Self-drive tours

Medieval Ireland Wicklow and Kildare

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Castles, gothic architecture and villages arrived in Ireland towards the end of the 12th century – and stayed that way for the next five hundred years.

The journey begins in the charming village of Blessington, which is just ten minutes drive away from a single solid-looking tower house called Threecastles. Since 1940 it has overlooked the man-made Blessington Lake – but in bygone days it commanded a ford on the River Liffey. South of Blessington, near Ballymore Eustace, an earthen bank has been preserved. The bank is one of the few remaining traces of the Pale, a fortification erected by the Anglo-Norman invaders to protect the land they had won from the dispossessed native Irish. Threecastles was one of the strongholds that guarded the Pale.

South of Ballymore Eustace is Baltinglass, an altogether more peaceful scene where the River Slaney flows in the shadow of the ruins of an abbey built by Cistercian monks in 1170. Go west to Castledermot which offers traces both of an ancient Celtic monastery with round tower and sculptured crosses and a Franciscan friary founded in 1302. Then go northwest for Kilkea, a splendid castle, extensively rebuilt in 1849 and now a very comfortable hotel.