Our Built Heritage: Native Irish Castles in West Cork


Our Built Heritage: Native Irish Castles in West Cork

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This is the second of our blog posts looking at the ‘Built Heritage’ of West Cork. We are blessed with many fine castles throughout West Cork including Castlefreke, Coppingers Court, and Dunboy Castle in Castletownbere. Today we are looking at castles built by the native Irish; Ballinacarriga Castle, Castle Donovan and Togher Castle.

Ballinacarriga Castle

The well preserved tower house is believed to have been built by the Ó Muirthile (Hurley) family with the date 1585 carved into the wall on the 4th floor. This date however may only signify renovations undertaken by the family, with the castle originally an older McCarthy stronghold.

The castle and lands were confiscated and granted to English settlers after the family joined the rebellion of 1641 against English settlement of Munster. It is said that the castle doubled as a chapel for the settlers. Stories passed down suggest it may have continued in use as a chapel until the nearby church was built in 1815.

It is possible to walk freely on the grounds outside the castle however access within is closed to the public. Park in lay-by across from the Castle. Make sure to take a quick detour and stroll to Ballinacarriga Lake from the lay-by.

Castle Donovan

Castle Donovan controlling movement along the River Ilen outside the town of Drimoleague. Believed to have been built by Domhnall na gCroiceann O’Donovan (Donal of the Hides) during his reign from 1560 and 1584.

In revenge for the O’Donovan’s taking part in the rebellion against English rule during the 1640’s, the castle was blown up by Cromwellian forces in 1650 leaving a gaping hole on the side of the castle. The tower houses were no defense against the canon and gunpowder used by the Government forces and soon became redundant.

A wonderful castle to visit, with car park and displays giving the history of the castle.

Togher Castle

Togher Castle is believed to have been built by the McCarthys of Gleann an Chroim, a branch of the powerful McCarthy clan and dates to the late 16th of early 17th century. Located outside Dunmanway in the valley of the River Bandon, like many of the native Irish castles, it is built on a rocky outcrop.

For their part in the 1640 rebellion, the McCarthy lands, including Togher Castle was granted to a Cromwellian Settler. The castle is a simple 4 storey rectangular structure. 4 boxes located on each corner of the castle allowed defenders fire arrows at attackers below.

Unfortunately the castle is located on private lands and cannot be visited. It is however visible from the main roads surrounding it.


  1. ‘Heritage Castles of County Cork’ published by the Heritage Unit of Cork County Council is a fantastic resource. Learn about the evolution of castles in County Cork as well as an in depth review of 30 castles.
  2. ‘Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way: A Guide to its Historic Treasures’ by Neil Jackman.
  3. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, available at buildingsofireland.ie.


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