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The Story Behind The Black Castle In Wicklow

The Story Behind The Black Castle In Wicklow

The Black Castle in Wicklow is one of the county’s lesser-known points-of-interest.

Just a short walk from Wicklow Town centre and boasting a very dramatic location, the Black Castle was attacked and burned to the ground several times over the years.

These ‘scuffles’ took place at a time when local Irish Chieftains and the castles inhabitants were in conflict with one another.

Below, you’ll find info on its history, how to see it and what to look out for when you’re there. Dive on in!

Some quick need-to-knows about the Black Castle

Although a visit to the Black Castle in Wicklow is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

The Black Castle is located to the east of Wicklow Town on a rocky headland next to Travelahawk Beach. It’s a 3-minute drive or less than a 15-minute walk from the centre of Wicklow Town. 

2. Parking

The closest place to park is in a small car park at the corner just past 49 Castle Street in Wicklow Town. There’s enough space for 15 cars including one handicapped parking space. From there, it’s a short ramble on foot to the Black Castle ruins (see parking area here on Google Maps).

3. A bloody history

Black Castle was attacked and burned to the ground several times in a raging war between the local Irish Chieftains and its inhabitants (more info below). 

4. Safety

The Black Castle ruins sit on a rocky headland that juts out over the water. Please take car when exploring and never get to close to the unguarded cliff edge.

The history of the Black Castle

Wicklow Town's Black Castle

Photos courtesy Celtic Routes via Fáilte Ireland

Black Castle, with its turbulant history and bloody past, is one of the more overlooked Irish castles. Like many castles in Ireland, it changed hands several times over the years.

The first mention of the castle dates back to 1174, stating it was “contained in a grant from Henry II to Earl Richard”.

The start of a long dar period

Later on in 1176, Earl Richard de Clare granted the land to Baron FitzGerald, however, since the baron died later that year, his family is thought to have built the castle. 

The fortification is said to have been taken fraudulently from the baron’s family by FitzAudelin, the Chief Governor at the time. This was the beginning of a long and dark period in Black Castle’s history. 

Battle after battle after battle

The castle was under constant attack from local Irish Chieftains, and the O’Byrnes set it ablaze in 195, 1301, and 1315. After this, the castle fell into disrepair and it was later surrendered to Henry VIII in 1543. 

However, once the Confederate Wars broke out in 1641, the castle was once again a target for local chieftains, and it was attacked in 1641 and again in 1645 by the O’Tooles when it was burned to the ground.

By 1646 it was completely demolished, and although it was rebuilt as a garrison later on, it never regained importance and fell into the ruins you can see today. 

Things to do near the Black Castle

One of the beauties of the Black Castle is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Wicklow.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Black Castle.

1. Wicklow Gaol (5-minute drive)

Wicklow Gaol

Photos by Brian Morrison via Ireland’s Content Pool

A chilling experience, at the Wicklow Gaol you’ll have a chance to learn the tales of the men, women, and even children who were imprisoned in the old jail during the two centuries of British rule. 

2. Glen Beach Cliff Walk (5-minute drive)

Glen Beach Wicklow cliff walk

Photos courtesy Celtic Routes via Fáilte Ireland

The Glen Beach Cliff Walk is a moderate 3.7km way-marked loop starting at Glen Beach, following the jagged coast towards Lime Kiln Bay and lighthouse road before turning back. It’s on uneven terrain, so bring proper footwear. 

3. Walks galore (10-minute+ drive)

Devil's Glen

Photos via Shutterstock

There’s endless walks in Wicklow and many begin a short spin from the Black Castle. Some of our favourites are the Devil’s Glen, the various Glendalough walks and the Ballinastoe Walk.

FAQs about Wicklow’s Black Castle

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it haunted?’ to ‘Where’s the parking?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What was the Black Castle in Wicklow used for?

As the Black Castle was constructed around the time that the Normans arrived in Ireland (1169), we can be confident that it was used to create a stronghold on the Wicklow coastline to help protect against invaders.

When was the Black Castle Wicklow built?

The Black Castle was built during the 12th century. It’s construction took place around the time that the Normans arrived in Ireland (1169).

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