Say ‘I do’ in a fairytale setting at Baltimore Castle

Donna McCarthy and Paul O’Driscoll exchanged their own wedding vows within the 13th century walls of Baltimore’s Dún na Séad castle a week before the pandemic in March 2020 and have since started welcoming other brides and grooms to this medieval venue they are fortunate to call home.

Interestingly, once a stronghold for the O’Driscoll clan, the castle possibly hosted another O’Driscoll-McCarthy marriage at least 400 years prior to this when chieftain Sir Fineen O’Driscoll married a daughter of the local McCarthy clan chieftain. This was the last time the O’Driscoll clan occupied the castle until now. Originally from Yorkshire, Donna’s husband Paul came to West Cork in search of his Irish roots and has since had the honour of holding the title of chieftain of the O’Driscoll clan.

Dún na Séad castle has been in Donna’s family since her parents Patrick and Bernie McCarthy bought the ruin of a building in 1997, extensively researching and sensitively restoring it to reflect its former glory and making it their family home, while also generously opening it to the public. Bernie McCarthy went on to write two books on the history attached to it.

Set on a rock overlooking Baltimore village and harbour, s well as being a popular tourist attraction with self-guided tours, the castle offers a fairytale feel for any kind of wedding or gathering. The great hall, with its two original fireplaces and original dressed sandstone windows and viewing galleries provides an impressive 800-year-old historic backdrop to wedding ceremonies with a capacity for up to 100. With its high acoustic ceilings and long banquet table it is a room that lends itself to sociable occasions: a space for feasting and entertainment, where past and present merge. “Back in the day there would have been harpists and poets entertaining while they feasted,” says Paul. Back then a professional ‘farter’ might also have been a part of the entertainment! Not so popular these days,” he laughs. A drawing hung on one of the castle walls does in fact back up this marvellous occupation.

The enclosed courtyard area or in medieval terms ‘bawn’ offers the opportunity for increased numbers, as there is ample space for a marquee on the grounds.

Donna and Paul held their own small, intimate ceremony in the hall with just family members in attendance. A marquee erected in the bawn hosted the large party and buffet dinner for 180 guests after the service.

“We’re happy to work with the bride and groom to achieve whatever result they desire,” says Donna, who can provide local contacts for wedding services, from flowers to food to music, whatever really is required. Donna and Paul are also happy to organise a champagne reception for guests, leaving the couple time to take wedding photographs.

“An Irish couple held a knot tying ceremony here in June in the old Celtic tradition with traditional Uillinn pies and fiddle for entertainment and beautiful wild flowers from the meadow at Glebe,” shares Donna. ‘Another couple travelled from the UK bringing a classical quartet with them. We had an American couple who held a ceremony here with just themselves.” The space, which has excellent acoustic quality with its double height ceilings, lends itself to all types of celebrations.

Dún na Séad’s location, in picturesque Baltimore village, with Sherkin island only a 10-minute boat trip away makes this the perfect destination wedding. “For many couples, the village becomes the venue for their wedding, not just the castle,” shares Donna. “A lot of parties take a boat trip to Sherkin the day after the wedding, as the Jolly Roger pub can put on food and music.”

 Donna and Paul also run Heritage Walking Tours of Baltimore, sharing tales of the O’Driscoll clan and Algerian pirates and history of Baltimore village and fishing industry.

To enquire about hosting your wedding or event at Dún na Séad castle, call 087 737 4592 or email

WCP Staff

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