Histories Greatest Castles: Ireland
Updated: Dec 26, 2022
Today we'll be diving into the history of some of Ireland's coolest castles, at least in my opinion. I will be including the history of the castle as well as what the castle is like today. If I can find a video I will also include that as well.
First off, what exactly is considered a castle?
A castle is a type of fortified structure built during the Middle Ages predominantly by the nobility or royalty and by military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble. This is distinct from a palace, which is not fortified; from a fortress, which was not always a residence for royalty or nobility; from a pleasance which was a walled-in residence for nobility, but not adequately fortified; and from a fortified settlement, which was a public defence – though there are many similarities among these types of construction. The use of the term has varied over time and has been applied to structures as diverse as hill forts and country houses. Over the approximately 900 years that castles were built, they took on a great many forms with many different features, although some, such as curtain walls, arrow slits, and portcullises, were commonplace. European-style castles originated in the 9th and 10th centuries, after the fall of the Carolingian Empire resulted in its territory being divided among individual lords and princes. These nobles built castles to control the area immediately surrounding them and the castles were both offensive and defensive structures; they provided a base from which raids could be launched as well as offered protection from enemies. Although their military origins are often emphasised in castle studies, the structures also served as centres of administration and symbols of power. Urban castles were used to control the local populace and important travel routes, and rural castles were often situated near features that were integral to life in the community, such as mills, fertile land, or a water source.
Many northern European castles were originally built from earth and timber but had their defences replaced later by stone. Early castles often exploited natural defences, lacking features such as towers and arrow slits and relying on a central keep. In the late 12th and early 13th centuries, a scientific approach to castle defence emerged. This led to the proliferation of towers, with an emphasis on flanking fire. Many new castles were polygonal or relied on concentric defence – several stages of defence within each other that could all function at the same time to maximise the castle's firepower. These changes in defence have been attributed to a mixture of castle technology from the Crusades, such as concentric fortification, and inspiration from earlier defences, such as Roman forts. Not all the elements of castle architecture were military in nature, so devices such as moats evolved from their original purpose of defence into symbols of power. Some grand castles had long winding approaches intended to impress and dominate their landscape.
Although gunpowder was introduced to Europe in the 14th century, it did not significantly affect castle building until the 15th century, when artillery became powerful enough to break through stone walls. While castles continued to be built well into the 16th century, new techniques to deal with improved cannon fire made them uncomfortable and undesirable places to live. As a result, true castles went into decline and were replaced by artillery forts with no role in civil administration, and country houses that were indefensible. From the 18th century onwards, there was a renewed interest in castles with the construction of mock castles, part of a romantic revival of Gothic architecture, but they had no military purpose.
Historians have interpreted the widespread presence of castles across Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries as evidence that warfare was common, and usually between local lords. Castles were introduced into England shortly before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Before the 12th-century castles were as uncommon in Denmark as they had been in England before the Norman Conquest. The introduction of castles to Denmark was a reaction to attacks from Wendish pirates, and they were usually intended as coastal defences. The motte and bailey remained the dominant form of castle in England, Wales, and Ireland well into the 12th century. At the same time, castle architecture in mainland Europe became more sophisticated. The donjon was at the centre of this change in castle architecture in the 12th century. Central towers proliferated and typically had a square plan, with walls 3 to 4 m (9.8 to 13.1 ft) thick. Their decoration emulated Romanesque architecture and sometimes incorporated double windows similar to those found in church bell towers. Donjons, which were the residence of the lord of the castle, evolved to become more spacious. The design emphasis of donjons changed to reflect a shift from functional to decorative requirements, imposing a symbol of lordly power upon the landscape. This sometimes led to compromising defence for the sake of display.
Why is history full of castles? Castles could serve as a centre for local government, administration and justice. They were also used by powerful lords to display their wealth and power through lavish architectural styles and decoration. Castles were not only built and used by the crown. In fact, the majority of castles were granted by the king to his loyal lords and nobles along with large areas of land. In return for these grants, the king expected his nobles to control and administer these lands on his behalf. The castle itself also represented a whole group of people who contributed to its function from constables, masons, blacksmiths and servants to name a few.
