Dysert O’Dea castle, standing on a rocky outcrop, was built 1470-1490 and takes its name from its builder Diarmuid O’Dea who was the lord of Cineal Fearmaic. It is a typical tower house of the time.
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Castle defences included a murder hole just inside the castle’s main door, a loophole from the staircase; and a lock-up chamber in the south-west corner. Two stone fireplaces still exist. Next to the castle is the remains of a gable of a banquet hall built c1500. Next to the car park are the ruins of a medieval house.
In 1570 the earl of Ormond fought the O’Dea’s and took the castle. By 1584 the O’Dea’s were once again in control. During the nine year war of 1994-1603 they supported the losing side (the northern chiefs) and the castle came into the hands of the protestant bishop of Kildare. It was restored to its rightful owners shortly thereafter. In 1651 the castle garrisoned Cromwell’s troops, and it was when they left that the battlements and staircase were destroyed. Eventually the O’Dea’s were once again in control. Supporting the losing side again—James II—they finally lost all claims to the castle. The castle and lands were taken over by the Synge family. From this time the castle fell into a ruin.
The ruin was bought by a family from the United States, the O’Dea’s. The castle was rebuilt and restored on its upper floors 1986-88. It is now under the auspices of the Dysert Development Association and contains the Dysert O’Dea castle archaeology centre. There is a museum of local artefacts from the stone age to 1922 and an AV presentation of the area’s history.
The castle is part of a group of over 25 sites of historical and archaeological interest within a two mile radius. Among these are:
1. Dysert O’Dea church: now in ruins; originally St Tola’s hermitage church, rebuilt in 12th and 17th centuries; its sculptured Romanesque door is of special note.
2. Stone forts: built in first millennium AD but inhabited as last as the 16th century
3. Carhue house: 18th century two storey gable ended house with chimney stacks and adjoining coach house; was home to the Synge family; now occupied.
4. Dysert Hedge school: in use in the 1800s
5. Soup School: built 1820 by Edward Synge; overlooks old church ruins; burned in 1826.
6. Rath castle: ruined 15th century tower house built from 11th century round tower; damaged by Cromwell’s troops; once stood over 100 feet high.
7. Rath church: nave and chancel ruins of 14th and 15 centuries; sculptured ornamental slab on south wall; 17th century vault.
8. Synge’s Lodge: built by the Synge family for guests and visitors to Dysert; now ruined but originally in Georgian style.
9. St Tola’s high cross: in a field east of the church; 12th century; considered one of the finest of its kind
A map with a walk leading to the sites can be picked up at the castle.
Dysert O’Dea castle
Corofin, north-west Clare county
On minor road off the Ennis to Corofin road R476.
Tel. 0 65 683-7401/683-7794
Open: May-end Sep, 10am-6pm, daily
Parking; tea and coffee and light snacks