Clonmacnoise Castle

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A Visit to Clonmacnois Castle.  

Clonown N.S. June 2000


We went to Clonmacnois with Paddy Madden to see the remains of a stone castle, which stood guarding the Shannon on the same spot where there had been an earlier Motte and Bailey. First we went to see the motte.

There was a massive drop. It had a bank on each side to stop intruders getting in. We were all looking down at the big moat and were wondering how men could hand-dig such a big ditch. On top of the bank they built a fence called a palisade.


At school Mark had drawn a Motte and Bailey.  When the Normans captured land they defended it by building a wooden castle on a hill and surrounding it with a moat. The soil, which was dug out, was thrown inside to make the bailey or yard where the soldiers slept. The horses were also kept here. Next we approached the entrance to the old motte and bailey. Before we could go in the guard said that we had to say the password, five Norman names beginning with Fitz. We said Fitzpatrick, Fitzgearld, Fitzmaurice, Fitzgibhans and Fitzsimons. We could pass!

John de Gray replaced the timber castle with a stone castle in 1213. We went to look at the gatehouse of this castle. Paddy showed us arrow loops high up in the gatehouse wall. They were very narrow tiny holes in the wall and it would certainly be impossible to get an arrow in through the hole from the outside .  The soldier inside the castle would have lots of arm room and could easily hit anyone who was outside with an arrow. The wide inside part of arrow loop is called an embrasure.

  At the entrance to the gate house the lord met us. He said he was Lord Madden! He asked us if any of us had names starting with O or Mac because he didnít want any wild Irish from across the Shannon to come in. We didnít tell him that most of our names started with O or Mac in Irish and that we were from the other side of the Shannon! We got in!   Next we went to see the fore building, which protected the keep. The keep was the main part of the castle where the lord and his family lived. We saw the hole in the wall, which held the drawbridge.

We sat down in the courtyard and Paddy pointed out to us that the gatehouse had three stories while the keep had only two stories. We could see the remains of the timber beams, which supported the floors. We could see that the great hall where the lord dined had a large window to let in more light. We were allowed to go up the remains of the spiral staircase. There was a look out window at the top. The guard would have been able to knock back an intruder that tried to climb the stairs with a sweep of his sword. The castle was very well defended. We had a picnic in the courtyard of the stone castle where the horses would have been kept.

Paddy had organized a quest. We set off!

           Courtyard quest.  

1.      How many storeys had the gatehouse? --------------------------

2.      How many arrow loops were on the gatehouse? ----------------

3.      Is there a spiral staircase in the gatehouse? -----------------------

4.      How many holes for wooden floors can you see in the gatehouse? ----------

5.      Are all the walls of the courtyard the same size? ---------------

                                     Keep Quest.

6.      How many arrow loops can you see in the keep? ------------------

7.      Has it got a spiral staircase? -------------------------------------------

8.      How many stories has it got? -----------------------------------------

9.      Is there evidence of a fireplace? --------------------------------------

10.  How many embrasures can you see? --------------------------------

If you get 10 out of 10 you are allowed to look for the lordís treasure

The winners were Cathal, Conor, Cormac, Donal, Stephen and Jason.


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