Enniskillen Castle, County Fermanagh

Enniskillen Castle, County Fermanagh

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Enniskillen Castle, situated beside the River Erne in County Fermanagh, was built almost 600 years ago by Gaelic Maguires. Guarding one of the few passes into Ulster, it was strategically important throughout its history. In the 17th century it became an English garrison fort and later served as part of a military barracks. This historic site houses two museums, Fermanagh County Museum and The Inniskillings Museum.
 
The first castle was built in the early 15th century by Hugh “the Hospitable” Maguire, whose family had by this period, secured the whole of the Erne basin. The first mention of Enniskillen Castle is in 1439. The castle became the principle Maguire seat in 1484 when Sean Maguire became chieftain of the clan. During the 16th century the castle was captured and retaken many times by the O’Donnells, the O’Neills and the English.
 
The castle became the focus of a plantation town after the defeat and subsequent departure of the Gaelic chieftains in 1607. Captain William Cole was then appointed constable of the Royal Fort of Enniskillen.
When the planters arrived they found not the princely house of the Maguires but a tumbledown wall enclosing the burnt-out shell of the medieval tower-house. Cole proceeded to rebuild the castle and a house alongside for his family. The Watergate was built between 1615-1620 and beside it on the inside is a well. The name Watergate is misleading as there never was a gateway here.
 
However in the 16th century there had been a gate leading to the water not far from the present watergate. The Castle remained the Cole family residence until a fire in 1710, when they moved to nearby Portora Castle and later to Florencecourt. The ruined castle was refurbished during the late 18th century as a military barracks. The castle and the surrounding barracks remained in military occupation until 1926.

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