Last Friday I was out on the road visiting medieval castles in County Down as part of research for Carrickfergus Siege! app. First stop was Dundrum Castle, an Anglo-Norman fortification situated on a hill, 10 minutes walk from Dundrum’s main street. The site consists of the remains of a 17th century manor house, 12th Century curtain walls and 13th century keep and gatehouse. Dundrum Castle was began by John de Courcy in the 12th century to guard the land routes from Drogheda via Greencastle to Downpatrick.
It is thought the keep was built by Hugh de Lacy in the 13th Century and a comparison with the keep at Carrickfergus shows the development of defensive archive in relatively few years. The corners of square towers were vulnerable to attack; towers with round walls were better able to withstand mining and bombardment. The base of Dundrum keep also features a talus or outward sloping plinth that added to the thickness of the wall. This feature helped to prevent breaches and allowed material dropped from above to bounce out towards attackers. The entrance to the castle was originally on the first floor and was later replaced by a ground floor entrance in the 15th century. The outer walls of the keep are largely intact and you can access different floors of the building using the original spiral staircase. Climb the staircase to the top and you are rewarded with amazing views of the coastline and countryside. Although trees obscure some of the view, the panorama explains the choice of the location as a defensive site. A guard on the battlements would have been quick to spot an invading clan or army travelling by land or sea.