Ballyadams Castle

Ballyadams Castle (1)

Ballyadams Castle (2)

My next stop off point on my trip around Laois was to the striking Castle ruins of Ballyadams. On arrival I was faced with a roadside gate, which was sign posted ‘Danger, Keep Out, Sanctuary’. Obviously this was either to keep vandals away or the lands are used by a local Gun Club, which is quite common in the country side. Now I am not easily deterred, so I set about trying to locate the land owner to seek permission. There was a little cottage a few hundred yards up the road so I decided to try their first. The lady of the house pointed me in the right direction but was a bit off putting, saying that she couldn’t see me getting permission from the owner. Like that was going to stop me trying! As I made my way back towards the owner’s farm, I noticed a couple walking from the castle towards the gate, so I pulled into the side of the road. As luck would have it the young lady was the Landowners daughter. At first see seemed a bit cautious about letting me explore the castle, but once I explained who I was and what I did, she was happy to let me continue and wished me luck. A word of warning for anyone wanting to visit a site that is on private lands. ALWAYS ask permission before entering someone’s land. Trespassing can not only ruin getting access for others but is also against the law and can get you into trouble with the Police. Yes it can be a pain in the arse trying to locate the owner to seek permission, but in the long run it will be of benefit. I have only ever been refused access once out of the many sites I have visited and more often than not you get some useful information from the owners.

Ballyadams Castle (3)

Ballyadams Castle (5)

Ballyadams Castle (4)

The current castle ruins date back to the late 15th century and is said to have been built during the reign of Henry VII by Adam O’Moore after the O’Moore regained control of the area. This is where Ballyadams takes its current name. It is approx six storeys in height although I was only able to make it as far as the third floor as it became too unsafe to go any further. As you can see the castle has two rounded towers on the SW and NW corners. The NW tower which is the taller of the two rises to about 25meters. There are also the ruins of a seventeenth century, three storey fortified house to the east side of the castle, but this is merely a shell and is not nearly as spectacular as the castle which remains in pretty good condition with its twin towers and Keep. The enterance is recessed with an arch over the recess. The door looks quite old, and has a two-centred arch over it. The door is partially hanging from its hinge but can be passed with a bit of care. Just below the top storey there is another arch which forms a machicolation directly over the enterance below, (these were used to greet unwelcome guests to your home and stones, boiling water/oil etc could be dropped on top of enemies, I would love one of these on my house for the next time a politician or tax collector comes knocking). Then there is a murder-hole on the first floor level also directly over the doorway. The Garderobe chamber and chute can be seen in the NE of the castle. Whilst most of the window opes are plain, there are a few ogee headed windows and most of the windows at the very top of the castle have hood mouldings. Once inside there is a chamber to the right and a stone spiral staircase which you can ascent the tower a couple of levels.

Ballyadams Castle (6)

Ballyadams Castle (8)

Ballyadams Castle (7)

Ballyadams was once known as Kylemehyde and stood in an area known as Uí Buidhe. After the Norman Invasion of Ireland there was a Norman presence in the area from the 12th century, where they built a Castle. The History of Ballyadams Castle is a spectacularly violent one. In 1346 the local Gaelic clans consisting of the O’Moore, O’Connors & O’Dempsey’s attacked and destroyed the Norman Keep at Kylemehyde. It was taken by the Geraldine’s in the rebellion of Silken Thomas (1534-1537). Then in 1546 the Lord Justice of Ireland and the Earl of Desmond brought their armies to Laois, with the town of Ballyadams being captured in 1548 as revenge for the rebellion of Gilla Patrick O’ Moore Chief of Leix. During the rebellion led by the O’Moore and O’Connor clans, it was said that the town and monastery of Athy was sacked and burned to the ground. In 1549 the castle was given to John Thomas Owen/Bowen, a Welshman whom was Constable of Ballyadams and known for his cruelty. The local Irish referred to him as ‘John of the Pike’, due to the fact that he always carried a Pike with him whenever he went out.  In 1551 Bowen took out a 21 year lease on the Castle at Ballyadams. John died in 1569 and was succeeded by his son Robert whom was the Sheriff of Queens County, he died in 1621, and there is a monument in the old church of Ballyadams which was erected in his memory. Roberts’s son John was knighted in 1629 and became Marshall of Leinster and Meath. An interesting event occurred in 1643 between Sir John and a Lord Castlehaven.

