It has been a long time since I last visited the magnificent Round Tower in Kildare Town. Located a few meters away from St. Brigid’s Cathedral, it really is one of the most impressive Round Towers in the country. In fact at 108 ft. in height it has bragging rights as the second tallest Round Tower still standing in Ireland, and it is also the tallest Tower that can still be climbed. Interestingly the Round Tower in Glendalough which I visited last year holds the record for the tallest Tower in Ireland, standing at approx. 113ft in height. But as Kildare does not have a conical cap, I wonder might this have changed the rankings? This ancient site which has had a long connection with both the Gaelic Deity Brigid, but also the Christian saint whom shared the same name. Sometimes it is quite difficult to distinguish the difference between these two women. The monastery was said to have been founded here back in around 470AD by St. Brigid.
On my previous visit, with my eldest son Ryan, we were able to climb the seven levels of the tower, right up to the caged battlements at the top, but on this occasion it was closed for lunch and I did not have time to wait around on this occasion to enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding countryside from the top. The Tower itself dates back to the sixth century and so was built long after the Christian Brigid has passed away. But over the course of time it is said to have fallen into ruin. Most of what you will see today comes from the reconstruction of the Tower in the 12th century. The base and lower courses of the tower are built of evenly coursed granite blocks, with roughly coursed limestone blocks which come from the original structure, but from the raised doorway upwards we see many signs of design from the 12th century.
Sometime during 1843, the tower was excavated by the treasurer of the cathedral, a Rev. John Browne. Coins dating from the 12th century were found under the floor and are now housed in the National Museum. The raised entrance to the Tower which stands at over 4.5 meters, is of Romanesque design with four receding orders, which faces to the South East and was constructed using Red Sandstone. An interesting gable can be seen above. The current floors and ladders used to climb the tower were installed in 1874. There are seven floors; five supported on corbels, with the third and sixth on offsets. The battlements were repaired in 1931, with repointing work carried out on the exterior and some off the granite blocks in the lower offset being replaced.
The exterior was repointed at that time and some of the granite blocks on the lower offset were replaced. Some of the most notable ornate features of the Tower include chevrons, rosettes and foliation. There are narrow pointed splayed windows on the second, third, fourth and fifth floors, and five windows, each partially blocked at the base, on the top floor. Castellation’s were added in the 18th century. Although the Tower is only open to the public for part of the year, there is a small admission charge to climb the Tower, which in my opinion is money well spent for the stunning views. The rest of the grounds are free to explore and include the Cathedral, Brigid’s Fire Temple and Kitchen, a High Cross and so much more.