The Trail Map:- OSI Series 24
The walk at Enniscrone Castle Field is a 1.3km looped walk which connects a new section of walkway with the traditional route. The new section has added c.0.5km to the route. The walk starts along the R297 main road, entering the town from the direction of Sligo/Easky. The entrance to the walk is located at the Crèche beside Enniscrone Fire Station, and car parking is available. The walk is clearly marked along a gravel path, and lighting has also been added. While relatively short in length, this walk includes many interesting features, and is suitable for anyone with a basic level of fitness.
Follow the path, passing between the castle to your left (first mentioned in 1417) and a ring fort to your right. A ring fort was a form of fortified settlement occupied by our Gaelic ancestors from as early as the Iron Age through to the Middle Ages.
As you walk along the path you follow the course of a little stream which disappears underground near Waterpoint and emerges to enter the sea opposite Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths. New trees and shrubs have been planted to enhance the area, to create a more varied habitat and to promote greater biodiversity.
Having passed Waterpoint, the path winds its way to an entrance with Burma Road. Here, turning left along the path brings you into the centre of the park, where playing fields are overlooked by a circular group of large stones. These form the remains of two ancient megalithic tombs which were possibly in use over c.5,500 years ago.
Following the path between the playing field and the megalithic tombs will bring you back towards the main road. As you exit the Castle Field you’ll get a glimpse of Valentine’s Church hidden behind trees.
The tomb sites, along with the ringforts, the castle and the ruins of Valentine’s Church, are all evidence of long-established communities and ancient settlement in this beautiful coastal area of Enniscrone. The Castle Field is an area rich in cultural heritage and archaeological remains.
Upon exiting the Castle Field at the main road, turn left and follow the footpath back to your starting point.
Features of the Walk
The new pathway offers sweeping panoramic views of Killala Bay, and is a vantage point to watch the spectacular sunsets behind the distant Nephin Mountains and Kilcummin Head. It provides walkers with additional options and variations for leisurely walking routes in and about Enniscrone; and it challenges joggers with both flat and inclined circuit routes now available. Lighting has been installed along the route for late evening walks or runs.
Various entrance and exit points are located along the path, providing you with options to take in some of the other scenic walks in Enniscrone, such as the spectacular 3km Enniscrone Beach or the stunning Enniscrone Coastal Walk.
From the start of the walk, the eye is immediately drawn towards the imposing ruins of Enniscrone Castle, a site of many battles and sieges.
The history of Enniscrone Castle, also known as O’Dowd’s Castle, is a long and varied, positioned as a strategic location along an ancient coastal route through Connaught into west Ulster. During the 12th century the O’Dowd clan ruled the kingdom of North Connacht having removed the O’Caomhain from the Enniscrone area. A number of fortifications probably existed on this site before the first stone castle was built in the late 14th century. The first recorded mention of the castle was in 1417 when Tadgh Riabhach O’Dubhda, the King of Tireragh, lived here. Further reference is made to ‘Inis Sgreabhan Castle’ upon the death of Donchada Ultach O’Dowda, c.1483.
In 1512 during conflict between the Burkes of Mayo and the O’Donnells of Donegal, the Burkes captured Enniscrone Castle, which was then besieged and demolished by the O’Donnells. It was later rebuilt by the O’Dowds but their power as Irish chieftains was waning. The Flight of the Earls in 1607 effectively brought an end to Gaelic Irish Society.
The O’Dowds sold the castle in 1597 to John Crofton who is believed to have rebuilt the castle in a more English/plantation style, at a time when the purely defensive nature of castles was being made obsolete by the advances in artillery. The function of the castle was adapted to provide a more comfortable residence that could be defended against a small-scale attack. Crofton then sold the castle on to a Thomas Nolan of Ballinrobe whose son John was living there in the 1635 (hence the castle is also referred to as Nolan’s Castle).
During the rebellion of 1641 the confederates, under David O’Dowd, commandeered the castle and placed a garrison there. It was recaptured by parliamentarian troops led by Sir Charles Coote in 1645. Through the Cromwellian Settlement the castle and 65,000 acres of land were granted to Sir Frances Gore. The Gore family was succeeded by the Orme family but the castle became dilapidated and fell into ruin.
Built on a raised level platform, the castle was a rectangular gabled house with a three-quarter round tower at each corner, but only the two western towers now survive. The house was comprised of two storeys with attics. On the ground floor there was a centrally placed doorway in the southern wall that has evidence of drawbar sockets. On the western wall there is a large fireplace with a small oven built into its left side. The chimney is still intact and one can see a smaller fireplace on the upper floor. The floor levels of the towers correspond to those of the main building. A number of gun loops and small windows occur throughout the building. Stone from the castle is said to have been used in the construction of Enniscrone Pier.
By the car parking area in the Castle Field there is an embankment which forms the remains of a small ring fort. There are many other ring forts located in the immediate vicinity of Enniscrone. While little is known about the history of this particular ring fort, other excavated examples prove that most were built as defensive settlements in the Early Medieval period between 500 and 1,000AD.
