Dingle Peninsula Castles
Prior to the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in 1169, only 7 castles are recorded in Ireland, all apparently of timber construction. The fortifications erected by the Normans during their initial advance were also partly of wood, being comprised of a high earthen mound or motte, with a wooden tower on top, and accompanied by a bailey or courtyard. These were structures which could be erected with the comparative ease and speed necessary during the first decades of the invasion. The erection of stone castles began in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, and most of the truly military castles in the country were built before the middle of the 14th century. The Norman settlement of the Dingle Peninsula can be traced histoyically from the beginning of the 13th century, but few settlements of the Norman period have been definitely identified in the area. The rectangular enclosure at Glantane is similar to the moated sites known to have been the defended farmsteads of the Anglo-Norman colonists in the 13th and early 14th centuries, but the possible presence of a souterrain at the site suggests an earlier origin. The ringfort at Rahinnane became the principal stronghold of the FitzGeralds, Knights of Kerry, but though John FitzGerald was described as 'of Rahane' in the 14th century, the present castle is 15th century in date. Similarly, Dingle Town was an important centre of trade from the 13th century onwards, but little is known of its early history and its remains lie buried beneath the present town.
The 5 surviving castles on the Dingle Peninsula are all tower houses of the 15th or 16th centuries. Castles or possible castles have also been recorded at 12 other locations and, though these no longer survive, it is likely that most were built during these same centuries. Tower houses are a familiar sight in the countryside throughout Ireland. The majority are simple rectangular towers of 3 to 5 storeys, with narrow windows and crenellated battlements. These are not castles in the true military sense of the word, but were built in the 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries as the fortified residences of the Anglo-Irish and Irish gentry alike. On the Dingle Peninsula, the FitzGeralds built tower houses at Rahinnane, Minard, Gallarus and possibly Moorestown, and the castle at Glandine and one in Dingle Town were also FitzGerald possessions. Another Anglo-Norman family, the Ferriters, built the castle at Ballyoughteragh and possibly that at Ballineanig. The Rices and Husseys each had a castle in Dingle Town and both families are also associated with those at Ballingolin and Castlegregory respectively.
Substantial remains survive only at Rahinnane, Minard and Gallarus. Externally the latter two are simple rectangular towers and Rahinnane is similar but with a projecting turret at one corner. The internal arrangements vary slightly, but all 3 were provided with a single main chamber on each floor. At the E end of Minard Castle, 3 mezzanine floors house adirelandional passages and chambers, and there are mural passages in the thickness of the S wall at 1st and 2nd floor level as well as in the N wall on the 2nd floor. At Gallarus, the N wall at each level is occupied by a mural passage, and there are mural chambers in the SE angle at 2nd and 3rd floor level. Access between the storeys was usually by means of a straight or spiral stone stairs within the thickness of one of the walls but, at Gallarus, communication between the lower 3 storeys was probably by means of an internal wooden stairs. A similar arrangement must have provided access between the ground and 1st floors at Minard. Gallarus castle retains its vaulted roof but Minard and Rahinnane are open to the sky. The wooden floors have completely disappeared and the stone vaults, above the 1st floor at Ferriters castle and Rahinnane, and above the 1st and 2nd storeys at Minard, have now collapsed. The only fireplace preserved is that on the 1st floor at Minard.
This above information was sourced from the Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula (1986) and provided to dodingle.com courtesy of Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne. Republication of the extract or any part therin, in any form or capacity, is strictly prohibited without the express permission of the publishers. © Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne 1986-2010.
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