By 1250 the Normans controlled three quarters of all Ireland and only western Ulster, Kerry, Clare and western Galway were the only predominantly Irish-ruled areas left.
These magnificent fortresses in Ireland took considerable time to build, requiring a significant labour force, and they were expensive. The location of the stone castles in Ireland were therefore carefully chosen for the most advantageous political and military purposes.
Many castles in Ireland survived siege warfare, a testament to their architecture and the way they were built. The conquering Normans such as the de Burgos dynasty (Burkes or Bourkes) built the famous Ashford Castle in Ireland and occupied Connacht whilst families such as the FitzGeralds occupied Kildare and Limerick.
The History of Irish Castles
The history of Irish castles is linked to several major factors:
- The development of new technology and building methods
- The development of Medieval warfare and new weapons
- Social and cultural changes in Ireland
- Defensive and Offensive requirements
- Symbolic or political reasons for a castle location in Ireland
The Purpose & Function of Irish Castles
The original functions of Irish Castles were to:
- To act as a power base in Ireland
- To overawe and frighten the indigenous population
- To provide a safe retreat for Irish noble families
- As symbols of wealth and political power
Irish Castle Building
The design and building of Medieval Irish Castles encompassed some, or all, of the following elements:
- Irish castles were built on the highest ground in the area
- Irish castles often adjoined Rivers
- Irish castles often overlooked Towns
- A Strong central Keep or Main Tower featured in Irish Castle Building
- A High wall, complete with towers surrounded the Keep and the Inner Bailey in Irish Castle Building
- Several Outer Walls and Outer Baileys were often added in the process of Irish Castle Building
- Gatehouses were often featured
Visit an Irish Castle
If you would like to visit a castle in Ireland please click the following link for details and locations - some of these are now wonderful hotels which enable us to experience life in an Irish castle.