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Tower house

This sturdy tower house is situated on a rocky outcrop overlooking Ballinacarriga Lough and is the only castle in West Cork to be designated a national monument. It has recently been partially restored. A stream runs past it to the south, once providing the water supply for the castle.There may originally have been a mill further up. The castle is four storeys high,14.8m tall by 11.8m at the base. The walls are nearly 2m thick at the base and the mortar used is said to have been strong enough to withstand cannonballs. One defensive tower remains in the bawn - the fortified enclosure around the building.The main doorway faces east and a groove above it can still be seen which once contained a portcullis. High on the east wall is a fine sheela na gig - a naked female figure. Defensive bartizans are in the NW and SE corners at the 3rd storey level. There is a garderobe (toilet chute) at the second level. Where it empties is known as Moll the Pooka's Hole and is supposedly haunted by a pooka: a mischievous shape-shifting fairy, often seen in the form of an animal, especially a black dog!

Inside there is a guard chamber to the left of the entrance door and a spiral staircase rising up all levels.The second storey still has a fine vaulted roof supporting the upstairs hall. The first level ceiling has long since disappeared but you can still see the corbels which once supported it. Fireplaces and decorated window seats in the upper levels suggest a high degree of comfort. On the second level there is a beautifully carved female figure and five roses- probably representing Catherine o Cullane and her five children. She was the wife of Randall Hurley who renovated the castle around the late 16C. Their initials and the date 1585 are carved in a window recess on this level. Other fine carvings include a depiction of the Crucifixion - Jesus flanked by two thieves with the instruments of the Passion scattered about: the crown of thorns, a hammer and a heart pierced with two swords. It is likely that this room was later used as chapel during Penal Times and up until the early 19C.

The castle probably dates from the 15C and was renovated by Randall O Hurley. It is a good example of the transitional style of architecture as tower house developed into fortified house.

Ballinacarriga appropriately enough means Ford mouth of the Rock ( béal átha na carraige).


Signposted off the main Ballineen to Dunmanway Road, at Manch bridge.
OS maps 86/89. W283508

The first time we visited this castle was in the early 90s with our two young sons in tow, It was our first time visiting Ireland and I was determined to see as much of it as possible. This day we were out exploring castles and round towers and standing stones, in rather damp weather! We collected the keys to the castle from the Post Office in the village, then still open,and were allowed to explore freely - much to the boys' delight. It was very overgrown with ivy and there were no safety barriers - we had a brilliant time and were much taken with the very fine carvings in the upper rooms. Returning several years later, the castle has since been restored to make it safe. The walls are shored up but the roof still open. You still need to collect a key - inquire in the village. It has lost its romantic abandoned feel but is still a fascinating place to explore. It is quite easy to imagine that this castle provided not only a secure place to live but a comfortable home.There are personal touches with the carvings, their names and a possible depiction of Catherine herself. The fireplaces are large and warming, the window seats wide and comfortable. It marks the transition from strong but pretty comfortless and functional tower house to more comfortable fortified house.

It's on a beautiful position too - close to fresh water, still and flowing, and from its little knoll has clear views across the countryside.