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Medieval tower, Dublin Castle, Ireland          Source: Tupungato/ Adobe Stock

Dublin Castle, Encapsulating the Beauty and History of Ireland

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As with many other European counties, Ireland has multitude of historic castles and fortresses. Perhaps the best-known on the island is Dublin Castle. This stronghold has played an important part in the history of Ireland from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. Today it is a popular cultural and tourist attraction, as well as a government complex.

The Dramatic History of Dublin Castle

In the twelfth century, Anglo-Normans conquered Dublin and expelled the Vikings who had developed a Norse settlement at the site of the present-day castle. To control their new territories in Ireland, they built Dublin Castle which was originally a Norman motte and bailey structure. The castle was later constructed in stone and the River Poodle was diverted to form a moat around the new castle.

In the early 13 th century King John ordered the construction of a major fortress and it was made the center of English government in Ireland. Dublin Castle was the official residence of the Viceroy or royal representative in Ireland from the 13 th to the 20 th century. 

The English government only controlled the east coast of Ireland until the Tudor conquest in the 16 th century and many rebels were detained in the fortress during the Middle Ages. In 1641, when Catholic rebels tried to seize the bastion, a series of events were triggered that led to a general rebellion in Ireland, which in turn greatly contributed to the outbreak of the English Civil War.

In 1688, the medieval castle was gutted by fire, but was rebuilt. In the 18 th century, the castle was remodeled and extended. During this time, it was transformed from a medieval fortress to a Georgian palace. In the 18 th and 19 th century the Viceroy and occasional visiting British monarchs would hold lavish ceremonies in the halls of the reconstructed castle.

The last British Viceroy left the castle in 1922, after the Irish War of Independence. The new government used the ceremonial halls to welcome state visitors including Presidents John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Charles De Gaulle. Today the old fortress attracts 500,000 visitors a year and is still used by the Irish government for ceremonial events.

The Sights at Dublin Castle

The castle consists of a medieval tower, a Georgian palace and a 19 th century chapel. They are built around a public square known as the Upper Yard, which was once the main courtyard in the medieval fortress.

Upper Yard of Dublin Castle, Ireland (Leonid Andronov / Adobe Stock)

Upper Yard of Dublin Castle, Ireland (Leonid Andronov / Adobe Stock)

Beneath the castle are the excavated remains of original Viking ramparts. They are open to visitors at certain times of the day. Visitors can also see the foundation of several towers that were destroyed during the fire of 1688. The only remaining parts of the original medieval structure is the Medieval Tower. This is also known as the Wardrobe or Robe Tower and it was once used to store the British monarch’s personal property and treasure in Ireland. The Medieval Tower is one of the oldest, structures surviving in the city of Dublin, dating the early 13 th century. Its walls are massive and some 12 feet (4 m) thick and it is capped with stone battlements. The tower was restored in 1811. 

Record Tower and Dublin Castle. (pixs:sell/ Adobe Stock)

Next to the tower is the Chapel Royal, this was used by successive Viceroys and visiting monarchs from 1814. It is was built in the Neo-Gothic style and it is particularly famed for its stained-glass windows.

Next to the medieval tower is a Georgian era palace. With its red brick façade and white columns, it is considered to be a masterpiece of Georgian architecture. The interior has many remarkable features such as the Grand Staircase and St Patrick’s Hall. On display in the throne room, where the British Viceroy once held court, is the throne that was made for George IV in 1822. 

Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle, Ireland (Leonid Andronov / Adobe Stock)

Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle, Ireland (Leonid Andronov / Adobe Stock)

The portrait gallery holds the portraits of many Viceroys, while the State Drawing Room has many remarkable works of art and was used by Viceroys to entertain guest and dignitaries.

Visiting Dublin Castle

The castle is in the center of Dublin and public transport to the attraction is plentiful. A number of tours are available that allow visitors to explore the castle and its various wonders. It is possible to purchase a Heritage Card that would allow visitors to visit not only Dublin Castle but other attractions in the Irish capital.

Top image: Medieval tower, Dublin Castle, Ireland          Source: Tupungato/ Adobe Stock

By Ed Whelan


Lawlor, H. J., & Westropp, M. D. (1923). The Chapel of Dublin Castle. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 13(1), 34-73
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Maguire, J. B. (1974). Seventeenth century plans of Dublin Castle. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 104, 5-14
Available at:

Maguire, J. B. (1985). Dublin Castle: Three Centuries of Development. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 13-39
Available at:

Ed Whelan's picture


My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a... Read More

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