GEMMA GRANT continues her series on the castles of Ireland
The castle of Dunguaire derives its name from the seventh century king of Connacht, Guaire Aidne mac Colmain, who died in 663. Connachta is the collective name for the dynasties that dominated the province of Connacht and claimed descent from a mythical figure named Conn Cétchathach.
The southern line lived along the Munster border and was known as Uí Fíachrach Aidne. They reached the height of their power in the seventh century under Guaire Aidne, who later became a celebrated figure in Irish legend.
Guaire, considered a generous and gracious host, had his reputation put to the test when the Chief Ollamh, (professor) of Ireland, Senchán Torpéist, came to visit. The professor, didn’t travel light and Guaire was host to one hundred and fifty poets and pupils, who were accompanied by equal numbers of women servants and dogs, all availing of his hospitality.
Given the number of guests, Guaire’s castle was presumably a much grander affair than the present day sixteenth-century tower house, standing some twenty-three metres high.
Guaire’s castle and clans, both northern and southern lines, declined in the eight century, after the death of Donn Cothaid in 773. The Uí Fíachrach never again produced an over king of Connacht. The kingship of Connacht from the late eighth century on, became the sole prerogative of the Uí Briúin, (O’Brien) dynasty.
The current Dunguaire castle, standing on a narrow stretch of land on the shore of Kinvara Bay, passed down the line to Eoghan Mantach O’Heyne, a descendant of King Guaire. It is considered probable that Eoghan, chief of the O’Heyne clan, saw to the construction of the present day castle.