2 : South Dublin Coast

      The increasing influx of tourists to this popular seaside resort coupled with the unsuitably of the stony beach led to the construction of the Bray esplanade to stem coastal erosion and prevent flooding and the Martello tower already badly damaged was demolished. This tower was twinned with tower No.2 providing cross-fire and enabling signals to be sent further north along the coast to other towers on the Bray coast and onwards to the towers at Killiney and Dalkey with further relays to the barracks near Sandymount tower. Now a private residence, close to Bray Dart Station.

Bray No.1 South

The South Dublin coastline, particularly Killiney Bay was considered by the British to be more vulnerable to a French invasion and this is demonstrated by the decision to set up a large military camp at Loughlinstown in 1795. This camp was closed in 1802, the 1798 rebellion had been quelled and the treaty of Amiens in 1802 had brought about a temporary peace. However, when war broke out again in 1803 the authorities erected 16 Martello towers some backed up by batteries on the coastline south of Dublin between Sandymount and Bray in County Wicklow at strategic locations.. The selected locations of the towers were at Bray(4), Killiney (4), Dalkey Island (1), Bullock/Glasthule (1), Sandycove (1), Dún Laoighaire (2), Seapoint (1), Booterstown (1), and Sandymount (1). Only two of the proposed four towers at Killiney were constructed.

The towers on the south side of Dublin were numbered from one to sixteen commencing at Bray. Only nine of the towers remain standing to-day. Two have been restored as Museums (Sandycove and Seapoint), four are restored as private residences, one on Dalkey Island is in good condition and two (Sandymount and Booterstown) have been kept well maintained and not in use at present.

The seven towers that no longer exist are:

Tower No. 1 Bray Beach, near where the Esplanade Bandstand is now.
Tower No. 3 Corke Abbey on strand north of Bray.
Tower No .4 Bray Mahera Point Killiney Bay.
Tower No. 5 Shanganagh Cliffs (Battery only constructed )
Tower No. 8 Ballybrack now site of old Killiney rail station.(Battery only)
Tower No.12 Dún Laoighaire/Glasthule site of People’s Park.
Tower No.13. Dún Laoighaire Harbour vicinity.

No.2 Bray Beach, Co.Wicklow
Bray is a seaside town in north County Wicklow situated about 20km (12 miles) south of Dublin City. Only one of the four towers built in the Bray area still exists. Overlooking Bray harbour Tower No.2 is in good condition and used as a private residence. Tower No.1 was demolished in 1884 after being badly damaged by high seas in a storm in 1878 and Tower No.3 on the Strand at Corke Abbey that was built on soft rock collapsed into the sea in 1880. It is fortunate that tower No.2 at Bray was saved as the rail line, now electrified runs less than 100 feet behind the tower and is very near the Dart Station.


Tower No.4 at Mahera Point fell into the sea due to coastal erosion .
The tower listed as No.5 was only a Battery and the ruins are still in place. Tower No.6, also known as the Enoch tower at Shanganagh( Killiney Beach) is undergoing restoration as part of a private residence and tower No.7 on Killiney Hill has been restored including the battery and placement of the cannon on the roof of the tower. The battery No.8 at Ballybrack became the site for the first Killiney rail station and this building still exists converted for use as a private residence.


No.6 Killiney Beach Enoch Tower.
This tower viewed from Killiney beach is almost concealed by a mound and shrubbery on the perimeter of the grounds where the tower stands. At first sight it appears to be a two storey round conservatory but on closer inspection the tower is a base for this structure.. A roofless building nearby is probably the remains of the Battery.
Planning permission has been applied to build a residence on this site, incorporating the tower. An impressive design has been drawn up and when completed will be a prominent building to be seen on Killiney beach beside the impressive castle type buildings that already exist nearby.

