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Still known by its simple Norman-French name of Roche, this impressive castle clings dramatically to the summit of a great rocky outcrop. Striking and powerful, it commands a pass northwards and affords wonderful views over the surrounding country. According to the Close Rolls of 1236, it was raised by Lady Rohesia de Vernon, whose grandfather came to Ireland with Prince John in 1185. There is a tale that she promised herself in marriage to the architect if he completed the job to her satisfaction, but when he came to claim her hand, she had him cast from one of the windows in the west end - still popularly known as the "Murder Window".
Most of the castle was built in the 1230s, though it may have been completed in the following decade. Its peculiar triangular layout, determined by the shape of the rock, comprises a large enceinte enclosure with a twin-towered gatehouse linked to the very considerable Great Hall. A causeway gives access to the entrance across a rock-cut ditch, in the centre of which was a gap with drawbridge protected by a barbican.
The large rectangular hall must have been an impressive building in its heyday. Its main chamber, lit on the south side by three large windows, was so enormous that the basement must have had timber subdividing to support the floor. The east gabled wall survives with some traces of the old roof line and indications of a third storey. A small rectangular building on the north side of the hall is a later addition, while the remains of a free-standing rectangular structure in the ward centre may also be a later feature.
7 km (4.5 miles) NW of Dundalk. NGR: H 996132.
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