Located in the middle of the Lough Key Lake, McDermott’s Castle is one of the oldest national monuments of Ireland. The castle’s history goes so far back that it even gave the island its name which is Castle Island.
McDermott’s castle is one of the central pieces of the Annals of Loch Cé, which covers a span of 500 years of Irish history. According to the text, between 1000 and 1590, the clan of McDermotts ruled Ireland. Their chief was Mac Diarmada who gave the clan and the castle its name. The Castle Island today, which the clan called the Rock, was their seat, a royal residence so to speak.
Although it seems like a small piece of land in the middle of nowhere, McDermott’s Castle was a place of constant conflicts, battles, invasions, destruction, and tragedy. In the late 12th century, a bolt of lightning and ensuing fire nearly destroyed the castle. In the following centuries, many tribes, Celtic and others, tried to take the castle from the McDermotts.
Until 1580 when Anglo-Normans completely drove away the clan, many McDermott rulers lived, ruled, and died on the island and in McDermott’s Castle. From that point on, the castle remained abandoned for centuries until the 19th century when renovations began.
McDermott’s Castle was also home to a love tragedy. According to the story, the daughter of the chief falls in love with a peasant boy. Although they love each other very much, the chief does not approve of the relationship and forbids her daughter from seeing him.
However, the young couple continues to meet secretly. The boy swims every night to the island but one day he drowns and dies. The death of her lover upsets the girl so much that she dies from grief as well. In order to honor their forbidden love, the chief buries them together under the same tree on the island.
But of course, this is only a story, one might even say a fairy tale. There were extensive archeological excavations in 2019 and the remains of the alleged couple were nowhere to be found. What the officials did find was the fact that there are traces of at least 3 different time periods on the island.
Additionally, some Gaelic artifacts, silver materials, and collections of animal remains were found on the site as well. Today, the castle is still abandoned but it has an owner. Although it was put on sale for 80,000 pounds, it did not happen, and the castle stayed with the fund.