Rock of Dunamase, Co Laois – A Childhood Favourite

Rock of Dunamase

I love nothing better than getting into the car with Patrick and the boys, and often Charlie our dog, and heading off with camera in hand for a walk or a hike. And for the past handful of years since we moved from Dublin to Athy, in Co. Kildare, one of the places of choice for an easy hike and stunning views has been – The Rock of Dunamase.

*this article was originally published in April 2014. It has since been republished with updated information and photo gallery

Further Reading: Visit Laois – 10 Fabulous Free Things to Do Outdoors

Rock of Dunamase

Growing up in Athy, Co. Kildare, approximately 20 minutes away – I’d visited this ancient landmark many times as a child. And it always thrilled me.

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Being able to pass on that excitement to our two boys now, is something special. And the best part is that it’s free, healthy and nourishing for the soul.

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About the Rock of Dunamase

The Rock of Dunamase is well signposted so you really can’t go wrong no matter which direction you come from. When you arrive there is a small church at its foot. And the road in front of it has plenty of room to pull in and park your car or bike. The area is clean with no rubbish so it’s important to keep it this way, a note for picnic lovers – Leave no Trace.

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Another note for picnic lovers is that it gets pretty blustery up on the rock even if the sun is shining, so a cardi, mac or hoodie wouldn’t go astray.

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If you are bringing a dog, bring poop bags, no surprise there.

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The day we visited, the day I took these photos, there was a ‘Paddy Wagon’ leaving just as we got to the Rock. Those that were there, were families with old and young members alike.

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Climbing to the top doesn’t take long, and it isn’t strenuous. Do stop along the way to take in the beauty of the scenery around, from the farm lands, forests and fields, to the winding roads and beautiful big sky.

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Even on overcast or rainy days, it still offers beautiful scenery, and visiting as the seasons change or when they’ve changed offers more food for the eyes.

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It’s obvious why the Christian settlement was pillaged by the Vikings and then used by Diarmuid Mac Murrough, King of Leinster as a dowry for his daughter Aoife, for her marriage to Strongbow.

When visiting keep in mind that these ruins were once a strongly protected Anglo-Norman castle – with four lines of defence, that included both an outer and inner barbican, a curtain wall and an inner keep. Walk through the Barbican Gate and look up to see the still intact ‘Murder Hole’ – where stones, boiling water and oil were thrown through at intruders. Make your way over the rock to where the Central Hall once stood and look out for features that still remain – for example the window sills and doorways.

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There is much to the colourful history that is the Rock of Dunamase – the information board as you enter the site does give you some historical information as well as a reconstructed image of what the castle once looked like. Unfortunately the areas around the site are not signposted so a:

  • Top tip for those who enjoy history and architecture – take a photo of the reconstructed drawing of the castle as you enter the site and use it to help you and your fellow adventurers match the ruins. For examples the Barbican Gate, Main Gatehouse and Great Hall.

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If you’d like to read up on the history of Rock of Dunamase sites such as and are worth a read.

Our visits have ranged from 30 minutes to over and hour. The weather usually plays a big part on how long we stay. That and whether we’ve packed a lunch or not.

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Where are your favourite local ruins in Ireland?

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Rock of Dunamase Photo Gallery

We visit the Rock of Dunamase throughout the year, every year, spring through to winter. The following photographs in this Rock of Dunamase Gallery were taken in Spring 2021.

Be sure to connect with The Life of Stuff on Instagram for more photographs, stories and reels featuring the Rock of Dunamase and lots more family friendly destinations both here in Ireland and further afield.

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