||Constructed by Ralph deRomagne, a Norman knight, about 12 miles from the city of Cork, after the English invasion of Ireland
The castle remained in the hands of Ralph's descendants, the Earls of Bolgue, until the time of Cromwell when the estate was handed over to Colonel Thimm of the Model Army. In the reign of Queen Anne, the Thimms changed their name to FitzFirbolg and renamed the old castle (which had been Castle Bolgue); 50 years later, the squire was made a peer, Baron Insheilagh of FitzFirbolg. (One of the family came to grief in 1900 in a famous murder case.) The castle has been in a ruinous state at various times, but was substantially restored in the Victorian era. Recently, the FitzFirbolgs sold the estate to a German publishing conglomerate run by Herr Viktor Krugerstein, who has made it his country retreat.
[The features are described for each floor in a clockwise fashion starting from the upper left corner -- when necessary, they 'spiral' inward]
A general overview: The castle was constructed on a rocky knoll next to the River Bolgue; a hundred years later, the swampy ground around the knoll was deepened and turned into an artificial lake by digging a channel by the northern end of an existing river ait (which became an outer defence, now a kitchen garden) and the area constrained by a dam. It consists of a square keep tower with two projecting jambs at the northeast and southeast, a gatehouse with two drum towers on the north side, and a U-shaped domestic wing, including a Great Hall, on the south; all protected by a high curtain wall. It is not a large castle, but it is very strong. There may have been (probably was) a stockaded outer ward containing stables and other outbuildings across the bridge; this area is now part of the grounds of the 18th Century manorial estate, to which the castle serves as an attachment. Herr Krugerstein uses the manor as a conference center, but himself lives in the castle.
The dome-vaulted prison is accessed by trapdoor from the guard room above it; there is an garderobe, making this a rather more comfortable place than usual! It is now used to amuse visitors, and contains some wax-dummy prisoners chained to the wall. The armory consists of two vaulted chambers; these days they are used for storage (wood, coal, etc.).
Guard room (porter's room). The rectangular corner tower is the Keep. Here are two vaulted cellars. A billiard room and bar has been placed in the cellar entered from the loggia; the oriel window is a 19th-century addition. The loggia is a cloister-like passage with open arches facing the courtyard. Castle business office. Retainers' Hall -- main hang-out for the servants. Scullery and kitchen. There is a huge fireplace, with a bread oven. Kitchen courtyard. Wine/beer cellar along the curtain wall. Provisions cellar.
A small, flagstoned area. Note the well in the corner, the terrace next to the gatehouse, and the stair porch to the Great Hall (with a tool shed below the stairs). An open archway with a passage above it leads into the kitchen courtyard.
This part of the gatehouse contained guard quarters and the portcullis room; it now houses the men-servants. A separate kitchen for the keep is now the one used normally when there are no official functions occurring, and the 'lower' hall next to it is the family dining room (with the added oriel window); the room in the wing stores plates and silverware, but once was a priest's room.
Card room, drawing room, and Solar were extensively remodelled and refurnished in 1863 and contain some fine oak furniture of the period and some rather awful romantic art of the era. The Solar is normally used for formal affairs, not by the family. It has two fireplaces and a w.c. reached through a passage in the curtain wall. Note the windowed gallery facing the courtyard; it is used as a sitting room.
Rising two stories, the Great Hall is entered from the Solar arch and from the porch stairway from the courtyard. Three archways separate the main room from an aisle. A spiral stair leads down to the cellar, which leads to the great kitchen (rather inconveniently for the servants!).
In one tower of the gatehouse lives the chatelaine or housekeeper, by tradition a rather formidable woman, which is perhaps why her quarters are somewhat isolated. Over the portcullis room is a small bedroom (once an armory) for the janitor.
The Lord's Hall is now both a dining room and a sitting room, with animal heads of various sorts all over the walls and some rather flamboyant pictures of past Barons. Adjoining the hall is the butler's bedroom and an attractive little chapel.
Parlor (smoking room) and library are the peer's domain, and in the Long Gallery are exhibited the art and artefact collections of various owners of the estate. Note the open terrace overlooking the courtyard.
Female servants are quartered in small windowless bedrooms over the aisle of the Great Hall, although they do have an actual bathing room. There is also access to a minstrels' gallery for the Great Hall; there is a very large gothic window facing south, also a 'peekaboo' from the Long Gallery.
All bedrooms. The Castellan is the official major-domo and administrator for the castle and estate. Bedrooms in the Keep and along the east side housed various relatives of the Baron. And on the south side are quarters for the guests.
The western parapet or wall-walk is lower than the eastern and southern and has three sections. First is the Castellan's private terrace, then there are two stretches separated by a small guard room.
The guard room is now used as an office for the Castellan. In the Keep, are a bedroom for the governess (and often a wet nurse), the children's nursery, and a suite for the Lord and Lady.
Two watch towers cover the west and east sides. Again, there are three segments of wall-walk, only reachable from the southeast stair turret.
Top of the Keep is the Lord's private domain: Gatehouse terrace, personal valet/bodyguard, bedchamber, and dressing room. From a small closet there is a mural stair up to his 'secret' snug and on the northeast is his private study.
Below is a rough layout of the estate