Following on to my second ruin of the year, after a rather slow start to the year mainly due to my arch enemy, the Irish weather. It has been a while since I came across a new Castle to explore and despite the lack of available history associated with the site, the ruins of Ballymoon Castle certainly did not disappoint. In fact aside from the Rock of Dunamase, Ballymoon is arguably one of the most impressive castle ruins which I have encountered to date. The Castle remains rest in the middle of a field just of a little country lane and still command a formidable presence across the surrounding countryside. Aside from now being a National Monument, which now means that it is thankfully a protected structure under Irish Law, there is free and open access to the public via what looks like a rickety old wooded bridge. The bridge runs across a rather deep ditch which surrounds the field, but I can assure you that it is quite safe to cross and is very sturdy. It’s a short walk up a slight incline before reaching the ruins.
For me Ballymoon is an unusual sight, as I am more accustomed to exploring the standard Norman Tower house fortifications which are so commonly found around the eastern part of the country. So I was like a child in a sweetshop when I came across this one. The ruins straight away stood out to me as the type of castle that you would be familiar with as a child. The structure consists of a square courtyard. Each of the four outer granite curtain walls are about 80ft in length and are about 8ft thick at the base, rising to a height of about 20ft, these may have been much higher as they would have surely supported crenelations & wall-walks, which either sadly have not survived or as some suggest were never finished.
The North, East and South walls all have protruding towers with a gatehouse on the west wall, all adding to the defensive features of the Castle. I am always amazed by the sheer amount of craftsmanship that went into the construction of these structures. Not only were they fortifications designed to protect strategic tracts of land, but they were also a home for the inhabitants, which had to be able to withstand attack.
As mentioned there is very little history available on Ballymoon Castle or the people whom lived there, this has sadly been lost in the sands of time. It is believed to have been built sometime between the 13th – 14th centuries either by Rodger Bigod of the Bigod Family (Earls of Norfolk) whom were wealthy land owners in the area or by the Carew family whom later acquired land from the Bigods. There has been some mention of a connection between the Castle and the Knights Templar. And whilst this would be a fascinating story if true, there is no evidence to back up these claims. Walking through the remains of an arched gateway in the western wall, you can see evidence of Portcullis groves on the right-hand side of the arch. There may also have been a barbican in front of this.
The north wall shows evidence of a double fireplace which would have been the centrepiece of the great hall. Aside from the many cross shaped gun loops and arrow slits which are part of the castles defensive features. There are also signs of living quarters in the south wall with a number of rooms and garderobe (medieval toilets) which would suggest that the castle was built for comfort as well as defensive purposes. This area of the castle can be explored somewhat and it is possible to ascend to some heights in the south wall. Whilst the stone walls are in good condition, there are a lot of leaks in the rooms which make the stone slippy in parts, so do take due care if you decide to explore this part of the castle.