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Castles of Ireland
Macroom Castle, Co. Cork

Macroom Castle, Co. Cork Macroom is dominated by castle walls and grounds with old stone, arches and guns providing an elegant centre for the town. It is thought that the castle was built in the reign of King John, on the site of an earlier stronghold.

Its story reflects the trials and tribulations of Irish society over the centuries, passing from the hands of the Carew Clan to the McCarthys, when they became overlords in the region.

In 1650 Bishop Boetius McEgan failed to hold it on behalf of the McCarthys against Cromwellian forces, and McEgan was taken prisoner and hanged at Carrigadrohid.

The castle was given, as a reward, to William Penn (whose son founded the state of Pennsylvania) who lived there for some time, and then sold it to the Hollow Sword Blade Company. Similar to the East India Trading Company or the Hudson Bay Trading Company, they were a merchant company who made financial investments in colonial expansion. They eventually sold their interest in the castle to the Bernards of Castle Mahon in Bandon (future Earls of Bandon) who, in turn sold on to the Hedges family. In 1766 Jane Hedges Eyre married Simon White from Bantry House, and the strength of this alliance led to their son, Richard, becoming Earl of Bantry in 1816.

By the turn of the century the castle was in the ownership of the glamorous Lady Ardilaun, sister of the last Earl of Bantry, and wife of Arthur Edward Guinness MP, heir of the brewing family. They moved in exciting circles, being friendly with Yeats, AE and the Laverys, the people that were responsible for developing the Anglo-Irish literary movement.

When Macroom Castle was burnt (for the fourth time) during the War of Independence Lady Ardilaun sold the remains to the Irish people.

The structure dominated the skyline of Macroom until the 1960s when, in a dangerous condition, it had to be demolished. Some parts of the castle are still to be seen in the grounds of the castle demesne, which is a public park, with beautiful riverway walks, situated in the heart of the town.

Mallow Castle, Co. Cork

Mallow Castle, Co. Cork The old Desmond fortress on the Blackwater River at Mallow was granted in 1584 to Sir Thomas Norreys, Lord President of Munster and son of Queen Elizabeth's life-long friend, Lord Norreys of Rycote.

He built a "goodly strong and sumptuous house, upon the ruins of the old castle, with a bawn to it about 120 foot square" sometime between 1593 and 1599. This building, whose shell still stands, is a three-storey gabled oblong, one room thick, with an attic floor and a cellar below the centre. At the front there are two octagonal corner turrets, one for a stair and a projecting turret in the middle for the entrance. There is also a turret at the centre rear for the main stair and latrines.

The style is essentially English and early Jacobean with its high gables, single-stepped battlements and large mullioned windows, but the place was well-adapted for Irish conditions with numerous loop-holes for muskets, notably in the turrets and beneath the upper windows.

Mallow Castle held out against the Confederates under Lord Mountgarret in 1642, by which time it belonged to General William Jephson, whose mother, Elizabeth - a god-child of the Queen after whom she was named - was the daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Norreys. It was severely damaged after being captured by Lord Castlehaven in 1645 and appears to have been abandoned sometime afterwards. The Jephsons built a pleasant new house from the old stables and remained there until the 1980s.

Located on the east side of the town up from the demesne avenue. NGR: W 562983. National Monument.

Monea Castle, Co. Fermanagh

Castle Freke Co. Cork Following the Flight of the Earls in 1607, the English crown seized Irish lands in Ulster and granted large parcels to English and Scottish "planters" on the condition that they build settlements and provide strongholds loyal to the King. Soon thereafter, plantation castles were built to govern and defend against a hostile native population.

While in ruins, Monea Castle, west of Enniskillen, is the most complete and best-preserved of all the Plantation castles of Ulster. Building commenced in 1616 by the Rector of Devenish, the Reverend Malcolm Hamilton. Shortly afterwards, in 1619, it was described by Pynnar as "a strong castle of lime and stone being 54 feet long and 20 feet broad". The bawn, comprising "a wall 9 feet in height and 300 feet in circuit" was added shortly before Hamilton was promoted to become Archbishop of Cashel in 1623.

Like so many of Ulster's Plantation castles, the design of Monea reflects the Scottish origin of its builder. Three storeys high with tall attics, it has a rectangular plan with a pair of massive semi-cylindrical towers on the short west end. These towers are corbelled out at attic-floor level to carry diagonally placed square caphouses with crow-stepped gable roofs.

The castle's only entrance lay on the south side of the north tower and led to a spiral stair giving access to the principal rooms, which were on the first floor and were illuminated by large windows with seats in the embrasures.

The bedrooms were on the second floor. The vaulted ground floor , lit only by splayed musket-loops, contained the wine cellar and kitchen. Contrary to usual Scottish practice, the roof was thatched and not slated.

The walled bawn is much ruined. It was defended by round flankers at the north end, one of which was later adapted as a dovecote. The entrance lay in the north-west corner, while along the west side survive the footings of a later building, possibly a barn.

During the 1641 rebellion it was attacked by Rory Maguire, who "slew and murthered eight Protestants" here, but evidently failed to capture the castle. In 1688 it was occupied by Gustavus Hamilton, the Governor of Enniskillen, who died in 1691 having incurred enormous financial losses in the Williamite wars. His greatly impoverished wife and children continued to live at Monea, but had to sell the estate in 1704.

A few decades later the castle was gutted by fire and was subsequently abandoned. In the last century "a weird woman named Bell McCabe took her residence in a vault beneath one of the towers" until she was evicted by the keeper, who feared she "might be found dead on the wretched premises,' and that some inquiries might ensue, involving the trouble incident to a coroner's inquest".