Kilkenny. This is the castle, 13cent & later This view from across the River Nore shows two of the original corner towers and to the rear the section housing the Great Hall which was rebuilt in the Nineteenth Century. The site is open to visitors and well worth a visit. The original Anglo-Norman stone castle was built for William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke (c.1146-1219) during the first decade of the thirteenth century. It later became later became the principal Irish residence of the Butler family for almost 600 years. Their ownership began when James (c.1360-1405), 3rd Earl of Ormond, purchased the castle in c.1391, and lasted until 1967 when Arthur, 6th Marquess of Ormonde (1893-1971), presented it to the people of Kilkenny in return for a token payment of £50. The buildings have been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1969.
The great classical entrance front of Kilkenny Castle, one of the earliest of the type in Ireland, was added to the castle in the 1680’s, and moves the structure decisively from medieval castle to refined country house .
Trim Castle, not too far away in County Meath, is also worth visiting. The largest Norman Castle in Ireland, work started in 1176. one year before the Norman invasion of Ulster.
Lough Derg on the River Shannon contains the atmospheric ruins of a medieval monastery. Illustrated here is St Caimin’s Church , 10th century, with a 12th century Romanesque door and nearby round tower. The site has ecclesiastical connections dating back to the fifth century
Killaloe with its 14th century cathedral and earlier oratory. The oratory dates from the 12th century and has a barrel vaulted interior with a small room above. It is a classic piece of Irish Romanesque architecture. A wonderful place.
The Desmond Banqueting Hall in Newcastle West is a Fifteenth Century structure beautifully restored within the last ten years.Its Irish stepped battlements have been re-erected and an oak trussed roof installed. The work has transformed the character of the central space in the town and is a credit to the Office of Public Works.
Aillwee Caves in the Burren, Co.Clare. An award winning visitor centre from 1984, is as worth visiting as the caves they give access too. The building is very skilfully integrated into the barren limestone landscape of the area.
Thor Ballylee, a tower house in County Galway, is thought to date from the Fifteenth Century when many tower houses like this were built across Ireland. Picturesquely situated beside a bridge at a bend in a river, it is most famous today for its association with the poet WB Yates who restored the house in the early 1920’s and used it as a summer house for ten years.
The following poem is inscribed on the wall of the building:
I, the poet William Yeats,
With old mill boards and sea-green slates,
And smithy work from the Gort forge,
Restored this tower for my wife George.
And may these characters remain
When all is ruin once again.