Discover the origins of Ireland’s iconic castles  

Castles are one of the most evocative icons of our medieval past.  Ireland has a vast array of fortifications, ranging from earthwork structures to large stone fortresses.  But what was the origin of castles in Ireland?  Did they come in with the Anglo Normans after the invasions of the late-twelfth century, or could it be said that castles existed in Ireland before the Normans?  I was delighted to have the opportunity to discuss some of these questions with Professor Tadhg O’Keeffe of UCD School of Archaeology.  We also look at how Irish castles compare with those of England, Wales and the rest of Europe, and the significance of sites like Roscommon Castle.

 Episode 3 Castles – Show Notes

  • There are some terrific publications that give great insights into castles.  Tadhg himself is a prolific writer on the medieval period.  His Medieval Irish Buildings 1100–1600 is an essential guide to the architecture of the period.  Another of his publications Medieval Ireland An Archaeology also provides an excellent overview.
  • If you are interested in the architecture of castles, I recommend checking out Malcom Hislop’s Castle Builders: Approaches to Castle Design and Construction in the Middle Ages. There isn’t much specifically about Ireland in there but it is a really interesting guide to how castles were designed and constructed in the medieval period.
  • Lady Rohesia’s castle at Castleroche (pictured above) is one of the most spectacular sites in the country.  It is situated near Dundalk in County Louth, and it is on private land so please do ask permission before entering the site.
  • Trim Castle and the Hill of Tara both feature in our free audio guide to the Boyne Valley.
  • You can visit Trim Castle (and enjoy a great guided tour!), see here for opening hours and entry fees.
  • Maynooth Castle can also be visited, see here for opening hours and entry fees.
  • The Forradh and the Hill of Tara is also well worth a trip, it’s such a fascinating archaeological landscape!  See here for opening hours.
  • Roscommon Castle is located in Roscommon Town and it can be accessed for free.  Why not take a guided tour with Roscommon Heritage Tours?
  • A number of the castles mentioned, including Castleroche, the Forradh on the Hill of Tara, Maynooth Castle, Trim Castle and more feature in my guidebook to Ireland’s Ancient East, published by Collins Press in 2016.  It’s available from all good bookshops, and it is available cheapest from or the Book Depository.

Amplify Archaeology Podcast

During this podcast series we will meet some of Ireland’s archaeologists to discuss the key periods, places and people that tell the story of Ireland, and we’ll gain new insights into the practice and techniques of modern Irish archaeology.  This is the third instalment of Amplify Archaeology, our first episode featured the exciting archaeological dig at Glendalough, and the second was a discussion about Mesolithic Ireland.

I’d love some feedback, so please do leave a comment below – and if you have any questions about Irish archaeology please do let me know, we can try to answer them in forthcoming episodes.  Finally if you enjoyed this podcast I’d be really grateful if you could share it and tell your friends.

The podcast is an Abarta Heritage production.  It was recorded on location by Neil Jackman (the interviewer), with Professor Tadhg O’Keeffe.  We are very grateful to Tadhg for his generosity with his time and insights.