Leamaneh Castle

Kilfenora, Co Clare

  • Leamaneh Castle is not accessible to the public.
  • It can only be viewed from the roadside.

Dating from 1460, the ruins of Leamaneh Castle are situated in the austere and magnificent surroundings of The Burren. The castle was initially a basic multistoried Irish tower house, which was built by Turlogh Donn, who was one of the last High Kings of Ireland and a direct descendant of Brian Boru.

The name of the castle ‘Leamaneh’ is believed to be derived from the Gaelic ‘léim an éich’, which is translated to ‘the horses leap’. The manor house was erected in 1648 by Connor O’ Brian and his wife Máire ní Mahon, one of the most notorious women in Irish folklore who, due to her flaming red hair, was commonly known as "Máire Rúa" (Red Mary). In 1651 Connor was slain in battle against the Cromwellians. His widow realized that the punishment for his rebellion against the English would be the forfeiture of their property. Therefore, in a desperate attempt to retain her lands and estates, she offered to marry any Cromwellian officer who would take her hand. (This is refuted in other versions of the story, which state that Máire Rúa didn't marry until 1653, two years after Conor's death.).

Máire Rúa's son, Donagh (later Sir Donagh) was the last of the O'Brien's to occupy the house. He subsequently moved the family seat from Leamaneh to the much-larger Dromoland Castle in Newmarket-On-Fergus, south of Ennis where his mother spent her final years. Although Máire Rúa's children from her first marriage to Daniel O'Neylan (or O’Neillan) were raised Catholic, he was brought up as a protestant and eventually became the "richest commoner in Ireland”.

The noble gates, which ornamented the castle, were moved to Dromoland Castle in 1902, and the most elegant of the fireplaces was relocated to the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis. Although having various inhabitants over the years, Leamaneh Castle finally fell into ruin at the end of the 18th century.

Today, all that is left of the castle is the tower house and the four adjoining walls with the mullioned windows. Seeing this spectacular building and its barren surroundings gives visitors a peek of what ancient Ireland was really about.

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