Dundrum Castle is one of Ireland’s most famous castles. It was built in the 16th century by Sir Nicholas Malby on the lands of a previous medieval settlement.
The castle was built at the mouth of the River Dodder and from its position commanded both river access and trade routes. The earliest inhabitants were fishermen, who traded their catches with merchants who sailed upriver to collect them. The Protestant Malby family gained control of the castle in 1568, but it is best known today for its association with Elizabeth I’s favourite, Lord Falkland.
Falkland first visited Ireland in 1575. In 1580, when he returned as Lord Deputy, he bought the castle from Malby for £1,500 and proceeded to spend a further £10,000 improving it. He appointed Richard Adam as architect and mason. Adam remodelled the crenellated tower house into a high tower with four storeys on the upper floors and five on the ground floor. Two large chambers were added in each of these floors. On the first floor was Falkland’s bedchamber; on the next floor was his library; at the top were his study and an astronomical observatory.
Falkland made extensive additions to the castle’s defences, which were further improved upon by his successors. He also built a bridge, a gatehouse and four ranges of buildings around the courtyard. The large cobbled courtyard is still clearly visible today.
After Falkland’s death in 1592 Elizabeth I was heard to comment that she had lost her ‘intimate friend and counsellor’. He was buried in Old Church Cemetery in Howth, overlooking the castle he had loved so dearly.
Dundrum Castle is now managed by Dublin City Council as a visitor attraction and it is one of more than twenty medieval castles in Dublin city and county that are open to the public as tourist attractions.
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