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Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Ireland

Puck's Castle

There might not be much left of these Irish ruins, but their linguistic legacy is still going strong. 

Some say that Puck’s Castle, in Rathmichael Co. Dublin, was built from sacred stones culled from the nearby Bearna Dhearg (or “ringfort”), but little is really known for certain about the structure today. Because of the “sacred stones” story, Puck’s – an English derivative of the Gaelic “púca” or “pooka” meaning ghost or spirit – is said to be haunted.

Many languages have similar words to “púca” – in Iceland there is “puki”; “piskey” in Cornish (that’s where we get the word “pixie”); “pwcca” in Welsh (try saying that ten times fast); and “pawkey” in Scottish. It’s where Shakespeare got the name “Puck”, meaning “fairie”, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Whether it’s a curse, or a haunting, or just neglect, Puck’s Castle sits today in silent ruins, mostly visited by grazing cattle and the occasional fence-hopper. The castle dates to sometime around 1500, and as a fortified homestead it was part of a number of defensive buildings similarly erected in the area from that period.

Rathmichael, southeast of Dublin, is a suburb in ruins; or rather, a suburb WITH ruins. In addition to the Castle there are also church ruins that are near the ruins of the old ringfort (ringforts are common in Ireland, being medieval circular fortified settlements). The church may (or may not – that’s another mystery) have been built in dedication to a saint named “Mac Táil” (that’s right – “Michael”) so we get the Irish name of “Ráth Mhic Táil,” which would translate to “ringfort of Mac Táil,” or the English variation: Rathmichael. 

There is no way to know for sure about this either, but the castle may also have given James II (who lived from 1633 to 1701) a waystation as he retreated during the Battle of The Boyne in 1690. He eventually retreated all the way back to France, and never came back to Ireland to let us know for sure. 

So while much of the history of the castle is shrouded in mystery, there is also very little of the castle left intact. But inside you can see evidence of the stone stairwell and the fireplace – most everything else is long gone and crumbling. The grounds are usually behind a locked fence, but it’s not far off Puck’s Castle Lane, so you can visit – but may need to sense the Púca’s spirit through some chain link.

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