The Castles and Ancient sites of North West Ireland seem to blend seamlessly with its rugged terrain. These sites add to the charm of the North West and further investigation is rewarded. Learn how Enniskillen Castle, in County Fermanagh, was used in the rebellion against British rule in the 16th century and how the ring fort of Grianan Of Aileach, in County Donegal, is believed to be the oldest building in Ireland. On this page you can find our selection of North West Ireland's Castles and Ancient Settlements.
Donegal Castle is located in Donegal Town centre. The castle lay in ruins for two centuries until it was almost fully restored in the early 1990s. Red Hugh O'Donnell of the O'Donnell clan built the castle in 1474. It was told that there was an underground passage linking Donegal Castle to a nearby Franciscan monastery, also built by O'Donnell, but geographical evidence of this has never been found. English Captain, Basil Brooke, took charge of the castle during the plantation of Ulster in 1611. After the Brooke family sold the castle in the 1670s, after which time the castle.
The Office of Public Works restored Donegal Castle in the early 1990s and today it is open to the public and plays host to cultural events and local ceremonies.
Parke's Castle is located on the banks of Lough Gill in County Leitrim. Originally known as O'Rourke's Castle, before its owner Sir Brian O'Rourke was executed for high treason by the British in 1591. During the plantations of Leitrim (during the 1610s), Sir Roger Parke was granted control of the castle and its grounds.
When two of Parke's grandchildren drowned in a boating accident on Lough Gill, his one remaining grandchild Anne became the sole heir to the estate. Anne, however, moved to Sligo upon marrying and the grounds were left to fall into disrepair. This is how it remained for over two centuries before the state took over ownership. Today the castle
Parke's Castle is open from late March to late September. There is access for visitors with disabilities to the ground floor only.
Enniskillen Castle is situated in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. It was first constructed by Hugh Maguire in 1428. In 1594 it was taken over by the English and its occupants were massacred. A year later, an Irish army lead by Hugh Maguire and Cormac MacBaron O'Neill regained control of the castle. The castle remained in the hands of the Irish until the summer of 1602 when an Irish ally to the British crown, Niall Garve O'Donnell, took over control. Enniskillen Castle, for a time renamed as "Castle Barracks" was used by the British in response to threats of invasion from the French in 1796.
In 1950 the barracks were decommissioned and Enniskillen Castle was opened to the public. Today the castle plays host to the Fermanagh County Museum, focusing on Fermanagh's prehistoric and natural history as well as its traditional rural life, and the Inniskillings Museum, which looks back at areas regimental history, including the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. There are also displays of works from the nearby Belleek Pottery.
Grianan Of Aileach, also known as Greenan Ely or Greenan Fort, is a hillfort resting on the 801 ft high Greenan Mountain in County Donegal. Believed to have been constructed in the 6th or 7th century by the Northern Uí Néill dynasty, it acted as the seat of their Kingdom of Ailech. This Kingdom lost to majority of its power to Norman invasions during the 12th century and the Grianan Of Aileach was left in ruins until restoration works were carried out in 1870. Today the fort is owned by the Irish government, receives periodic restoration and is accessible by the public.
Travelling along the shores of Lough Erne Upper and Lough Erne Lower, you will reach Belleek Pottery, one of the oldest potteries in the world dating from 1857. Today, the visitor centre still displays pieces which date from those early samples over 150 years ago. Touring the pottery, meet and chat with the craftspeople as they produce ceramics which will be exported across the globe.
Belleek Pottery can be found just off the trail of the Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is a long-distance touring route, the first of its kind in Ireland. It runs the length of Ireland's western coast, facing the Atlantic Ocean, from County Donegal in the northwest to County Cork in the southwest. The initial aim of the Wild Atlantic Way was to give greater visibility to Ireland's west coast in overseas markets. The Wild Atlantic Way is 2,500 km (1,553 miles) long and passes through 3 provinces of Ireland (Ulster, Connacht and Munster). It has given a huge boost to the tourism industry of the region since its launch in February 2014.