Spectacular views of the surrounding countryside make the towering Rock of Dunamase a strategic place to build a fortress. Through the centuries, warriors have fought to control this site. The Rock of Dunamase is a popular historic attraction found overlooking the valley of the O’Moores, just outside Portlaoise, County Laois. It was the location of an early Christian settlement known as Dun Masc and later became an important Anglo Norman fortification.
The Vikings pillaged the settlement in 842. Later in the 12th century, when the Normans arrived in Ireland, Dunamase became one of the most important Anglo-Norman strongholds in Laois. It was part of the dowry of Aoife, the daughter of Diarmuid Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, when she was given in marriage to the Norman conqueror Strongbow in 1170. When Isabel, the daughter of Strongbow and Aoife, wed William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, Dunamase was given as part of her marriage's wedding gift.
From 1325 until 1609, the castle belonged to the O’Moore family of Laois, before ownership passed to the Earl of Thomond. It was finally destroyed, during the Cromwellian invasion in 1650. Despite the castle’s ruined state, visitors can get a sense of its former grandiosity and also have the opportunity to take in stunning views of the surrounding countryside.