Featured image for Dunlough Castle

Three Castle Head – Dunlough Castle

Dunlough Castle, also known as Dun Lough Castle, is a series of three towers that stands atop a rugged, green promontory at the northern tip of the Mizen Peninsula in Ireland. Often referred to as Three Castle Head, it is a popular site and is thought to be one of Ireland’s most beautiful sites. The castle is situated perfectly to overlook the vast Atlantic Ocean.

The history of Dunlough Castle

Dunlough Castle is one of the oldest Norman castles in all of southern Ireland. It is also a fantastic example of Norman architecture and dry-stone masonry. The setting of the castle is outstanding, and many people make the trip there each year to bask in its glory. Surrounding the castles are stunning green lawns that seem almost infinite, and the coast further seals the beauty of the landscape.

While many people do make the trip to see it, the land is so vast that you will come into contact with very few people. This grand series of castles is well-known for the mysteries, oddities, and murder it has experienced in its time. Continue reading to find out more about this mysterious and tragically beautiful castle.

aerial view of Dunlough Castle
There are some breathtaking views from the castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Early history

It all began during the year 1169 when the first Norman soldiers and settlers started arriving in Ireland. At this time, the O’Mahonys were the declining but still very powerful princes of Eóganacht Raithlind. They supposedly occupied most of the area from Cork City west to Mizen Head. Since the MacCarthy dynasty had come south from Tipperary in the 12th century, the regional prominence of the O’Mahonys had been greatly diminished.

It continued to fade drastically as the Normans began to take hold of southern Ireland. Their primary Irish rivals (and allies) at the time were the MacCarthys and the O’Briens. All of these groups were militarily outclassed by the Normans who followed in the wake of King Henry II’s initial invasion.

Wide angle shot of Dunlough Castle
Dunlough Castle dates back to the 13th century. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Dunlough Castle is built

In the year 1177, King Henry II of England granted the entire “kingdom of Cork” to the Cambro-Norman knights known as Robert Fitz-Stephen and Miles de Cogan. De Cogan set off after he had received the lands and began to push towards the Atlantic. In turn, this drove regional families from the holdings in central Cork.

The O’Mahony clan leader, Donagh O’Mahony, also known as “the Migrator”, settled at the furthest point of the Mizen peninsula. Then, in the year 1207, Donagh O’Mahony built the ever so wonderful Dunlough Castle in three different parts. The castle was never attacked and the O’Mahony clan remained there for over four hundred years. It was only when the castle was confiscated by the British crown in 1627 that they left. After that, it was long until it was abandoned.

The present day

The castle is owned privately and is a well-established sheep farm. It was sold in the 1970s. Nowadays, the castle is completely ruined but still such a beautiful site to visit. It was all of the perfect elements of an ideal Irish castle landscape. You can wander around the lovely area at your own leisure and enjoy the beautiful view achieved from the castle.

You may also be interested in other Irish castles such as Huntington Castle.

Wide angle shot of Dunlough Castle
Donagh O’Mahony was the first owner of Dunlough Castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The O’Mahony haunting

Apparently, Dunlough Castle is haunted by many members of the O’Mahony family. Many of them met a terribly tragic fate dying by either murder or suicide and because of this, it is said that a drop of blood drops from the towers every single day. It is unknown as to why they were murdered or why they committed suicide.

The White Lady

The White Lady, also known as the Lady in White, is the ghost of a mysterious lady who haunts Dunlough Castle. According to a new series recently released on Netflix, there was a young lady that visited the castle in 1996. When wandering around inside the ruins, she saw what looked like a ghost woman wearing white.

Later that day, she visited her friends and told them what she had seen. The young lady died the very next day. It is said that when you see the ghost, it means you will die in the hours that follow. Her aunt believes that if she had told some of the locals what she’d seen, they would have done everything to protect her.

Dunlough Castle from across the water
The castle was never attacked. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Dunlough Castle Timeline

  • 1177- King Henry II of England grants the entire “kingdom of Cork” to the Cambro-Norman knights known as Robert Fitz-Stephen and Milo de Cogan
  • 1207- Donagh O’Mahony, builds the ever so wonderful Dunlough Castle in three different parts
  • 1627- The castle is confiscated by the British crown
  • The 1970s- The castle is privately sold and turned into a sheep farm
  • 1996-The White Lady is spotted at the castle

Dunlough Castle facts

  • The easternmost tower by the lake was three stories high
  • The largest tower, known as the dungeon on the westernmost end of the ramparts is approximately 10 – 15 metres in height and about 5 metres square inside
  • The ground floor has several loophole windows and depressions in the walls which were possibly used for storage spaces
  • The construction technique used for three castle head was of dry-stone masonry, no cement or lime were utilized
  • There are 40 acres behind the castle known as the “Island” which rise sharply creating an impregnable stronghold with a spectacular view

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Who owns Dunlough Castle?

In the 1970s, Three Castle Head was purchased by Lukas and Joanne Ungerer who turned it into a working sheep farm. It has more recently been expanded to include accommodation and it also serves as a wedding venue. 

Tourism

Dunlough Castle is located on the Mizen Peninsula which is an absolutely stunning place. It is fairly simple to get to by car and foot if you head from Schull and follow road R591 East towards Goleen. After you have gone about 15km, turn right and following ‘Mizen Head’. Once you’ve been going for about 6km, turn right at the T-junction and drive for another 2km until you reach a little car park to the north of Dunlough bay.

From there, put on your hiking shoes and be prepared to go for a walk for about 25 minutes. Make sure you pack food as there are no food outlets or cafes on the walk there or when you get there. Nearby, you can also visit the Mizen Head Signal Station, Barleycove Beach, and the Mizen Head Visitor Centre.

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