Ballincollig Castle, located about a mile south-west of Ballincollig, was built during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). It sits on an isolated limestone rock in the midst of a gently undulating plain, with a clear line of sight over the low land of the Maglin Valley.
“The castle, built in an irregular quadrangle, consists of a large fortified’ bawn and a slender keep of about forty feet in height. The latter stands at the east side of the bawn and is vaulted inside. The chambers are of uncommonly small dimensions, measuring in length five feet, and breadth four feet, each occupying the entire internal space. The ascent is by a narrow and difficult stone staircase, which as it approaches the upper apartment becomes spiral and more inconvenient. Of the enclosing walls of the bawn, that to the south was defended by a tower in the centre, and another at the south-east angle; the latter being vaulted, and lit by loops. A portion of the north wall is perforated by a range of four windows of irregular dimensions, two are double-headed lancets, one a single lancet, and a fourth an oblong loop. The buildings which this lit have disappeared”.
Baile an Chollaigh (the place of the wild boar) can be found just six miles south-west of Cork City, at the southern end of what once was “Barrett’s Country”. The parish of Carrigrohane (where Ballincollig sits) had once been owned by de Cogan. Having possessed Carrigrohane Castle from about 1363 until their eviction in 1436, the Barretts needed a new castle in the area. So, they purchased nearby Ballincollig and built the castle there in 1468.17
Other Barrett Castles, that once stood nearby, were Castle Inch (about a mile above Ballincollig) and Cloghan McUlick (about 2–3 miles south or south-west of Ballincollig). Castle Inch was located at Iniscarra. The exact location of Cloghan McUllick is not certain. Some historians suggest it was renamed Sarsfield’s Grange in 1606 but there is some doubt about this. All that remains today is the townland of Grange (south-west of Ballincollig).
From what records show, Ballincollig Castle seems to be the most notable Barrett stronghold in Cork, from 1468 until the purchase of Castle Barrett in the early 1600’s.
1600: William Barrett, of Ballincollig, submitted to the Queen’s mercy, having been concerned in Desmond’s rebellion.
In the Carew Calendar, 28 November 1611, Sir Dominic Sarsfield wrote to Lord Carew: “Ballincollig is entailed and was purchased in the 8th year of Edward IV (1468/9) from Robert Coil, a knight. Deed of entail in my own lands”.
1612: Andrew Barrett was one of the county representatives in parliament. The last recognised Chief-of-Name used Ballincollig as his residence and principal Barrett stronghold until the early 17th century, when all was lost.
May 1642: this castle was taken by Cromwell, probably about the same time that Barrett’s other castle of Carrigrohane was taken.
In the War of the Revolution, it was garrisoned for James II and suffered heavy damage in the aftermath. The original keep still remains, as does most of the curtain wall and two towers set therein. Beneath the castle, there is a dark natural cavern which runs into the rock and around it the remains of a moat. Today the castle is in private ownership.