O Driscoll Castles

At the peak of the O'Driscoll Clan's power, there were many castles belonging to the clan.   The castles are probably best described as "Fortified Houses".   All the castles were destroyed or partially demolished in various disturbances between the clan and other clans or foreigners, particularly in the period, when O'Driscoll Clan power, and control, of land began to wane.

Dun na Sead

Dun na Sead

In Baltimore is the "Fort of Jewels" the remains of the O'Driscoll Castle, Dún na Séad, towers over the village and is a reminder of the once powerful O'Driscoll clan who controlled much of the South West for a number of centuries.   This castle has been bought by a local lawyer, a McCarthy of all people, who is restoringDun na Sead it to be used as a home.   It has also been opened to clan members on the occasion of the annual Clan Gathering.

In recent years the new owners have been kind enough to allow the Clan Gathering to assemble in the castle on the opening night of the gathering.

Dún an Óir

Another relic of the medieval period is the strikingly situated Caisleán Dhún an Óir.   The promontory on which it stands is now effectively an island at high tide, preventing safe access. Dún an Óir - the golden fortress, may have got its name from the gold supposed to be secreted there or perhaps from its lustrous appearance in the setting sun.   Either way, the legends of its master Finín Ó Drisceoil and of the Giolla Dubh make it a very romantic place.   Finín the Rover occupied the fortress in the 16th century and held sway over the islands of Sherkin and Cléíre, as well as mai Dun an Oirnland territory from Baltimore to Skibbereen.

The castle was taken by Captain Harvey in 1602, in reprisal for the O'Driscolls having reportedly piloted the Spanish into Kinsale.   Built partly in the thirteenth century Norman style, the castle consisted of a thick-walled tower having two courts. Captain Harvey's destructive work on the masonry has been effectively completed by the passing centuries.   Although the castle cannot be reached without difficulty, the view from it's precincts is rewarding.    To the south an enormous  precipice rises above the castle tower, while on the north the wide bay with it's low islands sweeps out to Mount Gabriel and Mizen Head, the most southerly point of the mainland.

Dun na Long

Sherkin Island is a mere ten minutes by boat from the small fishing port of Baltimore on the mainland. The island is home to a 15th century Franciscan Friary and one of the ruined O'Driscoll Castles, Dun na Long "Fort of Ships".

In 1537, a ship, the Santa Maria De Soci, was bound for Dun a Long Waterford from Lisbon with a cargo of wine. This ship was forced to take shelter in Baltimore from a storm, and while there, it was set upon and plundered by O'Driscoll pirates. When the people of Waterford heard of this incident they were so enraged, that they dispatched a naval expedition against the island. An armed force Sherkin Island landed at Dun-na-Long castle, seat of the O'Driscoll clan, broke it down and reduced it almost to ruins. They overran the island for five days and burned the villages. They attacked and plundered the Friary, taking with them chalices and other spoils, including the great bell. They then proceeded to Baltimore and continued to wreak havoc before returning home to Waterford, well and truly avenged

Rincolisky (Whitehall) Castle

This castle belongs to the might of the O'Driscoll clan.   The O'Driscolls were one of the strongest clans around in the 17th century, especially around Baltimore and the islands. They had castles in Baltimore and neighboring areas and Whitehall castle was another example of their power.   It is worth noting that the McCarthy's and the O'Driscoll's in this part of the Cork were on good terms and respected each other.   They did not attack each other and often helped each other in times of need.

The earlier name of Whitehall Castle was Rincolisky castle but after the English taking over the castle it was changed to Whitehall after the name of the townland.   It was built in 1495 by the O'Driscoll clan. What remains of the castle is the lower portion of a standard five storey tower house of that time.   Rincolisky Castle Entry to the residential part of the building on the first floor is through a nicely carved door above the basement entry.   From this mural stairs on the left lead upwards, and the main hall has an arched ceiling which is in perfect condition.   The floors above this area are severely damaged and the castle is truncated from the second floor.   Whitehall is on a hillock near the shore, to which the ground descends fairly steeply.

Following the battle of Kinsale the British forces began their sweep of all castles in the Carbery region and throughout Cork. On 29th of April 1602 this castle became no exception as the English forces had little difficulty in taking over the castle. Sir Walter Coppinger took over the castle and the property and laid rest there.  In 1690 the Coppingers lost their land , because they supported James ll and the castle was given to the Townsends.   The Townsends knocked the upper floors of the castle to build Whitehall house.   Since then, the castle has remained untouched only by the natural elements.   Some say that their is a tunnel leading from the house to the castle but it has never been found.   One of the Townsends sent his little page boy down the passage to see if it was clear.   The boy was never seen again.   

Cloghan Stony Place

For sheer beauty the castle ruins on Cloghan Island in Lough Ine must stand as the most idyllic. 

