Carlow Castle

Sunlight shining through the ruined stone walls of Carlow Castle. Blue sky above.

Carlow Castle on the river Barrow

Carlow Castle, a National Monument of Ireland, is a testament to the rich history and architectural prowess of the past. Located on the River Barrow in Carlow town, County Carlow, this castle’s ruins still hold a certain sense of dominance of the surrounding countryside.

Front view of the stone walls of Carlow Castle remains.

The Building of Carlow Castle

The castle was built between 1207 and 1213, by William Marshal, an Anglo-Norman and Earl of Pembroke during his time spent in Ireland (also responsible for Kilkenny Castle). This makes Carlow Castle one of the first Norman fortified castles in the land.
The castle was a unique architectural marvel of its time. It consisted of a massive rectangular tower surrounded by four smaller three-quarter-circular towers at each corner of the rectangle. This design was the first of its kind in Ireland, diverging from the contemporary standard in England and continental Europe.

A side tower on ruins of Carlow Castle

Changing Hands

Over the centuries, Carlow Castle has seen a multitude of owners. In 1306, it was handed over to the crown, and in 1312, it was granted to Thomas Plantagenet. The castle was confiscated by the crown in 1537 due to the landlord’s absence. In 1616, it was purchased by the Earl of Thomond, and later taken over by Oliver Cromwell in 1650.

View of the ruins of Carlow Castle from the rear. Old 13 century stone wall with green hedge to the fore and blue sky to the background.

The Castle Today

Today, all that stands of the grand Anglo-Norman castle are two battered towers and part of an intervening wall. The castle was partially destroyed in 1814 when, Dr Philip Parry Middleton, in an attempt to create more space for a lunatic asylum, loaded the internal walls with explosives and set them off. Despite this, the castle still offers breathtaking views and a glimpse into our local history.
The remains of Carlow Castle are open to the public, welcoming visitors to its grounds every year. While it has never been rebuilt or remodelled, it remains a beautiful place to visit, offering a visually impressive link to Ireland’s past.

Side view of the stone remains of Carlow Castle

Carlow Castle is more than just a historical monument; it’s a symbol of Ireland’s rich history and architectural evolution. Its ruins serve as a reminder of the past, providing a unique window into the life and times of the people who once walked its halls.

So, the next time you find yourself in County Carlow, don’t miss the chance to visit this timeless fortress. Walk through the ruins, feel the stones under your hands, and let the her tell you her story.

You can find a link to the location of Carlow Castle on Google Maps Here


Sunlight shining through the ruined stone walls of Carlow Castle. Blue sky above.

15th June 2024


Clifford Reid

Written by Clifford Reid


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