The arrival of the Anglo-Normans in 1169 marked the beginning of castle building in Ireland. The earliest castles, known as mottes, were built of wood and clay, and the speed of their erection coupled with the Norman's fighting skills meant that land quickly conquered could be securely held. By 1200 these fairly simple yet effective structures were already being replaced by large stone fortresses. These first stone castles were built to dominate and intimidate and, in the beginning, were seldom used as permananent residences. The size and layout of the castles varied considerably depending on the suitability of the site and the availability of finance, skilled labour and materials such as stone. To a great extent the building of castles ceased after 1300, but recommenced in the fifteenth century with the introduction of the tower house. This concise exploration of the origins, features and functions of Ireland's castles and fortified houses will provide a useful, easy-to-read guide for the interested layperson. The text is lavishly illustrated with colour and black and white photographs of castles and fortified houses throughout Ireland, including those at Trim, Limerick, Nenagh, Ferns, Carlingford, Dunamase, Carrickfergus, Carlow, Roscommon, Bunratty, Donegal and Portumna. The book also contains a glossary, bibliography and index.