No.7 Killiney – Killiney Hill
Between Dalkey and Bray the rocky coastline becomes mountainous, yet on the shoreline is the long sandy beach of Killiney. From the rugged hills backing the beach, panoramic views can be obtained of Dublin Bay and the Dublin Mountains.
Since the beginning of the 18th century Killiney was much sought after by the gentry and wealthy business people as a prime location to build their castles and mansions. Residing in Killiney held a status value and this has been maintained up to the present day.
The decision to erect towers at Killiney and Dalkey was greatly influenced by the British to have this section of the coastline well defended. Up to 1797 there was a large military camp at Loughlinstown with a compliment of 4,000 soldiers and such was their state of readiness they had marched to Bantry in 1796 in 3 days to prepare to engage the French when news of the attempted invasion reached Dublin. Fortunately, the
To-day many of the castles and mansions still remain in excellent condition having been carefully maintained over the years and those interested severe winter storm scattered the French fleet and the attempt was abandoned.
The camp was then dismantled and on the resumption of the war with France in 1803.
Major la Chausse, a Frenchman in the English Army drew up new defensive plans and these were to position Martello towers and gun batteries at Bray, Dalkey and Killiney, Sandycove, Seapoint, Dun Laoighaire, Booterstown and Sandymount.
This alliance was self motivated as a defeat of the French could lead to a return of his high position held before the Revolution. For a complete illustrated guide and individual historic comment, it would be recommended to refer to the publication “Between the Mountains and the Sea” Peter Pearson Dun Laoighaire-Rathdown Council. The front jacket end papers illustration is from Harvey’s panoramic views of County Dublin c.1850 and shows the locations of Martello towers from Bray to Dublin Port. The locations of some of the Towers that were demolished to make way for the Bray – Dublin rail line are also shown on this map.
An important significant advantage in the construction of the Martello towers along the south coast of Dublin in the Dalkey area was the presence of rock so near the surface and the large number of quarries that operated there. The rock was granite and the quarries supplied stone for the construction of the towers and also the construction of the great South Wall at the mouth of the River Liffey

When the decision was made to build Dun Laoighaire harbour a large quarry was opened on Dalkey Hill in 1815 and for this huge project a small railway was built between Dalkey and Dun Laoighaire to draw the stone. Part of the iron track known as “the metals” still exist. When it was officially decided to extend the rail line from Dun Laoghaire to Dalkey a new concept in railways designed by Robert Mallet was built and this was called “the Atmospheric Railway”, already tried and tested in London and Paris.
It was based on the principal of suction of atmospheric pressure drawn through a tube positioned between the rails that operated a piston linked to the train. There was an engine house at Barnhill Road with a tall chimney that was a landmark in Dalkey for many years.

A detailed description of this system directly related to the Dalkey railway can be further obtained from the Irish Rail and the Dalkey homepage websites, also by contacting The Old Bray Society. The railway operated for ten years but was eventually scrapped due to the high cost of maintenance.

No.9 Dalkey Island
Dalkey Island lies offshore about a quarter of a mile from Dalkey Harbour. On the south-east of the Island can be seen the remains of a gun battery and adjoining on higher ground is the Martello Tower. The tower is in a prominent position and can be seen clearly from Howth Peninsula almost twelve miles to the north-east across Dublin Bay. Silhouetted against the sky, the tower is in a sentinel position and also in view of south-side towers from Sandymount to Bray. The tower is in good condition although the floor has collapsed and a visit to the island attracts an ever increasing number of tourists that take the short boat trip across from Dalkey during the Summer season. The tower on Dalkey Island was built in 1804, and on its completion, the signalling station at Dalkey was transferred to it from the semaphore on top of Dalkey Hill. This tower has no machicolations and is classified as a double tower, originally equipped with 2 guns.
The ruins of an old church remain on the Island dedicated to Saint Begnet or Benedict, the Patron saint of the Parish.
Accounts of the illustrious history of the Island have been documented by Weston St.John Joyce: The Neighbourhood of Dublin : Execution of Pirates: the ceremony and coronation of the King of Dalkey and the festivities that surrounded this event.

No.10 Glasthule ( Baltra, Harbour Road, Dalkey.)
Approaching Dalkey from Bullock Harbour via Harbour Road and at the brow of the hill on the left hand side is a large private housing complex accessed by electrified security gates. The tower can be seen from this point and a closer view would require permission or the co-operation of a resident who chanced to be entering or leaving as was in my case when I explained I needed a photograph of the tower for my collection. The tower is on high ground and surrounded by a 10ft.stone cut wall with iron gates so a close-up photograph was not possible. Parked outside was a van belonging to a building restoration company and workers could be seen about the tower that confirmed that earlier reports of the tower being restored were true. This Tower is now fully restored.

Of the nine remaining towers on the South side, three are being restored, two are in use as museums (Sandycove and Seapoint), and three are not in use, the towers on Dalkey Island, Sandymount, and Booterstown, The tower at Bray is in use as a private residence. In all restoration processes, particularly in these prime residential locations, strict planning conditions are applied and any additions to the towers to make them suitable for private -residences must be complied with before permission is granted by the Planning Authority.

Obviously, all towers were disarmed before the military abandoned or sold the towers. At the beginning of the 20th.Centuary, some of the towers were sold for prices ranging from £10 to £400. At the beginning of the 21ST.the same towers are selling for huge prices ranging from 1 million to 3 million Euro and additional large sums must also be expended on restoration works.(…obviously before the Recession 1)

No.11 Sandycove – the James Joyce Tower‘The tower at Sandycove is typical of the twenty- six towers built to the North and South of Dublin. The construction of the sixteen towers between Dublin and Bray was authorised by the Defence Act of 1804 and work began immediately.

