History

O'Sullivan Beare Coat of Arms

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Carriganass Castle tower was built in about 1541 by clan chieftan Dermot O’Sullivan Beare.

 
The site he chose was at the eastern end of the O’Sullivan clan territory, and it is the best surviving ruin of the four O’Sullivan Beare castles. Carriganass was built in the’tower-house’ style which was popular in Ireland from the 15th to the 17th centuries. These towers provided barons and chieftans with homes that were fortified against attack.

Native Irish chieftans and Anglo-Norman barons alike built tower-style castles to protect themselves and their families from attack.

About 40 years later, the bawn wall was added. It seems that this was added by Owen O’Sullivan because he was concerned that the tower was vulnerable to an attack from his cousin. Their dispute led to the permanent division of the O’Sullivan Beare territory.
 
 

The End of the Gaelic Order

The history of the castle reflects the decline of the old Gaelic aristocracy. Donal Cam O’Sullivan, who commanded Munster’s troops at the Battle of Kinsale led a march to Leitrim after the fall of Dunboy Castle in a bid to reunite with the other Gaelic leaders who had suffered similar defeats in Ulster. The chieftans left Ireland in a retreat that became known as the ‘Flight of the Earls.’

After Donal Cam’s departure, Carriganass Castle survived as a military fortress for less than a hundred years. It was later used to house farm buildings, and, in 1880, cornerstones from the castle tower were taken to Bantry for use in the refurbishment of Bantry House.

 
 

A New Lease of Life

At the start of the 21st century, the castle took on a new lease of life under the careful guidance of the Carriganass Development Association. Under its care, a substantial restoration project transformed the castle from an unvisitable ruin to an unmissable stop on any trip to West Cork.