At the centre of the lake isCloghan Island Cloghan Island, last resting place of Finín the Rover.   The Island casts mysterious, moonlit shadows across the water on a still summer's evening, hinting at the sad secrets of one of its earliest occupants.   The island was, reputedly, the home of Labhrás, pre-christian Chieftain of the Carberies, who took refuge there when his spurned wife cursed him to bear horse's ears for his lifetime. To hide his shame he fled to Cloghan Island, wearing his hair long.   On occasions when a barber cut his hair, he was summarily executed on the orders of Labhrás, lest his secret be revealed.

News of this savage and unexplained behaviour spread wide and struck fear into the heart of a widow woman when her only son was summoned as hairdresser to the chieftain.   She made her way to Lough Ine, intruded the inner sanctum and threw herself at the mercy of Labhrás.   Despite misgivings, Loch Hyne succumbed to the widow's entreaties and the youth was spared, on the strength of a solemn promise not to reveal the secret to a living soul.   As the barber grew up he became increasingly depressed, burdened with the enormity of his secret.   His health began to fail and he consulted a healer. He couldn't tell his secret to a living soul, but the weight of it would kill him.   The healer advised him to tell his tale to a tree, which wouldn't betray his chieftain's confidence.

The man went and whispered his heavy secret to an oak tree in the centre of a deep forest and, immediately, on hisrelease from the strain, he recovered his spirit and health.   Some time later a travelling musician wandered into the oak forest, in search of the perfect tree from which to fashion a cláirseach (harp) that would enchant all who heard it.   As luck would have it, the barber's tree called out to him, impressing him with its fine lines and solid structure.   He had it chopped down and laboured for many's a day on fashioning the finest harp that was ever seen in Ireland.

The instrument made, the harpist came to the court of Labhrás to display its magnificence at a gathering of the clans of Carbery.   The feasting was done, the crowds silenced in anticipation of the musical feast in store.   Howls of laughter and derision followed when the only music emanating from the harp was Labhrás the King has horses' ears, prompting the immediate suicide of the poor, benighted leader. 


Kilcoe castle was built around the year of 1450 by the Clan of Dermort McCarthy on a 2-acre island. Kilcoe Castle    These McCarthys were a sub-tribe of the McCarthy Rioch of Kilbrittan where they originated from Blarney.   At this time McCarthy's were one of the leading families in Munster and had land all around Cork especially West Cork.   They built the castle at this point, on the edge of Roaringwater bay because of its defensive position.   Kilcoe castle is built on an island, one side of the island is too shallow for boats to enter and on the other side is another island (Mannin island).   This is the main reason why the English had so much trouble taking the castle because the ships couldn't get close enough for the cannons to have good aim.

As the English forces began to take over Irish lands and castles, due to their superior strength the English had little problems in taking over in West Cork except  for  Kilcoe  which was the only castle in Carbery (West Cork) to hold out in rebellion.   Many of these castles were taken over by Captain Harvey, a cousin to Sir George Carew an English Commander, and he tried many times to take over Kilcoe castle.

In 1600 Sir Richard Perry marched with some of the garrison of Kinsale in order to reduce  Kilcoe.   He didn't succeed but took 300 heads of Kilcoe Castlecattle.   This was one of the many attacks on the castle, but due to the bravery of the residents they failed.   On the 20th of April 1602 the Earl of Thousand's men took shelter in the castle, one of these being Conor O'Driscoll.   The castle survived a long siege and during the siege all the occupants left the castle except for Conor.   Finally in February 1603 Conor surrender to Captain George Flower, the subordinate of Captain Harvey.   It was the last place in West Cork to do so. Before the long siege started Captain Harvey died of a broken heart at Baltimore because of his failure to capture Kilcoe Castle.

After the siege of the castle the older McCarthy lived and died in a small house in Mannin island.   After the McCathy's left the castle it was occupied shortly by a number of English people.   And after 1640 the castle was never occupied again.   Since then the castle has passed through a number of hands.   At the start of  the 19th  century the  English  left  it for the people who farmer the land.   Up to 1966 nobody owned the castle until James Caverly, the local farmer, registered the castle and in 1972 sold it to Edward F.Samuel.   He built a bridge connecting the castle to the main land but decided not to restore it.   He then sold to Jeremy Irons, who is at the moment restoring it.   It is suggested that the castle was built on the site of another building.   This is because at the bottom the walls are 10 feet thick while the walls at the top are only 2-3 feet thick.   The stone for the walls was quarried from Mannin island and it is said that animals blood was used within the mortar to strengthen it.   There was no bridge connecting , so you could only get access to the castle at half tide or less.  The castle is 93 feet in height and stands proudly casting its shadow over roaringwater bay. The peach/pink shade chosen by actor Jeremy Irons to paint the listed 15th century castle is a mixture of lime-wash and sulphate and will oxidise, and fade in colour. 

 Kilcoe Castle