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Castles of Ireland
Darver Castle, Co. Louth

Darver Castle, Co. Louth The Castle, dating from the 15th century is situated in a fine parkland setting and surrounded by mature trees. The courtyard, approached through a medieval arched gateway has lofted stone faced buildings while the outer yard has very impressive stone faced buildings with stabling for 20 horses. Also included is an outdoor manege, partly walled garden and orchard. The lands, all in old pasture, have excellent road frontage and are renowned for their fattening qualities.

In the early 12th Century a man named Patrick Babe was given 500 acres of land in the parish of Derver by King James II. He built a castle for himself and his family to live in on the grounds formerly owned by the church. The castle was built on the north side of the hill north of the cave and on the edge of the deep slope that led to the banks of two rivers, which provided fish and eels for the family food.

The rivers acted as security from the enemy advancing from the north. With a large yard wall to the east 12 feet high and 20 acres of woodland to the west helped keep the enemy out. But a problem arose on the southside of the hill as it sloped to a deep valley and joined the high hill of newtown Darver. As the top of this hill is just 4 feet higher than the level of the top of the castle. So the soldiers were unable to see the enemy approaching from the south. Patrick Babe had a round tower built on the very top of the hill and placed soldiers into this garrison which gave them a clear view for 40 miles away so no enemy ever got near Darver castle during all the wars.

The church was never reached by Cromwell because of the protection from the hilltower. When the wars were over, Patrick Babe had wings put on the front of the tower and converted it into a windmill, and used it to ground corn for himself and his tenants. This continued for 150 years until large mills were built on the edge of the rivers, powered by the water, so that the use of the towermill ended and it was later demolished and the land around made arable. The hill is still known as windmill hill. 12thC Patrick Babe built the castle. Later he built 14 tenant houses. 1385 John Babe was given the advocasy of the church 1655 The Babes rented the castle to Abraham Ball. He died in 1742. 1740 James Babe sold the castle and 500 acres of land to Richard Fiscall Dublin for $4,000 1777 According to a survey done by Taylor and Skinner. The castle was idle. 1789 John Booth bought the castle. He died in 1840. 1840 Joseph Booth appears. He added the new wing and porch. 1857 John Filgate Booth died there. 1890 Frances Rutherford died there. 1894 Elizabeth Booth died there. 1906 Charles Rutherford died there. 1921 Zane Booth died there. 1980 John Booth died there. 1993 McCormack family took over.

Desmond Castle, Co. Cork

Desmond Castle, Co. Cork Kinsale's International Museum of Wine tells the romantic story of the Irish emigrants who colonised the wine trade throughout the world after being forced to leave their own shores. The museum is located in Desmond Castle, a 15th century Customs House which belonged to the Fitzgerald family. Kinsale was a designated Wine Port and supplied ships for the Vintage Fleet (forerunner of the British Navy) as far back as 1412. In that year the Vintage Fleet of some 160 vessels plying from Bordeaux included five Irish owned vessels - three from Kinsale and two from Dublin.

Donegal Castle, Co. Donegal

Donegal Castle, Co. Donegal Donegal Castle was the residence of the O'Donnell Family, who were originally loyal subjects of Queen Elizabeth I.

This changed when the last of the family "Red" Hugh O'Donnell, with his friend, Hugh O'Neill rebelled and fought a bloody nine years war, which they lost and were forced to finally accept the English laws, language, religion and customs. In return "Red" Hugh was allowed to keep the castle and lands. After a few years of English interference, he fled to Spain where he was poisoned.

It is rumoured that before he left, he burned the castle to prevent the English using it. King James granted the castle to an English subject, Sir Basil Brooke, who rebuilt it.

The castle still has the original tower built by the O'Donnell's, but look out for the fireplace which has Brooke's English coat of arms engraved on it, and the Jacobean front door.

Drimangh Castle, Co. Dublin

Drimnagh Castle, Longmile Road, Dublin 12 , is described as Ireland's only fully restored medieval castle to possess a fully flooded moat. It was built in 13th century by the Anglo Norman family of Barnewall.

It is now restored after voluntary effort, initiated by Peter Pearson and Fas trainees under the supervision of a qualified stonemason, and has a great hall with hand carved oak roof and balcomies, a richly coloured medieval floor, a murder hole, a formal 17th century style garden and a collection of fowl belonging to Br. Linnane, Principal of the Christian Brothers secondary school .

The school , built on the grounds , was originally in the late 1950's started in the castle itself after it was handed over by its private owner, Mr. Hatch.

Well worth a visit - Opening times April 1st - October 31st Wednesdays/Saturdays/ Sundays 12.00 noon to 5 pm telephone (01) 4502530.

Information contributed by Patrick Quinn, PhD

Drishane Castle

Ashford Castle An Drishean in Irish meaning the place of the briars, the castle was built by the McCarthys between 1436 and 1450, and commands a beautiful view of the chain of mountains, starting with Claragh, which run in an uninterrupted line to Killarney.

