Ballyadams Castle




N 52° 57' 58.98"   W 007° 03' 51.12"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

S 62866 90867

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Friday 13 June 2014

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The only photo that we have of this castle. It was taken from the cattle gate, at the southwest of the building.

An amazing keep with two wonderful towers that flank the entrance to the castle. The entrance has a double protection above it, a double murder hole. One is high above on the fourth floor, the other is right above the doorway.
The northwest tower is one storey higher that the rest of the building. Another building is at the rear of the castle.
All the buildings still have the original whitish plaster on them and this gives us the right prospect of how medieval castles looked like.

The castle is in a private property and a sign with the "Danger - No Entry - Keep Out" is on the gate. Unfortunately on that day we were on a hurry, our holiday was over and we had to go back to the airport, so we hadn't the time to look for the landowner.

This was our last visit for the year 2014.

UPDATE: June 6th, 2016 - This time we had the chance to visit the castle from a very close distance. We found the owners of the field and they gave us the permission to walk to the castle and step inside it, provided that we were extremely careful and took the responsibility for every damage or accident that could occur.
Some cows and calves were guarding the ruins but were extremely friendly.
The castle has a main gatehouse that faces to the west (260°), which dates to the 15th century, on the northwest quarter of the building. This gate house is five storeys tall with rounded corner towers, the northwesternmost tower is one storey taller. Both this tower and the rest of the roof level are crenellated. Several narrow windows are present on this side of the building. The room above the machicolation had a two-light ogee window. The main entrance is within an arched niche in the wall with a murder hole above it. The whole entrance is protected by a machicolation above it. Behind the gate house is a rectangular building which is three storeys tall and in total ruins. The main entrance is a pointed arch doorway with a reddish timber door (possibly original) dangerously hanging from its hinges. To the right there's a small round room with a hole in the floor leading to an underground chamber. To the left there's a spiral staircase with 36 surviving steps. Behind this staircase is another small chamber. The first 20 steps of the staircase lead to the first floor where there are two rooms. The next 16 steps lead to the second floor which has no roof. From this level to the upper storeys there's an iron ladder that I didn't trust to use so I didn't visit the rest of the gate house. However it is possible to see that every floor had a fireplace. All the rooms in the gatehouse still retain the original plaster.
The rectangular building behind the gate house was built in the 17th century, it is completely ruined and overgrown so it's hard to understand what every part was. The ceiling were vaulted and walls were very thick. This part could have had a kitchen and a great hall at the upper level. There were large windows in the west wall of this building.

The history of this castle is rather long and tormented. Apparently it was built at the end of the 15th century by Adam O'More, hence the name of the place. In mid-16th century Gilla Patrick O'Moore, Chief of Leix, was in possession of the castle, but following his rebellion in 1546, the O'Mores and O'Connors attacked and burned the town of Athy. The Earl of Desmond sent an army into Leix, took over Ballyadams Castle and in 1551 he gave it to John Thomas Bowen, a Welshman, under a 21-year lease. John Thomas Bowen was a man of an inexpressible cruelty and was known as John of the Pike for his habit of carrying a pike when he was around. John Thomas Bowen died in 1569 and was succeeded by his son Robert, Sheriff of of Leix, who died in 1621. A memorial to him was erected in the nearby church ten years later. Robert's son, John, was knighted on November 13th, 1629, and was nominated Provost Marshal of Leinster and Meath. When he was rather aged, Lord Castlehaven, a long acquaintance of John's, was passing by the castle and told him he was going to put a garrison in it, but John denied Lord Castlehaven's request and the latter said he would have shot his cannons against the castle. John replied he would have filled the breaches in the walls with his daughters tied to their chairs. This proof of courage had Lord Castlehaven give up and the castle was safe.
Around 1700 the castle was granted to Katherine Bowen who married Pierce Butler from Tipperary. Their descendants left the castle for good after the 1798 rebellion and nobody lived in it since.

Only the first photo is from the previous visit. All the others are from the visit in 2016.

UPDATE: May 30th, 2018 I have just been informed that the wonderful doors of the castle have been stolen on May 26th, 2018. Please, spread the voice. Any bit of information to help the authorities find them will be of great importance to restore the beauty of this place and to give respect to Irish heritage!

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