Tomen y Mur

Tomen y Mur is one of those special places whose history covers thousands of years, with one chapter being the era of Robert of Rhuddlan. The site has been fortified for two thousand years Local people were there first Welsh mythology references the place with a story of Lleu and Blodeuwedd in the Mabinogion. Romans 78 AD and abandoned it in 140 AD. Built walls, a fort, barracks, baths, parade ground, and small amphitheater—one of the few for just military personnel but an indication of the hardship of the posting. The reason for the fort was because in the 50s AD, the Ordovices had wiped out a Roman legion Roman response was to move into the area in force and almost eliminate the entire people. Tomen y Mur was built to oversee the remaining few and protect the crossroads of Read more…

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle was begun in March 1283 as part of Edward’s Iron Ring of Castles and mostly completed by 1289 to the tune of 15,000 pounds (over ten million today) The previous castle in the area was at Deganwy, which is visible from Conwy’s walls but was destroyed during the wars with King Henry and not rebuilt Edward built the castle on the western side of the Conwy River as a foothold in the heart of Gwynedd and controls and important river crossing To build castle and town Edward destroyed the monastery of Aberconwy, patronized by the Welsh princes as well as Llywelyn’s palace Like many of the iron ring, consisted of castle and planted town of English settlers, all surrounded by massive stone walls 8 great towers in a relatively compact castle, also, like the others, designed by James Read more…

Trim Castle

Trim Castle is located on the Boyne River at the edge of The Pale–the border between Norman controlled Ireland and Gaelic Ireland. One of the largest castles in Ireland, it was built by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter in the 12th and 13th centuries. The first Norman conquest of Ireland began in 1171 with the arrival of King Henry II, determined to rein in the power of Strongbow, who had arranged for himself to be King of Leinster by marrying the current king’s daughter. The Normans very quickly carved out a portion of Ireland for themselves, called ‘The Pale’, which included the area from Dublin to the Boyne River. Hugh de Lacy, as one of these original magnates, was granted the Lordship of Meath and effective rule over much of Norman-controlled Ireland. It continued to be a powerful Read more…

Roche Castle

Roche Castle is located in Ireland, northwest of Dundalk. It was built by the Verdun family in 1236 as part of the Norman conquest of Ireland that began in 1169. Bertrum de Verdun arrived in Ireland for the first time with Prince John, son of Henry II, before he became king. John had been declared Lord of Ireland by his father in 1177, though he didn’t arrive in Waterford until 1185, at which point Verdun was granted lands and built his first castle. John’s visit did not go well, mostly because John managed to offend all the native Irish leaders by laughing at their looks and promising his Norman barons their land. In addition, he developed an antagonism for Hugh de Lacy, who held the Lordship of Meath and was the most powerful Norman in Ireland. The Verduns managed to Read more…

Denbigh Castle

Denbigh Castle is located in Gwynedd, south of Rhuddlan and St. Asaph. The castle was built by Henry de Lacy after King Edward’s conquest of Wales in 1282. Like many castles built by the Normans, Denbigh is sited over the top of an ancient settlement and palace of the Kings of Gwynedd. The most recent castle before the Conquest by Edward was held by Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the usually treacherous brother of Llywelyn, who made Denbigh his seat. He built a substantial castle, though all of it was destroyed after 1282. The Welsh referred to it as Dinbych, an abbreviation of Dinas Fechan, meaning “little fortress”. Lacy’s castle was finished by 1294. It was besieged in rebellions by the Welsh led by Madog ap Llywelyn and Owain Glyndwr, and finally ruined by forces of Oliver Cromwell. Still visible today are Read more…

Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle overlooks the Menai Strait on Anglesey in north Wales and was built by King Edward I in 1295 as part of his Iron Ring of Castles, a series of castles built around Gwynedd to control the Welsh. Beaumaris itself was begun in response to a rebellion led by Madog ap Llywelyn. In order to build Beaumaris, Edward destroyed a Welsh llys (palace), along with the entire Welsh town of Llanfaes, which was the most important trading port in Gwynedd at the time. The people were moved inland to Newburgh, and English settlers were brought in to populate Beaumaris. The English crown spent a total of 15,000 pounds on the castle, but it was never finished, the work finally being abandoned in 1330. Key features to visit within the castle are the many passages within the walls, the numerous Read more…

Roscommon Castle

Roscommon Castle is located near the very center of Ireland. The name derives from Coman mac Faelchon who built a monastery there in the 5th century. The woods near the monastery became known as Ros Comáin (St. Coman’s Wood) The castle was built by the Justiciar of Ireland, Robert de Ufford, in 1269, on land seized from the nearby Augustinian monastery that furthermore for centuries was the homeland of the Connachta dynasty. The O’Connors besieged the castle starting in 1272 and it went back and forth between English and Irish control until the O’Connors regained it in 1340. The Irish retained control for the most part until 1652 when it was partially blown up by Cromwellian forces. What to see when you visit: Note the towers, which were built to a design similar to that of Harlech. The associated lake Read more…

Bective Abbey

Bective Abbey was located within Norman controlled Ireland, called The Pale, which was the area around Dublin conquered by the Normans starting in 1171, and is the source of the phrase, ‘beyond the pale’. If something is beyond the pale, it is unacceptable or unseemly. In other words, here be dragons. Bective Abbey, and Trim Castle which is not too far away, are located on the River Boyne, which in some eras formed the barrier between Norman and Irish controlled Ireland—though Trim is on the inner bank and Bective on the outer. Dan: Does that mean it wasn’t always a Norman abbey? It was founded in 1147 by the king of the Irish Kingdom of Meath. I’m not pronouncing his name because I would only butcher it. It was a ‘daughter house’ of Mellifont Abbey, located close to Drogheda, and Read more…