Kanturk Castle




N 52° 09' 53.64"   W 008° 54' 10.62"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

R 38227 01839

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Friday 17 June 2016

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The castle is in a park. Seen from the south.

Kanturk castle was built at the beginning of the 17th century by either Dermot mac Owen or by his son Dermot Óg as chief residence for MacDonagh MacCarthy, Lord of Duhallow.
It's a rectangular four-storey building in Tudor style with massive square towers at its corners. These towers project fully from the plan of the main building and their top levels are corbelled on every side. The main building measures 28 metres of length and 11 metres of width. The towers are taller than the central building and reach 29 metres.
The main doorway in the northwest (310°) wall mimics a neoclassical style though its design is far from a true neoclassical architecture. Once this entrance had a staircase but now it's gone and the arched doorway seems to hang on the wall with a large breach where the stairs were. This breach gives access to the inside of the building.
Another doorway, though smaller, is a pointed arch doorway at the ground level in the southeast wall (130°). This doorway was protected with a grid and a wooden door.
Other defensive features are the gunloops in the towers.
The castle is now an empty shell, nothing of the inner walls or timber floors survives. There are many mullioned windows in every wall on every floor. Also there are several fireplaces, though some of them are now missing because they were removed to be built into Lohort Castle. In the south corner on the fourth floor there's the finest fireplace of the whole castle. Its mantelpiece recalls the neoclassical style design of the main doorway.
According to a tradition, Kanturk castle was never finished. The tradition has it that rumours of its building reached the Privy Council in England who ordered to stop the works because they feared that it could have been used as base for the attacks to the English settlers. MacDonagh was so enraged at this order that destroyed all the tiles ready to be used to build the roof. Another version of the story is that the castle was never finished because MacDonagh ran out of money.
MacAuliffe, step-brother of MacDonagh, foretold the demise of this castle by describing it as "too fine a place for crows".
Another tradition has it that the owner of the castle was a tyrant and would force the masons to work relentlessly until they would die so to use their blood to strengthen the mortar.
It seems than in a phase of its history the castle was also known as Carrig na Shane Saor, the Rock of John the Mason, because it seems that seven stonemasons all called John worked on its construction.

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