Measuring 30,000 m², Trim Castle is Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castle. Begun in 1176 by the powerful Norman, Hugh de Lacy, this stone masterpiece took over 30 years to build. At its core, there is a massive keep protected by moat and ditch, making the castle an impregnable and formidable fortification. The cruciform shape of this great structure is unique amongst Norman castles.
The site was granted to Hugh de Lacy, one of Norman Ireland’s most important members, to prevent another high-ranking member, Richard de Clare (more famously known as Strongbow), from expanding too far northwest. In fact, it was Strongbow who first brought the Normans to Ireland – he formed a scheme with an enterprising Irish Earl who promised large tracts of land as well as his daughter Aoife’s hand, in exchange for a rise to power as King of Leinster.
The 1100s were still troubled times, and most of the people of the island lived beyond the “civilised” Norman rule. The site for Trim Castle was chosen on the border of the ‘Pale’ – past the castle’s estate were the ‘hostile’ lands of the Gaelic Irish clans.
Of course, Trim Castle didn’t stop the Normans and the Gaelic from clashing forces. Not long after the first castle was built, the Gaelic king attacked and burnt it to the ground.
The castle saw extensive renovations in the 13th and 14th centuries, including the Great Hall. The castle stayed in the de Lacy family until 1308 before changing hands through a variety of wealthy owners.
Later, the castle was actually used as a mint, and even saw some parliamentary meetings in the 15th century before it fell in decline in the 1500s – a fate that awaited many Irish medieval fortifications.
Trim Castle was briefly re-fortified and saw some action in the 1640s, and was occupied by the unpopular Oliver Cromwell when he was sent by the English monarchy to teach the pesky Irish a lesson – no freedom and no Catholicism. Cromwell’s forces are responsible for riots, murders and pillaging across Ireland, as well as for burning almost all of the island’s once-great monasteries.
Lying in waste for many several centuries, the castle was eventually sold to the state in the 1990s and it was restored to its former glory in 2000, and is now a protected site and favourite spot to visit by travellers interested in medieval Ireland.
Located in the region known as Ireland’s Ancient East, find Trim Castle about 45 kilometres northwest of Dublin. Situated in the heart of the town of Trim in Co Meath, this ancient castle stands proud on the banks of the River Boyne.
Recently renovated, Trim Castle is now one of the most popular castles to visit in Ireland’s Ancient East, a region of Ireland covering several of Ireland eastern counties from Waterford and Wexford up through Meath.
Managed by the Office of Public Works, the castle contains many original features as well as displays of related artefacts. Surrounding the castle is a lovely town park, perfect for a stroll, a picnic or a place to relax in the sun (on those occasional good weather days!).
The location of the castle about an hour outside of Dublin makes it an easy stop for anyone heading out of the city to the northwest of Ireland. Alternatively, the castle can be visited on a day trip from Dublin. The surrounding area has so much to offer, from Trim Castle to the ancient sites of Newgrange, Lough Crew and the Hill of Tara, that you might want to stay overnight and explore Ireland’s Ancient East in more detail.
Photography tip – to get that classic shot, you’ll want to walk through the park on the opposite bank of the river, following the path down a way until you get the shot you want, with the castle rising up, reflected in the river below.
The writer and satirist Jonathan Swift resided in Trim for much of his life, and there are still a few callouts to this legacy, with streets, pubs and festivals named in his honour. Swift’s most famous book is Gulliver’s Travels, a satirical tale of sea voyages to fantastical islands mocking aspects of Anglo-Irish culture of the 1700s that was “written to vex the world rather than divert it”. (Apparently, Gulliver’s Travels also the most widely-owned Irish literary book in libraries worldwide).
From classics like James Joyce and Oscar Wilde to poets Yeats and Heaney and modern writers such as Eoin Colfer and Sally Rooney, Ireland is known for its literary output.Learn More
Known for its pub culture, pints of Guinness and cosy pubs filled with Irish trad music; Ireland has a long reputation for beer. But it’s only recently that craft breweries have come onto the scene. Trim is the headquarters of Brú Brewery, one of Ireland’s most popular and trendy craft breweries. Craft beer has taken a leap in popularity in the last decade or so in Ireland, with about 30 or so small to medium-sized craft breweries jostling for space on pub taps alongside traditional giants like Guinness and Smithwick’s.
