Dunguaire Castle is one of the most picturesque castles in Ireland.
It is located right by the sea at Galway Bay, near he small village of Kinvara, County Galway.The castle is a sturdy Norman tower house dating to the 16th century.
There is a ring fort close to the castle on the same promontory, and it
is thought that the fort would have been the previous residence of the
O’Hynes clan who built the castle who were dominant in the aea probably
from the 6th century.
The existing tower house was built around 1520. The O’Hynes clan owned the castle until mid-17th century. Richard Martyn, mayor of Galway, purchased the property in 1642 and set about modernising it.
This was although fashions had started to change in favour of investing in big mansions rather than medieval castles.
He added both chimneys and glass windows to make life more comfortable.
Later, the main residence of the Martyn family became Tulira Castle located near Gort, County Galway. In the 19th century, the family extended Tulira Castle into a revival castle, built for luxury living and display of wealth. Dunguaire Castle, now vacant, fell into disrepair. The Martyn family held onto the castle until early in the 20th century.
The Irish castle was purchased by a public figure, senator, playwright, champion athlete and surgeon, Oliver St. John Gogarty in 1924, a literary figure in London where his witty conversation entertained and inspired writers such as James Joyce and George Moore.
At Kinvara, Gogarty invested in repairing the old Norman castle and used the venue to create a gathering place for a group of literary people who were at the cutting edge of the Celtic revival movement in Ireland at the time.
The group included famous literary figures such as William Butler Yeats and his patron Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Martin and J.M. Synge.
Lady Christabel Amptill was an English aristocrat who retied in Ireland.She became the last private owner of Dunguaire castle which she purchased in 1954. She continued the repairs that were started by Gogarty, adding on an annex with a bedroom overhead, and a garage. Her life in Ireland centred around horses and hunting.
She was known at the National Stud to be an excellent judge of horses. In old age in 1972, six years before her death, she sold the castle to the Shannon Development Company who carried out sensitive renovations and made the castle accessible to the public.
Dunguaire castle was well defended. Built on a rocky outcrop, it would have been hard for any attackers to undermine. There is a strong bawn wall and the keep touches against this wall. The keep has four machicolations and a strong batter wall.
The O’Hynes Clan owned a lot of lands that, in these parts, were suitable mostly as pasture. Therefore, during medieval and late medieval times, the lifestyle at the castle would have been centred around cattle farming, hunting and fishing, not departing too far really from the cattle keeping culture of Celtic ancestors. They traded their farm produce in Galway city, accessing the city by sea which was the quickest and also the safest route back then.
The ground floor of the castle provided ample storage in the cool vaulted room where foods like salted fish or meats were stored in barrels.
Dunguaire Castle is located on the N67 coastal road.
Coming from Galway, the road starts at Kilcolgan and leads to Ballyvaughan, Lisdoonvarna ad Kilfenora via Kinvara. Coming this way, you will see Dunguaire Castle just before entering the village of Kinvara.
Dunguaire Castle is open to the public between April and September daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ticket prices are 6 Euros per adult and 3 per child.
There is a large gift shop that offers great choice and many handmade craft products produced locally. There is no coffee shop.
A compact tower house with a single stairway leading up four floors with on large room per floor. There are some beautiful illustrations around the castle’s history. Photos of the castle, as it happens so often, are best taken from a distance away.
Although the castle is very charming and certainly worthwhile a visit, we felt that at 6 Euros per adult and 3 per child the admission charge was on the expensive side for the short visit. That is, when you compare it to the better value offered at the other Shannon Development castles, namely King John’s Castle, and Bunratty Castle which make for a half days’ or even full days’ excursion.
Why not experience a medieval banquet at Dunguaire Castle? The evening is filled with Irish music and culture, providing entertainment by musicians and actors. We have put this on our to-do list. A banquet would be a great way to experience the ambience of the castle.
Combine your castle visit with a day walking in the Burren, the stunning landscape of County Clare dominated by limestone pavement. A good handful of Burren walks either start or finish near New Quay, which will make for a natural break for a meal or snack at Monk’s Pub at the pier.
Next stop, a thirty minute drive from Kinvara- Galway City! Don’t forget to visit our small but multicultural university city with a relaxed atmosphere and artistic festivals throughout the spring/ summer season.
Let he N67 guide your visit to County Clare and the Burren. This coastal road boasts stunning ocean views, and there are many worthwhile places to stop along the way, for example at the Ailwee Caves and craft shops. Plan in a Burren walk to complete your experience.
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Warmest regards from Galway from Colm and Susanna!
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