It is always thrilling to be in Ireland, although during my research trip there were some disappointments. The greatest of these was finding Carrick on Suir, (now known as Ormonde Castle to distinguish it from the town), closed for renovations for the entire year. My advance research somehow did not disclose this, so upon arrival, all I could do was walk around all sides, take pictures, and use my imagination.
[As of this writing, the castle remains closed to visitors due to renovations, but is scheduled to reopen in June, 2017.]
Situated along the River Suir on the east side of the village in County Tipperary, this castle exudes history. It is remarkable for being Ireland’s only unfortified manor house from the Tudor period, and for the quality of plasterworks within. On the river side you see a classic 14th century castle with two towers, east and west, but then it is knitted together on the upland side with a majestic Tudor mansion. (See a tour video here.)
Carrick means bend or knot, and may have originally referred to the location along a bend in the river, but there is also a famous “carrick knot,” a rope knot having open-ended loops, symbolizing the nautical knot used by boatmen who worked along the river.
The most charming feature of this castle is the mullioned Tudor windows with their many small panes known as “quarries.” There are so many of these beautiful windows, and at one point I could see light all the way through to the opposite side of the house. It’s a rare thing to see a castle that so embraces the daylight. (For more about the history of windows in Ireland, see this wonderful site.)
Built by Thomas Butler, the 10th Earl of Ormonde (and Queen Elizabeth’s cousin), in the 1560s, the manor house became the preferred residence of James Butler, 12th Earl of Ormonde, later the first Duke of Ormonde, during the 17th century. This is truly saying something, for the Butlers were the second-largest landholders in Ireland and their properties included more than 30 manors and houses. Among their holdings was the famous Kilkenny castle, the seat of power for the Butler family.
The story goes that, shortly before Thomas died, four-year-old James was playing behind the earl’s chair. The old man held the child between his knees and prophesied, “My family shall be much oppressed and brought very low; but by this boy it shall be restored again, and in his time be in greater splendor than ever it has been.” Later events proved the earl’s prophesy to be true, for when James ascended to the earldom he became known as a valiant and honest man, was highly respected by all sides and, among other things he founded the woolen industry. James led the Irish confederates against Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces in the mid-17th century, and subsequently lost much of the family’s property and wealth, but it was restored during the restoration of King Charles II, and James was created Duke of Ormonde for his loyalty and service to the crown.
Ormond Castle interiors were known for their magnificent plasterwork, and for grand tapestries adorning the walls of the great hall. In my book, The Prince of Glencurragh, a scene takes place in Ormonde Castle, where the Earl, James Butler, receives young messenger Aengus O’Daly who is awestruck by the beauty of the hall and these tapestries, and humbled by the many representations of royalty and power. (I saved a couple of interior images to my Pinterest page on Ireland, but can’t post them here. Follow me there for these and other images.)
Thanks to C.L. Adams’s Castles of Ireland, CarrickonSuir.info, lambstongue.ie, Heritage Ireland, and Wikipedia.
An heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?
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