The remains consist of a rectangular tower house with a projecting turret at the E end of the N wall. The 3 storey keep, 14.15m x 9m externally, rises from a battered base, returned on all sides to a height of c. 2m. The W wall and greater part of the N and S walls stand to full height, but the E sector of the castle is represented solely by the shallow footings of the SE quoin. The projecting turret does not survive beyond the 2nd storey, but protruding bond stones above this level indicate that the feature was carried the full height of the castle. Large coherent masses of faced masonry, lying both inside and to the E of the castle, derive mainly from the collapsed E wall and the vault which covered the 1st floor. The walls are built of coursed rubble set in a sea-sand mortar, and the surviving quoins and dressings are of wrought sandstone. The lower 3m of the SW quoin is rebuilt and an equal section of the NW quoin has fallen.
Entry to the ground floor chamber was by means of a doorway at the W end of the S wall; the opening now lacks its jambs and the segmental head is defaced. The door, slightly recessed from the exterior, was reinforced from within by a draw-bar passing beneath the sill of the adjacent window. A vertical slot, extending the full width of the arched entrance passage, probably housed a portcullis, served from the window embrasure on the 2nd floor. The rectangular doorway, now lacking its S jamb, which opened E off the passageway leads to a mural stair in the thickness of the S wall. The stair lobby was lit by a splayed lintelled ope, but the narrow light is now defaced and the sill has been broken away. The entrance passage communicated with the interior through a segmental arched doorway; the E ingoing has fallen and the W wall of the ground floor chamber is checked to accommodate a door which could be secured from within by a draw-bar.
The main ground floor chamber was lit by narrow loops in the W, N and S walls. The splayed lintelled ope in the W wall is set in a rectangular embrasure with a segmental rear vault. The latter preserves impression of wicker centering on its soffit and the seating of the light timber framework on which this was raised can be seen. The N ingoing of the embrasure was fitted with a wall cupboard and there was a similar feature adjacent to it on the N wall. Raised ground level on the exterior, probably due to the collapse of the turret, largely occludes the narrow loop in the N wall. The ope now lacks its head and there is a gap in the wall here extending upwards to the springing of the 1st floor vault. The window was set in a splayed embrasure, its segmental rear vault now fallen. On the E ingoing of the embrasure, a narrow flight of steps ascends to the 1st floor of the turret. The narrow lintelled loop in the S wall of the chamber is now defaced externally and the main castle wall E of this is considerably reduced in thickness. The ground floor of the castle may have been divided internally by a cross wall, in effect a continuation of the E ingoing of this loop.
Very little remains of the turret, and its E and N limits cannot now be traced above the collapse here. The surviving section of the ground floor consists of 2 chambers. The inner chamber, which was roofed by a segmental vault, now largely collapsed, appears to have been unlit and may have been a dungeon. Only section of the featureless W wall of the outer chamber survives. The 1st floor of the turret was similarly subdivided internally. A splayed lintelled ope in the W wall of the inner chamber debouches externally near the re-entrant angle of the tower, and probably doubly functioned to give light to the interior and musket cover to the N wall of the castle.
A straight flight of roughly carved sandstone steps, in the thickness of the S wall of the castle, leads upwards to the 1st floor. The stair was ceiled by flat flags and the ascent was lit by a splayed lintelled ope, now defaced externally. Two similar opes illuminated the stair passage at 1st floor level; the westernmost has modern refurbished jambs. The flat head of the easternmost window has also been partly rebuilt. A doorway, which crossed the stairs immediately E of this window, has now fallen; the surviving draw-bar sockets indicate that the door could be secured from either side of the passage. Entry to the main 1st floor chamber was probably by means of a doorway opening N off the stairway, but the interior wall has collapsed here and the stair does not survive above this level.
The 1st floor chamber had a wooden floor and was roofed by a pointed barrel vault. The sockets for the built-in beams of the former survive on the N and S walls but the latter has almost entirely collapsed. Traces of wicker centering are clearly visible on the soffit of the extant portion. The chamber was lit by a central window in the W wall. The light, now devoid of its dressings, had a lintelled head and was set in a widely splayed embrasure with a segmental rear vault.
The 2nd floor of the castle is now inaccessible due to the collapse of the mural stair in the S wall. The ascent was lit by a loop at the SE angle; only the splayed W ingoing and section of the lintelled rear arch are preserved.
The surviving sections of the N and S walls of the upper chamber stand to full height, but the W gable has partly fallen and the wall head has been brought to a level line and capped in recent years. The chamber is unusual in that the upper portion of the wall projects internally and is divided into segmental arched bays, raised on wicker centering and carried on stepped moulded corbels. As well as being decorative, this arcading serves to increase the wall thickness and gives added stability to the alure above. Projecting corbels above the arcades on the N and S walls may have supported wall posts for the roof.
The chamber was lit by 2 windows, at the W end of the S wall, separated from each other by a narrow pier. The opes, which were set in large splayed embrasures, are now featureless gaps externally; the westernmost embrasure probably housed the machinery to operate the portcullis. The narrow ope in the W wall is also devoid of its dressings but the splayed ingoings of the segment-headed embrasure preserve the draw-bar sockets for a shutter. The window is flanked by 2 putlog holes. A defaced light in the N wall was set in a large embrasure fitted with window seats, and there appears to be a blocked-up window ope directly E of this.
Access to the wall-walk was probably from the E sector of the castle. It was drained by overlapping slabs, delivering through outlets at .5m intervals at the base of the parapet. The battlements on the N and S walls have largely fallen but 2 D-shaped corner turrets are preserved at the SW and NW angles; the curved inner wall of the latter is now supported by a modern quoin of masonry. The turrets, slightly oversailing the walls of the castle, were reached by stone steps inside the N and S parapet walls. A stepped merlon, now partly refurbished, separated the turrets on the W elevation.
It is unlikely that the highly vulnerable E sector of the castle, now destroyed, would have contained all the fireplaces, garderobes and even cupboard recesses which the castle, as a 'chief manor house', would have possessed. It seems probable therefore that, during the later period of occupation at least, a 2nd domestic building existed within the enclosure. Grass-covered foundations immediately S of the castle may represent the remains of the latter; defaced stony footings survive to a maximum height of c. 1m and outline a rectangular building c. 22m WSW-ENE x c. 12m NNW-SSE. The entrance was probably situated in the E wall and appears to have been fitted with a forebuilding. An ancillary chamber lies at the SW end of the main building. There are also slight traces of a possible building to W of the castle.
The above description is derived from J. Cuppage, ‘Corca Dhuibhne. Dingle Peninsula archaeological survey. Ballyferriter. Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne’ (1986), no. 518. In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
Date of upload: 7 August 2013