Parke's Castle sits on the north-western shores of Lough Gill. It is a beautifully restored early 17th Century plantation castle. It incorporates parts of an earlier tower house which was used to shelter shipwrecked seamen from the Spanish Armada.
The original tower house was rectangular with thick east and west walls. Around the house was a five-sided bawn which was apparently built sometime after the house. It had round flanking towers on its more vulnerable north and north-eastern sides.
The bawn itself was built right on the water's edge and the water fed into a moat surrounding the walls.
In the late 1500s the tower house was the property of Brian O'Rourke, Lord of West Breifne. His lands came under the jurisdiction of the English-imposed Presidents of Connaught. He resented their interference and his relationship with the English government was quite strained by the late 1580s.
In 1588 the remains of the Spanish Armada was shipwrecked off the coast of Ireland. O'Rourke helped over 80 survivors of the Armada to escape the country. He entertained the Spanish sea captain Francisco de Cuellar in the winter of 1588.
De Cuellar wrote extensively about his experiences during the Armada. He described O'Rourke as a savage, but friendly and constantly at war with the English garrisons.
Du Cuellar escaped back to Spain where he served in the army of King Phillip II. O'Rourke was eventually tried and executed for treason in 1591. His estates were confiscated and redistributed and the tower house was destroyed.
In the 1620s the castle was given to Captain Robert Parke. He demolished the remains of the tower house and constructed a three storey plantation castle inside the bawn.
Parke's castle used parts of the old tower house in its construction. The eastern wall of the bawn forms one of the sides and it incorporates one of the round towers on the northern side. The stone from the tower house was reused and the old tower was levelled and covered with a cobbled courtyard.
Robert also added a new gatehouse to the east wall with narrow guardrooms flanking the passageway.
The castle was abandoned at some point in the early 18th Century. Samuel Lewis noted that the castle was ruined in 1837.
Parke's Castle came into the possession of the Government of Ireland in the 20th Century. The Office of Public Works, who still run the castle today, completed an extensive restoration project in the 1980s. They reinstated the castle's windows and employed local artisans to restore the timber stairs and the oak roof using 17th Century techniques.
Today the castle is a National Monument and it is open to the public.
Facilities available at Parke's Castle include exhibitions and information boards on the castle's history, toilets with disabled facilities, and a car park close to the site. Guided tours are available on request and a guidebook is available in a number of languages. There is also a tearoom on the site which is open during the high season.
Status: National Monument / Visitor Attraction
Owner: Government of Ireland
Tel: +353 71 916 4149
Opening Times: 30th March to 18th September Daily 10am-6pm
Entrance and the round tower at Parke's Castle
Parke's Castle at sunset