KILCOE CASTLE, ROARINGWATER BAY, BALLYDEHOB, WEST CORK
*An excerpt from an article at Independent.ie: Saturday, May 26, 2001*
The locals may not think it’s exactly pretty in pink, but as castles go, actor Jeremy Irons’ Kilcoe Castle is the real thing, built around 1450 by the clan of Dermot MacCarthy on a two-acre island in Roaringwater Bay. These MacCarthys were a sub-tribe of the McCarthy Reaghs of Kilbrittan, who had originated in the Blarney area.
Kilcoe Castle has quite a history. Superbly located, from a defensive point of view, it proved a hard nut to crack in battle and was one of the last castles in Carberry to fall to the English forces after the Battle of Kinsale. After a lengthy siege, Conor O’Driscoll finally surrendered in 1603.
After the 1600s it fell into disrepair and it was only in 1966 that James Caverly, the farmer who owns the surrounding land, registered the castle. In 1972 he sold it to Edward Samuel, who built a bridge connecting the castle to the main land, but baulked at the cost of restoring the building.
In 1998, Irons and his Irish wife, Sinead Cusack, bought the property. Since then Irons has poured well over £1 million into Kilcoe’s restoration, regarded as one of the most painstaking undertakings of its kind in Ireland.
The pink colour which upset a few locals, but is more or less a storm in a paintpot is likely to fade to a nice terracotta with time.
- “Kilcoe should be restored. Yet only a fool would do it. Someone with more money than sense. Maybe I’m the man.”
- “Time and the elements will work their unstoppable magic, and just as my mother’s new hairdo always looked better the day after it was done, so the castle will look better tomorrow.”
- “Change is something I find difficult as the next man and there’s no doubt Kilcoe has changed. But it has also renewed itself and, like much of Ireland, become forward-looking and proud of itself.”
- “Renovating a castle is worse than directing a movie; your entire life becomes consumed with this big project.”
- “I took two years off for the refurbishing. Finally I went back to work because I couldn’t afford not to. I’ve had 40 people working on it.
- “It is a fantastic place. Really fantastic. When I go there I can breathe.
- “They say a man with two homes loses his soul, but I find them necessary. If I’m having to lead the gypsy life of an actor, I want those homes waiting for me to return to. I like my roots.”
- On the gender of his castle: “It’s feminine. I felt hugged by it when I arrived last night.”
- “I love creating places and got enormous joy out of doing the castle.”
- “Wherever I am, I think of as home. Home is people, really, rather than places. But I do love Kilcoe. It has an amazing magnetic drag for me. My boat is there and my horses are there.”
- “It loves the sunset and the low light. It had been a ruin since 1963 and I spent six years in all doing it and spent much more on it than it is worth. But I never regret it. I feel a great affinity for the place, as a lot of English people have done.”
- “. . . then I looked at the castle and I thought, this could be brought back. It’s now finished, and it is the most extraordinary, extraordinary place.”
- How Jeremy describes the restoration of Kilcoe: “It’s a jazz riff on the medieval.”
Links to photos of Kilcoe Castle found around the Internet: