Ballycarbery Castle is situated near the waters edge across the river Fertha from Cahirciveen and about a 2km drive from the town, turning left shortly after crossing the bridge and soon turning left again at a fork in the road.
Part of the southern wall of the castle is missing completely because local farmers in the past took the stone away in order to build their houses. This combined with years of Irish weather have taken its toll on the castle but the structure itself is remarkably intact.
One of the best times to visit the castle is when there is a high tide. The castle with the water nearby and ivy growing up its partially fallen walls can truly be picturesque and beautiful. Also on a moonlight night a view of the castle from Ballycarbery beach is also worth seeing.
Local legends say there is an underground tunnel linking the Castle to the nearby Stone Fort of Cahergall. The entrance to this tunnel is supposed to be under the south east corner of the castle.
History of the Castle
Ballycarbery was the centre of Corca Dhuibhne power, these people had control of the land of Iveragh from about the 6th Century until approximately 1200 AD. It was from the head of one of the Corca Dhuibhne families, Cairbre O’Shea, that Ballycarbery got its name. This man had possession of Iveragh lands and lived in the townland as suggested by the name, Ballycarbery meaning ‘Village of Carbery’.
In the 14th Century, the O’Shea’s were over-thrown and the MacCarthy’s who held the lands around Killarney took control. When the MacCarthy’s were driven out of Killarney they moved their lands into Iveragh and Donal MacCarthy Mor built the castle for his son Tadhg, who was married to the daughter of the 4th Earl of Desmond. It was built on the banks of the River Fertha which has clear views of Valentia Harbour, Portmagee Channel and the waters of the river right up to Cahersiveen.
There was considerable trade between Ireland and Spain and much of the trading took place in the cove next to the castle between the landowners and the Spanish traders. Some form of residence appears to have stood at Ballycarbery in 1398 when Taghd Mac Carthaigh’s’ death there, was recorded in the annals, but the existing ruins are later in date and are probably those of the castle of Valeneymen called Ballycarborow, referred to in a document of 1569.
In 1565 Daniel MacCarthy Mor pledged his loyalty to the Queen of England, who in return gave him the title Earl of Clancarre. This pledge of loyalty meant that if MacCarthy Mor did not have an heir to his estate his lands would be confiscated by the Queen. This happened at the end of the 17th Century and the land was handed over to Trinity College, Dublin, which divided the land and leased it to landlords.
Possession of the castle passed to Sir Valentine Browne following the death of the Earl of Clancarre in 1596. These landlords then leased the land to tenants and constables were appointed to collect rent. In the Iveragh area it was collected by the O’Connell family, ancestors of Daniel, and other 16th Century sources indicate that it was occupied by the O’Connell’s in their capacity as MacCarthy wardens; one Morgan O’Connell of Ballycarbery, for instance, became High Sheriff of Kerry during Elizabethan times.
The majority of the perimeter walls were destroyed by Cromwell¹s army. It appears to have been slighted by parliament forces in 1651-2, when Valentia Harbour was being fortified. Dated by Leask to the 15th Century, it comprises a fine, ivy covered tower house surrounded by the remains of a bawn. Much of the South and East walls of both the keep and bawn are destroyed, presumably due to the mid 17th Century slighting, though a portion of the southern bawn was dismantled and removed in the early 20th Century.