Irish Castles – Synone Castle – County Tipperary

Synone castle (Irish: Farrin-a-Urrigh) is a 16th century cylindrical towerhouse situated in Farranavarra, Boherlahan, Co Tipperary.

Little is known about the history of this lovely little castle, except that is is said that many of Strongbows’ forces, in retreat from Cashel, were attacked and buried here.  Human remains were dug up near the tower and years ago a large helmet was discovered. The castle and surrounds however appears to have no official architectural significance.

The castle was at some point the residence of the Butler family and it is said that it was attacked by Cromwell’s army. What remains today is a small, cylindrical ruined tower in fairly good shape, which can be viewed from the roadside. It’s locked up and accessible via the driveway of the adjacent private home. Please respect the privacy of it’s residents when visiting the castle.

Irish Castles – Kanturk Castle – County Cork

Kanturk Castle is an impressive fortified house, built in 1601 for MacDonagh McCarthy as a defence against English settlers. According to legend, the seven stone masons that worked on the castle were all named John, giving the castle the name of Carrig-na-Shane-Saor meaning The Rock of John the Mason.

Known locally as the Old Court, Kanturk castle is a limestone rubble Tudor mansion measuring four storeys high, 28 metres (±92 feet) in length and 11 metres (36 feet) wide, with four towers, each five storeys high, measuring to a height of 29 metres (95 feet).

According to legend, the castle was never completed as word of its construction reached the Privy Council in England. They ordered MacDonagh to stop building works, as they feared it would be used as a base to attack English settlers. Macdonogh was said to be so outraged at this news that he smashed all the blue ceramic tiles meant for the roof and threw them into a nearby stream. The stream became known as the Bluepool Stream, because of the reflection of the tiles in the water.

Over the years, the property changed ownership a number of times, and was eventually donated to the National Trust by Lucy, Countess of Egmont under the condition that it be kept as a ruin in the same condition as it was at time of hand over. The Trust have been managing the Castle and grounds since July 2000 and it is designated as a National Monument.

Kanturk Castle is located about 1.5km (just under a mile) from the market town of Kanturk in County Cork. Take the R579 from town and look for the castle on your right hand side.

Loughmoe Castle – County Tipperary

Loughmoe Castle (Irish: Caisláin Luach Magh) also known as Loughmore Castle, is situated just outside Loughmoe Village, near Templemore in County Tipperary. The castle was the ancestral home of the Purcell family, the Barons of Loughmoe.

Loughmoe Castle, and the village of Loughmoe nearby, is often referred to as Loughmore (The Big Lake), but the Irish translation of the area is Luach Mhagh, meaning “the field of the reward”, and it alludes to the manner in which the Purcells first gained proprietorship of area.

The oldest part of the castle was originally built in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, and consists of a four-storey tower-house. Additions were later made by the Purcell family in the seventeenth century. The Purcell family lived in Loughmoe Castle until around 1760. The castle has since been unoccupied and left to fall into ruin and today is left in derelict, but still impressive state.

There is a wonderful legend around how the Purcell family acquired the castle. It is said that many years ago there lived a king in Loughmoe Castle, and the densely wooded land around it was terrorised by a boar and sow of “gigantic size”, who uprooted crops and killed whoever they came into contact with.

To rid the countryside of these beasts, the king offered their slayer the hand of his daughter, the castle at Loughmoe and the vast lands around it. After many other hunters had tried and failed to get rid of the beasts, a youth by the name of Purcell sought permission to hunt them. According to legend he made his way through the nearby forest by leaping from branch to branch, until he finally reached the spot where the creatures were resting. With his bow he fired arrows at them from above, until at last two of his shots went into the mouths of beasts, who fled in pain and terror. They were later found dead near Thurles, and Purcell claimed his generous prize. The area in which the castle stands is therefor known as “the field of the reward”, referring to the gift Purcell received from the King.

The legend is alluded to in the Purcell family’s coat of arms, which depicts the heads of four boars.

The castle is situated on privately owned farmland, but when I enquired I learned the owners do allow visitors to go view the castle up close, as long as it’s understood that they do so at their own risk, as the building is not safe, due to it’s derelict state. If you would like to go see the ruins up close, look for the big white house nearest the castle and go knock on the door. The lady we spoke to at the house was lovely and happy to tell us about the castle and direct us to it.