Ballyadams Castle (9)

Ballyadams Castle (11)

Ballyadams Castle (10)

Castlehaven gives the following account of the incident “While this place was putting in order, I went with a party of horse to Ballyadams, a Castle about a mile distant belonging to Sir John Bowen, Provost Marshal an old soldier, and my long acquaintance. I went to speak with him and after some kind expressions, told him I must put a garrison into his Castle. He flatly denied me and calling for his wife and two very fair daughters, he had desired only one favour, that in case I was resolved to use violence, I would show him where I intended to plant my guns and make my breach. I satisfied his curiosity and asked him what he meant by this question. Because saith he swearing with some warmth, I will cover that, or any other your Lordhship shoots at, by hanging out both my daughters in chairs. ’tis true the place was not of much importance, however this conceit saved it.” There is also a poem written about this incident.

Ballyadams Castle (12)

Ballyadams Castle (14)

Ballyadams Castle (13)

The Romance of Ballyadams

“Herald! be a trumpet blown, I would speak with Sir John Bowen ! ” Thus cried Castlebaven’s lord, and the parley soon was heard.
Soon the answering trumpets sound; quick the drawbridge strikes the ground;
O’er it comes the Senesehal, and thus spakes before them all-
Castlehaven’s noble lord, Sir John Bowen sends thee word,
Dinner ‘s on the Castle board, feast thee first, then draw the sword.”
To Ballyadams, all alone, Castlehaven’s lord is gone;
High at board is placed his chair, ‘twixt Sir John’s two daughters fair.
Lovely as the budding rose, each young blushing maiden shows;
Sweeter than the song of bird are their gentle voices heard. –
When the feast had gaily sped, thus Lord Castlehaven said-
“Good Sir .John, thou hast not here culverin nor cannoneer;
Yield, then, Ballyadams’ tower to the high Confederates’ power; Yield, my friend,. and will take the terms that thou thyself shalt make,

Now, my Lord, to me attend; thou bast been my early friend; Didst thou ever know me break oath that ever I did, take?”
Stainless has thine honour been,” cried the Earl, “well I ween;
Whatsoe’ er thou say’st to me, with my life I’ll guarantee.”
“Then, my lord, on oath I make; if this tower you seek to take, If my walls by shot be riven, thus I’ll do, so help me Heaven- “I shall hang my daughters fair, fastened each upon a chair,
right in front of the wide breach, though their breasts thy shot must- reach.”

Started Castlehaven’s lord, wondering at that desperate word; Then, to the pale maids he turned, deeply for their fate he mourned.
Took he then each maiden’s hand, as beside the board they stand; Kissed he then each maiden’s cheek, and thus gallantly he spake- ‘God be with thee, stout Sir John, I shall let thy fort alone; Though for this I lose my head. Harm I will not either maid

“Though my life the Council take, for that I their orders break
Death from them I’d rather dree than that these should die by me.”
Then ho marched his troops away, far they were ere close of day;
Thus was Ballyadams tower saved by beauty’s gentle power.

Ballyadams Castle (15)

Ballyadams Castle (18)

Ballyadams Castle (17)

Ballyadams Castle (16)

At some time in 1700 the castle was passed on to Katherine Bowen who had married Pierce Butler from Tipperary. The present owner David Butler is a direct descendant of Pierce Butler. The castle was attacked by insurgents in 1798 and the Butler family have not lived there since.

Ballyadams Castle (19)

Ballyadams Castle (34)

Ballyadams Castle (33)

Ballyadams Castle (32)

Ballyadams Castle (31)

Ballyadams Castle (30)

Ballyadams Castle (29)

Ballyadams Castle (28)

Ballyadams Castle (27)

Ballyadams Castle (26)

Ballyadams Castle (25)

Ballyadams Castle (24)

Ballyadams Castle (23)

Ballyadams Castle (22)

Ballyadams Castle (21)

Ballyadams Castle (20)

For these and more of my images, why not visit my Website or join me on Facebook or Twitter.


About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Castles, Diary of a Ruinhunter, Medieval, Photography, Places of Interest, Ruins and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

83 Responses to Ballyadams Castle

  1. quarksire says:

    wow & kewl shotz also 🙂


  2. Nice series, Ed! I like the plants being part of this ruin. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Rajiv says:

    Some really nice photography here


  4. newsferret says:

    Great shots and makes me jealous as one will not find anything like that in my country.


  5. Ali Isaac says:

    Wow Ed you have excelled yourself! The images are amazing, but what a stunning subject to work with. Has the owner seen this post? Im sure he would love it. I have to say though, it highlights perfectly the drawbacks of such a building remaining in private ownership; what a shame he lacks either the funds or the interest to make something of it and save it from crumbling into obscurity. I would happily pay to visit such a building. With such a clearly defined role in Ireland’s history, we should be keeping its legacy alive. Fortunately, you are doing that for us. You should put all this stuff together in a book…seriously!


    • Thanks Ali, Not sure if they have seen it or not. I would tend to disagree, regarding private ownership though. More sites have been destroyed under state care than private ownership, FACT.

