Historical Architecture in Ireland
Ireland’s rich culture and history are reflected in its diverse historical architecture. Discover some exceptional examples of some of the iconic historical buildings in Ireland!
Kilkenny Castle is a Gothic castle in Kilkenny, Ireland, built from 1195 to 1213. It was used to control a ford through the River Nore and several trade routes. Together with its original four corner towers and moat, the castle was an important defensive structure for the town. The castle was considered a symbol of the Norman presence in Ireland. In 1967, the castle was sold to the state in a dilapidated state. After major restoration works, it is now open to visitors and additionally houses the Butler Gallery that holds exhibitions for the Kilkenny Art Gallery Society.
Charles Fort is a star-shaped fort located at the southern end of Summer Cove on Kinsale Bay, right on the water with its ramparts looking out over the harbour. On the same site where the fort has stood since the 1670s, there was previously a fort called Ringcurran Castle. Irish architect William Robinson is credited with designing Charles Fort, built in a star shape to repel cannon attacks. After being burned during the Irish Civil War in 1922, the fort was named a National Monument of Ireland in 1971 and has since been restored and protected as a built heritage site.
Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison located in Kilmainham, Dublin, which now serves as a museum. Built in 1796, it was called the “new prison” to distinguish it from the "old prison" it was built to replace, near the current site. Many Irish rebel leaders were imprisoned and executed in this prison, a building that holds significance in Irish history. In 1924, after the independence of Ireland, the prison was closed. After the building fell into disrepair due to its age, an initiative was launched in the 1960s to restore the former prison, which now serves as a monument housing a memorial and museum on nationalist history. The former prison has also been used as a film set on a number of occasions, most recently for the movie Paddington 2, for example.
Trinity College in Dublin was founded in 1592 with the aim of following in the footsteps of the renowned universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It is the oldest university in Ireland and also one of the oldest universities in the world. The historic campus is located in the city centre of Dublin, on the site of a former 12-century priory. The university is one of Dublin's biggest tourist attractions, in particular to see the historic library which houses the most famous medieval manuscript in the world. Completed in 1732, the Old Library is considered the greatest work of Irish architect and military engineer Thomas Burgh. The university’s 190,000 square metre site includes landmarks of diverse architectural periods, from Ruskinian gothic to Irish architectural modernism, including sports facilities, a chapel, student residences, a science gallery and numerous other institutions.
This is Trinity College’s famed "Long Room", found in the Old Library building. The 64 metre long space is the main attraction of the whole campus, home to the famous Book of Kells and hundreds of thousands of the library’s oldest books. The oldest harp in Ireland can also be seen here. The university has a legal right to receive a copy of any book published in Ireland or Great Britain, and currently has a collection of over 6 million books in its libraries.
Muckross House is a stately Victorian mansion found to the south of Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland. Since 1932, the site has formed the core of the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park, which in turn is part of the Killarney National Park covering over 10,000 hectares. Near the shores of Muckross Lake, the castle-like manor house was commissioned by Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife Mary Balfour Herbert, whose fortune came from a farm, land leases and copper mines on their property. Designed by Scottish architect William Burn, the estate was completed in 1843. Queen Victoria even stayed on the estate for a few days in August 1861, for which occasion the family undertook extensive works to the house and garden to accommodate their royal visitors.
Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel, also known as St. Patrick’s Rock or Cashel of the Kings, is located about 20 km from Cahir in County Tipperary. Reaching 65 metres high, the monument is considered an iconic Irish landmark with great historical significance. Originally the traditional seat of the kings of Munster, the site reflects a thousand years of Irish history and is thought to have ritual significance even since ancient times. The oldest and highest of the structures on the mountain is a 28-metre-high round tower that dates from 1101 and is exceptionally well-preserved. The historic site includes perhaps the most remarkable complex of medieval buildings in Ireland, including a Gothic cathedral, Romanesque chapel, and Hall of the Vicars Choral.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral has been the seat of Dublin's archbishops since the Middle Ages. Founded in the 11th century, the monument is the oldest and one of the last remaining medieval cathedrals in Dublin, along with St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was built in 1038 on a Viking settlement site, originally as a wooden church. In 1172 it was commissioned as a stone church and completed in 1240 in early Gothic style. Found in the heart of the historic medieval centre of Dublin, the cathedral underwent extensive renovation in the 19th and 20th century.
Blarney Castle is located seven kilometres northwest of the city of Cork and was originally a 10th century wooden castle. In 1210 it was replaced by a stone structure, and after its destruction was restored as a family seat by the King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. Today the castle is one of Ireland's most famous tourist attractions. Blarney Castle is also home to the famed Blarney Stone, or “Stone of Eloquence” which attracts tens of thousands of people every year who journey to kiss the stone said to bestow the gift of eloquence.
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