Ferns is a historic town in north County Wexford. In the 6th century it was an ecclesiastical centre of national importance and subsequently the seat of the Kings of Leinster. The town became the capital of the Kingdom of Leinster, and also the Capital of Ireland when the kings of that southern part of the province established their seat of power there. Impressive remains of Ferns Castle are in the centre of the town.
This is one of hidden gems on the way to Wexford. Ferns Castle is an OPW heritage site, situated just off the main road that runs through Ferns. Only half of the castle now remains, but there is a visitor centre (in the season there are free guided tours) located on-site features information about the historical site as well as the well-known Ferns Tapestry.
Ferns Castle is one of the castles built as an Anglo-Norman fortress in the middle of the 13th century by William, Earl Marshall, on the model of the castles he saw in the Holy Land. It is now mostly destroyed, but the surviving and partly reconstructed tower with its chapel is worth the visit, along with the informed instruction by the guide. Story has it that the castle was built on the initiative of Isabel of Claire, to reassert her hereditary claims to the location due to her grandfather, Dermot MacMurrough King of Leinster, who brought the first Normans to Ireland in 1169 to help strengthen and save his collapsing kingdom.
Originally, the castle formed a square, with large corner towers. Only half of the castle now stands, although what remains is most impressive. The most complete tower contains a beautiful circular chapel, several original fireplaces and a vaulted basement.
The Castle was destroyed by Cromwell in 1649. During excavations in 1972-75 a rock-cut ditch was discovered around the castle walls and a drawbridge structure was also found on the south side. The castle had three storeys and there are still 13th century windows remaining in the eastern wall, pictured right.
The town of Ferns also contains the 13th-century St Edan’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland).
Location of Ferns Castle:
Below my photos taken in March 2022.