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A Neo-Gothic Manor House – Dromore Castle

Now in ruins, Dromore Castle can be found in County Kerry overlooking the Kenmare River. It is made up of three stories and was designed with medieval history in mind. Nowadays, it is a roofless shell of what it once was, and while you are not generally permitted to enter the castle, it boasts a lovely view from the outside. It is also home to many structural problems and is no longer inhabited.

The history of Dromore Castle

Dromore Castle is a fascinating mid 19th-century ruin that was built meticulously to the design of EW Godwin for Denis Mahony. There was significant research done to include a round tower to evoke the silhouette of the Rock of Cashel. This magnificent castle is of significant historic value and importance and requires a lot of conservation work to return it to what it once was.

Though the history of Dromore Castle may not be as long as others within Ireland, it is still just as interesting. Continue reading to find out more about this ruined neo-gothic manor house.

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Image from postcard (c. 1900) of Dromore Castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The early history

The beautiful Dromore Castle was designed and built specifically for Denis Mahony by the talented architect known as Thomas Deane. It is likely that he was assisted by his brother Kearns Deane. What many people don’t realise is that earlier on in the 19th century, Denis Mahony’s father, John Mahony, wanted to build a large home.

That is where the inspiration for Dromore Castle began. However, when his yacht sank in the Kenmare River, in view of the site of the house, all of the plans went out the window and the project was abandoned. It wasn’t until Denis began the new project that the site saw progress after his father had abandoned it.

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Sir Thomas Deane designed and built Dromore Castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Building Dromore Castle

It was in the year 1831 that work began on Dromore Castle. However, only a very small amount is said to have been carried out before May of 1834. The building of the castle was finally finished in the year 1839. The castle was built in a castellated Gothic Revival style with an external finish of lovely Roman Cement.

Limestone dressings were also added.

Denis Mahony

Denis Mahony was a well-known minister of the Church of Ireland and a keen proselytiser. A proselytiser is someone who sets out and dedicates their lives to changing other people’s religion to their own. He was known to have set up a soup kitchen at Dromore during the time of the Great Famine. He spent the majority of his time preaching to the hungry people who came to the castle for food.

He wasn’t a very popular figure in the community due to the fact that he was a proselytiser. In fact, in the year 1850, he was attacked in his own church at Templenoe. Once he had returned to Dromore Castle after being attacked, he found a large, angry group of people had uprooted his flower beds, felled trees, and were about to burn his castle down. The angry mob could only be stopped by the intervention of the local Catholic priest, Fr John O’Sullivan.

Changing hands

After Denis Mahony, known at the time as Rev. Denis Mahony, had died in 1851, the castle was inherited by his son, Richard John Mahony. Richard successfully ran the estate while also farming oyster beds in the bay. He was a rather busy man. After he passed, the castle was inherited by his son, Harold Segerson Mahony.

Harold was a very successful tennis player and was also the last Irish winner at Wimbledon. In fact, his custom-made tennis court can still be found within the castle’s gardens. During the 1800s, Harold Boulton, best known for writing the lyrics of the Skye Boat Song, came to visit Dromore Castle. It is said that it was there that he wrote the words to the popular song “The Castle of Dromore”, which was published in 1892.

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Harold Mahony won the singles championship at Wimbledon in 1896. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Harold Mahony

Unfortunately, Harold Mahony was tragically killed in a bicycle accident in the year 1905. He left no heirs which meant the castle was passed to his sister, Norah Hood. She then left the castle to her cousin, Hugh Bolton Waller, and the castle remained in their hands for many years until 1993.

In 1993, the castle was offered for sale.

The current day

Nowadays, Dromore Castle is in different hands. There are many rumours going around that the castle may be restored in the coming years. However, nothing has ever been set in stone. It is suffering from severe structural problems, so it is unsafe for the public to enter at this time. If there is one thing for sure, it is that urgent conservation is needed for this charming castle.

There are also two other castles with the same name. One in County Limerick and one in County Claire. Usually, Dromore Castle is confused with both of them.

You may enjoy reading about other Irish castles such as Carlow Castle.

Dromore Castle Timeline

  • 1831- Work begins on Dromore Castle.
  • 1839- The building of the castle is finally finished in a castellated Gothic Revival style with an external finish of lovely Roman Cement
  • 1850- Denis Mahony is attacked in his own church at Templenoe and comes back to Dromore Castle to find it under threat by a large mob
  • 1851- Denis Mahony dies and the castle is left to his son
  • 1905- Harold is killed in a tragic bicycle accident
  • 1993- Dromore Castle is offered for sale and purchased

Dromore Castle facts

  • The roof of the castle was removed completely in 1950
  • By World War I, the castle was completely abandoned
  • Godwin spent just as much time focused on the interior of the castle as he did on the exterior
  • Dromore Castle was unable to accommodate the larger carriages used toward the end of the 19th century
  • The castle was at threat of being burned down at one point

Who owns Dromore Castle?

When it was put up for sale in 1993, it was purchased by a large investment company. Their plans are to restore the beautiful castle; however, those plans have been put off many times. An article from Irish Times states “Kelly joins the Godwin revivalists just as he is about to apply for planning permission for the first stage in a plan to restore Dromore, which has been rapidly falling into ruin since former owners removed its roofs and floors in the 1950s for tax purposes.”

Hopefully soon, we will begin to see some restoration work so that this ruin can turn into the castellated beauty it once was.

Tourism

As of now, it is actually quite dangerous to visit Dromore Castle. That is why it is not open to the public as of now. There are fears that due to being structurally unsound, it could collapse at any time which poses a rather large safety risk. Though you cannot step inside the castle, you can enjoy a distant view of the beautiful outside.

Hopefully in the near future, after many renovations, it will be open to the public. Nearby, you can visit Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park, Ross Castle, Torc Waterfall, Gap of Dunloe, and Slea Head Drive.

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