The Wallis family took over the castle and lands in 1719 but when in 1900 the era of the landlords came to an end the Wallis family sold the estate.

In 1990 the Sisters of Infant Jesus bought it from its owner for a girls boarding school until its closure in 1992.

Dromoland Castle, Co. Clare

Ashford Castle Dromoland Castle, near Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, now functions as a luxury hotel with its own golf course. The present building was completed in 1835 but the first building constructed here seems to have been a fifteenth or early sixteenth century tower house. There were at least three houses here, at various times, called Dromoland. They were inhabited by eight generations of the O'Brien family. According to the historian James Frost, Dromoland translates as the "Hill of Litigation."

In 1551 Dromoland was listed in the will of Murrough O'Brien. He was first Tanist and in 1543 he had been granted the title of first Earl of Thomond by Henry VIII. Murrough bequeathed Leamaneh Castle to his third son Donough MacMurrough O'Brien. He also gave him the castle and lands at Dromoland. In 1582 Donough was hanged in Limerick on charges of rebellion. It was decided that all his property would be forfeited to the Queen. George Cusack, the sheriff, then took possession of Dromoland. Some years later Turlough O'Brien killed Sir George and various O'Briens attempted to re-possess Dromoland. However, the fourth Earl of Thomond claimed to have sole ownership and tried to exclude Donough's son, Conor MacDonough O'Brien.

The outcome of this dispute is unclear but in 1604 when Conor died he left Dromoland to his son, Donough MacConor O'Brien. Donough, whose mother was Slany O'Brien, was only about eight years old at this time. A legal battle ensued between the fourth Earl and Slany O'Brien. The dispute was settled by arbitration in 1613. The Earl, by now Lord Thomond, became owner of Dromoland on payment of �132.13.4. in compensation to Slany O'Brien. However, when Donough was older he refused to accept this agreement. By 1614 a William Starkey was leasing Dromoland from Lord Thomond. By 1628 Lord Thomond was dead and Donough continued the dispute through the Court of Wards and Liveries in Dublin. In 1629 Donough was granted entry "on all the manors, lands and tenements of his late father" on payment of a fine. However, Dromoland was not listed among the many properties named and it rested with the Earls of Thomond for another fifty years, though the fifth Earl did transfer two other properties to Donough as compensation.

Robert Starkey, son of William, was in residence at Dromoland when the rebellion of 1641 began. It seems that he either fled the area or sublet the property because in 1642 Col. Conor O'Brien of Leamaneh, son of Donough and husband of Maire Rua, seized the castle, thereby continuing his fathers claim to Dromoland. Conor was killed in battle in 1651. His eldest son Donough , born to Conor and Maire Rua in 1642, was now heir to Leamaneh Castle and to the family claim on Dromoland.

Robert Starkey resumed the lease and in 1666 Dromoland was sub-leased to Colonel Daniel O'Brien from Carrigaholt. Three years later it was assigned to Thomas Walcott of Moyhill. Finally, in 1684 the freehold was assigned to Donough O'Brien. At this time Dromoland was a modest house. The original tower house seems to have been added onto during Starkey's time there, before Donough moved in from Leamaneh.

Through the years visitors to Dromoland have written various descriptions of the place. Sir Donough, 1st Baronet, died in 1717. During his time at Dromoland it was described as "a handsome Grecian Building." Donoughs son Lucius also died in 1717 so Edward, son of Lucius, became 2nd Baronet. This first Sir Edward O'Brien decorated the house with pictures and carvings. He also had designs drawn up for a new house. Thomas Roberts and John Aheron both submitted drawings to him for a house and garden at Dromoland. It seems that John Aheron was the architect responsible for the final design. He also designed the Gazebo on Turret Hill, across the road from the main entrance gateway. It was probably built for observing the training of horses. Dromoland was now a ten bay, two and a half storey house. A two-storey quadrangle was completed in 1736. Edward died in 1765. In 1795 an issue of the "Gentleman's Magazine" gave the following description of Dromoland - "the noble and beautiful seat of Sir Lucius O'Brien, Bart., in the county of Clare, situated on a hill gently rising from a lake of twenty four acres in the middle of woods. Three beautiful hills rise above it, commanding fine prospects of the great rivers Fergus and Shannon at their junction, being each of them a league wide."

Sir Lucius O'Brien was the eldest son of the first Sir Edward. Lucius was the 3rd Baronet. He died in 1794. His son, the second Sir Edward, was the 4th Baronet. Edward decided to rebuild the castle. Work began around 1822 and cost about �50,000 to complete. The Pain brothers submitted some classical designs but their neo-gothic designs, influenced by John Nash, were chosen. James and George Pain had been pupils of Nash in England. The building was completed in 1835. Samuel Lewis writing in 1837 says of Dromoland - "a superb edifice in the castellated style, lately erected on the site of the ancient mansion, and surrounded by an extensive and richly wooded demesne, in which great improvements have recently been made". Edward was married to Charlotte Smith and her inherited wealth was probably essential in covering construction costs of their new mansion. Edward and Charlotte were parents of William Smith O'Brien, a leading Young Irelander. Sir Edward died in 1837. His eldest son Lucius was 5th Baronet and 13th Baron Inchiquin.

