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Castle Espie, County Down


Ir. Caistéal an Easpaig ‘castle of the bishop’


On W shore of Strangford Lough, 3km SE of Comber

par: Tullynakill bar: Castlereagh Lower

A document which claimed to list the Bishop of Down’s see lands in 1210 was probably drawn up in the 15th century, and said that Indrasaig Mac Cahuil, then ruling in Blawico (i.e. round Newtownards) gave the bishop and the Church of Down the island of Nedron, with 4 other islands lying next to it.  Indrasaig also gave the bishop Balledrun, now Ballydrain on the mainland, with 14 carucates of land.  Castle Espie townland must have been one of these, and might have contained some sort of large building associated with him.  Interestingly, Ballydrain (Baile Draighin ‘townland of blackthorn’) seems to have been translated as Castra Spinarum ‘castle of thorns’ in a rental of the Bishop’s property in 1305 (O’Laverty I 366).  The first reference to the name Castle Espie seems to be Ballecaslanespick in 1623, Hamilton MSS xlviii, then Castell Nespeg on the Raven Maps of Clandeboye, c. 1625 (Castle Espicke in BSD, 1661).  There are no clear remains of a stone castle (ASCD 262), but the site was used for brickworks in the 19th century.  O’Laverty quotes a Sr Cusack who described the Castle Espie ‘ruins…. lying in a large rath on the western shore of Strangford Lough’. O’Laverty often inspected historic sites himself, as can be seen from details he adds to the accounts in Reeves or the OS Memoirs, but there is no indication here (O’Laverty i 369, 1878).


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 38; K. Muhr, 2009

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
Castlespick1617CPR Jas I 326a
Castell Nespeg1625cRaven Map Clandeboye 50
(?) quarter Mc. Enespick1645Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car. I
Castelspie1659cCensus 1659 88
Castle Espicke1661BSD 126
Castlereagh Lower
Parish in 1851
Place name ID
Place name type