Kilclief Castle

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Kilclief Castle

County Down

Kilclief Castle, Geograph.jpg
Kilclief Castle
Type: Tower house
Grid reference: J59724575
Location: 54°19’41"N, 5°33’14"W
Village: Kilclief
Owned by: (State care)

Kilclief Castle is a tower-house castle on the Lecale peninsula of County Down, standing beside Strangford Lough, two and a half miles south of the village of Strangford. It is found at Kilclief, a hamlet of historical value on the Strangford to Ardglass road.

This kind of tower-house is sometimes called the gatehouse type, because of its similarity to a castle gatehouse. It is among the oldest tower houses in Lecale. Today it is a State Care Historic Monument.[1]


Kilclief Castle was the earliest tower-house in Lecale, and was built between 1412 and 1441.[2]

Kilclief Castle was originally occupied by John Sely, who is said to have built the castle. John Sely was Bishop of Down from 1429 to 1443, when he was ejected and deprived of his offices for living there with Lettice Whailey Savage, a married woman.

The building was garrisoned for the Crown by Nicholas FitzSymon and ten warders from 1601 to 1602.


The castle is tall with four floors. The first floor is vaulted in stone, with two projecting turrets. One (to the south-east) contains a spiral stair and the other (to the north-east) a series of garderobes (latrines) with access from three of the four floors. These projecting turrets are joined at roof level by a high machicolation arch[3] covering a drop-hole for dropping missiles on unwelcome visitors below. There are stepped battlements.

As at Jordan's Castle in Ardglass, the ground floor chamber has a semicircular barrel vault built on wicker centering. On the second floor a 13th-century coffin-lid from a nearby church was reused as a lintel for the fireplace. The two-light window in the east wall is a modern reconstruction based on a surviving fragment.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Kilclief Castle)


  1. List of State Care Monuments (Historic Environment Division)
  2. O'Neill, B (ed).: 'Irish Castles and Historic Houses' (Caxton Editions, 2002) p. 10
  3. O'Neill, B (ed). (2002). Irish Castles and Historic Houses. London: Caxton Editions. p. 10. 
  • Historic Monuments of Northern Ireland, Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. HMSO, Belfast, 1983.
  • Donnelly, JP & Donnelly, MM.: 'Downpatrick & Lecale; A Short Historical Guide' (1980)
  • Guide to National & Historic Monuments of Ireland. Harbison, P. Gill & Macmillan, Dublin. 1992.
  • Leask, HG.: 'Irish Castles & Castellated Houses' (Dundalgan Press (W Tempest) Ltd, 1941 ed.; reprint 1986)
  • McNeill, T.: 'Castles in Ireland' (Routledge, 1997)
  • Mills, JF.: 'The Noble Dwellings of Ireland' (Thames & Hudson, 1987)