The original “Black Castle” at Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, is one Ireland’s earliest Norman fortresses. It was constructed in 1181 by Hugh de Lacy, a Norman baron who governed Ireland on behalf of Henry II, to defend the river crossing – a valerian stone bridge, believed to be one of the oldest functioning bridges in Europe.
De Lacy granted the castle to another English baron of Norman descent, John de Claville, but during the 14th century the castle was taken by the Kavanagh clan, who reclaimed most of their land in the area.
For 150 years, the Kavanaghs charged English lords “black rent” for peaceful passage over the river, onto the main road through Leinster.
The castle was rebuilt by Sir Edward Bellingham in 1547, but fell to Cromwell’s forces in 1650. Today, all that remains is the west half of a 14th century round tower, along with part of the bawn.