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Among the most impressive sites in Ireland, Dunamase was erected upon an early Christian site on the towering rock overlooking Portlaoise. For a time it was also the site of a fortress belonging to the kings of Leinster, which is how it came into the possession of Strongbow, who had married King Diarmait's daughter Aiofa. Strongbow seems to have been allowed to retain it but nothing is known of his works, and the first mention in Anglo-Norman history is in King John's reign, when the king granted it to William Marshal. Even his works are not fully known, and were either starting the great tower which is inside the inner enclosure, a roughly heart-shaped stone curtain enclosure on the rock top, or starting the enclosure itself. Only a part of the great tower remains and this is badly damaged. The enclosure had walling over 1.8 metres (6 ft) thick on the east side, with flanking rectangular turrets, while the west wall was thinner. The great tower was rectangular, some 20.4 x 35.3 metres (67 x 116 ft), with two cross-walls. In the seventeenth century this was adapted to make the northern section into a tower-house of its own, presumably because the remainder of the great tower was ruinous. To the east of the great tower, sited in the east wall, are the remains of a twin round-ended towered gateway leading into a triangular outer ward, which is very much smaller than the enclosure on the rock top. The castle, although impressive and clearly having covered a lot of the rock, is in a very ruinous condition. It was taken and held by the O'Neills during the Confederate War, and then slighted by Cromwell's forces in 1650.
Melvin Lovell, 60, from USA West Coast, wrote:
The Rock of Dunamase is an interesting ruin sitting on a rock out cropping. With and excellent view of the surrounding countryside. I first visited this site in 1994 and again in 2000. The latest structure was destroyed by Cromwell's forces when the defenders would not surrender. This is the latest of defensive structures going back more than 2,000 years. It is and interesting site to climb around and is open to the public and there is no fee at this time
Peter E Presford, wrote:
An excellent hilltop site with extensive views. Ruins are spread all round the hill. There is an outer ward, inner ward, and middle ward. Small outer gatehouse, larger altered inner gatehouse. A fort on the site was sacked by the Vikings as early as 944. Open all hours.