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File:Craggaunowen 2004.jpg
Craggaunowen, view from the towerhouse

Craggaunowen is the name of a 16th-century castle and an archaeological open-air museum in County Clare, Ireland.

Craggaunowen is located 10 km east of Quin, County Clare. The name Craggaunowen derives from its Irish name Creagán Eoghain (Owen's little rocky hill).[1] The site is operated by Shannon Heritage.[2]


Craggaunowen Castle was built around 1550 by John MacSioda MacNamara, a descendent of Sioda MacNamara, who built Knappogue Castle in 1467.[3]

It was left in ruins, uninhabitable and without a roof, in the 17th century.[3] The castle was rendered uninhabitable by the removal of the roof and staircase, and indefensible by removal of the battlements, about 1653, at the time of the Cromwellian confiscations.[citation needed]

The Tower House remained a ruin until it and the estate of Cullane House across the road, were inherited in 1821 by "Honest" Tom Steele, a confederate of Daniel O’Connell, "The Liberator".[4]

Steele had the castle rebuilt as a summer house in the 1820s and he used it, and the turret on the hill opposite, as places of recreation. His initials can be seen on one of the quoin-stones to the right outside.[citation needed] Following his death in 1848 the lands were divided, Cullane going to one branch of his family, Craggaunowen to another, his niece Maria Studdert.[5] Eventually, having passed through the hands of his descendants, the castle and grounds were acquired by the "Irish Land Commission".[citation needed] Much of the poor quality land was given over to forestry and the castle itself was allowed to fall into disrepair.[citation needed]

By the time of the First Ordnance Survey, in the 1840s, the castle was "in ruins" again. In the mid-19th century, the castle, herd's house and 96 acres were reported in the possession of a Reverend William Ashworth, who held them from a Caswell (a family from County Clare just north of Limerick). In 1906, a mansion house here was owned by Count James Considine (from a family based at Derk, County Limerick).[6]

Craggaunowen Castle was restored by John Hunt in the 1960s. Hunt added an extension to the ground floor, which for a while housed part of his collection of antiquities. The collection now resides in the Hunt Museum in the city of Limerick.[3]

The Living Past Experience

The open-air museum was started by John Hunt. It features reconstructions of ancient Irish architecture, including a dolmen, a crannog, and the currach boat used in Tim Severins recreation of "The Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot".[7] It also shows reconstructions of a Ringfort, Fulachta Fia (Bronze Age cooking and industrial site) and Standing Stone (Ogham Stone).


  1. "At Craggaunowen - Mogh Roith Living History Group". Retrieved 2014-02-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "The Living Past Experience". Shannon Heritage. Retrieved 16 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Tom Steele". Clare Library. Retrieved 16 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Landed estates database: Steele (Cullane)". NUI Galway. Retrieved 17 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Landed estates database: Craggaunowen Castle". NUI Galway. Retrieved 17 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Stephen Brewer (2008), The Unofficial Guide to Ireland, John Wiley & Sons, p. 296, ISBN 9780470285688, retrieved 20 February 2014<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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