Doe Castle, County Donegal

Once a freebooters’ stronghold, on a tongue of land that projects into Sheep Haven, Doe Castle dates from the early 15th century. Its name is an anglicised version of the Irish word ‘tuath’, meaning district or territory. In the 1440s it fell into the hands of the McSweeney (or MacSuibhne) clan, renowned for their constant changes of allegiance in the centuries-long tussle between English and the Irish. Its remote position kept it safe for longer than most such strongholds, and it did not fall to the English until 1650, when the Cromwellians captured it in a surprise ambitious attack.

The rock-cut moat that leads into the castle was formerly guarded by a drawbridge and portcullis, but this is now spanned by a bridge. The initials ‘GVH’ set into the North wall are those of General George Vaughan Harte, who altered the castle greatly in the early 19th century. He had served in India, and brought back with him an Indian manservant who is said to have slept fully armed on a mat outside his master’s bedroom door.

In the nearby graveyard are several tombs of the McSweeneys and other clan Chieftains.

Doe Castle is a real hidden gem that is worth a visit on your Ireland tours.