Swords is the county town of Fingal and a satellite of Dublin, Ireland. One of the larger settlements of Greater Dublin, the town is the closest to Dublin Airport, and is home to one of the Dublin region's larger shopping centres, extensive other retail facilities, and a range of industries. Lying on the Ward River, it features a restored medieval castle, a holy well from which it takes its name, a round tower and a Norman tower, presumably built by the same Normans who constructed the castle.
The name "Swords" is also applicable to a townland,[N 2] to the civil parish, within the historic County Dublin, and to the local electoral area.
The town's origins date back to 560 AD when it was reputedly founded by Saint Colmcille (521–567). Legend has it that the saint blessed a local well, giving the town its name, Sord, meaning "clear" or "pure". However, An Sord also means "the water source" and could indicate a large communal drinking well that existed in antiquity.
St. Colmcille's Well is located on Well Road off Main Street. Sord may also refer to a "sward", an 'expanse of grass'. The most ubiquitous landscape indicators of Early Christian Settlement are the ecclesiastical enclosures. In Swords case the street pattern has been influenced by the circular alignment of the settlement. The medieval town developed in a linear pattern along Main Street in a north – south direction. Swords has one of the best examples of this settlement pattern in the Dublin region. The round tower, 26m in height, is also an indicator of early Christian settlement. The Irish high king Brian Boru is said to have had his funeral at the church on the Spittal hill after he was killed at the battle of Clontarf; this was of course before the hospital and even the Church of Ireland when there would have been a small chapel there along with the round tower. At the northern end of the street stands Swords Castle, 200m northeast of the ecclesiastical site, which was built in the early 13th century. A short distance north of the Castle is an elevation known as Spittal Hill, where a hospital once stood.
In 1994, Swords became the county seat of the new county of Fingal after the abolition of the former County Dublin as an administrative county. In 2001, upon the completion of the County Hall, senior executive offices moved there from Parnell Square in Dublin city centre.
In June 2006, the RNLI Ireland officially opened its new all-Ireland headquarters at Airside Business Park, within greater Swords. It was officially opened by President Mary McAleese. In attendance at this Presidential ceremony was Admiral Sir Jock Slater, RN, a former British First Sea Lord then serving as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the R.N.L.I.