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A Guide To Enniscorthy Castle: History, Tour + Unique Features

A Guide To Enniscorthy Castle: History, Tour + Unique Features

I’d argue that Enniscorthy Castle is one of the most overlooked castles in Ireland.

And, while those visiting Enniscorthy Town tend to explore it, many of those visiting the main Wexford attractions often overlook it.

In the guide below, I’m going to show you why I believe it’s worth your time. You’ll get an insight into its history, the tour and what to expect from a visit.

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Enniscorthy Castle

Enniscorthy Castle history

Photos via Shutterstock

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

1. Location

Enniscorthy Castle is located at the centre of Enniscorthy Town. It’s a 20-minute drive from Wexford Town, a 30-minute drive from both Gorey and New Ross and a 35-minute drive from Rosslare.

2. Opening hours

From Monday to Friday, the castle opens at 9:30 am and closes at 5:00 pm, with the last admission at 4:30 pm. On the weekends, it opens at 12:00 am and closes at 5:00 pm (note: opening hours may change).

3. The tour

According to online reviews, the guided tour of Enniscorthy Castle is informative, well run and will give you a lot of insight into the town’s past. Tickets for Enniscorthy Castle will cost you €6 per adult, €5 for seniors and students and €4 for children under 16. 

4. Home to a whole lot of history

Enniscorthy Castle was built in the 13th century and since then it has been home to all sorts of historical figures, from Normans knights and Irish rebels to British forces and local merchant families! More info below.

A brief history of Enniscorthy Castle

Enniscorthy Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

The first stone castle built on this site dates back to 1190 when Philip De Prendergast, a French Norman knight, set-up shop here with his wife, Maud. The couple and their descendants lived here until 1370 when Art MacMurrough Kavanagh attacked the structure to reclaim his ancestral land.

Kavanagh was successful and Enniscorthy Castle became the property of his family until 1536 when Enniscorthy Castle and its surroundings were surrendered to Lord Leonard Grey.

16th and 17th century

In 1569, a fire set by the Earl of Kildare destroyed part of the castle. Later on, during the Elizabethan plantation, this structure was completely refurbished and extended thanks to Sir Henry Wallop, Ireland’s vice-treasurer.

In 1649, Enniscorthy Castle was occupied by Cromwellian forces before it was retaken by the Irish Confederates and Monarchists. However, soon after, the Comwellians managed to occupy it again.

During the 1798 Rebellion, the Castle served as a prison for the United Irishmen first and then for the British, after they successfully conquered Enniscorthy Town after the Battle of Vinegar Hill

Modern history

During the 20th century, Enniscorthy Castle finally enjoyed a period of peace, becoming the official residence of the Roche family. In 1951, the family decided to vacate the building and, in the following years, the castle played host to Wexford County Museum.

Nowadays, Enniscorthy Castle hosts exhibitions on the Roche family as well as the Industrial and Commercial heritage of Enniscorthy.

It’s well worth a visit and it’s particularly handy for those of you looking for things to do in Enniscorthy when it’s raining.

Things to do in Enniscorthy Castle

There’s a handful of things to see and do around Enniscorthy Castle that make it well worth nipping into for an hour or so.

Below, you’ll find info on the architecture, the dungeon, the wall art and some more unique features.

1. Admire the architecture from the outside

When you arrive at Enniscorthy Castle, make sure to take a minute to admire this massive structure from the outside. This building is characterised by a 4-storey rectangular keep and four corner towers echoing the style of the nearby Norman Ferns Castle and Clarlow Castle.

Unlike these other two sites, however, thanks to the restoration work done by the Roche family, Enniscorthy Castle is incredibly well-preserved and can still be admired in all its grandeur. 

2. See the dungeon and the wall art

You’ll also find a rare example of medieval art; A halberdier (a man armed with a halberd weapon), can be found in the dungeon of the castle.

Thanks to the restoration work, many details that were once hidden are now visible, such as the bottoms of the tunic worn by the halberdier, his hachured clothing as well as his mouth and cheeks.

3. Soak up the views

During your visit, make sure to nip up to the top of the castle. From here, you’ll be treated to views of Enniscorthy Town and Vinegar Hill where a battle took place during the 1798 Irish Rebellion. Bear in mind that access to this area is allowed only if accompanied by a staff member.

Things to do near Enniscorthy Castle

One of the beauties of Enniscorthy Castle is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Wexford.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the castle (plus where to grab a great bit of lunch!).

1. Food in the town

The Wilds Enniscorty

Photos via The Wilds on FB

There’s several stunning restaurants in Enniscorthy. My personal favourites are Alba Restaurant, where they dish up tasty southern Italian food and Casa d’Galo Chargrill. The Wilds is another excellent option, especially if you get in for the lunch menu.

2. National 1798 Rebellion Centre (10-minute walk)

The National 1798 Rebellion Centre is situated to the south of Enniscorthy Town on Parnell Road. This centre will give you an insight into everything there is to know about the 1798 Rebellion. It features a 4D battle of the Vinegar Hill experience, and here you will learn how the weapons used during the battle were operated. 

3. Vinegar Hill (25-minute walk)

Vinegar Hill

Photo left: Courtesy Visit Wexford. Right: Chris Hill. Via Ireland’s Content Pool

If you are interested in the 1798 Rebellion or you fancy soaking up some views, make sure to visit Vinegar Hill. It’s a short walk to the top and the views on a clear day are outstanding (especially around sunset!).

4. Blackstairs Mountains (25-minute drive)

Blackstairs Mountains

Photos via Shutterstock

The Blackstairs Mountains are situated west of Enniscorthy Town on the border with County Carlow. There are several different trails to tackle here and it’s home to some of the most overlooked walks in Wexford.

FAQs about visiting Enniscorthy Castle

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How much are tickets?’ to ‘Is it worth visiting?’.

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 Enniscorthy Castle worth visiting?

Yes! This is a beautifully maintained castle and it offers an insight into both the castle and the town’s interesting past.

What is there to see at Enniscorthy Castle?

There’s the medieval architecture, the dungeon, the wall art and the views from the top.

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