The old Castle of Carrigaholt stands on the very brink of the Shannon about one and a half miles north of Kilcradane Point. It is situated in Carrigaholt Bay which is sheltered from the prevailing south west wind and also known as Carrigaholt Roads for this reason. It still has its stairs intact and it was only recently that the entry was blocked off for health and safety reasons. The castle was in use until the early 1900s when it was in the hands of the Burton family. The Burton family built a house nearby called Carrigaholt Cottage and it was after this time that the castle started to deteriorate.
It was built by the McMahons, who were Gaelic chieftains of Loop Head , in 1480.
The following inscription appears on a chimney piece on the upper floor of this Castle:- “D.B. 1603.” The following notice of this Castle occurs in the Annals of the Four Masters:-
A.D. 1599. “About a week after this, the Earl of Thomond came into the Country after having been nearly a quarter of a year in the Country of the Butlers. Upon arriving in Thomond he was resolved not to sleep two nights in any town until he should go and take revenge of Teige Caoch Mc Mahon (Blind Teige) for the dishonour he had shewn to, and the incursion he had made upon his brother. He assembled the greater part of the forces of the country, and marching into West Corca-Bhaiscin encamped before Carraig-an-Chobhlaigh on the Monday before Easter in the month of April. The cattle and flocks of the whole country extending from Cnoc-Doire to Leim-Chon-Chulainn (Loop Head) were carried to his camp there.”
Carrigaholt Castle is one of Ireland’s best preserved “Tower Houses”, built around 1480 by the MacMahons, the last Gaelic Chieftains to rule this peninsula. These Tower Houses were built mainly by the Anglo Normans between the 15th and 17th centuries and were built firstly as residences rather than a solely defensive site. There are over 80 tower houses surviving in County Clare , many of them in a good state of repair. Strategically located at the Mouth of the Shannon, the castle’s story reflects the turbulence of European politics.
The 16th century ended with the final conquest of Gaelic Ireland by England’s Tudor Dynasty and the siege of the castle in1599 by the Earl of Thomond, loyal to the Crown. The notorious rebel chief, Teigue MacMahon lost his estate and was later killed in rebellion on the Beara Peninsula.
Daniel O’Brien, brother of the Earl of Thomond, was granted the castle in 1602. Surviving the siege by Cromwells’s army in 1651, Daniel’s grandson was made First Viscount, Lord Clare of Carrigaholt in 1662 with the Restoration of the monarchy in England in 1660.
In the late 1680’s, he raised three regiments known as the Clare Dragoons comprising 2600 men to fight in the army of the deposed King James in his attempt to regain the English throne. Defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 by the army of William of Orange, James’ supporters were later granted amnesty to sail to France. The Clare Dragoons of Carrigaholt left Ireland to join the French army in what was known as “the Flight of the Wild Geese”. The 6th Viscount, Lord Clare, Charles O’Brien, became Marshal of France in 1757.
In 1697, the estate was granted to the Earl of Albermarle and later sold. The Burton Family acquired the castle and lived here until the early part of the 20th century.
The castle is under the protection of the Office of Public Works and National Monuments. The grounds are privately owned.
Author and blogger, Ann O’Regan, who specialises in writing about ghosts and hauntings, has advised that Carrigaholt Castle is best avoided at any time. A room in the 15th-century, five-storey Loop Head peninsula castle has remained sealed since the 1920s and has not been tampered with since an exorcist was found dead the morning after attempting to enter the chamber, she says. What the writer describes as a “malevolent spirit” is believed to reside in the room. Ann O’Regan, who writes for spookyisles.com, says that even paranormal investigators won’t venture near Carrigaholt Castle. “I’d know a few of the paranormal groups around Ireland and I don’t know any of them that have gone near it. That is the kind of room that is best left alone, to be honest with you. If you want to open it, fine, but wait until I’m at the other end of the country before you do it.”