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Gleninagh Castle

Gleninagh Castle is a 16th Century L-plan tower house situated on the edge of The Burren overlooking Ballyvaughan Bay. It was a stronghold of the powerful O'Loughlin family, who controlled much of North Clare, until the late 19th Century.

The Tower

The tower at Gleninagh Castle is based on an L-plan, similar to Scottish tower house designs of the same period. The idea behind the L shape is to allow the entrance to be defended by covering fire from the adjacent tower wall and that is the case here. The entrance is in the short arm of the L at ground level with a box-machicolation above it.

The entrance leads onto a spiral staircase which wends its way up through the castle's four stories. There is also a basement which may have been used as a pit-prison and an attic at roof level. The basement and the third floor are vaulted and the roof has gables which are flush to the walls on all four sides.

Gleninagh Castle has a few other defensive features. The three corners away from the entrance have circular bartizans at parapet level and the tower walls are peppered with arrow-slit windows.


The O'Loughlin's sold the castle in the mid 16th Century. It is recorded that Gleninagh was granted to Richard Harding by King Henry VIII in 1544. It then passed through a number of hands until the O'Loughlin's took possession of the castle again sometime in the mid-17th Century after the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland in the 1650s.

At some point during this later period some of the original windows where closed off and fireplaces were inserted.

The O'Loughlin family inhabited the castle until at least 1840. The noted Irish antiquarian T.J. Westropp, who passed by in late April 1899, noted that the castle appeared to be recently occupied and was in good condition. By the early 20th Century however it had been abandoned and was in use as a farm building.

Today the castle is in the care of the Office of Public Works. They have undertaken various stabilisation and preservation works on the fabric of the building.

The castle is just north of the R477 road between Ballyvaughan and Fanore. Access is via a narrow roadway and over a field. There is limited car parking and no other facilities on-site. There also is no access inside the keep however you can see the structure up close.

Status: Historic Monument
Owner: Office of Public Works

Gleninagh Castle and the Burren
Gleninagh Castle and The Burren

The entrance to the castle
Entrance to Gleninagh Castle

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