Look at this Ancient Irish Castle

Today we’re going to travel to an ancient Irish castle overlooking the lakes of Killarney in County Kerry. It's position and history tells a wider story of the people who lived in this area over the centuries. Read on to find out more.

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Look at this Ancient Irish Castle

Start by having a look at the picture of the castle at the top of the page. It’s the ruin of “Parkavonear” castle (from the Irish “paírc an mhóinéir” meaning “field of the meadow” and pronounced “park on von-air”). The castle sits in a field outside the town of Killarney in County Kerry.

Look at that for a view!

In the middle distance you can see the main lake of Killarney, Lough Leane. Rising to the back are the mountains of the McGillicuddy Reeks. The spot is now visited by thousands of tourists each year who pause to take in the magnificent scenery and fresh air. Maybe you have visited this place yourself?

Of course, what we call “beautiful scenery” today was simply called “poor land” by our shared Irish ancestors. Almost 1,000 years ago this castle was built to guard a frontier that looked out on the lakes and mountains occupied by the “Wild Gaels” led by the McCarthy, O’Sullivan, O’Donoghue and O’Moriarty clans.

The castle was built by the Norman Geraldines in the late 1200s to mark the frontier of their newly-won lands. If you stand at the castle and turn in the opposite direction of “the scenery”, you will see valuable arable land spreading northwards for miles on end. This was the land that the Normans – led by the Fitzgeralds – captured from the Irish Gaels. They then built castles just like Parkavonear to mark the boundary and consolidate their winnings.

The Normans held on to this land for another hundred years until a gaelic resurgence drove them from the area. Of course, that resurgence was only to last for a short number of years before the English came to dominate and win all of the island of Ireland from the 1500’s onwards.

If you have an opportunity to visit Parkavonear castle, or any of the thousands of castles dotted around the island of Ireland, do enjoy the scenery and the experience. However, it’s worth remembering that these magnificent buildings marked a boundary between the warring tribes that live peacefully side by side through most of Ireland today. 

That’s it for this week. As always, do feel free to share the Irish surnames and stories in your own Irish family tree.

Slán for now,


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