Donegal Castle stands on a rocky cliff overlooking the River Eske in the center of Donegal Town. Once a ruin, the castle has been partially restored to its former glory and now boasts Persian rugs and French tapestries.
The castle was built in 1474 by Red Hugh O'Donnell (Red Hugh I), the chief of the O'Donnell Clan. It was from here that the O'Donnell's ruled this area of Ireland.
In the late 16th century, Hugh Roe O'Donnell (Red Hugh II), 1st Earl Tyrconnell, was one of the leaders of the Nine Years War against English rule in Ireland. The English prevailed at the Battle of Kinsale. Although the English offered the leaders amnesty, Red Hugh fled to Spain along with the other leaders in what is known as “The Flight of the Earls.” Before they left in 1607, Donegal Castle was set ablaze to prevent it from falling into the hands of the English.
The northern part of Ireland, then-known as the Province of Ulster, had been the stronghold of the rebels. With so much of the area now abandoned by the traditional Irish aristocracy, the English king James I (who was also James VI of Scotland) began a program to settle Ulster with English and Scottish colonists in what is known as the Plantation of Ulster. Dongeal Castle was awarded to one of these colonists, Sir Basil Brooke, who had fought on the winning side in the Nine Years War
Sir Basil restored the section of the castle that had been burnt by the O'Donnells. Also, in 1623, he made additions to the structure turning it into a Jacobean-style fortified manor house.
In 1670, the Brooke family sold Donegal Castle to the Gores, later Earls of Arran. However, by the early 18th century the house was falling into ruin. The 5th Earl of Arran bestowed the house on the Office of Public Works in 1898.
Almost a century passed before the Office of Public Works, now part of the government of the Republic of Ireland, undertook to restore Donegal Castle. Using 15th and 17th century techniques, the OPW repaired the structure. The restored areas were furnished and panels explaining the castle's history were put on display. Guided tours are offered.
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Above: The entrance to Donegal Castle.
Cruise destination Ireland - Donegal Castle - County Donegal