Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle is, in every sense, the rock upon and around which the town is built. Dating originally from the 1200s, the structure was founded upon an island in the river Suir, replacing the previous fortifications that gave the town its name (cathair - stone fort). Once the seat of the Butler family, the Earls of Ormond, it is one of the largest and best preserved castles in the country, and a perfect example of late medieval construction. Reynolds, secretary to the Earl of Essex in 1599, noted that it was "the only famous castle of Ireland which was thought impregnable and is the bulwark of Munster".

A Rebel's Last Refuge


Cahir Castle was the backdrop before which many dramas during the turbulent 16th and 17th Centuries were played out. During the Nine Years War Thomas, Lord Cahir, who rebelled against Elizabeth, held the Castle. The result of his treason was a three-day siege, during which James Gallda, Lord Cahir's brother, escaped Essex' forces by swimming under the fort's water mill. The Castle was later returned to an apologetic Thomas. A cannonball lodged in the northeast tower remains to this day as a reminder of what was a well-documented and intriguing period in Cahir Castle's history.

A Return to Loyalty


During the Confederate War Cahir was taken by Inchiquin in 1647, but had to be re-taken in 1650 by Cromwell himself. By this time he had forged a fierce reputation, and the garrison surrendered on the terms he had offered before Cromwell had an opportunity to, as he put it, "bend my cannon upon (them)". Two years later he returned to the Castle to finally subdue the Confederacy, with whom he signed a Treaty in the Castle's hall.

The Fall and Rise

Throughout the years that followed the methods of both warfare and political administration changed, and these had a knock-on effect on the Castle. It was also an uncomfortable place in which to live. The Butlers and their heirs moved their residence to Rehill House and, later, Cahir House. In 1843 Richard, Lord Glengall noted that there were so many problems involved in making the Castle a residence again that he "doubt(ed) the prudence of doing so". Significant restoration work was carried out, however, before Richard's death in 1858. In 1964 the state took the monument into its care and carried out further improvements.

The Castle has proven very popular with film makers who have wished to capture the imposing grandeur of a medieval stronghold. Its charms have graced the films Catholics, Barry Lyndon, Tristan and Isolde and Excalibur.

The Office of Public Works now welcomes around 75,000 visitors to Cahir Castle every year.

Sources - Dúchas, the Heritage Service, "Cahir Castle, Co. Tipperary"; Butler, D.J., "Cahir - A Guide to Heritage Town & District"; Murphy, D. & N., "Tipperary: A Touring Guidebook"

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