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Leamanagh Castle
 

County

Clare

Coordinates

N 52° 59' 15.96"   W 009° 08' 23.1"

Nearest town

Kilfenora

Grid Ref.

R 23474 93612

Map No.

51

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

67

Date of visit

Friday 16 June 2017

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The castle seen from the most famous point of view.


This castle is a landmark in the Burren, just like the Poulnabrone is.
The castle has different spelling for its name, Leamanagh or Leamaneh, deriving from Leim an Eich which means "horse's leap".
It's probably one of the most photographed monuments in the area and is conveniently situated at the T-junction between R480 and R476. Tourists usually stop their cars at the junction and walk up a few metres to take photos of the building.

We drove through this junction half a dozen times so far and we always stopped on the side of the road, took some photos and drove away.
This time we thought it was time to stop to have a proper and deeper look. Probably for the first time the weather was good enough and this was a great incentive.

The castle consists of two different buildings. There's an early rectangular tower house five-story high. The size and shape of this tower house is common to other castles in the area, like Dysert O'Dea and Ballyportry.
It was built in 1480 by Turlough Donn O'Brien, King of Thomond, and one of the last kings of Ireland. In 1543, Murrough, his son, surrendered his throne and the castle to king Henry VIII and he was made 1st Earl of Thomond and Baron Inchiquin.

The castle was extended with the building of a new huge mansion in 1648 by Mary McMahon and his second husband Conor O'Brien. Her first husband, Daniel O'Neillan, died and left her an inheritance of 1,000 pounds. This fortune was useful to build the mansion. In 1651 Conor O'Brien fought against the Cromwellian army that was invading the region and was fatally wounded. Mary McMahon married a Cromwellian soldier in order to be able to keep the castle and the lands.
In the following years the castle had different owners, until it fell into disrepair in the 18th century.

Some of its ornament were removed and taken to other buildings in the county.

What we see today is an empty shell with the original tower house to the east (90°) and the newer mansion built up against the west wall of the tower.
The tower has several slit windows and two arrow loops in the corners. Most windows have simple but fine decorations.
The mansion has 11 mullioned and transomed windows in the south wall, where there's also a rounded arch doorway.
In the north wall there are 6 windows similar to those to south. Other windows seem to have been walled up. In the northwest corner a tower was built.
The west wall of the castle had no windows. There's a bartizan high up in the southwest corner.

The castle stands in a private property. On the day we visited it we saw nobody around, and the gate in the east doorway was wide open.

This castle appears for 8 seconds in the first episode of the movie "Guns in the Heather" (1969), by Robert Butler. See movie at time 00:32:13.


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