Carrigafoyle has had a stormy history and, although wrecked by a series of bloody sieges, remains a remarkable castle. Cleverly located between the high- and low-water marks on the shore of the Shannon Estuary, it comprises a large tower built towards the end of the fifteenth century by the O'Connors of Kerry. The tower was protected on the landward side by two square bawns, an inner one with rounded turrets and an outer with square towers at the corners. These bawns extended into the water and enclosed a small dock, so that boats could sail right up to the castle - a rather useful if not unique feature.
The tower has five storeys rising to a height of 86 feet and is beautifully constructed of specially selected small stones laid in neat courses. Each floor has an oblong chamber with a small room and spiral stair in the wall thickness at the seaward end. There are vaults over the second and fourth floors, the steep pointed arch of the latter now exposed in section by a breach of the wall on the landward side. Above can be seen small chambers in the hanches of the vault that helped to reduce its general weight and perhaps served as secret chambers.
Among the State Papers in London there is a plan of the castle dated April 1580 together with a letter to Queen Elizabeth from Lord Justice Sir William Pelham. The previous month Pelham had besieged the castle, then held for the Earl of Desmond by an Italian engineer, Captain Julian, with fifty Irish men and sixteen Spaniards. Pelham used artillery brought by sea and within two days had battered down the bawn and the western landward side of the castle. All the surviving members of the garrison were hung and the Earl of Desmond's plate, stored in the castle, was sent to the Queen. The castle was later recovered by the O'Connors, only to be surrendered again to the Lord Deputy, Sir George Carew, in 1600. It is known to have had a garrison of forty men in 1659 to protect the south shore of the Shannon. Despite its wrecked condition the castle was occupied in the last century by a Dr Fitzmaurice and his family.
Located 2 miles N of Ballylongford in the channel between the mainland and Carrig Island.
Accessible from the road across a raised path of stones liable to be submerged at very high tides.
NGR: Q 988474.
From The Appletree Guide to Irish Castles by Terence Reeves-Smyth.