The Hen's Castle
AT the head of Lough Corrib, deep in the water about a gunshot from the land, stands the ancient castle of Caisleen-na-Cearca, said to have been built in one night by a cock and a hen, but in reality it was founded by the ill-fated Roderick O'Connor, the last king of Ireland. Strange lights are sometimes seen flitting through it, and on some particular midnight a crowd of boats gather round it, filled with men dressed in green with red sashes. And they row about till the cock crows, when they suddenly vanish and the cries of children are heard in the air. Then the people know that there has been a death somewhere in the region, and that the Sidhe have been stealing the young mortal children, and leaving some ill-favoured brat in the cradle in place of the true child.
The old castle has many historic memories; the celebrated Graina Uaile, the great chieftainess of the West, made it her abode for some time, and carried thither the young heir of Howth, whom she had abducted from Howth Castle, when on one of her piratical expeditions. Afterwards, during the Wars of Elizabeth, a distinguished lady of the sept of the O'Flaherties, Bevinda O'Flahertie, shut herself up there with her only daughter and heiress, and a following of twenty resolute men. But further to ensure her safety, she wrote to the Queen, requesting permission to arm the guard; Queen Elizabeth in return sent an autograph letter granting the request, but addressed to "her good friend, Captain Bevan O'Flahertie," evidently thinking that the custodian of such a castle must certainly be a man.
In the solemn solitude of this picturesque and stately Caisleen-na-Cearca, the great lake fortress of Lough Corrib, with its rampart of purple mountains and its water pathway fifty miles long, the young heiress grew up tall and beautiful, the pride of the west. And in due time she married Blake of Menlo Castle. And from this historic pair is descended the present baronet and owner of the property, Sir John Blake of Menlo.
Cromwell ruthlessly dismantled the castle, and it has remained a ruin ever since; but the massive walls, and the beautiful twelfth century ornamentation of doors and windows still attest the ancient grandeur of the edifice, before "the curse of Cromwell fell upon it, and upon the country and on the people of Ireland.