Traditional Irish Name

Baile Uí Chathláin – O’Cahalan’s town.

Associated Families

Earls of Kildare.


Civil ParishKildimo.
OS Map RefSheet 12.

Protected Structure Record

Reg. No: 77.
Ref.  No: A12(63).


Ballyculhane was a stronghold of the Purcells, a Norman invader family, from the late 13th century.

It falls into the category of sites with a surviving bawn wall and defensive turrets, but where the central, or inner-keep (like at Ballygleaghan Castle) has been demolished (see sketch and aerial photos in Image Gallery).
The castle could date sometime from the 13th to 15th century.1

T.J. Westropp describes the castle shown on the 17th-century Down Survey and Trustees’ maps as having towers/turrets at each angle with a large court and a house inside. He added that an ‘oblong “castle” stood detached to the north’.
Ballyculhane sits on a slight rise, a few hundred metres off the left bank of the River Maigue, and ‘the fosse could be flooded from the Maigue’ (see example in Image Gallery).
In 1703, it was ‘a large castle, strong walled, with a good garden and orchard, and a stable.’2

There are small ‘apartments’ (rooms) in the defensive towers, near-identical in layout, about 7 feet square, with each tower containing a very narrow winding stair. The north tower is unroofed (see Image Gallery).
The extant bawn wall enclosing the now-demolished castle-keep, is a rectangular shape, roughly 132 foot long and 120 broad, and originally stood about 30 foot high. Only fragments of the castle walls remained in 1840.3


The site is overgrown with trees and vegetation.


The building lies on private land. Permission is required.

Historical Timeline

1299:These lands held by Sir Hugh Purcell.
1518:Estate held by the Purcells, under the overlordship of the earl of Kildare.
1581:Much bloody fighting took place around Ballyculhane Castle during the Desmond rebellion, involving David Óge Purcell and his allies.
1584:Castle and lands held by Pierce Purcell.
1617:Granted to Edmund Purcell.
1640:Estate held by General Patrick Purcell, under the earl of Kildare as part of the earl’s manor of Adare.
1655:The castle and 850 acres are recorded as the late estate of Major-General Patrick Purcell, then deceased. Ballyculhane was then a substantial settlement, with:

“Three greate houses, and ten cottages, one mill seate, [and] one salmon [weir]”.4

1683:Claimed by the earl of Kildare are part of the manor of Adare.


1 Additional information (by email correspondence) kindly provided by Dr Colm Donnelly, Queens University, Belfast.
2 Westropp, ‘Ancient Castles … Limerick’, 160.
3 See also, Ordnance Survey Field Name Books, Kildimo parish, 31.
4 Civil Survey … Limerick, 346.


All historical information is compiled from archival material; primary sources (such as State Papers); secondary sources; plus authoritative digital sources (such as CELT). Any direct quote or a further reading suggestion is footnoted.

For queries, suggested amendments, or other relevant information, or if you would like to contribute an archival image of Ballyculhane Castle (of which you own the copyright), please leave a comment at the bottom of the page, or email (below).


Image Gallery

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Castle location on map

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