I grew up on the West Coast of the United States. The places and structures we consider old there aren’t old at all when compared to, well, basically everywhere else in the world.
That perspective, in part, is why I find castles so fascinating.
Ireland has a number of castles – some of which date back to the 12th century.
The thing you need to know about castles is they are not one size fits all. They range in size, in function, in grandeur. It’s interesting to visit castles of all shapes and sizes because they each have an interesting story to tell about their place and purpose in history.
When I’m visiting castles in Ireland, it’s never
alone. That would make absorbing the interesting historical and cultural information way too easy. I need to challenge the few remaining brain cells that survived that never-ending My Little Pony phase by touring these castles with Thing 1 and Thing 2 my precious offspring (ages 7 and 10).
drinking the Kool-Aid convinced we lead a more enriching life because of these learning experiences.
Dalkey Castle is not the biggest, the fanciest or the most well-known castle in the area.
So what made the tour our favorite?
That’s easy! The specific information that was presented and HOW it was presented.
The Dalkey Heritage Center clearly gets the importance of the entertainment factor when it comes to the overall tourist experience. This was the first time we’ve visited a castle where our tour was conducted by professional actors in period attire.
The eyeballs in my children’s heads about POPPED out of their sockets when Rupert the Archer walked around the corner in the graveyard with his bow and arrow. They could tell this was not going to be your average tour experience.
Rupert shared very specific information about what kind of bow you would use to defend the castle, how far it would fly, what kind of damage it would do to a human.
If it sounds a little horrible, it was and it wasn’t. The 15th century was a pretty horrible time. Rupert the Archer was telling it like it was, but I suspect it was a little downplayed for the young ears.
All the kids and even a few big ones on the tour got to hold one of the bows.
Rupert the Archer also shared other tricks for defending the castle.
There was only one castle entrance, as you can see below, where the stairs are located. Above the doorway is a little rectangle that continues up to the second floor. That’s called the murder hole. Anything and everything, included boiling urine was thrown down that hole onto the heads of invaders.
I’m just going to say it…that would keep me from invading a castle. Regular urine wasn’t bad enough…they had to boil it too?!?
Along your tour you will meet some friends of Rupert the Archer. These might include the Cook, the Barber Surgeon and/or the Coin Minter.
On our tour we met the Cook who also filled in as the Barber Surgeon.
You will NEVER look at a barbershop pole the same after hearing about Barber Surgeons in 15th century Ireland. Trust me. If only they knew one or two things about germs.
The kids did get to mint their own coin too.
They got a demonstration on coin minting and then were able to work the tools themselves.
No fingers were harmed during this process. Although, there was one close call. I still cringe.
On the grounds of Dalkey Castle is St. Begnet’s Church and Graveyard.
Notice the small opening on the far back wall of the church. There on the bottom left?
That was originally a normal-sized door.
Apparently so many bodies have been buried on this site that the ground has been raised up significantly in the past 600 years.
Think about that for a moment.
Even the adults in our group RAVED about this castle experience.
From what was presented to how it was presented, we took away from this experience far more information and understanding about this period of history than we had from some of the other Irish castle tours.
Put this tour on your list and make time for lunch in Dalkey. It’s the cutest Irish village and you’ll be happy you did.
For more information on planning your visit to Dalkey Castle, click here.