The Fascinating History of Barberstown Castle – 10 Things you Might Not Know

Barberstown Castle is a 13th century castle in County Kildare, with a fascinating history. From the multitude of owners, including the rich and famous, to its eclectic mix of architectural styles, there is so much to discover about this intriguing historical property. Now a luxury hotel, guests at Barberstown have the opportunity to live like royalty for a night or two and get a taste for what life for its inhabitants might have been like over the centuries. As a taster, here are 10 things you might not know about Barberstown Castle…

barberstown castle history

  1. The castle was built in 1288 by Nicholas Barby, as a fortress to protect the village of Straffan from the attack of the neighbouring Ui Faelain clan, who subsequently tried to burn down the castle in 1310.

  2. Since its establishment in the 13th century, the castle has had 37 different owners, including the famous musician Eric Clapton.

  3. Since the 13th century, various extensions and additional wings have been added to the original structure, meaning that the current castle is a blend of architectural styles from across many centuries, including Victorian and Elizabethan along with the original Norman style.

    barberstown castle historical photograph

  4. In the typically defensive style of the period, the walls of the original battlements slope inwards, and are over a metre thick at the bottom, gradually becoming thinner the higher they go – meaning that the bedrooms at the top of the keep are larger than those on the ground floor.

  5. During renovations in 1996, an old tunnel was discovered which leads from the castle to the parish church in the village of Straffan. This kind of tunnel would have been constructed as a means of concealment for priests during times of religious prosecution. At the time, many great homes would have had similar constructions built to hide priests when searches were made of the buildings.

  6. According to local legend, the body of one of the castle’s previous owners is actually interred in the tower of the castle. The story goes that the original lease stated that the lease would expire when the owner was “buried underground” (i.e. died). The ending of a lease normally resulted in an increase in rent so, upon the man’s death he was buried in a tower of the castle (not underground - as required in the lease agreement) ensuring the family continued to hold the lease to the castle.

    barberstown castle keep

  7. The Castle was purchased by Bartholomew Van Homreigh in 1703 for £1,033. Van Homreigh had been mayor of Dublin in 1697 and his greatest ‘claim to fame' lies in the fact that he was the father of Vanessa of whom Swift wrote so passionately about.

  8. It first opened to the public in 1971, when the owner at that time – Norah Devlin, opened the castle as a 10 bedroom guest house. It became a private residence once more in 1979 until Ken Healy purchased the castle in 1987 and reopened it at a 59 bedroom 4 Star hotel.

  9. Each of the bedrooms at Barberstown Castle is named after previous owners of the castle, including Norah Devlin, Hugh Barton, Eric Clapton and Robert Huddleston

  10. Barberstown Castle is one of the only tower houses in Ireland which has been continually occupied since its construction, and great care has been taken to preserve this historic building. The vast majority of such structures are currently ruins due to age and neglect.
barberstown castle bedroom

Barberstown Castle is perfect for lovers of history or those looking to experience the romance of a genuine Irish castle. Take some time to explore the grounds as well as the surrounding countryside and the various historical sites of Ireland’s Ancient East.

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