26 Mar Howth Castle, Dublin
A few minutes’ walk west of the village, is an irregular battlemented structure dating from 1564, but much restored by Francis Bindon in 1738 (his portrait of Swift hangs in the Castle) and by Morrison and Lutyens (1911) who added the pseudo-medieval west tower. Seat of the Earl of Howth until the death of the 4th Earl and 30th Baron in 1909, it is still lived in by the Gaisford-St. Lawrence family, and the oldest inhabited house in Ireland. The castle is not open to the public although the grounds are.
The gardens are famous for their 400 species of rhododendrons which crowd the sloped of adjacent ‘Mud Rock’ (and for the early 18th century formal garden with its, 9m high beech hedges). In the grounds are the ruins of Corr Castle, a tall square 16th century edifice guarding the isthmus and Aideen’s Grave, a magnificent portal dolmen in the rhododendron grove, it was inspiration for the eponymous poem by Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810-1886).
They heaved the stone; they heap’d the cairn:
Said Ossian “In a queenly grave
We leave her, ‘mong her fields of fern
Between the cliff and wave.
For many years, the castle door was open at all times to all comers at mealtimes, a custom dating, it is said, from 1575, when Grace O’Malley, the uncrowned queen of the West, passed by on her return journey to Ireland after visiting Queen Elizabeth. Inhospitably refused admittance to the castle on the excuse that the family was at dinner, she abducted the heir of Howth to her castle of Carrigahowley, and kept him there until she had wrung a promise from Lord Howth to keep his gates open at mealtimes in the future. The story is apocryphal.
Howth Castle is a must see on your tours of Ireland, contact us now at Ireland & Scotland Luxury Tours to organise your visit.