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Historic Buildings of County Donegal

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Historic Buildings of County Donegal

Republic of Ireland

See Historic Buildings Ireland - Main Page

Image right - Entrance to Doe Castle

If you have information about any of the Buildings mentioned below please share it here. If you have ancestors linked to any of the places please add them to the project.

The object of this project is to provide information about historic buildings in County Donegal, with links to sub-projects for specific buildings as appropriate. GENi profiles of people associated with those establishments can be linked to this project and/or to individual projects where they have been set up.

Castles, Baronial and Historic houses

... in alphabetical order

Including Castles, Abbeys, Manor Houses, Mansions, Stately Homes, Country houses, Estate houses, Courts, Halls, Parks and other listed buildings of historic interest

Full sizes of the thumbnail images can be seen in the Gallery attached to the project or by clicking the thumbnail image. TIP - Use ctrl+the link to open the image in a separate tab, or use "back" to return to this project page) Sources for the images can be found in the image details as seen in the gallery.

Names with Bold links are to Geni profiles or projects. Other links take you to external biographical web pages. Please copy and paste the bullet used - ● - instead of * when adding items to the list.


// Abbey Assaroe - founded in 1178 and completed in 1184 by the Cistercians monks who came to it from Boyle in County Roscommon. It was dedicated it to God and St. Bernard by Flaharty O'Muldorry, Lord of Tirconaill (Donegal) and it seems he was patron of the abbey at this time. Flaharty died there in 1197 at the age of 59. In 1227 the abbot of Assaroe was involved in the conspiracy of Mellifont (1216-1228). Donal Mor O'Donnell, King of Tirconaill became a monk at the monastery. He died there in 1241 and was buried in the grounds of the monastery. The monastery was burnt in 1377 and John O'Donnell and his son were killed there in 1380. The abbey suffered many attacks over the following number of years culminating in it being plundered in 1398 by Niall Og O'Neill, the King of Tyrone. The abbey estates were granted out to English lords but the monks continued to reside in the abbey. The monks lived there until after the Flight of the Earls in 1607 when the last of the monks were driven out of the abbey. It fell into decline in the 17th century and now all that remains of the abbey is the west end of the church, part of the west gable and a section of the south wall. The last abbot of the abbey, Abbot Quinn is buried in the old graveyard there.

Aughaninish Abbey Kiltoy, Letterkenney


// Friary

Ballymacool Park John Boyd, born in 1739, High Sheriff of Donegal in 1772–73, purchased the Ballymacool House and estate from the Span family in 1798. The estate was passed to his eldest son John Boyd (b. 1769), a barrister, on his marriage to Frances Hayes, in 1799. He was succeeded by his nephew, William Henry Porter, under the condition that he assume the surname Boyd, which he did by Royal License in 1891. He was father to Mary Rosalie Boyd, the South African poetess. The house became occupied by Republican soldiers in 1921. During the occupation a silver plate which had been in the Boyd family since 1467 was stolen. The Boyd family crest was inscribed on the silver which was received by Thomas Boyd, Earl of Arran on his marriage to Mary Stewart, Princess of Scotland, daughter of James II of Scotland. The house passed out of the Boyd family to the Kelly's in 1941. In the mid-1980s the Ballymacool Estate was sold. It was gradually sold off to private and public developers. Several members of the Boyd dynasty are buried on the estate.

WIKI Ballymacool Park

Ballysaggart Friary

WIKI Monastic Houses - Donegal

Ballyshannon Castle

// Burt Castle (Birt Castle) a.k.a. O'Doherty's Castle - built around 1560 – 1580, one of a network of castles built around Inishowen by the O’Doherty clan. The O’Doherty’s were called the ‘Lords of Inishowen’ and under the process called ‘Surrender and Regrant’ Sean Mor O’Dochartaigh bent the knee before King Henry VIII in 1541 and became Sir John O’Doherty. This brought the chieftains into the English legal system with the downside that the king could take back the land and grant it to however he chose. The castle fell in and out of the O’Doherty hands and had various occupiers including brothers Richard and Henry Hovenden who resided here in 1587 and were commanded to resist the Spanish Armada. It was later occupied by Sir Henry Dowcra, an English soldier who was sent to subdue a rebellion during the 9 years war (1594 – 1603). Sir Cahair O’Doherty took up residence here in 1601 as he had sided with Dowcra, became known as ‘The Queen’s O’Doherty’. O’Doherty had been on the jury that found the Irish Earls guilty of treason but he himself was arrested for the same reason by Dowcra’s successor Sir George Paulet. He was eventually released on £1000 bail and then went on carry out his rebellion by sacking Derry, Strabane and Lifford (killing Paulet in the process). The castle eventually fell into the hands of Sir Arthur Chichester who quelled the rebellion. Chichester was granted O’Doherty’s 170,000 acres of land after O’Doherty was hung, drawn and quarted! The castle had 3 stories, 2 circular watch towers, a small vaulted chamber and openings for muskets. A medallion dated to 1525 and a coin to 1547 was found near the castle. It was recorded that the castle was in ruins by 1833 and has suffered further damage since.

