Carlow Castle is one of the earliest stone castles built in Ireland and replaced an earlier wooden Motte and Bailey built by Hugh de Lacy in 1181. The stone castle was built by William de Marshall (Earl of Pembroke and Lord of Leinster between 1207 and 1213) in the early part of the 13th century. The design was very much influenced by the ‘four-towered’ keep style prevalent in many French Castles. Sadly all that remains of the castle is its Western wall flanked by two towers. The castle overlooked the Barrow River and was an important strategic defence , it came to prominence when in 1361 when Lionel, son of King Edward III moved the exchequer from Dublin to Carlow and spent £500 fortifying the garrison town. The Castle stayed in the ownership of the Earls of Norfolk from 1306 to 1537 and was attacked on many occasions. In 1382 it was attacked during a raid on the town by the MacMurroughs and O’Carrolls, the residents of Carlow petitioned Kind Richard for funds to rebuild the town, however their plea was ignored and the exchequer was moved back to Dublin.
The town and castle was attacked many more times by Irish Clans, the Kavanaghs, O’Tooles, O’Byrnes, O’Lalors and O’Moores, to name just a few, all besieged the castle over this period. In 1494 the castle was seized by James Fitzgerald of Kildare. Over the next 150 years the castle was attacked by Silken Thomas (1524), Rory Oge O’Moore in (1577), Sir Morgan Kavanagh (1641) Thomas Preston (1646) and Oliver Cromwell in 1650.
The town and castle was granted to Donogh O’Brien (Earl of Thomond) in 1616, the castle then changed hands many times over the next 50 years. In 1642 the Duke of Ormond’s army attacked the castle to rescue 500 Englishmen who were imprisoned within its walls. In 1650 when Cromwell attacked the castle it was badly damaged however it remained in a reasonable state until 1814 when a Dr. Middleton endeavoured to convert it to a lunatic asylum. During his attempt he undermined the foundations of the Castle by using explosives in an foolish attempt to demolish the interior, however he destroyed all but what remains visible to this day!
GPS: 52.83625, -6.93578