Limerick Castle,
County Limerick

This striking landmark in Limerick, known as "King John's Castle", stands on the east bank of the Shannon within the city walls, commanding a strategically important river crossing. It was built as a royal fortress in the early 13th century and is an outstanding example of a "keepless" castle, similar in many respects to contemporary castles at Kilkenny and Dublin. It has a pentagonal plan with massive drum towers defending each of the four main angles - one of which was replaced by a diamond-shaped bastion in 1611. The Normans appear to have attempted to secure control of Limerick around 1202 when the Annals record a "castle there". Stone-revetted earthen banks, recently discovered during excavations, may be part of this early Norman fort. Work on the stone castle may have begun a little later, perhaps around 1210, as the Pipe Rolls record an expenditure of 733 on the site in 1212.

For most of its history the castle remained in Crown control and had an uninterrupted line of constables from 1216 until the death of Lord Gort in 1842. Despite this continuity, the castle did not escape being captured on many occasions. It fell to Bruce in 1316 and later again to the O'Briens and MacNamaras in 1369. In 1642 it was taken by a strong force of Irish, after they ignited mines and breached the walls. Recent excavations in the vicinity of the east curtain wall have uncovered a fascinating series of mines and countermines dug during this siege. The castle was captured by Cromwellian troops in 1651 and by Williamite troops in 1691.

In the 18th century the towers were reduced in height and fitted to bear artillery. Barrack buildings were also completed in 1751 and remained in use until 1922. These were partly replaced by Corporation houses in 1935, but in 1990 the whole interior was cleared and a new visitor centre erected. Ongoing archaeological excavation, supported by Shannon Heritage, continues in the castle every summer.

Limerick city. NGR: R 582576.