Cathedral Exterior - Round Tower 4 - Gareth Wray

The round tower is open for visitors during our normal opening hours, and you can climb to the top for a beautiful view of Kildare. Note that it is accessible only by ladder and may not be suited to some.

The Round Tower is one of the prized treasures of Kildare, being the second highest in Ireland (108ft or 33m in height. Its solid base being 53 1/2 ft or 16m in circumference) and the highest accessible tower in Ireland. Immediately obvious to the visitor will be the fact that the lowest 10ft or 3m are of beauti¬fully cut and coursed granite, above which the tower is of local lime¬stone. It may be that the original tower, possibly sixth century, succumbed to assault or simply fell into ruin. At any rate, its present rebuilding seems to date from the twelfth century. The castellated top dates from the 1730’s and replaced an original conical roof which must have collapsed. A notable feature of the tower is its doorway of dark red sandstone in four receding orders and adorned with geometrical zig-zag mouldings. The interior has four floors, each lighted by a single window, narrow on the outside but inwardly widely splayed to low broad arches. These are said to be unlike any other in round towers and to be consistent with a twelfth century date. A chamber below the present battlemented viewing point is lighted by five windows. From the summit splendid views of the cathedral and the town may be obtained. On days of good visibility the visitor is rewarded with spectacular views of the Curragh plain and the Wicklow mountains on one side and the central midland plain on the other. The Irish round towers served a multiplicity of purposes: a bell tower as well as a place of refuge for books, vest¬ments and people under attack. Kildare’s tower stands mysterious even in sunshine, the lichens of a thousand years staining its stone with greens and golds and greys.