Historic Buildings of County Clare
Republic of Ireland
Image right - Doonagore Castle
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The object of this project is to provide information about historic buildings in County Clare, with links to sub-projects for specific buildings as appropriate. GENi profiles of people associated with those establishments can be linked to this project and/or to individual projects where they have been set up.
Castles, Baronial and Historic houses
... in alphabetical order
Including Castles, Abbeys, Manor Houses, Mansions, Stately Homes, Country houses, Estate houses, Courts, Halls, Parks and other listed buildings of historic interest
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● Ballinalacken Castle nr Doolin; 15th century O Brien stronghold which sits on a large rock. It is in the grounds of the Ballinalacken Castle Hotel which was built in 1840 as the home of Lord O'Brien. The fortress was founded in the 14th century and first rebuilt Lochlan MacCon O'Connor. In 1564 the control over West Corcomroe passed to the O'Briens. Years later the castle was granted to Turlough O'Brien of Ennistymon. The Ballinalacken O'Briens trace their descent from Turlough Don who died in 1528, and also from the Ennistymon O'Briens, which was founded by Sir Donald O'Brien of Dough castle (Donegal) who died in 1579. The O'Briens were one of the most powerful families in Ireland at the time and built several castles, including Ballinalacken.
● Ballintea Castle - ruin - birthplace of the famous Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Conmara. The Confederate Forces attacked and damaged the castle about 1646.
● Ballycullen Castle built about 1430 by John McNamara.
● Ballyhannon Castle - also known as Castlefergus Castle (see below) medieval Irish castle dating back to the 15th century, built by Hugh, and possibly Síoda, sons of Donnchadh MacNamara.
● Ballymarkahan Castle ruined tower house, 15th century O Brien stronghold which sits on a large rock. According to Irish antiquarian T. J. Westropp it was built in 1430 by "Donall, son of Shane an Gabhaltais. He listed it as one of the 195 "lesser castles", or peel towers, of County Clare in 1899, by which time it was already a ruin.
● Ballyportry Castle 15th century Gaelic Tower House, constructed by the O’Brien Clan; occupied by Mahone who was the son of Brian O'Brien. In 1961 an American architect. Purchased and.restored 1961-83 by Robert Owen Brown and is now a private residence.
● Belvedere at Dromoland, County Clare, dates from the early 1740s and is believed to have been designed by self-trained architectural draughtsman John Aheron, a protégé of Dromoland’s then-owner Sir Edward O’Brien, who apparently built the Belvedere so that he could watch horses racing across his land. Octagonal. Having fallen into disrepair, the Belvedere was repaired some years ago but now is both cut off from the rest of the estate, and lies on a strip of land between a tributary road and a motorway.
○ See The Irish Aesthete
● Boston Castle - owned by Mahon O'Brien and defended by him for three months, before being killed by a musket ball during a siege of the castle laid by Richard Bingham in 1586.
● Bunratty Castle built in 1425 by Sioda MacConmara (MacNamara). During a battle in 1475 it fell into the hands of the O’Brien clan who were granted the title of ‘Earls of Thomond’ by Henry VIII but later surrendered Bunratty to Cromwell’s troops.Maithan "Maonmaighe" O'Brien, King of Thomond The first stone castle to be built on the site was in the 1270’s by Thomas De Clare. In 1318 his son Richard was killed in battle and the castle and nearby town totally destroyed. The King of England restored Bunratty only for it to be demolished by Irish chieftains 14 years later when it was left in ruins for over 20 years and then rebuilt by Sir Thomas Rokeby before being attacked by the Irish again. The Donough O'Brien 4th Earl of Thomond made it his main seat c. 1580. The last family to live at Bunratty was the Studdart family; they left in 1804 when it fell into disrepair. Bought and restored in 1954 by Viscount Lord Gort. In 1960 it was opened to the public as a national monument and is now managed by Shannon Heritage. It houses the Bunratty Collection, 450 pieces of Medieval furniture and artefacts. Today it is famous for the medieval banquets held there.