Learn more about Irish pub culture, craft breweries and distilling here.Learn More
Measuring 30,000 m², Trim Castle is Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castle. Whatever one wants to say about the Normans, the one thing they knew how to do was build an impressive castle – many of which are still around today and just as imposing. Some of the other castles of the same period include Carrickfergus north of Belfast, Bunratty Castle near Limerick, Ross Castle in Killarney National Park and Dunluce Castle along the Causeway Coast.
Check out more of Irish history on our Brief History of Ireland page.Learn More
It’s easy to see why the stunning walls and great keep of Trim Castle have inspired appearances on the big screen.
Most famously, Trim Castle was used as a stand-in for the medieval walls of York and London in the film, Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.
Trim also featured in the 1980 war film, The Big Red One, which also starred Mark Hamill, of Star Wars fame (interestingly, later Star Wars films were also filmed here in Ireland, with Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker hiding out on a distant planet that just so happened to be Skellig Michael, a jagged rock pinnacle off of Kerry’s coast.)
Trim, or Baile Átha Troim, meaning “town at the ford of elderflowers,” is a small, traditional town in eastern Ireland. The founding of the town has traditionally been said to have happened when St Patrick founded a monastery at Trim. Dedicated to a half-forgotten local patron saint, Lomman, later simplified as a disciple of St Patrick, the church flourished for a time until it was burnt repeatedly in the early Middle Ages, then of course captured by the Normans and assimilated into Norman Ireland – when our lovely Trim Castle was first built.
Needing a bit of rebranding, so to speak, a new monastic settlement was erected – St Mary’s Abbey, commanded by Augustinian rule, and home to local relics (including a miracle statue of “Our Lady of Trim”), bringing pilgrims from all over the island and beyond to this little place. Today all that is left of this once-famous place is an imposing tower sporting a single, spectacular gothic window, rising up from the hill beyond the castle.
There is a short but pretty riverside walk that leads from the castle to Newtown Abbey, where the centrepiece is the Church of St Peter and Paul, founded 1206, and the nearby St John’s Priory, a hospital founded around the same time.
Very little is left of the town walls, but in between the castle and the abbey, there are the ruins of the Sheep Gate, an ancient gate that once marked a boundary between town and countryside.
Trim saw unrest and upheaval during the Irish War of Independence in the 1920s, with some of the town’s buildings burned down.
But that’s all in the past. Today, the town of Trim is now a bustling centre, popular with visitors from Ireland and abroad. Its streets are full of cheery shops, cafes and pubs. But even with all of this history and the many ruins on its doorstep, it will always be the castle that is the pride and glory of Trim.
Newgrange is a massive passage tomb some 5,000 years old. It has been reopened and preserved and is now Ireland’s premier Neolithic tourist site. Recent renovations to the visitor centre have made it even more tantalising. Newgrange is part of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage site also comprising the large cairns of Knowth and Dowth. Interested in Newgrange and Neolithic Ireland? Learn more.
Loughcrew (sometimes known as the Hills of the Witch) is a collection of 32 cairns and passage tombs, and it remains one of the most important archaeological sites in Ireland. The site is thought to be about 5,200 years old, with the passage tombs built in 3,200-2,900 BC, and is an ancient burial site and ritual gathering place. There is even some ancient megalithic art found here.
The Hill of Tara is just 20 minutes away from Trim. This ancient place was once the sacred heart of Ireland. Used as a place of ritual and gathering for multiple centuries, there is evidence of Neolithic passage tombs, Iron Age forts, great standing stones, and large raths.
Ireland is full of ancient abbeys, and it is well worth a visit to explore the ruins of at least one of these once-grand buildings. Nearby, Bective Abbey is a stunning example of medieval monastic architecture in Ireland, later destroyed in the 1600s. This beautiful building is less than 10 minutes away from Trim Castle.