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A Castellated Fortification – Blackrock Castle

Situated in the beautiful green rolling hills of Ireland is a stunning castellated fortification known as Blackrock Castle. It is a 19th-century wonder that is actually the third castle to ever stand on the site. It is only mere kilometres away from the heart of Cork City in County Cork. This current castle, however, was built to defend the city against attacks.

The history of Blackrock Castle

Blackrock Castle sits directly on the banks of the River Lee in a strategically strong and defensive position. This gorgeous castle began as a small watchtower to defend the city from pirates and raiders. It was afterwards that it was turned into a full castle. At one point, the tower was even used to guide ships in and out of the harbour.

Let’s take a look at the current Blackrock Castle and all the things it has been and will be.

The early history

In the late 16th century, the locals of Cork decided to appeal to Queen Elizabeth I to construct a fort at Blackrock. This fort was to be built to repel pirates and other invaders who had been bothering the town. It was in the year 1582 that a fortification was built on the site.

Later, in 1600, the townspeople had their wish fulfilled and a round tower was constructed to safeguard against the pirates and stop them from causing mayhem in the harbour. The only remaining elements from this structure that remain today are a circular tower directly on the water’s edge that is 10.5m in diameter with walls that are 2.2m thick.

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I
Portrait of Queen Elizbeth I. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The second Blackrock Castle

When James I visited the City of Cork in 1608, he gave Blackrock Castle to the City of Cork after it had been replaced by a full castle in 1601. Later, the castle was referred to in the Council Book of Cork in 1613 and 1614. Unfortunately, in the year 1722, the old four-storey tower was completely destroyed by fire. A new one was then built by citizens that ended up costing £296

Cork Corporation

After the castle had been rebuilt, it was used by Cork Corporation for banquets and some convivial gatherings. Some of these gatherings were associated with the custom of throwing the dart. This custom was held every three years in August and involved a dart being thrown by the mayor from a boat.

This was done to indicate the Corporation’s jurisdiction over the harbour.

Blackrock castle with reflection in water
The fort was replaced by a full castle in 1601. Source: Flickr.

Destroyed by fire

In 1827, following a banquet, the castle was once again destroyed by fire. The rebuilding quickly began in 1828 under the direction of Major Thomas Dunscombe and was completed in March of 1829. The castle had three additional storeys added to the original towers by architects.

They also went forth and rebuilt the out-buildings. The new buildings cost the City of Cork around £1,000. The architects responsible for the grand Blackrock Castle were George Richard Pain and James Pain. They were also responsible for many other public buildings around Cork at the time.

The current day

In 1930, the castle had fallen into disrepair. It was in the 1960s that the castle had fallen into private hands and was briefly used as a private residence, office, rowing club headquarters, and even a restaurant. The building was then reacquired by Cork Corporation in 2001. Work then quickly commenced in 2003 to renovate and repurpose the complex as an observatory and museum. Parts of the original castles can still be seen today.

You may enjoy reading about other Irish Castles such as Ardgillan Castle.

Still of Blackrock Castle.
There have been three fires that have destroyed the castle over the centuries. Source: Flickr.

Blackrock Castle Timeline

  • Late 16th century- The locals of Cork decide to appeal to Queen Elizabeth I to construct a fort at Blackrock
  • 1582- A fortification is built on the site
  • 1600- The townspeople have their wish fulfilled and a round tower is constructed to safeguard against the pirates and stop them from causing mayhem in the harbour
  • 1601- Blackrock Castle is replaced with a full castle
  • 1608- James I visits the City of Cork and gives Blackrock Castle to the City of Cork
  • 1613 and 1614- The castle is referred to in the Council Book of Cork
  • 1722- The old four-storey tower is completely destroyed by fire
  • 1827- Following a banquet, the castle is once again destroyed by fire
  • 1828- The rebuilding quickly begins
  • 1829- The castle is completely rebuilt
  • 1930- The castle has fallen into disrepair
  • The 1960s- The castle has fallen into private hands and is briefly used as a private residence, office, rowing club headquarters, and even a restaurant
  • 2001- The castle is reacquired by Cork Corporation
  • 2003- Work quickly commences to renovate and repurpose the complex as an observatory and museum

Blackrock Castle facts

  • The current castle is the third to ever exist on the site
  • Parts of the original castles can still be seen today
  • The castle began as a small watchtower to defend the city from pirates and raiders
  • The castle was destroyed by fire multiple times
  • There is now a museum and observatory at the castle
File:Blackrock Castle Observatory.jpg
The Blackrock Castle Observatory. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Books on Blackrock Castle

  • Cork River [River Lee] & Blackrock Castle from Above the Glanmire Road by Newman, John (1850)

Who owns Blackrock Castle?

Blackrock Castle is owned by Cork City Council and is open to the public. It is the oldest standing structure still in use in the City of Cork. They have done a wonderful job of turning this castle into such a beautiful place to visit.

Tourism

Nowadays, Blackrock Castle is open to the public 7 days a week. It has a large range of attractions from the scientific to historical, and even cultural. The whole family can enjoy a day out at this wonderful castle. The observatory at the castle is a joint project between the Cork Institute of Technology, Cork City Council, and private backers.

It offers many different and amazing options to visitors. This award-winning science centre incorporates many exhibitions as well. The admission price to the observatory also includes a guided tour of the castle along with tours of the towers, dungeons, and an insight into the castle’s history. Admission prices are constantly changing.

The Blackrock Castle café is also well worth the visit so you can enjoy quality food in a stunning location. The café has a delightful Mediterranean menu that includes a variety of locally sourced fish and meat dishes. It is a very popular venue.

If you would like your very own Blackrock Castle wedding, the castle venue is available! You can host a variety of events there such as weddings, corporate functions, and team-building days. Children’s birthday parties are also frequently held there. Nearby, you can also visit the wonderful Fota Wildlife Park, The English Market, and Blarney Castle and Gardens.

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