Burkes "Visitation of Seats", published in 1855 gives the following description of Dromoland - "It is built entirely of dark blue limestone, and in fine chiselled workmanship; the ornamental grounds and woods extend over more than 1,500 acres of land?from some of the eminences there are views of the Shannon and Fergus, which, at this part of the country, resembles a large inland lake with island, making Dromoland one of the most beautiful and desirable residences in Ireland."

Dromoland has been preserved with little change since that time. The mansion is in "baronial" or "gothic revival" style. It has four linked irregular castellated turrets. There is a gothic porch to the north front where the O'Brien arms are displayed. The western portion faces out to the lake, and the east towards the hill where Thomond House now stands. The large walled gardens are to the south. In 1902 the 15th Baron Inchiquin, Lucius, took the old seventeenth century gateway from Leamaneh and erected it at the entrance to this large walled garden. A long curving drive leads from the gateway and classical lodge, passing north of the lake and round to the front door of Dromoland Castle.

In 1962, Donough O'Brien, the sixteenth Baron Inchiquin, sold Dromoland Castle and three hundred and fifty acres because of difficult financial circumstances. He built Thomond House on a hill overlooking Dromoland. He moved in to this Georgian style house in 1965 but died in 1968. It is now occupied by the 18th Baron Inchiquin.

Dromoland Castle was bought by a U.S. citizen, Bernard McDonough. Its vast rooms now serve as a top grade hotel.

Information from the Clare Library

Dublin Castle, Co.Dublin

Ashford Castle Built by the Normans in the 13th century, Dublin Castle has only two of its original towers and a portion of the medieval wall still standing. The rest of this former seat of British viceroys reveals architectural remodelling from the 1850s. Well worth visiting are the sumptuous State Apartments, which were recently restored.

Dublin Castle is the heart of historic Dublin. In fact the city gets its name from the Black Pool ? 'Dubh linn' which was on the site of the present Castle Garden. The Castle stands on the ridge on a strategic site at the junction of the River Liffey and its tributary the Poddle, where the original fortification may have been an early Gaelic Ring Fort.

Later a Viking Fortress stood on this site ? a portion of which is on view to visitors at the 'Undercroft'. The largest visible fragment of the original 13th century Norman Castle is the Record Tower. Beside it is the early 19th century Gothic revival Chapel Royal which was restored in 1989 and features particularly fine plaster decoration and carved oak gallery fronts and fittings.

The Great Courtyard, best known from James Malton's celebrated view of 1792, contains the principal buildings of the post medieval Castle which formerly housed the vice-regal administration. The modern Conference facilities can be viewed from the Gate of Fortitude. The south range houses the magnificent State Apartments which were built as the residential quarters of the Vicarage court. They are now the venue for Ireland's Presidencies of the European Community, Presidential Inaugurations and State Functions. Dublin Castle Tourist and Conference Facilities are under the management of the Office of Public Works. The State Apartments, Undercroft and Chapel Royal are open to visitors (on occasion the State Apartments only may be closed for State purposes). The Vaults Restaurant, Heritage Centre and Craft Shop are also open to visitors.

Dungiven Castle, Co.Derry

Ashford Castle There has been a Castle in Dungiven since the 1600s', however most of the present building dates from the 1830s'. It has been put to many uses over the years, from private residence to GI accommodation during World War II.

In the 50s' and 60s' it was run as a popular dancehall, until it fell into disrepair during the 1970s'. It had fallen into such a state that the local council decided to demolish it, however this was luckily prevented by a local pressure group.

By 1989 Glenshane Community Development bought the lease, hoping to redevelop it in some way. Funding was sought for and provided by various bodies, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, International Fund for Ireland, Limavady Borough Council and Roe Valley Leader Group.

Restoration work began in December 1999 and was completed by August 2000. In March 2001 the Castle was re-opened again providing quality budget accommodation.

Dunguaire Castle, Co. Galway

Dunguaire Castle, Co. Galway Dunguaire Castle, on Galway Bay, was built in 1520 by the Hynes Clan. Their association with the site itself goes back to 662 AD when Guaire, King of Connaught, an early ancestor of the clan, ruled the kingdom from an earthwork Rath close to the site of the present castle.

In the 17th century the castle passed to Richard Martyn, Mayor of Galway. After that it was purchased by Oliver St. John Gogarty and became the center of literary meetings of such writers as W.B. Yeats, his patron Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Martin and J.M. Synge.

In 1954 Christobel Lady Ampthill acquired the castle and completed the restorations. It is now owned by Shannon Delvelopment and is open to the public from May through October and medieval banquets, complete with entertainment centered around the literary giants that once met here, are held twice nightly, subject to demand.