2013:029 - Carrickabraghy, Donegal

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Donegal Site name: Carrickabraghy

Sites and Monuments Record No.: DG003-002 Licence number: 12E283 EXT.

Author: Richard Crumlish

Site type: Castle


ITM: E 639834m, N 952293m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 55.316055, -7.372470

A second season of excavation was carried out between 26 September and 9 October 2013 in advance of further conservation works at Carrickabraghy Castle, Isle of Doagh, Co. Donegal. Carrickabraghy Castle is sited on a rocky promontory on the north-west coast of the Isle of Doagh, near the mouth of Trawbreaga Bay. The extant ruins were probably constructed in the 16th century. The castle was unoccupied by 1665. The remains of Carrickabraghy Castle are a square keep, attached circular tower with attached east-west orientated wall, a north-south orientated wall which abuts the east-west orientated wall and the stump of a second tower located 40m south-south-east of the keep. The first season of excavation was carried out within the interior of the keep and adjacent to the exterior of its south wall in September 2012 (Licence No. 12E283?), in advance of the conservation of the keep.
This season’s excavation concentrated on the attached circular tower, thought to have been constructed in the 17th century. The brief agreed with the National Monuments Service was the excavation of two areas to recover rubble for use in the subsequent conservation works and the recording of any archaeological features/deposits revealed during the course of the excavation.
The two areas were excavated manually. Area C consisted of the interior of the circular tower and measured 3.55m in east-north-east/west-south-west by 3.25m. It was excavated to a maximum depth of 0.45m. Area D was located along the south-east exterior of the circular tower and measured 5.5m east-north-east/west-south-west by 3.1-4m north north-west/south south-east. It was excavated to a maximum depth of 0.75m. Neither area was fully excavated.
The excavation revealed three broad phases at the site. The occupation of the circular tower in the 17th century, the post-occupation period from the late 17th century up to the middle of the 20th century and the period since the collapse of a section of the circular tower wall in the 1950s.
The occupation phase was represented by a possible mortar floor surface and a fill below it in Area C, the tower wall in Areas C and D, and footings of the tower wall and an adjacent cobbled surface in Area D. The post-occupation phase was represented by a wall which bisected the interior of the tower, two layers below the same wall which contained modern artefacts, a rough stone surface and wind-blown accumulations of sand in Area C and by topsoil above the cobbles in Area D. The wall and rough stone surface in Area C appeared to be evidence of the tower’s use as an animal shelter during this phase. The period since the collapse was represented by the sod and the rubble collapse below it in both areas.
Bedrock outcropped in both areas and was a factor in the siting of the castle here. It was also a major contributory factor in the collapse of a section of the wall of the circular tower in the 1950s. The section of wall which collapsed was constructed at the edge of a steep drop in the bedrock and may well have slipped off in combination with other factors such as structural weakness and/or an extreme weather event.
The majority of the finds were modern, however, ten sherds of Medieval Ulster Coarse Pottery were recovered from the surface of the cobbles and nine worked flints were also recovered. Three of the flints were stray finds, while the remaining six came from the post-occupation phase of the site. The flint was readily available on a small beach adjacent to the site and was worked to a basic level. Two stray finds of medieval Ulster coarse pottery and late Saintonge were also recovered.

4 Lecka Grove, Castlebar Road, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo