Lemaneagh Castle,
County Clare

The magnificent ruins of the great O'Brien stronghold of Lemaneagh stand on the fringe of that limestone wilderness known as the Burren. It is a lonely place, some call it bleak, and perhaps a surprising location for a splendid four-storey, high-gabled, early 17th-century mansion. The early part of the building at the east end is, by contrast, a rather grim fivestorey tower.

The castle was first mentioned in 1550 when it was granted to Donough O'Brien who was hanged in 1582. By the 1630s it had been inherited by Conor O'Brien, whose wife was the formidable Maire Rua (Maire ni Mahon), about whom there are many tales. It is said that she hung her disobedient men servants by the necks and her maids by the hair from the castle's corbels and used to accompany her husband on raids upon English settlers. When Conor was mortally wounded in a skirmish with Ludlow's army in 1651, she is said to have refused to open the gates to receive her stricken husband, declaring "We need no dead men here", but having found that he was still alive nursed him until his death a few hours later. Ludlow later stayed in the castle for two nights, but found the November weather so foul that he retreated back to Limerick. It was abandoned around 1705 and quickly became a ruin with its lower windows and doors blocked to prevent access.

5 km (3 miles) E of Kilfenora on the Carran/Ballyvaughan Road. NGR: R 233937.