Northburg Castle




N 55° 12' 18.78"   W 006° 58' 32.52"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

C 65202 40255

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Tuesday 30 June 2015

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The castle had towers at each corner. This is at the southwest.

The true name of Greencastle castle is Northburg Castle.
It was built in 1305 by Richard de Burgh, the Red Earl of Ulster, using the most advanced techniques available at those times, based on the Norman knowledge combined to the strategic position on a natural rock next to the shore.
A church was built at the same time close to the castle and it seems that the two buildings were connected via a tunnel. The church was dedicated to St. Mary's, and was also known with the name of Teampall Maoil. It is in ruins now.
In 1316 Edward Bruce, brother of Robert Bruce, king of Scotland, attacked and captured the castle, but he was killed two years later and the castle returned in the hands of Richard de Burgh. When he retired eight years later the possession went to his gradson William, known as the Brown Earl. He married Maude Plantegenet, great granddaughter of Henry III. Walter de Burgh, cousin of William, rebelled against him and imprisoned in the castle dungeons where he slowly starved to death. Gyhe, Walter's sister, killed William in revenge. The war that ensued between the two branches of the family eventually led to the end of the Norman domination in the area.
The control of Inishowen passed to the O'Donnell's at the beginning of the 15th century. The O'Doherty's, dependants of the O'Donnell's, established themselves at the castle. In 1541, Sean Mor O'Doherty submitted to king Henry VIII and married Rose, daughter of Manus O'Donnell. Her brother Calvach argued with his father and went to Scotland where he received help and forces, returned to Donegal and in 1555 destroyed the castle.

The castle is in ruin and the vegetation got hold of what remains. The most intact part is the octagonal tower at the southwest corner. There's another ruined tower at the northwest corner. Exploring the ruins is complicated because the thick vegetation is a strong deterrent, however the ground floor of the west section can be easily accessed. It has vaulted ceilings with small openings in every wall.
The walls are very thick and have some mural passages.
The prominent position on the rock gives the castle a perfect control over the traffic on the Lough Foyle.

We came here for the first time on May 5th, 2002.

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