Ballyfinboy, Tower House and Sheela-na-Gig, Co. Tipperary.

Location – About 2km West of Borrisokane.
OS: R 899 936 (map 53)
GPS: R 89870 93585 (Accuracy – 2m)
Longitude: 8° 9' 3.15" W
Latitude: 52° 59' 34.6" N
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History – A while ago I heard that this castle was for sale for €1,000,000. This was with the aim of turning it into a residence. An interesting idea but I would hazard a guess that it would take many more millions to make it both safe and habitable as the castle is in a state of disrepair and extremely damp. It is positively green with mould on the inside. I like the idea of turning tower houses back into homes as it not only helps preserve the castle but also gives a purpose beyond that of tourism. Leap castle and Clonony castle, both in Co. Offaly are both good examples of this and the owners have done preservation work there that has prolonged the life of the castle. 

The castle itself is standard rectangular tower house 11.4m long and 9.3m wide with a wall thickness of 2.15m. It is four storeys high. A base batter is visible and it is made of limestone. The West wall, which faces the road, has a large gaping hole in it now with severe internal damage. While an upper stone floor remains and is barrel vaulted, the lower wooden ones are now gone and the access to the spiral stair is partially destroyed. A murder hole sits above the main entrance. I did not see a machicolation. There are many chambers in the castle which I was not able to access because of the difficulty in access the stair. It also seemed very unstable to attempt. 

This castle also boasts a sheela-na-gig on a South-East quoinstone. It shows a female figure holding her vulva open with bend legs and splayed arms. These sheela-na-gigs have an ecclesiastical origin where they serve the purpose of warning people against sins of the flesh. While this example is weathered, it is very distinct, nonetheless. The castle should be preserved for this carving alone. It may not always be visible due to the ivy growth around it. However, someone had cut the ivy away shortly before my visit, making it clearly visible.

Since originally writing this blog post a large portion of the castle has collapsed. 

Difficulty – The castle itself is fenced off for safety reasons and parking is a little difficult on the narrow country road. However, the surrounding field was easily accessible and the sheela-na-gig was clearly visible at the time of my visit. 

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This is the most ruined part of the castle. The ivy is doing untold damage that will further weaken the structure.  

Fortunately, someone keeps the ivy away from the sheela-na-gig.

The sheela-na-gig may be weathered but it is, for now, still clearly visible.

This castle has a high number of gun-loops.

Beautifully shaped window with a tree growing through from the inside.

This looks precarious and I dare say it could easily fall out from the wall.

The base batter on this castle is very slight.

The broken out wall gives a view into some of the mural passages

You can see in this picture the green mold that covers the wall as well as fire damage on the lower portions of wall. It also appears if there are a couple of feet of dirt that has partially filled the castle.

Looking up towards the barrel vault.

As you can see the spiral stair is partially collapsed and I didn't fancy venturing up there while visiting on my own.

It looks like there are many passages hidden in the walls of this castle.

View The Standing Stone in a larger map