Howth Castle lies close to the village of Howth, Fingal County in Ireland. It is the ancestral home of the line of the Earl of Howth (previously Barons of Howth, holding the area since the Norman invasion), now held by their heirs, the Gaisford St. Lawrence family. Since 1180 the St. Lawrence family have been the Lords of Howth. Howth Castle has stood on its present site for over seven hundred years, the original one, a timber structure, having been sited on Tower Hill, overlooking Balscadden Bay. The current building is not the original castle, which was on the high slopes by the village and the sea. The great English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens restyled a 14th century castle built here, overlooking Dublin Bay.
A popular legend about the Castle concerns an incident that apparently occurred in 1576. During a trip from Dublin, the pirate Gráinne O'Malley attempted to pay a courtesy visit to the 8th Baron Howth. However, she was informed that the family was at dinner and the castle gates were closed against her. In retaliation, she abducted the grandson and heir, the 10th Baron. He was eventually released when a promise was given to keep the gates open to unexpected visitors, and to set an extra place at every meal. At Howth Castle today, this agreement is still honoured by the descendants of the Baron.
In 1892 Rosa Mulholland referred to the grounds thus:
“Back on the lower land you must visit the ancient demesne of the Earl of Howth, where a quaint old castle stands in a prim garden with swan-inhabited pond, and plashing fountain, encircled by dark beautiful woods full of lofty cathedral-like aisles, moss carpeted, and echoing with the cawing of rooks.”(Mulholland 1892: 35)
In recent years, the 17th classical landscape was totally obliterated to make for a golf course. The grounds are noted for the wild rhododendron gardens, which are open to the public in summer and some of the oldest, planted in 1710, beech hedges. The castle itself is not open to the public. The "Kitchen in the Castle Cookery School" is based in the restored Georgian kitchens of Howth Castle. The National Transport Museum of Ireland is located in the grounds of the castle. It features lorries, trucks, fire engines and tractors. Also exhibited is the restored Hill of Howth No.9 Tram. Also on the grounds are the Deer Park Hotel and its associated golf courses.