So let’s get into the castles!
Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, commonly known as Strongbow constructed the first castle, probably a wooden structure, in the 12th century. The Anglo-Normans had established a castle in 1173, possibly on the site of an earlier residence of the Mac Giolla Phádraig kings of Osraighe. Kilkenny formed part of the lordship of Leinster, which was granted to Strongbow. Strongbow’s daughter and heiress, Isabel married William Marshall in 1189.
Marshall owned large estates in Ireland, England, Wales and France and managed them effectively. In 1192, he appointed Geoffrey FitzRobert as seneschal of Leinster and so began a major phase of development in Kilkenny, including the development of Kilkenny Castle. The first stone castle on the site was completed in 1260. This was a square-shaped castle with towers at each corner; three of these original four towers survive to this day.
The castle was owned by the seneschal of Kilkenny Sir Gilbert De Bohun who inherited the county of Kilkenny and the castle from his mother in 1270, in 1300 he was outlawed by Edward I but was reinstated in 1303, he held the castle until his death in 1381. It was not granted to his heir Joan, but seized by the crown and sold to the Butler family in 1391.
The Castle became the seat to a very powerful family, the Butlers of Ormonde. The Butler family (who changed their name from FitzWalter in 1185) arrived in Ireland with the Norman invasion. They originally settled in Gowran where James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond built Gowran Castle in 1385. The family had become wealthy and James bought Kilkenny Castle in 1391 and established himself as ruler of the area. The Butler dynasty then ruled the surrounding area for centuries. Many of the family, including James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond are buried in St. Mary's Collegiate Church Gowran. Among the many notable members of the Butler family was Lady Margaret Butler (c. 1454 or 1465–1539) the Irish noblewoman, the daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond. Lady Margaret Butler was born in Kilkenny Castle. She married Sir William Boleyn and was the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII of England.
In the 17th century, the castle came into the hands of Elizabeth Preston, wife of then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond. Butler, unlike most of his family, was a Protestant and throughout the Irish Confederate Wars of the 1640s was the representative of Charles I in Ireland. However, his castle became the capital of a Catholic rebel movement, Confederate Ireland, whose parliament or "Supreme Council" met in Kilkenny Castle from 1642-48. Ormonde himself was based in Dublin at this time. The east wall and the northeast tower of the Castle were damaged in 1650 during the siege of Kilkenny by Oliver Cromwell during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. They were later torn down. Then, in 1661, Butler remodelled the castle as a "modern" château after his return from exile. By the 18th century, the castle had become run down, reflecting the failing fortunes of the Butler family. However, some restoration was carried out by Anne Wandesford of Castlecomer, who brought wealth back into the family upon marrying John Butler, 17th Earl of Ormonde. In the 19th century, the Butlers then attempted to restore it to its original medieval appearance, also rebuilding the north wing and extending the south curtain wall. More extensions were added in 1854. In 1904, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and his wife Queen Alexandra visited Kilkenny Castle.
The family disposed of the bulk of their tenanted estates in Tipperary and Kilkenny, 21,000 acres (85 km²), by 1915 for £240,000. James Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde died in 1919. Death duties and expenses following the death of James Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde in 1919 amounted to £166,000. As Lord Ormonde had only two daughters, it was agreed that, in order to reduce the double-taxation of the estate, his brother and heir, Arthur Butler, 4th Marquess of Ormonde would forgo his inheritance in favour of his son, George Butler, 5th Marquess of Ormonde who used the courtesy title 'Earl of Ossory'. Lord and Lady Ossory took up residence in the Castle in 1921, with their children Antony, Viscount Thurles and Lady Moyra Butler. During the Irish Civil War in 1922, Republicans were besieged in the Castle by Irish Free State forces. The Ormondes, together with their pet Pekinese, chose to remain in situ in their bedroom over the great gate, which was the main focus of attack. There was a machine gun outside their door. Only one man was injured but a great deal of damage was inflicted on the castle, which took many years to repair.
