Situated in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, is the beautiful castle known as Enniskillen Castle. It is named after the town it is situated in and it boasts a lovely view over the River Erne. It was built almost 600 years ago and is home to a thrilling history. Throughout its time, it has undergone an extravagant amount of rebuilding and redevelopment.
The history of Enniskillen Castle
These days, Enniskillen Castle is very different to what it once was. In fact, you would barely recognise it if it weren’t for its prominent exterior. It held a strategically important part in history because it guards one of the few passes into Ulster. While very little of its history is known, what we do know is that it went through a lot to become what it is today.
Step inside this beautiful castle and take a walk in a time that existed far before ours.
The early history
The very first castle that sat on the site was a simple, square tower house that was built by Hugh Maguire in the year 1415. Enniskillen Castle was built upon a large island between the canals that connected Lower and Upper Lough Erne. This was considered a strong defensive position that defended Fermanagh from attack from other clans nearby.
Enniskillen Castle was no stranger to deceit. In fact, it was taken many times by the O’Donnells and the O’Neills. However, it was very quickly retaken and rebuilt by the Maguires. It was in the year 1508 that the Maguire family extended the castle to the rectangular ground plan that is present today.
During the Nine Years War
During the Nine Years War at the end of the 16th century, the castle was taken by the English many times and soon after retaken by the Maguires. After it became a constant battle, the castle was dismantled in 1602 to prevent the English from using it as a base. In the very same year, Niall Garve O’Donnell and a large force of English completely destroyed the castle.
The only remains of the medieval castle are the lower parts of the keep.
In the year 1607, the plantation town of Enniskillen was built on the same island on which the castle once stood. The present castle that we see, however, was built on the very foundations of the medieval castle by Sir William Cole, the Constable of Enniskillen during this time. The turreted building, known as the Watergate, is said to be the most important remainder of that time. Despite its name, it was never even used as a gate.
In the year 1796, because of the threat of a supposed French invasion, Enniskillen Castle was refurbished as a barracks. Aside from the Watergate and the keep, most of the buildings date from that time or later. In 1950, the barracks were decommissioned and were converted for use as a council depot. The castle was then opened to the public as a heritage centre.
The current day
At this point in time, the castle complex plays home to the Enniskillen Castle Museum as well as the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Regimental Museum. While it does look pleasing from the outside, very little of the medieval castle remains. It resembles more of a 20th-century military barrack. However, it is still such a lovely site with a grand history.
The museum is situated in the former keep and has a lot to say about the castle’s history.
You may enjoy reading about other Irish castles such as Doe Castle.
Enniskillen Castle Timeline
- 1415- The very first castle that sat on the site is built by Hugh Maguire
- 1508- The Maguire family extend the castle to the rectangular ground plan that is present today
- The end of the 16th century- The castle is taken by the English many times and soon after retaken by the Maguires
- 1602- The castle is dismantled to prevent the English from using it as a base
- 1602- Niall Garbh O’Donnell and a large force of English completely destroy the castle
- 1607- The present castle is built on the very foundations of the medieval castle by Sir William Cole, the Constable of Enniskillen
- 1796- Enniskillen Castle is refurbished as a barracks
- 1950- The barracks are decommissioned and converted for use as a council depot, then the castle is opened to the public as a heritage centre
Enniskillen Castle facts
- Enniskillen Castle has been a staple in Northern Ireland’s history for centuries
- Enniskillen Castle is named after the town it is situated in
- The castle provided the main defence for the west end of the town and guarded the Sligo road
- The castle consists of two sections, a central tower keeps and a curtain wall that was strengthened with small turrets called Bartizans
- The design of the castle has strong Scottish influences
- The castle is a State Care Historic Monument
Who owns Enniskillen Castle?
These days, the castle is owned and managed by the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency. The Agency works hard to protect and enhance Northern Ireland’s environment, and in doing so, deliver health and well-being benefits and support economic growth.
Within Enniskillen Castle, you will find a museum, gift shop, and visitor centre. It has now reopened and is undergoing a £3.5 million redevelopment. While entry into the visitor’s centre is free, you must book online to enrol in tours, pricing is also subject to change. The castle is located on Wellington Road and isn’t hard to find.
It is within an easy walking distance of the town centre. There is also free parking available just adjacent to the castle. The bus centre is only a three-minute walk, however, there are no rail services. If you plan to visit things other than the castle, there is plenty to do.