The Rock of Dunamase: history, facts & visit info

A stone’s throw from the town of Portlaoise, the Rock of Dunamase puts visitors in touch with Irish history.

Rock of Dunamase: history & visit info.

Perched in the hills above Portlaoise, the Rock of Dunamase became a Viking and, subsequently, Norman strategic fortification.

For the same reason, it attracts locals and visitors looking for a beautiful view over the County Laois countryside.

While enjoying the views, you should take time to wander around the ruins of Dunamase Castle and immerse yourself in the history of the area.

Ireland Before You Die’s top tips for visiting the Rock of Dunamase:

  • There is free parking near the Rock of Dunamase. However, be advised that the car park is small.
  • The Rock of Dunamase is a ten-minute drive from County Laois’s county town, Portlaoise.
  • It is entirely free to visit the Rock of Dunamase, and you can access the site 24 hours a day.
  • The site is child-friendly and dog-friendly, so it makes for a fantastic family activity.
  • Visiting at dawn or dusk will offer an incredible sunrise/sunset view over the Loaise countryside.

Interesting facts about the Rock of Dunamase:

  • Excavations in the 1990s determined that the Rock of Dunamase was first settled in the 9th century.
  • When the Normans arrived in Ireland, it became the most important Anglo-Norman fortification in County Laois. The Normans possibly built the castle on the site.
  • The site formed part of the dowry of Aoife, daughter of Diarmuid Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, when she wed Norman conqueror Strongbow in 1170.
  • It also formed part of the Dowry of Aoife and Strongbow’s daughter Isabel when she married William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. It was held by five successive Marshal sons before transferring to the Mortimers.
  • Cromwell’s army besieged the castle in 1651, and it fell into disrepair.
  • In the 18th century, Irish chancellor Sir John Parnell tried to redevelop the castle using parts of other Irish ruins. After Parnell’s death, his son abandoned the project. Today, the site is a national monument managed by the Irish government.

What’s nearby

Food: Kelly’s Steakhouse (steak), O’Gorman’s Bar & Restaurant (Irish), Indian Prince (Indian), The Bay Tree (café/lunch), Lana (Thai), Akayu (Japanese).

Drink: Kavanagh’s, Ramsbottom’s, Dunne’s, The Fishermans, Peig’s, Morrissey’s.

Accommodation: Maldron Hotel Portlaoise (three-star), Midlands Park Hotel (four-star), The Killeshin Hotel (four-star)

Other attractions: Emo Court House, Carrigmeal Woodlands, Dysart Woods, Heywood Gardens, and Dunamaise Arts Centre.

Your questions answered about the Rock of Dunamase

Who destroyed the Rock of Dunamase?

Oliver Cromwell’s army destroyed the Rock of Dunamase in 1651.

How old is the Rock of Dunamase?

The Rock of Dunamase was built in the 9th century.

How old is Laois?

Its first inhabitants were hunter-gatherers who passed through the land over 8,000 years ago. However, County Loaise was formally established in 1556.

More info

Address: Park Or Dunamase, Dunamaise, Co. Laois, Ireland

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

Price: Free

Contact Laois Heritage Office: +353 57 866 4129

IB4UD’s Guides to County Laois

Read: The 10 best things to do in Laois, Ireland (for 2022)

Read: Top 5 historical sites in Portlaoise you need to visit

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