Centuries-old tower house will open to tourists

A centuries-old tower in West Cork, in a semi-derelict state, will open to the public this summer as a tourist attraction.

Over €1.67m has been spent on restoration works at Castledonovan Castle, near Drimoleague.

Senator Denis O’Donovan was given an assurance OPW works would be completed shortly.

The ruin, however, is on private property, but the owner is agreeable to public access.

The Fianna Fáil senator had raised the issue of the lengthy refurbishment project — first earmarked for funding in 1991.

The tower house, or túrtheach, in a valley near Drimoleague, was built in 1560 by Donal O’Donovan. The castle is 14 metres long, 8m wide and 19m high. The walls are 1.8m thick.

A spiral stone stairs with 91 steps had led from the ground floor to the top of the castle.

Senator O’Donovan told Oireachtas colleagues: “This is a project I had a keen interest in since I joined Cork Co Council in 1985. At that time, as part of the National Monument Committee in the council, I managed to divert funding to restoration projects in West Cork.

“I am pleased that constant efforts, not just by me but many people, have come to fruition.”

Minister Alan Shatter, standing in for OPW Minister Brian Hayes, said the delay in completing the project was partly to do with complex and painstaking work needed to restore elements of the castle.

Senator O’Donovan also welcomed the OPW supporting a local community group, through the ‘Communities Initiative’ scheme.

The castle is due to be open to the public in June or July 2013.

West Cork-based Mr O’Donovan said: “I vigorously pursued the revamp of Castledonovan Castle as it was in danger of collapse.

“The castle has since been protected and restored after many years of campaigning.

“There is a lot of history attached to the castle and it forms an important part of the tourism potential of West Cork.

The senator said there were local concerns over the 12-year delay in completing the part-restoration. “There has been scaffolding erected for 10 or 11 years and little progress seems to have been made,” he said before Mr Shatter confirmed works would be completed shortly.

The castle had been severely damaged in the 1640s, reputedly by the forces of Oliver Cromwell.

It was abandoned and not lived in subsequently.

Mr Shatter said the project was technically very difficult and was “hampered in the early stages, particularly by the condition of the building which, at that time, was fragile, structurally unstable, and dangerous”.


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