O’Doherty’s Keep and Buncrana Castle

On the northern bank of the River Crana as it enters Lough Swilly sits the three-story O’Doherty’s Keep, which is the only surviving part of an original 14th-century Norman castle. The first two levels of the keep were built after 1333. In 1601 the O’Doherty’s Keep was described as being a small, two-story castle, inhabited by Conor McGarret O’Doherty. In 1602 the third level was added and it was upgraded by Hugh Boy O’Doherty as an intended base for Spanish military aid that hoped to land at Inch.

The keep was burned by Crown forces in 1608 in reprisal for the rebellion of Sir Cahir O’Doherty, who had sacked and razed the city of Derry. After Sir Cahir O’Doherty was killed at the Battle of Kilmacrennan, he was attaindered and his land seized. The keep was granted to Sir Arthur Chichester, who then leased it to Englishman Henry Vaughan, where it was repaired and lived in by the Vaughan family until 1718.

In 1718, Buncrana Castle was built by George Vaughan, it was the earliest of the big houses in Inis Eoghain. The word ‘castle’ was used in this period for any large, non-ecclesiastical, stone building. Using stone from the old surrounding ‘bawn’ wall of O’Doherty’s Keep for its construction. It was erected on the original site of Buncrana, which had grown up in the shadow of the keep, Vaughan moved the town to its present location, where he laid out the main street and built Castle Bridge (a six-arched stone single lane bridge). Wolfe Tone was held there when captured on the coast of Donegal, before being taken to Derry then on to Dublin. The castle is still a private house today. In the forecourt there is a gravestone in honor of Sir Cahir O’Doherty, and a plaque to Wolfe Tone. The castle remains as a private home today. In the forecourt there is a modern monument to Sir Cahir O’Doherty- last lord of Inishowen and a plaque to Wolfe Tone, who landed here on 3rd of November 1798 as prisoner on the British captured French warship the “Hoche”.

Photo: Buncrana Castle, Co Donegal


Photo: Montage of Buncrana, Co Donegal


Photo: Wolfe Tone detail from Kevin Barry stained glass window UCD.


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