The pathway gate leading to the iconic Carrigaholt Castle, or MacMahon Tower House, has been officially opened to the public.
Built in 1480 and home to last Gaelic chieftain to rule on the Loop Head Peninsula, the castle is now accessible to the visitors after being opened by Pat Dowling, CEO of Clare County Council.
Mr Dowling cut the ribbon on a beautiful Saturday afternoon during the Carrigaholt May Weekend Oyster and Trad Festival. The history of the castle reflects the political and religious turbulence of Europe in the 16th & 17th centuries.
We now have a new attraction for Carrigaholt, the Loop Head Peninsula and the county. Anyone can stroll down to the castle, learn about its fascinating history from the information boards, and enjoy the views at the Mouth of the Shannon within a charming, peaceful and sheltered setting. Among the group of locals and visitors gathered at the official opening were some of the Ukrainians staying in Kilkee.
Mr Pat Dowling made the poignant observation that the Ukrainians relish their freedom and we are reminded of how important our freedom is. The opening of the pathway to the castle is symbolic of the freedoms we can enjoy here.
Susanne Magee of Carrigahot Development Association said: “Six years ago, the CDA began the process of creating this public pathway to the castle — we felt that this was an important project for the village, both for our local identity and for tourism. It took a little while, but here we are. We are deeply indebted to the McGrath Family, the owners of the castle and grounds, who appreciated the need for public access as soon as they were approached.
We are thankful to the OPW, who are the castle’s caretakers, for working with us on this project from the get-go and to Monuments for the 100% funded grant aid we needed and to the Minister of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage for giving us consent.”
We would like to express our massive gratitude to Clare County Council for the Community Support Scheme funding of the information boards and most importantly for rescuing this project by sorting out the crucial matter of insurance, which allowed us to finally open the gate, specifically to our Cllrs Cillian Murphy & Gabriel Keating for their support and encouragement, and to John O’Malley, Mags Cotter and Carmel Greene for all their work to bring this project through Phase 1.
The next stage is to hopefully open the castle itself, the tower house is still one of the best preserved in the country. It is wonderful to see the castle grounds open to the public as we come out of the pandemic years and are welcoming everyone back again,” she added.
Margaret Cotter, Rural & Community Development Officer said: “Carrigaholt Development Association have worked very hard and overcame several obstacles to ensure that the public can access and appreciate their wonderful national monument, Carrigaholt Castle. I’m delighted that their commitment has had such a great outcome.”
Cllr. Cillian Murphy, Cathaoirleach WMD, Clare Co. Council added: “One of the highlights of my years as Cathaoirleach of the West Clare MD was to be part of the official opening of the Carrigaholt Castle Pathway. It is truly a red letter day for the village of Carrigaholt thanks to the hard work, determination, persistence and commitment of Susanne Magee and the rest of the Carrigaholt Development Association.
I can’t say enough about the level of work that has been put into this project: ministerial consent, landowner leases, the Heritage Council and OPW, engaging contractors and finally having to figure out how to get it insured. Clare County Council stepped up when most needed and a special thanks to our local Rural & Community Development Officer Margaret Cotter, SEOs John O’Malley and Carmel Greene, Conservation Officer Congella McGuire, Director of Services for Rural Development Leonard Cleary and CEO Pat Dowling who all pushed so hard to make this happen.
We have long been able to clamber in over walls (unofficially) and wander around it, it’s really great to see this pathway completed, the information boards up and the gate open to the public. It totally made my day recently to watch two American visitors park their car and just stroll up to Carrigaholt Castle through this gate…but it has taken a remarkable effort from a group of people to make something so unremarkable happen. The result is an amazing place that has been opened up for the community, for those who visit and for those who want to help take care of the building and its heritage in the future.”
Spokesperson for Loop Head Tourism Network Linda Coleman said: “Loop Head Tourism is very excited with the opening of Carrigaholt Castle. It is a beautiful historical landmark and an important part of the peninsula’s heritage. Visitors can now wander around the castle and the information boards on display help to enrich your experience of the castle and its grounds. It is a true testament to the commitment of the community that this wonderful project came into fruition.”