By Nicole Buckler
There are many wildly romantic castles abandoned or in need of a new owner across Ireland. We dare you not to fall in love with any of these. One look, and your bank account could be toast.
Castle Curious, Doonawanly, Castletownroche, Co. Cork
Price: €130,000 (Negotiable)
If the name of this place isn’t enough to pique your interest then I’m not sure what will. This ruin is made up of a historic castle and a mill, all ensconced in a glorious wood. It has an acre of land that looks like something ripped out of a book about pagans and their fertility rites. The place was built by Johnny Roche in 1847. He was known as an excellent craftsman but also a bit of an eccentric. So if you buy this place you can rest easy in the knowledge that it was the former residence of the town weirdo. Not only was this dude a bit odd, he also built the castle as a monument to himself. Roche built the castle completely by himself, sourcing the sand from the Awbeg River and lime from Mallow. So if you believe in haunted places then it would be safe to say he’d still be in it, jangling around.
Roche was born in the 19th century at Wallstown near Castletownroche. He intended to use the castle as a workshop and a home, and he chose the right place: it is on the shores of the Awbeg River. From the ruins remaining, it can be concluded that the ground floor of the castle was divided into three areas. Two would have been for use in everyday craft: one room was for blacksmithing and the other for more general tasks. The third room seems to have no designated use: much like that funny room in modern houses where the garage has been converted but we can’t remember why we did that. A staircase winds from the ground floor all the way up to the Southern turret. It is said that Roche would climb up to the turret to survey all that he owned. And, he would blow his horn too sometimes.
The castle and mill are in a state of desperate disrepair. It would take a lot of love and effort to get this hidden gem back into Google maps. However funding is available via conservation grants to repair and restore this protected structure.
Update: Cards Against Humanity (CAH) bought Castle Curious, and they renamed it Sensible Castle. CAH gift options now include the right to rule Sensible Castle for 3 minutes sometime during the course of the year. Every person is given their own individual time slot and is allowed to pick a title to go before their name, a moniker to go after their name, an official flag, and declare 3 decrees that would each last a minute during their rule.
Ballymaquiff Castle, Near Labane, Ardrahan, Co. Galway
This historic Irish castle sits at the highest point of a 4-acre property. It was at its peak glory probably from the late 14th/early 15th century. It is a fortified tower house, or keep, full of history and drama and should appeal to the castle enthusiast. It is 7 miles from Gort, outside Galway city.
Galway is known as the City of 14 tribes, and these Anglo-Norman tribes invaded Ireland and worked together to take control of the wealthy sea port of Galway. The De Burgos took a keen interest in the province of Connaught. With the full blessing of Henry II of England, they wrestled the land from the native Irish. Once the De Burgo family had established themselves in the area, many of their allies of Norman descent followed the De Burgos to this part of Ireland. These merchant families made huge profits from one of Europe’s richest sea ports, and they had supreme control over Galway for the next two centuries.
The way this castle was constructed points to the fact that it was built with De Burgo wealth. The ground apartment has a pointed vaulting and to the right of the 5ft square hallway a pointed door leads to the circular stone stair. The second storey is also vaulted and the stair continues to the top of this vaulting which is now the top of the castle. The second floor hosts a fireplace. There is a narrow round-headed cut-stone opening near the top of the north wall.
Even though the lavish design points to the castle being a construction of the De Burgo family, they seem to have sold it to another wealthy clan rather early on in the castle’s life.
Ballymaquiff Castle was owned by the Ffrench clan from quite early on. The Ffrench clan was one of the wealthy 14 tribes that ran Galway at the time alongside the De Burgos. It was passed through the Ffrench family through the years, proven by records of its ownership starting in 1650, when Christopher French took ownership of it, and later in 1675 by his son Arthur French, Mayor of Galway.
Up until the close of the 18th Century, Ballymaquiff was part of the Tyrone estates owned by the Ffrenches. The administrations of the estates were at that period entrusted by the creditors of the Court of Chancery. The history within this ruin makes it an excellent prospect for a wild renovation adventure.
This castle ruin is ripe for conversion. There are some fine views from its parapets which take in the surrounding countryside. It is very centrally located, ideal for conversion and features cut stone windows and doors. And if you are a single guy, you could surely attract a princess to your door with this place.
Glengarriff Castle, Bantry Bay, Co. Cork
This historic Irish castle ruin is the stuff renovators dream of. It has mind-boggling views of the Atlantic, and sits on 45 acres of lush land with sea shore frontage. It dates from the late 18th century, and sits on Bantry Bay, one of the deepest and most beautiful natural harbours in the world. This place is fabulous, mystical and unique. And the good news is that the restoration job wouldn’t be like some sort of extreme sport. The castle operated as a resort until the late 1970s but has since fallen derelict. However this doesn’t mean that there are 3 centuries of damage to undo.
Glengarriff Castle was built sometime in the 1790s by Colonel Simon White, brother of the first Earl of Bantry. It was built in the gothic style with a panoramic view of Glengarriff Bay. The woodlands of the estate encompass a wide variety of trees from Oak, Beech, to Japanese Red Cedar, European Larch, Chilean Pine and a variety of shrub and flora species.
Wildlife wandering about the place include red squirrel, sika deer, seals and the more common fox and pine marten. And this place hasn’t always being a ruined and deserted dump. In a past life, it attracted royalty, artists and writers such as Thackeray, Synge and Yeats. George Bernard Shaw is said to have written his play St Joan here. Maureen O’Hara who starred with John Wayne in The Quiet Man has for many years kept a holiday home adjacent to Glengarriff Castle. So if you can afford to do so, and if you have fallen desperately in love with the joint, make an offer. It sounds like the owner is very very open to negotiation. Sounds like everyone’s favourite price.
If you love the idea of owning your own castle, then this website is a great place to start. Happy castle hunting!