Donegal Castle, Donegal Town, County Donegal

Donegal Castle was built by Hugh Roe O’Donnell and is regarded as one of the finest and strongest Gaelic castles in Ireland. It consists of a 15th century rectangular keep with a Jacobean style wing added at a later date. The O’Donnells were one of the leading Gaelic Clans and can trace their ancestry back to Niall of the Nine Hostages in the 5th century AD. Following the Battle of Kinsale in 1607 many Irish chieftains including Red Hugh O’Donnell left Ireland in what is known as ‘The Flight of the Earls’. It is said that Red Hugh, aware of his imminent fate, destroyed the castle before leaving “to prevent this fortress of the Gael becoming a fortress of the Gall”. The castle was granted to an English Captain called Basil Brooke in 1611. Brooke rebuilt the castle into a more comfortable residence and styled it as a fortified Jacobean Manor house. Oliver Cromwell’s army however destroyed most of the building during the 1650s and it was left to fall into ruin. The Brooke family returned again, repaired and lived in the castle for many generations until it fell into a ruinous state again in the 18th century. In 1898 the then owner, The Earl of Arran, donated the castle to the Office of Public Works but it was not until the late 1990s when work began to restore it back to its former glory after 200 years. It is now open to the public and often hosts events such as Gaelic cultural evenings.