Ireland is one of the most castellated countries in Europe.  There is a huge amount to choose from and this is just a few of the most impressive and picturesque medieval castles to visit.

Dublin Castle

Dublin is the Capital of Ireland and owes it’s name to the Dubh Linn, or Black Pool, which was located in the grounds of Dublin Castle. This is where the river Liffey met the River Poddle. The river Poddle, now one of Dublin’s hidden rivers with most of it underground, but it was very important to the people of Dublin for hundreds of years as a source of drinking water, and also for powering mills, water for brewing, tanning distilling and market gardens.

The site of Dublin Castle probably began as an early fortification or Gaelic Ring Fort, then a Viking Fortress and from 1204 until 1922 it was the seat of English, then British rule in Ireland.  It is one of the most important buildings in Irish history and there are so many interesting stories and facts.

After a fire in 1684 destroyed much of the Medieval Castle, the State Apartments were built as the residential quarters of the Viceregal court.  Today these are used for presidential inauguration and official state visits, exhibitions and events.  The Tower and Medieval Undercroft’ are all that remain of the original 13th century Castle.

The Dublin Gardens You will find a lawn, interesting sculptures and a ‘four seasons’ garden with four smaller gardens beyond. The Garda Memorial garden is a tribute to the Irish police who lost their lives on duty.

When visiting Dublin this is a definite must see.  Let us know to include this in your itinerary.

Trim Castle

Trim in County Meath is one of Irelands designated heritage towns.  It is a beautiful town which is thought to have more medieval buildings that any other town in Ireland. At it’s core is Trim Castle, Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castle  It is located on the south bank of the River Boyne.  It is a must see for any history buff.

The Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland took place in 1169.  Henry II of England was afraid one of his Lords, Richard de Clare (Strongbow), in the south of Leinster, was getting too powerful and might set up a rival Anglo-Norman kingdom in Ireland.  To make sure this didn’t happen he granted his baron Hugh de Lacy the Kingdom of Meath. 

Hugh chose Trim as the centre of his power and Trim Castle as his stronghold.  The Castle was built shortly after the invasion in 1172.  In 1174 they were attacked by the last High King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor and the castle was destroyed.  Building of the new stone fortress  commenced in 1175 and by 1220 the stone castle we see today was finished by de Lacy’s son Walter.  The castle, on about three acres, was surrounded by a curtain wall which included several towers, a gate house and a moat.

Look closely at the photo, the Keep’s twenty-sided cruciform design with three metre thick walls is truly unique and was a fine example of the military architecture of the period.

By the 1500s Trim Castle was in decline but remained an outpost protecting the north western side of The Pale. (English territory including Dublin and some of the surrounding area).

The castle was excavated and restored and opened it’s doors to the public in 2000.

The movie Braveheart with Mel Gibson was filmed at Trim Castle in 1995.

Don’t forget to ask to have Trim Castle included on your vacation itinerary.

Kilkenny Castle and City

Kilkenny is just over an hour outside Dublin and definitely worth a visit.  Kilkenny Castle was built in late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, and was, therefore, one of the earliest Norman castles in Ireland.  The Castle was built by William Marshall who married the daughter of Aoife and Strongbow.  The original castle still remains, in part, accessible down a small flight of stairs under the rose garden, leading towards the west tower.  This West Tower was originally called the Strongbow Tower.  There are stories of Isabelle and William Marshall here in Kilkenny.

In the late fourteenth century the castle was sold to the Butler family and it stayed in the family right up until the twentieth century.  In 1967 the castle was sold to the people of Kilkenny  for the princely sum of £50 by Arthur, 24th Earl of Ormonde.

The castle has been in the hands of The Office of Public Works (OPW) since 1969. A large and detailed  restoration programme has taken place since then on the castle.

Kilkenny Castle has 800 years of fascinating history that you can hear about on your visit.  Stories of wars, conquests, witchcraft, visits of foreign royal dignitaries, latest being HRH Price Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall in 2017

If you’re not comfortable you don’t have to go into the castle the park and garden are phenomenal and you could always bring a picnic and take a stroll in the 21 hectare parkland.

King John’s Castle

Limerick city was founded by the Vikings in 922 A.D. and is almost eleven hundred years old.  Since then it has been a medieval walled town, a Georgian city and now a vibrant modern and historic city   

King John’s Castle is an early 13th Century stronghold on King’s Island in the heart of medieval Limerick.  It is one of the best and most impressive Anglo-Norman castles.  It stands on a hill on the banks of the river Shannon, and has some fabulous views of the river and the city.

The castle is built on the site of an earlier Viking settlement, and some of the original underground settlement walls and traces of medieval dwellings can be seen.

An obvious feature are the drum towers and solid curtain walls.  These were meant to look and be intimidating in order to keep the local Gaelic chieftains subdued.  It clearly dominated the landscape for a long time.  King Johns Castle was a significant presence in the west and acted as a trading port along the river Shannon during the medieval era.

In the seventeenth century one wall of the castle was very badly damaged during the Siege of Limerick.  This event led to the Treaty of Limerick, ending the Williamite War between the Jacobites and the supporters of William of Orange.

An interactive digital display tells the history and stories of the castle and Limerick city.

King John’s Castle is an ideal day out for a family.  If you would like to add this to your itinerary just let us know.

Ross Castle

Ross Castle is a 15th century tower house located in Killarney, County Kerry in the south west of Ireland.  It is a great example of a stronghold of an Irish chieftain in the Middle Ages.

Ross Castle is a must see when travelling the ring of Kerry and in particular, as you can see from the photo is fabulous for a great sunset photo opportunity.  The castle sits on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake.  It was built by O’Donoghue Mór in the fifteenth century.  It is a typical castle of it’s time, having square bartizans on opposite corners and large thick defensive walls.

In the late sixteenth century it was handed over the to Mac Carthys and then found itself in the possession of the Earls of Kenmare, the Brownes who owned a lot of what is now Killarney National Park.

Ross Castle was the last stronghold in Munster (one of the four provinces of Ireland) against Cronwell until 1652.

Local legend says that O’Donoghue still exists under the water of Lough Leane and the large rock at the entrance to the bay is known as O’Donoghue’s prison.

Don’t forget to mention Ross Castle for your Kerry itinerary.

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