10 Castles in County Carlow

10 Castles in County Carlow

County Carlow’s historic attractions are many, include a number of fine castles from medieval ruins, National Monuments of Ireland to a fully preserved castle open to the public and castle beeing now a private house.

So far I visited 10 Castles in County Carlow.

Writers over the years have claimed that there were over 150 castles in County Carlow. Succeeded in identifying the sites of 93. On the website Carlow County – Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM) you can see info about Castles of Co. Carlow: www.igp-web.com/Carlow/castles_of_carlow

County Carlow possesses several of the most interesting medieval castles in Ireland. Of the fortresses known to have been built between c. 1200 and c. 1320, as many as four survive ( Carlow, Ballyloughan, Ballymoon, and Clonmore). And one of the most interesting and historic treasures of Ireland, not only County Carlow is Huntington Castle. Voted one of Ireland’s top 20 Hidden Gems by The Guardian.

10 Castles in County Carlow

1. Ballyloughan Castle

Ballyloughan Castle is a ruined castle and National Monument of Ireland, located near Bagenalstown.

Today, a twin-towered gatehouse, the hall and foundations of one of the corner towers, dating to about 1300 remain. Ballyloughan`s gatehouse, which protected the entrance to the castle, is one of the finest example of its type in Ireland.

Ballyloughan Castle was probably built in the 13th century and consisted of a large open courtyard with a curtain wall and a moat outside. Only a small square tower of Ballyloughan Castle remains, as well as the entrance gate which is flanked by two large rounded towers.

Archelogical excavation in 1955 revealed that the castle had been surrended by a ditch, but that this had been refiled early in the castle`s history. Finds from the excavation included a silver finger-ring of the 14th century. The ruined house overlooking the castle was buit in the 17th century.

Ballyloughan Castle originally belonged to the Kavanaghs before passing into the hands of the Bagenal family of nearby Bagenalstown and following this the Bruen family in the early 19th century.

The Castle is located on private land, no access allowed. It may be viewed from the nearby adjacent gate.

Ballyloughan Castle

2. Ballymoon Castle

Ballymoon Castle is one of the most unique and mysterious. It is situated in the Barrow Valley, approximately 2 miles (3 km) east of Muine Bheag (Bagenalstown) and only 3,8 km from Ballyloughan Castle. It is a valuable National Monument of Ireland.

Ballymoon has no recorded history, but for architectural reasons it is believed to have been built in the 13th century by Anglo-Normans and designed as a defensive fortress. Much of the history has been lost, but it is thought to have been built by Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk, in the turbulent times, or by the Carew family, who acquired the land when Bigod died without issue. In the late 1800s, the castle was bought by Michael Sheill from Wexford who established a number of local businesses. The castle was never completed, and its construction was interrupted. The cause is unknown, but given that construction began during a chaotic period in Irish history, it seems that things did not turn out well for the builders.

Located in a field next to the Fennagh road. The castle is accessible to the public, with access via a small wooden bridge over a ditch. Visitors can access the castle walls at ground level. Sightseeing: walking inside and walking around the castle takes about half an hour.

The castle is in ruins, consists of a square courtyard about 80 feet, surrounded on each side by 20 feet high granite walls which are about 8 feet wide at the base. The interior of the castle is open, in the walls you can see where the doors and fireplaces were to be placed. The large double fireplace on the north side was part of the great hall. There are no signs of the castle’s internal structure other than the foundations, and this has just led to speculation that the castle was never completed. The wall on the west side has an arched gate. The grooves that can be seen above the gate suggest that there may have been a barbican. In the castle walls you can see many mysterious crevices with strange shapes, such as a guns, loops, keys and arrows.

Ballymoon Castle

3. Black Castle

Black Castle is located in Leighlinbridge, County Carlow and is also known as Leighlinbridge Castle.

The original Black Castle, built in 1181, was one of the earliest and finest Norman fortresses in Ireland. Castle was granted to John de Claville by Hugh de Lacy, the powerful Norman baron who governed Ireland for Henry II.

This Castle was built to protect a strategic crossing point over the river Barrow. The river crossing was defended in the late 12th and 13th centuries by an Anglo-Norman castle a short distance downriver. A Carmelite friary was founded here in the 1260s and the earlier part of the present tower was built in the 14th century to protect the friary and the adjacent bridge which was built by Maurice Jakis, a canon of Kildare Cathedral.

In 1547, after the friary was dissolved in Henry VIIIs campaign to control the wealth and power of the Church, Sir Edward Bellingham, the English Lord Deputy, rebuilt much of the tower and refortified the bawn wall by adding a circular gun turret. Sir Peter Carew of Devon owned the castle in 1567, but Rory Óg O`More, a local Irish chieftain, captured and destroyed it in 1577. It was partly rebuilt, but was attacked again by the Cromwellian armies; half of the tower collapsedin 1888.

