This renormous 12th century Norman castle is very well preserved and the town has refurbished it into a huge tourist attraction -- with weird plaster people all over that are a little bit creepy. But the castle is fun - -and on a gray, rainy day is definitely a great visit. It was still being used by the military until 1928 and remains one of the best-preserved castles in Ireland.
The original tower here was built by John de Courcy, in 1177. He built the inner ward and bailey, and the east gate, and a great hall. De Courcy was ousted by Hugh de Lacy in 1204, and the castle again changed hands when King John took it over in 1210. A new curtain wall was built then, so that the approach along the rocks would be protected.
The murder hole, the ribbed vault over the entrance, and the huge portcullis were added after a seige in 1316. The castle remained the Crown's principal center in the north of Ireland, and the port here was used to supply English troops.
The advent of artillery prompted some changes tothe castle in the 16th and 17th centuries, including gunloops and fortified cannons. It didn't help much, and the castle was taken several times. It was surrendered to the French in 1760. They looted the castle and town, but were captured by the Royal Navy. Six guns on the eastern battery remain from the twenty-two that were used in the Napoleonic wars.
There is a link to the American Revolution, too -- John Paul Jones lured an English navy ship away from the castle and prevailed against it.
The castle has been a home, a storage bunker, a prison,. an ordnance depot, and an air raid shelter. It was garrisoned continuously for 750 years until 1928 when it was handed over to the state. They have dozens of placards and displays in the castle showing life in Medieval Ireland,how the castle works, about banqueting and feasting - we followed a school group around for awhile, which was pretty funny!
lost in ireland 2005 travelogue and photos © rfingerson