Dundrum Castle, situated above the town of Dundrum, County Down, Northern Ireland, should not to be confused with Dundrum Castle in Dundrum, County Dublin. It was constructed by John de Courcy, sometime near the beginning of the 13th century, following his invasion of Ulster. The castle, built to control access into Lecale from the west and south, stands on the top of a rocky hill commanding fine views south over Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains.
De Courcy's original castle may have had defences of earth and timber, but the stone curtain wall of the upper ward was probably built at the beginning of the 13th century. As with other early enclosure walls, there were no towers, but defence was assisted by covered walks along the outside wall-head. An early timber hall may have been sited near the keep, where there is a double-latrine in the curtain wall.
In 1203 de Courcy was expelled from Ulster by Hugh de Lacy. The earliest reference to the castle occurs in the mid 13th century Chronicle of Mann, which records of de Courcy's unsuccessful attempt to siege 'the castle of Rath' in 1205, with the aid of one hundred ships of his brother-in-law, Rǫgnvaldr Guðrøðarson, King of the Isles.
The castle was then captured by King John in 1210. Hugh de Lacy strengthened the castle with a massive round keep, probably employing master masons from the Welsh Marches, where such keeps were then popular. Although much of the second floor of this keep was rebuilt in the 15th century, it is clear from the survival of the old fireplace flue and spiral stair that it originally stood at least three storeys high. The basement was used for storage and had a cistern below the first floor, which appears to have been the great chamber for the lord's day-to-day living, while the floor above would have housed his private chamber. The castle remained Crown property until de Lacy was allowed to return to his Earldom in 1226. It was probably after de Lacy's second tenure as Earl of Ulster (1227–43) that the twin-towered gatehouse, similar to the one at Pembroke Castle, was inserted in the curtain wall. It has a lopsided design with only one projecting tower to protect the approach along a narrow ramp from the south-west.
The stone curtain wall of the outer bailey is likely to have been built by the Mac Artáin chiefs, who owned Dundrum in the late 15th century. The Earl of Kildare briefly captured the castle in 1517 as did Lord Deputy Grey in 1538.. Phelim Magennis Mac Artáin and his son Donal Oge Mac Artáin later surrendered the castle to Lord Mountjoy in 1601. It was made over to Lord Cromwell in 1605 and sold to Sir Francis Blundell in 1636. The Mac Artáin clan were possibly regranted the castle at Dundrum, but later had it repossessed by the Parliamentarians, who dismantled the castle in 1652 after they withdrew their garrison.
After 1660 the Blundells returned and built a gabled L-shaped mansion in the south-west corner of the outer bailey. This dwelling was ruined by the time the property passed to the second Marquess of Downshire in the early 19th century, though the trees on the hill were probably planted at this time. The castle and grounds were placed in State Care by the seventh Marquess in 1954.
The castle is an important example of Norman architecture, and is a regular destination for tourists and school children.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.