Ireland is as famous for its castles as it is for its Guinness and here in Kerry you will find both in abundance though the locals prefer the Guinness to the castles.
Most Irish castles are made from stone (stating the obvious) and date from the 11th to 15th century. The Irish began to build fortifications in the form of castles soon after the Norman Invasion (1169 I think). Most of these medieval strongholds were subsequently occupied by invading lords who used them as defensive administrative headquarters.(The invaders also built a few fine castles themselves). They are distinctly different to some of the royal castles or palaces found in Britain or continental Europe, in that Ireland has had no royalty for over a thousand years and so the castles served a more practical role rather than a symbolic role. The castles built in Ireland and Kerry were fortified homes for chieftains, or Anglo Norman settlers and were designed primarily for defensive purposes with little thought given to symbolism. The following is a brief description on some of the castle’s which can still be viewed in Kerry today.
Ross Castle, Killarney, Co. Kerry
Ross Castle is located just outside the town of Killarney on the Ross Road. It is very well signposted and easy to find. Originally the home of an Irish Chieftain (O’ Donoghue Ross) Ross Castle Killarney was probably built in the late 15th century. The castle is a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages. It sits on the bank of the banks of Lough Leane on a majestic site looking out on to the lake and Inisfallen Island (home to a 7th century monastery). It is reputed to be one of the last strongholds of significance to fall to Cromwell’s forces in the 1650’s.
The castle has recently been restored and the castle is open to visitors (there is a fee and you get a guided tour) from April to October but you can stroll around the grounds throughout the year. As the castle is one of Killarney’s main tourist attractions it can get quiet busy during the peak summer month.
Wynn’s Castle, Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry
Located just outside the village of Glenbeigh not much remain of Wynn’s castle. The walls of Wynn’s Castle dating back to 1797 are still standing and beyond that it’s up to the imagination of the viewer to try to visualise what this fine castle may once have looked like. (If you are really interested in finding out what it looked like the National Library of Ireland has some good old photos of it). A fine view of Glenbeigh and its environs can be seen from this old ruin. If you decide to visit the castle don’t expect too much.
Dunkerron Castle, Kenmare, Co. Kerry
The ruins of Dunkerron castle can be found 2 miles west of the town of Kenmare on the Sneem Road. Its not easy to find even for a local, (in truth it’s very hard to find) and walking boots are recommended. First locate “Dunkerron holiday homes” and you will find the castle at the back of the holiday homes.
The castle stands on a huge rock and for centuries was the stronghold of the O’Sullivan’s. The O’Sullivan clan was very prominent in Kerry and to this day the “O’Sullivan” name is very common in Kerry. The Castle was built in 1596 and even though it is now in a poor shape it is still quiet remarkable and striking. From looking at the one remaining wall you can still get a feeling of strength and dominance from this ruin. If you are in Kenmare then its well worth a visit.
Ballycarbery Castle, Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry
Ballycarbery castle is located in an area know as “over the water” by the locals in Cahersiveen. Starting from Cahersiveen first find the old barracks in Cahersiveen located down by the waters edge. With the barracks on your right hand side continue over the bridge immediately ahead, at the next crossroads take a left and follow the signposts for the castle, it is approximately two miles on the left.
This impressive looking castle with its ivy covered tower house was once home to the McCarthy Clan and built sometime in the 15th century. It is probably the largest and most impressive castle built on the peninsula of Iveragh and is still very impressive from a distance.
Though listed on the County’s historical buildings list this is as far as the powers that be have gone to preserve this fine building. You will not find any gates or signs or paths into the castle and as the state has forgotten about it, entrance is free. You may however be a little disappointed when you see the poor state of repair the castle is in when you stroll around the ruins, care and attention are advised. An alternative to walking around the castle is to take you photos from the roadside and maintain your romantic impressions of this castle, you will however miss out on some of the best views of Cahersiveen if you do this.