Second stop on the road trip was Greencastle near Kilkeel. The impressive 13th century keep dominates the skyline for miles around. The Anglo-Norman castle was built in the 13th century by Hugh De Lacy to defend the southern approaches to the Earldom of Ulster. Together with Carlingford Castle, Greencastle guarded access to Carlingford Lough.
The castle was built on an outcrop of rock close to the water and originally consisted of a keep surrounded by a four-sided enclosure with D shaped towers at the corners. A ditch 3.5 m deep, hewn out of the rock surrounded the castle. The quarried stone was then used to build the curtain wall. Most of the wall is in ruins but remains of the original gate houses and towers are still visible. Unfortunately access to the keep is limited to the summer months, but according to the information board some of the internal architecture is still intact.
The castle was held for the crown for many years by the Earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgh. Two of his daughters were married from the castle, one of whom wed Robert Bruce. Several years later, Robert’s brother Edward Bruce besieged the castle and ransacked it during his Invasion of Ireland.
The information board on site mentions the constables of the castle; noblemen left in charge in the absence of the Earl. From 1400 the constable was responsible for both Carlingford Castle and Greencastle. It seems that this burden of responsibility was too much for some: “The next constable was sacked for neglecting his responsibilities, absenting himself from Ireland for years at a time, not garrisoning the castle properly and not fixing the roof of Greencastle’s Great Hall”