Vis­it­ing the Black Cas­tle of the past

Wicklow People - - FRONT PAGE - BY MYLES BUCHANAN

PLANS are gath­er­ing pace to boost the Black Cas­tle’s po­ten­tial as a top tourist at­trac­tion.

Wick­low Tidy Towns, Wick­low His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, the Her­itage Of­fice and the UCD School of Ar­chae­ol­ogy are all in­volved in the €10,000 funded project.

Metal probes will be in­serted into the ground to try and de­ter­mine how far un­der­ground the cas­tle ex­tended to. Uto Hogerzeil, a his­tor­i­cal re­con­struc­tion spe­cial­ist, will il­lus­trate what the Black Cas­tle looked like in its hey­day, giv­ing vis­i­tors an idea of its true scale.

If suc­cess­ful, it is hoped to carry out sim­i­lar projects for the old Abbey Grounds and St Pa­trick’s ar­rival on the shores of Wick­low by sea.

THE Black Cas­tle can be­come a ma­jor tourist at­trac­tion ona-par with Wick­low Gaol with the help of a €10,000 grant to high­light the his­toric ru­ins.

Wick­low Tidy Towns, Her­itage Of­fi­cer Deirdre Burns and Pro­fes­sor Graeme War­ren, Head of UCD School of Ar­chae­ol­ogy, are spearheading the project.

The fund­ing will al­low for pro­mo­tional sig­nage, the up­grad­ing of foot­paths and an in­for­ma­tion board dis­play­ing how the cas­tle looked in its hey­day and its lo­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

Speak­ing at Mon­day’s meet­ing of Wick­low Mu­nic­i­pal Dis­trict, An­drew Law­less, Chair­man of Wick­low Tidy Towns, said the Black Cas­tle could be the start of a tourism drive high­light­ing Wick­low town’s rich her­itage.

He said: ‘this is a very im­por­tant project. If it works, we can do some­thing with the Abbey Grounds and on St Pa­trick ar­riv­ing in Wick­low, as well as other projects around the town.’

John Fin­lay, Chair of Wick­low His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, has also lent his ex­per­tise.

‘We think the Black Cas­tle have been very dif­fi­cult to build and it might have taken more than one at­tempt,’ said Mr Law­less.

Ex­perts now think that the cas­tle tri­an­gu­lar in shape and that the arch en­trance may have been part of a larger, outer wall.

A geo study will be car­ried out of the area and will be in­cor­po­rated into a com­mu­nity style day, whereby the com­mu­nity could get in­volved, see how the sur­vey is car­ried out and par­tic­i­pate in the study.

The vol­un­teers would ‘grid’ out the whole Black Cas­tle, with metal probes in­serted in the ground very few me­tres to try and de­ter­mine where the cas­tle ex­tended to un­der­ground.

Be­tween five to six vol­un­teers will be sought each day of the study which will take place in Oc­to­ber over a five­day pe­riod.

PhD stu­dent Su­san Cur­ran will carry out the main work in re­la­tion to or­gan­is­ing the study, which should give valu­able in­sight into the scale of the orig­i­nal Black Cas­tle struc­ture.

A drone will also be used to sur­vey the cas­tle from the air.

‘Once this sur­vey is com­plete and we have ob­tained in­for­ma­tion from Tadhg O’Ke­effe, we can go about de­sign­ing sig­nage for the cas­tle. We will be avail­ing of the ser­vices of artist Uto Hogerzeil , to carry out work for us in re­la­tion to the signs. He has done sim­i­lar works in Kilkenny, Wex­ford and Water­ford, among other places,’ added Mr Law­less.

Mr Hogerzeil, a his­tor­i­cal re­con­struc­tion spe­cial­ist, will then il­lus­trate what the Black Cas­tle looked like in its hey­day, giv­ing vis­i­tors an idea of its true scale.

Cllr Gail Dunne said: ‘I al­ways saw the ru­ins grow­ing up and was fas­ci­nated by them. I think this is a ma­jor tourism op­por­tu­nity. I don’t think we have re­ally sold St Pa­trick ar­riv­ing in Wick­low to the tourism mar­ket.

‘Wick­low Gaol at­tracts around 40,000 vis­i­tors a year but I don’t think they stay in Wick­low for any length of time. If we have the Black Cas­tle, Wick­low Gaol and the Abbey Grounds then peo­ple would start to stay more.’

As mem­ber of the Her­itage Fo­rum Cllr John Snell said he was look­ing for­ward to see­ing the com­pleted project.

‘The Black Cas­tle is one of my favourite places in the whole of Ire­land. It’s ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful up there and I think peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate the amount of peo­ple who go up to see the Black Cas­tle.’

Dis­trict Cathaoir­leach Cllr Shay Cullen said: ‘there are also other dif­fer­ent fund­ing streams avail­able, from the Gov­ern­ment as well. This is some­thing we re­ally need to fo­cus on. The op­por­tu­ni­ties for Wick­low town from a tourism per­spec­tive are plen­ti­ful.’

The Black Cas­tle.

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