Rock of Dunamase - Aghnahily
The Rock of Dunamase is an impressive fortress that sits on a lage natural limestone rocky outcrop and is located in County Laois, overlooking the valley of the O'Moores. It is a prominent feature on the landscape standing at over forty five metres in height. The ruins of Dunamase Castle have been a familiar sight here since the latter part of the 12th century when it was constructed, and they blend well with the natural rock. The spectacular views of the surrounding countryside made the site the most strategic location for a fortress.
It has a long, fascinating and turbulent history. Excavations have uncovered evidence that the area was originally settled back in the 9th century with a hill fort being built here by the christians. Information on the castle is given on the entrance.
Dunamase was an important stronghold during the Anglo Norman times and was ruled by Diarmuid MacMurrough, King of Leinster. He subsequently lost the castle and was driven to flee Ireland however, he returned along with Strongbow in 1170 to whom he had promised his daughter for his help in getting his land back. This was accomplished and the castle remained in the family until 1330. This followed a period of unoccupancy with the castle becoming a ruinous shell by 1350. In the 16th century it came into the ownership of the O'More family, in 1650 it was destroyed during the Cromwellian invasion so it could not be used as a defence ever again. However, in the latter part of the 18th century Sir John Parnell commenced work on erecting a banqueting hall within the ruins with the works taking in aspects of medieval architecture from other nearby structures. It is owing to these works that the castle is still preserved to some degree, otherwise it would have fallen into further ruin.
What presently remains is a large D shaped enclosure, constructed of thick stone walls. Sections of the great hall remain, with much of the destroyed walls lying where they did when blown up. The best preserved areas are the two gatehouses and the walls around them which create a triangular courtyard. There is a large pit at the N end of the site and this could possibly have been a well.
Although wild and rugged and pretty much in ruins, despite all of this visitors can still get a feel of its former grandeur so is a site that is well worth a visit for its authenticity. What visitors get here at the Rock of Dunamase is a site that is natural and not commercialised, surrounded by natural beauty and tranquility. The stunning views of the surrounding countryside are not to be missed.
This attraction is open all year round but do dress up warm as it can be chilly and there is nearly always a wind blowing.