The first sight of Dunlough Castle invariably elicits the response: “wow!”
After a 20 minute walk first through pleasant meadows and then an easy climb up rocky ground the castle with its three towers, bounded on one side by sheer cliffs and on the other by a lake, comes into view.
(Left click on any photo to see it in larger size.)
“A hidden gem” is an over-used travel cliché but it is appropriate in this instance. The castle, on the north-western point of the Mizen Peninsula in West Cork, is hidden from the public road and is not touted in any brochure as a popular destination. It is on private property, is not sign-posted in any way, and visitors are not so much encouraged as tolerated. It is well worth seeking out, however.
The lake was man-made. A legend persists that if one sees the spectral Lady Of The Lake one’s death will follow soon.
It was built in 1207 by Donagh O’Mahony who was driven west to this extremity by the invading Normans and their Irish allies. The O’Mahony clan lived peacefully here and in other castles in the area for the next 400 years and earned a living primarily from fishing related activities. Their fortunes declined after the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and by 1627 the castle had passed into loyalist hands. It was probably abandoned soon afterwards.
The dry-stone construction nature of the building has meant that many of the stones have fallen over the centuries. Still, for a castle that is over 800 years old, and given its location in one of the wildest parts of Ireland, it is in remarkably good condition. Visitors should note that there is a risk in getting too close to it (although it is impossible to resist) as one never knows if the next falling stone could be on one’s head!
Detail showing the dry-stone (no mortar) construction and some of the fallen stones.
An interior view of one of the towers.
Note the sheer drop into the sea.
On the ground above the castle is this memorial to Andy Brubaker who died on 24th March, 1996. I would welcome any information on him.
Where it is.
How to get there.
If you have a SatNav dial in these co-ordinates: 51.478, -9.815.
This will bring you to the small car parking area at the edge of Dunlough Bay.
If not, keep on the road for Mizen Head. When you come to the junction with a sign showing Mizen Head 3kms to the left continue on straight, turn right at the next junction and keep on the narrow road until you reach the car park.
The car parking area is next to the magnificent Dunlough Bay.
The land is private property and is owned by the famous French/German writer and illustrator Tomi Ungererer whose house is in the distance. From here, you walk. You are *not* allowed to drive up that road.
The route is roughly as shown on this map.
Veer left as shown before you come to the house. Do *not* approach it!
I would suggest €2 as an appropriate donation.
The route is through verdant meadows and (in the distance) steeper rocky ground.
When you get back it is worth staying awhile to drink in the beauty of Dunlough Bay. I was there on a beautiful day in mid-Summer. It must be a wild place indeed during a winter storm.
Dunlough Bay from next to the car parking area.
(Thanks to Noel Lane of Cork City who told me about this magical place.)