Doe Castle

Doe Castle

Contact Details

Address: Sheephaven Bay, Co. Donegal.

Email: info@heritageireland.ie

Opening Hours

Grounds, excluding the tower house
Daily from 9am - 6pm

Guided tours of the tower house are facilitated by local community group, Moving Mevagh Forward, Friday to Sunday during July and August.

Admission Fees

Free

Facilities

Coffee Shop nearby

Doe Castle sits deep in Sheephaven Bay, in a spectacular location on the waterline near Creeslough, Co. Donegal. It was a stronghold of the MacSweeney Clan for about 200 years. They came from Scotland as Gallowglasses or Gallóglaigh, mercenaries, fighting mainly for the O’Donnells. They became known as Clan tSuibhne na dTuath or Sweeneys of the Territory. This castle became Caislean na dTuath, anglicised as Doe Castle.

Doe Castle is first mentioned in the Annals in 1544 though the Tower House was probably built earlier. Some say it was built in 1425 by Nachtan O’Donnell. It was enclosed by a bawn with flanker and gun loops, surrounded by water on three sides. A deep fosse was carved out of rock to protect its landward side. The tower house was later extended on its south & east sides.

It is said that survivors from the wrecks of the Spanish Armada were sheltered at Doe & the second Eoghan Óg fostered the young Red Hugh O’Donnell here.

Maolmhuire an Bhata Bhui became Clan chief at Doe in 1598. He marched with Red Hugh to Kinsale in 1601 after which the castle changed hands many times.

It was the headquarters of Sir Cahir O’Doherty when he attacked Derry in 1608 but the MacSweeneys were back by 1642 when Eoghan Rua O’Neill landed here on his return from Spain.

In the late 18th century the castle came into the possession of George Vaughan Harte. He restored the walls and built the new entrance on the east side of the tower house. You can see his initials above the door. He fought in the American War of Independence and in India before becoming a member of parliament for Donegal until 1831.

The estate was later purchased by Stewart of Ards who subsequently let it to various tenants before it was finally abandoned in 1890 and left to fall into ruin. It was bought by the Irish Land Commission in 1932 and vested in the Office of Public Works in July 1934.

The Mac Sweeney grave-slab inside the tower house dates probably to 1544. It is carved with a highly ornamented cross with a double plait on the shaft. The head is decorated with an interlaced centre-piece with seven spear shaped terminals. There are animals, a large bird, and four knot patterns depicted by the sides of the cross.

This slab was found damaged in the nearby Ballymacsweeney graveyard, and was brought into the castle for protection in 1968. Specialist conservation work was carried out on the grave-slab and following significant conservation works to the site by the OPW it was housed inside the tower house.

There is another MacSweeney slab by St Catherine’s Church in Killybegs.

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