The castle was said to have been founded by Walter Riddlesford (d.1232/44) in Leinster during 1181, if this was his castle of castledermot (Tristerdermoth) as mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis.  This later appears as KylkaWalter Riddlesford (d.1232+), left 2 daughters as heiresses, Christiania who married Robert Marisco of Adare and Emmeline who married firstly, Earl Hugh Lacy of Ulster (d.1242), the lord of Carrickfergus castle, and secondly Stephen Longespey (d.1274).  Thirdly she married Maurice Fitz Maurice (d.1287) taking the barony to the Geraldines.  Kilkea then seems to have passed to Maurice's nephew, Earl John Fitz Thomas of Kildare (d.1316), the lord of Maynooth.  Kilkea was obviously of some importance as Justiciar Thomas Rokeby, on his second appointment as justiciar, moved with an army of 1,000 men into Leinster to pacify the district.  However, after 7 weeks campaigning he died at Kilkea castle in April 1358.

In 1414 an Irish attack on The Pale was routed by John FitzGerald (d.1427) at Kilkea with great slaughter.  According to Groese in 1797, John is then supposed to have massively extended and rebuilt the castle.  On the execution of Silken Thomas Fitz Gerald in 1537, his half brother
, Gerald, then aged 12, became the tenth earl and after a thorough education studied alchemy at the castle, due to which he was called the Wizard Earl.  He died in 1585 and his ghost is said to still haunt the fortress.

The castle consists of a narrow rectangular tower to the north-east which is orientated to the north-west.  This is fronted on its southern corner by an unusual, slightly projecting gatehouse.  To the east a subsidiary block masks that front, its upper section to the south-east transmogrifying from rectangular into a large, round bartizan.  This did not exist in an etching of 1792.  From the gatehouse to the south-western corner of the fortress are 2 short walls, moving northwards at each junction.  The one nearest the gatehouse was obviously once a garderobe turret.  At the western extremity of the enceinte is a tall, narrow round tower.  A sketch of 1792 shows that an east tower that matched the west tower has subsequently been demolished and the northern sections of the castle raised in height.

The keep is of 4 storeys, each having an external instep to the north-west.  The quoins on both visible sides of the building seem modern.  The gatehouse has a rounded east side that rises at third floor level into a round tower that matches the bartizan to the east and mimics the round tower to the north-west.  All the fenestration seems modern, although the gatehouse portcullis groove may be original.  The crossbow loops in the west tower may be original, while the later curtain between that tower and the keep has 2 large, but
blocked, pointed arches, in its ground floor.

Perhaps you would like to join me in visiting this and other great castles of Ireland in October with Scholarly Sojourns.  Details of the trip can be found by clicking here.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry