Trim Castle (Ireland)
County Meath See list of castles in Irlanda
Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, it was built by Hugh de Lacy when he was granted the Liberty of Meath by King Henry II in 1172. Construction of the massive three storied Keep, the central stronghold of the castle, was begun in 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. This massive twenty-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and moat. Trim Castle was the location for King John's Castle in the film 'Braveheart' the 1995 historical drama directed by and starring Mel Gibson.
Trim Castle is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture still standing in Ireland today. Their legacy has long outlived their days of power and reminders of this fascinating legacy continue to dominate the Irish landscape. The Normans had interesting ideas about government and administration, and they were certainly good organisers. But nowadays it is easier to consider them not as soldiers but as innovative architects, as builders of genius. Norman castle design, inspired by the demands of defence, ironically resulted in structures of great beauty. There is nothing particularly appealing about a modern derelict building, but Ireland's ruined stone castles and tower houses are objects of beauty as well as signposts to Ireland's history.
The greatest of these Norman creations is King John's Castle at Trim, Co Meath, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. Viewed against the night sky it conjures up the usual images of romance associated with castles. By day, however, it looks every inch the formidable military bastion it was intended to be.
Its massive three-storey stone keep, or main building, is the definitive stronghold. It possesses a bewildering 20 sides and three of its original four towers still flank it. Approached from the road, past the Barbican Gate, the castle stands tall behind the curtain wall built to protect it from potential invaders. So effective was this, and the castle's other defences, that it took a one-time owner, Walter de Lacy (son of Hugh), returning from a visit to England in 1223, some seven weeks to regain his property.
Long before the arrival of Hugh de Lacy, Trim, the Town of the Ford of the Elder Tree, had an earlier monastic history. If most castles are built with strategic notions in mind, few in Ireland are quite as brilliantly located as Trim. It overlooks a crossing on the Boyne and even now, some 800 years after it was built, the castle still dominates the town that has respectfully developed around it.
At a time when so many ill-advised planning decisions are now lamented, having left numerous ancient monuments and surviving monastic and settlement sites surrounded by incongruous modern industrial and residential estates, Trim Castle has somehow retained a vivid sense of the landscape that would have originally surrounded it. The town has kept its distance; the view from the castle across the river to the north banks of the Boyne is of extensive open commonage.