Ferns Castle




N 52° 35' 26.46"   W 006° 29' 57.78"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

T 01676 49882

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Friday 15 June 2007

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The castle seen from the car park.

Ferns castle is right in the centre of the town.
The first records tell of an early building, a timber castle, erected here by Diarmait Mac Murchadha in 1166, but this building was later destroyed by his enemy Tiernan O'Rourke.
This stone fortress was ordered by William Marshal, first Earl of Pembroke, but it was completed only in in 1224, when he had already died. The castle was given to his widow, and remained in the possesion of the Marshal family until 1324. The Irish captured and burned the castle in 1346, but the Roche family retook the building and repaired it. From 1360 to 1539 the castle was property of the Kavanagh family, but it was burned down again in 1577. It underwent a new reconstruction in 1607 but it was eventually surrendered to the Cromwell's general Coote in 1641.

The castle was partly built on a rock outcrop around which a moat was cut out. Part of the building material came from the cutting of this moat, the rest of the material came from a different quarry. Most of castle, though, was built on earth, where the remains of the earlier timber castle were.
The structure was almost square in plan, with four round towers. Today only two of these towers survive, the southwest and the southeast ones, but only the latter is complete and can be visited inside with a guided tour.
A modern timber stairs leads to the entry level. From this level a spiral staircase leads to the upper floors. The first floor is a wonderful circular chapel with a vaulted roof and eight ribs starting from eight corbels. The ceiling is also supported by four main ribs. Close to each rib there are carved heads or floral carvings. The eight ribs meet the four main ribs to form five crosses where five carved rosettes are. The small recessed altar is in the east wall of the chapel, along with a cupboard and a piscina. The second floor is a chamber with narrow windows and a fireplace. Above this chamber is the roof.
The southwest tower is much more derelict. One interesting feature, though, is the fine gargoyle just below the battlements level.
At the ground level three walls of the castle can still be seen, to the north, east and south. The main hall was probably in the east section where the beautiful fireplace still survives. During the excavations no foundations were found in the courtyard, so the internal structure of the castle was made from timber.

This was my third visit to this castle, the first one being in August 1989 and the second one on July 5th, 1994.

UPDATE: June 12th, 2013 - Fourth visit to the Ferns castle. New photographs taken. The first five photos are from the previous visit.

UPDATE: June 22nd, 2017 - Fifth visit to this castle. I took photos of details that I had missed in the past. The last 7 photos in this page are from this visit.

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