Donegal Castle / Caisleán Dhún na nGall is situated in the centre of Donegal Town. It was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, Lords of Tir Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries.Open to the public the castle often hosts events such as Gaelic cultural evenings and is an unmissable place to visit in Donegal.
Donegal / Dún na nGall translates as Fort of the Foreigner, possibly coming from a Viking fortress in the area destroyed in 1159. However, due to hundreds of years of development, no archaeological evidence of this early fortress has been found.The elder Sir Hugh O’Donnell, wealthy chief of the O’Donnell clan, built Donegal castle in 1474. At the same time, he and his wife Nuala, built a Franciscan Monastry further down the river. Local folklore tells of a tunnel connecting the two but no evidence for this has been found. The castle was regarded as one of the finest Gaelic castles in Ireland.
This was indicated by a report by the visiting English Viceroy, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney, in 1566, in a letter to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, the Lord High Treasurer, describing it as "the largest and strongest fortress in all Ireland", adding "it is the greatest I ever saw in an Irishman's hands: and would appear to be in good keeping; one of the fairest situated in good soil and so nigh a portable water a boat of ten tonnes could come within ten yards of it"
In 1607, after the Nine Years war the leaders of the O'Donnell clan left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls. In 1611 the castle and its lands were granted to an English Captain, Basil Brooke. The keep had been severely damaged by the departing O'Donnells to prevent the castle being used against the Gaelic clans but was quickly restored by its new owners. Brooke also added windows, a gable and a large manor-house wing to the keep, all in the Jacobean style. The Brooke family owned the castle for many generations until it fell into a ruinous state in the 18th century.
In 1898 the then owner, the Earl of Arran, donated the castle to the Office of Public Works who almost fully restored in the late 1990s. The keep has had new roofing and flooring added, in keeping with the original styles and techniques used in the 15th and 17th centuries. The stonework has been restored and the manor wing has been partially roofed. The Castle is furnished throughout and includes Persian rugs and French tapestries. Information panels chronicle the history of the Castle owners from the O'Donnell chieftains to the Brooke family.
For further information and opening times you can contact -
- T: +353 74 9722405
- E: email@example.com