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History of Glenstal

The word “Glenstal” means The Glen of the Stallion, and is an English rendering of the Irish Gleann Stail. The glen is a very impressive geological feature, consisting of a mile-long valley, formed during the last ice-age. It is rich in all kinds of wild flowers, but is especially famous for its Killarney Fern.

Glenstal is a Norman Revivalist Castle, with a Windsor-style round tower, all fronted with an impressive facade and Norman gate-house. The main building faces south, and commands an unbroken view of some thirty miles towards the Galtee Mountains. It is built on a height of some three hundred feet above sea-level, and can be seen from many miles away. It was designed by William Bardwell, an English architect, who evidently intended Glenstal to look like a twelfth-century castle, for when he inscribed his name on the turret Bardwell me fecit (Bardwell made me), he added the date 1839, but cut in such a way as to look like 1139.

The name Murroe means ‘The Red Plain’, from the sandstone deposits commonly found in the district. Glenstal Castle is built with a red sandstone, as are also the local Church of Ireland and Catholic churches. The building of Glenstal Castle by the Barringtons in the 1830s meant an influx of tradesmen and artisans, who settled near the entrance to the estate, and thus formed the nucleus of the present village. In former times the principal centre of the parish was Abington, about a mile to the south-east of Murroe. Thus Murroe is a fairly modern village, and it achieved further status when it was chosen as the place for the district Dispensary and Post-Office about the same time as the Barringtons settled in Glenstal. Murroe had its own monthly fairs, a court-house where quarterly sessions were held throughout the nineteenth century and, indeed, right up to the 1950s, two schools, modernised and enlarged by the Barringtons in 1852, and a very attractive forge, the centre of village life in the days when the horse was the chief means of transport. Murroe has one other claim to distinction in that it must be the only village in Ireland which, up to recent times, had only one public-house. The Barringtons were responsible for this particular restriction!