Hello and welcome to my new year’s day virtual walk.
Today we are in County Donegal and I want to bring you for a walk through Donegal town and visit its historic castle.
The town is towards the southern end of the county and is located at the mouth of the River Eske and in the shadows of the Blue stack mountains. Luckily nowadays the town is bypassed, so the centre of the town- known as “the Diamond” is a hub for music, poetry and cultural gatherings .
Let’s park the car and take a walk around the Diamond . Now, Donegal Town itself is famous for being the former centre of government of the O’Donnell dynasty who played an important role in Irish history . Nearby lie the castle and an ancient Franciscan abbey. The Annals of the four masters are said to have been written here . The Annals are a chronicle of early Irish history and contain records of life in Ireland and the births and deaths of kings and other prominent persons from that era.
As it’s a bit chilly this morning, there are not too many people around . But before we leave the Diamond let’s take a look at the monument that commemorates the four masers. The four sided obelisk is inscribed with the names of the authors of the annals and is decorated with Celtic motifs .
Now, let’s head around the corner , passing the Church of Ireland chapel to visit the castle . We enter through a small gatehouse and into the inner enclosure. What we see in front of us is a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. I’m told that there was an earlier fortress built on this site around the Viking era that was destroyed in 1159. Red Hugh O’Donnell ,a wealthy chief of the O’Donnell clan, built the castle in 1474. At that time the castle was regarded as one of the finest castles in Ireland.
In 1607, after the leaders of the O’Donnell clan left Ireland the castle and its lands were granted to an English Captain, Basil Brooke. The Castle was restored and Brooke also added windows, a gable and a large Manor house in the Jacobean style. The castle eventually passed into the hands of the Gore family until the 18th century, and it was abandoned in 1898 . Thankfully, it is now owned by the state who have restored it and nowadays its open to the public .
As we enter the castle itself, we can see that parts of it have been beautifully restored and we can get a real sense of how everyday life looked long ago. As we had up the spiral staircase, take a look at the uneven stairs, this was done deliberately to trip an enemy swordsman! Notice too that they ascend to the right because the O Donnell’s were right handed and this gave them more room at the turn the stairs to strike down their enemies !! As we enter the great hall we can see a banquet table laid out beside the great fireplace . Let’s stop to admire the detailed carving of vines and fruit and the impressive coats of arms. I will bet there were some fantastic banquets held in this great hall long ago !!
Let’s take a look around some of the other rooms before we head back out into the courtyard. I think that you will agree this is like a time capsule that brings us back 500 years , to a long bygone era.
Time to go , I do hope that you enjoyed coming along with me today. Our winter sale continues over at www.connemaramarble.com and I think you will agree that a lot of our jewelry is in fact inspired by these magnificent castles and the lifestyle that went along with them.
Stay well and all the best, Stephen