Turin Castle - Kilmaine near Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo

Turin Castle, outside Kilmaine, Co. Mayo

1238 was a dramatic year in the long and turbulent history of County Mayo. We are informed by the Annals of the Four Masters that foreigners erected castles in Conmacnaine Cuile (Kilmaine).

The foreigners were Anglo-Normans, led by Richard de Burgo, son of William de Burgo, who received in 1228, the Overlordship of the whole of Connacht from King, Henry II making Richard the “Red Earl“ the most powerful man in Ireland.

More Irish than the Irish themselves

Until Elizabethan times the de Burgo dynasty survived and flourished when the two hereditary titles of upper and lower Mac William were finally abolished. During this time, the de Burgos had become completely integrated into Gaelic society, adopting Gaelic customs, laws and language, becoming “Hiberniores Hibernis ipis” (more Irish than the Irish themselves).   However, this was the beginning of the end of the old Gaelic order in Ireland and opened the way for the final conquest and plantation of Ireland.


Any traces of the origins of Turin Castle are sadly lost in the mists of time. According to the chronicler O’Donovan, “In the parish of Kilmaine, there are several square castles said to have been built by the Burkes (de Burgos). There is one in Turin, one in Cregduff, one in Elistron and one in Killernan.”

Name and meaning

Turin would appear to derive from the old Irish meaning ‘small bleaching field’. This may suggest that Turin Castle was involved in the very lucrative trade of sheep farming; there was a growing market for hides, meat and wool in continental Europe.

Kilmaine barony

By the mid 16th century, Kilmaine politically and economically was the most important barony in the county and by 1574 there were 41 castles in an area, being the highest concentration of castles in Connacht and an indication that agriculture was on an industrial scale.


These producers were the owners of estates, who would have enjoyed the protection of the upper and lower Mac William. The Mac Williams would profit from the duty imposed, which would probably directly affect the commodity market price in Galway. Keeping the lines of communication open was essential, hence the need for a line of castles protecting the trade route from Lough Mask/Carra/Corrib to Galway.

Following the subjugation and pacification of the Gaelic lords and subsequent plantation of Mayo, many of the castles were abandoned by the new English settlers as they, preferred the comfort of manor houses, and in some cases, incorporating the existing building as occurred in Ballinrobe.

It is known that Turin Castle was abandoned for at least two hundred and fifty years.

It is now restored and in excellent condition see: http://www.celticcastles.com/castles/turin-castle/

Comments about this page

  • Hi Brendan, Dymphna

    My great-great-grandmother’s place of residence when she married in 1866 is given as Turin Castle (her occupation is servant). From newspaper articles it would appear it was in the occupation of George Rutherford at that time.

    I would be interested to hear more background about the evidence that it was abandoned! Could my ancestor have lived and worked in the no-longer-extant ‘Rutherford big house’ with the castle itself being an abandoned building in the grounds?

    By Jonny Perl (05/06/2019)
  • Please note that this article was actually researched and written by me.

    If you make reference to our web-site http://www.turincastle.com you will find it is an exact word for word copy and should therefore not be attributed to Dympna Collins.

    By Brendan Farrell (20/06/2012)

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