Kilclooney Castle was a tower house which was believed to have been built in the 15th/16th century and was used as a bardic school run by the renowned Ó hÚigínn (Higgins) family. The castle was occupied by Donell Ó hUigín in 1574. Tadgh Dall Ó hUigín of Sligo (1545-1593) refers to the castle as a school of poetry in the 16th century, stating; ‘seventeen poets of Ulster’s brightest progeny sought learning in Kilclooney of Connacht’.
It is believed that the students each studied filíocht (poetry) for 12 years and that the school year lasted from November to March. It is said that each student had his own stone hut where he would meditate on a prescribed theme, and next day would recite his composition before fellow students and his tutor. There is unfortunately no evidence of the stone huts there today.
In 1641, three separate parts of Kilclooney were held by Brian, Hugh and Tully Ó hUigín, but their lands were granted to William Burke at the Restoration in the 1660’s. The castle, a recorded monument, now lays nearly demolished with just the remains of the first floor still standing
The following is a verse in Irish from the poem ‘Cáislean Cheall Chluaine agus Scoil na bhFile’ composed by Tadgh Dall Ó hUigín recalling the presence here at Kilclooney of seventeen poets from Ulster:
“Seacht bhfir dhéag d’éigaibh Uladh,
Do chuaidh d’larraich ealadhan
Dal an chuaine fhinn Ultaigh
Go Cill Chluaine I gConnachtaibh”
Stunning sight to see!
Although the ruins are on private land, the castle is clearly visible from the main road. It appears to have been maintained and cleaned in recent months, which has really highlighted the stunning building. It is also in a beautiful location, on the side of a sloping valley. The view is incredible. My only wish is that the castle was more accessible to the public. I think that it could be a nice place for tourists to visit as they drive by. Regardless, it is a lovely location and I would definitely recommend keeping an eye-out for it if you ever happen to be driving-by!