Askeaton Castle,
County Limerick

The splendid castle of the Munster Geraldines at Askeaton, the principal seat of the last Earls of Desmond, rises majestically above the River Deel on a small rocky island. Most of the ruins belong to the 15th century, though they incorporate parts of a much older fortress that was founded here by William de Burgo in 1199. The Earls of Desmond had many changes in fortune after they acquired the place in the 1340s, but the heyday of their great wealth and power undoubtedly came when the King, otherwise engaged in French wars, surrendered his royal rights in Munster to the seventh Earl of Desmond. It was during this time from 1420 to 1457 that most of the castle and nearby Franciscan friary were built.

The castle extends over two courtyards - an upper ward crowning the rock and a lower ward surrounding it. The upper ward still retains fragments of its 13th-century polygonal wall with footings of a gateway on the east side. At the northern end stands a large 15th-century hall and chamber block, probably on 13th-century foundations. In the outer ward, built against the ramparts on the west side, stands the celebrated banqueting hall - perhaps the finest secular building of its period in Ireland. Its foundations are early medieval, but the ground floor vaulted chambers, cellars and kitchens all belong to the 1430s, when the seventh Earl built the hall above - a magnificent room 72 feet long and 30 feet wide. A striking feature are the large windows with decorated carvings, while the south end is decorated with a blind arcade, behind which stands the remains of a chapel block.

During the Desmond rebellion in 1580, the castle fell to Pelham after two days' bombardment, and shortly afterwards was handed over to the Berkleys. In 1599 the Earl of Essex came to its relief after it had withstood a 147- day siege by the "Sugan" Earl of Desmond. It was captured by the Confederates in 1642 and ten years later dismantled by Cromwellian troops.

25.5 km (16 miles) W/SW of Limerick city on the T68. NGR: R 341501.