A major landmark, the O’Dohertys & the Flight of the Earls

Burt Castle is one of the most recognizable castles in Donegal. It is located on a small hill overlooking Lough Swilly which would have originally been a small island surrounded by tidal marshland. It was built around 1560 and was one in a network of castles around Inishowen owned by the O’Dohertys. The structure had three stories, two circular watchtowers, a small vaulted chamber, and openings for muskets. During the 1500s many powerful Irish clans started losing their lands to the English Crown and so eventually had to ‘bend the knee’ before King Henry VIII just to hold onto what they had. This process was called ‘surrender and re-grant’. This brought the Irish chieftains into the English legal system with the downside that the King could (and did!) take back the land and grant it to however he chose. The castle thereafter fell in and out of the O’Doherty’s ownership, it was recorded that brothers Richard and Henry Hovenden resided here in 1587 under English instruction to resist the Spanish Armada, it was later occupied by Sir Henry Dowcra and then by Sir Cahir O’Doherty who went on to carry out his famous rebellion by sacking Derry, Strabane, and Lifford. It eventually fell into the hands of Sir Arthur Chichester who quelled the rebellion and was granted O’Doherty’s 170,000 acres of land after he was hung, drawn, and quartered! A medallion dated to 1525 and a coin to 1547 were found near the castle.