If you’re a history buff looking for things to do in Louth, carve out some time to visit Castle Roche.
Castle Roche is one of the most picturesque Anglo-Norman castles in Ireland. It’s stunning hilltop location means you can see it from miles away and enjoy incredible views once you reach its crumbling structure.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from parking (a pain) to the history of Castle Roche near Dundalk.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Castle Roche
Getting to Castle Roche isn’t as straightforward as visiting many of the other castles in Ireland, and parking can be a bit messy, as you’ll discover below.
Castle Roche is located northwest of Dundalk town in the northern part of County Louth. It’s on private property but can be reached via a country lane off either the N1 or N53.
2. Parking (with a warning)
There’s no dedicated parking at Castle Roche. The entrance (link below) is along a very narrow country lane. However, there are a couple of extremely tight pull in areas where you can park but, WARNING, never block the road or gates, and park in as tight as you can.
3. The entrance
To access the castle, you need to cross private land and pass through some gates. It’s important that you always close the gates after you enter. You have to enter the gate on the side of the road (here on Google Maps) and then cross the rough and sometimes rocky paddock to reach the castle ruins.
4. Wear walking shoes
As there’s no designated walking path to reach the castle, it’s recommended that you wear proper walking shoes, as the grass is long and the ground can be rough. After heavy rain, expect your shoes to be destroyed, so be prepared!
About Castle Roche
Castle Roche (sometimes referred to as ‘Dundalk Castle online) is considered to be one of the most impressive Anglo-Norman castles in this part of Ireland.
It’s unique location and design, along with its interesting history and legends (info below) tends to pique the interest of visiting travellers.
Origins of the name
In earliest records, Castle Roche was known as ‘Castellum de Rupe’ or ‘Castle on the Rock’ due to its strategic location.
Many castles in Ireland were built at vantage points like Castle Roche to enable those inhabiting them to see incoming attacks.
Unique location of the castle
Roche Castle commands an incredible spot on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding countryside and fields. The de Verdun family held the land for many generations.
The site of the castle marked the boundary between Ulster province and the Anglo-Norman territory known as The Pale. It overlooked an ancient trade route into south Armagh.
History of the castle
Castle Roche was built by Lady Rohesia de Verdun in 1236 AD after the death of her husband, Theobald le Botiller. It took years for the castle to be commissioned as Rohesia was known for her quick temper. There are some long standing legends told about Lady Rohesia, which you can read about below!
However, it’s thought that most of the castle was added and expanded by her son, John, after Rohesia’s death in 1247. It remained in the same family for many generations.
A meeting between all English forces in Ireland took place at the castle in 1561. It was eventually laid to ruin in 1641 during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.
Design and original structure
The castle has a unique triangular layout, which was necessary due to the rocky hilltop that it stands on. It consisted of a great hall which is estimated to have reached up to three storeys high. It was accessed by a gatehouse which had two towers, and likely a drawbridge.
It was built with a deep moat and strong walls for defensive purposes and was considered almost impenetrable. It’s believed that a secret passageway once connected the castle to a tower outpost as well.
The haunted history of Castle Roche
There is a legend told about Lady Rohesia de Verdun, the woman who wanted to commission a fortress on the site. It’s believed that her quick temper and reputation deterred most architects from designing a castle for her.
In order to up the stakes, she offered her hand in marriage and a share in her wealth to the man who could build the castle as she wanted.
However, the story goes that after their wedding she convinced her new husband to view the estate from their bridal suite before she promptly pushed him through the window to his death. Ever since, the window has been known as ‘Murder Window’.
The haunted legend today
You can still see the infamous Murder Window to this day, if you gaze up at the castle from the field below.
It’s said that on a misty day, you may even catch a glimpse of something or someone tumbling from the window!
Things to do near Castle Roche
One of the beauties of Castle Roche is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Louth (and Armagh, as it happens).
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Castle Roche (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Slieve Gullion Forest Park (15-minute drive)
Slieve Gullion Forest Park in Armagh is home to one of my favourite scenic drives in Ireland. Regardless of how you reach the top, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding countryside. This place really is special.
2. Proleek Dolmen (15-minute drive)
Just a 15-minute drive east of Castle Roche is Proleek Dolmen, an incredible portal tomb that weighs around 35 tonnes and stands almost 3m high.
The tomb is on the grounds of Ballymascanlon Hotel and is one of the finest examples of its kind in the country. You can access it just 300m from the hotel car park on a firm path and discover the site with interesting legends attached.
3. Annaloughan Loop Walk (20-minute drive)
If you continue around to the Cooley Peninsula, the Annaloughan Loop Walk is a must do trail in County Louth. It starts and finishes conveniently at the Fitzpatricks restaurant and bar, so you can enjoy a pint after your efforts. The walk covers around 8km on a moderate graded trail, with outstanding views over the bay and surrounding hills, while taking you through forest and over mountains.
4. The Cooley Peninsula (10-minute drive)
The historic Cooley Peninsula stretches out to sea from Dundalk town. The stunning coastal strip is home to plenty of walking trails, beautiful forest, and historical sites. It’s known as being home to the tale of Táin Bó Cúailnge.
FAQs about visiting Dundalk Castle
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it worth visiting?’ to ‘Where do you park?’.
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.
Is Castle Roche worth visiting?
Yes. This is one of the more unique castles in this corner of Ireland and it’s quirky history and the views that it commands makes it well worth a visit.
Where do you park when visiting Castle Roche?
Parking here is very awkward. There’s no dedicated parking area, so you need to find a safe area to pull in (info at the top of this guide).
Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.