Imagine the perfect setting for a fairy tale: on a shimmering, deep blue lake, a lonely island stands the test of time; in it, rising above the fog, are the ruins of a once majestic castle, turrets, and towers slowly being overtaken by ivy, walls crumbling, but still magical. This is a picture visitors can see in real life, south of Boyle in the Republic of Ireland.
This place is Castle Island, one of the dozen of small islands that dot the vast scenic forests of Lough Key, where McDermott’s Castle stands the test of time. Destroyed, reconstructed, and abandoned many times over, this fairy tale castle has a suiting exciting background; witness to nearly a thousand years of Irish history, McDermotts’s Castle Island has been home to several generations of rulers and dynasties, the stage of battles, celebrations, conquests, and doomed love stories.
The History Behind McDermott’s Castle
The turrets and crumbling castle walls that are seen today, overtaken by nature and ivy, have an earlier past than this castle’s imposing look might indicate: in the 19th century, Welsh architect John Nash (who projected Buckingham Palace) acquired Castle Island then abandoned for over three centuries, and built himself a folly castle. However, the history of the island is much older, dating back to the early Middle Ages, when Gaelic kings ruled over Ireland and when Castle Island was home and stronghold of kings.
The Medieval Kingdom Of Moylurg
In the medieval age, Gaelic Ireland was divided into many kingdoms, sometimes brought together by one High King. One of these kingdoms, in the region of modern County Roscommon, was the Moylurg (Magh Luirg) Kingdom, which for five centuries was ruled by the McDermott (Mac Diarmata) Clan.
According to the Annals of Loch Cè, one of the most important documents of medieval Ireland, Castle Island, then known as “the Rock,” was the seat of the McDermotts at the heart of Lough Key (Loch Cé in Irish). The Annals covered the events of Connacht and Moylurg from 1014 to 1590, chronicling McDermott’s castle history through the centuries.
The McDermott Clan was permanently forced out of the Rock in the 1580s by Anglo-Norman invaders. The island would remain abandoned for centuries, pieces of the castles built and rebuilt through all the centuries of Moylurg left to rot.