April 2015
Sprawled across the north-west corner of County Clare is a bleak landscape of stone, water and sky. Open moorland stretches to long horizons. Wild flowers bloom between sheets of scarred karst limestone. Black turlough lakes pool at the feet of brooding hills. Swept by Atlantic gales, the Burren is made for castles. Prehistoric ring forts and medieval towers appear like natural outcrops, the guardians of this harshly beautiful country. Ballyportry is one of the most impressive, a tower house built in the 15th century for the O'Brien family, descendants of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland.

We think of these western regions of Ireland as being remote and parochial. But in medieval times, when the sea was more reliable than the land for travellers, areas like the Burren would have been closely connected to the continent. In its day, Ballyportry would have had a cellar of French wines, tapestries from the Low Countries, pottery and silks from Spain, books and rosaries from Rome. This was not the stronghold of a barbarian chieftain but home to an educated and sophisticated elite, the aristocrats of the Old Gaelic Order, who thrived in the days before the English arrived to wreak such havoc on Irish culture.

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Great Irish Houses

October 2009

Book available on Amazon

Sunday times

May 10th 2009

Ireland has its share of posh crenellated hotels- but for drama and seclusion, none matches this 500 year old tower standing alone amid the rocky wilds of the Burren. Built by the O'Brien's, it was saved from dereliction in the 1960s and stylishly refurbished in the 2000s...

Sunday times

January 25th 2009

Not precisely a castle, rather a Gaelic "tower house" from the 15th century, rising like an extravagant silver boulder above the surreal moonscape of the Burren, It's been restored to full medieval majesty, with vast peat fires flickering against walls of naked stone. All it lacks is a bard to sing as you swing in the rooftop hammocks.


February 1st 2007

Walk into this Gaelic tower house and step back in time. It was built in the late 15th century, occupied for 200 years, left to decline and saved at last in the 1960s, by an American. The present owners, architect and archaeologist, let the original dynamic of Ballyportry guide them in their brilliant conservation project...

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June 18th 2006

A child's imagination can be kindled in the strangest of places...for something grandiose, why not hire the kids their own castle? Check out the amazing Ballyportry Castle in Co Clare, a Gaelic tower complete with its own battlements — "great for pretending you live in the olden days" according to my younger son, Stan...


November 2005

100 Best Places in the world 2005 Ballyportray comes in under "Far-flung hideaways".


August 14th 2004

Hurricane Alex was playing itself out over the west coast of Ireland last Saturday night. Which made the eventual appearance of Ballyportry Castle on the edge of the wind-lashed Burren all the more dramatic.

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