On the ground floor of the tower, only accessible by the spiral stairway from the floor above, were the magazine and artillery store, where barrels of gun-powder and cases of shot were kept. The partition door was sheeted in copper, with a copper lock and key to avoid striking sparks. A trapdoor in the ceiling led to the room above. Other supplies were kept in the open side of the room, where there was a fireplace with two narrow shafts through the wall to admit limited light and air. Since 1978 the open side has been partitioned off and the store area opened up with a new doorway at ground level.
The round room at the next level was the main living area. The size of the garrison could vary from four to as many as twelve or eighteen men with a sergeant or officer in charge. There was a fire for warmth and later a small stove for cooking. As in the room below, the window shafts were angled to stop a chance cannon-shot entering.. An iron loop in the ceiling, directly above the trapdoor to the storeroom, enabled heavy loads to be hoisted up by pulley.
The massive outer door was reinforced with sheet metal, bolts and bars, against determined attackers. A second door inside was overlooked by an aptly-titled Murder Hole in the machicolation above. As in most of the towers the door- the weakest point of the building- faces away from the sea and the threat of ship’s cannon. The removable ladder was later replaced by a fixed one.
On the roof is a circular gun deck with metal tracks and a central swivel, where a gun carriage was mounted on a traversing platform. The eighteen-pounder cannon could fire a round shot over one and a half kilometres; with canister (a can of musket balls that sprayed out when fired) the range was about 200 metres. The shot was heated in the furnace at the top of the stairs for extra effect against wooden ships. Ropes would have been passed through the iron rings inside the parapet to secure the gun carriage or to assist in the laborious task of hauling the gun to the top of the tower.
The machicolation over the front contained musket slits for defending the tower at closer quarters. The Sandycove tower, now known as the James Joyce Tower and Museum, has been extended by adding a large curved single storey reception and exhibition area.
A gun battery was also built beside the Tower and old Kirkwood engravings show a tall flagstaff rising from the centre of the battery. A similar mast can be seen at the old telegraph station on Dalkey Hill and they were used to send messages by means of flags.(Semaphore system).

(Reproduction of the Tower Information taken from an old framed poster on display inside The Sandycove-James Joyce Tower).

‘The Tower and adjoining Battery were occupied by the Army until 1904 when Oliver St.John Gogarty, then a medical student, but already well known as a poet and wit, became the towers first civilian tenant. During the tenancy many of the leading literary figures of the day visited the tower’
Joyce’s novel Ulysses firmly established the fame of the tower. The opening scene takes place at the top of the tower with “stately, plump Buck Mulligan” coming from the stairhead. A visit to this tower is to be recommended as many of the features of Martello Towers can be seen here, preserved, as they were when the tower was constructed; the spiral stone staircase. Original layout, fireplace and cooking stove, shot furnace and roof gun pivot and swivel track”.




No. 12 , No.13. Dún Laoighaire
The completion of the new Dún Laoighaire harbour that was started in 1815 heralded the beginning of the building of a new town.. The harbour consisted of two long granite piers known as the East Pier and West Pier. In the construction process of the rail line from Queenstown (old name for Dún Laoighaire) it was necessary to demolish a Martello tower and in the passing of time, the towers exact location is unclear. The claim is that the tower was built on the site of the old ‘dun’ and in 1930 when further work was being carried out at the harbour, two small stones with pre-Christian decorations were dug up and led many people to believe they were relics of the original ‘dun’ and gave some credence to the views that the Martello tower was built on the site where the relics were found. This is still disputed by historians who point out that no traces were found when the same site was excavated in 1836.

The second tower at Dún Laoighaire was located at the present site of the Peoples Park and was demolished and the rubble used to fill in a nearby quarry. The long main street was originally the link road between the two towers.


No.14 Seapoint
The tower at Seapoint officially called Martello tower No.14 is adjacent to a popular bathing place for Dubliners and on the seaward side of the tower many bathing shelters were built to accommodate the swimmers. It is located approx. 4 m from the high water mark of Dublin Bay. Other buildings have also been built nearby, a lifeguard station and public toilets.
In the year 2000, the tower was selected for a decay study and classified as intact, featuring mild stone decay and generally in good condition with little evidence of decay forms normally associated with historic buildings close to urban centers.
The tower at Seapoint was recently refurbished and equipped and was used as the headquarters of the Genealogy Society of Ireland but damp conditions prevailed inside the tower and this location was found to be unsuitable for the storage of archive material and manuscripts.
The entrance to the first floor of the tower is by a stone stairway with the ground floor accessed by a stone stairwell in the thick walls of the tower.
Originally troops entered by way of ladders which were drawn up to prevent access by intruders – such mode of entrance was common with all towers with the exception of a few that were surrounded by a moat and entrance was by a drawbridge which was lowered and raised by rope. Access to each floor is by a stone-cut spiral stairs in the interior of its thick walls. This spiral staircase leads also to the roof which is of cut stone that was prepared at the big quarry at Dalkey.
Full details of the restoration process and membership can be seen on the Genealogy Society’s website with information about the new Headquarters.