Curious Ireland - Burt Castle
WIKI Burt Castle
Sean Mor O’Dochartaigh


// Carrickabraghy Castle on the Isle of Doagh (Known as O'Doherty's Castle to the locals), it was one of five such fortifications that were constructed in the Innishowen Peninsula . The castle sits on a rock called the Friars Rock and is thought to date from around the 16th century. It was last inhabited around 1665. In the waters beside the castle is a rock called 'The Hissing Rock' so named because a crack in the rock causes the sea to spurt from it when the tide is in.


// Doe Castle/Caisleán na dTuath, Restored Castle on the shores of Sheephaven Bay near the village of Creeslough, dates from the mid 16th century and was the home of the MacSweeney Clan, who came to Ireland from Scotland and who ruled over much of the area at that time. It served as a refuge for ship wrecked sailors from the Spanish Armada in 1588. During the 17th Century it was captured and recaptured many times by both Irish and English until the 18th century when the fortress was converted into a country residence.

// Doherty Tower (aka Elagh Castle)

// Donegal Castle, Restored Castle. Called O'Donnells Castle, in the town of Donegal Town, one of the many O'Donnell strongholds.. It was the principle residence of the royal family of the O'Donnells, who ruled the Kingdom of Tir Chonaill from 1200 until 1601. It was built by Red Hugh in the 15th C. on a bend on the Eske for defensive reasons, the river protecting it on two sides. The site may have been used for a Viking fort in the 9th and 10th centuries. The O'Donnells had another castle in the area, Lough Eske castle. The actual castle ruins lie to the north east of Lough Eske castle. On nearby Lough Eske there is a tiny island on which the ruins of what was a prison the O'Donnells kept their prisoners in. The castle fell into the hands of Captain Basil Brooke after the Ulster Plantations. He changed the old tower-house and built on a gabled manor-house. Red Hugh's Scottish mother, Iníon Dubh was a formidable character in Ulster - she arranged for red Hugh to be fostered by MacSweeney Doe who was betrothed to Róis, daughter of of Hugh O"Neill, Earl of Tyrone. English Lord Deputy Sir John Perrot had Red Hugh kidnapped aged 15 and imprisoned in Dublin Castle, from where he escaped. All that remains is one wall and even that is mostly hidden by the trees that now fill the tiny island.

○ see We Love Donegal - Donegal Castle
Castles of Ireland by Mairéd Ashe FitzGerald - 2015 Page 62

// Donegal Friary Founded 1474 and richly endowed by the Lady Nuala O'Connor and the Lady Nuala O'Brien, wives of successive O'Donnell Chieftans. The present ruins date from 1601 when it was turned into a fortress by Niall Garbh O'Donnell and his English allies and besieged by Red Hugh. Donegal Friary and its possessions were confiscated in 1607 following 'The Flight of the Earls'."

○ More images at We Love Donegal - Donegal Franciscan Friary

// Drumboe Castle

Dunree Fort Dun Fhraoigh - dates far back into history; it was much enlarged in the 19th century. Because of its strategic importance guarding the entrance to the deep water harbour of Lough Swilly, control of the fort was retained by Britain after independence was granted to the Irish Republic, and Irish sovereignty was only secured in 1936. Now houses a military museum which was first opened to the public in 1986 and has attracted tourists from all over the world ever since.

// Dunree Fort


Elagh Castle (aka Doherty Tower) See above

// Eskaheen Monastery


// Fahan - site of Church and site of early Monastery


Garton-Rath 'Abbey' Church

WIKI Garton- Rath Monastry

Glenveagh Castle, Complete Castle

Greencastle Castle Ruins

// Grianan Aileach (or Ailligh ) a 2,000 plus year old ring fort near Burt. It was the seat of the High Kings O'Neill for around seven centuries from the 5th century. To the left of the ring fort there is a burial mound (tumulus). The burial mound is thought to date from 3,000 BC.

