Lismore Castle has had a somewhat rocky past (very much reflective of the changing nature of the Irish political landscape). The castle has seen many incarnations and changes over the years.

There has been a fortified structure on this site for hundreds of years. The first can be dated to 1185, although that was destroyed shortly after its completion. It was soon rebuilt and was held by the bishops of Lismore throughout the medieval period. It came into the possession of Sir Walter Raleigh – the man credited with introducing potato and tobacco to the then British Isles – in 1590, after being damaged during the Desmond Rebellion of 1579. It then passed to Richard Boyle, who reconstructed and remodelled the castle. It was captured by Confederates in 1645 and was in ruins by 1650. It was again restored and let go to ruin but, in 1814, rebuilding began. The present appearance of the castle dates to this period. ( – information courtesy of Irish National Monuments Survey)

King James II of England spent a night in the castle in 1689 and is said to have been awed by the dramatic views from the castle windows of the Blackwater Valley. Famed English novelist William Thackeray described the river as the Irish Rhine.

The castle is rarely open to the public, and then only for occasional concerts and art shows, but the gardens are open from March 29th to September 30th every year.