George Butler, Earl of Ossory and his family remained living in the castle until 1935, when they sold its contents for £6,000, moved to London, and abandoned it for thirty years. The impact of rising taxes, death duties, economic depression and living costs had taken their toll. While the Ormondes had received £22,000 in rental income in the 1880s, investment income in the 1930s was in the region of £9,000 and by 1950 these investments yielded only £850. In 1938, Arthur, George and Antony Butler agreed to resettle the Trust in which the estates were held. Antony Butler, Viscount Thurles died unexpectedly in 1940, and therefore after the death of the 4th Marquess in 1943 and the 5th Marquess in 1949, the estate was inherited by Arthur Butler, 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde. In 1967, this Lord Ormonde sold the abandoned and deteriorating castle to the Castle Restoration Committee for a ceremonial £50, with the statement: "The people of Kilkenny, as well as myself and my family, feel a great pride in the Castle, and we have not liked to see this deterioration. We determined that it should not be allowed to fall into ruins. There are already too many ruins in Ireland." He also bought the land in front of the castle from the trustees "in order that it should never be built on and the castle would be seen in all its dignity and splendour". The handover ceremony also marked the foundation of The Butler Society, a still thriving organisation that connects, preserves and unites a family once dominant in the British Isles.
Kilkenny Castle Today
Today, Kilkenny Castle is open to visitors all year round and is largely a Victorian remodelling of the thirteenth-century defensive Castle. Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to see this grand country house and walk through its fifty acres of rolling parkland with mature trees and an abundance of wildlife. Other features include a formal terraced rose garden, woodlands and a man-made lake, which were added in the nineteenth century. There is also a tearoom, playground and several orienteering trails for visitors to enjoy.
The first recorded settlement at the site may have been a Norsemen settlement/trading camp reported in the Annals of the Four Masters to have been destroyed by Brian Boru in 977. According to local tradition, such a camp was located on a rise southwest of the current castle. Since no remains of this settlement have been found, its exact location is unknown and its existence is not proven. Around 1250, King Henry III of England granted the cantred or district of Tradraighe (or Tradree) to Robert De Muscegros, who in 1251 cut down around 200 trees in the King's wood at Cratloe. These may have been used to construct a motte and bailey castle, which would have been the first castle at Bunratty, but again the exact position of this is unknown. A later reference in the state papers, dating to 1253 gives de Muscegros the right to hold markets and an annual fair at Bunratty. It has thus been assumed that the site was the centre of early Norman control in south-eastern Clare. Early 19th-century scholars put the structure to the northwest of the current castle. When a hotel was constructed there in 1959, John Hunt excavated the area and thought the remains to be that of a gun emplacement from the Confederate Wars.
These lands were later handed back to (or taken back by) King Henry III and granted to Thomas De Clare, a descendant of Strongbow in 1276. De Clare built the first stone structure on the site (the second castle). This castle was occupied from ca. 1278 to 1318 and consisted of a large single stone tower with lime white walls. It stood close to the river, on or near the site of the present Bunratty Castle. In the late 13th century, Bunratty had about 1,000 inhabitants. The castle was attacked several times by the O'Briens (or O'Brians) and their allies. In 1284, while De Clare was away in England, the site was captured and destroyed. On his return, in 1287, De Clare had the site rebuilt and a 140-yard (130 m) long fosse built around it. The castle was again attacked but it did not fall until 1318. In that year a major battle was fought at Dysert O'Dea as part of the Irish Bruce Wars, in which Richard de Clare was killed. Lady De Clare, on learning this, fled from Bunratty to Limerick after burning the castle and town. The De Clare family never returned to the area and the remains of the castle eventually collapsed. As the stones were probably used for other local construction works, no traces remain of this second castle.
