Ballycarbery Castle

This impressive castle is the largest most western in Europe. Just 3km from Cahersiveen, it sits on a grassy hill near the mouth of the River Fertha, in a commanding position overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A short walk from the castle are the equally impressive early Christian Stone Forts of Cahergal and Leacanabuile.

Archaeologists tell us that from 1398, some kind of residence has stood on this site.  In his book, The Correspondence of Daniel O’Connell Vol.1,Dr. Maurice R. O’Connell states that ‘The O’Connells were the principal family in Iveragh for some centuries before Daniel O’Connell was born. From about 1350 to 1650 they had been hereditary constables of Ballycarbery Castle for their overlord, McCarthy Mor, the Gael ruler of south-west Munster.

When Clan Chieftain Donal McCarthy died, the castle passed into the hands of Sir Valentine Brown, Earl of Kenmare. Brown profited from the failure of the Earl of Desmond Rising in the late sixteenth century and the plantation of Munster that followed. Dr. Maurice O’Connell also states in his book ‘in 1650 the castle was dismantled and abandoned by order of the Cromwellian government. O’Connell’s great-great-grandfather, Daniel MacGeoffrey O’Connell moved from the castle and eventually settled at Tarmons, Waterville’.

The ruins of the castle and some other outbuildings, can be seen in the 1792 watercolour by Daniel Grose at the Irish Architectural Archive.

In the eighteenth century, a house was built on the site using the barn wall. This house was demolished in the early twentieth century. The last people to live in that property were the Lauder family.

The high wall which at one time surrounded the castle now has less than half still standing. Arrow slits can still be seen along the bottom of the remaining wall. Also the castle has three staircases of which the one on the ground floor is still in relatively good condition. The ground floor was made up of several chambers but only one is roofed and walled. It is a large chamber with a high roof and with a staircase leading to the first floor. Local legend has it that there is an underground tunnel linking the castle to the Stone Fort of Cahergal.

These ancient structures are part of our heritage and create a cultural connectivity with the  past as well as a symbolical value in helping us understand the present.