Featured image for Dunguaire Castle

The History of Dunguaire Castle

Sitting quaintly on the south-eastern shore of Galway Bay in County Galway, Ireland, near Kinvara (also spelled Kinvarra), is the ever so beautiful Dunguaire Castle. It is named after the Dun of King Guaire, the legendary king of Connacht. Both the castle and its history sit at the very heart of Ireland’s literary revival from the 20th century. The slates of the castle are from an old school in Kinvara.

The history of Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire Castle is situated alongside an inlet of Galway Bay. It is just to the north of the village of Kinvara in Western Ireland. It serves as one of the strongholds built by Guaire’s descendants, Lords of Aidhne, O’Heyne or Hynes. They were the chieftains in the year 1520. It was just one of nine fortifications that were built in the region.

The castle’s large 75-foot tower and defensive wall have both been restored to an almost flawless condition.

File:Dunguaire Castle - Ireland 1996.jpg
The castle was built in 1520. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The early history

Dunguaire Castle is a stunning 16th-century tower house based in Ireland.  The castle was built by the Hynes Clan in the year 1520. It is said that they may have been associated with the area since around 662. The site where the castle stands is believed to have once been a palace for Guaire Aidhne, the legendary king of Connacht and progenitor of the clan.

In the year 1588, Hugh O’Heyne took sole residence of the castle. Hugh ended up surrendering his land to Queen Elizabeth because resistance to the English rule had become far too expensive. He surrendered it to her on a grant/regrant basis which at the time, seemed to be quite common.

Changing hands

In the 17th century, Dunguaire Castle was transferred to Oliver Martin who was the father of Richard Martin Fitz Oliver. It remained in his family for a long while until it was purchased in the early 20th century by Oliver St. John Gogarty who was a great surgeon as well as a poet. He quickly went forth and began restoring the partially ruined castle and also established it as the meeting place for leading figures of the Celtic Revival.

Dunguaire Castle with an Irish flag on a mast
The castle was surrendered to the English in the 16th century. Source: Flickr.

W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Augusta, Lady Gregory, and John Millington Synge were among some of the leading figures. In 1954, the castle changed hands again. This time, it went to Christobel Lady Ampthill who went forth and completed another round of restoration work after Gogarty had left it unfinished.

The present day

Later on, the castle was purchased by Shannon Development which is an Irish corporation that manages many historic attractions around Ireland. During the warm summer months, the castle is open to the public and a lovely Medieval Banquet is held nearly every night with costumed performers who recite Irish literature and play traditional Irish music. It truly is an experience to remember for life.

You may also enjoy reading about other Irish castles such as Cahir Castle.

Dunguaire Castle on a cloudy day
The castle is the most photographed in Ireland. Source: Flickr.

Dunguaire Castle Timeline

  • 1520- The castle is built by the Hynes Clan
  • 1588- Hugh O’Heyne takes sole residence of the castle and ends up surrendering his land to Queen Elizabeth
  • 17th century- Dunguaire Castle is transferred to Oliver Martin who was the father of Richard Martin Fitz Oliver
  • 20th century- Oliver St. John Gogarty purchases the castle and begins restoring it
  • 1954- Christobel Lady Ampthill purchases the castle and completes another round of restoration work after Gogarty had left it unfinished

Dunguaire Castle facts

  • The castle is named after the Dun of King Guaire, the legendary king of Connacht
  • The slates of the castle are from an old school in Kinvara
  • The castle’s tower is 75 feet tall
  • Dunguaire Castle was a popular venue for meetings of literary revivalists such as Synge, Yates, Shaw and O’Casey
  • Dunguaire Castle is the most photographed castle in the Ireland

Featured in TV and film

  • Guns in the Heather (1969)
  • North Sea Hijack (1979)

Books on Dunguaire Castle

  • Dunguaire Castle by James Patrick Hynes (1986)
  • Dunguaire and Other Hynes and O’Shaughnessy Castles and Abbeys by James Patrick Hynes (2017)

Who owns Dunguaire Castle?

These days, the castle is stilled owned by Shannon Development, also known as Shannon Group. Shannon Group has grown over the years and it now manages a number of visitor experiences in Ireland. This was the first company in Ireland to develop and run tourist attractions and evening entertainments.

Tourism

Dunguaire Castle is simply exquisite. The tickets are €7.50 for adults, €5.00 for children between 5-16 years, and free for children 5 and under. It usually only takes an hour or two for the castle tours and you can even return at night for the banquet tour. Nearby, you can visit Siar Café, Secret Garden, Greene’s Pub, and El Molo for some food.

There is plenty to do nearby and if you would like to visit another castle, Bunratty Castle is close enough to visit the same day. Overall, Dunguaire Castle is well worth the visit and it makes for an extraordinary day out. Start planning your visit today!

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