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Visiting Roscommon Castle

Roscommon Castle in the town of Roscommon, Ireland, is one of the most important Irish castles.

The castle at Roscommon town, Ireland, seen from the town park.

Directions

Roscommon town is a two hour drive from Dublin, an hour and ten minutes from both Sligo town and Galway City, 1.5 hours from Westport, and a half hour drive from Athlone. The roads around here aren't great, so do take it easy!

The castle itself lies on the outskirts of Roscommon town. Leave the square in the town centre heading for Castlebar and Galway, and take the first turn to the left, between buildings.

There is no signpost. If you arrive at the roundabout, you have gone too far. What you are looking for is the town’s park. The castle is accessible through the park over a wooden ramp all year round.


Prices And Opening Times

Here comes the good news.

This is a free heritage site! And, the castle is accesible all year. Wonderful. No excuse now not to stop on your way through Roscommon town.

The History of Roscommon Castle

The castle was built by the Crown starting 1275 as a stronghold against Gaelic chieftains in this part of the country. Any territory west of the Shannon however was notoriously difficult to hold, and the history of Roscommon Castle reflects this.

A flooded dip in the landscape in front of the castle at Roscommon town gives the impression of a moat.

As early as 1340 the castle was captured by the kings of Connacht, the O’Conors. They remained in charge of the castle for some two hundred years.

Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney finally captured the castle in 1569. From 1578 it was held by Sir Nicholas Malbie who served as the governor of Connacht.

Sir Malby initiated a huge renovation project at the castle transforming the medieval fortress into a Renaissance manor house with fashionable large mullioned windows and formal gardens.

The manor house extension by Sir Malby at the castle at Roscommon, Ireland.

From 1641 to 1645 the castle was held by Parlamentarian forces, re-captured by the Confederates, but finally conquered and ‘decommissioned’ by Cromwells’s forces.

Under Cromwell, Roscommon Castle was badly destroyed and suffered the fate of so many Irish castles that had their defences destroyed, stairways broken and battlements knocked down.

After a bad fire in 1690 the castle fell into ruin altogether. When looking at the ruin today, it seems that there is a lot of stone missing belonging to the towers and manor house buildings. It is likely that much of this stone was taken by locals and reused in the building of town houses, dismantling a piece of unique medieval Irish culture. Today the castle is a National Monument.

Our Opinion

As a castle visit, the structure is certainly fascinating to look at from the inside of the curtain wall.

Access to the surviving tower would have been amazing, but the gate is locked, understandably.

The kids had a great time exploring inside the bawn. So, if you are in the area, definitely stop off here and have a root around. Look out for medieval details in the walls such as arrow loops, battlements, machicolations and old fireplaces.

Roscommon town could make a lot more of this important piece of Irish culture and heritage. The County Council invested in a couple of elaborate brochures on the castle, but the site itself does not have any displays to help visitors understand what it is they are looking at, never mind mentioning the fact that this is one of the most important Irish castles with huge importance for Europe as well.

A close up of one of the defensive castle towers at Roscommon, Ireland.

Other Irish Castles

Annaghdown Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Athenry Castle

Arrow loop at the castle at Roscommon, Ireland.

Our Special Tips

No. 1

Roscommon is a good place to break a journey, so if you are passing through, have lunch here and plan in at least 30 minutes for a peek in the park and castle.

No. 2

Plan this as a day trip from Galway, Westport, Athlone, Sligo or anywhere else within a two hour radius.

To make a day of it, combine your visit with other attractions in the general area to make a day of it, such as the Rathcroghan Royal Site at Tulsk, County Roscommon, a 15 minute drive from here; or a visit to Strokestown Park House at Strokestown, County Roscommon, a 25 minute drive from here.

No. 3

If you feel particularly adventurous, you might like to visit the abandoned medieval town of Rindoon which is located on a peninsula in Lough Ree, near the small village of Leecarrow, County Roscommon.

No. 4

Before you head off, find out here what makes Roscommon Castle so special.

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Many Thanks, Colm and Susanna

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