A: Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow
Daily, daylight hours
The little village of Leighlinbridge lays claim to at least two historical superlatives – the oldest (built in 1320) functioning bridge in Europe, and one of the earliest Norman castles in Ireland. In 1181 Lord Hugh de Lacy built the first castle here to defend the strategic crossing of the River Barrow after taking the surrounding lands from Irish clans. In 1320 the first “Black Castle” was built. There are no visible remains of either of these two castles. The ruin on the site today is reported to have been built by Sir Edward Bellingham, Lord Deputy of Ireland, in 1547. The south western corner of the castle has collapsed. In the adjoining garden lie fragments of a bawn wall with arrow slits at the corner. The castle was held by the Kavanaghs and the Butlers and was also occupied by Sir Peter Carew and the Bagenals. For 150 years, the Kavanaghs charged English lords “black rent” for safe passage over the river. The castle was destroyed by Cromwellian forces, under Colonel Hewson, in 1650 during the Irish Confederate Wars.
The magnificent nine-arched bridge over the Barrow river near the castle was built in 1320 by Maurice Jakis, canon of Kildare Cathedral. It was widened in 1789.