Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Rock of Dunamase, Co. Laois

The Rock of Dunamase is one of my favourite sites in Ireland, and another that doesn't get the visitor numbers it deserves. The first historical reference to the Rock of Dunamase came from the Annals that record it being plundered by Viking raiders in 843 AD. But the site was extensively refortified after the Norman invasions of Ireland, the site was said to be part of the dowry given by Diarmuid MacMurrough when his daughter Aoife, married the leader of the Norman Invasions Richard de Clare (Strongbow). 
The Rock is superbly situated on a prominent height above the lowlands of Laois

It was again a wedding gift, when Aoife and Strongbow's daughter married William Marshall. He carried out extensive works at the Rock and lived there from 1208 - 1213. Again through marriage the Rock passed to the powerful Mortimer family.

After the Mortimer lands were confiscated by the Crown in 1330, the Rock of Dunamase was given to the O'Moore family but it was left abandoned. It is likely that the site was 'slighted' (basically blown up) by Cromwellian Generals Hewson and Reynolds in 1651. 


The imposing gatehouse at the Rock of Dunamase

During the late 18th Century, it had become fashionable to romanticise and restore old ruins such as these at the Rock of Dunamase, and Sir John Parnell, Chancellor of the Irish Parliament (and great-grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell) bought the Rock. He tried to construct a banqueting hall on the Rock and even brought in many of the later medieval features (such as window frames) from other historic sites. Parnell died before the work was completed, and the site was allowed to fall back into ruin by his son. 

Today the Rock of Dunamase is owned by the OPW, and is one of the most atmospheric sites to visit in Ireland, with stunning views across the landscape. It is free to enter, but do take care during poor weather conditions as the steep paths may become slippery.

It is located near Port Laois, about an hours drive from Dublin City Centre.

Enjoy a great day out with stunning views at the Rock of Dunamase