On our last full day in Ireland, we woke up in Ashford Castle to rain. I was so glad we had gotten there early enough the day before to walk the grounds. Our plan for today was to drive back to Dublin, where we had reservations for our last night at the Crowne Plaza near the airport. I figured we would have enough time to stop somewhere along the way to do a last bit of sightseeing, and I had several possibilities in mind, but it was really raining. We hoped that maybe we would drive out of the rain as we headed east.
As we started driving, it did get somewhat better in that it stopped raining continuously and started showering every so often, but it was still really wet everywhere. As we were going through Athlone, I thought of Clonmacnoise, but from the description, it sounded like it was mostly an outdoors site, and we decided it was too wet to enjoy it. So we kept driving. We stopped in Kilbeggan for lunch and to stretch our legs, and by that time the weather was a lot drier.
So we kept driving and by the time the turnoff to Trim came up, the weather looked decidedly drier, so we decided to go to Trim Castle. When I originally put it on my list of possibilities for today, I was thinking “Will we really want to see another castle, after all the ones we’ve seen? Maybe we’ll be tired of seeing castles by that time.” Not at all! Neither of us ever said that we were tired of going to castles. Castles are like caves, they are all different, and each one has its own interesting features.
I must say that the castle is not signposted very well, at least from the direction from which we came into town. Trim was a much bigger town than I had thought, but usually, if you’re looking for a castle, you can just look up and see it! Well, there were so many buildings in Trim that we thought were the castle, we drove around for about 10 minutes before we finally found it.
You can only go into the keep on a 45 minute guided tour, so we had twenty minutes or so to explore the grounds before our tour. I was very excited to see Trim Castle, even though it is ruins, since it is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland; building started in the last quarter of the 12th century. There are still a lot of the outer walls and gates extant, and you can explore all of it. A 14th century great hall was built alongside one of the exterior walls surrounding the castle, and you can still see the remains of its columns.
The keep is actually shaped like a cross, but one of the arms had been demolished to make way for a later feature. Our guide on the tour was very good and very knowledgable. The keep is basically a shell on the inside where they have built walkways, and we also walked up and down the spiral stone stairs. On the ground floor of the keep they have three scale models of the castle that show its appearance in its different building stages. In another area, they had recreated the roof trusses, so you could see how the roof was built. In the early stages of the castle, the great hall was on the top floor, and you could see the remains of the fireplace and the minstrel gallery. We got to go all the way up and walk the battlements, and see the views. On a clear day the Hill of Tara can be seen.
The surrounding castle wall has an unusual barbican gate, a circular tower fronted on the outside of the wall by a square tower. In between was a wooden bridge that could be raised and lowered to limit access to the enclosure. Very much of that stone structure is still standing, so you can see where the wooden bridge would be, although of course the bridge does not survive.
So as a last sightseeing spot, Trim Castle was definitely worth it, very interesting, and we’re glad we were able to explore it.
We headed back to Dublin to our hotel. We had dinner there since we had a lot of repacking to do. And the next morning, we dropped our car off at the airport, got on our plane for the very long flight home, and said goodbye to Ireland.
I think you can tell from all my reports that we had a marvelous time, enjoying every day, everything we saw and experienced, and all the people we met.