The Motte and Bailey Castle at Ardscull, near Athy, Co. Kildare

The great earthwork of Ardscull, Co. Kildare is the remains of an Anglo-Norman Motte and Bailey timber castle.

Travelling between Kilcullen and Athy, about 5km from Athy, the straight R418 regional road suddenly turns in a broad semi-circle around a great earthwork built on a local high point known as the Moat of Ardscull. The townland Ardscull means Hill of the shouts. Ardscull is the surviving earthen component of a Medieval Anglo-Norman earth and timber castle known as a Motte and Bailey. The sites consists of a large earthen mound, enclosed by a wide ditch and external bank. The castle was probably built some time at the end of the twelfth century under the auspices of William Marshall, the Lord of Leinster. Originally the mound would have supported a high wooden tower, the bank would have been topped by a wooden stockade, the entrance causeway would have had a substantial wooden gate and an enclosed area, known as the Bailey would have, contained the house and outbuildings of the resident lord and his family and retainers.

On 26 Janaury 1316 one of the battles of the Scottish War of Independence was fought in the vicinity of Ardscull. The Scottish army, lead by Edward Bruce brother of Robert Bruce King of Scotland, was advancing from Castledermot when it encountered the English army, under the nominal command of John de Hotham, waiting near Ardscull. Although the English had the advantage of numbers their leaders disagreed about tactics and the Scots won a victory. The English were forced to retreat. The way was open for the Scots to occupy Laois and on 1 May Edward Bruce was crowned king of Ireland on the Hill of Faughart, Co. Louth.

Today the site supports an early nineteenth century plantation of deciduous trees and is a very pleasant place to visit and go for a walk. There is parking but no other facilities. In 1903 Ardscull was part of the circuit of one of the early car races, the Gordon Bennett 1903 race. The race was won by the famous driver Camille Jenatzy in a Mercedes 60Hp Simplex and there are plaques commemorating the race at the site.

Further Reading
Omurethi" (FitzGerald, Lord Walter) 1897. The Moat of Ardscull, 186-197. Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society, Vol. II, No. 3.

View Ardscull in a larger map

GPS coordinates 53.02449,-6.914864

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