WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP
Trim – the word sounds precise, with little excess. Trim Castle – on the River Boyne – is just the opposite. It is the largest Normandy castle in Ireland.
Historic stone structures always draw my attention and Trim was no exception. We had to stop and take a look.
Arriving too late in the day to take advantage of a guided tour and entrance to the keep, we strolled the grounds as the clouds lifted and the sun peeked out.
The castle was started by Hugh de Lacy in 1173. It was completed in the 13th century. The curtain wall encloses an area of over 1.5 hectares (about the size of one and a half rugby fields).
Interpretive panels through the grounds explain major features of this stone landmark, but we chose to wander at will, trying to get a sense of what life must have been like in Hugh de Lacy’s world.
In 1172, when Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath, he occupied this site bounded by the river Boyne to the north and marshy grounds to the south. The hill on which the castle stands was easily defended.
Three years after choosing the location, de Lacy’s original wooden fortification had been replaced with the Keep. It housed the Lord’s private and administrative apartments. Gazing at its pock-marked façade, it’s remarkably easy to visualize the lords and ladies inside, sitting by wood-burning fires discussing the state of affairs.
The Keep was later surrounded by curtain walls with a simple gate to the north and a bridge across the moat.
Trim Gate was built around 1180. It faces northwest, with its half-round gate-arch set high above the moat. A forward tower or pier would have received a bridge over the moat. The gatehouse was rebuilt early in the 13th century.
The south curtain wall with its D-shaped towers was completed by 1200, when new siege tactics forced a change in the design of castles. Step in close and look through the slotted archery windows.
As the town and roads developed, the barbican gate provided a new entrance from the south. It’s precise design suits Trim.
Though the castle buildings were often adapted to suit changing military and domestic needs, much of the fabric of Trim Castle has remained unchanged since the height of Anglo-Norman power in Ireland.
P.S. If the castle looks vaguely familiar and it’s been niggling at the back of your mind, but you can’t quite place it, I’ll let you off the hook.
Trim Castle was dubbed York Castle for the 1996 movie Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.
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