No.15 Booterstown (Williamstown)
Unlike many of the south Dublin towers, the tower at Booterstown does not feature a machicolation but instead has murder holes above the western doorway within the continuous corbelled courses of the parapet level. At present the tower is not occupied and has had past uses as a sports dressing room. The tower is located on a large grassed area bordered by a coastal walkway and has suffered at the hands of graffiti artists, although capable of being cleaned , it is regrettable that the cleaning operation is difficult to perform successfully without leaving staining on the granite stone.

The rail line from Dublin to Bray, created in 1834, emerged at the coast at Merrion and at Booterstown was constructed offshore across to Blackrock, and this resulted in marshlands being created between the rail line and the shoreline that now carries the main road (N11).
In time the marshland has become a bird sanctuary and a considerable part was reclaimed in 1873 and developed into Blackrock Park. On the 18th.November 1807, 2 ships, The Prince of Wales and The Rochdale were driven ashore in this area in a violent storm; some 385 bodies were recovered from the shore and were buried in the graveyard at Merrion. The Prince of Wales struck the rocks at Blackrock and the Rochdale struck on the rocks under the Martello tower at Seapoint. A plaque was unveiled on Monday 19 November 2007 close to the Seapoint Martello tower to commemorate this tragic loss of life.


No.16 Sandymount
The coast road back towards Dublin, via Merrion Road rail-crossing, passes the Sandymount tower. A large building is attached and until recently was used as a restaurant. It is not known what the future holds for this tower. It is in excellent condition and it is hoped that future plans will include the removal of the attached building that conceals almost half of the tower on the seaward side and to restore the tower to its former uniqueness.
During the Emergency period in Ireland 1945 an anti-aircraft gun and searchlight was installed at the tower and the gun was used once.


6 Responses to 2 : South Dublin Coast

  1. A chara,

    I very much enjoyed your article, though I was surprised to see no mention of the Martello tower in Shankill.

    I’m not talking about the battery at Shanganagh Cliffs. There was an actual tower near the entrance of Quinn’s Road beach and the Gothic mansion “Clontra”. The cliffs collapsed a long time ago due to severe and rapid erosion, taking the tower with it. One can still encounter its mighty granite blocks strewn across the beach below.

    You can find it on the Historic 25″ maps (1897) on the OSI Maps viewer

    Le meas,

    • joedil says:

      Mni tnx Luach information of the exact location of the Shankill martello Tower. possibly Tower No.3
      and hope to visit the location and get pic to add to my collection.
      I did locate the existence of A Martello Tower at Cork,Great in Griffith’s Valuations'(Little Bray).

  2. Abi says:

    Hey, I’m writing an English essay about “Ulysses” and it would be really useful for me to use your article to back up what I’m saying, but I’d need a name to reference you under, could you possible tell me what name I should put in my bibliography?
    Thank you! ]

    • joedil says:

      Many thanks your inquiry re use of article. I would need you to be more specific on whether part or whole of article
      you propose using . Are you interested in history of one specific Tower . ??? James Joyce Martello Tower, Sandycove.
      My own research involved obtaining permissions for use of copyright material for my own use including many photographs
      and could not transfer permissions received. Having said that ! I would like to assist in any way for the success of your project .
      Joe Dillon ( not the “one” mentioned in Ulysees !!)

      • Abi says:

        Thank you for replying so quickly! I am interested in the Sandycove tower in particular, but also in its being representative of the towers more widely. It only comprises a small part of my essay. I’m writing about Joyce using the Martello Tower as a building which is closely linked to English Colonial rule for a setting in which Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan discuss what it means to be Irish in the early 1900s. So, I wanted, ideally to reference the section of your article that talks about the James Joyce tower as the place from which I learnt about the tower’s military function, and how the British came to build it.

  3. Jane says:

    Hello everyone. I really enjoyed reading about the Martello Towers. I grew up in Monkstown and remember swimming in seapoint in the 1970s. When burnt to a crisp and skin tight from the salt water! We use to buy ‘ice pops’ in the Martello Tower. It was cold and damp – a little creepy! But we loved being able to see inside the tower!

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