We’re Breaking Out of This City!

     After two action packed days in the Dublin area, we were finally driving out to the Irish countryside. I always make a point to briefly check out the big cities when traveling, but I prefer to be out in nature.
    Over the past two days, my friend Angie and I had explored the Rose Festival in Belfast and had been attempting to get a handle on driving on the wrong side of the road. We toured the Newgrange portal tomb and other ruins north of Dublin and then the Guinness factory. Today we were going to be heading south and west on a castle-seeing adventure.
Newgrange Ireland Entrance boulder
     This was the beginning of an 8 day drive through Ireland and I was pretty excited about our 1st stop of the day, the Rock of Dunamase Castle in Laois. 
     We had a big Irish breakfast at the good smelling Westin Dublin Hotel where we were staying and got on the road early. We were attempting to hit almost every castle from Dublin to Galway in one day.

On The Road to Laois

     The castle was about an hour drive southwest of Dublin between counties Carlow and Laois. It felt good to be in the open air and away from the crowds. The highway soon turned off onto a narrow single-lane road. 
     A couple of times when approached by an oncoming car, there was no room for both vehicles to pass. We had to back up quite a ways down the road and into a driveway or wider area to allow the car to pass. It was unnerving to come over a hill and be bumper to bumper with an apprehensively approaching vehicle.

The Rock of Dunamase – A Little Ireland History

     The Castle of Dunamase was built on a 151 ft.hill and we could see the top of the stone structure peeking over the trees as we approached. 
     The land had been occupied as early as the 9th century. At that time the hill was settled by Christians who built a fort called Dún Masc. The fort was later destroyed by Vikings. The Dunamase Castle was then  constructed in the late 12th century and later abandoned in the 14th century. It is now a protected national monument.

The Path to the Rock-Dunamase Awaits

     We parked near a small cemetery and church and began to hike up the gravel path towards the stone castle ruins. There was only one other car parked at the base of the hill.
Path to Rock Of Dunamase, Ireland
     We crunched along flip-flopping our way upwards. Near what appeared to be the top was a walled entrance gate. From that vantage point we could see for miles in every direction. The cool air whipped our hair in every direction as we took in the 360°view. The patchwork fields below were dotted with bales of hay and wildflowers. We could hear crickets and distant sheep. I took a moment to look with my eyes and just be in the moment, gazing at the rolling golden hills and the Sleive Bloom mountains beyond.

The 360 View 

    I had thought we were at the top but I was wrong. The upward path continued and pieces of the structural stone remains were all around. 
     Angie hiked ahead and shouted back to me.
     “Check this out…there are so many cool windows and arches to take pictures through.”
     I crunched up next to her and peered out over the golden hills.
     “Woah…holy moly. That is really amazing.” We both began running around taking pictures through every crack and crevice.
     There were several areas with steps leading to nowhere. We climbed around the hills and rocks, exploring every angle.

Traveling Back in Time

     “Could you imagine what it was like to live here back then? This place is massive.” Angie aimed her phone through a stone arch for a photo.
     “That hill would be horrifying in a carriage.” I stepped over a pile of loose rocks.
     “And walking around these hills in those long dresses. I would have been constantly tripping and falling on my face.” Angie laughed.
     “I know right? I’m having a hard enough time climbing around without any dresses or obstructions.” I breathed, puffing up the path.

Protecting the Castle 

     The hill was surrounded by a deep ditch and a stone curtain wall for protection. There was evidence of an ancient drawbridge and areas of defense built into the stone. Long slits were constructed in the walls for arrow fighting. A murder hole was built into the gateway for easy access to throw stones at or pour boiling water onto attackers.
     We peeked through the different vantage points and imagined the battles that had taken place on this very spot. 

Ireland Castle #1-Check…Kilkenny Castle Here We Come

     After checking out every nook, we made our way down the path towards the car. Our next stop was Brownshill Portal tomb and then Kilkenny Castle.

 

What is your favorite Irish Castle? Respond in the comments section below…

Click here to read about our day of ruins Newgrange adventure 

Click here to join us on a Skellig Michael climb

Click here for ancient ruins in the U.S.A.

 

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