Lesser Known Castles of Donegal
Lesser Known Castles of Donegal – Burt castle dates back to the 16th Century and can be found in the South West of Inishowen. Originally built as part of a defence network, which also included Inch and Carrickabraghy, it was captured by the English in 1608 and became a garrison for years after. It remains in good condition and due to its strategic significance contains a spectacular view of the surrounding areas.
Inch castle was also part of the defence network erected by the O’Doherty’s. It had already been damaged considerably by the 1600s yet even until this day it is a rich and interesting place to visit. It is perhaps best known as the location for the famous battle for the Lordship of Tirconnail in the 15th century.
Raphoe Castle was built in the 1630s and played a pivotal part during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. In 1689 it was burnt to the ground by King James’ forces en route to Derry. It was rebuilt by Bishop Cairncross in 1695 but suffered further attacks throughout the years; most notably in 1797 when it was attacked by a group of United Irishmen. In 1838, the castle met its end in what was believed to be an accidental fire started in the upper room which ignited the whole castle. The walls are all that remain today, but contained within are hugely important historical events.
Carrickabraghy Castle can be found at the end of the Isle of Doagh. The first castle built here was in the late sixteenth century and was occupied by Phelemy Brasleigh O’Doherty. The castle played host to many distinguished guests including Sir Cahir O’Doherty who stayed there just after he lost his lands at Inch Island to the English. Much of the castle remains intact and offers a fascinating insight into the area through the centuries.
The ruins of McSwyne’s Castle can be found at the head of St. John’s point. The castle was erected in the middle of the 15th century and was occupied by the McSwyne clan until the plantation of Ulster. The castle was the subject of a long legal battle after the 1641 rebellion, finding itself in the courts of Ireland, Scotland and England. The castle ownership failed to get any form of judgement and it fell into a state of decay. Ownership of the castle was never fully settled until the 20th century when the land commission took it over.
Northburg Castle in Greencastle was built close to the shore in 1305. Utilising the construction techniques of the Normans a fortress was built by Richard De Burgh, the Red Earl of Ulster to prevent attacks from Scotland. The castle was captured by the Scots in 1316 and the history of the castle since then has all the dramatic prose of a Shakespearian play. Although it shows the effects of time, it contains a special air and should be viewed up close where it can be truly appreciated.
There are numerous castles attributed to the Clan McGrath across Ireland, however one of the finest is the Ulster castle situated on the north west shore of Lower Lough Erne. The castle is within the modern county boundary of Donegal and lies approximately one mile from Pettigo village. The castle possesses some wonderful Elizabethan period military and domestic features, including fashioned gun loops in the lower ground floor and ornate window frames in the upper floors. The gun loops indicate the transition from blade to gunpowder during the mid 16th century.