In the 14th century, Limerick was an important port for the English Crown. To guard access via the Shannon estuary against attacks from the Irish, the site was once again occupied. In 1353, Sir Thomas de Rokeby led an English army to conquer the MacNamaras and MacCarthys. A new castle (the third) was built at Bunratty, but once again, its exact location is unknown. Local tradition holds that it stood at the site where the Bunratty Castle Hotel was later constructed. The new structure was hardly finished before it was captured by the Irish. Documents show that in 1355, King Edward III of England released Thomas Fitzjohn Fitzmaurice from prison in Limerick. He had been charged with letting the castle fall into the hands of Murtough O’Brien whilst serving as a Governor (Captain) of Bunratty.
The fourth castle, the present structure, was built by the MacNamara family after around 1425. Its builder may have been one Maccon Sioda MacNamara, chieftain of Clann Cuilein (i.e. the MacNamaras). He died before the castle was completed which happened under his son Sean Finn (died in 1467). At around 1500, Bunratty Castle came into the hands of the O'Briens (or O'Brians), the most powerful clan in Munster and later Earls of Thomond. They expanded the site and eventually made it their chief seat, moving it there from Ennis. In 1558, the castle—now noted as one of the principal strongholds of Thomond—was taken by Thomas Radclyffe, the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland from Donal O'Brien of Duagh, last King of Thomond (died 1579), and given to Donal's nephew, Connor O'Brien. Donogh O'Brien, Conor's son, may have been the one to move the seat of the family from Clonroad (Ennis) to Bunratty. He made various improvements to the castle including putting a new lead roof on it.
During the Confederate Wars set off by the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Lord Forbes, commanding forces of the English Long Parliament, was allowed by the then Lord Barnabas O'Brien to occupy Bunratty in 1646. Barnabas did not want to commit to either side in the struggle, playing off royalists, rebels and roundheads against each other. He left for England, where he joined King Charles. Defence of the castle, whose position allowed those holding it to blockade maritime access to Limerick (held by the Confederates) and the river Shannon, was in the hands of Rear-Admiral Penn, the father of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. After a long siege, the Confederates took the castle. Penn surrendered but was allowed to sail away to Kinsale. Barnabas O'Brien died in 1657 but had apparently leased out the castle to one "John Cooper", likely the same person married to Máire ní Mahon of Leamaneh Castle, widow of another O'Brien, Conor (died 1651). Bunratty Castle remained the property of the O'Briens and in the 1680s the castle was still the principal seat of the Earls of Thomond. In 1712, Henry, the 8th and last Earl of Thomond (1688–1741) sold Bunratty Castle and 472 acres (191 ha) of land to Thomas Amory for £225 and an annual rent of £120. Amory in turn sold the castle to Thomas Studdert who moved in ca. 1720.
The Studdert family left the castle (allowing it to fall into disrepair), to reside in the more comfortable and modern adjacent "Bunratty House" they had built in 1804. For some time in the mid-19th century, the castle was used as a barracks by the Royal Irish Constabulary. In 1894, Bunratty was once again used by the Studdert family, as the seat of Captain Richard Studdert. In the late 19th century, the roof of the Great Hall collapsed. In 1956, the castle was purchased and restored by the 7th Viscount Gort, with assistance from the Office of Public Works. He reroofed the castle and saved it from ruin. The castle was opened to the public in 1960, with sporting furniture, tapestries and works of art dating to around the 1600s.
Bunratty Castle Today
Bunratty returned to its former splendor when Viscount Lord Gort purchased it in 1954. The extensive restoration work began in 1945 with the help of the Office of Public Works, the Irish Tourist Board and Shannon Development. It was then opened to the public in 1962 as a National Monument and is open to visitors year round. It is the most complete and authentically restored and furnished castle in Ireland.