All that remains of the Black Castle today is the west half of a 14th century tower, along with part of the bawn. The remains of the castle are now dilapidated – a 50-foot-tall (15 m) broken castle tower and parts of one side of an enclosing wall are still extant.

Black Castle is located on the south eastern side of the Valerian Bridge that crosses the Barrow river and it is accessible direct from the river towpath. It is a National Monument of Ireland.

Black Castle

4. Carlow Castle

One of the most valuable monuments in Carlow Town are the ruins of a medieval fortified castle.

Carlow Castle is located on the banks of the River Barrow. And there is a first monument which I have visited in Carlow Town and have taken my first photos. So I can said here started the idea of posting mycarlow blog. I have remember very well that sunny day on March 2014. And I will always have sentiment for the ruins of Carlow Castle. I consider they are beautiful.

The fortress was built in the first half of the 13th century in the place of a wooden fortified stronghold by William Marshal the elder in the time period between 1207 and 1213 which he spent in Ireland.

The castle in Carlow was the very first of its kind in Ireland, a towered keep, where a huge rectangular tower is surrounded by four smaller three-quarter-circular towers at the corners of the rectangle.

In the following centuries, the castle changed hands many times. Successively ruled by the English kings, FitzGerald and earls Norfolk and Thomond. Bought by the Earl of Thomond in 1616, changed hands multiple times until it was taken by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 but was later returned to the Earl of Thomond. When in the 17th century the stronghold lost its strategic significance, it was abandoned and neglected since that time, it began to fall into increasing ruin.

In 1814 the castle was widely destroyed in an attempt to create more space for the conversion into a lunatic asylum with the help of explosives. Too many explosives were used for the reconstruction, so most of the castle just collapsed.

Today, only two defensive towers and fragments of walls remain from this once impressive fortress.

Therefore Carlow Castle is the oldest stone castle in Ireland and National Monument of Ireland.

Carlow Castle

5. Clogrennane Castle

On the way to Clogrennan Wood you will see this beautiful arch lovely setting beside the River Barrow – this is Clogrennane Castle. Located about two miles distant from Carlow town. And this is one of the National Monument of Ireland in County Carlow.

Clogrennane Castle was built by sometime in the 15th century in order to defend a pass that wound along between the River Barrow and the extensive woodlands that were all along the side of the hills. It is believed to be in ruins since the 18th century and in the 19th century it was converted into the entrance to the then newly built Clogrennane House. The ruins bare little resemblance to the original Castle and seem to incorporate stone from a near by ancient church.

Near the ivy-covered ruin of the old castle a tunnel has been discovered, said to connected Clogrennan with White’s Castle (the modern house on Graiguecullen Bridge is built on the site of this castle) and Carlow Castle.

Clogrennane Castle

6. Clonmore Castle

Not far from Hacketstown, in the east of County Carlow, outskirts of Clonmore village, can be found the ruin of Clonmore Castle. Of all the castles of County Carlow (and in the fifteenth century, there were at least one hundred and fifty) none has more impressive remains than that of the castle of Clonmore.

The castle once had to be truly magnificent and majestic, now is forgotten, neglected and broken.

It is believed to have been built at the end of the 12th century, possibly by Hugh DeLacey, and expanded in 1332 by Anthony DeLucy. The castle is now badly damaged.

The history of the castle, like many others in this area, was very turbulent, it underwent many attacks, incl. – in 1650 it suffered significantly after an attack by Cromwell’s army.

The remains indicate that the castle was built on a square plan with rectangular towers on the south side of the courtyard. In the part of the preserved southern wall of the castle there is a clover-shaped window, characteristic of 13th-century buildings, therefore it is assumed that this part of the castle was built at the end of the 13th century.

The ruins of the castle hide many chambers and corridors, but their condition does not allow visiting, you can see numerous cracks, crevices formed by bushes and trees growing into the ruins, so it is better to admire the castle only from the outside and also with caution.

Clonmore Castle

7. Huntington Castle

Huntington Castle, also known as Clonegal Castle, from the name of Clonegal village in County Carlow, the ancient seat of the Esmonde family is today one of Ireland’s historical treasures. Voted one of Ireland’s top 20 Hidden Gems by The Guardian.

The castle was built in 1400 as a fortress for the Caviness family, an old Irish clan, on the site of a former convent. Originally, the Castle was used for defense purposes as a garrison due to the strategic location of the village of Clonegal during the Cromwell Campaign in Ireland.

At the beginning of the 17th century, Clonegal Castle, the surrounding marsh meadows and orchards became the property of Sir Laurence Esmonde. The castle in its present form owes its decorative architecture to the First Lord Esmonde, who rebuilt it in 1625 replacing an earlier fortress and his grandson called it “Huntington”.

Currently Huntington Castle is open to the public. It can be visited with a guide, usually one of the descendants of the family.

