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History of Parke’s Castle, Co. Leitrim

Parke’s Castle on the shore Lough Gill; and once hosted officers from the Spanish Armada, and was the scene of a family tragedy before falling into disrepair. Today it is one of the finest examples of a plantation castle in Ireland.

Parkes Castle is an impressive 17th-century castle located in County Sligo, Ireland. Situated on the shores of Lough Gill, the castle was built by Robert Parke, a plantation landlord who arrived in Ireland during the early 1600s. The castle has since become an iconic landmark and a popular tourist attraction.

Newtown Castle

The castle before the current one was called Newtown Castle and owned by Sir Brian O’Rourke. During the O’Rourke years, Francisco de Cuellar, a shipwrecked Armada officer was entertained at the castle. De Cuellar wrote of his experience on the run in Ireland, and noted “Although this chief is a savage, he is a good Christian and an enemy of the heretics and is always at war with them.”

O’Rourke was later executed in London in 1591 for high treason. One of the charges put against O’Rourke was for giving aid to the Armada survivors. After his death his son Brian Oge O’Rourke inherited the title and continued his father’s fight against the English.

Newtown Castle in 1791, plates from The Antiquities Of Ireland (Francis Grose)

Parke’s Castle

The current castle was built during a time of great change in Ireland, Robert Parke was part of the wave of English planters who arrived in Ireland during the early 1600s.

The new castle was built as a defensive structure, with thick walls and a drawbridge that could be raised to prevent entry. The castle was also designed to be comfortable, with spacious living quarters and a great hall for entertaining guests.

Roger’s son, Robert, married a Roscommon woman, Ann Povey, and they made Newtown Castle their home. Two of their three children died tragically in a boating accident on Lough Gill in 1677, and their surviving daughter, Anne, married Sir Francis Gore and went to live with him in Co. Sligo. The castle was abandoned and fell into disrepair in the years after Robert and Ann died. In the early 20th century, the castle was purchased by the Irish government, which began a restoration project to bring the castle back to its former glory.


Eventually the castle came into State ownership, and was carefully restored in the 1990s with extensive restoration work carried out on the glazing, timber stairs and roof. Today the castle showcases an Irish oak interior, mullioned windows, parapets, and a courtyard that contains the tower house of the original O’Rourke castle. The grounds also feature old stone buildings and a wishing well.

Today, visitors to Parkes Castle can explore the castle’s many rooms and learn about the history of the Parke family and their role in Irish history. The castle features a museum that displays a collection of artifacts and exhibits that provide insight into life during the 17th century.

One of the highlights of a visit to Parkes Castle is the stunning views of Lough Gill. The castle is situated on a promontory overlooking the lake, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can also take a boat tour of Lough Gill, which provides a unique perspective on the castle and the surrounding area.

Parkes Castle is an important landmark in Irish history and a must-visit attraction for anyone visiting County Sligo. The castle’s impressive architecture and rich history provide a fascinating glimpse into Ireland’s past, while the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding area makes it a perfect destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike.

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