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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Monea Castle
- Nick Brannon

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Monea Castle, County Fermanagh - one of the finest Scottish Plantation castles in the north of Ireland. Built for Sir Malcolm Hamilton, a Scottish planter, its Scottish architectural style is very, very striking with its circular tower entrance surrounded by square caps and crow-step battlements.

Visitors to the site will be struck by its location: it stands in unprepossessing land but right next to a small lake which was formerly the site of a crannog (or a man-made island) built by the medieval Irish. ClEarly one would imagine that this land Plantation was tied in to supplanting the Irish and the building of the castle here, next to the lake, was in itself a symbolic act.

The castle was attacked in 1641 and captured and damaged, but was restored and used for decades later. It stands within its own bawn or fortified enclosure, and visitors to the bawn will see that one of its corner towers was used as a pigeon or a dove house with small embrasures for the nesting birds.

The interior of the castle is an amazing sight. The floors inside it have now gone, but it is clear from close examination that this must have been almost like a huge dungeon at ground-floor level, with a big stone vault over it: and if one looks carefully at the way the door is opened, one sees that the door is only ever opened outwards - in other words, towards the entrance. Anybody attacking could not force the doors open inwards.

When one gets upstairs it becomes more air and light with a large hall, and sleeping and other guest chambers. So there’s a striking contrast between the grim aspect of the kitchens and vaults at ground floor level, and the movement of space and light at first-floor level and above.
 

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