Whites Castle, Athy

Night photo of Whites Castle reflected in the river Barrow

Whites Castle


The Historical Heart of Athy

At the heart of Athy in County Kildare, Ireland, stands the imposing structure that is Whites Castle. This 16th-century tower house is built on the site of an earlier 15th-century castle. It s symbolic of the rich history and heritage that makes up Athy.


History of the White Castle

The origins of White’s Castle can be traced back to the 15th century, when an earlier castle stood guard over the main river crossing in Athy. However, much of the current structure dates back to the 16th century. In 1417, a Norman tower house was built on the site by John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, King’s Lieutenant, during the reign of King Henry V. This was to protect the new bridge over the River Barrow. By 1505, this castle was derelict and Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, was asked to rebuild it. The castle underwent further construction during the reign of Henry VIII, with Lord Leonard Grey writing to Thomas Cromwell about the castle in 1536. In 1573, Richard Coosen, Sovereign of Athy, added a crucifixion plaque on the left side of the original doorway and can still be seen there today. The fortified house was then completed around 1575.

River barrow at Athy with Whites Castle in background

Architecture of Whites Castle

White’s Castle is a three-storey tower house with a battered base. On the right of the main doorway is a depiction of the coat-of-arms of the Earl of Kildare. The southern wing of the house was a four-storey tower house. Between 1795 and 1802, a three-storey rectangular extension was added to the north end, and battlements were added.

Role of Whites Castle

The castle played a significant role during the Irish Confederate Wars (1641–1653), changing hands between Royal and Confederate forces. Owen Roe O’Neill took it in 1645, the Royalists took it in 1648, and then Cromwell arrived in 1649.

White’s Castle Today

In the early 18th century, the building was redeveloped for use as a gaol, and by 1730, White’s Castle became the local prison. It had nine cells and was notorious for its poor conditions. Today, White’s Castle stands as a symbol of Athy’s rich history, a beacon of the past that continues to captivate locals and tourists alike. White’s Castle is more than just a historical structure; it’s a testament to resilience and a symbol of identity for Athy. 

Whites Castle on river Barrow with boats in front

Whites Castle has come up for sale several times in recent years. The castle was owned by the Doyle and Norman families until 2005 when it was sold for €1.3 million. In 2012, it went on sale again for a significantly reduced price of just €195,000. The most recent sale occurred in 2019 when the castle was sold for €450,000. I’m of the opinion, that Kildare County Council need to purchase this magnificent building and gift it to the people of Athy as a Visitor Centre / Heritage Museum.

View of Athy mooring area with Castle and bridge in background
Castle on edge of river with rainbow in background
Ariel view of whites castle with boats and kayaks in front

If you enjoyed this small blog post and are interested in other local buildings, please feel join our walking group any Wednesday morning at 10am from Athy Youth Café for a short ramble (2km) around Athy. This blog post may also be of interest Levitstown Mill

1st April 2024


Clifford Reid

Written by Clifford Reid

1 Comment

  1. Sam Raddie

    Great comment about the we town. And you are right about the Whites Castle


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