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The Martello Towers in Ireland

Today we will fulfil our promise to tell you about one of the youngest castle forts in Ireland- the Martello Tower. The castle forts in England and Ireland were built during the Napoleon war (1804-1815), as a defensive tactic in case Napoleon Bonaparte attacked.

The Martello Tower got its name in 1794 because of the similar buildings on the island of Corsica, on which the English based the Martello Tower on because of the effective defences those towers provided.

Since people thought that Napoleon might firstly try to take over Ireland, in 1804 the first tower forts appeared here. Most of them (28 towers) were built on the coast line and around the area of Dublin, including the island ‘Ireland’s Eye’ and ‘Lambey Island’. 16 castle-forts were built Northwards from it and 12 of the same type of towers were built in the South of Ireland in Co. Cork.

The castle-forts were built so that they were within sight of each other. These towers were around 12-15 metres in diameter, three stories high and had one door that was set a good few metres of the ground. The only way to get in a tower-fort was with a ladder, which was disposed off in an emergency.

On the very top of the tower there is a landing on which rests a mechanism that was used to turn the cannon 360 degrees. Depending on the size of the castle-fort, these landings could harbour up to 3-x of these types of mechanisms. The capacity of soldiers one of these towers could hold would have been around 15-25 soldiers and one officer.

Luckily enough for Ireland and England, where 103 castle-forts were also built, Napoleon decided to attack Russia first, but after his defeat in 1812 he decided against trying to take over England and Ireland. So because of this these castle-forts were never used for their initial purpose.

Most of those towers are now empty and only a small part of them are equipped for modern living. The best know tower-fort is a tower, in which the famous Irish writer James Joyce spent 6 days in. This is now James Joyce Museum. It is located near the Sandycove train station. In the 1980s a castle-fort in Bray was also famous because it was under the ownership of Bono, a member of the famous Irish band U2.

But possibly the most interesting tower-fort, from the point of view of its historical purpose, is Martello Tower № 7 in Killiney, located to the south of Dun Laoghaire. Here, historic enthusiasts, managed to completely restore the interior of the tower as it was at the time, including the fighting efficiency of the cannon.

On the 12th of July 2008, on the festive and costumed opening of this castle-fort, to the indescribable amazement of the attendants, three shots were fired from the cannon. Actually, before a person could be given the chance to shoot out of the cannon, they had to pass a course and get a respective certificate.

In present day only a handful of these towers are used as living quarters by people. For example in Portmarnock only one of these tower-forts is adjoined to the beach, ‘Velvet Strand’. On the coastline of Howth-Sutton, there is a castle-fort, which you can rent as a holiday home or for a party. But this isn’t’ a cheap luxury. If you want to spend a week of summer in this tower you’ll have to cash up €1900.

We now hope that you have a faint idea about the Martello Towers and where to find it.

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