Another impressive ruin that my little Ruinhunters visited recently was the impressive Keep of Cullahill Castle in Co. Laois. Having never been here before I was not sure of its suitability for the little ones, and as luck would have it, Cullahill was not the best of ruins to explore with kids. So I kept the exploring at a safe distance, due the amount of rubble and will come back at a later stage to have a good look around.
The Keep which stands on the south-western corner of a large seven-sided Bawn was built around 1425 by Finghin Mac Giolla Phádraig, stands at approx 90 feet in height. This five storey Tower with a wall-walk was built upon solid rock and constructed using roughly coursed Limestone. Most of the north portion of the tower is missing, as is the doorway. Their looks to have been a mural stairway in what is left of the north east corner. Then there is a barrel vault running north to south over the ground floor with evidence of a loft which was accessed from an opening in what was once the north wall. On the first and second floors there is a mural passage along the south wall with chambers to the east and west. Up on the second floor there is what looks to be a large cut limestone fireplace in the east wall. The third floor would seem to have been supported by the thickness of the walls at this height, including the top floor. Up top there is a wall walk and pitched gable on the south wall, with a chimney stack on the east wall. The majority of the opes are plain rectangular.
I had heard that there is a Sheela-na-gig somewhere on the external part of the east wall, but unfortunately I could not find any trace of it. So this will be a high priority to find on my return visit. Looking to the top of the keep you can only imagine what a commanding presence this fortification would have had on the surrounding countryside. The castle came under attack on several occasions by raiders from Kilkenny with the support of the English crown under Henry VI whom sought to destroy this massive keep. Major attacks were recorded in 1441 and 1517, but it was not until the arrival of Cromwell’s forces around 1650 that the castle was finally defeated and reduced to rubble under heavy cannon fire from Parliamentarian forces. By 1657 Cullahill was said to have been uninhabitable. Across the road lies the ruins of a chapel which was once the private chapel of the Catholic lords of Upper Ossory. Do stop by and have a look around this impressive sight if you are in the area, it really is quite stunning despite its ruinous state.