I left Doolin, wandered through the Burren and found my way to Galway Bay. I found Dunguaire Castle as I drove along the shore.
Dunguaire Castle is a tower house built around 1520 by the O’Hynes clan. It is near Kinvarra on the Galway Bay in County Galway, Ireland. It is named after the fort that was here before the tower house was built. The castle is small, with a 75 foot tower and defensive walls.
The name Dunguaire means Dun of King Guaire. Dun means fort. Guaire was the legendary king of Connacht. Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin or Guaire Aidhneach was the seventh king of Connaught. He ruled at the height of Ui Fiachrach Aidne power from maybe around 622 to 663. Connacht is the previous name of this western province, now Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon. More people still speak Gaelic as their first language here than in any other area.
By the early 1600s, the Martyn family lived at Dunguaire Castle. The Martyn family trace their lineage back to Strongbow, Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, a Cambro-Norman who played a leading role in the Norman invasion of Ireland. Oliver Martyn accompanied Richard I, Richard the Lionheart, on the Third Crusade, The Kings’ Crusade. When Catholics were having their land confiscated, the Martyn family were specifically exempted by Queen Anne in an Act of Parliament. During the Williamite wars, family head Oliver Martyn had come to the aid of Protestants in distress, saving their lives and supporting them.
Richard Óge Martyn, Mayor of Galway lived here until 1642. He was a lawyer and member of the Catholic Confederates of Ireland in defiance of the Penal Laws, which barred Catholics from these professions. The Martyn family stayed in the area, living nearby in the de Burgo tower, later building Tulira Castle. Over the centuries, abandoned Dunguaire Castle was allowed to fall into disrepair.
In 1924, Oliver St. John Gogarty bought Dunguaire Castle and began extensive repairs. Gogarty was the inspiration for Buck Mulligan in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. He was an athlete, aviator, author and poet. He began his career as a surgeon and served in the Seanad, the Irish Senate, until it was dissolved.
Gogarty was close friends with W.B. Yeats, his patron Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, George Moore, Lord Dunsany, James Stephens, Seamus O’Sullivan, Edward Martin, J.M. Synge, O’ Casey and other literary figures. Dunguaire Castle was a retreat for these writers, steeped in history.
In 1954 Dunguaire Castle was purchased and restored by Christabel Russel, Christobel Lady Amptill. She was involved in a scandalous divorce case responsible for the law that prevents full reporting of divorce evidence. The case dragged on from 1921 till 1937, shortly after her husband became Lord Ampthill, the third inheritor of the Ampthill barony. With the case final, Christabel, Lady Ampthill and her son moved to Ireland, where she is supposed to have spent the rest of her life hunting.
Upon Lady Amptill’s death in 1973, Dunguaire Castle was bought by Shannon Development. Shannon Development was set up in 1959 by the Irish Government as Shannon Free Airport Development Company to promote the airport and region. It is a private agency entirely owned by the government, responsible for, among other things, tourism. Shannon Development hosts historical recreations in Dunguaire Castle such as a reproduction banquet.
Dunguaire Castle was Boyne Castle in the 1969 Kurt Russell Walt Disney movie Guns in the Heather. It was also in the 1979 film North Sea Hijack.
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