Historically, the centre of Leixlip has always been Leixlip Castle. Built on a rock at the confluence of the River Liffey and the Rye Water was granted to the de Hereford family and dates from the Norman Invasion of 1171 with the round tower added onto the square keep in the 14th Century. The castle was strategically placed at the confluence of the River Liffey and the River Rye. Over the following several hundred years Leixlip Castle was to be one of the strongholds of the Pale – an outpost.
In 1317 the castle was attacked by Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. Bruce’s army failed to capture it but in the process burnt part of Leixlip. In 1485 Herny VII granted the castle and lands to Gerald FitzGerald the 8th Earl of Kildare. It was to remain with the FitzGeralds until the rebellion of “Silken Thomas” – the tenth Earl of Kildare – in 1534. After 17 years of turmoil, including a tentative plan to marry the young man to Mary I, “Bloody Mary” Tudor, in 1554 Gerald made a submission to the Catholic Queen Mary I and a portion of his lands were restored and his title as the eleventh Earl of Kildare “legitimised.”
Leixlip had returned to its position as a bastion of English authority . In 1569 The castle then passed into the possession of Sir Nicholas Whyte and its importance as a military outpost and seat of power diminished. The Whyte Family retained ownership for the next 200 years. Architecturally the castle reflects the passage of time with a complete renovation in the 18th Century when the courtyard was enclosed around a grand staircase and the facade punctuated with Gothic windows.
In 1732 the castle passed into the ownership of the Conolly family where it remained until 1914 when the castle was acquired by Lord Decies who replaced the Gothic Windows in the drawing room and library, requiring instead Tudor-style mullioned windows.
Various tenants have included Archbishop Stone, the Protestant Primate; Viceroy Lord Townshend; Lord Waterpark; and Baron de Roebuck. In 1945 the castle was sold to William Kavanagh prior to the purchase in 1958 by The Hon. Desmond Guinness, founder of the Irish Georgian Society.