Maynooth Castle stands in the town of Maynooth, just west of Dublin. Its three storey great tower is one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. The keep and gatehouse are still visible along with some of the enclosure's eastern walls and towers. At the height of its power during the 15th and early 16th Centuries it was the centre of political power in Ireland and one of the largest and richest Earl's houses.
The lands around the castle were granted, along with the Barony of Naas, to Maurice Fitzgerald in 1176. The castle is built on a strong, naturally defensive site at the junction of the Lyreen River and one of its tributaries.
The great tower was built in at least three phases. The first work was completed by the Fitzgerald family in 1210 with changes and improvements continuing well into the 15th Century. Due to its defensible position it became the principal residence and power base for the Fitzgerald family.
The Kildare Fitzgeralds became an important and powerful family. The lands granted them by Strongbow are roughly bounded by modern day County Kildare. In 1316 John Fitzgerald was rewarded for his services to Edward II of England with an Earldom and became Earl of Kildare. The family continued to expand their lands and influence and in 1426 the sixth Earl of Kildare enlarged the castle.
The castle came to prominence under the eighth Earl of Kildare – Gerald Fitzgerald (also known as Garret the Great or The Great Earl). He was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1477 and he effectively ruled Ireland from 1477 until his death in 1513.
His grandson Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare was known as Silken Thomas. He led a rebellion against the English, even attacking Dublin Castle in 1534. His army was routed and he lost Maynooth Castle to the new Lord Deputy William Skeffington.
Skeffington's attack was one of the first uses of heavy artillery in Ireland. The heavy guns ruined much of the medieval structure. The castle was returned to the Fitzgeralds in 1552. Over the years the castle was rebuilt and remodelled until in the mid-17th Century the focus of the family moved from it to nearby Carton House. Maynooth Castle was abandoned and became derelict.
The castle was acquired by the Irish Government in 1991. The restoration began in 2000 and is still ongoing.
Today Maynooth Castle is in the centre of Maynooth town and it is open to the public as a Heritage Site. The ground floor contains exhibits on the castle's defences and history and the Fizgerald family.
Access to the keep is by guided tour only as the castle is still partly a a ruin. The castle does, however, occasionally play host to visiting exhibitions, concerts and lectures.
Status: Museum / Partially Ruined
Owner: Government of Ireland
Tel: + 353 1 628 6744
Opening Times: Late May to late September Daily 10am to 6pm
The keep at Maynooth Castle