Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle, more correctly called O'Donnells Castle, is to be found in the town of Donegal Town and is probably the towns most popular attraction.

donegal castle

Built by the O'Donnell chieftain in the 15th century, beside the River Eske, the Castle has extensive 17th century additions by Sir Basil Brooke. The Castle is furnished throughout and includes Persian rugs and French tapestries. Information panels chronicle the history of the Castle owners from the O'Donnell chieftains to the Brooke family.

Donegal castle was the principle residence of the great royal family of the O'Donnells, who ruled the Kingdom of Tir Chonaill from 1200 until 1601. It was built on a bend on the Eske for defensive reasons, the river protecting it on two sides. The site may have been used for a Viking fort in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The restored Tower House rises above the unroofed English Manor House. Historical records mentin "the New Tower" in 1563 but we know that Red Hugh O'Donnell, the first O'Donnell prince of that name, built a castle here in 1474, so that may have been the year of its construction. The bartizan turrets were added and the windows enlarged to their present mullioned status, by the Brooke family, in the early 17th century. Captain Basil Brooke, and English soldier, was awarded the castle in 1601 because he had fought for the English Crown in the Nine Year War.

This was added in 1623. A wooden staircase led to the elaborately sculptured portal at the second level. The Gothic and Romanesque doorways at ground level were for servants, the Gothic doorway and perhaps the building stones are thought to have been taken directly from the Franciscan Friary, a few minutes walk away.

Underfoot are the original 15th century cobblestones. In the first section of the storerooms, the barrel-vaulted ceilings collapsed before the Castles restoration (1989-1996) but in the second section the barrelled vaulting survived. To the left of the entrance are the Coats of Arms of the O'Donnells and Brookes. The mast of a sailing ship indicates the extensive export of fish during the O'Donnells' rule. The O'Donnells were known as 'The Kings of the Fish' on the continent. The 15th century entrance door to the castle was positioned at the bottom of the spiral stone staircase. The Brookes built a bay window on the second floor and to support this erected wall and removed the door.

The steps of the spiral staircase are uneven to trip the enemy swordsman. The stairs ascend to the right because the O'Donnells were right handed and this gave them more room at the turn of the stairs to strike down at their enemies.

Limited access for people with disabilities to the ground floor.

In the centre of Donegal Town

Guided Tours:
Available every hour.
Max. No: 35
Duration: 30 mins

Leaflet/Guide Booklet: English, Irish, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Bus Route(s):

Contact Bus Eireann +353 (1) 836 6111