Much of the research compiled for this project was found in “The Story of Newmarket on Fergus” by Reuben Butler and Máire Ní Ghruagáin, “Long Ago in Newmarket on Fergus; Vol 1” by Colm Liddy and “Long Ago in Dromoland” by Colm Liddy. The Clare Library online was extremely useful also.
Although its exact position is unknown, the first castle built was most likely a motte and bailey castle around 1250. The castle which stand at Bunratty now is the fourth structure there has been. It was built by the McNamara family around 1425. Around 1500 Bunratty Castle was in the hands of the O’Brien’s who were the most powerful clan in munster and later Earls of Thomand. They expanded the site and made it their chief seat. It continued to be property their residence and that of their descendants until 1646, when it was taken by the army of the Confederation of Kilkenny. The Studdert family came into possession of the castle in 1720 but let in fall into disrepair while moving into a more comfortable and modern ‘Bunratty House’. It was used as a barracks by the Royal Irish Constabulary for some time until the Studdert family used it again. In the late 19th century the roof of the Great Hall collapsed. In 1956 the castle was purchased and restored by the 7th Visocunt Gort. He saved it from ruin and is was opened to the public in 1960. Nowadays it is a very popular tourist attraction run by Shannon Heritage, known as the most complete and authentic castles in Ireland. For more information see;
All traces of this castle have gone and a stone cottage is in its place. It was originally owned by Loghlen McNamara.
Ballycar Castle was said to have been built by Conor MacHugh MacLochlainn MacNamara. It is thought to have been built before 1570 and was in ruin again before 1681. A sketch of the castle was done by Thomas Dineley in 1680. A house has now been built on this site.
The remains of this castle can be still seen and are adjoining the McNamara residence. While there is little historical information in this castle, it features in the 1937 schools collection, with local folklore. The Stonehall section of this nationwide historical project was completed by Principal at the time Pádraigh Mac Cormaic.
Dromoland Castle. Both were left to a man named Donough O Brien by his father. Donough was hanged as a rebel and his property was forfeited, This castle was built by Thomas McInerney and had a link to however this was later declared an error and it was reverted to his heirs.
While there is no evidence or records to suggest that there was a defensive site here. the structure was the residence of the Fitzgerald family from the Pallas area of Limerick. The structure has some remaining walls in quite good condition. This allowed for field examination which gave evidence of cut stone work and large windows. There are remains and evidence of stone faced terraces suggesting an elaborate area previously. For more information please see;
It is located on Finlough Lake. There are remains of some flat stones present which are marked as from a crannóg.
The earliest information on this castle is in 1287 it was occupied by three Normans. Three hundred years later saw it in the possession of the Mc Inerney family. The present entrance to Kilnasoolagh church was a bawn gateway in Castlekeel.
Clenagh Castle is an overgrown tower house built by the McMahon family. It was occupied up to about 200 years ago. It was built in the early 17th century. It has a rectangular base and consists of four main storeys and a garret (an area under the roof). The first floor was stone while the others were wooden. It has well preserved semi-circular topped stone doorways. Some interesting features can still be seen in the castle like spy holes of the doors and a murder hole. On the outside wall near the main door is an image of the Síle na Gig, an old Christian fertility image. It is uncommon to see these images in castles, they are more likely to be seen in medieval churches. Another one, however, can be seen in Bunratty Castle. A very interesting piece of information about Clenagh Castle is that the ancient harp of Brian Boru, which now hangs in Trinity College, once hung in Clenagh Castle. At the time it formed part of the dowry of the marriage of Lady Eleanor de Burgh to Turlough MacMahon of Clenagh.
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This is said to be owned by the Mac Clancy family. It was located just east on the Clonloghan cemetery, which was also the site of the 1960 Alitalia air crash.
