Occupied by the same family for 800 years, Grainne O’Malley & St Lawrence

Howth Castle in north county Dublin has been the private residence of the Gaisford – St Lawrence family for over 800 years since 1177. It has its origins in medieval times when Almeric, the first Lord of Howth, came to Ireland with John de Courcy. Legend has it that on 10th August (the feast day of St Lawrence) he won a victory which secured him possession of the Howth peninsula and in gratitude, he took the name of the saint. The earliest structure here was made from wood but has since disappeared. The earliest part of the present structure dates from about 1450. The castle has been extensively altered by succeeding generations, most notably in 1738, when the house took on its current appearance. A popular legend about Howth Castle occurred in 1576 when The ‘Pirate Queen’ Grainne O’ Malley visited Dublin and attempted to pay a courtesy visit to the 8th Baron of Howth. When she approached, she was informed that the family was at dinner and the castle gates were shut against her. In retaliation, she abducted their grandson, the 10th Baron, and heir. She eventually released him upon a promise ‘to keep the gates open to unexpected visitors, and to set an extra place at every meal’. This agreement is still honored by the descendants of the Baron. Jonathan Swift, the famous satirist was also a regular visitor here.