Ballynahoogh CASTLE

EstersnowCounty Roscommon

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Caisleán Bhaile na hUamha aka Ballynahoogh Castle (lit. Castle of the Cave Town) was a McDermott castle situated on a rise overlooking a stream to the East which links Clogher Lake (abt. 150m to the North) with Cavetown Lough (abt. 100m to the South West). Just SW of the castle, a pair of Crannog sit in Cavetown Lough. Nearby, on the opposite side of Clogher Lough (NNE) stood Moylurg Castle.  


Ballynahoogh Castle stood in close proximity to the ecclesiastical settlement of Díseart Nuan (lit. Noone's Hermitage aka Disert Noone > Isertnowne > Eastersnow) with its Patrician church and holy well of Tubber Noone. Crannog (man-made lake forts), cairn (rock mounds), barrow mounds and Fulacht Fia (burned mounds), souterrain and caves are also numerous in this historic area.  


In 1487 the castle of the sons of Rory Mac Diarmada (KM 1478-86) at Baile na hUamha was demolished by Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill (c.1461-1505) (AFM vol. 4, 1153).


In 1492,  the castle was re-built (perhaps at a different location) by the sons of Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill (KM 1458-65) (AFM vol. 4, 1199). 


It was plundered by the Earl of Kildare in 1512 and captured and destroyed by O'Donnell again in 1527 (AFM vol. 5, 1317, 1391). 


In 1562 the Sliocht Eoghan (KM 1533-4), in their struggle for power with their uncle Rory [KM 1549-68], brought gallowglasses into Moylurg and burned Baile na hUamha (ALC vol. 2, 384). By this time the castle and lands were rented by descendants of Dermot Ruadh of Tir Tuathail, and the castle was confirmed to another descendant, Cathal Mac Fergainm, in 1617. 


By 1635, when the castle was described as 'ruinated', the lands having reverted to Terence McDermott of Carrick of the Rock (RO006-046----) (Simington 1949, 146). (Mullaney, 1986, 75; Mac Dermot 1996, 123-4, 142, 296, 456) 


Ordnance Survey

By the time John O'Donovan inspected it in the 1837 [O'Flanagan 1931, vol. 1, 113] only slight traces of the castle were visible when, and it is depicted as a rectangular shell (10m x 5m) on the 1837 edition of the OS 6-inch map.

"Yesterday I traversed the parish called Easter-Snow, and ascertained the sites of two castles of which the sappers have taken not notice.  There are (1) The Castle of Moylurg, and (2) the Castle of Baile-na-hUamha, now called Cavetown, from a very remarkable cave near it.  

The Castle of Moylurg, of which the foundations only are now traceable, stood on a remarkable rock, which was anciently almost surrounded by water; it lies opposite the remarkable stone called Clogh-a-Stuakeen, and immediately to the right of the road as one goes from Boyle to the village of Croghan.  The people of that neighbourhood thought it was the celebrated “Castle of the Rock” but I have satisfied them that it could not be, as the Rock (or Carrig Mac Dermot), the very celebrated fortress of Moylurg, is always spoken of as a rocky celebrated fortress of Moylurg, is always spoken of as a  rocky island in Lough Key.  The situation of this on of this castle, on a rock nearly surrounded by water, has given rise to this mistake and thought it is locally called the Castle of Moylurg, I fear it would be an error to call it Moylurg Castle on the Ordnance Map.

The Castle of Baile-na-huamha or town of the cave (so called from a remarkable cave, which goes, according to vulgar tradition, all the way to Kesh Corran) was situated between the Lakes of Clogher and Cavetown, and within about seven perches of The Fish House.  But very slight traces remain now.  The tradition in the country is proved by the testimony of the Annals that there was a castle at Baile-na-h-umhach (Na hUmhaidh) which belonged to the branch of the McDermots, now vulgarly called the Bundoon family in consequence of their poverty and pride, and in contempt for their having lost the fertile plains of Moylurg."      [John O'Donovan 1837].



The castle foundations are covered by a coniferous wood and no longer visible at ground level.  


  • 1. AFM - Annals of the kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters from the earliest period to the year 1616, ed. and trans. John O'Donovan (7 vols., Dublin, 1851; reprint New York, 1966)

  • 2. ALC - The Annals of Lough Cé: a chronicle of Irish affairs, 1014-1690, ed. W.M. Hennessy (2 vols., London, 1871; reflex facsimile, Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 1939)

  • 3. O'Flanagan, Rev. M. (Compiler) 1931 Letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the county of Roscommon collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1837. Bray. 

  • 4. Simington, R.C. (ed.) 1949 Books of survey and distribution. County of Roscommon. Dublin. Stationery Office.

  • 5. Mac Dermot, D. 1996 Mac Dermot of Moylurg: the story of a Connacht family. Manorhamilton. Drumlin.

  • 6. Mullaney, T. 1986 The parish of Crogan from earliest times. Roscommon Association Yearbook 1986, 75. Dublin


Baile na hUamha/Cavetown or Ballynahoogh | Logainm Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Buildings of Ireland: Ballynahoogh Castle Ireland VIEW SOURCE
National Folklore Collection: Cavetown and Moylurg Ireland VIEW SOURCE
Map of ancient Moylurg castles | Ireland VIEW SOURCE

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