- AD 970 - site occupied by the Vikings
- 1250 - Robert de Muscegros constructed an earth and timber fortress on the site
- 1270 - 'Thomas de Clare built a stone castle
- 1318 - The town and castle were destroyed by Irish of Thomond and the English rebuilt
- 1332 - The Irish, led by O'Briens and MacNamaras, destroyed Bunratty Castle
- 1352 - Sir Thomas Rokeby Justiciar of Ireland, rebuilt the caste; seized by the Irish
- 1425 - The MacNamaras started to build the tower house
- 1475 - Castle was taken over by the O'Briens, Kings of Thomond - Turlogh Don O'Brien, King of Thomond
- 1543 - Henry VIII created O'Briens as earls of Thormon - Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Thomond
- 1646 - Papal nuncio, Archbishop Rinuccini visited the Barnabas O'Brien, 6th Earl of Thomond, who surrendered to Admiral William Penn, Commonwealth commander.
- 1804 - The Studdarts, a plantation family, abandoned the castle in favour of Bunratty House
- 1954 - Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker, '7th Viscount Lord Gort began a restoration program.
- When Lord Gort died the castle passed into State care.
○ Page 10 Castles of Ireland by Mairéd Ashe FitzGerald - 2015
○ Page 143 Castles of britain and Ireland Lise Hull
● Caherminnaun Castle (site of) - was owned by Murrough O'Brien who died there in 1591.
● Carrigaholt Castle - a tall, well-preserved five storey tower house standing at the end of a fishing pier overlooking the Shannon Estuary and the harbour. It was built about 1480 by the McMahons, chiefs of the Corcabascin Peninsula. The castle was occupied by Teige Caech "the short sighted" McMahon in September 1588 when seven ships of the Spanish Armada anchored at Carrigaholt. The castle was unsuccessfully besieged shortly afterwards by Sir Conyers Clifford (Governor of Connaught). The following year the 4th Earl of Thomond (Donagh O'Brien) captured it after a four-day siege and, in breach of the surrender terms, hanged all the defenders. It was then owned by the Earl's brother Donal O'Brien, who inserted many of the castle's windows as well as the fireplace on the fifth floor bearing the date 1603. Donal's grandson was the celebrated Daniel O'Brien, 3rd Viscount Clare who lived at Carrigaholt and raised a regiment of horses known as the "Yellow Dragoons" for the House of Stuart King James II of England's armies. After the forfeiture of his extensive 230 km2 (57,000-acre) estate by the Williamites, the castle was acquired by the Burton family. Today the castle is under the care of the Office of Public Works. All that remains is a shell of its former nobility. The Burton Family were the last inhabitants and left it in the late 19th century.
○ Castles of Ireland by Mairéd Ashe FitzGerald - 2015 Page 13
● Castlefergus House Also known as Ballyhannon Castle A Blood Smyth property from the late 18th century, sold by the Blood Smyth to the Bloods of Ballykilty in the early 20th century. This house was occupied by Daniel Powell in 1814 but the Blood Smyths were in residence in the 1830s and 1850s. They appear to have held the property from Ralph Westropp. The mansion house of Castlefergus was in the possession of Rev William Blood Smith in 1906.
● Castlelake House - Home of the Gabbett family in the 19th century, occupied by Robert Gabbett in 1814 and by John Gabbett in 1837 and in the 1850s. They held the property from the Westropp family with whom they intermarried. Home of the Carroll family in the second half of the 20th century, still occupied.
● Clare Augustinian Abbey - The abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, known as de Forgio, after River Fergus, was built for the Augustinian Canons by Donal Mor O Brien about 1189. After the Suppression the abbey continued more or less as normal for a short time. In 1573 it was re-granted to Conor O’Brian, Earl of Thomond, and afterwards remained with that family. Nicholas O’Nelan, abbot of Clare, is listed among the monks living in the diocese of Killaloe in 1613. Some parts of the church date back to the earliest period but the majority of the existing buildings date from the 15th century. Around 1461, during the reign of Teige Acomhad O Brien, the tower was built, the east window was inserted and the domestic buildings were added.
● Clenagh Castle - built in the early 16th century by the MacMahon Family, the tower-house was occupied until about 200 years ago.
● Cloondooan Castle, aka Boston Castle - Rockvale - to the north of Lough Bunny, close to the intersection of two minor roads. During a siege against the castle in 1586 conducted by Sir Richard Bingham, Governor of Connacht, its defender Mahon O'Brien was killed by a musket ball whilst standing on the battlements. Despite the immediate surrender of the remaining defendants, they were all killed and the tower partially destroyed.
