Located in the heart of Dublin, this Castle was the seat of British rule in Ireland until 1922 when Ireland won its independence. It’s crazy to me to think that liberation has been so recent. When returning home from Ireland I realized how little many people really knew about the basic political structure of the country. Ireland is made up of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is still part of England and is still ruled by them today. The republic of Ireland is just that, a republic who rules itself. The republic’s capital is Dublin and the republic covers about five-sixths of the island.
Dublin city gets its name from the “Black Pool”or Dubh Linn that was set on the site of Dublin Castle.
The present day Dublin Castle has served many functions since it was built in 1204 A.D. by King John II of England as a fortification and seat of the English government. It is now an Irish government complex used for ceremonial purposed and conferences.
The majority of the castle complex dates from the 18th century due to the original Norman castle having burnt down in 1684. The only remaining part of the original castle is the Norman Record Tower from 1228. This is the last intact medieval tower not only of the castle, but also of medieval Dublin itself. The tower was once used as a top security jail for prisoners. The castle has a very interesting history, but may not be what you may think of as a castle. It looks more like a government complex than a castle.
The main area of the castle consists of a large square cobblestone courtyard enclosed by the state apartments, conference center and other state buildings. The original 13 century Norman Tower is in the corner of the great courtyard.
The “Chapel Royal” which was formally the kings chapel in Ireland, adjoins to the original medieval tower on the outer side of the courtyard and has a beautiful neo-gothic exterior.
You can walk to or view the castle Gardens from inside the castle which consists of a large grass park area that embeds a giant Celtic design. This is the site of the black pool or Dubh Linn. This is where Dublin was founded. The fortress looking Coach and Horse House which is now a conference, exhibition and dining center falls in the backdrop of the grass area making a truly beautiful sight.
The history of Dublin Castle prior to British rule is definitely worth knowing before you go. Here is a brief run down:
*In 837 the Vikings originally came to the spot of Dublin castle and created a fort. The local Irish soon burnt down the fort and drove them out.
*They returned in greater numbers and under a new commander with Danish Vikings in the 930’s and created a fortress on the same site. Their settlement quickly became the main Viking military base and trading center. Dublin was created into a thriving organized settlement and urban development.
*The Vikings were later defeated by the Irish army in 1014 but allowed to stay.
*The Norman invasion came in 1169. The Vikings were kicked of the spot and the Normans became the next occupiers of Dublin. The Normans strengthened and expanded the city walls and the castle.
An excavation of Dublin Castle revealed underground ruins of the original castle, as well as the remains of the original Viking fortress.
The undercroft underneath the present castle dates from 934 & 1234 and feature the Viking defense bank encapsulated within the butt of the Norman Powder Tower. A double archway and postern gate are also still visible.
What you can tour:
The state apartments and underground ruins are led by guided tour only. The underground tour of the ruins is amazing and are worth touring Dublin Castle if nothing else. The state apartments feature a few lavish rooms that are nice but don’t even come close to the interior of other castles I have seen since.
The Chapel is open to the public to view. We did not go in the chapel; I’m not sure if it was closed or if we just didn’t realize it was there and we could go in.
There are two museums on site you can visit well, The Garda (Police) Museum which is situated in the original Norman ‘Record Tower’ and The Revenue Museum, which is situated in the Crypt of the Chapel Royal. We did not visit these museums also because we were unaware they were there (once again, always do your research prior to going, our guided tour did not even mention these.)
If you are in Dublin, this castle is a must see. If you are not in Dublin, I would not come solely to visit this castle.
Tower Photo: www-rcf.usc.edu