Howth Castle, Howth
Howth Castle is not open to visitors but it's still worth the short walk from the DART station to have a look at it. Plus if you come during April-June, that is rhododendron season and you can also visit the gardens which are a bit further up the path behind the Deer Park Hotel. It appeared that I just missed the season as most of the rhododendrons at the front of the path were past blooming. The path through the garden was extremely muddy and I couldn't tell from the map if I could get to the Cliff Walk that way so I headed back towards the castle.
Howth Castle is said to have been connected to Grace O'Malley, the pirate queen. The story goes that in 1575 after a visit to Queen Elizabeth I she and her crew were refused hospitality at the castle because the owner was dining, in retaliation she kidnapped his grandson. She demanded that in exchange for the return of his grandson that the gates of Howth Castle remain open and to never close to any visitors seeking hospitality. Ever since, an extra place setting has been set on the table in the castle's dining hall. Darn, I should have knocked on the door!
Howth Castle is from the 15th century. It is not open to public as there are private homes in the building. The large grounds around the castle are open though. There is a golf course and a rhododendron garden with over 2000 varieties in bloom mostly in May and June (it would be very nice to see one day).
I came here to see the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, which I had read about in my guidebook and they were on the map. When I turned right just before the castle there was a sign saying: Private, strictly only visitors to the National Transport Museum allowed. It was only five minutes before the museum was closing but I walked the way anyway, but could not walk on to the ruins of the abbey as another sign said: Private, no entry. That was not mentioned in my guidebook, but anyway it is nice to walk a bit along the road past the castle and golf course (where it allowed to walk).
Howth Castle is located just a short walk away from the train station. It is the ancestral home of the St. Lawrence family, whose descendants still live in the castle today - it is therefore not open to the public, but visitors are welcome to walk around the castle's grounds. The castle dates back to the 14th century, and while some parts have obviously been restored fairly recently, other parts have been left to fall into a sad state of disrepair. It's the case, among other things, of the chapel that was built to replace Howth Abbey. However, the luxurious vegetation that has taken hold of the ruins has turned it into quite the magical spot!
I'm a castle addict. I admit this. I knew I had to find this castle and thanks to my trusty directions printed from the VT site, I found it.
We only stayed for a couple of minutes because it was getting late - but it was definitely worth the walk.
The castle sits on 250 lush, green acres of land and I couldn't get over how vibrant the green was. It really makes the place breathtaking. You'll also find the Talbot Botanic Gardens on the grounds, but we didn't visit due to the rain and time constraints.
Amazingly, the Talbot family lived in this castle from 1185 to 1973. No, they didn't live to be 800 years old, but generation after generation of Talbots remained at Malahide until the family died out. Actually, the last resident is still alive, but is living at quite an advanced age in Australia. When she dies, that will be it for the Talbots. How sad.
Anyway, inside you'll find some interesting architectural features and beautiful period furniture. In the Great Hall, the history of the Talbot family and really of Ireland comes to life through paintings and artifacts. The tour is guided by an automated voice on speakers in the different rooms of the castle.
Many things to do around this place:
* transport museum
* admiring the castle (it's definitely not an eye sore)
* Castle gardens
Just walking around it is already very nice for a quiet, sunny Sunday afternoon...
As I was staying at the Deer Park Hotel for the night, I had the opportunity to see this medieval castle, that has remained in the same family for over 800 years, as the hotel is in the Castle grounds.
Not generally open to the public (apart from Charity Open Days, etc, bookings for individuals or groups can be arranged by contacting the owners-see the website) this is the private home of the Gaisford-St Lawrence family. It is possible to walk around the outside of the castle though.
The Georgian kitchen is part of The Kitchen in the Castle cookery school
The first Lord of Howth and John de Courcey arrived in Ireland in 1177. The feast day of St Lawrence was on the 10th August, the date that Almeric (Lord of Howth) secured the Howth peninsula. He was so pleased, that as well as taking the land, he took the name of this saint.
He built his first castle by the harbour, but decided to build another on the present site, which was in 1235. Both these were constructed of wood - not the most practical material for a fortification where open fires would be used for heating/ cooking etc.
The castle seen today dates mainly from 1738, but some parts are 16th Century. Over the centuries it has been extended and altered to suit the inhabitants and their needs.
In the early 20th Century, Sir Edwin Lutyens was called upon to provide a fitting extension.
The last Earl of Howth died in 1909, when the castle passed down to his nephew Julian Gaisford.
Many famous visitors have resided at Howth Castle including Jonathan Swift (Author of Gullivers Travels and Dean of St Patricks Cathedral), who was a family friend. Also Queen Victoria, H G Wells and Bing Crosby (The crooner seemed to like Irish Castles, I remember seeing a caricature of him at Blarney Castle a few years ago)
One visitor didn't receive the welcome she expected, and lives on in the legend of the Castle and Howth. Grace O'Malley or Granuaile This fearless Pirate and Chieftan had led her band of men on a successful pillage, following one of her visits to Queen Elizabeth. Bad weather had forced them to land in Howth. Grace went to the Castle to seek food and shelter for her hungry and exhausted men as it was the custom for such hospitality in Ireland.
Finding the Castle gates locked, she demanded entrance, only to be snubbed- Lord Christopher St Lawrence was dining and wasn't to be disturbed, So she took revenge by kidnapping St Lawrence junior, heir to the estate, and took him to Connaught
This son was precious to Lord Christopher, so much that he dashed to Connaught and pleaded with Grace for his release, promising to pay any ransom. Grace, being a Woman scorned, was having none of this, and instead demanded that the castle gates never be locked again, or closed to visitors seeking hospitality.
Once this was agreed to, and the Lord was suitably crushed, the son was handed over, and to this day, the castle gates remain open, along with an extra place being laid at the dining table in the main Dining Hall. A good story, but probably quite historically inaccurate. Check out the website below for more about this legend and also The Berisford Ghost Legend
Howth Castle has inspired some famous writers. HG Wells was moved to exclaim that his view from the grounds of Deer Park to Irelands Eye was "The finest view west of Naples"
It also features in Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce.
The opening lines are ;-
"riverrun, past Eve and Adams, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."
This was also printed on all old Irish £10 notes! Well, if you don't have a copy of Finnegans Wake, or an old Irish tenner, the directions are below!
This 14th Century castle is not very well-known in comparison to other local attractions... then again, people still live there so no wonder it is not open to the public!
As you turn off for Deerpark, you first have to drive past this impressive turret and tower overlooking the the golf course and sea.
Some parts of the Castle are broken down, but apart from that, it still looks intact and sturdy.
However, it is no problem to take a few photos of the castle, just don't expect a tour. Check out the rest of my pics :)