By Fin Dwyer
Irish History Podcast (2012)
In a remote valley, a mile east of the village of Annamoe in east Wicklow lies the long forgotten ruins of medieval Castlekevin. Camouflaged by undergrowth, this Norman castle and town was once the key Norman site in the region. The walls and earthworks of this ruin witnessed some of the most bloody events in the remarkable story of the fall of Norman society in the inhospitable mountains of eastern Wicklow. Life at Castlekevin was not always shrouded in war and violence, indeed over seven centuries ago this fortified settlement was a thriving town dominating the neighbouring valleys of Glendalough and Glenmalure. However following a century of relentless war, famine, plague and massacres reminiscent of ‘A Game of Thrones‘ the site declined into the picturesque ruin we see today.
This article is the story of eastern Wicklow in the later medieval period when it was torn apart by one of the worst crises recorded in human history. Although the region is famous for its associations with the early christian monastery at Glendalough its later medieval history is often neglected. Far from its pious origins of Glendalough the area became the centre of a bitter violent struggle for control of eastern Wicklow in a period of frequent famine.