- Image of Ballyloughan Castle
OS 19:3:2 (591,573) 'Ballvloughan Castle
ruins)' OD 300-400 27459,15851
Late thirteenth-century fortress
consisting of rectangular court (c. 43m N-S, c. 46m
E-W) enclosed by poorly defended curtain walls with
double-towered gatehouse at centre of S wall. Low
square towers on NE and SW angles and foundations of
small square structure inside NW angle. Walls of
squared granite blocks, irregularly coursed and
enclosed by fosse (uncovered during excavations in
1962, 7)). Rectangular gatehouse
with two circular towers of three storeys flanking
arched entranceway. Stairwells in wall thickness and
machicolation over entrance to towers at second
floor level. Small rectangular tower on NE angle,
also excavated by de Paor. Of thirteenth-century
date, reconstructed as cottage in eighteenth
century. The SW angle tower (int Dims 6m x 5.6m) has
two storeys and has intermural passages and
chambers. (JRSAI1962, 1-14; Leask 1973,72)
The above is an
Extract from the Archaeological
Inventory of Co Carlow-OPW
The castle, which was probably built in the 13th
century, originally consisted of a large open courtyard fortified by a high
curtain wall with a moat outside it. Only a small square tower at one corner
survives, as well as the entrance gate, flanked by two large rounded towers.
The tower in the north-eastern corner was abandoned in the 14th century, and
the whole castle may even have been abandoned at this time. Note the variety
of fireplaces. The castle formerly belonged to the Kavanaghs, and was
occupied by Donogh Kavanagh at the end of the 16th century. After the
Restoration it came into the possession of the Bagenal family, but was
bought by the Bruens in the early 19th century.
The castle at Ballyloughan was built in
the 1‘English Style’ in the 13th c by a
Norman lord. However it was occupied for most of its
history by members of the Kavanagh clan. 2
In the sixteenth century it was the stronghold of
one of their strongest septs the Clan Donough.
Following the defeat of the Confederation
forces in 1641 the castle & lands were forfeited to
the crown. Posession then passed into the hands of
the Beauchamp family who in the 17th c built the
large residence still to be seen nearby.
Sketches of the building taken a century
later show large gaping holes around window opes
indicating that the cut stonework had been removed
by then, presumably to build the 17th c residence.
Most of the fieldstones in the curtain wall were
also removed at that time.
residence was the home of Eleanor Beauchamp who in
1725 became the second wife of Walter Bagenal of
Dunleckney and later the mother of Beauchamp
carried out in 1955 found traces of a moat or fosse
surrounding the site. Dimensions were 3m wide x 1 m
deep. In common with wall heights and thickness this
also indicates that defence was not a major
consideration of the design.
To west of the complex the land descends
into a hollow now full of rushes. This is probably
the location of the lake from which the townland
gets its name ie Baile an Loch Án. In the earlier
years of its existence the castle was surrounded by
a moat supplied from this lake, which subsequently
At the field gate leading in to the site
a notice board erected by the OPW gives a brief
history and includes a late 18th c sketch
by Gross. The sketch shows the castle in ruins. Part
of the curtain wall to south east of the Gatehouse
still existed at that time. Three chimneys were
shown of which only one remains.
The site is currently in the care of the
OPW which have conducted repairs to make the
building safe to visitors.
Note that the building was originally
about 1 m lower than the present ground level. The
vaulted ceilings of both towers and main building
Access between levels is by stairways and
corridors within the walls, mainly on the East side.
Each stairway/corridor has a lancet opening to
provide light. Stairways in common with mediaeval
practice elsewhere have an unfavourable runner to
riser ratio ie sudden drop at each step, requiring
considerable care to negotiate safely.
Separate kitchen not found. Cooking and
eating took place in the large room on first floor
(as in farmhouses of bygone years). Large open
fireplace was originally in left hand corner of this
room. In 15th c it was moved to central location in
Latrine or garderobe is located in wall
space off this room immediately opposite entrance
door. Slated roofing of towers and main A-roof.
SW Tower: Ground floor room accessed
directly from the courtyard. Pleasant room on 1st
floor accessed by stairway in North gable wall; has
a fireplace, is well lit by windows with seats.
Latrine off this room at NW corner.
NE Tower: Two gables remain alongside a
section of the East wall.
1st Floor Plan
Ground Floor Plan
Adapted from Tom McNeill
1 Castles in Ireland. Tom McNeill
2. Castles in Ireland. Tom
3. Castles in Ireland. Tom
4. Come Capture Castles in Co
Carlow. Victor Hadden (1994)
Irish Castles and Castellated
Houses. Harold.G.Leask (1941) Dundalgan Press,
Archaeological Inventory of Co
Source: Ancient Sites &
Buildings of Bagenalstown Area Vol. 2. Site 11.