Trim Castle is the largest and undoubtedly one of the most impressive Norman castles in Ireland. It stands at an important crossing point on the banks of the River Boyne, which gave the town its name Áth Truim, or ‘the Ford of the Elder Trees’. Before the Normans arrived in the area, there was an early monastery here, that was said to have been founded by St. Patrick himself. Though no trace of this early foundation can be seen today, archaeological evidence points towards it being located in the area where St. Patrick’s Cathedral stands. With a resident population and an important river crossing, in an area of excellent agricultural land, Trim was the ideal location to become the caput, or capital, of De Lacy’s lordship.
The castle that we see today is one of the best preserved, and largely unaltered, medieval castles in Ireland. However, it was not the original fortification built by De Lacy. This was a large fortification known as a ‘ringwork castle’ constructed of timber with earthwork defences. It was captured and burned by the Irish High King Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair in 1174, during his campaign to push the Normans out of Ireland. De Lacy chose to reconstruct the castle, and he built it to last. He constructed a large stone fortress, with a deep moat and strong walls. The central tower, known as a donjon (or keep), is of a unique design. From above it appears as a cross, with project towers to the north, east, south and west, giving the building twenty sides to defend. All of the towers survive today, with the exception of the northern tower. A series of ‘put-log’ holes can be seen surrounding the walls. These are remnants of the wooden hoardings that once surrounded the upper levels of the keep, offering further vantage points for defenders to loose arrows or hurl down large stones at any attacking force. The keep is entered through a small doorway in the eastern tower. This building provided accommodation for the lord and his family, as well as the great hall of the castle and a small chapel, all spread over three floors, with the third floor added in around 1205.
It’s important to note that the defences of the castle extended far beyond the curtain wall, as Trim was a walled town. Only small parts of the town defences still survive, most notably the so-called ‘Sheep Gate’ that can be seen on the opposite side of the river from the castle. Just nearby to this gate you can also see the tall ‘Yellow Steeple’, that formed part of a medieval Augustinian friary.
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