Castletownroche is located in a picturesque area, north-east of Killavullen, beside the Awbeg river which is a tributary of the River Blackwater. Edmund Spenser the English poet wrote of the Awbeg River in ‘The Faerie Queen’ calling it the ‘Mulla’.
The first historical record about Castletownroche is from the late 13th century when the Anglo-Norman family of Roache established a fortress here. They were descendants of Richard FitzGodebert (Richard, son of Godebert) who came with Strongbow to Ireland. Their family had a castle in Pembrokeshire that was built upon an outcrop of stone and they became known as FitzGodebert de la Roch (FitzGodebert of the Rock). From that, their Hiberno-Norman descendants were known as “de la Roch” and finally, Roche. It is from this element, and the castle they built here in County Cork, that Castletownroche gets its name.
This is a beautifully kept village with the gardens at Annes Grove nearby. A fine old mill is under restoration and will house craft-workers when the work is completed. The song ‘The Old Rustic Bridge’ takes its origins from here. Another very interesting attraction is the Dino Cafe which will particularly excite younger members of the family.
Bridgetown Priory or Abbey, near the confluence of the Awbeg and Blackwater rivers, was founded for Augustinian monks in the 13th century by Alexander FitzHugh.
Soon afterwards, it was owned by the Roches. Henry VIII dissolved the priory in 1540. Bridgetown has a cloister, kitchens, refectory, chapter house and church. Its ruins, now extensively restored, are open to visitors all year around. An interpretive sign from the ‘Stories from the River of Time’ Heritage Trail is located at the entrance laneway to Bridgetown.