The site on which Barryscourt Castle stand has been occupied for over a thousand years, with evidence such as a small wooden mill, which has been dated back to the 7th century, long before any type of fortification, stood there. In the 12th century Barryscourt Castle fell into the hands of the Anglo-Norman family De Barry. Remains of what may be another mill or early fortification can also be found at the site.
The De Barrys had various amounts of land divided over different parts of County Cork, but Barryscourt remained in ownership of the most powerful branch of them all, known as the Barrymores (Barra Mor or “ Great Barry” in Irish). However, the Barrymore lines died out and were passed onto a distant cousin by the name of James Fitzgerald of the Barryroes in 1556. The present Tower House of Barryscourt Castle is believed to be built in the late region of the Barrymores either in the 15th or 16th century and becoming the seat of the Barrys.
The Barrys supported the Desmond Rebellions of 1569 and 1579, and in 1581
they destroyed or severely damaged the family castles to prevent English
forces from capturing them, including Barryscourt, which was threatened
by an army led by Sir Walter Raleigh. After the suppresion of the second
rebellion, the Barrys were pardoned by Queen Elizabeth I and Barryscourt
was repaired, with an outer wall or “Bawn” surrounding an inner
courtyard being added, including 3 corner towers.
Barryscourt ceased to be main residence of the Barry family in 1617, but was evidently still an important fortification for many years afterwards, as it was attacked and captured in 1645, during the Irish Confederate War The marks caused by the impact of cannonballs during this attack can still be seen on the castle walls.
Barryscourt castle eventually fell into disuse, and a house was built by the Coppinger family (who had taken over the property from the Barrys) next to the castle in the early 18th century; this house has long since disappeared. The Barryscourt Trust was set up in 1987 for the purpose of conserving and developing the potential of the castle as a heritage site. In the 1990s, the relatively intact shell of the tower house was repaired and reroofed by Duchas, and is now a popular tourist heritage site run by the Office of Public Works. The interior is furnished as it would have been in the 16th century.
Barryscourt Castle can be viewed by guided tours only and has facilities such as restaurant and teashop,a giftshop, and the ground floor is dedicated to an exhibition ofn the history of the Barrys and Barryscourt Castle.
To visit Barryscourt Castle is a rewarding experience. It gives guests a chance to view the magnificant strucure and settings of this historical building.