This ruin of a once fine house had its history originate with George Moore a very wealthy merchant in the brandy and wine business trading in Spain. Upon selling his business in 1784 he returned to Ireland. George wanted to use some of his fortune to construct a fine mansion to be named aptly Moore Hall. He bought property on Muckloon Hill near Lough Carra but was repeatedly advised that it was a known to be a cursed place deriving from the story of the death of the King of Connacht Brian Orbsen in the fifth century. When Orbsen was killed his druid Drithliu fled and went into hiding on Muckloon Hill but to no avail he was hunted down and killed. George scoffed at these tales and in 1790 began the construction of the mansion. Nine years later he met a bad end when he initially went blind then died as a result of a stroke. His Son John who had been arrested during the rebellion in 1798 in which he took part died shortly later while being transported to the West Indies. Some said George should have heeded the warnings. Descendants who continued to live in Moore Hall included the famous writer George Augustus Moore who entertained many renowned people there. The house was occupied until 1910 and then went under stewardship. During the civil war in 1923 it was destroyed by fire set alight by members of the old IRA who arrived at the estate in the form of a mob and who objected to the then owner Maurice Moore’s stance on being pro treaty. There was a concerted campaign on these big houses during the conflict and Moore Hall was unlucky to be one of them. The house was completely gutted and never reconstructed. The curse continued. Today the lands are in state ownership and run by the forestry commission Coillte. As with many Coillte sites parts of the forests are available to the public for walking and this is also the case with Moore Hall’s estate.
A car park at the edge of Lough Carra is the starting point and when we visited we took the track the furthest from the entrance way which leads directly to the ruins in a short walk of a few minutes.
The atmosphere in the woods is one of silence. Rarely did I even hear birdsong along the route. The rough track eventually opens out to the large copse in which the ruins stand. Large stone steps lead up to the portico and the now gated up doorway. The bare window frames like eyeless sockets seem to glare on the modern world with some disdain. Access to the interior has now been prohibited because of incidents in the past of falling masonry. You can still look inside through the doorway and some of the windows and see what a large interior it had although the trees and vegetation now curl around corners and cling to the brickwork. I have seen pictures of this house when it was still occupied and it was indeed a fine building and even now its stonework is quite solid but the building itself has become quite stark and derelict and seems to loom over you almost balefully.
We took a walk around the rear of the building and discovered that a tunnel lay beneath our feet accessed on either side of the building at basement level. This was apparently a carriage tunnel for deliveries to the house and kitchens. In the centre of the tunnel a wooden gate gives a rear view of the house but when I tried to access I got bogged down in mud made worse by rainfall the night before. Indeed the tunnel was haunted by sounds of dripping rainwater and had a distinctly unpleasant atmosphere. I ventured no further as I really did feel I was not alone in there. Interestingly the cellar I believe is home to a colony of Lesser Horseshoe Bats which are a protected species. I would have really liked to have seen some but none were apparent in the tunnel area that I managed to traverse. They are nocturnal creatures and tend to keep hidden away. The bats are not the only fauna at Moore Hall. Legend has it that a Peist roams the water of lough Carra. (A Peist being a large serpentine creature) This folklore only adds more atmosphere to an already mysterious location. A family out walking passed through while we visited breaking the silence with jovial conversation but as soon as they left the house and its surrounds returned to that almost tangible quiesience that we had experienced since our arrival.
An atmospheric visit then to a type of ruin that is usually tucked away from public view on private land. Many thanks go to Coillte for allowing access to this historic yet creepy manse.
To find the ruin of Moore Hall you need to take a trip down a few back roads. Entering Ballinrobe from the Castlebar direction you will see a large Pylon on your right and a shop ahead at a junction with a sign “Pete’s PC’s”. Turn left at the shop onto the High Street (L1607) and drive for approx. 6.5KM until you reach a crossroads with some large sheds on your left hand side. There are signs pointing left to Lough Carra and Moorehall. Turn left at the crossroads and it will be a 5KM drive to your destination. After 1.5KM of this section of your trip you will turn on a sharp right bend. Drive on for another 2KM and you will cross over a stone bridge known as Annie’s Bridge. 300m after the bridge the road takes a sharp bend right and 400m beyond this is a left hand turn with a sign pointing towards Burriscarra Abbey. Turn left here and drive alongside the north shore of Lough Carra for approx. 1KM until you see an entry way to a car park. It is clearly signposted “Welcome to Moore Hall”. In the car park there are two entrance trails to the forest. Take the one furthest from the road entrance at the end of the car park.