About Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle has served as everything from a fortification and royal home to a gunpowder storage facility and a prison. Passing from English to Irish hands in the 20th century, it remains an excellent window into the history of Anglo-Irish relations.
History of Dublin Castle
Construction of Dublin Castle began in 1204 by King John of England, on a site that previously housed a Danish fortress. This first incarnation of Dublin Castle, completed circa 1230, was primarily intended as a stronghold to defend the city as well as being a place from which the King could run the administration of Ireland. Few aspects of this original build remain, but those that do, such as the Record Tower, demonstrate its purpose as a fortification.
Over the centuries, Dublin Castle has been renovated and reconstructed several times: notably, the castle was severely damaged by a fire in 1684. As a result, most of the architecture dates back to the Georgian period: the Record Tower is the only surviving Medieval element. The battlements were in fact a 19th century addition.
The castle was a focal point in the Easter Rising (1916), when it was captured by 25 members of the Irish Citizen Army. The British later regained control, and it became the centre of British efforts to suppress the Irish during the Anglo-Irish War. Three IRA members were tortured and killed in Dublin Castle on the night of Bloody Sunday.
Dublin Castle was handed over to the Irish Free State in 1922: Michael Collins, representing the Free State, was reportedly late – when he was rebuked by the British viceroy, he’s supposed to have quipped ‘We’ve been waiting 700 years, you can have the seven minutes.’ After this, it temporarily became the Irish Courts of Justice, before being used as a venue for state ceremonies, including presidential inaugurations.
Dublin Castle today
The Castle is still in use by the government today, but it’s open to the public through OPW. Visits can be booked in advance or on the day – in high season it’s worth booking in advance. Guided tours are available, and there are often temporary exhibitions on. The State Rooms are particularly grand: a hangover from the days of royalty.
It’s worth exploring the grounds – and particularly the gardens – of the castle too in order to get a feel for the size of the place.
Getting to Dublin Castle
The castle is most easily accessed via its main entrance on Dame Street, It’s a short walk from College Green, and buses stop frequently all the way along Dame Street. The nearest Luas stops are Trinity / Westmoreland (Green Line) or Jervis (Red Line) – they’re all a 10 minute walk away.
Ireland Historic Sites
Discover some of the Emerald Isle's most scenic sites, from Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery to Dublin Castle.