15 Apr King John’s Castle, County Limerick
Five irregularly spaced drum towers linked by massive walls are all that remain of the castle that King John built in the early 13th century to keep the peace in Thomond (as the area was then called) between the Norman settlers and the O’Brien clan, kings and later earls of Thomond. Two of the towers are incorporated in the gatehouse, which still has the slots of the portcullis in the stonework of its pointed doorway.
The castle, one of the first to be built without a keep, has had a chequered history. It was captured briefly by the O’Briens and MacNamaras in 1369, and during the Civil War Cromwell’s General Ireton forced the Royalist garrison to surrender after bombarding the castle from the foot of Thomond Bridge. It was bombarded again in 1690 and 1691 by the forces of William of Orange, and the marks of the bombardment can still be seen on the walls of the north-western tower.
The courtyard is now an archaeological museum containing relics of the pre-Norman and Norman settlements, revealed when the castle was restored in the 1930s.
King John’s Castle is a must-see attraction on your tours of Ireland.