The story of Huntington Castle is unusual in Ireland – the Esmonde/Durdin Robertson family (who have been there for centuries) managed to avoid the usual unhappy fate of Irish gentry and so their castle has escaped intact. Thus the family still live there, surrounded by centuries of history.

The castle is not big but beautiful, the interiors are interesting, full of interesting items, about which the guide tells various anecdotes, e.g. when a crocodile skull was prepared, one of the aunts recalls who, at the age of 16, killed this formidable owner of the skull, and the vines are climbing on the ceiling of the conservatory, it is supposed to come directly from a tribe given to the family by Anna Boleyn.

In the castle cellars, which formerly housed the treasury and the castle kitchen, now there is a Temple of the Goddess Isis.

There are various myths that Huntington Castle is haunted by ghosts, including Druid spirits, their ghostly figures most often appear in a place called Yew Walk, where there is a 600-year-old tree, one of the few survivors from the monastery times, its intertwined branches create a kind of tunnel – a gate to another time. 

Huntington Castle is famous for being one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. It is the perfect place to spend a Halloween, where events called ghost hunting are organized.

The entire property can be visited from May to September. Castle, Gardens and Tearooms are Open Daily (until end of September and weekends only in October : 11am to 5pm.

Huntington Castle

8. Pollerton Castle

This small castle is located on Pollerton Road. And it is called Pollerton Castle. It is a castle built in 1839.

It is currently the house of local entrepreneur Mr. Richard Healy, the company’s founder of funeral R. Healy & Son – known throughout County Carlow.

`Richard Healy (1911 – 1993) founded the funeral business in March 1944. He was a local entrepreneur and a relatively modest well known marathon athlete, known throughout the county of Carlow and the business flourished under him. In 1960 he was joined by his only son Pat (hence the name R. Healy & Son).

At this time Richard carried out the business from his home in College Street, Carlow. As the business increased it was evident that extra space and facilities were needed and Pat and his wife Cora bought Pollerton Castle, Carlow to fill this need`. Therefore Carlow`s first funeral home was built in 1979 in the grounds of Pollerton Castle, a two acre 18th century home.

In place of the former gardens of Pollerton Castle there is now a housing estate Castlewood Gardens. Pollerton Castle is one of few fully preserved castles in County Carlow.

Pollerton Castle

9. Rathnageeragh Castle

Near the village of Myshall (10 minutes drive) at Rathnageeragh are the remains of 14th century Rathnageeragh Castle.

Rathnageeragh means “fort of the sheep“, name after the sheeps runs there on the slopes of Mount Leinster. Rathnageeragh is a small townland situated nearby to Knockendrane and Knockdramagh Bridge. The ruins of Rathnageeragh Castle are situated on private land on Hogan’s Farm.

The remains consist of a square gatehouse of two storeys with at least one higher angle tower represented by the North West wall and parts of the North East wall. The entrance is in the centre of the North West wall leading to a central vaulted passageway between two parallel vaulted chambers.

A courtyard is visible as a slightly raised platform at the South East. The castle bears every evidence of having been a place of considerable extent and great strength. It belonged to the Kavanagh clan.

The castle was built possibly in the 14th century and used as an out fort by the Kavanagh family until seized in an Inquisition in Wells in 1631, but eventually destroyed by Cromwell in 1650. The gun platform used to bombard the building can still be seen on a hill in the neighbouring townsland.

In the 20th century a nearly perfect pair of heavy iron leg fetters and half a pair of iron manacles were discovered near the castle ruin. They are considered unique because they may be of Gaelic rather than Norman origin.

Rathnageeragh Castle

10. Tinnahinch Castle

During my visit at Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny I discovered by chance a ruins of Tinnahinch Castle.

The ruins of the castle are behind a modern house on the east bank of River Barrow, the County Carlow side of the river. Unfortunately it is not possible to enter. An old ruin, located beside the Lock at Tinnahinch on private property and may not be accessible to the public, can still be viewed on the Barrow walk. The name Tinnahinch comes from the Irish Tigh-na-hlnnse that means “House of the Island” and it refers to a previous castle built along the river further north.

It was built in 1615 by James Butler to control the passage over the river, but he lost his castle and his lands after joining the Confedarate War in 1641. It seems that the last occupant of the castle was locally known as Mad Butler and because of the scandals that involved his family he was burnt outside his own castle. The castle was also burnt and it stands in ruins since 1700.

The building has lots of windows in the east-northeast and west-southwest walls, and a wonderful bartizan at the roof level on the north-northeast corner. Inside the castle there’s a thick vegetation and most of the walls are hidden.

Tinnahinch Castle

Below map of 10 Castles in County Carlow:

If you know any other ruin of Castle located in County Carlow please let me know in the comment below.


Blogger. Volunteer. Enthusiast of photography, nature, architecture, and cultural events. Since 2014 living in County Carlow in Ireland.

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