The Rock of Cashel
According to local legends, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil's Bit, a mountain 20 miles (30 km) north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel. Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century. The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. In 1101, the King of Munster, Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the Church. The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
The oldest and tallest of the structure is the well preserved round tower (28 metres, or 90 feet), dating from c.1100. Its entrance is 12 feet (3.7 m) from the ground, necessitated by a shallow foundation (about 3 feet) typical of round towers. The tower was built using the dry stone method. Modern conservationists have filled in some of the tower with mortar for safety reasons. Cormac's Chapel, the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh, was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134. It is a sophisticated structure, with vaulted ceilings and wide arches, drawing on contemporary European architecture and infusing unique native elements. The Irish Abbot of Regensburg, Dirmicius of Regensburg, sent two of his carpenters to help in the work and the twin towers on either side of the junction of the nave and chancel are strongly suggestive of their Germanic influence, as this feature is otherwise unknown in Ireland. Other notable features of the building include interior and exterior arcading, a barrel-vaulted roof, a carved tympanum over both doorways, the magnificent north doorway and chancel arch and the oldest stairs in Ireland. It contains one of the best-preserved Irish frescoes from this time period. The Chapel was constructed primarily of sandstone which has become waterlogged over the centuries, significantly damaging the interior frescoes. Restoration and preservation required the chapel be completely enclosed in a rain-proof structure with interior dehumidifiers to dry out the stone.
The Cathedral, built between 1235 and 1270, is an aisleless building of cruciform plan, having a central tower and terminating westwards in a massive residential castle. The Hall of the Vicars Choral was built in the 15th century. The vicars choral were laymen (sometimes minor canons) appointed to assist in chanting the cathedral services. At Cashel, there were originally eight vicars choral with their own seal. This was later reduced to five honorary vicars choral who appointed singing-men as their deputies, a practice which continued until 1836. The restoration of the Hall was undertaken by the Office of Public Works as a project in connection with the European Architectural Heritage Year, 1975. Through it visitors now enter the site. In 1647, during the Irish Confederate Wars, Cashel was sacked by English Parliamentarian troops under Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin. The Irish Confederate troops there were massacred, as were the Catholic clergy, including Theobald Stapleton. Inchiquin's troops looted or destroyed many important religious artefacts. In 1749, the main cathedral roof was removed by Arthur Price, the Anglican Archbishop of Cashel. Today, what remains of the Rock of Cashel has become a tourist attraction. Price's decision to remove the roof on what had been called the jewel among Irish church buildings was criticised before and since.
The Rock of Cashel
Set on a dramatic outcrop of limestone in the Golden Vale, the Rock of Cashel, iconic in its historic significance, possesses the most impressive cluster of medieval buildings in Ireland. Among the monuments to be found there is a round tower, a high cross, a Romanesque chapel, a Gothic cathedral, an abbey, the Hall of the Vicars Choral and a fifteenth-century Tower House. Originally the seat of the kings of Munster, according to legend St. Patrick himself came here to convert King Aenghus to Christianity. Brian Boru was crowned High King at Cashel in 978 and made it his capital. In 1101 the site was granted to the church and Cashel swiftly rose to prominence as one of the most significant centres of ecclesiastical power in the country.
The surviving buildings are remarkable. Cormac’s Chapel, for example, contains the only surviving Romanesque frescoes in Ireland. The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most spectacular and – deservedly – most visited tourist attractions.
The castle originally dates from before 1200, when a timber house was believed to have been built on the site, although no evidence remains of this. Around 1210 this was replaced by a stone fortification. It was destroyed in 1446 but subsequently rebuilt by Cormac Láidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry, who also built castles at Kilcrea and Carrignamuck. The castle was besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars and was seized in 1646 by Parliamentarian forces under Lord Broghill. However, after the Restoration, the castle was restored to Donough MacCarty, who was made 1st Earl of Clancarty. During the Williamite War in Ireland in the 1690s, the 4th Earl of Clancarty (also named Donough MacCarty) was captured, and his lands (including Blarney Castle) were confiscated by the Williamites. The castle was sold and changed hands several times — Sir Richard Pyne, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, owned it briefly — before being purchased in the early 18th century by Sir James St John Jefferyes, governor of Cork City.
