Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cahir Castle

By Kelly Boyle

Cahir Castle is located in Cahir town centre, South Tipperary, on an island in the river Suir. It was originally built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, prince of Thomond. In the 14th century, the powerful Butler family owned the castle. During the 18th century it fell into ruin, but was restored in the 1840s. Now it is a national monument, managed by the Office of Public Works, open for guided tours and an audiovisual shows.

During the Irish Confederate Wars the castle was besieged twice. Outside one of the walls, this cannonball was left as a parting gift to the castle.

“Mind your head and watch your step.” This was a key phrase our tour guide kept repeating to us. The stairwells in the castle were dominantly designed to trick attackers. They were constructed unevenly and spiraled to the right. This set up was intended so that the attacker would trip and have to switch their sword to their left hand, making them weaker. The door frames were also very short so that the attacker would have to bow their head to enter, not realize what was waiting for them on the other side.

Through the first set of gates an attacker would be locked into a trap chamber. Here, the defenders of the castle could shoot down upon them or set the timber roof on fire and collapse it upon them. You can still see evidence of the flames from the burns that cover the walls.

In the grand hall, above where the lord and lady would sit, was mounted a pair of enormous antlers. These belonged to a 10,000 year old extinct Giant Irish deer. The span of this set was a little over eight feet.

We were delighted in the stories of how the grand hall was used for entertainment. Upon the arrival of a guest, the lady of the house would greet them at the door with three welcome drinks. The drinks were ale, wine, and the water of life (whiskey). If the visitor could drink all three they were welcomed in and allowed to stay as long as they pleased. When they did depart, they were given three flasks filled with these same drinks.

We also discovered that this castle has been featured in the movies Braveheart and Excalibur, as well as the HBO show The Tutors.

Of all the castles we explored on this trip, I’ll admit that this was my favorite. I loved it’s rich history, and was purely amazed by the buildings natural elegance.

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