Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, County Kildare

Kilkea Castle was built in 1426 and is a claimant of the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Ireland (as does Malahide Castle.) Originally a motte and bailey was built here by Sir Walter de Riddlesford in 1181. His granddaughter married Maurice Fitzgerald, and so the Manor of Kilkea then came into the possession of the powerful Fitzgerald family. It remained in their possession for over 700 years until the 19th Earl of Kildare decided to make Carton House the family seat early in the 18th century. A famous story of the castle tells of the ‘The Wizard Earl’ who lived here in the 16th century. He was a colourful character who was fond of dabbling in magic tried. He tried to convince his wife of his powers and said he could turn her into a bird. He said if she got startled he would disappear for ever. As promised, The Earl turned into a bird and his wife showed indifference, until a cat wandered in and sprang for the bird. The wife screamed and The Wizard Earl disappeared forever but it is said that he returns a ghost to the same room every seven years on a white horse! The castle and estate was finally sold by the Fitzgerald family in the early 1960s but is now run as a golf course and hotel.