After a short drive on the N80 from Portlaoise to Stradbally you can discover a majestic rock rising up in the countryside – the Rock of Dunamase. What from a distance looks like the ancient greek Acropolis turns out as an assembly of ruins, all of them many hundreds of years old.
Due its prominent position one can enjoy amazing panoramic views over the surrounding landscape. This strategic priority was already identified by early settlers in the 9th century, who built the first fort at this spot. Dunamase Castle was built in the late 12th century on the same site. Until mid 14th century the castle was in the hands of anglo-norman lords who undertook extensive renovations. After the castle being passed back to the irish O’Moores family it fell into disuse shortly thereafter. The capture of Dunmase by Cromwell’s troops in the 17th century was not more than a historical side note. At that time the castle was no longer inhabited, and the military action should be seen more as a precautionary measure. At the end of the 18th century Sir John Parnell started to build a banquet hall within the ruins. But after his death his project was no longer maintained and the decline of Dunamase Castle continued unabated.
Today you can only guess the full extent of the ancient fortress of Dunamase. But despite his long-running decline the Rock Of Dunamase is still a majestic appearance. Standing 46 meters above the surrounding landscape and in-between the ruins, you can enjoy breathtaking views around the countryside.