Enniscorthy Castle, Co. Wexford

On a rainy April Sunday, I visited Enniscorthy Castle in a historic Enniscorthy town in County Wexford.

Situated in the center of Enniscorthy town, Enniscorthy Castle is among the oldest and best preserved of Ireland’s castles. It is also one of the few Irish castles to offer self-tours inside the castle. And contains many interesting exhibitions thanks to which visitors can learn about the different periods of the castle and town.

Originally built in the early 13th century by the Normans, Enniscorthy Castle has a diverse and rich history.

Over the course of 800 years, Anglo-Norman knights, Gaelic kings, English gentry, and a local merchant family have resided at the Castle.

The first stone castle at this site was built in the 1190s by the Anglo-Norman Knight, Philip de Prendergast, and his wife Maud de Quency (granddaughter of the famous Strongbow). Maud and her descendants resided at the castle until the 1370s.

Art MacMurrough Kavanagh attacked Enniscorthy Castle in the 1370s. And the MacMurrough Kavanagh dynasty then held it until 1536, when they surrendered the castle and surrounding lands to Lord Leonard Grey. At this point, the castle was reported to be in ruined condition. It was burned down by the Earl of Kildare in 1569.

In 1581, Queen Elizabeth I gave the land to Edmund Spenser. And later, during the Elizabethan plantations era, the castle was owned by Sir Henry Wallop. He extended and refurbished the castle extensively.

Enniscorthy Castle was surrendered to Oliver Cromwell in 1649. It served as a prison during the 1798 Rebellion and as a barracks during the Fenian Rising of 1867.

In 1903 the castle became the private residence of the Roche family until they vacated it in 1951. In the years following it became home to the Wexford County Museum.

Between 1962 and 2006, the Castle served as Wexford County Museum, displaying the rich heritage of County Wexford. The Castle closed for refurbishments in 2006 and reopened in 2011.

Today Enniscorthy Castle houses exhibitions dedicated to the Normans, Enniscorthy’s industrial heritage, its last residence the Roche Family, Colm Tóibín’s ‘Brooklyn’, and modernist designer Eileen Gray.

On the ground floor, visitors get an introduction to the castle. And can learn about its development and the surrounding settlements through the centuries.

Visitors can view the Enniscorthy Industries exhibition on the ground floor. From the early 1600s onwards when Enniscorthy began to grow and prosper as a market town.

The first floor, now the Roche floor, contains reproductions of the rooms of Henry J Roche and his family. They were the last occupants of the castle from 1903 to 1951.

Visitors can also explore the work of the renowned Irish furniture designer and architect Eileen Gray (born in 1878 just outside the town).

The castle also features an exhibition based on the popular film Brooklyn which featured Irish actress Saoirse Ronan.

The first scene in the film and the first Brooklyn filming location is in Eilis’ hometown, Enniscorthy. And they shot the Ireland scenes right here in Enniscorthy. This is what makes the film all the more unique. It was filmed on the streets and in the places that are mentioned in the book. Another place associated with the Brooklyn movie I have been visiting before is the amazing Curracloe Beach.

Another interesting feature of this castle is the dungeon with authentic rare medieval wall art –The Halberdier. It is graffiti from the 1580s of an Elizabethan man holding a halberd which depicts a medieval soldier who was imprisoned in the dungeons over 400 years ago.

Visitors can also visit the roof of the castle which has the most beautiful views of Vinegar Hill Battlefield, Enniscorthy town, and the Backstairs Mountains in the distance.

This castle is a beautiful example of a medieval castle. It is characterized by a 4-storey rectangular keep and four corner towers echoing the style of the nearby Norman Ferns Castle and Carlow Castle. Unlike these other two sites, however, thanks to the restoration work done by the Roche family, Enniscorthy Castle is incredibly well-preserved and can still be admired in all its grandeur.

The castle is open Monday to Friday (9.30 am – 5 pm with last admission at 4.30 pm) and weekends from 12 pm – 5 pm (last admission at 4.30 pm).

Tickets for Enniscorthy Castle will cost you €6 per adult, €5 for older people and students, and €4 for children under 16.

For more information visit: enniscorthycastle.ie

Location of Enniscorthy Castle:

Below are photos I took in April 2022.


Blogger. Volunteer. Enthusiast of photography, nature, architecture, and cultural events. Since 2014 living in County Carlow in Ireland.

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