Monday, October 10, 2011

King John's Castle

King John's Castle is a 13th century castle found on King's Island in the center of medieval Limerick City. Overlooking the Shannon River, this place offers some impressive views of the city as well as having its own personal history.

Before 1200 rolled around there were large earthen defences erected on high river ground to protect the river crossing. In the following centuries it was repaired and extended several times. In 1642 the Great Siege almost ran Limerick and the city to the ground. Siege mines weakened the front wall (East curtain wall in case you were wondering) of the castle and countersiege mines were used during the later and subsequent sieges. To date roughly 1000 objects have been excavated (including skeletal remains). What was left of a medieval garrison and soldiers quarters was recently found near the sallyport area of the castle and can be seen from the courtyard. A couple of houses believing to be of Viking origin were unearthed during recent restorations of the castle and are worth checking out if you're interested. Between 1690 & 1691 the Williamite sieges led to the Treaty of Limerick being signed. The Treaty Stone is said to be the site of the document's signing and can be seen on the far shore of the river from the battlements. The Pre-Norman Limerick features found here are both defensive and settlement. Good evidence of an early defence system and a strong earthen rampart, revetted with limestone boulders and protected by a deep ditch show that this castle was built on an existing fortification. The castle itself retains many of its pioneering features, making its construction unique to this day. Its massive gate house, battlements and corner towers are currently waiting to be explored by visitors while the armoury and its contents remain as evidence of its turbulent history.

A Brief Tour of the Castle
1. The main entrance (of course).

2. A reconstruction of a medieval courtyard displaying some of the trades and conditions of the 16th century.

3. Cylindrical towers fortified the corners of the castle, stopping any attack on the walls (sort of). This is the north-east tower and is well worth checking out to hear what King John has to say about himself.

4. Any attacker who managed to get over the moat and drawbridge (as far as the main gate itself was concerned) had to deal with this strong portcullis which further protects the main door.

5. The wall along the battlements still connects the gatehouse to the corner towers, but today it's a rather nice walk without an enemy to take you down (provided you don't fall off of course).

6.The tops of the corner towers give panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside. This "fayre city", along with the river, is a sight worth seeing.

7. The window seats in the north-west tower show signs of domesticity. This was where the constable resided in. As it was the strongest room it housed all the valuables. The mint is also found in this tower.

8. This wall's part of the 18th century Castle Barracks.

9. Archaeological excavations were carried out here from 1993-1995. This area will be open to visitors once all walls, doorways and paths have been restored.

10. Also found and exposed is the sallyport (the side entrance), in the castle wall, ready for a quick escape or a secret entrance.

11. The south-west tower now details 17th century events of sieges, treaties and prominent personalities of the time.

12. The archaeological excavations and the evidence there from, are presented in situ beneath the interpretative building. The stairs in the area lead up to the shop and exit.

13. Next door, outside the Castle Walls, the buildings are made of bricks or stone salvaged from demolished buildings in the city. These provide retailing, restaurant and pub facilities for the traveller of today.

14. The Tavern at the Castle is a unique licensed bar themed in the 18th century and is available for special functions.

Here's the URL if anyone's interested in checking out the site:

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