Rockfleet Castle was built in the mid 16th century and was the main stronghold of Grace O’Malley, the ‘Pirate Queen of the west’ (c.1530- c. 1603). This strategic location was carefully chosen by Grace as it is protected by narrow channels in Clew Bay and is extremely difficult to attack at at high tide. The castle also has many odd features designed to fend off attacks like blind doors and an anti clockwise spiral staircase. Grace lived here along with her husband, Richard ‘Iron’ Burke until his death. Grace was the leader of the O’Malley Clan and controlled much of the west coast in the late 1500’s. She moored 20 ships here and used them to raid cargo ships, English ships ships from the Spanish Armada. One of the many famous stories involving Grace was when the English successfully captured some of her fleet and her brother. Grace appealed directly to Queen Elizabeth in person for his release and negotiated that she would forfeit her ships in return for her brother. Elizabeth granted Grace what she asked for and allowed her to keep her vessels on the condition that she fought with, rather than against the English. This was honored until her death in 1603.

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