A ring fort is basically a circular earthen or stone embankment, many with a surrounding ditch, and probably topped by some sort of fencing or stockade, within which people lived in communities. Earthen ring forts are often known as Raths, Fort or Lios. Stone forts are called Caher, Cashel, Dún or Doon; prefixes common in many of today’s place names. They are often referred to in Irish folklore as fairy forts.
Generally ring forts range in size from about 15 metres to over 60 metres in diameter. Large ring forts contained sizeable settlements whose inhabitants may have carried out trades such as milling, weaving, leatherwork and metalwork. Many smaller ring forts may have been enclosed farmsteads, keeping livestock apart from human habitation and safe from wolves and enemy raiders.
Enniscrone’s oldest and most important archaeological monuments are undoubtedly the remains of at least two megalithic tombs located on the top of the ridge in Castle Field. The tomb remains may be up to 5,500 years old.
As man progressed from hunter-gatherer to more settled cultivation they began to build stone burial monuments. There are 4 main types of megalithic tombs: the court tombs, portal tombs, passage tombs and wedge tombs. Precise dating of megalithic tombs is uncertain but it is believed many were built from 3,500 BC onwards, although wedge tombs are thought to date from about 2,500 BC. There are many examples of different megalithic tombs throughout Co Sligo, including large concentrations in Carrowmore and Carrowkeel; however the tombs in Enniscrone must have been important in their own right.
There are two distinct arrangements of boulders on the Castle Field ridge, with a number of other boulders lying close by. These boulders may have been arranged as free standing circles, or they could have been the kerbing stones of large cairns; the smaller stones of which have since been scattered or removed. One set of boulders may have been aligned towards Kilcummin Head, where the sun sets in Summer, while the second tomb appears aligned towards Nephin where the Winter sun sets.
Without archaeological surveying and excavation it is difficult to determine how the tombs in Enniscrone may have looked, or what other structures may have existed in this area. Nonetheless these megalithic tombs demonstrate that there was significant human settlement in the Enniscrone area from the earliest prehistoric times onwards. When standing on the ridge by these ancient tombs one must appreciate the beauty and commanding position of their setting looking out over Killala Bay. We can only imagine their importance to the culture, life and death of our distant ancestors.
The castle overlooks the ruins of a small rectangular church known locally as Valentine’s Church. It is located on the site of a much earlier ecclesiastical building, known as ‘Cill Insi’ which was recorded as still standing in 1666. Valentine’s church was probably built sometime around 1679 as the church bell, now held in the National Museum, was inscribed with this date.
The Rev. Thomas Valentine was appointed Vicar to the ‘Union of Frankford’ (comprising the Church of Ireland parishes of Kilglass and Castleconnor) in 1712. Born in Lancashire, England in c.1676, he was educated in Lisburn and in Trinity College Dublin. The Rev. Valentine was a relatively wealthy man; as well as being a clergyman he also leased farmland in the nearby townland of Carrowgarry and was known for his acts of piety and charitable works. He lived in the Enniscrone area for 53 years until his death in 1765. In his will he donated considerable sums to local charities and individuals, including £600 to distressed widows of the Clergy of the Dioceses of Killala & Achonry, and £400 for a charity school and apprenticing poor children (donations still providing funds to this day). A tombstone erected in the church by the Bishop of Killala & Achonry describes the Rev. Thomas Valentine as ‘a perfect model of a parish minister’.
The church building was damaged in the 1798 rebellion and was not used again, although the churchyard was used for burials during the Famine. The church ruins are now totally overgrown and inaccessible.
Built by the Community for the Community
The Castle Field was owned by the Orme family, the local landlords, until the early 1920’s when it was handed over to the Irish State; to be used by the people of the town and local area to graze a cow and its calf each year from May to November. Three trustees were appointed by the State, through the Land Commission, to manage the letting and fencing of the field. This arrangement continued until the early 1980’s when local community council officers, with the consent of the Trustees, approached the Land Commission to take over 9 acres of the field and develop it as a town park. A few years later the remainder of the original Castle Field, currently beyond the wall on the ridge, was also transferred to Enniscrone & District Community Development Ltd for the benefit of the local community and visitors to the area.
This project was developed by Enniscrone & District Community Development CLG., and it is another example of their commitment to develop amenity facilities for the benefit of local people and our many visitors to enjoy. It received grant aid from Sligo County Council, and was constructed through the generosity of a local contractor, Declan Rouse. This new pathway is another step towards developing this area of Enniscrone into a parkland for the future.
This sign was produced by Enniscrone Tidy Towns Committee with assistance from the Sligo County Council Public Area Enhancement Scheme funded by the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government.
Enniscrone Tidy Towns Committee gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided by many individuals, organisations and associations of Enniscrone in helping to put together the information and erecting the panels for public display.
- Plan ahead and Prepare
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Respect wildlife and farm stock
- Be considerate of others
- Minimise the effects of fire