Built in the 13th century for King John by the Anglo Normans, Dublin Castle's complex of regal buildings has symbolized seven centuries of British rule. It served as a backdrop in the Neil Jordan movie Michael Collins, and was at the centre of historical events leading to establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. The courtyard of the castle is said to be the site of the black pool from which Dublin get its name -- since black pool translates in Irish as Dubh Linn.
Dublin Castle offers guided tours, one hour long, throughout the day, unless the rooms are in use -- the castle is sometimes used for conferences and events, notably for state events, such as the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 2011. Tip: consider taking the guided tour. While it costs a small fee, without it, you will probably wander from around from room to rooms, many of them empty, unsure of their significance. Guided tour visitors also get access to the Viking-era walls in the basement of the castle.
The oldest surviving building is the Record Tower, the only original structure, though it has been remodelled many times. It once served as a maximum-security prison, where Red Hugh O'Donnell was held after leading a rebellion in 1592. He later escaped to join up with Hugh O'Neill and lead the Nine Years War. Today, the Record Tower houses the Garda Museum, which details the history of the police force of Ireland.
After a fire occurred in 1864, Sir William Robinson, Surveyor General, redesigned the original castle. It became housing for the Viceroys of Ireland, appointed by the British rulers. They lived in the State Apartments, lavishly appointed and complete with Waterford crystal chandeliers and Killybegs carpets. Today, these apartments provide lodging for visiting heads of state and EU officials.
Located on the first floor at the upper yard, the apartments face a statue called the Figure of Justice, traditionally regarded with cynicism by Dubliners because the figure stands with its back facing the city. St. Patrick's Hall features symbolic ceiling paintings depicting Vincenzo Valdres' interpretation of relations between Ireland and the British, and the banners of the Knights of St. Patrick hang in this area of the castle.
The Chapel Royal is a neo-gothic structure completed in 1814, featuring 100 heads, carved upon the exterior by Edward Smyth, including St. Patrick, Brian Boru Jonathan Swift and Saint Peter. The Throne Room (1740) contains a throne bequeathed to the castle by William of Orange to celebrate victory at the Battle of the Boyne. Some of the oldest architecture in the city is contained here, including the Treasury, the oldest surviving office building in Ireland.
The Queen's Speech
On May 18th, 2011, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh was in Dublin, on the second day of her four-day state visit. It was the first time a British Monarch had visited the south of Ireland since 1911, when all of Ireland was still under British rule and part of the United Kingdom. President Mary McAleese hosted a State Dinner for the Queen and Duke in Dublin Castle. The Queen delivered a historic speech, which adressed relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom. The speech was received with heartfelt praise by the Irish media and public alike. In particular, the Irish people were touched by the Queen's introduction, when she spoke in the Irish language. The speech helped further normalise relationships between peoples of the islands, and built upon the growing peace that had arisen out of the Belfast Peace Agreement of 1995.
Shop and Restaurant
The premises also contain a craft shop, heritage center, and restaurant.
Image by Brian Yap