The Emerald Isle

From Cahir (also spelt Caher) in County Tipperary to Enniscorthy in Wexford, and from Dungarven and Lismore in County Waterford to Kilkenny, ancient castles, some in ruins, some restored, and some with more modern buildings on their medieval foundations, still have plenty to tell us about the Anglo-Normans and their successors. One or two do not, however: Carlow, well sited on the river Barrow and therefore of strategic importance, was once dominated by a massive early 13th-century pile. All that is left of it today, hidden in the grounds of a mineral water factory, are a couple of towers and a fragment of wall. Far from being one of the many ”ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit,” to quote Marie Lloyd’s song, Carlow’s castle survived to the 19th century in good enough condition for a local doctor to consider turning it into a mental hospital. Unfortunately, in a praiseworthy attempt to get as much fresh air as possible into his castle hospital, he chose to use gunpowder to enlarge the windows in the thick walls and succeeded in reducing most of the castle to a pile of rubble. Although little remains of Carlow Castle, there are many others with much to attract visitors. Cahir Castle and Ormond Castle at Carrick-on-Suir, both in County Tipperary, look fine enough to be film sets, Cahir with its square keep and crenellated walls on a rock in the middle of the Suir, and Ormond Castle, in contrast, all gabled and mullioned as befits a building often called “the finest Elizabethan manor house in Ireland.” Down in County Waterford, Lismore Castle, originally built, like Dungarvan Castle, at the handsome port of Dunvargan for Henry II’s son John (the King John of Magna Carta fame) offers yet another view of Irish castles. Set The South & Southeast RIGHT: Most of Lismore Castle, built by King John above the Blackwater in County Waterford in 1185, was rebuilt in the 19th century. OVERLEAF: Duckett’s Grove is a ruined 19th-century great house and former estate in County Carlow. The house was built by William Duckett as a two storey Georgian country house but was modified over the years. Today Duckett’s Grove is open to the pubic. 124