Members of the Jefferyes family later built a large house near the 15th-century keep. This house was destroyed by fire and, in 1874, a replacement mansion, known as Blarney House, was built overlooking the nearby lake. The house was built in a Scottish baronial-style by John Lanyon of Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon architects. In the mid-19th century, the Jefferyes and Colthurst families were joined by marriage, and the Colthurst family still occupies the demesne. In May 2008, the present estate owner, Sir Charles St John Colthurst, Baronet, succeeded in a court action to eject a man who had lived on his land for 44 years. The man's great-grandfather had been the first to occupy the estate cottage.
Blarney Castle Today
Blarney Castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. Tourists visiting the castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence. There are many versions of the origin of the stone, including a claim that it was the Lia Fáil — a numinous stone upon which Irish kings were crowned. Surrounding the castle are extensive gardens. There are paths touring the grounds with signs pointing out the various attractions such as several natural rock formations with fanciful names such as Druid's Circle, Witch's Cave and the Wishing Steps. The grounds include a poison garden with numerous poisonous plants, including wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin and opium, as well as cannabis. Blarney House is also open to the public.
Ross Castle was built in the late 15th century by local ruling clan the O'Donoghues Mór (Ross), though ownership changed hands during the Second Desmond Rebellion of the 1580s to the MacCarthy Mór. He then leased the castle and the lands to Sir Valentine Browne, ancestor of the Earls of Kenmare. The castle was amongst the last to surrender to Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars, and was only taken when artillery was brought by boat via the River Laune. Lord Muskerry (MacCarthy) held the castle against Edmund Ludlow who marched to Ross with 4,000 foot soldiers and 200 horse; however, it was by water that he attacked the stronghold. The Irish had a prophecy that Ross could never be taken until a warship could swim on the lake, an unbelievable prospect.
At the end of the wars, the Brownes were able to show that their heir was too young to have taken part in the rebellion and they retained the lands. By about 1688, they had erected a mansion house near the castle, but their adherence to King James II of England after the Glorious Revolution caused them to be exiled. The castle became a military barracks, which remained so until early in the 19th century. The Brownes did not return to live at Ross but built Kenmare House near Killarney. There is a legend that O'Donoghue leaped or was sucked out of the window of the grand chamber at the top of the castle and disappeared into the waters of the lake along with his horse, his table and his library. It is said that O'Donoghue now lives in a great palace at the bottom of the lake where he keeps a close eye on everything that he sees.
Ross Castle Today
Ross Castle is open to the public during the summer months.
Dublin Castle was first founded as a major defensive work by Meiler Fitzhenry on the orders of King John of England in 1204, some time after the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, when it was commanded that a castle be built with strong walls and good ditches for the defence of the city, the administration of justice, and the protection of the King's treasure. Largely complete by 1230, the castle was of typical Norman courtyard design, with a central square without a keep, bounded on all sides by tall defensive walls and protected at each corner by a circular tower. Sited to the south-east of Norman Dublin, the castle formed one corner of the outer perimeter of the city, using the River Poddle as a natural means of defence along two of its sides. The city wall directly abutted the castle's northeast Powder Tower, extending north and westwards around the city before rejoining the castle at its southwestern Bermingham Tower. In 1620 the English-born judge Luke Gernon was greatly impressed by the wall: "a huge and mighty wall, foursquare, and of incredible thickness". In the 17th century, the Earl of Arran described the Castle as "the worst castle in the worst situation in Christendom".
The Poddle was diverted into the city through archways where the walls adjoined the castle, artificially flooding the moat of the fortress's city elevations. One of these archways and part of the wall survive buried underneath the 18th-century buildings, and are open for public viewing. Through the Middle Ages the wooden buildings within the castle square evolved and changed, the most significant addition being the Great Hall built of stone and timber, variously used as Parliament house, court of law and banqueting hall. The building survived until 1673, when it was damaged by fire and demolished shortly afterwards. The Court of Castle Chamber, the Irish counterpart to the English Star Chamber, sat in Dublin Castle in a room which was specially built for it about 1570. The Castle sustained severe fire damage in 1684. Extensive rebuilding transformed it from medieval fortress to Georgian palace. No trace of medieval buildings remains above ground level today, with the exception of the great Record Tower (ca. 1228–1230); it is the sole surviving tower of the original fortification, its battlements an early 19th-century addition.
