Thousands visit newly refurbished King John’s Castle

SIMON Spratt is standing in the place where his grandfather lived; in fact, three generations of his family grew up here. It was a rare privilege and a most unusual, even an iconic setting to grow up within these walls – of King John’s Castle.

“This is authentic,” said Simon, as he kicked around the stones of the courtyard on Friday last, as the castle re-opened after a €5.7m redevelopment, and welcomed in close to 1,000 visitors from around the world on its very first day.

“You can smell and touch the wood, you can see the craft work that has gone in to it – it’s realistic,” he beams.

“The views are spectacular and it’ll only get better with some sunshine. It’s wonderful to see people come in here and be surprised,” he said. Simon was one of a number of people who made submissions in relation to the plans in recent years, but today his fears were laid to rest.

“The original plans have been changed for the better, and that’s a real encouragement for engagement, because this is somewhere locals will want to visit and be proud of, and it’s very obvious you can be proud of it now.”

From the 1930s up to the 80s, families were housed within the grounds of the castle, until they were moved on to make way for it’s development as a tourist destination.

Simon’s mother Mary was another person pleased with its reincarnation as a focal point for tourists and locals alike.

“What I’d like to see is all the residents who are still alive and lived here meet back here again, and exchange what went on in those years. The oldest resident is 84 years and she’s still living locally. It would be great for The Gathering,” she said.

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