home to the Pirate Queen

Rockfleet Castle is located near Newport in County Mayo. It dates from the mid-1500s and was the main stronghold of Grace O’Malley (c.1530- c. 1603) – The ‘Pirate Queen of the West’. 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 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 1500s. She moored 20 ships here and used them to raid any ship that entered her territory including cargo ships, English ships, and even 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 after sailing to England, traveling up the Thames and into the Tower of London for his release. She negotiated that she would forfeit her ships in return for her brother and Elizabeth granted Grace what she asked for. She 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.