Trim Castle is Ireland’s largest, most well-preserved, and most spectacular Anglo-Norman castle. Trim gets its name from the Irish Baile tha Troim, which means “Town of the Elder Trees Ford,” implying that this was an important fording place on the Boyne River. Because of the importance of this crossing location, a chieftain’s dun (fort) and an early monastery were built here by the fifth century. Trim Castle was constructed in 1172, shortly after the Anglo-Normans arrived in Ireland.
Hugh de Lacy was given the Kingdom of Meath and custody of Dublin by King Henry II. Fearing that another of his barons, Richard de Clare (better known as Strongbow), would establish a rival Anglo-Norman kingdom in Ireland, the King handed de Lacy Meath to act as a counterbalance to Strongbow’s powerbase in Leinster’s south.
The keep’s distinctive twenty-sided cruciform design (with 3m thick walls) is an example of the period’s experimental military architecture. It served as the castle’s domestic and administrative center. By 1500, much of Ireland had returned to Gaelic Chieftains, and the English-controlled region had been reduced to a small area surrounding Dublin known as “The Pale.” Trim Castle was in disrepair by this time, but it remained a key garrison protecting The Pale’s northwestern frontier.
Trim Castle has evolved over the centuries to meet the household demands of its owners as well as the shifting political context. However, from the height of Anglo-Norman rule in Ireland, much of its fabric has remained intact. Even now, visitors might obtain a sense of security that the de Lacy family would have felt in a harsh area when standing within the castle’s walls. Standing outside the walls, however, you can sense the intimidation that the native populace must have felt.
Interesting fact – The 1995 film Braveheart with Mel Gibson was filmed at Trim Castle, with the castle used to represent number of Scottish and English castles. A 1980 movie, The Big Red One with Lee Marvin, also used the castle as a filming location.