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The rocky islet in the River Suir, where Cahir Castle now stands, was recognised from very early times as a natural vantage point. The ancient Book of Lecan records the destruction of a fort on it in the third century and Brian Boru (926 to 1014) is said to have had one of his residences here.
Cahir Castle dates from the 13th century, with 15th century additions. It is a splendid structure that has been fully restored and is the largest of its period in Ireland. It has a massive keep, high enclosing walls, spacious courtyards and a hall. A guide service is available throughout the year.
Begun in the 13th century by the Worcester or de Bermingham families, the castle came into the hands of the Anglo-Norman Butlers in 1375. The Butlers of Cahir sided with the Irish in the Elizabethan Wars, and in 1599 Elizabeth the First's deputy, the Earl of Essex, took the castle after a 3-day siege—the first successful one in which the walls were breached by the English artillery. There is a fine model and an exhibition in the castle detailing the history of these dramatic days.
In 1647 George Mathews, the guardian of Lord Cahir, surrendered the castle to the Parliamentary commander, Lord Inchiquin (sometimes called "Murrough of the Burnings"). Mathews also surrendered Cahir Castle to Cromwell in 1650 without firing a shot. Cromwell' s letter demanding surrender is preserved in the British Museum in London. Two years later the fighting ended officially with the signing of the articles in Cahir Castle.
Cahir Park (formerly part of the Butler Estate), with its broad, richly-timbered lands on the banks of the Suir south of the town, is the home of the 18-hole Cahir Park Golf Club and provides one of the most popular walks for locals and visitors alike—the "Coronation Walk" which leads from the Castle to the Swiss Cottage.
"Swiss" as it is familiarly known, is a superb cottage ornée designed by John Nash, of Regent Street and Regent's Park fame, on the instructions of the first Earl of Glengall. It was intended to be a retreat from the big house and was used as a fishing and hunting lodge.
The beautifully thatched cottage was restored by Fás (Ireland’s National Training and Employment Authority) with generous funding from an American benefactor, Sally Aall, in conjunction with Cahir Community Council and the Office of Public Works—it was opened to the public in 1989.
Cahir's historical significance is recognised in its designation as a Heritage Town. It is indeed very fortunate to have many important historic buildings, each reflecting the unique blend of influences that moulded the development of the town. The Norman Castle has already been referred to and one might add the Augustinian Priory at Cahir Abbey, the extensive Quaker Mills, the Dovecote and the Georgian and Victorian streetscape.
Cahir has metamorphosed from its unplanned organic medieval origins into the estate town that we see today. The Square and adjoining streets (architect designed by William Tinsley) contain buildings of a high architectural standard with some unusual features, such as the use of hood-moulding over windows, cut-stone arches and surrounds and unusual iron-work, as well as wonderful cut-stone buildings like the 19th century Railway Station.
Cahir's long history has left a strong and varied influence on its cultural life. The presence of army regiments from early in the 19th century meant that the town had, very early on, a football club, a polo ground, a cricket club (now defunct) and regattas.
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