      I know of quite a few private owners whom have or are in the process of doing stellar work.Sonia and Kevin at are a prime example of this.

      Surely with my family links to Érimón & Brian Boru I should have my own Castle:-)


  6. alienorajt says:

    Wow! Stunning and haunting.


  7. suej says:

    Wow, what a stunning find, and fantastic that you were able to’ve certainly produced some great, atmospheric, images.


  8. Thanks for showing us those photos, Ed. This castle is so dramatic and striking and the sky in the background is just perfect.


  9. Great set of images – especially those from the inside looking out. Nice to hear that land owners in your area are reasonable – here, the industrial buildings or hospitals have no individual owners – just faceless corporations – so worried about getting taken into court if you get hurt on their property they don’t even respond to requests with a yes or no.


  10. writeejit says:

    Great post. Not only are the photos gobsmacking, but lots of interesting info. Like the part about how to go about getting permission to shoot on private property–very useful reminder. Thanks!


  11. seaangel4444 says:

    Ed, this is phenomenal! I absolutely love these photos! Great work as always!! Wow! Cher xo


  12. lauramacky says:

    Nice shots! I was scared looking through them. lol


  13. M T McGuire says:

    Wow, wow, wow. I’ll lay bet those are 16th Century doors. The pictures are all fabulous. I love the picture with the mangle, the colour sky one and there’s something very poignant about this great and splendid symbol of power with a cattle feeder next to it. ;-). Kind of a leveller, that one. It must be quite creepy, wandering through these deserted rooms. Sensible stuff about getting permission and I like the extra information.


    • Gee thanks, strangely it was not creepy, even when I found a hole in the floor to the basement. Sadly I was not small enough to squeeze through. This was my favourite site so far, this year. Really glad you liked them 🙂


  14. Gerry Simons says:

    Terrific series of atmospheric shots.


  15. Great images as usual Ed, you have a good eye for finding fascinating sites.


  16. Reblogged this on Forget the Viagra, Pass Me a Carrot and commented:
    There is something about the light in Ireland that combined with old stone walls and dark crooks and crannies, makes for a great atmosphere. These black and white photographs capture all of that.


  17. Liam Kelly says:

    we played atop of the castle as kids , great view, safe still.roof fell in 1700’s while pictures still on the wall’s, what a shame !


  18. My cousin to this site. My cousins have a farm in Raharrig. My mother was born and raised in Raharrig. She migrated to America, NYC in 1922. Mom returned for the first time in 1959. I have since 1974 (40 years ago) visited Ireland seven times. My last visit to Ireland was a year ago, for a month, 15th April – 15th May, 2013. During one of the recent visits, my second cousin, Michael brought me to the gate of the property. He shared some of the recent history, especially around the time of the Irish war for independence. There was a certain amount of animosity between the local Independence fighters and sympathizers. It would be great if they, the locals and the owners could work together on the preservation of this treasure trove of history.


    • Wow, it sure is a small world. Sadly thats the only way such places will survive. The powers that are supposed to preserve our heritage time and time again show complete disregard for these fantastic sites.


  19. Andrea says:



  20. Tish Farrell says:

    What a castle! Wonderful photos.


  21. Amazing! Thanks for sharing!


  22. Jo Woolf says:

    What a wonderful place, Ed! Some of your most spectacular photos. It looks a bit unsafe in places though!


    • Thank you No, it’s a fantastic old ruin to explore. I pushed my safety limitations a bit on this one, but had to stop at the third floor. More out of concern for the camera than myself. A few knocks and bruises to me will heal, but the Nikon might not take it so well. I would love to see this castle restored somewhat to its glory days, that said. It is still a wonderous sight😃


  23. LB says:

    Murder holes, boiling oil ,,, those images fit perfectly with a ruin. I love the shots with the clouds in the back ground. Dramatic!


  24. camrachiq says:

    Oh my goodness, your photography is just spectacular, what a keen eye you have. Seeing your work makes me feel even more blessed that you liked one of my photographs.. My humble thanks for viewing my work.. Truly.. 🙂 ♥


  25. steviegill says:

    I do love old castles.


  26. The black and white effect adds to the ambiance of the chateau and gives an air of moodiness. Merci, too, for visiting my blog.


  27. RDoug says:

    What a beautiful castle, Ed. Love the B&W conversion with the heavy use of red filtering to darken the sky and make those cumulus clouds really pop.


  28. Nice pictures,speaking .


  29. ulsterphotosimages says:

    Nice b/w shots !


  30. Great photos! They are inspiring, like a tale of ancient kings and queens and knights:)


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  35. Referring back to today’s post, I do prefer the castle in B&W!

    Liked by 1 person

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