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    Irish Castles in Ireland’s Ancient East

    Irish Castles in Ireland’s Ancient East

    In Ireland’s Ancient East, you’ll find centuries of stories built into Ireland’s dramatic castles, from tales of romance and devotion to haunting histories of terror…. You wouldn’t know what you might find when tracing your family history in Ireland.

    So does your family name have a connection to an Irish Castle in Ireland’s Ancient East?

    Trim Castle, Trim, County Meath.

    Surnames: De Lacy, Mortimer, Wellesley, Leslie, Plunkett
    The Story: Meath is known as the Royal County because many centuries ago aspiring High Kings of Ireland came to the Hill of Tara in the centre of County Meath to be crowned in elaborate kingship rituals. Over 800 years ago, Trim Castle was built by a man called Hugh de Lacy and it is the largest Norman castle in Ireland. Although its biggest claim to fame to most of us is its starring role in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, back in the 13th century, King John – he of Robin Hood fame – came to Ireland in order to subdue rebelling Norman lords, including Hugh’s son, Walter. Although King John emerged victorious, he never breached the walls of Trim Castle!

    Trim Castle, County Meath © Tourism Ireland.

    Castleroche Castle, County Louth.

    Surname: De Verdon.
    The Story: 13th century Castleroche Castle in County Louth is the only castle in Ireland built by a woman. It’s said that when her husband was killed in France, Lady Rohesia De Verdon promised her hand in marriage to the architect who would build her a castle at Roche. When the castle was built, she met him on the battlements. But she didn’t marry him… instead, she threw him over the edge.

    Castleroche Castle, County Louth. © Tourism Ireland.

    Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny City.

    Surname: Fitzpatrick, Butler, Ormond.
    The Story: Kilkenny Castle was built on the site of the Fitzpatrick Kings of Ossory’s castle. The Butler’s ownership began when James, 3rd Earl of Ormond purchased the Castle in about 1391, and lasted until 1967 when Arthur, 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, presented it to the people of Kilkenny. Kilkenny Castle was besieged by the Free State forces while the Butlers barricaded themselves into a bedroom – along with their Pekingese dogs. Lady Margaret Butler was born in Kilkenny Castle – she was the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. The pride of Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile and an ode to the glory days of epic architecture, the restored castle boasts a National Art Gallery and 21 hectares of parkland.

    Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny City. © Failte Ireland

    Ferns Castle, County Wexford.

    Surnames: McMurrough, Kavanagh, Murphy, Marshall and Masterson.
    The Story: Ferns Castle was originally the stronghold of Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster, the man who brought Strongbow and the Normans into Ireland. In 1220, William Earl Marshall built Ferns Castle, then in 1340, Ferns Castle passed to the Kavanaghs, who held it for another 200 years.

    Ferns Castle, County Wexford © Photographer: Chris Hill © Tourism Ireland

    Cahir Castle, County Tipperary.

    Surnames: O’Brien; Butler
    The Story: Cahir Castle, one of the largest ancient castles in Ireland, was built in County Tipperary in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, on an island in the River Suir, just prior to the Norman invasion of 1169. In 1375, the castle was granted to James Butler, newly-created Baron of Cahir, for his loyalty to Edward III. The Butlers of Cahir sided with the Irish in the Elizabethan wars, and in 1599 Cahir Castle was captured after a three-day siege by the army of the Earl of Essex and was for a year put under the charge of Sir Charles Blount. In 1961 the last Lord Cahir died and the castle reverted to the state.

    Cahir Castle, Co. Tipperary © Photographer/Creator: George Munday ©  Tourism Ireland.

    Suggestion for an overnight stay at an Irish Castle Hotel in Ireland’s Ancient East –

    Waterford Castle Hotel, Waterford City.

    Surnames: Fitzgerald; Igoe; Walsh
    The Story: Steeped in Irish history, the site of Waterford Castle settled from ancient times, was the ancestral home of the Fitzgerald Family for 800 years. The branch of the Fitzgerald family that owned Waterford Castle were the descendants of Patrick Fitzgerald, son of the de jure 6th Earl of Kildare. Edward Fitzgerald was the great, great uncle of Mary Augusta de Lisle Purcell Fitzgerald (1908-1968), who was the last of that name to own the Castle, ending the Fitzgerald Family’s 800-year legacy. She married an Italian Prince, Prince Caracciolo, whom she met while studying in Italy. In 1958 the Igoe family who came from County Mayo, bought the property from Princess Caracciolo, thus ending the remarkable link between the Fitzgerald’s and The Island. The current owner, Seamus Walsh, a local man from Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny purchased the Island in 2015 and who along with his family embrace this historic island and great castle.

    Waterford Castle Hotel, County Waterford (c)

    How exactly can you go about putting together the pieces of the family jigsaw in Ireland?

    Your research begins with you and your immediate family. Ask questions to family members to try to establish approximate dates (of births, marriages and deaths) as well as names (forenames and related family names) and places of residence. This information will point the way to relevant records on your family tree.

    There are numerous centers for genealogical research in Ireland. In Dublin, the National Library, National Archives and General Register Office are all key sources, with the National Library and National Archives both providing free advice from trained staff.

    Although a census of the Irish population was taken every ten years from 1821 to 1911, the earliest surviving Census is for 1901. The 1901 and 1911 Census and fragments from the 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 Census are freely searchable online in the National Archives.

    The Ulster Historical Foundation is another non-profit organization, specializing in family history research and who can assist with tracing family records (including birth, death and marriage records).

    Our blog is intended only as an introduction to tracing your family’s roots in Ireland and it’s far from an exhaustive guide. We suggest using many other resources along the way – books, websites, places, people – where you can find out more or get expert assistance. It can be a challenging journey tracing your family roots, with many winding country roads along the way and we hope we’ve helped a little by pointing you in the right direction.

    For a private chauffeur drive tour of Ireland’s Ancient Eastto explore the many Irish Castles scattered throughout the country, or to plan that long awaited family reunion coach tour of Ireland, contact Specialized Travel Services …….Our entire team will ensure to give you a superior welcome to Ireland. Fill in the Contact form or send an email request to:

    Specialized Travel Services offer wonderful Irish Castle Tour Packages and we can tailor make any of our tour itineraries to suit your specific requirements for your memorable family vacation in Ireland.

    Castles of Ireland

    Irish Heritage and Ancestry

    Irish Castles & Manors



    Note: Featured image at the top of the blog is of the Rock of Dunamase, County Laois. © Chris Hill and Tourism Ireland.

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      Cahir Castle, County Tipperary.
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      Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary (c) Tourism Ireland.
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      Huntington Castle and Gardens, Co. Carlow


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