The Rock of Dunamase is a beautiful 12th century ruined castle built between the towns of Portlaoise and Stradbally. Regarded as one of the most imposing historic sites in the area, it was built on a rocky mound overlooking the Slieve Bloom Mountains . A truly must-see site in a nutshell!
Excavations carried out in the early 1990s showed that the rocky mound where the castle now stands was settled as early as the 9th century, when the first fort was built and inhabited until 845, when the Vikings attacked the site and murdered the abbot of Terryglass, among others.
The fort as we know it today was built in the 12th century and was probably commissioned by General Strongbow (other hypotheses suggest that it was built for Meyler Fitzhenry). The fort passed through many hands, including William the Marshal, an influential figure who later became Regent of England during the minority of Henry III.
As early as 1247, the land of the castle was divided between the 5 daughters of William the Marshal, and then belonged to the Mortimer family.
During Cromwell’s conquests in Ireland (1649-1651), the castle is destroyed so that it cannot be used by the British. But in the 18th century, Sir John Parnell, a rich bourgeois of the time, decided to rebuild in the ruins a banqueting hall .
This project will unfortunately never be completed and the castle has remained in the same state since that day.
The Fort is situated on a rocky mound, which offers a breathtaking view of the Slieve Blooms mountains and its surroundings. It is easy to get to, and the visit is free of charge and will allow you to discover all the beauty and authenticity of this medieval castle now in ruins.
Here you can admire the beauty of its defensive structures, surrounding walls, watchtowers, and many sections of wall still standing that will give you an idea of the old structure of the fort before its destruction. Don’t miss the breathtaking views from its vantage points, which offer a panorama of a smaller, more recent church situated below in the valley.
Also don’t miss an opportunity to photograph the Slieve Blooms Mountains, a deeply wild mountain range facing the castle.