Rock of Dunamase

There are plenty of places in Ireland it is advisable to avoid when the weather turns to drizzle and fog, but the Rock of Dunamase is not one of those places. If anything, a good dusting of drizzle and a liberal swathe of fog adds a delicate ethereal touch to these captivating ruins.

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It’s not far off the main road from Carlow to Portlaoise, and the loop that takes you from the small roadside car park to the summit and back again is a short and easy climb that you could easily complete in just a handful of minutes, but something tells me the magic of this place will lead you astray and you’ll find yourself wandering through the ruins in an enchanted reverie.

This site may have been a place of importance as far back as the 2nd century when Greek cartographer Ptolemy drew a map of Ireland and marked a site of note named Dunum in this area. In later years a Celtic castle that sat atop this rocky outcrop was invaded by the Vikings in 843AD. In 1250AD the King of Leinster, Dermott MacMurrough, built a great stone castle here which passed through marriage to the Norman invador Strongbow. Strongbow developed the castle into an imposing fortification, the ruins of which are still standing today. It wasn’t until the Cromwellian invasion of 1650 that these great old structures were destroyed.

While the true history of this place may be one of fierce battles and invasions, the ruins themselves are some of the most romantic I’ve visited, conjuring up images of secret trysts and whispered sweet nothings, of ancient Irish counterparts to Mr Rochester, Heathcliff and Mr Darcy. Winding my way up the shallow incline, I passed under an imposing Barbican gate…

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…past ivy-clad walls gently crumbling away, stopping every so often to peep through nooks and crannies and windows in the ruin walls that offered tantalizing glimpses of the foggy countryside below and the small granite church standing guard at the base of the hill.

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Rain streaked across my camera lens but did nothing to dull the vibrant greens of the soft blanket of moss and ferns that decked the rocks on either side of the trail, glowing almost neon bright in the foggy haze.

rock of dunamase, county laois, ireland, travel, strongbow, travelogue, photography, ailsa prideaux-mooney

At the top, chinks and cracks and gaps presented themselves, begging to be explored…

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…and of course, I obliged, clambering through and over and up and under every square inch of the ruin, beads of rain glistening from every surface and the mist swirling in great eddies around the edges of the castle.

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The view from the summit was nothing short of breathtaking.

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Leaving filled me with a vague sense of wistfulness, as I suspect it has many others who have gone before me. It is somewhere I feel bound to return to, and it is somewhere I hope you get to visit for yourself someday soon.

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About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - wheresmybackpack.com - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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26 Responses to Rock of Dunamase

  1. travtrails says:

    Interesting place to get lost in …

  2. Francesca says:

    I would love to go back to Ireland.

  3. Can you imagine the history of that place. I would love to get to Ireland some day.

  4. Very pretty photos! Lovely setting with the Irish fog.

  5. Jaspa says:

    Love the composition of the photo of the church through the arch, Ailsa.

    • ailsapm says:

      The church looked so serene sitting there at the bottom of the hill. It actually reminded me of a photograph I took quite a long time ago through a hole in the walls of a castle in Cesky Krumlov. xxx

  6. I just got back from Ireland – there are so many historic ruins (and lots of weather to enjoy them in)! I love the colours in your mossy fern photo…

    • ailsapm says:

      Haha I love it, Eliza, you speak the truth, there is always LOTS of weather in Ireland! I hope you had a good time while you were here. xxx

  7. Majka says:

    It reminds me on my birth country and the castles nearby my birth town. You should love them – Cachtice, Povazsky hrad, Trencin’ s castle

  8. Another magical place, you’ve discovered for us. My absolute favorite pics is the 3rd one from top, with the ruins as a frame for the church below. Very sweet.

  9. Melissa Shaw-Smith says:

    Lovely piece. I was with you every step of the way. I was the one smelling like wet dog!

  10. xxx says:

    Increԁible story there. What happened afteг? Thanks!

  11. poppytump says:

    It looks exactly the place to stir up thoughts of derring doings and the like Ailsa 😉
    Love the way it’s not at all *manicured … tufty grass .. slabs of castle ruins and Irish soft mist … perfect .

  12. Your creative photos and description illustrate very well how this magical place can fire up the imagination!

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