● Clooney Estate, Clooney House (notes from 'Abandoned Houses of Ireland, by Tarquin Blake). owned by David Bindon,1670s., later, Francis Bindon, b. 1698- he studied art in London, member of Royal Dublin Society ( portrait painter), then studied architecture -1733, designed many large country houses in Co Clare, co, Kilkenny, and others. Before he died in 1765, he had re-designed Clooney House. He was described in Ireland as 'best architect and painter, ever'. The House was re-occupied by 1855- sold-rebulit as 'Ellen Hall' by a daughter, 1859.(604 acres).Later, bought out by tenants (under Wyndham Land Act Purchase Scheme) early 1900s. By 1944, ruin.
● Coolsteige Castle - in In 1580 the property of Donald Roe MacNamara.
● Corcomroe Cistercian Abbey Abbeywest. The abbey was called Sancta Maria de Petra Fertili (St Mary of the Fertile Rock) and may have been founded by Donal Mor O Brien in 1182. However it is more likely that it was colonised by monks from Inislounaght under the patronage of his son, also Donal, in 1195. After the Dissolution it passed through various Thomond and O Brien hands until Richard Harding acquired it in 1611.
● Craggaunowen Castle - built by John MacSioda MacNamara in 1550 a descendant of Sioda MacNamara who built Knappogue Castle in 1467. After the collapse of the Gaelic Order, in the 17th century, the castle was left roofless and uninhabitable. The Tower House remained a ruin until it and the estate of Cullane House across the road, were inherited in 1821 by "Honest" Tom Steele, a confederate of Daniel O’Connell, Steele had the castle rebuilt as a summer house in the 1820s. He used it and the turret on the hill opposite for recreation. His initials can be seen on one of the quoin-stones to the right outside. "The Liberator". By the time of the First Ordnance Survey, in the 1840s, the castle was "in ruins". After he Steele in 1848 the lands were divided, Cullane going to one branch of his family, Craggaunowen to another, his niece Maria Studdert. Eventually the castle and grounds were acquired by the "Irish Land Commission". Much of the land was given over to forestry and the castle itself was allowed to fall into disrepair. In the mid-19th century, the castle, herd's house and 96 acres were reported in the possession of a Reverend William Ashworth, who held them from a Caswell (a family from County Clare just north of Limerick). In 1906, a mansion house here was owned by Count James Considine (from a family based at Derk, County Limerick). Craggaunowen Castle was restored by John Hunt in the 1960s - he added an extension to the ground floor, which for a while housed part of his collection of antiquities. The collection now resides in the Hunt Museum in the city of Limerick.
● Cratloemoyle Castle perhaps built in the 16th century by the MacNamara clan, owned by Sean MacConmara in 1570. It later passed to the chiefs of MacConmara. John MacNamara, who died in 1780, was the last known occupant. The castle was bought in 1973 by an Irish American and remains in his ownership today.
● Doonagore Castle built in the 16th century, although an earlier castle stood on the site since the 1300s. The castle was granted to Sir Turlough O'Brien of Ennistymon in 1582. During the retreat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, one of the fleeing Spanish ships was shipwrecked off the coast and 170 survivors were captured and hanged at Doonagore Castle. The castle had started to fall into disrepair by the early 1800s, and was repaired by Counselor Gore, but again deteriorated by the middle of the 19th century. In the 1970's, it was restored by architect Rex MacGovern for an American buyer named O'Gorman. The castle is still owned by the O'Gorman family.
● Doonas House, 'ancient castle' ( notes from Abandoned Houses of Ireland,by Tarquin Blake). origins with Hugh Massey, a General in Cromwell's army, 1641; his son, also..his son, Sir Hugh Dillon-Massey, M.P. for Co. Clare (1766), and Baronet (1783) Fought O'Briens. (There were many more Hughs as Sheriffs,etc), 1849 Famine - the family helped, but went bankrupt, - house sold 1858. Last Sir Hugh, died (Dublin) 1870. he was good to the tenants during the famine - they made a monument to him (later destroyed by others). The House was gutted by fires, set by teenagers, in 2009.
