Lea / Leghe Castle Ruins, Co. Laois
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Description

It was a great Norman castle built in about 1260 by William de Vesey. A castle is mentioned in 1203 as already existing, but this probably refers to an earlier castle here. The stronghold, protected by the River Barrow, was burned by the O'Dempseys in 1284, rebuilt by de Vesey and given to the king, burned along with its town by the Scots army in 1315 and again by O'Moores in 1346, and in 1422 O'Dempsey captured it from the Earl of Kildare. The O'Dempseys retained the castle until it was taken from them in 1452 by the Earl of Ormond. Silken Thomas Fitzgerald retreated here during his rebellion in 1535. In 1556 it was mortgaged for £500 and 600 ounces of silver by the Earl of Kildare to Sir Maurice Fitzgerald of Lackagh, and was leased to Robert Bath in 1618. It changed hands a number of times in the 1640s. It was used by the Kilkenny Confederacy as a mint in the 1640s rebellion until Cromwellians blew up the fortifications by stuffing the stairways with explosives. Only one of the original four bastions remains roughly intact. The castle was never used as a fortification again. The last resident of Lea Castle was the horse thief Cahir na gCapall (Charles) O’Dempsey, the descendant of the once powerful Chiefs of Clanmaliere. The O'Dempseys became famous as horse-stealers and rapparees.

The castle itself is square in plan with three quarters round towers at the corners. The outer entrance to the castle, which is in good preservation, consisted of a gate defended by a portcullis. Only one tower now stands, but the main block had three storeys over a basement and like Carlow Castle has a first-floor doorway by the north-east tower and a straight stair in the north wall.

More about Irish Castles you will find HERE.

C and C Parks

Forest Farm Caravan and Camping Park within 21.7 km