'Rock of Dunamase' : Castle

TownlandAghnahily or Ballycarrol
CountyLaois
Grid RefS 530 982
GPSS 53014 98160 (5m)
Longitude7° 12' 34.93" W
Latitude53° 1' 53.5" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownPortlaoise (6.2 Km)
OS Sheet55
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Tuesday, 16th March 2010

I have seen these castle ruins from below many times and it is about time I actually paid it a visit. Parking is easy and the site has well laid paths. The only problem with access is that it is initially up some steps! Why?

The castle is a late one built by the Normans, but it is said to be built on the site of a hill fort. The whole place has the feel of an inaugural site to me and it has probably been used for a very long time. It is said that The Rock of Dunamase is actually Dunam, which appeared on a second century map by Ptolomy.

The outer gatehouse is ruined but there's enough of it left to be impressive. A large amount of the walls of the barbican remain, too. Inside this another gatehouse and curtain wall offer another line of defense. At the top of the hill there are the ruins of what must have been a very impressive hall.

I was confused by the site at first, because it is skirted by low hills that block the views to most of the north, east and south. However, after sitting up there for quite a while I was reminded of Los Milares in Spain, a neolithic fortified village that is also overlooked by low hills. These hills were put to good use by having lookout posts on them. This could have been done at Dunamse, too. Then any approaching forces could have been seen miles away.

The advantage of the hills is that any attacking forces would have to filter through the narrow valleys between the hills, making them sitting ducks as the approached.

Like this monument

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About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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