United Irishmen General Joseph Holt, a participant in the 1798 Rising, was incarcerated in the Bermingham Tower before being transported to New South Wales in 1799. In 1884 officers at the Castle were at the centre of a sensational homosexual scandal incited by the Irish Nationalist politician William O'Brien through his newspaper United Ireland. In 1907 the Irish Crown Jewels were stolen from the Castle. Suspicion fell upon the Officer of Arms, Sir Arthur Vicars, but rumours of his homosexuality and links to socially important gay men in London, may have compromised the investigation. The jewels have never been recovered.
At the very beginning of the Easter Rising of 1916 a force of twenty-five Irish Citizen Army members were able to seize the entrance and guard-room of the Castle, before reinforcements for the small garrison arrived. During the Anglo-Irish War the Castle was the nerve centre of the British effort against Irish separatism. On the night of Bloody Sunday in 1920, three Irish Republican Army members Dick McKee, Conor Clune and Peadar Clancy, were tortured and killed there. When the Irish Free State came into being in 1922, Dublin Castle ceased to function as the administrative seat. It served for some years as temporary Courts of Justice (the Four Courts, the home of the Irish courts system, had been destroyed in 1922). After the courts vacated the premises, the Castle was used for state ceremonies. As President of the Executive Council, Éamon de Valera received credentials there from newly arrived ambassadors to Ireland on behalf of King George V in the 1930s. In 1938, Douglas Hyde was inaugurated as President of Ireland at the Castle. All inaugurations of subsequent presidents took place there since. President Erskine Hamilton Childers' lying-in-state took place there in November 1974, as did that of former President Éamon de Valera in September 1975.
Dublin Castle Today
In 1922, following Ireland’s independence, Dublin Castle was handed over to the new Irish government. It is now a major government complex and a key tourist attraction.
There is very little history on this castle, at least I couldn't find any but I still think that it is a very cool looking castle which is why I have included it. I have also included the little bit of information that I found.
Dunguaire Castle was built in 1520 by the Hynes Clan who were a prominent family in the area since 662. In the 17th century the castle was passed onto the Martyn clan of Galway who remained in the stonghold until 1924. It was Oliver St. John Gogarty, a well known surgeon and writer who bought and restored the castle and made it a meeting place for literary greats like George Bernard Shaw, Lady Gregory, J.M Synge and W.B. Yeats. The castle is now in the hands of Shannon Development and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Galway. From mid-April to mid-October each year, the castle hosts medieval banquets where guests can enjoy a delicious four course meal and fine wines whilst be entertained by songs, stories and poems (especially the poems of Yeats, Gogarty, Shaw and Synge). Part of the lore about Dunguaire’s Castle is that the Lord of the castle was very generous and he continued this generosity into the afterlife. Today, if a person stands at the front gate and asks a question, they will have an answer to their question by the end of the day.The castle also has a crafts and visitors shop.
In 1375, the castle was granted to James Butler, newly created Earl of Ormond, for his loyalty to Edward III. His son James, the second Earl (by his second marriage) passed the lands around the barony of Iffa and Offa West to his children, though they were not themselves noble. This changed by 1542 when the first of the Barons Cahir was created. Unlike their Anglican kinsmen, this branch of the Butler dynasty sided with the Roman Catholic Irish in the Elizabethan wars. In 1599 the castle was captured after a three-day siege by the army of the Earl of Essex and was for a year put under the charge of Sir Charles Blount. Lord Cahir joined with the Earl of Tyrone in 1601 and was attainted for treason, but later obtained a full pardon. In 1627 the castle was the scene of a celebrated killing when Cahir's son-in-law, Lord Dunboyne, murdered his distant cousin, James Prendergast, in a dispute over an inheritance: he was tried for the killing but acquitted. During the Irish Confederate Wars the castle was besieged twice. In 1647 George Mathew, the guardian of the young Lord Cahir, surrendered to Murrough O'Brien, 6th Baron Inchiquin (later 1st Earl, and a descendant of Cahir's builder) following his victory at the Battle of Knocknanauss. In 1650 he surrendered again to Oliver Cromwell, during his conquest of Ireland without a shot even being fired.
