The lovely castle and grounds of Drishane are situated a mile to the northeast of Millstreet, near where the Finnow river joins the Blackwater.
The castle sits on an elevated limestone rock. It is in fine condition and consists of a tower house and a small circular tower/turret. The tower stands at 22m (72ft) tall, 9m wide and 8m deep. It is built of stone, has internal timber floors, and a slate roof on top. The four storeys are reached by a narrow circular stone staircase. The lower windows are narrow arrow-slits which were for defensive purposes. There are “Irish” crenelations on the roof. There is a smaller circular tower/turret next to the castle which would have been for defensive purposes.
The castle was built by the MacCarthys and the date given for its construction varies between 1436 and 1450
It seems likely that it was commenced by Dermot Mór, the second son of Teige the 3rd Lord of Muskerry, who was a direct descendant of Diarmuid, King of Cork. Dermot also is said to have built Kilmeedy and Carrigaphooca in the great period in which his brother, Cormac Láidir, was building Blarney and Kilcrea. Dermot died in 1448 and Drishane was probably completed by his son, another Dermot.
The denealogy for the MacCarthy family in general is confusing, particularly since Christian names are so often repeated, but the account of the Drishane branch varies considerably in differing renderings. For instance it is several times stated that there were two centenaries in the family, both named Donogh. From a study of the documentation available – admittedly scanty at times – it seems likely that there may have been only one: the second Donogh, who is buried in the castle grounds and lived 1597 1719 to an age of 122 years.
Some authorities state that the first Donagh lived from 1517 – 1639. Documentation clearly shows that Teige, son of Owen was in possession of the property in 1592 when he surrendered it to the Queen and got a re-grant. If Donagh was still alive he would, probably at least, have been the property owner.
Teige died before 1624, when there was an inquisition on his lands, and in a further inquisition of 1638, his son Owen Mac Teige is described as being in possession of Drishane Castle at his death in 1637. The latter’s son, Donogh MacOwen, the centenarian, inherited. He was over 40 at the time (which would confirm a birth date of 1597) and had married Kathleen Fitzgerald, who also died in 1637. It would appear from other information that he married a second time.
Owen had brothers named Callaghan, Donogh and Phelim (on whom I have little information) as well as Dermot who was killed leading a squadron of horse at the battle of Knockbrack in 1652 – the end of resistance to the Parliament in the area. Donogh mortgaged Carriphooca to Dominic Coppinger before 1641 – probably to raise funds for the Confederate War.
All MacCarthy lands were finally forfeited at the end of this tragic period, but were restored to Donough MacCarty, the first Earl of Clancarty, overall head of the family, on the restoration of Charles 11 in 1660. He granted a lease in 1677 to Donogh: and this lease was passed with the proviso that Donogh settled what was due to Coppinger.
The MacCarthy lands were finally forfeited following the Jacobite period of 1690 and Drishane fell into the hands of the Hollow Sword Blade Company, an organisation which had financed William’s campaign in Ireland. In 1709 they sold to Henry Wallis of Ballyduff, Co Waterford, a younger son of Thomas of Curraglass (Mogeely), where the family had been resident since 1596.
There is some doubt also about the date of the first connection of Wallis with Drishane. Renovations were carried out at the castle in 1643 according to the date on a fireplace, and this bears the inscription “W” suggesting “Wallis”.
It is further suggested that Wallis shared a friendship with Donagh MacCarthy, and that he allowed the latter to live in peace at Drishane during his lifetime. Another account states that Donogh demised part of the land to Henry Wallis; and after Donogh eventually died in 1719 his widow, in 1722 and 1724, leased her interest in the remaining lands to Thomas Wallis, son of Henry.
turned Protestant converted to the Church of England and ‘discovered ‘ the property under the Property Act and so purchased what remained of Drishane for £450 (it was valued at £8000) in 1798. This led to a horrendous local tradition that Donogh’s widow died on the doorstep of the castle from exposure, but in reality (since the exchange of cash was involved) the transaction may have been to clarify the entire matter because of claims being made by the widow’s relatives, the O’Learys, to the property.
