Kilkenny Castle is the ancestral home of Richard de Clare, aka Strongbow.
You can’t visit Ireland without learning a little Irish history. Today, we learnt about Strongbow, not the cider but the man.
The legendary Strongbow is a controversial figure in Irish history. To some he is a mighty hero and to others he is the villain who first brought English rule to Ireland. He was an Anglo-Norman lord who was a little down on his luck and only partially in favor with his king, Henry II. As fate would have it, his fortunes changed when the ousted King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough, came from Ireland to England seeking aid to regain his throne from Rory O’Connor, the High King of Ireland in 1166 AD.
Strongbow needed some quick money and agreed to help MacMurrough. So, with a 100 loyal knights and 1,000 soldiers, he set-off to Ireland. He succeeded in ousting O’Connor, but also established himself as the dominant figure in Ireland, which did not make King Henry II very happy.
Strongbow established his seat of power at Kilkenny on the River Nore in 1173 AD. There he built his castle in 1213 AD and set himself up as an Irish lord. He even married the daughter of MacMurrough, Eva, thus solidifying his line of ascension to the throne of Ireland.
His castle has been handed down over the centuries and extensively modified and updated by new owners. Today, it is more of an estate than fortress. The wealthy Butler family purchased it in 1391 AD, who owned it until 1967 AD when they turned it over to the City of Kilkenny as an historic site.
It is a pretty over-the-top residence. Obviously, the previous owners had enormous wealth and power. Elijah was amused at the narcissistic way that they hung their portraits all over the castle and even had sculptures of themselves placed around. If you got it, flaunt it, I guess was their thinking.
We had a very nice afternoon tea in the castle cafe, which formerly was the butler’s pantry. I felt a little snubbed that us commoners could only eat in the servant’s area. Oh well, the chairs were more comfortable anyway.
The city of Kilkenny is lively with lots of unique shops and good pubs. We strolled around for a while and then headed to an old abbey and more history outside of town.
Our next stop was one of my most favorite so far on this trip!