Archaeologists say that this oval shaped, hill-top site was an “early ecclesiastical enclosure”, probably dating back to the 5th or 5th century.
Ballinakill is taken from the Irish townland name of Baile-na-cille, the place of the Church. Little remains of this Church except for the east wall. It is reputed to have been the first gothic Church in Connacht. It had a plain nave and two narrow windows in the east wall, therefore was probably built in the early part of the 13th century.
In the 14th century a chapel was added which was the burial place of the Mac David Burkes. An outstanding feature of this chapel is it’s South window with fine tracery in a flamboyant design. The window was filled in in 1722 when a large inscribed monument to Sir John Burke was set on the inside.
On the inside of the South wall there is a fine limestone effigy to a Norman Knight. He is dressed in armour with a helmet and sword. He was believed to
have been William de Burgo, known as Liam Garbh–William the Rough–for his uncouth ways.
This Castle was the principal residence of Mac David Burke, lord of Clonconway. It was built in the mid 17th century on the site of an earlier Castle. The landed gentry of Ireland at that time were starting to build houses instead of Castles. Really a Tower House, it is an important example of this transformation from castle to house. The plan is unique in Ireland, it was one of the last–if not the last Castles to be built in Ireland.
The castle has some fine architectural features, the most outstanding of which are the two fine chimney shafts, each being a battery of five diagonal stacks which give the Castle a great sense of elegance. The finely sculpted mullioned windows are very well preserved. The plan is a rectangle with two square towers projecting from the south. It was once surrounded by a bawn wall with turrets but little of this now remains.
There was a link between the “Sister” castles of Glinsk and Donamon. Tradition has it that Nuala Ni Finaghty, who was known as “Nuala na Miodoige”, (Nuala of the dagger) murdered her husband and married Sir David De Burgo and that through this unholy alliance, David and his descendants became lords of Clonconway.
The Burkes reign came to an end with the sale of their estates to Mr. Alan Pollock in 1854. When he took control he found there were nearly 600 tenants and “a population approaching 3,000. The Glinsk Baronetcy became extinct when Sir Theobald Burke died on April 4th 1909. In his will he asked to be buried where he died and not the tomb of his ancestors in Ballinakill Abbey.