Monea Castle, County Fermanagh

Few castle ruins so readily engage the imagination as the picturesquely sited Monea - undoubtedly the most complete and best-preserved of all the Plantation castles of Ulster. Building commenced in 1616 by the Rector of Devenish, the Reverend Malcolm Hamilton. Shortly after wards, in 1619, it was described by Pynnar as "a strong castle of lime and monea castle stone being 54 feet long and 20 feet broad". The bawn, comprising "a wall 9 feet in height and 300 feet in circuit" was added shortly before Hamilton was promoted to become Archbishop of Cashel in 1623.

Like so many of Ulster's Plantation castles, the design of Monea reflects the Scottish origin of its builder. Three storeys high with tall attics, it has a rectangular plan with a pair of massive semi-cylindrical towers on the short west end. Recalling the celebrated outlines of Claypotts (1588) near Dundee, these towers are corbelled out at attic-floor level to carry diagonally placed square caphouses with crow-stepped gable roofs. The castle's only entrance lay on the south side of the north tower and led to a spiral stair giving access to the principal rooms, which, as usual, lay on the first floor and were illuminated by large windows with seats in the embrasures. The bedrooms lay in the second floor, while the vaulted ground floor, which being lit only by splayed musket-loops must have been extremely gloomy, contained the wine cellar and kitchen. Contrary to usual Scottish practice, the roof was thatched and not slated.

The walled bawn is much ruined. It was defended by round flankers at the north end, one of which was later adapted as a dovecote. The entrance lay in the north-west corner, while along the west side survive the footings of a later building, possibly a barn.

Monea's history is less dramatic than nearby Tully. During the 1641 rebellion it was attacked by Rory Maguire, who "slew and murthered eight Protestants" here, but evidently failed to capture the castle. In 1688 it was occupied by Gustavus Hamilton, the Governor of Enniskillen, who died in 1691 having incurred enormous financial losses in the Williamite wars. His greatly impoverished wife and children continued to live at Monea, but had to sell the estate in 1704. A few decades later the castle was gutted by fire and was subsequently abandoned. In the last century "a weird woman named Bell McCabe took her residence in a vault beneath one of the towers" until she was evicted by the proprietor, who feared she "might be found dead on the wretched premises,' and that some inquiries might ensue, involving the trouble incident to a coroner's inquest".

Located 6 miles NW of Enniskillen and 1 mile E of St Molaise's Church.
Approached along a beech avenue through Castletown Demesne.
NGR: H 165494.
State Care Monument.
Open public access.