Dunamase Castle

The Rock of Dunamase in County Laois is a very prominent outcrop. Standing at over 45 metres in height, the outcrop with its castle ruins totally dominates the surrounding countryside. Although the rock is said to be drawn on a map by the greek cartographer Ptolemy under the name "Dunum" in the 2nd century, there is no archaeological evidence to support the theory that Dunum is Dunamase. Dunamase started as an early christian dun known as Dun Masc "the Fort of Masc".

The earliest historical reference to Dunamase is in the annals of the four masters where it states that Dun Masc was plundered by the vikings in 843AD and the abbot of Terryglass was killed. When the Normans arrived in Ireland during the 12th century the rock was refortified with the great hall and the earlier gate tower surviving from this period.

Curtain Wall

Barbican Gate

The Castle is believed to have been in the hands of Dermot McMurrough Kavanagh before being passed to Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare (Strongbow) and then onto his son-in-law William Marshall. At sometime later there was a rebuild of the Main gate and the inner and outer barbicans were added. The Castle fell into a slow decline up to the middle of the 17th century when it is believed to have been finally finished as a stronghold by Cromwellian forces. Although the state of preservation of the castle is very poor the Rock of Dunamase is a site well worth visiting. To view over 160 Irish Castles click home page and Fortifications.

The main gate and barbican gate

The main gate

View of the surrounding landscape from behind the Great Hall

Information Board

Situated: From Dublin take the M 7 South towards Portlaoise, Just before Portlaoise leave the motorway for The Heath (signposted) take the second left at the small roundabout and then follow this road until you come right under the outcrop take the next right and follow this up to the car park.

Discovery Map 54: S 5295 9818. Last visit Sept 2011.

Longitude: 7° 12' 38" W

Latitude: 53° 1' 54" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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