Ballymote, begun in 1300, was the last and the mightiest of the Norman castles in Connaught. It was built some distance from an earlier motte by Richard de Burgo, the great Red Earl of Ulster, in order to protect his newly won possessions in Sligo. Almost square in plan with massive round towers at each angle, it is the most symmetrical of all the Irish “keepless” castles and bears an unmistakable resemblance to the inner ward of Beaumaris in Anglesea. There was a formidable double-towered gate in the centre of the north wall; recent excavations revealed that the gate towers, now largely demolished, were protected by a double skin of external walling. A postern gate planned for the centre of the south wall was never completed, probably because of the events of 1317, when the castle was lost to the O’Connors. Possession of the castle from 1317 until 1584 alternated between the O’Connors and the MacDonaghs.
A lack of occupation levels implies that the building was virtually abandoned during these years. In 1584 it was taken by the notorious governor of Connaught, Richard Bingham, and remained an English base until lost to Red Hugh O’Donnell in 1598. It was here that O’Donnell assembled his forces on route to Kinsale in 1601.
In 1652 the castle was surrendered by the Taaffes to parliamentary forces, and in 1690 it was captured by the Williamites, who soon afterwards had it dismantled and the moat filled in.