|Location||Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland (Google Map Location)|
|Open for Visitors||Open for visitors 1st May onwards|
Access allowed only through guided tours
|Owned by||National Monument Service of Ireland|
|Official Website||Carlingford Castle|
One of Ireland’s most significant monuments, Carlingford Castle stands on an outcrop by the shore of the Carlingford Lough in County Louth, Ireland. The castle was constructed around the year 1190 and is one of the first fortified structures to be built in Carlingford. King John reputedly stayed at the castle for a few days in the year 1210, after which it was popularly named King John’s Castle. The castle was one of the most crucial strongholds of the Anglo-Norman conquest and was frequently attacked by the Irish. The castle passed through the hands of several families amidst years of conquest and has a fascinating history.
History of Carlingford Castle
Carlingford Castle is situated in a unique, enchanting setting and features significantly in Irish history. The castle is placed beside the mountain Slieve Foye. Legend has it that this mountain takes the shape of the body of the sleeping giant Finn MacCumhaill. Overlooking the lough harbour, the castle was an essential point of defence for the Anglo-Normans. On the other side of the lake, one can find the Green Castle, which enabled the Normans to defend the lough along with the Carlingford Castle strongly.
The castle was built around 1190 by the Norman baron Hugh de Lacy. King John of England favoured Hugh initially but felt threatened by the baron’s growing power and forced them into rebellion. Hugh de Lacy supported the rebellion of William de Braoise against the King, which prompted the monarch to march against Ireland. By 1210, Hugh de Lacy had lost all but one of his castles- Carrickfergus Castle- where he hoped to hold his ground against King John’s army. Hugh and his brother Walter de Lacy escaped from the castle, but many of their supporters were caught and punished, effectively ending the rebellion. After his conquest, King John stayed at Carlingford Castle for a few days and ordered its renovation.
By the year 1549, the castle had fallen into ruins. It was then granted to Nicholas Bagnel, who renovated it and once again made it a strategic defence point for the region of the English Pale. It is then speculated that Carlingford Castle was captured by Sir Henry Tichbourne in 1642, famous for his pivotal role in defending Drogheda in the Irish Rebellion of 1641. The castle was then passed on to Sir Charles Coote- another key person in England’s defence against Irish insurgents.
Carlingford Castle was also attacked by Jacobites in 1689. William III, the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland accommodated his wounded soldiers in the castle after the Battle of Boyne, where he fought France and the Jacobites. The castle was abandoned in the 1700s and fell into ruins. The castle was later made a national monument of Ireland and has always been a cherished monument for the locals.
Carlingford Castle is situated on a rocky outcrop on the shore of the Carlingford Lough in a D-shaped enclosure. It has a curtain wall with a rectangular gate to the West, equipped with narrow defensive slits useful in holding sieges. There is also a rectangular gatehouse and square flanking tower, portions of which still remain.
The initial phase of the castle consisted of a straight wall facing East and an oval-shaped wall to the West. Wooden buildings were erected to house soldiers, supplies, and horses in the space between. The castle was then renovated in the second half of the 13th century. On the Eastern side, a large rectangular hall was constructed. The new building consisted of a basement and two floors, with a great hall on the first floor. Living quarters for the Constable of the Castle were constructed in the 1400s at the South-East corner. After the Dundalk, Newry, and Greenore Railway Company constructed a deep cutting on its landward side, Carlingford Castle’s prominence in the landscape was enhanced.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who stayed at Carlingford Castle?
Carlingford Castle was constructed by Hugh de Lacy, who was its first occupant. The castle then passed into the ownership of King John of England, who stayed there briefly. The castle was later occupied by several notable English statespersons, who used it as a strategic defensive point for all of England’s territories in Ireland. These include Sir Henry Tichbourne and Sir Charles Coote.
Is it possible to visit Carlingford Castle?
The castle is open for visitors from 1st May onwards and can be accessed through a guided tour. However, the venue cannot be hired for events of any kind.
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