Southern Irish Castles and Fortresses
My name is William Martin and I'm of Irish lineage. My grandfather and grandmother arrived from Ireland in the early 20th century, but not together. My grandmother, Elizabeth Rafferty, was just 14 years old when she landed on Ellis Island together with her older sister. My grandfather Joseph Martin had got there a couple of years earlier in 1890. I was raised in a home very proud of its Irish heritage, regaled with the tales and filled with the Celtic music of Ireland. Like many children of immigrants, I have longed to go back to my ancestral soil.
Little has captivated me more about Ireland than its history of turmoil and clan rivalries, its faith based wars and the mark they have left on the people and its landscape. One of the principal marks left on the ground is fortifications. Ireland is littered with castles, old castles, destroyed castles, castles forgotten, and castles repaired and turned into great hotels. It's no blarney, you will discover hundreds of castles in Ireland so we will limit ourselves to only a few of the more captivating. Incidentally that is blarney with a small B, Blarney with a big B is, of course, a castle in County Cork.
So, why don't we start with the afore referred to Blarney Castle. Blarney could possibly be the most well known castle in all of Ireland. Countless travelers come year after year to see the gardens, castle, and of course, to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. The original castle dates back to the 13th century but it was destroyed and rebuilt in the 15th century. Blarney was the castle home of the McCarthy clan and it is from this point that Cormac McCarthy sent his evasive answers to Queen Elizabeth's calls for submission. Elizabeth is said to have coined the word blarney to describe all evasive answers and obfuscation.
The ruin of Leep Castle, in County Offally, is the ancestral home of the warlike O'Carroll sept. The castle safeguards a strategic mountain pass and from this point the O'Carroll's were the very last holdouts in opposition to English domination in the 17th century. Leep Castle is thought to be haunted. Teige O'Carroll killed his brother, a Catholic priest, at the altar of the castle church. Locals say, that after the castle was destroyed by fire in 1922, cartloads of bones were taken from the castle's dungeons. Leap castle is off the beaten path but you can arrange a visit with the owner. A visit to this haunted castle is alleged to be a once in a life time experience.
Kilkenny Castle, also known as Butler Castle, is the ancestral home of the Butler Earls of Ormond. The castle was initially erected by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, in the late 12th century at the fording spot on the River Nore. It was purchased by the Butler's 1n 1391. Kilkenny Castle is among the most beautiful in all of Ireland. Nowadays the castle and grounds belong to the people of Ireland and is accessible to the public. Every three years there is a Butler Reunion held at Kilkenny Castle where there is also a Butler genealogy archive. No visit to Ireland would be complete without a stop at Kilkenny Castle.
I have only touched on a few of the many castles scattered throughout southern Ireland. Other significant castles od County Cork are Ballea Castle, Ballynamona Castle and Desmond Castle to mention a just few more. Plan your Irish trip to incorporate some or all of these marvelous historic landmarks and you won't get it wrong. Erin go braugh.