Carey’s Castle – County Waterford

Carey’s Castle is situated about 4km from Clonmel off the Dungarvan road (just over the border in Co Waterford). There is a small lawn with picnic site close to the car park, from where there is walk of about 500m through mixed woodland to where the castle is, next to the river.

This area was known as Glenabbey, with the name thought to derive from a small ecclesiastical site positioned here as an offshoot of the Cistercian monastery of Inishlounaght at Clonmel. In the years following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the lands of Glenabbey were granted to Edward Gough. By the turn of the 19th century, the site became the property of the Carey family, who are thought to have built the little castle that stands here today.

The Careys were wealthy schoolmasters in the Clonmel area, and their love of history is shown in the design of the house, where you can see a number of historical architectural styles represented. The early Irish round tower, a medieval Norman-style hall and both Romanesque and Gothic-style arches present in the ruins.

To the back of the main group of buildings is a stone ice-house. This type of building was used to keep food cold before the modern convenience of home appliances like refrigerators.

The Careys sold their properties including Glenabbey when they emigrated to Australia in around the 1840s. It was purchased by a Colonel Greene, however he became bankrupt soon after and the site became derelict ans stands in ruins today.

There are about 2 km of forest walks around the castle and about 600m of beautiful riverside to walk along. Along the riverside walk there is a profusion of birch, oak, beech and ash with some spruce and larch.

Ferns Castle – County Wexford

The Norman castle at Ferns was constructed on a base of volcanic rock by William Marshall around the year 1220. Marshall was one of the most renowned knights of this period. The Marshalls held control of the castle until it was burnt by the Irish clans in 1346 and was eventually taken by the Kavanaghs who held control over the town of Ferns until 1540, after which the crown regained control and a Governor was installed. The castle was finally blown up in 1641 by Charles Coote, a parliamentarian (though some sources blame Cromwellian forces in 1649).

The remains of the castle is still quite impressive, though only about half it still stands. It was originally square shaped with four large round towers at each corner, the south eastern tower is still intact and is open to the public by way of a guided tour.

During excavations in 1972-75 a rock-cut ditch was discovered around the castle walls and a drawbridge structure was also found on the south side. The castle was surrounded by the ditch for defence. This was not a moat though, as it did not contain water, but was used instead as a dump for waste food and such. This ditch was eventually filled in but was excavated in the 1970’s by the OPW and most of it reopened although only to about half of its former depth. Painstaking work has been made to restore what could be repaired and this shows through to this day.

A modern visitor centre located on-site features information about the historical site as well as the well-known Ferns Tapestry. Depicting the history of Ferns in stitch work, from the arrival of Saint Aidan in 598 AD to the coming of the Normans in 1169, the Ferns Tapestry remains a valuable historical artefact today.

Visitors can freely walk around the castle and its courtyard, but the only access to the tower and basement is by way of the guided tour which is free of charge.

Opening Times:
Mid May to Mid September – 10.00am to 5.00pm, last admission is at 4.15pm
Admission is Free
October to April – Closed

Killaghy Castle, County Tipperary

Situated less than 300m from Mullinahone Village, Co Tipperary, Killaghy Castle is a historic Norman castle that dates back to 1206. The St. Aulyus lived there for 8 years and then erected a stone castle to take the place of the moat and Bailey (a man-made hill of earth with a fortified wooden house on top).  The Baily was usually a raised platform of earth adjoining the mound and enclosed by a wooden stockade.

Later in the 15th and 16th century, a tower house was built. The tower house was a tall slender castle of stone, and was built primarily for defence. During Tudor times in the 16th century, a long house was added. The 18th century then saw the construction of two further buildings forming the structure of Killaghy Castle as we know it today.


Killaghy castle had numerous owners over the years. The original owners were Cromwellian planters by the name of Greene who in turn, through marriage, passed ownership to Despards and then in turn to Wright. The castle has also been owned by Watson, Fox, Naughton, Bradshaw, and Sherwood.

