Cahir Castle




N 52° 22' 28.08"   W 007° 55' 37.2"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

S 04970 24769

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Wednesday 17 June 2015

GPS Accuracy (m)

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Cahir castle seen from the northwest.

It took us 21 years to be back at the Cahir Castle. We visited the town and other monuments in and around it other times in the past, but we never visited the castle again.

This castle is situated on a rocky island in the river Suir, and it's one of the best preserved castles in Ireland, though it went through several alterations
since it was first built. The original fortification was built by the O'Briens, the town of Cahir takes its name from this early building (an Chathair). According to Geoffrey Keating, renowned Irish historian now buried at
Tubbrid, this place was one of the royal seats of residence of the High Kings of Ireland. The seat was re-fortified by Brian Boru.
By the end of the 12th century the castle was conquered by the English.
In the history of the castle one the main moments is the siege at the end of May 1599, of which an excellent reconstruction is visible in the exhibition room of Cahir Castle. Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, was sent to Ireland during the Tyrone's Rebellion, where he was meant to crush the rebellion of the Irish chieftains in county Tyrone, following the instructions from Queen Elizabeth I, but instead of going to the north, he headed south, captured Athy on May 9th, and two weeks later he led an
attack to Cahir castle, at that time the strongest fortress in Ireland, with about 3,000 soldiers and 200 horses, with guns, cannons and a culverine. After three days of siege the owner of Cahir castle, Thomas Butler, 4th Baron Caher, surrendered to the Earl of Essex, but obtained to continue to live at the castle until his death in 1627.
A second moment in the castle's history is the attack by Lord Inchiquin in 1647. Then, three years later, when the castle was in the hands of the Earls of Ormond, it was again attacked by the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell on February 24th, 1650. However the lands of Cahir weren't granted to any Cromwell's follower, so the Ormonds had no difficulty in getting into the graces of the English military leader. The Barons Caher remained at the castle until 1780.
By the end of the 18th century the castle was in ruin.
When the main line of the Butler family died out, the castle went in the hands of a distant cousin, Richard Butler, 12th Baron Caher, who later received the titles of Viscount Caher and Earl of Glengall. This dinasty has the credit to have restored the castle to the appearance that we can see today. The last owners were the Butler Charteris family which died out in 1961. Three years later the castle was taken in the care of the State and extensive restoration works began, including the restoration of the portcullis.

The first records of a stone-built castle is from the 13th century when a gatehouse to the south, a hall to the northwest and a wall enclosure included a ward. In the following centuries the hall was raised by one floor, the curtain walls were also raised and extended to the northwest, corner towers were added to the northwest and northeast corners, and the entrance was moved from the original gatehouse to the side of it, but the position of the original gateway can still be seen in the masonry of the keep. Under the northwest tower was the prison, the northeast tower housed the well in its basement, the supply of water for the fortification. The hall is imposing, though it has been much altered compared to its original appearance. This was the place of the castle where entertainment and celebrations were held.
One of the most interesting features of Cahir Castle is the portcullis, completely restored, including the new drum at the upper level.

Unfortunately we weren't able to walk up to the parapets. About two weeks before our visit an idiot fell down from the parapets, and the management took the decision to close all accesses in order to prevent other accidents. Meanwhile they will study a solution to avoid similar mishaps in the future. I am quite sure that they will come up with a horrible railing that will spoil all the beauty of this magnificent castle.

The castle was one of the locations used in the movies "Barry Lyndon" (1975), by Stanley Kubrick, and "Excalibur" (1981), by John Boorman.

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