● Doonbeg Castle originally built for Daniel O'Brien, the Earl of Thomond. Sir Turlough MacMahon of West Clare took Doonbeg in 1585. In 1595 O'Brien reclaimed Doonbeg. In 1619 Daniel O'Brien gave Doonbeg Castle to James Comyn. The Crown took possession of it in 1688 and it was sold in 1703. By the late 1800's the Castle had fallen into disrepair.
○ Castles of Ireland by Mairéd Ashe FitzGerald - 2015 Page 12
● Dromoland Castle one of the most famous baronial castles in Ireland, the ancestral home of the O'Briens, Barons of Inchiquin, one of the few native Gaelic families of royal blood and direct descendants of Brian Boroimhe (Boru) High King of Ireland in the eleventh century. In 1014 Donough O'Brien, a son of Brian Boru, controlled Dromoland when it was a defensive stronghold. A tower house was built first on the site by Thomas MacAnerheny in the late 15th, early 16th century. It was home to the O’Brien family for eight generations. During 1543 the castle was rebuilt by Murrough O’Brien and over one hundred years later the most powerful branch of the family moved to Dromoland. In 1651 the castle was rebuilt. In 1660 Sir Donough O'Brien moved the most powerful branch of the OBriens to Dromoland. In 1730 Sir Edward built the turret on the hill opposite to allow him to watch his racehorses and the second Queen Anne style castle was built on the estate which included a quadrangle courtyard and guest rooms. 1800-1836 - The present main building of Dromoland Castle, with its high Gothic-styled grey stone walls, was rebuilt and designed by the Pain brothers, famous architects of that period, for the then Sir Edward O'Brien, 4th Baronet Lord of Dromoland, Sir Edward O'Brien, 4th Baronet] In 1921 the IRA called for the destruction of the castle but the decision was reversed and the O’Brien’s remained in residence but in 1948 were forced to take paying guests to keep the castle running. It was eventually sold in 1962 to Bernard McDonough; an American of Irish ancestry with the O’Brien’s still keeping part of the estate to continue to run the farm and sporting activities. The new owner ordered major renovations and today a consortium of Irish American investors owns the castle and estate.
● Dromore Castle - built in the early 16th century. Teige O'Brien repaired and added to the original castle in the 1600s. Over the door of the remaining part of the castle there is an inscription which reads "This castle was build by Teige second sone to Connor Third Earle of Thomond and by Slany Brien wife to the said Teige Anno D" suggesting that the remaining part of the castle must have been built by him.
● Dunguaire Castle
● Dysert-O'Dea Castle - see O'Dea's Castle below
○ Pages 10-11 Castles of Ireland by Mairéd Ashe FitzGerald - 2015
● Ennis Friary founded by Donnach O'Brien shortly before his death in 1242. It was substantially rebuilt by his successor, Turlough Mor O'Brien, towards the end of the 13th century. It was later to become a famous centre of learning. Pope Clement granted indulgences to the Friary in 1350 and 1375, at which time there were about 350 friars, as well as a flourishing and renowned school of 600 pupils. After the Dissolution the friary was reformed and became the last school of Catholic theology in Ireland to survive the Reformation. It was granted to the Earl of Thomond in 1578, and was the scene of the formal abolition of the old Irish Brehon Law in 1606. In 1615, the Friary became a parish church. The last of the old friars, Bruodin, died in 1617. A few friars returned in 1628, but were decimated and turned out by the Cromwellians in 1651. Again under Charles II the friars crept back, and in 1681 the transept was still roofed. By the end of the 17th century the friary was finally deserted, but in 1969 it was formally handed back to the guardianship of the Franciscans as an ecumenical gesture by the Church of Ireland.
● Ennistymon House O’Briens of Thomond
● Freagh Castle - According to the Cecil S. Kenny material in the National Library of Ireland, Matthias Kenny of Freagh Castle, county Clare, born 1778 married Maria O'Kelly, daughter of Patrick O'Kelly of Cascade Lodge. Matthias was succeeded by his son, Michael Kenny, who married Bridget Frost of Bunkers Hill, Ballymorris, sister of James Frost who wrote The History and Topography of the county of Clare. Their third son was Mathew Joseph Kenny, a barrister and Member of Parliament, 1882-1885, and for mid Tyrone, 1885-1895.