From the Commissioners of Public Works: It was the royal citadel of the northern Ui Neill from the 5th to the 12th century. It was probably built some time around the birth of Christ. Its builders may have been attracted to this hilltop site by the presence here of a sacred monument ~ a prehistoric burial mound or tumulus, possibly from the Neolithic period (about 3000 BC).

We Love Donegal


Horn Head House The Horn Head estate was bought in 1700 by Captain Charles Stewart, a veteran of the Battle of the Boyne.

WIKI Horn Head


// Inch Castle stands at the southern tip of Inch Island and was built in the mid-15th century by the O'Dohertys for the defence of Inishowen. The ground floor is nearly complete but the other floors are in ruins and have probably been in that state since the early 17th century.



//// Killybegs St. Catherine's Friary

// Kilclooney Dolmen in County Donegal, dates from circa. 3500 BC, is a very fine example of a dolmen, or portal tomb. The Kilclooney dolmen sits on a small hill about 4 miles north north west of Ardara.

// Killydonnell Friary

// Kilmacrenan Friary

// Knockalla Fort - built in 1810 by the British as a defence against possible French invasion of Ireland. The fort was one of six built on Lough Swilly and acted as the main headquarters. It consists of a Martello tower with walls 11 foot thick and faced with sandstone to minimise the effects of shrapnel on the men below during attack. Inside the fort there are two wells; one is located at the foot of the tower and the second, if the siege took a turn for the worst, inside the tower itself. The fort and surrounding grounds were sold in the 2000’s for 740,000 euro.


Lough Eske castle (now a five star hotel, Solis Lough Eske).


// Mevagh Monesttery

Monellan Castle

Mongavlin Castle

Moross Castle - near Ross Point. Ruin

Geograph 1918194


// Northburgh Castle Built in the early 1305 by the Norman Richard de Burgh, Red Earl of Ulster who acquired the land across Lough Foyle at Moville, from the Bishop of Derry. He built Northburgh Castle opposite his Manor or Roe in the county of Coleraine. The Annals of Ulster Clonmacnois both confirm this.. At the time the de Burgh controlled most of Ireland, however, Inishowen and Tir Connail escaped his grasp. The O'Donnells and the O'Doherty's remained free and independent here, largely due to the aid they received from the old Norse kingdom of Argyle and the Hebrides.(From an info board at the castle entrance)

Geograph 51727


O'Doherty Castle Ruins - see Carrickabraghy Castle above near Buncrana (NOT Burt's Castle)

O'Doherty's Keep Buncrana

○ Images at We Love Donegal - Doherty's Keep




Rahan Castle, Ruins

Raphoe Castle, Ruins

// The Bishop's Palace in Raphoe - a castle on the outskirts of the smallest cathedral city in Ireland, Raphoe.

// Rathmullan Priory, built in 1508 by Rory MacSweeney Fanad and presented to Carmelite Friar MacSweeney of Connacht 1516. Plundered by George Bingham (1595) and used as a Barracks (1601) by Ralph Bingley. In 1618 the Nave or western portion was adapted as a castle-residence by Bishop Knox. It's Garrison repulsed the Jacobite Duke of Berwick in 1689. The Chancel (eastern) portion of the Church continued as a Parish Church until it's abandonment in 1814.

Rossnowlagh Friary

WIKI Donegal Monastic Houses



// Termon Castle



Wardtown Castle a "landlord's house"; when the rates were abolished the house came into dis-repair after funds were not available for its upkeep, and its demise was accelerated by the fact that the roofing materials were removed by the poor tenants. Occupied by Henry Folliott. Baron of Ballyshannon in the early 1600's.

Henry Folliott, 1st Baron Folliott


References and Sources

County Denegal Specific

▶︎ WIKI List of Monastic HOuses, Donegal

▶︎ We Love Donegal

▶︎ WIKI List of National Monuments in County Donegal


National Trust

English Heritage

▷ [ WIKI List of country houses in the UK]

Britain's Finest

▷ [ Britain Express]

Lankdmark Trust

Historic Houses Association - represents 1,500 houses in the UK

Hudson's Historic Houses and Gardens - UK - guidebook of over 2,000 houses open to the public

The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses - database of over 7,000 houses

Lost Heritage - A Memorial to the Lost Country Houses of England - list of over 1,700 houses

National Trust for Historic Preservation - online database of historic houses in the United State

- Historic Houses Association

WIKI Treasure Houses of England

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