Dublin Castle was originally built in 1204 and for the past eight hundred years has been at the centre of the history and evolution of the city of Dublin. The Castle sits on the highest ground in the area, and consists of a sprawling complex of historic buildings, it is not a castle in the typical sense and for this reason might be overlooked when in Dublin. It has had a number of functions and these have adapted and altered during the centuries including, a military fortress, a prison, army and police barracks, armaments factories, weapons store, treasury, courts of law and the seat of English Administration in Ireland for seven hundred years. Since its foundation the site has borne witness to every Presidential inauguration and witnessed some of the most decisive events in the country’s history.
The castle has been rebuilt several times over the years in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, it is now predominantly Georgian. The overall site sits amongst eleven acres and is home to two museums. two cafes, an international conference centre, two gardens, Government Buildings and the State Apartments being the most eminent state rooms in the country.
There are seven towers here, the Record Tower is the last intact medieval tower of Dublin, its role was as a high security prison in Tudor times, today it houses the Museum of the Irish police force, the Garda, in the basement. The museum is open Monday to Friday. The 13th century Bermingham Tower was a prison and stored administration records, it was converted into a supper room, it is the oldest room in the castle and has most of its original decoration. The Square Tower joins the Bermingham Tower and it here the city wall crossed the moat, it was reduced in height to make a gunnery platform and the remains are still visible. The romantic Octagonal Tower, dating to 1812 replaced a D shaped tower, that had loops for archers to cover attacks. What remains of the Croke Tower lends support to the Conference Centre. The Powder Tower can be seen at the Undercroft and holds part of the 14th Century Viking town defence bank, it was here that the city walls meet the Castle and there is a small gateway in the wall that provided access to the moat. Bedford Tower was the site of the original Norman Gate, it served as a guardhouse and prison block.
The Chapel Royal dates to 1814 and has a stunning neo-gothic exterior with a hundred intricately carved heads, intricate plasterwork, carved oak galleries and stained glass windows, a beautiful building. The Crypt is used as an arts centre.
The grounds of the site, the Undercroft, Chapel Royal, Craft Shop and Heritage Centre are open to the public and free to explore, as are the two museums, the Chester Beatty Library and the Revenue Museum. You can also engage in a guided tour of these areas, the tour lasts about an hour where you will be brought around the various buildings and given a lot of information on Irish history. There is a self guided option available also and there are multi-language leaflets available.
The lavishly decorated State Apartments can be seen only by a guided tour. A tour lasts about 45 minutes with tours taking place seven days a week.
If you stand in the park and look around you will see the unusual mixture of styles that make up Dublin Castle. The park contains an enormous “Celtic” spiral that also serves as a helipad. The inner yards are primarily brickwork and in stark contrast to the large green area of the park.
There is a rich and colourful history associated with the Castle, with all of the historic buildings restored, the Castle is now completely integrated into Irish society and still maintains an important role.