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

 

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: http://www.lismorecastlegardens.com

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

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

Kilbline Castle, County Kilkenny

Kilbline castle and its attached 2-storey house is situated approximately 1 mile from Bennetsbridge, Co Kilkenny. It is not open to or accessible to the public, but its current owners kindly gave me a quick tour of the building  and some information on its history.

Kilbline castle was built in 1539 and records from the era reference to it being forfeited by one Thomas Comerford of Ballymac in 1566. Subsequent owners have been members of the Shortall family of Rathardmore Castle in the same county. Thomas Shortall of Rathardmore died in 1628 and shortly after his heir Peter moved to the castle of Kilbline. His substantial estates, which ran to around 1,500 acres were declared forfeited by the Cromwellian government in 1653 and his sons ordered to be sent to Connaught. In later years, it’s believed to be after the restoration of Charles II in 1660, one of the sons seem to have returned to Kilbline.

Kilbline once more changed hands during this period when William Candler, originally from Newcastle in Northumberland, was granted lands in County Kilkenny, including those on which Kilbline Castle stands. He is believed to have served as an officer in Oliver Cromwell’s army during the Irish wars of 1649-53 and as a reward for his endeavors, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and granted these lands as result. He and his wife Anne Villiers had two sons, the younger of whom, John lived at Kilbline.


An interesting side history here that is worth mentioning: John’s son Thomas lived at Callan Castle. He had four sons, the youngest of whom Daniel, married an Irishwoman, possibly a Roman Catholic, called Hannah, and as a result was obliged to leave Ireland. Around 1735 Daniel and Hannah Candler moved to the USA, initially settling in North Carolina before moving to Bedford, Virginia. Their great, great, great-grandson was Asa Griggs Candler, the entrepreneur who in 1888 bought the formula for the well known soft drink Coca Cola.

According to it’s current owners Kilbline Castle continued to be occupied with a Ryan family living in the castle until 1840, before marrying into the Lannon family, who occupied the castle until 1979. At some point a two storey three-bay house was added on the west end of the tower house and a further single storey structure adjoining this. The interior of the house remains relatively intact  and though the current owners mentioned no plans are in place currently to restore the castle, measures have been taken to “keep the rain out”.

Much of the castle, due to the questionable condition of some of its floorboards, were inaccessible for safety reasons, but I did get to visit the delightful and architecturally significant paneled room on the south-east corner of the ground floor. Most likely of oak this looks to date from the late 17th or early 18th century. All the wall paneling is intact and in remarkably good condition. Overall the interior of the castle is in fair shape and it was an absolute joy to visit and photograph.