Moat of Ardscull Motte-and-Bailey




N 53° 01' 30.1"   W 006° 54' 54.0"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

S 72851 97663

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Monday 10 June 2013

GPS Accuracy (m)

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One of the ditches halfway up, looking towards west.

Our first trip to Ireland was in 1994, and it was a relaxed and not monuments oriented holiday. We knew very little about the place and we didn't have any OS map. The only map we had was a Michelin road map of Ireland. On this map, in the area around Athy, a dolmen-shaped icon was printed, and it was marked as the Moat of Ardscull. We didn't know what to look for, we thought it could have been a tomb or a stone circle. Though we attempted some sightings we didn't see anything of interest. Probably we even drove by it without recognizing it.
At last, after many years, we stopped and had a look at this site.
It's on the west side of the R418 road from Kilcullen to Athy, at 6 km from Athy.
It's an earthen mound of about 125 metres of diameter and about 20 metres of height, the remains of a motte-and-bailey, an earth and timber kind of castles usually built by Normans in the 12th century.
This was the place of a battle between the Leinstermen and the Munstermen in the region of Feidhlimidh Reachtmar, who was the High King of Tara from 111 and 119.
A timber tower and other buildings would have been atop the mound, protected by a ditch and an outer earthen bank. The timber structure is obviously gone and only the mound has remained.
Nearby this Moat on Janaury 26th, 1316, one of the battles of the Scottish War of Independence was fought. The Scottish army, lead by Edward the Bruce, brother of Robert the Bruce king of Scotland, won against the English army led by John de Hotham, agent of the king of England. Following this victory the Scots took over Laois and on May 1st Edward the Bruce was crowned king of Ireland on the Hill of Faughart, Co. Louth, about 120 km north-northeast from Ardscull. Edward the Bruce died on October 14th, 1318, during the battle of Faughart against the English forces led by John de Bermingham.
Improvements to the structure was made by the FitzGeralds in the 15th century.
In the 1820's Augustus Frederick FitzGerald, 3rd Duke of Leinster, planted the site with several trees that today give the mound the look of a soft pillow, especially in the summertime.
Though the site is a motte-and-bailey, it is called Moat of Ardscull, probably because of the ditch that once surrounded the motte.
There's a car park at the south of the hill, and the access path departs at the south-southeast (190°) with a steep rise to the top.

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