Just a quick train ride away from Dublin (30-40 minutes) on the DART, you find wonderful Howth. This village and outer suburb of Dublin was originally just a small fishing village on the peninsula of Howth Head. To get there is easy enough, just go to the train station, buy a ticket in the kiosk and get on the train.
Did you think we were done with the Vikings yet? Well, wrong you are! The name of this beautiful village, Howth, is thought to be of Norse origin, perhaps derived from the Old Norse Hǫfuð (head in English). The Vikings invaded Howth in 819, and after the Vikings were defeated in 1014 (read more about that HERE), many fled to Howth to regroup and remained a force until their final defeat in the middle of the 11th century.
Being rather isolated, Howth fell to the Normans in 1177 and one of the victorious Normans, Armoricus (or Almeric) Tristam, was granted much of the land in the area. He built a castle near the harbor and he was granted the title Baron of Howth by Henry II of England in 1181, for one Knight’s fee (a piece of land sufficient to support a knight). Although it is not the same castle Almeric built, there is a castle in Howth. I did not get to see Howth Castle, for which I am most sorry, but I will use that as an excuse to return to Howth (Not that anyone really needs an excuse for returning to this gem of a place!)
Now we are getting to the whole point of telling you about a castle I did not get any photos of:
There is a popular tale of the “The Sea Queen of Connacht”, or Gráinne O’Malley (c.1530 – c.1603), who was chieftain of the Ó Máille clan in the west of Ireland. Upon her father’s death, she inherited his large shipping and trading business, and I do not know if this business in reality was piracy, but according to the tale Gráinne O’Malley was a Pirate. In either case, we are not talking about a dainty, fragile little princess here.
Anyhow, the tale is that this female chieftain and pirate were rebuffed in 1576 while attempting a courtesy visit to Howth Castle. This must have ticked her off, as she retaliated by abducting the Earl’s grandson and heir, and as ransom she extracted a promise that unanticipated guests would never be turned away again, and that Deer Park would never be closed to the public again. To this day, the gates to Deer Park remain open, and an extra place is set for unexpected guests at the castle during formal dinners in the dining room.
I guess it was a big deal to have the British Monarchs visiting, as the footprints of King George IV was recorded for posterity at Howth’s West Pier. This is where he first set foot on Irish soil in August 1821. Supposedly he arrived on his 59th birthday, and was “in very high spirits”. (I am wondering if he needed help to stand upright, as my knowledge of royals in high spirits usually means that they have gotten way down in the happy-juice.)
In my post from St. Stephens Green in Dublin, I wrote about the Easter Rising; many of the rifles the Irish Volunteers used against the British, may have come from a shipment of 900 rifles that were landed at Howth on 26 July 1914.
Even this picturesque little village has seen some action, and I have only referred a little bit of the history above. Today it is a very popular tourist site, and the west Pier is lined with seafood merchants and restaurants. They also have a little market that is fun to visit. When you come to Howth, make sure you bring your camera!
I will end my Dublin much? – series with pictures from Ireland’s eye – so check back later!
And while you wait, make sure you check out my previous posts from Ireland: