To get to the Rock of Dunamase you don’t need elaborate driving directions, because all you have to do is driving out of Dublin along the M7. Who could miss the ruins of a castle towering 45m (150 ft) above a flat plain?
This fortress was already a royal site in the 9th century when it was attacked by the Vikings. In 1170 Diarmait Mac Murchada, king of Leinster, gave this site to his ally Strongbow, the Welsh knight who led the Anglo-Norman army into Ireland and then married the king’s daughter Aoife.
William Marshall, Strongbow’s successor as king of Leinster, constructed much of the visible fabric of the castle in a few years from 1208, but it is clear that a castle of some sort existed prior to this.
Although it’s likely that the natural strength of the rock was considered to offer a sufficient protection, four lines of defences were built along the eastern side: an outer and inner barbican, a curtain wall and an inner hall. That said, I took the first photo while approaching the castle, therefore standing in the outer barbican. Isn’t the Inner Barbican Gate (the one on the right) simply superb?
If you’re thinking of visiting, keep in mind that the last part of the road is a narrow countryside lane (the kind with grass growing in the middle) and space to park your car is available only outside that little church you see above on the right.
Crowning the summit of the rock is a massive rectangular building (Great Hall) which was probably built at the end of the 12th century. This building, which was modified in the late 18th century, is now badly damaged.
Below is the doorway that during the 18th century was inserted into the north wall. It was dressed with late medieval stonework apparently taken from another site.
And these below are the paired doorways on the ground floor of the central hall.
The views from the top of the rock were quite spectacular too. Leaving the castle, I took several photos with my digital camera. I’ll share them here sometime soon so that you’ll see for yourself.
Camera: Hasselblad 500 C/M
Film: Kodak Plus-X 125
Location: just outside Portlaoise, County Laois