The first time I visited Castle Cahir I was with my brother in law and his three sons who live in Norway and were visiting us for their summer holiday. They declared that they wanted to see an old and well preserved castle. If you live in Ireland, there are ruins of old castles and cemeteries almost everywhere. There is probably an old cemetery in your back yard. However, if you want to see a well preserved castle you need take a trip. Once my friend told me about a castle in which they shot scenes to one of my favourite movies “Braveheart,” so I decided that we should definitively see it. After an hour of traveling on a warm humid day, we finally arrived to the town which was surrounded by fog. Because of the fog I didn’t even realize that the landscape around the city is dominated by the proud Galtee Mountain range.
The castle is very easy to find, you can’t miss it because it’s in the centre of the town. It is situated on an island on the river Suir, and appears to grow out of the rock on which it stands. It is surrounded by a high enclosing and impressive walls.
After parking our car in a large parking place nearby, we were welcomed by a giant monument of a fish. I’m not sure why a fish, but it has something to do with the name Cahir which translates from Irish to ‘City of the fishing Fort’. We paid a small fee (I believe it was 3 euro for an adult and 1 euro for a child) and were welcomed to enter the castle through an old iron gate. A guided tour is available in English, Irish, French, German, and Italian but we decided to explore the castle on our own. We began our sightseeing by watching a movie about the history of the castle. It plays every half hour in a small audience hall and teaches a good piece of history, for example: the castle is one of the largest castles in Ireland, built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond and was granted to the Butler Family in 1375. It was a place of treasons, murders and many sieges.
The movie fed our imagination and helped us to visualize life in the middle ages. As we searched through old chambers, halls and dungeons we were faced with the cold and dark reality of the medieval times. As I looked at the portraits of the lords (their date of birth and death posted below) I realized how short and harsh life was in that time. We should consider ourselves very lucky and blessed.
So you might ask, what caught our attention and what did we like the most about the castle?
- You can enter almost every part of the castle and grounds. There are so many castles where you are constantly annoyed with ‘do not enter’ signs – Not in Castle Cahir; chambers, dungeons and access to battlements, ramparts, the great hall, narrow walk ways and steep, sometimes dangerous ramps will feed your curiosity.
- The castle is very well preserved and was one of the most interesting presentations of a complete medieval life. If you use your imagination you might actually see a knight or a princes strolling through the courtyard…
- The kids and teenagers loved exploring it.
- One of the cannon balls is still preserved in the wall of the Northeast Tower. You can actually see it!
- Great battlefield models and still working gate mechanism. (The sound of this mechanism is said to have been used for the movie, “Braveheart.”)
- You will learn why people slept in bizarre and uncomfortable positions.
- Great price for value.
Things to watch out for:
- Watch your kids, like I mentioned before, almost every part is accessible, it is easy to fall or slip from the ramps and walls especially in rainy conditions.
- Mind your head, the halls are very low.
We finished our exploration in two hours and had a great time. If that isn’t enough for you, there is a beautiful Cahir Park nearby which provides one of the most popular walks for locals and visitors alike—the “Coronation Walk” which leads from the Castle to the Swiss Cottage. But it’s enough for now.