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17. Lissanover Castle

17. Lissanover Castle

Lissanover or Lisanova is "Lios an Uabhair" in Irish - 'The Fort of Pride'
Site of an ancient Gaelic fortress of part of the McGowran clan and later a large Georgian mansion with a long drive and big gates at the road. The buildings are now completely obliterated and unfortunately nothing is left on the site other than some humps and hollows and a large Ash Tree which grew around one of the old walls, probably of the original McGowran fortress. The Place is often referred to as Castle One Tree. In more recent times it was unusual for large Georgian homes not to have had trees planted around them, particularly at a hill-top site which was open to the wind from all directions.
Photos of the unusual tree are lower on this page here
(Private Property)

According to the folklore story, the Cow of the Widow of Breffny the blood of cattle was used to bind the mortar for the building of the castle although Daniel Gross believed milk was used.

Trinity College Library have several ink wash illustrations, topographical drawings and descriptions by artist and traveller Daniel Grose. Some of the TARA links below may not work, please check this page for local links. The page should open in a new window.

Thumbnail of Grose waterwash drawing of TempleportThumbnail of Grose manuscript in TCD library'Templeport Church & lake from Lisnover House, Co Cavan'. An account of the topography and history of the area.with ink wash drawing of Templeport Lake and St Peter's Church
http://hdl.handle.net/2262/11279 (Transcription below, scroll down)

This is what Daniel Grosse had to say about Templeport and surrounding area in 1835:

“Temple Port Church & Lake from Lisnover House, County of Cavan
We have remarked in our preface, ‘That Cultivation has ascended towards the tops of the mountains in the province of Connaught, particularly on the sides of that of Slieve in Erin and continues along that chain and the one it joins, extending over Swanlinbar far in the County of Cavan.
A beautiful view of part of both these ranges may be obtained from the window of Lisnover house, the seat of John Roycraft Esq.; it is built on a commanding height, overlooking a vast extent of Country, diversified with hill and valley, wood and water. To the west the lands rising into high and picturesque mountains forms a long range, (after leaving that of Slieve-in-Erin) called Quilka, terminating in a lofty peak known by the name of Benaughlin, over the town of Swanlinbar.
About a mile distant to the west, under, it may be said, the foot of the range, lies the romantic Lake of Temple Port, close to which and almost insulated by its waters stands the picturesquely situated Church of Carrick Port, crowning a gentle eminence, sweeping away on every side to the lake, in the midst of lofty and fine old trees. The site of this little church, fascinates the eye the moment it is seen, the little promontory on which it stands shooting into the lake, the rich cultivation about it, the verdure of its shelter, and the surrounding scenery, contrasting with and reflected by the blue waters, forms altogether a picture worthy the study of a Claude, consequently little justice can be done to it on paper.
The lake, tho’ not large, has several Islands, and is surrounded with highly improved lands forming the domains of several beautiful country houses, particularly that of Templeport on its immediate banks, the parsonage house and present abode of the Rev: Mr. Rush, the rector of the parish, embosomed in wood and finely situated.
The mountains that tower over this beautiful little lake may be said to commence their rise from its banks, and are richly cultivated in many places, even to their summits, the lower grounds swelling into hills and heights as they approach their crests; this ridge more to the west is joined by Slieve-in-Erin seen in the extreme distance, in the view here given. (i.e. the sketch looks towards the west from Lissanover House)
The ridge that rises immediately over Templeport (Quilka) can in its interior boast the source of the noble river Shannon, that flows from thence into Lough Allen, from whence it fertilizes and enriches a large portion of the Kingdom, all the way to the Sea.
Lisnover House is built on the site and out of the remains of a Castle that belonged to the antient Irish family of the McGoverans, who had another castle about two miles off situated in a small village, named after the family Bally McGoveran, on the road to Ballinamore: some of the walls in both places remain; at Lisnover composing some of the offices, between twelve and fourteen feet thick; in the village the stump of an old square tower still exists, of equal solidity.
Lisnover signifies in Irish ‘The Fort of Extravagance’ from the following curious circumstance, then owner of this district Baron McGoveran when employed building the Castle, ordered his tenantry to drive their cows every morning and evening to the building, where they were milked, and the produce employed instead of water to make the mortar or cement, with which the erection was carrying on.”

We are thankful to Tom Smith who transcribed Daniel Grose's manuscript.

