Limerick heritage site open to the public for the first time

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Minister Patrick O’ Donovan has announced the opening of the Desmond Castle in Askeaton to the public, reports Shauna McCrudden

Minister O’Donovan at Askeaton Castle

I’m a big history buff so it should come as no surprise that I’m excited at the announcement of the opening of Desmond Castle by the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), Patrick O’Donovan, TD. This will be the first time visitors have been able to access the site and view the ongoing conservation works at the historic monument, the earliest parts of which date from the 12th century.

“Askeaton Castle is a magnificent and historic structure right in the middle of the town,” says Minister O’Donovan. “The OPW has been working there for several seasons, gradually conserving significant parts of the structures on the site and making sure that they are preserved for generations to come.

“I am delighted to announce that starting this week, the public will now be able to access the site for the first time and in the company of an extremely knowledgeable OPW Guide, view the wonderful heritage of Askeaton and listen to stories of the past.”

The OPW conservation works on the Castle, and the buildings on the site, have been in progress since 2008. They work to conserve elements at risk of structural failure. While work continues, the OPW has provided public access walkways into the heart of the historic site, so that visitors can safely walk into the complex and experience the Castle at close range. Visitors will also be able to see the skilled stonemasons and workers of the OPW perform their craft on the site. 

“Desmond Castle is obviously the centrepiece of the site,” says the Fine Gael TD. “But the public will also be able to enter into the Banqueting Hall built by the 7th Earl of Desmond in 1440 and will be able to see the infamous Hellfire Club – still in a fragile state – being conserved by the skilled OPW team at the site.” 

“This is the first time that we have placed visitors so close to an ongoing conservation project as it is actually happening. I very much hope that visitors and tourists will appreciate the unique value of what they are seeing here. And I’m sure the local community will be thrilled at what has been achieved so far to conserve and present this wonderful site.”

I, for one, can’t wait to go on my tour of the Castle. Admission to Desmond Castle is free and the tours are available at 10am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3pm initially, with a potential to be extended. But due to special Covid-19 measures, there will be limits on the numbers on the tours of between six and eight people.

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Shauna McCrudden

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