Enniskillen Castle through the ages, from medieval fortress to unique museum
Enniskillen Castle is a cultural cornerstone, attracting local, national and international interest as one of the most important archaeological and architectural monuments in the region.
Located next to the River Erne, Enniskillen Castle is a melting pot of diverse stories, from the medieval fortress to the Château de la Plantation, including military barracks and the state-of-the-art museum.
Next to one of the narrowest crossing points between Upper and Lower Lough Erne, guarding one of the few passages to Ulster, the castle has been strategically important throughout its history.
The castle’s original keep was built almost 600 years ago by the ruling Gaelic Maguars in Fermanagh. The first known reference to the site is in the “Annals of Ulster” in 1439, which refer to Tomas Óg Maguire taken prisoner in his own castle at Enniskillen by Domnall Maguire “the freckles”.
It is believed that Hugh “the hospitable” Maguire had the castle built before his death in 1428. On an important international medieval pilgrimage route, Enniskillen Castle became the stronghold of the ruling Maguires and a center of arts patronage. and the church.
However, the castle was attacked and burned down several times throughout the 16th century, with one of the best documented assaults taking place in 1593-4.
It was besieged and eventually captured by the English under Captain John Dowdall, only to be recaptured by Hugh Maguire soon after.
The events of the siege were recorded at the time by Private John Thomas on a remarkable bird’s-eye watercolor now belonging to the British Library.
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In the following century, the castle came under English control in 1607, after the “flight of the counts”. The castle keep was renovated by Captain (later Sir) William Cole and the site was enlarged with the addition of the Scottish-influenced “Watergate”.
A distinctive feature of the castle with its twin turrets, the ‘Watergate’ is used as a symbol to represent the town and the county.
During the plantation period, the castle was crucial for the development of the town of Enniskillen, which is Ireland’s only island town.
In 1689, the city was besieged and two local regiments were raised to defend it: the regiments became the Inniskillings Fusiliers (infantry) and the Inniskillings Dragoons (cavalry).
Today Fermanagh is recognized as having the largest number of plantation castle ruins, as well as some of the best-preserved examples in all of Ireland.
The castle is now home to two museums, the County Fermanagh Museum and the Inniskillings Museum, jointly promoted as the Enniskillen Castle Museums.
It was transformed by a £ 3.5million development project and the Fermanagh Tourist Information Center relocated there.
The new reception center offers a panoramic view of the castle site and a footbridge overlooking the city and its waterways.
Stories are discovered through imaginative displays of objects, graphics, models, films and hands-on learning activities.
The renovated historic buildings of the castle and its grounds are the perfect place to learn about the history of the surrounding area, whether you are a local or a visitor.
Currently tours of the Castle Historic Site and County Fermanagh Museum Galleries can be pre-booked online at https://www.enniskillencastle.co.uk/whats-on
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