#185 Cahir Castle
Co. Tipperary, Ireland
13th through 15th Centuries
This is NOT an official Lego site

Cahir Castle is one of the most impressive castles in Ireland.  Its name in Irish, Cathair Dhún Iascaigh [stone fort on the promontory of the fish], suggests the current castle rests upon an ancient ring-fort on this rocky island in the middle of the River Suir.  The Book of Lecan mentions destruction of a fort at this location in the third century!  Cahir was part of the O'Brien Kingdom of Thomond at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion.  The Barony of Cahir was granted to Philip of Worchester in 1192, but was ordered delivered to his nephew, William de Braose in 1202 by King John.  De Braose fell in 1210, and all lands and castles were returned to Philip as part of the Magna Carta settlement between King John and the barons in 1215. The earliest visible remains of the current castle are from the early thirteenth century, attributable to either Philip or his nephew.  William's great-granddaughter inherited the Barony, and it passed with her marriage to Milo de Bermingham.  The Bermingham family held Cahir for a number of decades until Sir William de Bermingham was executed for conspiracy in 1332, and Cahir reverted to the Crown.
In 1375 the Barony of Cahir was granted to James Butler, third Earl of Ormond, and descendent of Theobold Walter (1165-1206), Chief Butler of Ireland and England, and High Sheriff of Lancashire.  It was James' grandson, Seamus Gallda [James the Foreigner], who made Cahir the seat of the Barony [previously at Knockgraffon] and who built the bulk of the current castle.  He also united the Butlers, Earls of Ormond and Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond, long-standing rivalrous neighbors!  The original entrance to the castle complex was only through the gate in the middle of the banana-shaped barbican, which admirably protects the east side of the middle and upper baileys.  It can be seen in the 1599 siege drawing, below right.  The castle consists of a huge rectangular outer bailey, a narrow building-less middle bailey, and the impressive upper or inner bailey, with its massive Keep, Great Hall, doubly-embattled gate, and protective north-east and north-west towers.
In 1543 Thomas Butler was created Baron Caher by King Henry VIII.  Knighted in 1567 at Clonmel, he died in 1583, leaving his estates to his two daughters.  Hid nephew, Theobald Butler was recreated Baron of Caher, paving the way for him to inherit the Cahir estates.  How the daughters were compensated is apparently unknown.  Thomas, Theobald's son, succeeded him in 1596 and soon joined Tyrone's Rebellion, also known as The Nine Year's War, against English expansionism.  On May 25, 1599, Lord Essex mounted a siege on previously impregnable Cahir, this time with cannon, and three day's later a major breach in the east wall resulted in the capture of Cahir by English forces.  The victory was virtually the only one in Essex' disastrous campaign, and to make matters worse, James Gallda, Lord Cahir's brother, retook the castle the following year.  The English won the war in 1603.  In 1647 Cahir surrendered to a Parliamentarian army led by the barbarous Lord Inchiquin, but apparently soon returned to royalist control, for in 1650 Oliver Cromwell himself, General of the Parliamentarian army, stood before Cahir and proffered an honorable surrender to Piers Butler, the 4th Baron Caher and a minor.  The offer was accepted.
The senior branch of the House of Ormond remained staunchly Roman Catholic and wisely chose to live abroad.  In 1788 the title Baron Caher was claimed by a distant kinsman, Richard Butler of Glengall, but as this junior branch of the family lived elsewhere, no attempt was made to make Cahir more residential.  Around that time antiquarian Austin Cooper wrote that "he [Baron Caher] has the Castle the Old Mansion go to ruin".  Some improvements were made in the middle of the nineteenth century, though they were not well documented.  The castle was acquired by the Commissioners of Public Works in 1964, and was skillfully restored as a National Monument.
Looking north toward
the middle gate.
The machicolated
main gate.
The inner aspect of the main
gates, and the classic donjon.
The Great Hall and
Northwest Tower


Ground Plan of entire
castle with
Ground Floor Plan
with key
2nd Floor Plan Engraving by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck 1599 Siege Drawing


Photos of the Lego Model
Under construction August - October, 2023
On August 20-21 the baseplates and outline of
the castle is laid out.  The view from the east.
And the view from the north,
looking at the inner ward.
By the next day a bit of landscaping has been
done, plus the substructure for outer ward.
Here's the view from
the south...
By September 8 landscaping is well under way,
with the barbican gate and outer towers defined.
The view from the north
with the well tower.
Your first look at the west side, where the River
Suir does not abut the castle complex.
And the outer bailey is covered,
and Cahir Cottage outlined.
By September 14 the barbican
wall is rising...
...and the entrance into the
outer ward defined.
The middle ward is also now
added to the castle.
I am ready to add the
inner ward to the project!
And by September 18 the inner
ward is indeed defined...
...with the keep, great hall and
corner towers soon to come.
On Sept. 23 walls are rising on
every part of the castle!
The drawbridge mechanism has been
inserted into the barbican wall.
The outer ward is better
...as are the building that make up
the powerful inner ward.
On Sept 26 work continues
on the inner ward.
The outer ward is surrounded by
an embattled curtain wall...
...and the Cahir Cottage is
My wife and I are off to a golf meeting
in Pinehurst, North Carolina.  The castle
will be completed when we return!


Photos of the Lego Model
Build August 20 - October 12, 2023
The view of the completed castle
castle from the NNE.
The east view highlights the original
entrance to the barbican, across a narrow
portion of the River Suir.
From the southeast the size of the
outer ward can be appreciated.
My take is that the south
end, between the corner
towers, was much simpler
in medieval times.
The guarded entrances to both
the outer and middle wards can
be seen in this view from the SSW.
The extent of the island upon which the
castle was built is well seen from the west.
The view from the northwest really
shows off the powerful nature of
the inner bailey!
And finally the split in the
river and the well tower are
noted from NNW.
A close-up of the
drawbridge as I
imagine it looked.
Plenty of activity in the
outer bailey!
The narrow middle ward -
pretty useless except as
a protective buffer.
The inner ward as I
imagine it might have
looked around 1550.
The luxurious Great Hall
and North West Tower.
And the North East Tower and
stair down into the Well Tower.


Build Your Own
Sadly I am unable to copy a plan as
large as this castle.  But several
elevations are available.

Top Down Plan
North Elevation South Elevation
East Elevation of Outer Ward East Elevation of Inner Ward Cross-section through the Middle Ward. looking north

Other Cahir Castle pages:
And a wonderful series of drone videos on YouTube:

Return to the main castle page.

Castles created by Robert Carney
Page designed & maintained by
Robert Carney