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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 43: Kilnasoolagh Parish


Nat. Grid Ref. R392674; ½” Sheet 17

Photo 1: View into Carrigoran “Castle”, from the west
Photo 1: View into Carrigoran “Castle”, from the west

R.C. Parish : Newmarket-on-Fergus
Townland : Carrigoran
6” O.S. Sheet number : 51 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 7.1 cm North; 36.8 cm West
Height (G.L.) : 55’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 133 (Sixmilebridge)

For information on this seventeenth century dwelling house, plus later addition, refer to:- a) two site plans b) site descriptions c) series of photographs.

Plan of Carrigoran “Castle”
Plan of Carrigoran “Castle”

Plan of Later Extension to Carrigoran “Castle”
Plan of Later Extension to Carrigoran “Castle”


There is no documented evidence to suggest that a defensive site existed here in the fifteenth century. Not one reference to such a possible site exists in the O.S. Letters (1839), Frost (1893), Westropp (1899) or other sources. Even local folklore does not speak of a castle site on the shore of Lough Gash, Newmarket-on-Fergus.

What then is represented on the relevant 6” O.S. Sheet? Field examination found a large building, generally in a poor condition. Certainly in appearance it is unlike the many tower houses in the area (see site plans of Carrigoran “Castle” and compare these to nearby Clenagh Tower House, ground floor plan).

I believe that here we have the site of a late seventeenth century house which had an addition added at a later period – perhaps even in the eighteenth century. The site, certainly, was not built primarily as a defensive one – note for example the wide windows on the ground floor area (Photo 2). Who built this house? In all probability the Fitzgeralds, who at a later period constructed the present Carrigoran House. My theory is that the late seventeenth century structure was their original home and which they added to during the eighteenth century. The time then came when rather than spend money on the old structure the family built a more modern and elaborate structure nearby (Carrigoran House).

What are the features of this earlier house as it survives to date (1979)? As the relevant site plan shows it is in a poor condition and consists of two separate parts. The small area to the north-west consists of a fireplace, the upper part of which is closed. This wall averages 8 metres in height though the actual chimney is a further 4.50 metres higher (Photos 1 and 2). A close examination of the wall here showed that the site had at least two floors over the ground floor area, the first one also containing a chimney.

The main part of this probable seventeenth century structure is to the west (Photo 1). As the site plan shows this wall also has a chimney to its centre with alcoves on either side. The north alcove, at a height of 6 metres, has a blocked up window. No such evidence, however, occurs in the right (south) alcove.

While this back (west) wall averages 9 metres in height the central chimney area is a further 3 metres high (Photo 1).

The window area to the south-west of this wall is quite interesting and survives to a height of 7 metres. This area has two windows on the ground floor. The one facing south is 65 cm deep, 1.50 metres high and 1.25 metres above ground level. The second window, facing west, is 50 cm wide on the inside, 17 cm wide on the outside, 60 cm deep and 1.25 metres high.

Foundation blocks, only, of what may have been a similar type feature occur to the west (see site plan).

As stated previously an extension was added on to this structure at a later period, probably in the eighteenth century. This building now survives in a fair condition (Photo 3).

As the relevant site plan shows the main entrance was to the south via a gap now 3.0 metres high by 1.50 metres wide. Two large window spaces occur on either side of this entrance area – one to the west and the other to the east. Both are 1.30 metres wide and 75 cm deep and were originally plain rectangular windows with no evidence of cut-stone work.

This south wall is almost 5 metres high and traces of slates along its upper edge show its manner of roofing.

The interior area of this extension has a great deal of collapse. As the relevant site plan shows field examination found evidence of internal subdivisions within this area.

The north wall contained a number of windows which are represented on the site plan. This wall, also in a good condition, survives to a height of 5 metres along its full length.

The back, or east, wall is arched in shape and reaches a maximum height of some 9 metres. This wall formerly had a window 2 metres above the ground level. Field measurements suggested that this was originally almost 2.50 metres high by 1.50 metres wide.

Originally this house and the surrounding area must have been quite elaborate. Stone faced terraces exist around the site to the north, east and south-east. These may, partly, have been used to protect the site from flooding waters of Lough Gash but could also have been used as landscaped gardens.

There are no references available on this site.

Photo 2: View of Carrigoran “Castle”, from the south
Photo 2: View of Carrigoran “Castle”, from the south

Photo 3: Later extension to Carrigoran “Castle”, possibly in the eighteenth century
Photo 3: Later extension to Carrigoran “Castle”, possibly in the eighteenth century