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I see that many of my friends enjoy my visit to Irelands historic castles so, for today’s walk we are going to visit an ancient castle and pretend that we are lords and Ladies !
We are in County Kildare and about three miles from the town of Castledermot is the village of Kilkea – that was a medieval stronghold for over 700 years .
It’s a sleepy crossroads nowadays with the old parish church, village pump and schoolhouse still standing … but through the gates lie the splendid grounds of Kilkea Castle.
Having parked the car, it’s about a ten minute stroll up the leafy driveway before the castle comes into view. As we go along let me tell you about the history of this place.
Sir Walter de Riddlesford built a mottle and bailey settlement on the site in the year 1180. A granddaughter of his married Maurice Fitzgerald, the 3rd baron of Offaly and so the Manor house came into the possession of the Fitzgerald’s and was to remain in the family for over 700 years. Sir Thomas de Rokeby, the Justicar of Ireland, used the castle as his military base and died here in 1356. Later, in 1426, John Fitzgerald , The 6th Earl strengthened Kilkea with so many new works and this structure is mainly what we see today.
The castle is particularly associated with Gerald, the 11th Earl of Kildare, known as the ” Wizard Earl “, who became the eldest male representative of the clan when only 12 years of age in 1537. The “Wizard Earl” escaped Ireland, being sent to the continent to be educated and following his return to Kildare and restoration to his titles his interest in science caused much interest among his neighbours around Kilkea Castle and he was said to possess magic powers. He died in 1585 and is supposed to return to the castle every seventh year mounted on a silver-shod white charger.
In the early 18th century, the castle was extensively renovated and having passed through several hands became a hotel in 1949 and eventually sold by the Fitzgerald family in the early 1960s. It was once again put up for sale in 2010 and has since reopened as a resort that we can now visit !
Crossing the old moat, we can enter the building and take a look around. The ground floor is laid out in a series of cosy and interesting rooms. I could imagine curling up in front of the giant fireplace with a book or playing a game of chess. Nearby is a delightful bar and the whole place oozes of old fashioned life. Let’s heads up the granite staircase to visit the dining room. I’m sure that the banquet hall once occupied this same space and today guests and enjoy fine dining in an elegant setting. Let’s take a look at the enormous modern chandelier that graces the ceiling !!
I asked the hotel manager could we get a peek into some of the bedrooms as I would bet they are simply amazing … but as the hotel is fully booked today this not possible – you will have to book a room here to see for yourself !!
Let’s head out to the beautiful gardens. They are laid out in box hedging and there is a huge wisteria plant covering the south facing wall and the aroma is simply amazing !! For golf lovers there is a full 18 hole course in the grounds and there are other facilities including a spa and fitness centre close to hand.
I wish we could spend more time here as it’s a lovely and breath-taking step back in time … and if you want to treat yourself to a luxury stay at Kilkea here is the website : www.kilkeacastle.ie
I hope that you enjoyed coming along with me today and my thanks to the team at the castle for allowing us to visit and explore the property.
Over on my website at www.connemaramarble.com our Free Shipping ends Sunday night!
Take care and see your next time,
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