Step back into the early 17th century at this restored plantation castle on the shore of Lough Gill. Parke's Castle lies eight miles east of Sligo, on the road to Dromahair and was once home to Sir Robert Parke and his family. The castle has been lovingly restored using Irish oak and traditional craftsmanship.
A violent history
The courtyard grounds contain evidence of an earlier structure. The Tower House construction was once owned by Sir Brian O'Rourke who was executed by the English in 1591. Another remnant of history is the traditional 17th Century blacksmith forge. The O'Rourke Clan, the original owners of this fortified stronghold, were rulers of the Irish kingdom of Breffni until the English destroyed the tower house in an act of revenge. The story goes that a sea captain, Francisco de Cuellar, who sailed with the Spanish Armada that invaded England in 1588 was shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland. He was given refuge by the O'Rourkes and subsequently wrote about their kindness on his return to Spain. When the English heard about this, they sent forces across to destroy the O'Rourke's castle. Sir Brian fled, but was captured and executed in London in 1591. In 1628, the tower house built here by O'Rourke was fully demolished by English settler Captain Robert Parke. He used the stone to build a fortified three story manor house on the eastern side of the defensive wall.
Restored to its former glory
Parke's Castle has been restored in recent years to give a full flavor of castle life in the 17th century. The Plantation castle forms the eastern side of the defensive walls that were once surrounded by a moat, a section of which is still visible. The castle has been carefully restored to include window glazing and an Irish oak roof using techniques and craftsmanship of the time. At the western end of the gardens there is a sweat house, an Irish construction similar to Scandinavian saunas, often used to treat various ailments. A guided tour of the castle takes place every hour and there is also a slide show entitled "Stone by Stone" in four languages. Admission includes an audio visual presentation and activity packs for families. There are also sometimes special heritage events and crafts demonstrations. There is access for disabled users on the ground floor and other facilities include a car and coach park and toilets. It is open to the public from March until September.