The first part of the castle built by Turlogh O'Brien was just the defensive keep shown here on the right, with its narrow slits for firing arrows and dates back to 1480. Turlogh's son, Murrough surrendered the tower to Henry VIII in 1548, thus saving the castle from destruction. The keep was exteded 100 years later with the addition of the 5 floors of manor house by Conor O'Brien and his wife Mary Rua. From then on there are many legends written about Conor and his wife. One of them is that at Conor's death in 1651 fighting Cromwells men, Mary saved her lands and property by agreeing to marry John Cooper. So angry at being forced into marriage and the death of her husband, Mary lured Cooper to the third floor and managed to throw him out the window, hence the nickname Red Mary. It is told also that Mary had as many as 25 husbands !!! One of her sons Donagh was the last of the O'Brien clan to live here and the castle gradually fell into ruin.
The ruins are on private land, behind a locked gate and permission should be asked of the farmer to visit, if you can find him that is.
Standing on the R476 road, actually closer to Corofin than Kilfenora is the Kilnaboy church. It seems as though the west wall, carrying a Lorraine cross in raised stonework, is the only part still standing from the 13th c, the rest being 16th. This cross could even be eastern European in origin. And even then a lot of repairs have been done in 1715. Over the south doorway is a "Sheela-na-Gig, badly damaged, but depicting a fertlity goddess. Outside in the centre of the cemetery are the remains of a 10th c. round tower, now full of earth and topped with grass. Generally supposed to have been, once again battered by Cromwells cannon. On a headstone inside the church can be seen a strange depiction of a man holding a trident, which gives notions of the devil !!! Also inside is a tomb dating from 1644 with a raised inscription : Under these carved stones lie the bones of Conor...etc etc
Just down the road from the exit to the church is the old ruined house called "Synge's Lodge". Edward Synge was the main landowner here in the 1850's and was a descendant from a famous chorist that Henry VIII heard and told him " Henceforth, thy name will be Synge, "sing ?") Although it is impossible to read today, on the coat of arms over the entrance door is the family motto "Caelesta Canimus", given by the same Henry meaning "We will sing in Heaven". Legend or truth ???
The house was originally built for guests and stood in fine gardens with the Ballycullinan stream behind the lodge. These gardens are now used by some of the fine sheep that thrive in the area and include the fine muck that makes up the field next door, BE WARNED.
Standing now on the site of an old monastery this church dates mainly from the 12th c but it has been largely rebuilt around the 1680's. Known originally as " Disert-Tola" or the quiet place, itself a derivation from "Diseart-Tola" or Tola's hermitage. The main feature of the church is its romanesque doorway having 4 overhanging orders with 19 stones of human and animal heads. This door originally in the west wall has been reconstructed here in the south wall.
The round tower outside dates from just before the rebuilding of the church in the 11th c and probably constructed as a refuge for the monks and then fortified in the 16th c. It has been calculated that the tower once stood at just over 32 metres high (around 100 feet) but suffered badly when Cromwells men used it for target practice. A bell was found in the rubble at the bottom of the tower in 1790, indicating that the tower was also used as a belfry.
To reach the church you can carry on across the field where the High Cross is with all its inherent muck and s**t, or take the long way round by the road. There is parking space on this same road.
Acclaimed to be one of the finest examples of high crosses in the country, the St. Tola's cross is set in a field not far from the entrance to Dysert O'Dea castle. On the cross is an image of the crucifixion, where the head now cemented in, was used, as local legend shows, to cure toothache!!!!!! Further down the shaft is an image of a bishop, thought to be St. Tola. Also known as the "Cross of the Blessing" probably from the missing arm on the bishop that was raised and could be moved into different positions. The other 3 sides have interweaving and threaded designs. The cross stands at 3.95 metres high and was dated from the 12th c. The cross has been repaired and restored 3 times, the last in 1871.
Advice - To get into the field you have to climb a narrow stone style set in the wall, as this field is used by cows and sheep......Be sure to have decent walking shoes or boots as underfoot is rather......shall we say, slippery!!!!
It is difficult to describe Dysert O'Dea as being just the one castle, because within a short distance there are over 25 different sites of interest, all part of the Dysert heritage sites. I will just go through the major ones with different tips, as distance and time prevented us seeing more.
Dysert O'Dea castle was built around 1470/90 by Diarmuid O'Dea on an outrop of rock giving a great view over the countryside.It moved backward and forwards between different owners (takers) and members of the O'Dea clan for over 200 years with Crown forces laying many sieges through the years. It finally fell into ruin at the beginning of the 1700's and only brought back to life in 1970 when a Mr and Mrs O'Day (O'Dea ?) from Wisconsin bought and with help of local men restored it. It is now leased to the Dysert developement Association. It is open to the public and houses a museum of local artifacts and other temporary exhibitions. There is a tea-room and toilets available.
Cost to visit the keep itself is 4€ with small reductions for seniors stc stc.