Tullaun Castle is a 16th century Gaelic, O’Kennedy tower house located in the townland of Lisquillibeen, Coolbawn, North Tipperary. This majestic, four-storey tower stands on a rock outcrop in the middle of a bog and is bordered by the pretty, crystal-clear Ballycolliton River to the north. It’s in such a scenic location, surrounded by fields, woods and forestry with picturesque Lough Derg about two kms away as the crow flies. From the top floors, the views are magnificent and the ruins of Annagh and Cashlaunteigebocht (Poor Teige’s) Castles (both former O’Kennedy strongholds) can be seen as well as the Devil’s Bit Mountain and Silvermine Mountains. Its rock foundations and inhospitable location are believed to be the reasons why it has stood the test of time so well, considering it hasn’t been inhabited (or altered) since around 1640. In C.T. Cairns’ book he wrote:

It was more common to allow defensive or military criteria to influence the siting of individual castles. Lisquillibeen (Tullaun) is on an island in a bog, and can only be reached by a causeway; others are on islands in lakes and rivers. Others are on hills or precipices. All these features would have made life harder not only for attackers but also for the everyday life of the inhabitants.

O’Donovan and Curry, who produced Ireland’s first Ordanance Survey visited the tower in 1840. The report states:

In the townland of Lisquillibeen in this parish on a rocky hill in the middle of a bog stands a square castle of great strength measuring on the outside 38 feet and 3 inches from east to west and 31 feet from north to south and its walls grouted in seven feet in thickness and now about 50 feet in height but they were originally much higher. The third floor over the ground one rested on a stone arch all the other floors were of wood and have long since disappeared. There is a pointed doorway on the east side and a staircase leads to the top through the thickness of the south wall. The part of the ruin which remained lighted by 20 windows, some rectangular, some round-topped and some pointed all constructed in cut limestone. This castle was built by O’Kennedy to whom it proved a great fortress in its day.

In 1943 there was a survey done by the I.T.A (Irish Tourist Association which then became Bord Failte which then became The Irish Tourist Board!) for potential tourist attractions. This survey reads as follows:

This reasonably well preserved castle stands on the lands of John Costelloe, Lisquillibeen, near Coolbawn Church of Ireland. A peel tower 30×40 ft, approx. sloped at base (batterbase); 60 feet high, four storeys, third of which is vaulted. There are many well-cut limestone windows with neatly carved spandrils. A wide, pointed door in south wall (this is actually in east wall), protected by a “murder hole” (opening for firing down boiling oil and other equally pleasant objects and substances). There are numerous ambries (wall cupboards) and skew loops on all floors, while on 1st and 2nd storeys are well constructed mural passages, in S, W and N lighted by slits and having many holes protecting approach. Sound spiral stairs in S.W (again I disagree as they are in S.E) angle, going full height. Stands in centre of bog, on a natural rocky mote about 20 feet above surrounding field. No care. Approached by sound passage, leading from public road near Coolbawn C of I.

A 1985 survey by The Nenagh District Heritage Society states that:

Great attention was paid to the stone dressing by the masons who constructed Tullaun tower house. The type of dressing generally used is neat pocking and linear pecking. They also engaged in some ornamentation as is indicated by the tulip and torch-like carvings on some of the pointed tops of the window embrasures of the third floor hall.

Unfortunately, at the moment I am unable to confirm the source of the text below (I’m working on it) but I really like it because it is exactly how I felt when I first saw the tower which was as at dusk in the summer of 2006. I think it might also be from the 1985 survey.

The present appearance of this fine and romantic-looking castle suggests the idea that the stream, which runs near the castle, was formally utilised for the purpose of creating an artificial lake around the tulaun or hillock on which the castle is built, this would add to its strength and beauty. A visit to the castle now so lonely impressed the writer with a feeling of surpassing interest the charm and culture seemed to still cling round the upper room of the castle, charming even in decay with no roof but the sky of a summer evening. The walls of this upper room retained an atmosphere of home life which inspired a feeling of intense pleasure and sadness. But the ground floor with its pointed doorways of cut stone is now utilised as cattle shelter

There have been many variations on the spelling such as Tullaghane, Tollaghane, Tuoghane, Tullaghan, Tulaghan and Tullawn over the years. In The Irish language it is thought that tullaghan means “little hill”, “hillock” or “grassy knoll”. Tullaghan also appears to have been an earlier name for the townland of Lisquillibeen. It was also known locally by the rather dramatic name “the Black Castle” as in the past it was cloaked in ivy which gave it a black appearance from a distance. The name Lisquillibeen is thought to originate because of the Danish forts that were built in the area around 500-800 AD (lios=fort in Irish). These were not actually forts but farmsteads.

In the book by Bridie O’Brien How We Were – in the parish of Kilbarron – Terryglass, Co. Tipperary she writes that Tullaun Castle is the jewel among the ruins. The castle is one of only a few of the O’Kennedy castles to have survived the ravages of time. Nearby Annagh, Cashlaunteigebocht, Knigh, Ballyfinboy and Tombrikane are now mere crumbling shadows of their former glory.