● Gleninagh Castle an O Loughlin castle near Cregg, which was occupied until 1840. In 1544 King Henry VIII of England granted Gleninagh to Richard Harding. The castle was owned by James Lynch of Galway in 1570. The O'Loughlins, who called themselves "Princes of Burren", owned the castle by 1574. The lands of Gleninagh were owned by the see of Kilfenora in 1629. The O'Loughlins later regained possession of the castle. They still lived there until the 1840s.
● Gregan Castle - Dates from 1750 and is associated with the Martyn and O'Lochlainn families.
● John's Castle Originally called the "Castle of Dunasse" - owned by Shane MacNamara in 1580.
● Kilkishen Castle probably built in the early 16th century and owned by Rory MacNamara in 1580.
● Knappogue Castle built by Sean MacNamara in 1467, the home of the MacNamara clan leader Donagh who led the Irish rebellion in 1641. The castle remained with the family until it was confiscated by Cromwell’s soldiers and granted to Arthur Smith a ‘Roundhead’. In 1660 the castle was returned once more to the MacNamara clan. The castle was sold to the Scotts in 1800 who extended it considerably and restored the parts that had been damaged due to fighting. The restoration work was continued by the castles’ next owner Lord Dunboyne in 1855. During the War of Independence the castle was occupied by Clare County Council and then left in a state of disrepair. During the 1920’s the castle was abandoned and the land leased to a local farmer who was eventually awarded the castle as compensation for the loss of one of his cows which was killed in the ruins. The last occupants of the castle were the Andrews family from Houston in Texas who purchased the property in 1966. Lavonne Andrews, the Hon. Mark Andrews’ wife, was a prominent architect and was responsible for fully restoring the castle into its original sate of the 15th Century. In 1996 the castle was sold to Shannon Developments.
● Lemeneagh Castle - ruin; built around 1480. also Leamaneh. - The castle was originally a basic, 5-storied Irish tower house which was built circa 1480, probably by Toirdelbhach Donn MacTadhg Ó Briain, King of Thomond of the O'Brien family, one of the last of the High Kings of Ireland and a direct descendant of Brian Boru. The home of Máire Rua Mac Mahon - who was commonly known as Máire Rúa ("Red Mary") due to her flaming red hair. She was born in 1615 or 1616. Her father was Sir Torlach Rúa MacMahon, Lord of Clonderlaw and her mother was Lady Mary O'Brien, daughter of the third Earl of Thomond. Her first husband, Daniel O'Neylan (also sometimes written O'Neillan or Neylan) of Dysert O'Dea Castle in north Clare died young and upon his death, she gained control of his substantial estate and a £1,000 fortune. This wealth enabled her and her 2nd husband Conor MacDonogh O'Brien to build a more comfortable mansion on to the tower house. The couple had 8 children. Conor was killked bt Cromwellian forces in 1651. Two years later Máire Rua married a Cromwellian officer called Cooper in order to secure the claims of her children to the O'Brien estates.. The gateway is now Dromoland Castle Hotel.
○ Castles of Ireland by Mairéd Ashe FitzGerald - 2015 Pages 14/15
● Loop Head Lighthouse The first lighthouse on Loop Head was one of four known Irish stone vaulted cottage type lights built about 1670. These cottages accommodated the light keeper and his family in two or three rooms and had an internal stone stairway between two of the rooms leading up to a platform on the roof where a coal burning brazier or chauffer was positioned.
● Mountcashel Castle (or Ballymulcashel) Castle was built by Conor na Srona O Brien, King of Thomond, in the second half of the 15th century.
● New Hall formerly Killone - in 1764 Charles MacDonnell bought the lands on which the ruins of Killone stood. Charles MacDonnell, was a Member of Parliament first for Clare (1765) and then for the Borough of Ennis (1768). He bought the Killone estate land from another cousin, Edward O’Brien of Ennistymon. This property included an existing long house known as New Hall. Soon after acquiring New Hall, Charles MacDonnell enlarged the existing house by the addition of a block built at right angles to and extending further on either side of the old, creating a T-shape. Charles MacDonell died in 1773 and was succeeded by his son, also Charles, MP, who was a soldier who fought with Lord Rawdon during the American Revolutionary War. He had two sons, neither of whom appear to have produced heirs Following the death of John MacDonnell in 1850, the estate passed to the latter’s nephew, William Edward Armstrong, whose father William Henry Armstrong, who lived at Mount Heaton, King’s County (now Offaly), had married Bridget MacDonnell. William Edward assumed by Royal Licence the surname and arms of MacDonnell and was, in turn, succeeded by his son, Charles Randal MacDonnell. Within 10 years New Hall passed into the ownership of the Joyce family, originally from neighbouring County Galway. Following the death of Patrick Francis Joyce in 2012, the house has been offered for sale.
