Rathcline Castle is an impressive ruin south of the town of Lanesborough. The castle comprises fortified buildings from a number of different eras; a legacy of the rich and complex history of the area.
These include a tower house and enclosed bawn or bailey, and a 17th century fortified manor house, which was later remodelled.
The site is traditionally held to be the residence of the O’Quinn family, who in the early medieval period were known as the ‘Lords of Rathcline’. They likely built the tower house in the 14th or 15th century, of which only a portion of the southern and eastern walls survive, along with some decorated stonework, a double-garderobe which hint at the stateliness of the medieval castle.
By the 16th century the castle was in the hands of the O’Farrell clan; however in 1627 it was granted to Sir Thomas Dutton who built a fortified manor against its northern wall. During subsequent remodelling by Sir George Lane sometime around 1667, the tower house and manor house were unified.
A 17th century plan of the house survives, which indicates that it had an H-shaped plan. It was described in 1682 by Nicholas Dowdall as ‘a very noble and spacious house … being very pleasant and well Improved with Orchards, Gardens, Fishponds and a Deer Park’.
The grandeur of its interior is described by a household inventory dating from 1688, which lists the various rooms including ‘a Damask room, a dining-room, two drawing-rooms, My Lord’s dressing-room, parlour, parlour closet, Castle room and room adjoining, My Lady’s closet, Red room, room above Damask room, Madame Lane’s room and room adjoining, the Nurseries, the Lobby, butler’s garret, cook’s garret, and four other garrets’.
Unfortunately, by the year 1800, it was largely derelict due to having been ‘dismantled by Cromwell, and finally burnt and reduced to its present ruinous state, in the wars of King James’.
The impressive bawn wall encloses the castle complex and has square towers at the corners. An 18th century painting by Daniel Grose indicates that the tops of the walls may have had battlements, adding to their defensive appearance.
Of particular note is the southern gatehouse, which was the main entrance into the bawn in the late 17th century. It is decorated in a Classical style and had an armorial plaque dated 1667, bearing the Lane family coat of arms, but it has since been removed.
Other features associated with the castle include a formal walled garden that adjoined the east side of the bawn, and which also had angle-towers. A fish-pond was located further east, and is now in a field surrounded by trees, and there was an old orchard further south.
Rathcline castle is private property.
Rathcline Castle is approximately 3Kms from the nearest public transport stop in Lanesborough.