The Featured Image of Dunamase Castle

Rock of Dunamase Castle: An Irish Castle

LocationPortlaoise, County Laois, Republic of Ireland (Google Maps Location)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byThe State of Ireland
Rooms AvailableNo

Rock of Dunamase, also known as Dunamase Castle, is a rocky castle in Ireland. It is about 151 ft above the plain land and has a defensive structure dating back from the early Hiberno-Norman period. Although this castle is ruined now, it still attracts many visitors yearly because it offers a beautiful view of the Slieve Bloom Mountains and Countryside.

Dunamase Castle History

Dunamase Castle View
Dunamase Castle View, by Avramescu Marius, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

As per the earliest records, the land Rock of Dunamase dates back to the 2nd century AD. At that time, Ptolemy included this site on the map. However, no archaeological evidence is available that any structure was built on that spot at that time. It is believed that the first fortress was built on the site in the 9th century.

In 845, it was attacked and pillaged by the Vikings. No settlers came to the site until over 300 years. In the 1100s, the castle was built on a rocky outcropping and was used by Normans. It became the most important Hiberno-Norman fort in Laois.

In 1170, the castle was utilised as a part of the dowry of Aoife, the daughter of Leinster King, who married the Norman conqueror Strongbow. However, when the daughter of Aoife and Strongbow, Isabel, married the Earl of Pembroke, William Marshal, the fortress was given as a wedding gift. Later in 1247, the castle was given to Eva Marshal, one of the five daughters, and then it was passed to her daughter Maud, who married Roger Mortimer. The castle remained with the Mortimer family until 1330. With time, the family got involved in many controversies, and the castle seemed to pass out of Norman’s control. By 1350, the castle started ruining.

Between the 1400s and 16th centuries, the castle was a part of the land of the powerful O’More family. They ruled the County of Laois for several years. In the 16th century, they faced great opposition from England; however, they resisted the English. A few years later, O’More moved from Laois to the new lands, which were granted to Rory O’More by one of the cousins, Elizabeth I of England. In 1650, the castle was finally ruined during the Cromwellian Invasion and was abandoned.

In 1795, Sir John Parnell, Chancellor of the Irish Parliament, tried to develop the Banqueting hall and Residence, but he died very soon. Later, his son let the castle fall into ruin. Now, the Rock of Dunamase castle’s ruins are managed by State and are open for the public to explore.

Dunamase Castle Architecture

Ruined Dunamase Castle
Ruined Dunamase Castle, by Robert Linsdell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The ruins of Dunamase Castle will soak you in the world of history and bring back Ireland’s tales of violence and romance. Most of the castle walls we see today are from the 12th and 13th centuries. Ruined cliffs still surround the Great Hall structure on three sides. The castle’s entrance has the thickest fortified walls, which were initially built to enhance protection.

Rock of Dunamase was designed with a heavily defensive system. Some of the holes you might notice on the crumbling walls were used as Murder Holes in the 13th century. The major elements of this castle that you must check out are the Main Gate and Barbican Gate, the Curtain Walls, the Deep Ditch, and the Great Hall.

The castle might be ruined, but it is worth visiting because of its fantastic view and historical presence. There is no entrance fee. It is free to wander around the site without any guide. If you want the Rock of Dunamase castle’s audio guide to understand more, you can find it on the Laois City Council Website.

Frequently Asked Questions

How old is the Rock of Dunamase?

According to Greek Cartographer Ptolemy, the Rock of Dunamase was built in the 2nd century BC. However, the first castle was built in the 9th century. In the 1100s, the same castle was rebuilt using Rocks.

Who built the Rock of Dunamase?

The first fort of the Dunamase Castle was built in the 9th century. There is no evidence of who built the castle, but it was the seat of ancient Irish Kings of Laois. In 845, it was attacked by the Viking army from Dublin and was rebuilt.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
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Meet Saurabh Sharma, a tech pro with a master's from Latvia's Riga Technical University. He's great with computers, focusing on Cloud Computing and DevOps. But here's the cool part – Saurabh has traveled to places like Nordic, Baltic, and other parts of Europe. And guess what? He's into European history, monuments, castles, and museums. Whether he's coding or exploring, he's always curious, showing a love for different places and histories.

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