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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan

Part 4: Castles and tower houses c.1500
Chapter 40: Killeely Parish (Part of)


Nat. Grid Ref. R503587: ½” Sheet 17

Entrance area to levelled Castle Donnell
Entrance area to levelled Castle Donnell

R.C. Parish : Cratloe
Townland : Cratloe
6” O.S. Sheet number : 62 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 28.7cm North; 41.0cm East
Height (G.L.) : c. 20’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 143 (Limerick)

For information on the limited surviving remains of this site refer to:- a) photo above b) site plan c) site description

Site Plan of Castle Donnell:


Though represented on the relevant 6” O.S. Sheet as the site only of a castle field examination did find some small trace of the site (see site plan above, also Photo 1)

This site was built on land that was probably raised 2 - 3 metres to bring it above the possible highest point reached by the nearby flooding Shannon. This raised area is of an oval shape, being 20 metres east-west by 25 metres north-south.

The only trace, now visible, of the site occupied the eastern part of this rise. As the site plan suggests here we have what was the original entrance area into the site. Such an entrance region is unlike that noted in tower houses in the region and suggests that this was, probably, a larger structure – i.e. a castle. Such a view of a non tower house nature is strengthened by the following extract dealing with the site from a local N.S. publication:- “…it had a round tower…”
(Cratloe N.S., 1979 Edition, Page 13).

Was there always a castle as such here? I feel that originally there may have been a tower house on the site but that at a later time it was altered (replaced?) by a more impressive structure which controlled movement on the river Shannon. This later structure would have had the impressive double doorway (site plan) and round (corner) tower.

A number of sources make reference to the fact that a castle (i.e. tower house) existed in Cratloe(More) Townland in the sixteenth century. The College List (1580 A.D.) states that the site was in the possession of Donal Mac Teige Mac Namara at that time.

It may have been some time after that date, probably in the seventeenth century, that the earlier site was either replaced or altered.

The origin of the name “Castle Donnell” is unclear and there is no folklore available locally to give and answer to this query.

Such a site must have been important in the early decades of the seventeenth century as the site is represented on the following maps:-

a) Speede’s map of Ireland, 1631, has “C. Donell” represented.
b) The map of Ireland in Mercator’s Atlas (1636) has “Donel” shown on the correct site.

(Copies of both of these maps appear at the back of Volume 2, O.S. Letters (1839) ).

What became of the site? According to Frost:
“… (it was) wholly demolished some years ago to supply building material…” (1893, page 12).

When did this destruction take place? Possibly in the mid-nineteenth century and certainly some time before Frost’s 1893.

An old estate map, dating to 1822, in the possession of the O’Briens in nearby Cratloe Woods House, has this site represented as “old castle in ruins, covering 10 perches”. The destruction must have taken place some time after 1822. Thus I suggest cerca 1850 A.D.


O.S. Letters,
(1839), Volume 2, (Maps at back)
Frost, 1893, page 12
Westropp, 1899, page 363
Cratloe N.S., 1979 (Ed.), page 13