The piece of old wall in this Ash tree is all that remains of Lissanover Castle
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Glan Gap is just visible in the distance
Cuilcagh Mountain & Glan Gap may be seen in the distance to the North West
Martin Donohoe farms some of the original estate
On the left Oliver Brady who showed me the site and on the right Martin Donohoe who farms the land.
Slieve Anierin is clearly visible in the distance
The Iron Mountain Range terminates at Slieve Anierin
Larger versions of these pictures may be downloaded by clicking on them. They should open in new windows.

Standing Stones near the Old Entrance to Lissanover Castle

Link to Daniel Grose  document.This is what Daniel Grosse had to say about the circle of stones in 1835:

“Remains of a Druidic Temple on the Lands of Lisnover, Co. Cavan. Tho’ the remains of this Druidic Temple, at present consists of but three stones above the surface, yet, that they once formed part of an extensive Circle may easily be perceived; they are raised in a hollow, on an elevation, surrounded by still higher grounds: thus this place of heathen worship conforms to the general rule established by the followers of these mystic rites, which consisted in blood, and much of magic, consequently well adapted to seclusion by preventing the wanderings of the mind, and thus increasing the horror of such unhallowed ceremonies, and impressing the hearts of those mentally blind votaries, who attended on them. The earth is lowered more than a foot, around these stones, indicating that some search for antiquities, or perhaps for hidden treasure, had been made within the circle at their feet, but that was no place to look for instruments or weapons, as the centre of the circle was the site of Sacrifice, and where the holy pillar stood; with its sloping Altar, on which the victim was offered to their infernal deities; it would be difficult to ascertain the true spot here, as time and cultivation has demolished the centre stones, and so much of the circle. The upright pillars that remain, must have a strong hold in the ground, and it may be fairly estimated that at least one third of their height are below the surface, they are of Limestone with which this country abounds. The mountains seen in the extreme distance, are those of the Quilka range, which is terminated by Benaughlin over the town of Swanlinbar in this county.”

Grose must have let his imagination run riot when in Magh Slecht as he then sketched a druid performing a human sacrifice,

“Lines written in the above described Druids Temple, just sketched by the writer.

‘Awake my Muse to sing of Antient days,
Perhaps where now I sit, the victim bled
Before Christianity’s enlight’ning rays
and here in death he bow’d his wretched head;
Imparted living knowledge to the soul;
Viewed his fell murderers with a glazed eye
Or e’er the blood red crosses mild control
And these rude stones reechoed back his sigh:
Had blessed the Emerald Isle, on that dark day
While all unmoved surrounding crowds adore
When cruel superstition held the sway
Heard with a shuddering dread, the mystic worlds or Kingdoms:
And its influence widely spread
Nor with a transient groan his fate depends and on the night bewilder’d millions shed
Now how revers’d the scene, no magic rite a dismal clouds – thick with those rites of blood
No cruel sacrifice appal’s the sight
And deadly mystery; scarcely understood
No human victim here is seen to bleed
By those that used them, veiled in magic lore,
The Christians mind from such dark rites
One by the wily priest might dare explore’
(continued on top of sketch 108 below - Link)
Turns to the Sanguine Cross,-there rests belief,
Finds from his cares a lasting sure relief;
On that he builds his faith:-allay’s his fears
Sheds for his sins, alone repentant tears,
Looks to the great Atonement, finds his cure; Through trust in that; can every ill endure,
Arm’d for the Christian warfare firmly stands,
And sues for pardon at his Masters hands.”
‘None knew the mystic characters used by the Druids, but these priests themselves’ "

We are thankful to Tom Smith who transcribed Daniel Grose's manuscript.

Daniel Grose drew the standing stones near the gateway of Lissanover Castle.

Thumbnail link to Grose Druidic Sacrifice stones at LisnoverInk wash illustration entitled ‘Remains of a Druidic circle, Lisnover, Co Cavan’. Depicts remains of stone circle in landscape

Thumbnail link to Grose Druidic Sacrifice stones.Pen-and-ink sketch of a Druid performing a human sacrificial rite. The Druid wears robes, sandals and a wreath of leaves and advances, with curved blade raised, upon the victim who is tied, half-naked, to a stone within a stone circle.

Here are two recent photos of the stones. It seems that one of the stones has been removed since Daniel was there recording the layout in 1835.
(Private Property but the stones may be seen from the public road.)

This photo was taken looking approximately North -West and would be similar to the view drawn by Daniel Gross in 1835 (Link)

This photo was taken in the opposite direction and is similar to Daniel's imagined view of the human sacrifice. (Link)

The links (in green) immediately above are to the Daniel Grose drawings, the originals are held in Trinity College Library, Dublin. Larger versions of these two photos may be downloaded by clicking on them. They should open in new windows.


Daniel Grose T.C.D.




Last update: 18 June, 2012 11:34