Just yesterday someone was asking me all about Carriganass Castle – here is something I wrote a while ago about it, but it is still valid. The castle cafe is open from May to September but you can visit and soak up the wonderful atmosphere of the river at any time. Visit their website at http://www.carriganass.com/ for more information and for extra photos.
The word Carriganass in Irish means the Rock of the Waterfall and judging by the position of the castle on its forty foot outcrop of rock over the river, the name is very apt.
The Castle was built by an O’Sullivan Beare chieftain in 1540 and comprises of an imposing five-storey tower and a walled courtyard. The stone used to build Carriganass came from a local quarry about two miles away from the castle site and the stone was transported hand-to-hand by labourers for the distance of the two miles. The Chieftain responsible for the building became known as Dermot of the Powder as he accidentally blew himself up with gunpowder in 1549, just nine years after the building of the castle.
Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare was the most famous occupant of Carriganass. Donal Cam had a long military history and in 1601, he commanded the Munster forces on the Spanish side at the Battle of Kinsale. According to local folklore after Carriganass Castle was captured, Donal Cam’s wife, Aoife, fled to Gouganne Barra where she went into hiding. An English Military man named St. Ledger found her there and murdered her. Donal Cam gained access to Carriganass Castle by disguising himself as a monk and in revenge, he tossed St. Ledger to his death from the tower into the rocky torrents of the Ouvane River. A poem called “The Revenge of Donal Cam” was written as an ode to his vengeance.
Other interesting facts about Carriganass castle is that the upper floor of the bastion is covered with tiers of “small rectangular niches” which would originally have served as nesting boxes. This level of the castle would have been used as a dove cote offering an insight and an indication into the diet of the inhabitants at the time. An aspect most appealing to gory children is the fact that the mortar used to hold the stones of the Castle together was made up of a paste consisting of bulls blood!
Very impressively, Carriganass Castle is completely a community owned and managed asset, making it one of the very few castles in Ireland to have that status. The previous owners, Anne and Joe O’Sullivan, generously donated the castle to the community which set up a non-profit, community-based company called Carriganass Castle Limited which now owns and manages the castle and amenity park in trust for the people. The work undertaken is done by a dedicated core of community volunteers who are constantly striving to improve the site by developing riverbank amenity parks and picnic areas around the castle, maintaining pathways, promoting tourism in the three valleys (Borlin, Mealagh and Kealkill) with Carriganass as the focal point, developing cycle routes and walkways linking with other significant sites in the area and creating an area for exhibiting local arts and crafts.
There are currently three established walks leading from the castle. Two of the walks are circular walks (the “Poc An Tairbh Loop” and the “Sron na Gaoithe Loopwalk”) to the North of the castle while the third walk leaves from the castle and leads to the Stone Circle south of the village of Kealkill. The website, http://www.carriganass.com/ is loaded with information about the history and folklore surrounding the Carriganass. There are also detailed descriptions (with interesting historical insights) giving directions and estimated walking times of the above mentioned walks to be found on the extensive and informative website.