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The Butler Trail


The Butler Trail

In almost every nook and cranny of Tipperary you will find a connection to the Butlers of Ormond. For over five turbulent centuries they were the most powerful aristocratic family in the county and they left an indelible mark. They raised armies and went into battle with rival families, sometimes fighting with and other times against the English Crown. They built numerous fine castles and houses, both for defensive purposes and as ostentatious displays of their wealth. They sponsored the establishment and embellishment of abbeys and churches which still stand to this day. You can hear their remarkable story and visit the places associated with them by travelling along The Butler Trail. This driving route links the towns of Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel and Cahir and there is interpretive signage to guide and inform you along the route.

In Carrick-on-Suir you can visit the beautiful Ormond Castle and hear about the life of the man who built it, ‘Black Tom’ Butler, reputedly a lover of England’s Queen Elizabeth I. The Main Guard in Clonmel was constructed by James Butler, Duke of Ormonde, in the late 17th century, when the family were at the height of their power. This fine building with its sandstone columns was originally a courthouse but is now a museum. The imposing Cahir Castle was granted to the Butlers in the 14th century and remained in the family until the 1960s, while the 19th century Swiss Cottage just outside Cahir was used by the family as a relaxing hideaway. As you delve further into these places, you will uncover a treasure-trove of history to rival any work of fiction.

Download The Butler Trail Brochure

Butler Trail Brochure

Black Tom Butler (1531-1614)
Why was he called Black Tom?
It is said Thomas Butler got his name when he suppressed a rebellion against Queen Mary, led by Sir Thomas Wyatt who was known as White Tom.
The Butler Family History

Theobold Fitzwalter arrived in Ireland with Prince John in 1185 and was granted over 400,000 acres of land in Tipperary. As Chief Butler to Prince John he was entitled to 10% of all wine cargoes and it is from this important role that his family took the name Butler from the early 1200s. For much of the 1300s the Butlers’ main residence was in Carrick-on-Suir. It moved to Kilkenny Castle in 1391. From the 13th until the 18th century the Butlers were one of the most powerful families in Ireland and held many important offices.

Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I, for whom Black Tom Butler built the beautiful Manor House, was great granddaughter of the 7th Earl of Ormond. Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, referred to Black Tom as her black husband – reputedly referring to his dark eyes. Experience this compelling slice of history on the Butler Trail.

The Butler Trail in 1 day
Come and enjoy a guided tour of Ormond Castle where the Butler history comes alive. Follow the Carrick-on-Suir Heritage Trail and experience the character of the town.
Then head west to visit the bustling town of Clonmel and take a tour of the recently reinstated Main Guard, originally built by the most influential member of the Butler family, James.
Finish off your day in the picturesque town of Cahir, renowned for its heritage, where you can take in the famous Cahir Castle and enjoy the scenic river walk to the quaint Swiss Cottage.

Discover Ireland Website and Promotional Video

Butler Trail Further Information