Dunguaire Castle – The 16th Century Jewel of Ireland (History & Travel Tips)

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The Dunguaire Castle is an Irish fortification whose name has been derived from the Dun (a hillfort) of the legendary King of Connacht. Located on the southeastern shore of Galway Bay, Dunguaire is 500-years-old and is reportedly one of the most photographed castles in Ireland. Boasting a 75-foot tall tower, it resides on a picturesque site, and is an excellent tourist attraction. Let’s take a look at its origins and how it’s faring in the world today:

One of the most fascinating attractions of this castle includes the Banquet Hall. It has sturdy stone walls, heavy-set oak tables, and feels positively exquisite in ambiance.

Dunguaire Castle's beautiful view from afar.
Dunguaire Castle’s beautiful view from afar. Image by John Callister from Pixabay

Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

From the O’Hynes to the Galways  (1520-1642)

It was the O’Hynes – descendants of Guaire, the King of Connacht – who built the Danguire castle as a family stronghold around 1520. They were known as the Lords of Aidhne, and were owners of the surrounding land. It was in 1588 when resistance against the English rule became too hard and costly that Hugh O’Hyne conceded the castle to Queen Elizebeth

One of the wall paintings found in Dunguaire Castle showing men in horses talking to ladies.
One of the wall paintings found in Dunguaire Castle. Dunguaire Castle flickr photo by Shutterbug Fotos shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

It was later passed on to Richard Oge Martyn, who used to be the mayor of Galway in the 17th century. The Dunguaire Castle was passed down through generations of Martyn’s of Galway until 1924.

A worm's eye view of Dunguaire Castle.
A worm’s eye view of Dunguaire Castle. Dunguaire Castle flickr photo by dereibos shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Dunguair’s Literary Revival (1924-1954)

Castle Dunguaire was bought from the Martyn’s by Oliver St. John Gogarty. He was a renowned literary character who had the castle fully repaired and was one of the top figureheads who led the Celtic resurgence movement of Irish literature. In fact, it was under his patronage that Dunguaire was used to host literary meetings. They used to be attended by Synge, Yates, O’Casey, and other revivalists of that era.

The banquet hall in Dunguaire Castle with candles goblets and porcelain pitchers.
The banquet hall in Dunguaire Castle. Banquet hall in Dunguaire Castle flickr photo by dmerino13 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Current Times

The Dunguaire castle is built in the vein of the Irish Tower-style. Its 75-foot tall tower and brutalist curtain wall are its most recognizable features today. You can visit and explore its grounds during the day, while summer nights are reserved for medieval banquet-style dinners to celebrate the generosity of Guaire, King of Connacht. The entire ambiance and setting of these banquets is curated to imitate 7th century feasts in their most authentic iterations.

The entrance and stone walls of the Dunguaire castle and tourists on their way inside.
The entrance and stone walls of the Dunguaire castle. Dunguaire Castle flickr photo by ewg4xuva shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

The Last of Private Ownership (1954-1972)

It was the English aristocrat, Lady Christabel Amptill, who bought the Dunguaire Castle from Gogarty as her retirement home. She was an equestrian at heart and carried on with the renovation work of the castle. She added an annex with an overhead bedroom and a garage and sold Dunguaire to the Shannon Development Company in 1972 – just a mere six years before her death. 

The beautiful cozy attic with chimney, paintings and sofa seats in Dunguaire Castle.
The beautiful attic with chimney in Dunguaire Castle. Dunguaire Castle flickr photo by Shutterbug Fotos shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

The company carried out extensive, sensitive renovations/preservations and made Dunguaire castle accessible to the public.

Interesting Dunguaire Castle Facts

  • It is said that the Lord of the Dunguaire castle was as generous as they come and that magnanimity extends into his afterlife as well. So, if anyone were to ask a question at the front gate, they’d have it answered by the end of the day.
  • Dunguaire castle has a starring role in the 1969 Disney movie called Guns in the Heather. It went by the name of Boyne Castle in the footage. Dunguaire also starred as a Scottish castle in the 1979 movie, North Sea Hijack.
  • One of the most fascinating attractions of this castle includes the Banquet Hall. It has sturdy stone walls, heavy-set oak tables, and feels positively exquisite in ambiance.
  • The Dunguaire castle has a little towerlet, which was used as a guard room back in the day.

Visiting Dunguaire Castle – Tips and Tricks

Dunguaire is a great place to visit. If you’re planning on going there, then here are some helpful tips and information to help you out on your journey:

An inside structure look at the Dunguaire castle.
An inside look at the Dunguaire castle. Dunguaire Castle flickr photo by Shutterbug Fotos shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

How to get to Dunguaire Castle?

You’ll have to get to Galway in order to see the Dunguaire castle. The best way to reach the city is by train, which costs €18-€25 ($21-$30 USD) and takes almost two-and-a-half hours from Dublin. You can also take a bus from Dublin city. The tickets will cost you €13-€24 ($15-$29) USD and you’ll reach your destination in two-and-a-half hours. Taking a car will cost you €23-€37 ($28-$45) USD with almost a two-hour drive on your hands.

From Galway, you can take the Line 320 bus, which will get you to Castle Dunguaire in 52 minutes and will cost €8-€11 ($9-$13 USD). Taking a taxi will cost you between €42-€54 ($50-$65 USD) and will take around 23 minutes to get there. You can also drive there in your own car in 23 minutes with a budget of €4-€5 ($4-$6 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

You can visit the Dunguaire castle anywhere between 10 am to 5 pm from April to September. The castle grounds are open daily and the ticket price is €6 ($8 USD) for adults and €3 ($4 USD) for children.

View of the beautiful sunrise at Dunguaire Castle beside the river.
View of the beautiful sunrise at Dunguaire Castle. Kinvara Sunrise flickr photo by cosmo_71 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

A solitary excursion of the Dunguaire castle takes around 1 hour. It might take 2 hours if you really like exploring, though.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • There’s no coffee shop on the grounds, so come hydrated.
  • Be ready for a lighter wallet if you like locally handcrafted gift items. The shop at the castle is filled with them.
  • You’ll love the Irish music and culture at the heart of each medieval banquet, should you choose to attend one.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Dunguaire Castle Areas

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