Doe Castle

doe castle photographed from below
Doe Castle ~ A might stronghold

Doe Castle

Doe Castle, or Caisleán na dTuath, at Sheephaven Bay near Creeslough, County Donegal, was historically a stronghold of the Sweeney Clan and remained in their possession for about 200 years. The castle was built in the 15th century although sometimes the date given is 1425 and it is one of the better preserved fortalices in the north-west of Ireland. The castle was originally protected on its landward side by a deep fosse or moat, and approached by means of a drawbridge. The main part of the Castle is a square fifty-five feet high, surrounded by battlements, enclosure and bawn. The parapets on the outer enclosing wall are looped for muskatery, allowing the gunner to fire in two directions. The Mac-Sweeneys ruled the area's of Rosguill (now Downing's & Carrigart), Doe (now Creeslough & Dunfanaghy), Cloughaneely (now Falcarragh) and Tory Island, from the Castle.

The building changed ownership many times throughout the 17th Century. In 1603 Rory O Donnell became Earl of Tyrconnell and received a royal warrant giving him custody of the castle.  In 1606 the Mac Sweeneys seized the castle and expelled Rory's men. In 1607 Rory laid siege to it and took it from the Mac Sweeneys. It eventually settled into English hands. Following the capitulation at Limerick 1691 the surviving members of the Chiefly family of Doe chose to walk the roads of Donegal rather than accept menial employment or rent portions of their own land from the new English rulers of Ireland. In 1761 the castle was aquired by George Vaughan. His grandson, General George Vaughan Harte carried out extensive repairs at the end of the 18th Century and his family lived there until 1864. He left his initials (GVH) embedded on the wall above the door of the eastern entrance. In 1814 he became M.P. for Donegal. The coat of arms over the front door is that of the Hart family.

The Castle was occupied up until 1909. In 1932 the Irish Land Commission (Office of Public Works) bought the Castle and proclaimed it as a National Monument. Many legends and stories are told about the castle and the people that lived there such as the tragic romance of Turlough Aileen who, legend has it, jumped to her death from the top of Doe Castle because her father had murdered her lover. This however has been disputed by historical researchers who discovered that Turlough O’ Boyle died at the Battle of Scarriffhollis in 1650.

To the west of the castle lie the remains of a Fransciscan Friary with adjoining graveyard where the Mac Suibhne chieftans were buried. Some of the tombstones date back to 1621. In 1905 about three thousand people marched from Creeslough village through Duntally Wood to Doe Castle to attend a Gaelic Revival Festival/ Feis.  At the head of the column playing "Mac Swyne's March" was Eamon Rua Mac Sweeney's youngest son, the celebrated Donegal piper Tarlagh (An Píobaire Mór).



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