The Emerald Isle

proudly on a cliff above the Blackwater, Lismore is not all it appears to be. In the 19th century its owner, the sixth Duke of Devonshire, brought in his old friend, Joseph Paxton, builder of the Crystal Palace (as well as additions to the duke’s ancestral pile, Chatsworth in Derbyshire) to rebuild Lismore Castle. Today the castle, still owned by the Devonshires, is of interest because of its superb gardens, where the Elizabethan poet, Edmund Spenser, is thought to have composed part of The Faerie Queene . Spenser also had connections with Enniscorthy Castle in Wexford, which was briefly leased to him by Queen Elizabeth I, so flattered was she by his great poem. Enniscorthy Castle today houses the County Wexford Historical and Folk Museum but, for many people, the castle holds something much more intangible than mere museum relics. The final, and bloodiest, struggle of the 1798 Rebellion was fought almost at the castle’s feet, on Vinegar Hill, where the rebels held out for a month. The castle preserves many relics of the battle, and perhaps something of its atmosphere, too: local people say that if you climb Vinegar Hill of a summer’s evening and stand by the windmill where the rebels made their last stand, the sounds of the battle can be clearly heard. Although Enniscorthy has had a castle since the 12th century and Christian connections for much longer, St. Senan having founded a monastic settlement here in the sixth century, it can no longer show the sort of living connection between medieval church and Norman castle which makes Kilkenny, for instance, so interesting. 129 The Emerald Isle OPPOSITE: The Blackwater River near Lismore. BELOW: Dungarvan Castle or King John's Norman Castle is a National Monument situated in Dungarvan, County Waterford.