The fortress is thought to have been built in the late fifteenth century by the O'Donoghues.  During the Second Desmond Rebellion of the 1580s Ross passed to the MacCarthys who leased the castle to Valentine Browne, who was the forbear of the earls of Kenmare.  The castle was amongst the last to surrender to Cromwell during the Irish Confederate Wars in 1652.  This occurred when artillery was brought by boat via the River Laune by Edmund Ludlow who brought 4,000 foot soldiers and 200 horse to the castle, forcing the defenders under Lord Muskerry to surrender.  Later a prophecy was invented that:

Ross may all assault disdain
Till on Lough Lein strange ship shall sail.

At the end of the wars, the Brownes were able to show that their heir was too young to have taken part in the rebellion and they retained the lands.  By 1688, they had erected a mansion near the castle, but were exiled after supporting King James II (1685-88) during the Glorious Revolution.  After this the castle became a barracks until the early 1800s.  Rather than return to the castle, the Brownes later built Kenmare House near Killarney.

The castle consists of a much altered fifteenth century oblong tower keep of 3 stories with square bartizans on diagonally opposite corners.  It is about 60' north to south by 35' east to west.  The tower stands on a small crag beside a bay in Lough Leane.  Its north wall is substantially thicker to include a ground floor entrance, guard chamber and neweless spiral stair.  The upper floors would probably originally have been hall and solar, although the interior has been much upgraded with its barrel vaulted ceilings.  The roof has been recently rebuilt in a traditional manner.

Originally the tower appears to have been surrounded by a square enclosure or bawn of which only the northern portion remains.  This surviving section of wall is still defended by 2 round corner towers and has an entrance to the north.  South of the tower is a long barrack block, joined to the tower by an inserted doorway.

Perhaps you would like to join me in visiting this and other great castles of Ireland in October with Scholarly Sojourns.  Details of the trip can be found by clicking here.


Copyright©2021 Paul Martin Remfry