And finally, up today (and yes, a little out of the week that was ‘Cashel & Castle Week‘ but that’s OK), we have the last castle we visited on our amazing trip around Ireland- Trim Castle. This castle is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Norman architecture still standing in Ireland today and it was definitely worth a visit.
The largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, Trim Castle was built by Hugh de Lacy when he was granted the Liberty of Meath by King Henry II in 1172. The construction of the massive three storey keep began in 1176 on what was the site of an earlier wooden fortress, and was definitely intended to be a stronghold. Its twenty-sided tower is cruciform in shape and was protected by a ditch, curtain wall, and moat. They didn’t want anyone getting in! It was, in fact, so good at keeping people out that it took its one-time owner, Walter de Lacy, about seven weeks to regain his property after returning home from a visit to England in 1223.
Overlooking the Boyne, and dominating the town that surrounds it even all these 800 years later, Trim Castle is still an impressive structure with three of its four original towers still flanking it. It was built in three main phases over only a 50 year period -never remodeled or renovated- so it retains its fully original Norman design. By the 18th century it was finally completely abandoned but it has weathered the years well and is now being preserved for future generations.
Back in its Prime
In its day, Trim Castle was used as a residence to provide privacy and security for the lord and his family. It was also used as a place of administration and included rooms such as a public hall, great chambers, and even a chapel. There were also ample cellars and stores that would have been kept well stocked to ensure they could withstand a long siege. The Boyne River was used to transport goods and they would have entered via the River Gate (which you can visit today). Stores, workshops, stables and kitchens were built in the fore-court area that was also serving a protective function to keep intruders away from the stairway leading to the one and only entrance into the keep.
Visiting the Castle
Trim Castle can be visited by guided tour only, but that’s OK as this is another castle where the guide does a great job of telling the stories of the castle. We met our guide at the bottom of the staircase that leads to the one entrance. He started by giving us a little of the history of the castle, then led us up the stairs, unlocked the door with his giant key, and led us into the “Disarming Area” where he then locked us in! The Disarming Area is where everyone coming to visit the castle would have handed over any swords or weapons before proceeding any further.
We then headed to the Great Hall where there were three models of the castle depicting various stages of its relatively short construction period. The guide also talked to us about how the castle has been preserved, not restored, which means it has been made safe and accessible but basically left in the condition in which it was taken over by the Office of Public Works. You won’t find any decorated or furnished rooms in this castle, so you’ll have to use your imagination a little more as the guide describes the use of different rooms. It definitely wasn’t hard to imagine the smell that would have been coming from the garderobes as he talked about the rising gases from the cesspool of waste at the bottom of the castle that would have been used to kill the lice and fleas in clothes because they weren’t washed very often. Hmm…definitely NOT Downy Fresh.
After viewing the major rooms and areas of the castle we were taken up to the roof, for likely what was everyone’s favourite bit- the great views! Our guide took his time explaining what we could see from each side of the castle and gave us lots of time to take photos. With it as chilly as it was up there many people didn’t seem to want to linger too long though. From there we headed down the narrow winding staircase to the bottom where our guide was waiting-obviously he had taken a secret passage as he was the last to leave the roof!
After our tour L and I took our time roaming around the castle grounds. There are several neat structures still in place, like the curtain wall, a barbican, and the gate by the river. There are also well placed signs around the ground to give you information about what you are seeing. I really liked taking the photos here as I do so love a photo with some old stones in it.
Finally today I have a little treat with this video I found. It’s just a short one but it shows Trim Castle at its finest with great aerial shots. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Do you have a favourite castle from these five featured on my ‘cashel & castle week’? Which ones have you visited- or do you have suggestions for our next trip to Ireland?
To read more about our adventures on our Ireland Road Trip, please feel free to check out these posts:
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