Monday, January 27, 2014

Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle, Ireland
Well, if you're from my generation, you might have heard the name Donegal and immediately thought of the Disney film from 1966 titled, "The Fighting Prince of Donegal".  In that film, a young Peter McEnery won the hearts of impressionable teen girls everywhere as he portrayed the nobleman Hugh O'Donnell, "a brash young rebel", who led an uprising against the English in the late 16th century.

Disney's DVD cover
The film didn't do very well at the box office and was criticized for being a bit loose on historical fact, but I remember it being a lot of fun.  In any event, there is a real Donegal castle, just as there was once a real fighting Irishman named Red Hugh who lived there (albeit briefly!).

My friend Lisa visited Donegal on a chilly fall day, but I think it seems more authentic to view an old castle on such a day, don't you?

So, let's join Lisa for our visit!

Donegal castle sits in the middle of the town of Donegal in northwest Ireland.  It consists of a 15th-century keep and a wing which was added a couple of hundred years later.  

The castle sat in ruins for a couple of hundred years, however, the castle has recently been almost fully restored.

I really love people who restore old things for the rest of us to enjoy!  Bless them.

Chief of the O'Donnell clan, a Sir Hugh O'Donnell (not the fighting Red Hugh previously mentioned), built this castle in 1474.  It was situated on the site of a previous fortress, as the word Donegal, in Irish, means "Fort of the Foreigner" and might refer to a much earlier Viking fortress at the site.

The castle was regarded as one of the finest Gaelic castles in Ireland.  It was considered the largest and strongest fortress in the country.

Schotsie and Squatsie enjoyed viewing the castle!
Our gnome friends Schotsie and Squatsie really enjoyed connecting with their cultural roots in Ireland.  They happily posed for pictures at the castle!

Schotsie and Squatsie checking out the castle map
In the late 1990s, the Office of Public Works began renovations on the castle.  Care was taken to add new roofing and flooring, while keeping to the original styles and techniques used in the 15th and 17th centuries, when the Keep and Jacobean wing, respectively, were built.

Even the stonework has been restored, and the manor wing was partially roofed.

The Castle covers a large area and was a solid fortification in its day.

The city's church spires rise beyond the castle walls

Inside the manor wing, we can see oak timbers that were brought in from the an estate in County Fermanagh for the restoration.

This looks a bit spooky!

Two families claimed the castle as their home:
first the O'Donnells who built it, then the Brooke family.
Strangely enough I grew up with both O'Donnells and Brookes in Phoenix, Arizona!

Following the restoration the castle has been open to the public.  They even host Gaelic cultural evenings there now!  That sounds like a lot of fun.

This room actually looks rather cosy now, with the stone fireplace and the solid wood flooring and stairs.  I could imagine living here, couldn't you?

A diorama shows how the castle would have looked in the 1590s.

This diorama below shows the castle circa 1650, after the wing was added.  By this time ownership of the castle had been taken over by the Brooke family.

A view of the city of Donegal below through the windows:

The timbered ceiling is fabulous!

This buttressed ceiling is quite beautiful.
These stone stairs (see below) scare me!  The railings are a modern addition and would not have been part of the original design of the stairs.

(Below) Looking up at the back side of the stairs from beneath them:

I often marvel at ancient stonework.  This is just amazing.

Here we have the unroofed portion of the castle:  Kathy is inspecting the cobbled floor.

I hope you have enjoyed this visit to the famed Castle of Donegal.

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