By the time Doctor Smith wrote his History of Cork in 1750 he was recording that there as a handsome new house near the castle built by the late William Wallis who had considerably improved this part of the country, by manuring it with lime, enclosing planting etc.
In fact the Wallis’ appear to have been popular in the neighbourhood and remained there until 1882 when the estate was placed in Chancery on an application of insurance companies, and there it remained until 1908 when it was sold in 1908 before Judge Roy to Patrick Stack of Fermoy from whom, through the offices of Cornelius Duggan of Cork. Soon after it was passed to the Dames of Saint Maud, a French order of teaching nuns ( The Congregation of the Holy Child Jesus) in 1909.
When the Drishane Sisters came to Drishane they remained there until c.1992 when the Estate was purchased by the Duggan Family. Initially a hotel was envisaged. The Kosovar people stayed there for a year. Since 1999 it has been a reception centre for asylum seekers coming to Ireland as part of the Direct Provision system. It houses mostly families, about 200 people in total.
The lands and estate while being farmed have become a top international cross-country course for horses.
THE PROPERTY IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC on Appointment only. Contact by <email>
Tower House: Now standing at south end of Drishane House (see below); built directly on rock outcrop. Rectangular 5-storey tower with adjacent circular 2-storey tower. Structures were ‘completely restored some time post 1879’ (Bence-Jones 1988, 108), and again repaired in more recent times; repairs include battlements atop both structures, all wooden door and window frames, stone flagged floors, wooden floors over main ground- and 1st-floor chambers of rectangular tower, and slate roofs.
Rectangular tower (8.8m E-W; 7.7m N-S), with slightly rounded corners; entered at ground-floor level through door near N end of E wall, door surround has been re-set. Short lobby inside has door on W side, with pointed arch, giving access to main ground-floor chamber, and similar door on S side, leading to mural stairs which rise to SE corner of tower, where they continue upwards as spiral, giving access to main 1st-, 2nd-and 4th-floor chambers, and to two mural garderobe chambers in E wall at 1st/2nd and 3rd/4th floor levels.
Ground-floor chamber (4.85m E-W; 3.85m N-S) lit by windows in centre of S wall and at W end of N wall; both have square-set embrasures covered by segmental vaults. First-floor chamber (5.2m E-W; 3.9m N-S) entered via short L-shaped lintelled passage from spiral stairs; chamber lit by roughly-central windows in S, W and N walls; these have splayed and lintelled embrasures and single square-headed lights. Main second-floor chamber entered directly from spiral stairs, through door with pointed arch, in SE corner of room; lit by roughly-central windows in S, W and N walls, similar to those on 1st floor but with single ogee-headed lights. Third floor is attic under pointed wicker-centered vault (axis E-W); lit by single window in W wall; embrasure similar to those of floor below but with single flat-headed light; original entrance to this floor probably via manhole from floor below. Main fourth-floor chamber entered, via short passage from top of spiral stairs, through door on S side of deep window embrasure in centre of E wall; embrasure is square-set, covered by segmental vault, with double ogee-headed light; similar window embrasure in centre of S wall. Spandrels of latter window light are decorated with simple geometric design; light covered by hood moulding, with stepped terminals, which is flanked by two carved human heads. There are also windows in centre of N and W walls, similar to those on 2nd floor. Opposite entrance door, in N side of E window embrasure, is door leading to spiralstairs in NE corner of tower, which rise to wall-walk level.
At 1st/2nd floor level lintelled door on N side of spiral stairs gives access to lintelled passage (4.7m N-S; 1.1m E-W) with garderobe at N end; lit by two slit windows in E wall. Second mural passage in E wall at 3rd/4th floor level; entered through door, with pointed arch, on N side of spiral stairs; lintelled passage (3.5m N-S; 0.9m E-W) leads to SE corner of tower where it turns at right angle to W (L 1.1m), at W end of latter section is garderobe opening; passage lit by single slit windows in E and S walls.
