Ireland’s TOP 10 castles: Dublin Castle

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By Peter Dlhopolec / March 23, 2020
dublin castle wikipedia Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Bram Stoker used to work at Dublin Castle.  

Dublin Castle, which is a major government complex and one of the city’s most visited sights today, was in the British hands until the early 20th century.

Before today’s structure was erected, there had been a “Duibhlinn” fortress built by the Norsemen on a hill near which the Liffey and the Poddle met. It was around 840AD. The stronghold was said to be built by a dark pool (Dubh Linn), and that is where Dublin got its name from. The River Poddle runs under the castle complex and flows into the Liffey today.

The actual Dublin Castle was constructed in 1204. It was long after English King Henry II had paid visit to Dublin. Upon his arrival a large wooden hall was erected in Dame Street where he welcomed the Irish chiefs who came to pay homage. Shortly before he left for England, he had committed Dublin to Hugh de Lacy, Fitz-Stephen and Morice Fitz-Gerald. De Lacy became the first Viceroy – a man who exercised authority on behalf of English kings.

Dublin Castle

Image: Wikipedia.

When de Lacy was in England, Fitz-Gerald wrote to King John, a son of deceased Henry II, that he had no safe place to store his treasure, demanding a fortress to be built. The king issued a patent that allowed for the project.

Although it is agreed the castle was built in 1204, C. L. Adams suggests in Castles of Ireland: Some Fortress Histories and Legends the castle was erected in 1220 by Henry Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin.

Eight towers and State Apartments

Dublin Castle served as the seat of the Viceroy of Ireland and as an administrative centre for centuries.

The original castle, a medieval fortress with four towers and walls connecting them, was built on a small hill just like the Norsemen’s fortress. It is said that the castle stood on where the present Upper Castle Yard is. However, a fire damaged the castle in 1684. Tourists can today explore only remnants of the Viking and medieval structures.

“The entrance to the castle was by a drawbridge on the north side, the site now being occupied by the gate to the Upper Castle Yard,” C. S. Adams writes in the book. Two towers, which served as prisons, flanked the bridge.

The medieval castle had eight towers such as the Store Tower, Cork Tower, Birmingham Tower and Wardrobe Tower. Only the last-mentioned tower now remains. It is also known as Gunner’s Tower or Record Tower.

The Medieval Tower, Dublin Castle. Aimee Brennan. Office of Public Works.

The Medieval Tower and Chapel Royal. Image: Aimee Brennan, Office of Public Works.

“In its early use as the king’s Wardrobe Tower, armour, clothes and the king’s treasure were stored there. The Wardrobe was also the name for the department of the royal household that managed the king’s personal property. The tower was later used to house prisoners,” the castle’s website notes.

The medieval castle was, after the fire damage, rebuilt into a Georgian palace with grand reception rooms which are known as the State Apartments. These include the Gothic Room, Portrait Gallery Apollo Room and the Yellow Room to name some. The Viceroy lived in the palace, and many events and festivities were held here.

Part of the complex is also Chapel Royal, erected in 1814. Prior to this chapel, Edward’s Chapel had been built up on this site.

Under British rule until 1922

Today, the massive construction is an all-purpose facility, which is also known for a theft of the Irish Crown Jewels in 1907. They have never been found.

Dublin Castle ended up in the hands of Ireland only in January 1922 when the last Viceroy of Ireland handed it over to the new and independent Irish state following the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence.

Since then, the castle became a place where numerous state ceremonies have been held. For example, Ireland’s presidents are inaugurated in St Patrick’s Hall, the grandest of the State Apartments built in 1783. Douglas Hyde was the first President of Ireland to be inaugurated here.

Dubh Linnn in the Castle Gardens

Many well-known personalities visited the castle including Queen Victoria, Princess Grace of Monaco, John F. Kennedy and Charles Dickens. Moreover, Bram Stoker, known for writing Dracula, used to work here in the 19th century.

Speaking of literature, Dublin Castle appeared also in several films such as Barry Lyndon and Becoming Jane.

And what happened with the dark pool? Well, it disappeared but the Castle Gardens will somewhat take visitors to the past.

“At the heart of the gardens is the grassy sward of the Dubh Linn Garden, where patterns representing sea serpents are cut into the lawn,” the website notes. “This lawn is on or near the site of the original dubh linn or ‘black pool’, where the Vikings harboured their ships and set up a trading base.”

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Peter Dlhopolec


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