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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 45: Tomfinlough Parish


Nat. Grid Ref. R415686; ½” Sheet 17

R.C. Parish : Newmarket-on-Fergus
Townland : Ballycar
6” O.S. Sheet number : 42 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 4.1 cm South; 34.7 cm East
Height (G.L.) : 85’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 133 (Sixmilebridge)


The site in Ballycar Townland which many people point out as the site of the old castle is not the actual site at all. Checking with the family who have farmed this land for generations I was told the following. In or about 1790 the original castle (tower house?) at Ballycar was levelled for its supply of stones. These were then taken to a point further up slope, to the south-east, and used in the construction of a farm house and out buildings. This farmhouse, containing as it does much of the cut limestone from the castle, is now regarded by some locals as the original, though altered, castle.

Ballycar Castle site is not marked in on any editions of the O.S. Sheets. Fortunately some locals know of its former location and they brought it to my attention (see 6” O.S. reference above). It was on the shore of Ballycar Lough though field examination failed to find any visible trace of the site. All that was found was an area of outcrop, some 20 metres square, which was between 1 and 1.50 metres above the surrounding field surface. This area contained a number of depressions presumably resulting from the levelling of the site around 1790 A.D. Locals say that when the lake floods this area of outcrop stays above the level of the flood waters. This would have given the site quite a suitable defensive location for a tower house.

Leading south-east from the site of Ballycar Castle, towards the rising ground, is a stone roadway. This averages 3 metres in width and some 30 cm above the surrounding field surface. It can be clearly traced for a distance of 20 metres from the castle site. When was this roadway laid down? This is not clear. It may have been during the time of the site’s construction, probably in the late fifteenth century, or may date to the 1790 era when stones were being carted from the site.

According to tradition, cited by O’Lionain in the 1780 period (O.S. Letters, 1839, Volume 2, page 139), Ballycar Castle was originally built by Conor, grandson of Loghun (McNamara?). In 1580 A.D. according to the College List it was owned by Donogh O’Brien.


O.S. Letters (1839), Volume 2, pages 79 and 138
1893, pages 192 and 193
Westropp, 1899, page 363