Circular tower (int. diam. 2.9m; wall thickness c. 0.9m) just 0.9m S of SE corner of rectangular tower, and projecting 1.3m beyond its E wall; now free standing but originally linked to tower by straight wall. Entered on NW side through repaired ground-floor door; gun loop on E side of door, also gun loops facing S and W. Inserted window on SW side and inserted fireplace to SE. First floor has door ope to NNE, window ope to NE, traces of fireplace to E and splayed ope, possibly gun loop, to SE; modern roof overhead.
Mac Carthy castle; built, according to tradition, in 1450 (Lee 1914,64), a date not inconsistent with present tower. Circular turret is later, probably added in late 16th/early 17th century to allow for flanking fire by defenders. Adjacent house built by Wallis family in 18th century but enlarged and castellated in mid-19th century (Bence-Jones, ibid.); later a convent school, now in private ownership.
The above description is derived from the published ‘Archaeological Inventory of County Cork. Volume 3: Mid Cork’ (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1997). [ref]
Photos of Drishane
- It had just been sold to the nuns (statue of Holy Mary in another part of the image).
- The towers were nearly covered in ivy after a long period of neglect.
- The castle has no crenelations at this point! They still hadn’t been added by the 1966 (see the harp photo below), but are there by 1974 for the filming of the movie – In This House of Brede . It turns out that they were added in the early 70’s by the Board of Works, when other maintenance work was also carried out (see the Architecturally section above for details)
- If you look to the top of the castle, are they two chimneys on the north-east (nearest) corner?
- Protecting the door of the castle appear to be battlements. This was actually a corridor that connected the house and the castle. This section had been built in the 1870’s – at the same time as other extensive works on the house. It was mostly removed 1989. See more details on it here (TODO: add link when article is published)
Drishane Castle – western side, taken about 1909 from where the chapel was later built. Note. the earth at the base of the tower was removed in later years. Was this to prevent ivy and other creepers from growing again?
From the growth of the ivy, we would say that this photo was taken in the early 1910’s, not long after the Lawrence photo directly above it. Again no chapel which would have appeared on the left 
A drawing of Drishane that appeared in the Irish Independent of Thursday 26 November 1908, attached to an article that the Infant Jesus Sisters had purchased it and were to set up a convent there
Drishane Castle in 1990, when the Lawrence photos were being recreated.
Drishane Castle in 2005
2012: From the eastern side. The small square opening at the bottom left corner of the castle looks like the toilet (garderobe).
An interesting video showing the Drishane Castle and estate 
Inside the castle
The internal staircase in Drishane Castle 
On the roof of the castle – showing the internal slate roof, the crenelations, and the flagpole (north west corner) 
The highest point on top of the castle (1989). Note from this photo are:
1. The difference in the brickwork, the top section dates from about 1970, whereas the lower section presumably dates from around 1450.
2. The steep pitch of the slate roof. In the 1950’s, the roof was actually flat (from Tim O’Shea). What was the flay roof made of? Were there leakage problems? The slate roof put at the same time as the crenelations during refurbishment work by the Board of Works around 1970.
3. The stone steps embedded in the castle walls (bottom right) that lead to this upper level. The steps can also be seen here, and in the film – In This House of Brede
4. The location of the flagpole at the highest point. it is now back down in the corner below where the child is sitting – where the metal bracket is on the wall – was this bracket for supporting a flagpole previous to that?
From the highest point on top of the castle (1989), looking down on the lake and the Knitting School.
TODO: was there a separate door to the castle – facing the round turret -as seen in this photo here.
This article is about the Castle only. The House, Convent, and Chapel are dealt with in different articles (TODO: link to them)