Majestic. Fortitude. Proud. These describe yet do not capture the essence of Macroom Castle. The gateway and tower (pictured above) stand tall in the middle of Macroom town, facing the town hall. The guns lend a sombre edge to the scene. The castle has seen plenty of skirmishes and battles. If walls could talk…
Built in the early 13th century, Macroom Castle has a rich history. Its strategic location was to control the traffic across the Sullane River and the natural valley made it an ideal site. Macroom is built on a plateau. The gateway and walls are in the town, above the river and its valley. The castle itself is nestled in the valley. Macroom is the key link between Cork and Kerry, sitting at the halfway mark.
The castle has been through the wars – literally! It has been burned down at least four times. The last time it was burned down was during the War of Independence, 1916-22. Anti-treaty forces, including writer Frank O’Connor and Erskine Childers, were responsible; they torched the castle and fled west. Soon afterwards, Lady Ardilaun gifted the castle ruins to the people of Macroom.
Previous to this skirmish, the last known owner was Olive White who married Arthur Guinness of Dublin, of the stout brewing empire. Other infamous names to be associated with Macroom Castle are Oliver Cromwell and Admiral Sir William Penn. Cromwell bestowed the castle to the admiral on their victorious capture of it in 1656. Admiral Sir William Penn’s son, William Penn, grew up in the castle. William Penn later discovered Pennsylvania, hence becoming more famous than either his father or Cromwell.
The castle demesne is one of the world’s largest urban parks. It is home to the ivy-covered ruins of Macroom Castle. Stunning river walks and a public park make this park the people of Macroom’s own. In the 1960s it became obvious the structure of the castle was compromised; the decision was made to demolish the Castle Keep. They did preserve the basic footprint and also had the grounds prepared for a sports fields and a golf links.
Many of the riverside walks have been restored and upgraded. The entrance. The Gateway has also seen restoration works. Two naval cannons were uncovered in the grounds and relocated in oride of place at the Gateway entrance. They are like sentries guarding the entrance.
The park is part of the national parks initiative which sees weekly timed runs in a selection of parks nationwide every Saturday morning. This is another way the park and the people in Macroom work well together. Tuesday is Market Day in Macroom. Market stalls are set up at dawn under the watchful eye of the Castle Gateway. Weekly markets are one of the longest standing traditions of Irish towns. And Macroom is very proud of its status as a key West Cork market town.
- Tags: Irish heritage
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