandering the corridors and staircases and is speculated to have been inadvertently photographed in 2010 by two teenager visiting the castle, shortly after a reported sighting by a young boy in the same spot. Kilkenny residents believe this spirit to be that of Lady Margaret Butler, who was born in the castle in either 1454 or 1465. She married Sir William Boleyn and through her eldest son Thomas, was the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII of England.

More discreet hauntings include an electronic counter in the Parade Tower, used for counting visitors to the thirteenth century part of the fortress, which continues to count up to a hundred visitors during the night hours, while the tower is locked and out of public reach. The tower sits over what was formally a dungeon, where it is said many poor souls would have been imprisoned before passing away.

Also see:  Haunted Ireland – John’s Bridge, Kilkenny


Leamaneh castle, County Clare

Leamaneh castle is a well known landmark in the Burren, situated on a crossroad between the villages of Corrofin and Kilinaboy, it can be viewed from the roadside, but due to it’s state of disrepair and location on private farmland, is not accessible to the public. It is however highly recommended as a quick stop during a visit to the curious Burren.

The castle’s name “Leamaneh” is believed to be derived from the Irish léim an éich which, translated into English means “the horse’s leap” or léim an fheidh (“the deer’s leap”). It was built circa 1480-90 as a 5-storied Irish tower house, probably by Toirdelbhach Donn MacTadhg Ó Briain, King of Thomond of the O’Brien family, one of the last of the High Kings of Ireland.

In 1543, Turlogh Donn’s son, Murrough surrendered his title of King to Henry VIII and was created in 1st Earl of Thomond and Baron Inchiquin. In 1550, Murrough gave Leamaneh castle to his third son, Donough, who was hanged in Limerick in 1582 as a rebel.

In 1639, Donough’s grandson, Conor O’Brien, married the castle’s most famous owner, Máire ní Mahon (MacMahon), better known as Máire Rúa (“Red Mary”). She was the daughter of Sir Torlach Rúa MacMahon, Lord of Clonderlaw and her mother was Lady Mary O’Brien, daughter of the third Earl of Thomond. Her first husband, Daniel O’Neylan of nearby Dysert O’Dea Castle, died young and upon his death, she gained control of his substantial estate and a £1,000 fortune. This wealth enabled her and Conor to build a more comfortable mansion on to the original tower house at Leamaneh around 1648.

Brave Máire accompanied her husband on raids against English settlers, but in 1651, he was mortally wounded fighting on the Royalists’ side at Inchicronan (Crusheen). Máire, realizing that the punishment for his rebellion against the English would be the forfeiture of their property, put on her finest dress and drove her carriage to Limerick city, where she offered to marry any Cromwellian officer who “had the courage to ask for” her hand.

The brave man who became Máire’s third husband, Cornet John Cooper was a Cromwellian soldier and through this marriage she successfully retained her estates. Cooper left the army and amassed some wealth through land and property speculation. However, he later ran into financial difficulty and, as a result, the estate which he had married into at Leamaneh, which he under law now owned through his wife, was mortgaged to repay his debts. According to legend, Máire murdered him one night when he was drunk, by throwing him out of a window at Leamaneh castle.

During the 1660s, Cromwellian troops were stationed on and off at Leamaneh castle. Máire Rúa’s son, Donagh or Donough (after 1686 Sir Donat) stayed there until 1684/1685, when he moved the family seat from Leamaneh to the much larger Dromoland Castle in Newmarket-On-Fergus, south of Ennis.

Leamaneh had various occupants in subsequent years, but the house finally fell into ruin at the end of the 18th century. The barbican-like gates which used to adorn the entrance to the property were moved to Dromoland Castle in 1906 or 1908 by Lord Inchiquin. They are still in the grounds in there.

The most elegant of the fireplaces of Leamaneh castle was relocated to the “Old Ground Hotel” in Ennis, where it can still be found today.

Nearby castle:  O’Dea Castle – County Clare