On my two-week trip to Ireland, I decided to road trip the southern parts of Ireland solo, before joining my boyfriend in Dublin to go to Northern Ireland. Ireland has many beautiful castles and museums, but I fell in love with the old, ruined castles and abbeys that dot the countryside. One of those is the Rock of Dunamase, which I found randomly, on my way from Dublin to Killarney. It was my first stop on my road trip, and was completely unplanned, leaving me two hours behind my road trip itinerary for the day, but the stop was well worth it.


Traveling from Dublin take the M7 South going towards Portlaoise. There are signposts for it along the M7 so keep an eye out for them. The turnoff is exit 16. See the Google Map below.



There is no charge to visit the Rock of Dunamase, nor are there any official closing or opening times. Make sure to take some sturdy shoes and wear something warm. It's a slight hike and slippery when wet. The wind is also a factor and it can get cold with the wind. 


The Rock of Dunamase is about an hour and 10 minutes drive from Dublin, and if you are traveling to the south, either to Killarney, Cork or Waterford, you can add this little stop into your road trip. The “rock” of Dunamase refers to the outcrop of limestone and not the castle ruins that sit upon it. The castle ruins offer a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape, and the castle is protected on all side by cliffs. Visitors have to take the steps and walk up the cliff to access the ruins.

An old Christian settlement called Dun Masc existed here first but was pillaged Vikings in 842. In the 12th century, with the arrival of the Normans, the castle was built on the site. The great hall and the tower gate are part of the original structure of the castle. Over time, however, it has passed through multiple families and fell into ruin. With the arrival of the Cromwellian army in the 1600's, the castle was destroyed. They wanted to prevent anyone from using it as a military post. You can tell why - it has four lines of defense in total, in addition to the advantage of being up high looking across the countryside. There is an outer and inner bargain, which contains a murder hole. In this soldiers could throw down large stone or boiling oil onto invaders. There is also a curtain wall and an inner keep, which was heavily fortified. Any army trying to attack the castle in its prime would have had quite a difficult task. Fast tracking to this century, the Rock of Dunamase is featured in the movie Leap Year with Amy Adams. A lot of the scenery in these scenes though have extensive CGI, but you will recognize part of the structures of the ruins.


Even though it is now lying in ruins, and little is done to restore it, this castle is where I fell in love with Ireland. I had not scheduled this stop into my itinerary and was actually on my way to the Rock of Cashel when I noticed the signpost for it. I looked out to my left as I was driving and I saw the castle on the top of the hill. I decided on a whim to check it out, but unfortunately missed the turn-off and got utterly lost. After stopping at a construction site and asking for directions because my Google Map was not cooperating, I finally arrived about 45 minutes later. It isn’t that hard to find if you look out for the turn. I just went past the off-ramp and then took another wrong turn and had to drive back on myself.

When I arrived there, there was only one other car, and the person had just come down from the castle. I parked and took my tripod and camera up to the ruins. I was beyond impressed. When this is your first stop in Ireland, and you’re a sucker for history, greenery, and views, you’re bound to fall in love. I had the castle ruins to myself for a good 45 minutes before another car arrived. This place is special. The ruins are fascinating, and the views are beautiful. I wandered around the site and hung out in the window ledges before setting up my tripod to take some photos. I got so lost in the moment and enjoying the ruins that I forgot to take more pictures, and the videos I took on my Instagram didn’t save. The Rock of Dunamase was truly the first spot that I fell in love with Ireland, and this experience happened over and over again on the rest of my travels. As the day wore on, more people came to visit the Rock of Dunamase, and I packed up my tripod and carried onto the Rock of Cashel. If you are driving south from Dublin, the Rock of Dunamase is a wonderful excursion. Ireland just has so much history, and so much of it can be explored. I love this country!