Carrigafoyle Castle , County Kerry

Just west of Ballylongford is the stronghold that was once the seat of the O’Connors of Kerry , originally built in 1490 by the chieftain Conor O’Connor. The castle measures 60ft by 30ft , with walls 8ft thick and a little over 80ft high – but only three walls remain.

At the riverside entrance , a wide spiral staircase of more than 100 steps leads to the tower battlements with magnificent views across the Shannon estuary.

Once considered impregnable , Carrigafoyle Castle was attacked by Queen Elizabeth’s forces on Palm Sunday , 1580. The castle held out against this bombardment until , reportedly , a maidservant who had fallen in love with an English officer betrayed the castle’s defenders by holding a lighted candle in a window at the weakest part of the structure. Concentrated fire then made a breach in the wall that can still be seen today.

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