The castle has undergone extensive restoration over recent years, preserving the historic atmosphere with the sensitive integration of modern comforts. Stone buildings at the back of the castle date as far back as 1400 and have been tastefully restored and converted into self-catering units.

Today, the castle serves as a four-star self-catering accommodation available for holiday home hire, group bookings, parties, activity weekends and more. For more information and bookings see here:

Email: killaghycastle@gmail.com

Web: http://killaghycastle.com/

Phone: +353 (0)52 53112

Nenagh Castle – County Tipperary

The castle is the town of Nenagh’s oldest building, dating back to the 13th Century when Theobald FitzWalter, whose successors would become Earls and Dukes of Ormond, built the castle. Upon its completion c.1220 it served as the main seat of the Butler family. The castle was at one time surrounded by walls, along which were placed a gate house and two defensive towers. Though after renovations the castle is in a good state of repair, very little remains today of the gatehouse and one of the small towers.

It was at Nenagh Castle, in 1336, that a peace treaty was signed between James, the 1st Earl of Ormond, and a representative of the O’Kennedy family. The treaty included terms of peace and grants of lands for the Gaelic clan, but the agreement is more noteworthy because of what became of it over 600 years later. The treaty was presented as a gift to John F. Kennedy during his state visit to Ireland in 1963, and it is now housed in the J.F.K Library in Massachusetts. As for the O’Kennedy’s adherence to the treaty, they would go on to break its terms in spectacular fashion in 1347-8, when they unsuccessfully attacked the Castle and burnt the town. In this endeavour they were assisted by the O’Briens and O’Carrolls.

During the course of the Confederate and Cromwellian Wars the castle was seized on three separate occasions, until it was finally granted to Col. Daniel Abbot, along with extensive lands, in lieu of pay from Cromwell. The Butlers regained it after the Restoration in 1660. During the Jacobite War Anthony O’Carroll took the Castle from James, the 2nd Duke, who supported William, but it was retaken in August 1690, by Ginkel. Two years later William ordered its demolition so that it would be “rendered indefensible in ill hands”. The castle however was only partly damaged. Further destruction was wrought in 1750, when a farmer called Newsome attempted to demolish the Castle, as the sparrows it housed were destroying his barley crop nearby.

The battlements on top of the keep were rebuilt in 1861 and further conservation was undertaken in 1929. In 1985 the field around the Castle was developed as a small town park. The Office of Public works currently maintains the building. The castle is open to the public during the summer months, details below.

Opening Times Summer 2017:
Tuesday – Saturday 10.00 – 13.00 and 14.00 – 16.30
Last admission: 15.45
Admission: Free

Burnchurch Castle – County Kilkenny

Burnchurch Castle is a well-preserved 15th century Norman tower house with a round gate tower, situated 6.5 km (4.0 miles) south west of Kilkenny city, off the Clonmel Road. It is 6 km from Ballybur, near Cuffesgrange, the town of Callan, as well as Kells Priory. It is located in Burnchurch parish and was in the barony of Shillelogher.

It is said to have been built and owned by the Fitzgeralds of the house of Desmond in 15th century and continued to be occupied until 1817.

Of the original accompanying structures,  only the 12.5m high circular turret still remains, though a walled courtyard was originally attached to the castle. The castle itself is six storeys high and has an unusually large number of passages and chambers inside the walls. A great hall was formerly attached to the tower’s outside wall, but this has now vanished, as has most a bawn with a 41 foot tall tower at one corner. Old drawings of a date unknown, show remnants of buildings originally found on the site.

Many tower houses have mural chambers and passages hidden away within their walls, though few have the number and complexity of those found in Burnchurch Castle, which include numerous narrow rooms in the walls, including a “secret room” on the fourth floor. There used to be great hall attached to an outside wall of the tower, but that is now gone. There is a vault under the castle above which is the main chamber, with access to the upper three floors via an outside staircase. Notable features of the castle include mullioned windows, a fine carved fireplace and a round chimney which may have been a later addition.

It is known for being one of several Irish towers with the slightly narrower sides of the castle extending up an additional floor, creating in essence a pair of tower wide turrets.

Burnchurch Castle and tower, along with the Church of Ireland church, and the lime trees became a National Monument in 1993 and is accessible to the public.

 

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