This was built in 1450 and occupied until 1580 when it was part of the estate of the Earl of Thomand
In 1002 to 1014 Brian Boru ruled Ireland as High King from his throne in Killaloe. At that time his son, Donough O’ Brien controlled Dromoland while it was a defensive stronghold. Bunratty Castle was also an O’Brien stronghold at the time and Dromoland was similar in structure to this. For the next 900 years a branch of the O’Briens lived and ruled from Dromoland Castle. Around 1543 the castle was rebuilt until the early 1700s when the second castle/ house was built with a more residential appearance. This Queen Anne court which has 29 guestrooms is a century older than the rest of today’s castle. In the early 1800s the present main building of Dromoland Castle was rebuilt and designed by the Pain brothers who were famous architects at the time. Throughout the 1800s the wealth of the Barons of Inchiquin dwindled and much of the tenanted farmlands were sold. It made the estate difficult to keep. In the 1929, the 15th Baron of Inchiquin died and his widow Lady Ethel Inchiquin supported the castle mainly by her personal wealth. After her death her eldest son, Sir Donough O’Brien, managed the maintain the castle as a traditional ancestral home. Lord Inchiquin tried to make the estate a self-supporting dairy farm but by 1948 was so financially hard pressed that he began to take in tourists as paying guests. In 1962 Lord Inchiquin sold the castle along with 330 acres of surrounding land to Mr. Bernard McDonough, an American industrialist. The castle underwent major renovations to transform it into a luxury hotel. It was officially reopened as a resort hotel. The public rooms on the main floor of the castle look very much like when Lord Inchiquin’s family lived there. It continues to have many Irish American investors and is now regarded worldwide as one of the great resorts in Europe.
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This was built by the McNamara family and still stands today substantially in ruins. The limestone windows are still intact and the doorway while damaged is evident. It had two stories above the cellar plus the area under the roof. It was built on an outcropping rock, on average it is three metres above the field surface. For more information see;
This castle on the island is now in ruins, it is believed that some of the stone may have been reused
Granaghan More Tower House
It was built around 1570 by the McNamaras and had many tenants throughout the years
It was built by the McNamara family around 1480. It was said that Cromwellian soldiers occupied it in 1652 before it was reoccupied by the McNamara family again. It is currently owned and used by Frank McGinnis of San Francisco and is mostly used as a holiday home. There are some interesting features present in the castle including a machicoulis is very good condition. Narrow slitted windows are prominent on the walls of the castle. For more information please see;
It was built by the McNamaras and taken over by the Earl of Thomand. Much of the main tower remains, although unroofed. It was built on a steep rock. There is evidence in field studies of much damage in recent years as a result of an agricultural commune and continued farming work; use of chemicals and farm machinery. both exterior and interior in parts are very well intact although inside cannot be seen on upper floors as the stairway have collapsed. For more information see;
This was an O Brien castle with just a few foundation stones remaining. It was a square tower situated on a crag near Dromoland. Unfortunately, in recent years much damage was done to the remains of this castle, with much of the cut stone being used to help restore other castles. Other stone was also used in build roads by the county council.
A wall remains of this castle, originally built around 1470.
Donough MacClancy built Stonehall Castle around 1470. A sketch was made of the castle by Thomas Dineley in 1680 which helps to give an image of its appearance. This is features in many books and articles. It was inhabited up to quite recent times. In 1954 it was demolished to make way for a runway which was to be built. Unfortunately this never actually happened. Filed examinations revealed the base of the castle exists but under heavy vegetation.
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It was built in the fifteenth century by the MacClancys, however after the 1641 rebellion the family lost control of the castle. There is evidence to suggest this tower was built in two parts; that the original structure was added around 100 years later.
An interesting feature in Urlanmore Castle is that a series of murals were found and copied in 1936 by Sergeant Jim Long. This is the only sketch on the murals as in later years they had faded a lot so much of the detail of the sketches was lost.
Until 1999 there was a significant amount of the castle standing and in good condition, however it collapsed and little of the structure is left in position now. For more information please see;
It was built by the MacClancys in the fifteenth century. Urlanbeg is thought to have been a gate lodge for Urlanmore.