A review of Irish medieval castles as a tourist facility
By Pat Dargan
Lights, Camera, Action: spotlight on tourism in the new Millennium, edited by N.Nickerson, R.N. Moisey and K. Andereck (San Fernando, 2000)
Abstract: Ireland has an extensive legacy of ruined castles which lie sprinkled across the countryside, in both rural and urban locations, and which date from the country’s turbulent medieval past. This paper looks a number of these castles which have recently been reinstated, traces their history, examines the reinstatement process they experienced, and considers the range of tourist attractions and facilities they now offer.
Introduction: Of all heritage features which lie spread across the Irish landscape, it is perhaps the vast array of medieval castle which – more than any other – offer the most evocative testament to the country’s military and belligerent past. These castles vary considerably in age and scale, from the massive Norman fortresses of the thirteenth century to the later more modest fifteenth century tower houses of the lessor feudal lords. Despite these large numbers, only a handful of Irish castles have remained in continuous use and occupation since the medieval period. Another small number have been remodelled during the Romantic era of the nineteenth century, but it must be remembered that the great bulk of these works were carried out in a very heavy-handed fashion. Indeed, the original medieval fabric of a number of Irish castles now lies buried deep beneath nineteenth-century ‘mock-castle’ extravaganzas. Thus it is, that the great bulk of Irish castles currently lie abandoned and make up a body of romantic ruins, numbering in excess of two thousand, which are to be found in most areas of the national landscape.