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A Striking Monument – Castle Roche

Castle Roche also known as Dún Gall, is a delightful Norman castle located around 10km northwest of Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. It is built atop a gorgeous rocky outcrop and commands extensive views of the surrounding country. Murder, mystery, and secrecy are only some of the aspects of this castle’s history.

The history of Castle Roche

Castle Roche was the primary seat of the de Verdun family (also spelt de Verdon), who built the castle as well. Surrounded by a deep moat, this castle was said to be virtually impregnable. It is also said that there was once a secret passage connecting the castle to a round tower outpost.

With ghosts and an interesting history backing this enchanting ruin, there is so much to know.

The early history

The de Verdun family of Alton Castle in Staffordshire had a long history within the region. Bertram de Verdun arrived at the site as part of John’s first expedition to Ireland. By 1185, Bertram had erected a manor house at Castletown Mount, and, in 1189, he obtained the town’s charter.

Bertram’s granddaughter, known as Rohesia de Verdun from Alton, England was married to Theobald le Botiller, 2nd Chief Butler of Ireland. It was after her husband’s sudden death that she moved to her lands in Ireland. Her first step was to fortify the land with a castle.

two towers at castle roche
Much of Castle Roche still stands today. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A mythical legend

Rohesia de Verdun built the castle in 1236. In fact, there is a brutal mythical legend surrounding Castle Roche. The story tells the tale of Rohesia and how she was ill-tempered. This reputation was no help, and it deterred many architects from helping her build. This then led to her offering her hand in marriage (also a share in her wealth) to the man who would build the castle to her design.


Legend says that after they had wed in the newly completed castle, she invited her husband back to the bridal sweet. She told him to walk to the large bedroom window and enjoy their new beautiful view across the estate. Wasting no time, she promptly pushed her husband out of the window where he plummeted towards his death.

Since then, this window has been known as the Murder Window.

wide shot of castle roche on a hill
The castle was strategically built on a hill. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Rohesia de Verdun

Although murderous Rohesia originally commissioned the castle, most of what is seen today is thought to have been added by her son. The name of the castle derives from its physical location – it was the castle of/on the ‘Rock’ (‘roche’ being old/Norman French for ‘rock’).

A hosting of all English forces in Ireland took place at the castle in 1561. The castle was then finally left to ruin in 1641, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.

The current day

Nowadays, the castle is still in complete ruin. A fair bit of it remains considering how long ago it was left to ruin. Many people who have visited the castle report that there is an aura, a mystique, an otherworldliness to the place.

You may enjoy reading about other Irish castles such as Knockdrin Castle.

ruined wall at castle roche
Much of the castle still stands but is in a ruined state. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Castle Roche Timeline

  • 1236- Rohesia builds Castle Roche
  • 1561-A hosting of all English forces takes place at the castle
  • 1641- The castle is left to ruin

Castle Roche facts

  • A secret passage once connected the castle to a round tower outpost
  • Castle Roche was the primary seat of the de Verdun family (also spelt de Verdon), who built the castle as well
  • Rohesia murdered her husband at the castle by forcefully pushing him out of a window
  • In early records Castle Roche was called Castellum de Rupe or Castle on the Rock for obvious reasons
  • Castle Roche has a triangular layout, determined by the shape of the rock it stands on

Books on Castle Roche

  • Through Her Eyes by Clodagh Finn (2019)

Tourism

Castle Roche is an absolutely spectacular example of an Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland and can be viewed for miles around. The site is on private farmland. However, you are allowed to come and go as you please as long as you keep all of the gates closed. Proceed with caution when parking as you must park in a narrow laneway.

Nearby, you can visit Slieve Foy, Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Slieve Gullion, County Museum Dundalk, and Proleek Dolmen.

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