A series with Gemma Grant


Described as ‘A fine Irish tower house bearing the scars of battle’, Barryscourt Castle is one of the finest examples of a restored Irish Tower House. The castle is situated 10 miles east of Cork City at Carrigtwohill, in Irish, Carraig Thuathail meaning ‘a rock worked leftwards’.

The Castle has an outer bawn wall and largely intact corner towers. The ground floor of the Tower House contains a dungeon into which unwanted guests were dropped via the ‘drop-hole’ located on the second floor.

As the name implies, the original owners of the castle, de Barri, were an Anglo-Norman family who arrived in England as knights to William the Conqueror. The origin of their name, one source claims, was taken from an island off Wales called Barre.

Another cites, the name was included on the Roll of Battle Abbey, Hastings, that contained a list of names of the knights who fought alongside William the Conqueror of England.

The head of the original family in Ireland was William de Barri, Anglo-Norman lord of Manorbier, Wales. They eventually made their way to Ireland on the early invite of Diarmaid mac Murchadha, king of Leinster. Many see this juncture in Irish history as the beginning of the end for Gaelic Ireland.

True to their calling, the de Barri knights got involved in battles with the native Irish for control of their lands. In 1169 Robert De Barry accompanied his uncle Robert Fitzstephen in the Norman invasion of Ireland. Robert was wounded at the siege of Wexford and it is said that he was the first Norman casualty of that Invasion.
To the Irish he was known as Barry Mór (Big Barry), a tribute to his splendid physique. In 1185 he was killed at the siege of Lismore in Co. Waterford.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own