This is a National Monument consisting of a tower house with a sixteenth or seventeenth century stone house (ME025-032002-) off-set to the NW and SW. There is a small wing between them that may have served as kitchens and servants quarters for the later house. The buildings are situated on a level landscape now within Navan town, with a SE-NW section of the River Boyne c. 200m to the SW. According to the Civil Survey (1654-6) Lawrence Dowdall owned 200 acres at Athlumney in 1640, and the property included ‘A castle and a large stone howse, a water mill and a tuck mill, two fishing weares, and a church and two open quarries’ (Simington 1940, 62). He also owned almost 180 acres at Allistonread (Alexander Reid) and 40 at Bellis (Bailis) in Athlumney parish (ibid. 62-4). Traditionally, the last occupant was Sir Launcelot Dowdall, who burnt it in despair when he heard the outcome of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (Wilde 1850, 11-12), although Isaac Butler writing in the 1740s, attributed the burning to one of the Maguire family in order to prevent Cromwell from utilising it (1892, 24). The parish church of Athlumney (ME025-031----) is c. 80m to the W and the motte (ME025-033----) is c. 140m to the SW.
The tower-house (ext. dims 10.2m NE-SW; 7.2m NW-SE) has three storeys and an attic with projecting rectangular corner towers. A plain round-headed doorway, now blocked, in the N tower leads directly to a newel stairs that has a cross-loop as a light and rises to a mezzanine level, which has chambers in the NE and NW walls. These are at the level of the NE-SW barrel-vault over the main chamber at the ground floor, but there is no access to the barrel-vault and no evidence that the vault had a loft floor. The original access to the ground floor chamber is by a passage through the W tower that communicates now with a passage in the later house, although a modern doorway in the SW wall leads directly to the ground floor chamber from outside.
The newel stairs in the N tower leads through a round-headed doorway to the first floor over the vault that has enlarged windows in each wall except the NW which has none, and a fireplace in the SE wall. The chambers in the W and E towers have lintelled doorways and barrel-vaults, and there is a garderobe in the S chamber. A mural passage in the SW wall leads down to a chamber in the W tower that commands a murder-hole over the entrance to the ground floor chamber. The newel stairs in the N tower leads through a lintelled doorway to the second floor that that was supported on corbels in the SW and NE walls, and has a window in each wall except the SW which has none. The windows in the NE and NW walls have seats, but there is no fireplace. Lintelled doorways lead to the chambers in the E, S and W towers, that in the S being a garderobe, and a light in the W tower has an ogee-head. The newel stairs in the N tower continues to the wall-walk but the parapet does not survive. There were look-outs over the stairs housing and over the W and E towers, accessed by external stairs, but gables on the NE and SW walls are secondary as they are built over the wall-walks, as might be the case with a fireplace built against the NE face of the W tower.
Archaeological testing (94E0114) by R. Meenan c. 65-90m distant NW-N-SE at the closest point produced no related material (excavations.ie 1994:193). Unlicenced archaeological monitoring by R. Meenan of a service trench under the road between the graveyard and the castles recorded no related material (excavations. ie:1998:500).
The above description is derived from the published 'Archaeological Inventory of County Meath' (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1987). In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
This is a National Monument in state ownership, No. 287.
Compiled by: Michael Moore
Date of revision: 28 June 2016Description Source: Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage