Saturday, September 25, 2010

Donegal Castle, Beautiful Castle in Ireland

Donegal Castle (Irish: Caisleán Dhún na nGall) or O’Donnell’s Castle (Caisleán Uí Domhnaill) is a castle situated in the centre of Donegal town, County Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. For most of the last two centuries, the majority of the buildings were in ruins but the castle was almost fully restored in the late 1990s.

The castle consists of a 15th century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. The complex is sited on a bend in the Eske River, near the mouth of Donegal bay, and is surrounded by a 17th boundary wall. There is a small gatehouse at its entrance mirroring the design of the keep. Most of the stone work was constructed from locally sourced limestone with some sandstone. The castle was the stronghold of the O'Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries.

Recognizing Castles tend to be near the center of the old town we drove past urbanized Donegal and headed straight for the city's main square. We figured we would see signs pointing us to Castle parking as we approached the town center; we did not. Donegal’s old town isn't that big so after driving back & forth a few times we decided it was time to park and ask directions. Pulling in to the harbor parking we noticed Donegal's tourist office near the entrance.

The first Tower Castle, constructed by Red Hugh O'Donnell, was built in the 1400's AD. During the 9-year war, the O'Donnell's were forced to abandon the Castle at Donegal. Before leaving, they did their best to make the Castle as unusable to the English as possible, destroying as much as the castle as they could. After the Irish defeat, Sir Basil Brooke took charge of Donegal for the English and on the remains of the castle added an additional floor. He also added an attached wing to the castle, which was architecturally, similar to the manor homes of England.

Recently the Office of Public Works has renovated the castle. The keep has had new roofing and flooring added, in keeping with the original styles and techniques used in the 15th and 17th centuries. The stonework has been restored and the manor wing has been partially roofed. The oak timbers used came from the Brookeborough Estate in County Fermanagh. The castle is now open to the public and often hosts events such as Gaelic cultural evenings.

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