Described as the Athens of Ireland

The Rock of Dunamase is one of Ireland’s most impressive locations for a castle as it sits on a limestone outcrop 150-feet above the surrounding plain. This strategic site has been used for defending this territory for thousands of years. It was mentioned by the Greek cartographer Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD. It is also mentioned in The Annals of the Four Masters that it was plundered by the Vikings in 843 AD. A Norman castle was then built on this rock in 1170 and became part of the dowry of Aoife, the daughter of Diarmuid MacMurrough when she married Strongbow. It was then controlled by William Marshal, the great Earl of Pembroke followed by Roger Mortimer and then to the O’Moores. The O’Moores were the most powerful family in Laois who ruled from here for 200 years. Local tradition says that the castle was besieged and destroyed by Cromwellian generals in 1651 (although no records remain) which may explain its ruinous state. In 1795, Sir John Parnell, chancellor of the Irish Parliament, tried to develop a residence and banqueting hall by adding late medieval features such as windows and doors from other ruins however when he died, his son allowed the buildings to fall into decay. This national monument is well worth visiting.