The Irish word ‘Cathair’ means fortress, something that makes sense the moment you first encounter the fairytale castle set on a rock here in the middle of the River Suir.
Cahir Castle is a jewel, beautifully preserved and possessing the kind of battlements, towers and keep that look like they were built decades, rather than centuries, ago. Developed by the Butler family in the 15th century, the castle contains one of the few working portcullises in Ireland, and is a bona fide star of the screen, having featured in Excalibur, Braveheart and The Tudors.
Cahir Castle forms the starting point for three heritage walks - a red route exploring the town itself, an orange route venturing towards the Augustinian abbey, and a green route setting out along the Coronation Walk to the intriguing Swiss Cottage.
The latter is a rustic folly designed by John Nash for the Butler family, a quirky hunting lodge whose thatched roof, cedar shingles and tree trunk supports were created to give the impression of a house grown from the soil. Inside, you’ll find trompe l’oeil effects and early commercial wallpapers from Paris, but in effect, it existed so its owners could play at being peasants.
Cahir Abbey, reached by the orange trail, was founded in the late 12th century. It once housed Augustinian canons, and several towers and carvings survive along with its chancel today.
Other heritage highlights include the Ha-Ha, a 19th-century sunken walkway used by local gentry for romantic strolls. St Paul’s Church (1820) is one of only two surviving churches known to have been designed by John Nash, and Cahir’s old granary has been sensitively restored as a craft centre.