This medieval tower house, built in 1480 by the Gaelic nobleman Diarmud O'Dea, today houses the Clare Archaeology Centre. Beautifully restored, the castle serves not only as a museum, but as an attraction in its own right, and as the centre of a walking trail that features many other sites of historical interest.
History of Dysert O'Dea Castle
The O'Dea family holds the distinction of being one of the first families in Europe to begin using a surname.
- The O'Deas were major landowners in this part of County Clare until the Flight of the Wild Geese in 1691.
- At that point, the lands were confiscated and turned over to the Synge family.
- In 1823, a descendant, Edward Synge, was in control of the lands and led a long crusade against Catholicism.
- Edward Synge's son, also named Edward, eventually inherited the O'Dea properties, and refurbished the chapel and other buildings. He is buried in the churchyard at Dysert O'Dea Castle
- John B. O'Day of Wisconsin purchased Dysert O'Dea Castle in 1968 and renovated the archaeologically important sites, where investigations for further finds continue
Known as castles, these fortified homes with castle-like features were introduced to Ireland by the Normans. A rectangular tower of about five stories high, with a sprial staircase (intact) and a stone vault, O'Dea's castle displays typical features of an Hiberno Norman tower house. Beautifully restored, the castle's features also include:
- A murder hole, protecting the castle entrance
- A main reception room, timber panelled, with a large fireplace, on the top floor
Clare Archaeology Centre and Museum
The Centre is based on the third floor, and contains a range of artefacts from the surrounding areas, which span from the Ireland's prehistoric past, right up to the twentieth century. An audiovisual presentation tells the history of County Clare.
The Archaeology Trail
The castle is part of a group of many visitor attractions within a two mile radius. At the Archaeology Centre, request a map of the walking or cycling trail, which includes:
- The 8th century monastic site founded by St. Tola, along with a church from the late medieval period complete with interesting period carvings of human masks and geometric motifs.
- St. Tola's High Cross from the 12th century, ringless in design, a characteristic particular of the High Crosses that stand in County Clare. This cross was refurbished in 1683 by a member of the O'Dea family, according to an inscription that appears on the surface.
- Also along the trail are
- A medieval stone fort
- A 14th century battlefield
- A fulacht fiadh, or ancient cooking site
- The ruins of Rath Castle, another tower house, also sacked by Cromwell's army, which once stood at over 100 feet
- The ruins of Rath Church, a 14th century structure
- The ruins of Synge's Lodge, a Georgian guest-house
The maps feature a well-marked trail that winds its way through approximately 25 historical monuments on the surrounding property.
Dysert O'Dea Castle. Image by Stacy
Celtic cross, which can be be seen on the walking trail. Image by Larry Lamb