A series of castles were built in County Fermanagh (and elsewhere in Ulster) in the 1610s and 1620s by settlers who arrived in the Plantation of Ulster around this time. The castles served a dual purpose. They were both a display of wealth and power over the supplanted Irish and a line of defence to support and bolster the Plantation.
The 1641 Irish Rebellion (an attempt by Irish Catholics to wrest control of Ireland from the recently arrived plantation settlers) tested these defences. Portora, on the outskirts of Enniskillen and thus probably the best defended of the castles I have visited, withstood attack. Monea Castle was lost temporarily with the loss of eight protestant lives.
Tully castle fared the worst – Around 84 people were killed (including 69 women and children) by the invading Maguires with their force of 800 men on Christmas Day of 1641. Interestingly and for reasons unknown, the Hume family (the Scottish settlers who owned the castle) were separated from visitors to the castle and set free. The attackers pillaged and burnt the castle which was then abandoned by the Hume family. Notwithstanding the fire, the castle remains in remarkably good shape and is very much worth a visit. One can appreciate, given the activities of 25 December 1641, why the Hume’s would have been reluctant to move back in.
Tully Castle had been built, in a traditional Scottish style in 1619 by Sir John Hume and like Portora is really more a fortified house with bawn (Irish defensive wall) than a castle in the normal sense of the word. The bawn was a rather impressive one of stone and lime – 99 feet long, 9 feet broad, 10 feet high, with 4 flankers.
Excavations as part of a major restoration in the 1970s revealed that the bawn was divided up by cobbled paths suggesting the use of this area as a garden. In 1988 formal beds were created within these paths using plants known in Ireland during the seventeenth century.
A visitor’s centre, located in a restored farmhouse on the way in to the castle, houses an exhibition relating to the castle. As the visitor’s centre was not open when I visited I cannot comment on the quality of the exhibition. When the visitor’s centre is open you can also access the castle though this is not really necessary as you can see sufficient from the outside.
The castle can also be accessed via a path from Lough Erne should you wish to arrive by boat. Original access to the castle would have been from the water.
Opening times: Castle Exterior 24/7. (Exhibition and castle interior – check with tourist office in Enniskillen but don’t not go because this is not open as the beauty of this castle is seen from the outside. Certainly closed in winter – I was there mid week in early May)
Admission fee: Castle Exterior – Free (there may be charge for exhibition and internal access – I don’t know)
Address: Lough Shore Rd, Derrygonnelly, Enniskillen BT93 6HP
Directions: The castle is located on the shore of Lough Erne, 6km North of Derrygonnelly at the end of a laneway off the Belleek Road (A46). The castle can also be accessed via a path from Lough Erne should you wish to arrive by boat.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Enniskillen. I suggest you continue with my next entry – The Church of St. Molaise – Monea – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – “Fare thee well Enniskillen, ………..”