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Blackrock Castle & Observatory

Blackrock castle is a 19th Century castle situated on the banks of the River Lee about two kilometres from the centre of Cork City.

The present day castle is actually the third structure to stand on this site. In 1582 the townspeople of Cork built a watchtower here to guard the harbour from pirates and raiders. The tower was also used to guide ships in and out of the harbour.

In 1601 Lord-Deputy Mountjoy replaced the tower with a full castle. It was designed to mount artillery and featured walls that were over 2 metres thick. In 1608 James I gave the castle back to the City of Cork.

In 1722 the main tower was destroyed in a fire. The people of Cork rebuilt and from then on the City Corporation used the castle for entertaining. After one of the banquets in 1827 the castle was again razed by fire.

Blackrock Castle Rebuilt

The present day Blackrock Castle was completed in 1829. The architects added three stories to the tower and reconstructed the outbuildings. The castle continued to be used as a meeting place for local organisations up until the early 20th Century.

By 1930 the castle had fallen into disuse and disrepair. In the 1960s a group of Cork businessmen bought the castle and converted it for use as a bar, restaurant, offices and private residences.

The rescue of the castle began in 2001 when Cork Corporation bought the castle back. They completed a significant and sympathetic restoration of the castle. They used modern restoration techniques where as much of the original structure as possible was preserved and the new additions they made were designed to be reversible wherever possible.

The construction work began in 2003 and began with the roof, which was in poor condition, being replaced. Concrete poured during the 1960s was also replaced along with the structural steel supports.

Parts of the original castle can still be seen. The earliest remains today are a circular tower by the water's edge and the present day tower incorporates some of the walls of the second castle.

Historic Castle Becomes a Science Centre

Today the castle is open to the public 7 days a week and it houses a range of attractions from the scientific to the historical and cultural. Foremost among them is the CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory. The Observatory is a joint project between the Cork Institute of Technology, Cork City Council and private backers. It offers visitors an award winning science centre incorporating the 'Cosmos at the Castle' exhibition. The exhibition has exhibits on the formation of the universe, astronomy, space exploration and highlights recent discoveries of extreme life on Earth.

The Observatory is a professional, working observatory with two telescopes. The astronomical work conducted here includes searching for extra-solar planets and research into active galaxies and quasars. There are guided tours of the observatory each day and guided evening astronomy sessions each month.

The castle also has visiting exhibitions and hosts a number of scientific events and workshops for the public throughout the year. The castle gallery is open to artists wishing to display works of a scientific or astronomical nature.

Included in the admission price is a guided tour of the castle with tours of the towers and dungeons and more on the colourful history of the castle.

Blackrock Castle is available as a venue for weddings, corporate functions and team-building days as well as offering children's birthday parties.

Status: Visitor Attraction / Observatory / Museum
Owner: Cork City
Tel: +353 (21) 435 7917
Opening Times: Open Daily Mon-Fri 10am to 5pm Sat & Sun & holidays 11am to 5pm

View of Blackrock castle from the river bank
View of Blackrock Castle from the river bank

Looking up at the Observatory Tower
Looking up at the Observatory Tower

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