○ See The Irish Austhete
● Newtown Castle built in the 16th century by part of the O’Brien clan. The castle then passed to the local O’Loughlin (also spelt O’Lochlainn or O’Loghlen) family. In the 1830’s the castle was home to Charles O’Loughlin who was given the title locally of the ‘King of Burren’, later his son Peter took over in the 19th century as the ‘Prince of Burren’. The family remained there until the end of the 1800’s when the castle fell into ruins. In the 1990s, restoration of the castle began and in 1994 fifteen craftsmen took seventy two days to complete a new roof cone made of seven tonnes of Irish oak.
● O'Brien's Tower was built in 1835 as an observation tower for the hundreds of Victorian tourists visiting the area by a local man Sir Cornelius O’Brien, a descendent of the Kings of Thomond from Bunratty Castle and The High King of Ireland Brian Borou. He was famous for being one of the first people in the area to exploit tourism hoping to bring much needed revenue to the local economy. He was also responsible for building a wall along the cliffs using Moher flagstones and got a reputation of being ‘the person who built everything apart from the cliffs’. On his death in 1857 he was buried in the O’Brien vault which adjoins St Brigid’s Well at Liscannor. See Sir Cornelius O'Brien Project
● O'Dea's Castle fully restored and is now a museum and exhibition centre. The Battle of Dysert O’Dea was fought on this site in 1318, responsible for the departure of the Anglo Normans from the area for over 200 years. The castle was built c. 1480 by Lord Cineal Fearmaic, Dairnuid O’Dea and was damaged heavily during the war with Cromwell. It became a Cromwellian Garrison in 1651. It was regained by the O'Deas who lost their claim to it after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. It fell into ruin until in 1968 whilst on a holiday in the area an American, John O’Day, discovered the ruins of the castle up for sale and purchased them. He started work on the castle’s restoration in 1971 and by 1983 it was finished. Since 1986 it has been used as the archeological centre for the area.
○ Page 10 Castles of Ireland by Mairéd Ashe FitzGerald - 2015
● Quin Abbey or Friary - ruined Franciscan abbey or friary in Quin, roughly 9 miles from Ennis, County Clare. Quin Friary was established in the mid-14th century by members of the local MacNamara family. It was built in the Gothic style built on the site of a castle built in 1280 by the Norman Richard de Clare which was attacked and burnt by Cuvea MacNamara who slaughtered most of its occupants. In 1584 Donough Beg O’Brian, who was half-hanged from a cart and his bones broken with the back of an axe was strung up while still alive from the friary tower by Sir John Perrot; a few years later the building was again set alight by another of the O’Brians. Franciscan friars continued to live on the site, the last resident only dying in 1820. Quin Abbey is now a National Monument. The church that later became Quin Abbey was founded by the MacNamara family around 1350. From the 14th century the MacNamara clan was the most powerful family in the Baronies of Upper and Lower Bunratty and Upper and Lower Tulla. Sioda Cam MacNamara built the cloisters in 1402. In 1430, the bell-tower and Lady Chapel were built by Mahon MacNamara. In 1433, he gave the property to the Franciscan order and allowed them to establish their friary there
● Rossmanagher Castle built around the 15th century by John McMahon-McDonagh MacNamara, but was in 1570 given to the Earl of Thomond. In1646 when Bunratty was attacked by the confederate army, a party from Bunratty occupied Rossmanagher castle but were forced to surrender by the confederates. On the 22nd of December 1675 the 7th Earl of Thomond leased the castle to a Mr. Abraham Dester. It was occupied until the mid 1800s and then fell into ruin.
● Shanmuckinish Castle
● Smithstown Castle fully restored.
● Tomra Castle
● Tuamgraney Castle
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