Cahir Castle Today
In 1961 the last Lord Cahir died and the castle became the property of the Irish state. Visitors also flock to the castle because of its role as a film and TV location – it has featured in productions like Excalibur and The Tudors.
The estate began in 1185, when Richard Talbot, a knight who accompanied Henry II to Ireland in 1174, was granted the "lands and harbour of Malahide." The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 12th century and it was home to the Talbot family for 791 years, from 1185 until 1976, the only exception being the period from 1649 to 1660, when Oliver Cromwell granted it to Miles Corbet after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland; Corbet was hanged following the demise of Cromwell, and the castle was restored to the Talbots. The building was notably enlarged in the reign of Edward IV, with towers added in 1765.
The estate survived such losses as the Battle of the Boyne, when fourteen members of the owner's family sat down to breakfast in the Great Hall, and all were dead by evening, and the Penal Laws, even though the family remained Roman Catholic until 1774. In 1918 during the First World War a mooring-out base for airships was established in the grounds of the castle, used by airships from RNAS Anglesey in Wales which conducted anti-submarine operations in the Irish Sea. There were plans to base airships here from 1919, but these were abandoned at the end of the war.
In the 1920s the private papers of James Boswell were discovered in the castle and sold to American collector Ralph H. Isham by Boswell's great-great-grandson Lord Talbot de Malahide. The papers have since passed to Yale University, which has published popular and scholarly editions of his journals and correspondence. A second cache was discovered soon after and also purchased by Isham. Malahide Castle and its demesne was eventually inherited by the 7th Baron Talbot and on his death in 1973, passed to his sister, Rose. In 1975, Rose sold the castle to the Irish State, partly to fund inheritance taxes. Many of the contents, notably furnishings, had been sold in advance, leading to considerable public controversy, but private and governmental parties were able to retrieve some.
Malahide Castle Today
The castle, along with its subsidiary attractions, was for many years operated as a tourist attraction by Dublin Tourism, working with Fingal County Council, which owns the whole demesne. The operating partner is now Shannon Heritage, which has in turn appointed subsidiary partners, most notably, for shop and café facilities, Avoca Handweavers. The castle itself can be visited for a fee, on a guided-tour-only basis. In addition, it is possible to hire the famously Gothic Great Hall for private banquets. The castle's best-known rooms are the Oak Room, and the Great Hall, which displays Talbot family history. In the courtyard behind the castle are a café and craft shop, and other retail facilities.
The Talbot Botanic Gardens, situated behind the castle, comprising several hectares of plants and lawns, a walled garden of 1.6 hectares and seven glasshouses, including a Victorian conservatory. Many plants from the southern hemisphere, notably Chile and Australia, are featured. The gardens showcase the plant collecting passion of the 7th Lord Talbot de Malahide in the mid 20th Century. The demesne is one of few surviving examples of 18th century landscaped parks and has wide lawns surrounded by a protective belt of trees. It can be visited freely, with a number of entrances and car parking areas. In addition to woodland walks, and a marked "exercise trail," the park features sports grounds, including a cricket pitch and several football pitches, a 9-hole par-3 golf course, an 18-hole pitch-and-putt course, tennis courts and a boules area. Adjacent to the golfing facilities, and containing the access to them, is a pavilion which also contains a café and other facilities. There is an extensive children's playground near the castle.
There are not really any videos that I could find that were of good quality for the castles featured in this post. So instead of trying to find a few short clips I decided to share three episodes of Rick Steves Europe that does indead cover some of the castles as well as many other Irish sites.
I hope that you enjoyed today's post.
What was your favorite castle in today's post?