Dungarvan Castle




N 52° 05' 20.82"   W 007° 36' 57.48"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

X 26317 93092

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Wednesday 8 June 2016

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The castle and its walls seen from the east.

The castle was built between 1205 and 1210 after King John took control of this area, and at that time only the keep was built. A few decades later the curtain wall, a gatehouse and a southwest tower were added. Another tower was at the opposit corner, later replaced by a second tower, but neither of the two survives. The barracks in the middle of the courtyard were built in the 1740's.
The keep probably replaced an earlier motte-and-bailey structure and had a roughly circular plan. A ditch filled with water was around the keep, possible heritage of the motte.
The keep was altered several times in the centuries. A building was erected against the north wall of the keep. This wall was long and straight. Some years later this building was rebuilt to make it larger and up to three storeys high, with a vaulted ceiling at the ground level. Another building was erected on the other side of the courtyard inside the keep. Two openings were present in the wall of the keep, one to the east with a drawbridge, another to the north leading to a mooring.
In the northwest corner of the keep wall there was a cistern to collect fresh water from the roof. The attempt to have a second source of water from the ground failed because the vicinity of the sea made the underground water unsuitable for drinking.
In the 17th century the ditch around the keep was filled in and the castle was modified to host modern guns and cannons. Later in that century new alterations were carried out in the keep and the external courtyard was turned into a garden.
In the 18th century the keep was mostly dismantled to use its material for the building of the military barracks in the outer courtyard.
The southwest tower originally had three storeys and an internal spiral stair led to all these storeys and to the south wall walk. When the ground floor was altered to make a vaulted ceiling, the upper floor disappeared and the third floor was lowered. The roof of this tower was removed to use the material for the constructions of the military barracks in 1740's, but it was rebuilt a century later when the tower was used as a hospital.
The main entrance to the castle is still visible today and was a passage between two D-shaped towers. A portcullis and a murder hole were the defences at this entrance and the slot and the hole are still visible.

After its construction and for the next 400 years the castle was commanded by a number of Constables appointed by the English Crown.
The area of Dungarvan was disputed between the Earls of Desmond and the Earls of Ormond. The former were in possession of the castle from 1284 to 1523. When they refused to give the castle to the Ormonds a war broke out. Several sieges ensued, but the intervention of king Henry VIII was decisive for the Ormonds to take over the castle in 1535. The Desmonds attempted several times to take the possession back, but eventually they were defeated and their power declined.
Dungarvan Castle had more troubles in the following centuries, when it was captured by the Irish Confederates in 1641. Six years later it was taken by Murrough McDermod O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin, 6th Baron Inchiquin, on behalf of the English Parliament, then it was the turn of Oliver Cromwell in 1649. A few years later the castle was made useless by cutting a passage through one of the two gate towers, opening a passage in the keep wall and destroying the north section of the curtain wall.
The walls were repaired and a new barrack was built in 1704 when a company of infantry was stationed in the castle. It was used as military barracks for a number of decades until it was taken by RIC in 1880's till 1922. The barracks were burned by IRA, but they were later restored to house the new Garda Siochana until 1987.
Today the military barracks are used as Visitors' Centre and exhibition.

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