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McDermott's Castle is located on the Lough Key lake in County Roscommon, in north-central Ireland. The beautiful little half-acre island it was built upon was aptly named Castle Island. Flickr/Greg Clarke
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Recreational camera-drone operators and photographers flock to McDermott's Castle for the breathtaking views.Instagram/ancient.scientist
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McDermott's Castle was built in the 12th century, while the Mac Diarmada family were the ruling dynasty of Moylurg (or "Magh Luirg" in Irish), a Medieval Irish kingdom in the Connaught (or "Connacht") province. The latter was a kingdom of its own, with tensions between the two arising in the 13th century.Facebook/Love Ireland
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Much of McDermott's Castle was either destroyed, rebuilt at a later date, or modified in the last several centuries.Facebook/Kelly Whalley
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According to the Annals of Loch Cé, a compendium of historical events in Connacht that was commissioned by King Brian MacDermott in the 16th century, the eponymous castle was struck by lightning in 1184. Several people died in the subsequent fire, while the castle itself was rebuilt thereafter.
Facebook/Mount Talbot - A Journey Through the Ages
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The Medieval structure is currently overgrown with vines and weeds.Facebook/Lough Key. Boyle
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The surrounding woodlands of Lough Key Forest Park are comprised of around 2,000 acres of lush greenery. The observation tower with a view of McDermott's Castle seen here is just one of many nearby attractions, including Trinity Bridge, the Bog Garden, a wishing chair, and several underground tunnels.Instagram/gunnarreid
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Overcast skies arguably make for the most appropriate weather in which to visit the Medieval castle.Flickr/Elena
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During Cormac McDermott's ownership, the so-called Hag of Lough Key resourcefully tricked the king into letting her live on the island for an entire year. She had been permitted to spend the night, but cunningly warned him that forcing her to leave the next morning wouldn't connote royal hospitality.Instagram/freeway_traveling
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The lake of Lough Key during appropriately foggy weather, which recalls the tragic drownings of several on the isle.Instagram/mytrueancestry
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The lake of Lough Key itself is about six miles across, with more than 30 islands rising out of its cold waters. Facebook/We Love Ireland
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A particularly luscious moment on Castle Island, as fall and winter give way to spring and summer climates.Instagram/freeway_traveling
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Local Irish legend has it that Úna Bhán, the daughter of a McDermott chief, once fell in love with a boy who wasn't deemed worthy of her namesake. She was thus prohibited from leaving Castle Island, in order to let the romance wither.
Nonetheless, the infatuated boy began swimming across the lake of Lough Key to reach his love — and drowned. The tale concludes with Úna Bhán dying of grief, and the young lovers buried together beneath two intertwined oak trees on the island.Facebook/Lough Key. Boyle
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McDermott's Castle: isolated, historic, and picturesque.Facebook/Go To Ireland Oz
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Legend also has it that Lough Key was named after Ce', a druid who drowned to death when the lake was formed. Facebook/Love Ireland
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Castle Island is almost perfectly circular, as seen in this early morning shot.Instagram/graciousopulence
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The current iteration of McDermott's Castle was renovated by the King family in the 1800s as a folly, or structure intended to exhibit wealth and power. The family was betstowed the property during the 17th-century reign of Oliver Cromwell.
The King family intended to use these premises as a venue for festivities and socialite events, but ultimately let it fall into ruin.Facebook/Gareth Wray Photography
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The property has gone up for auction in the past, but remains an historic and protected site.Instagram/turismoirlanda
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William Butler Yeats famously tried to purchase McDermott's Castle and half an acre of Castle Island from the King family in 1899. He was enamored with the local legends, and hoped to turn the property into an Irish heritage site, but was turned down.Instagram/turismoirlanda
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Close-ups of the structure often connote more of its abandoned nature rather than the castle's rich history.Facebook/Flo Brodt Crisp
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Cormac MacDermott owned the island in the 13th century. As the King of Moylurg, he was forced to defend the island when his castle was attacked by the 1st Baron of Connaught, Richard Mór de Burgh, in 1235 A.D.
De Burgh initially laid siege to McDermott's castle with fire ships, before using a raft-mounted catapult to destroy the castle walls and allow 500 mounted knights to invade. Ultimately, the McDermotts retained ownership until the 16th century.Instagram/thetravelli0n
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One can almost hear the crows echoing in the distance through images like these.Facebook/Ragnum Barbaricum
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Member of the Royal Dublin Society and Irish explorer Isaac Weld wrote about McDermott's Castle in 1832. He described the "castle proper" as containing two rooms, one atop the other, which each measured 36 feet by 22 feet. The walls, meanwhile, were purportedly seven and a half feet thick — while it remains unclear which exact iteration of the castle he had observed.Facebook/Jack O'Shea
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Boat tours around Lough Key make for rather pristine sightseeing opportunities of the castle, regardless of weather.Instagram/ardcarnelodge
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The remains still standing on Castle Island essentially stem from three distinct periods, at the very least. The enclosure wall marks the earliest constructions, dating back to an early Medieval period — though it has yet to be officially dated.
Architect John Nash, meanwhile, built additions to the tower and a kitchen in the early 1800s. Partially renovated as a summer home thereafter, the structure burned to the ground during World War II.Instagram/dreamescapeltd
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McDermott's Castle as seen through the trees of Lough Key Forest Park.Wikimedia Commons
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As Castle Island remains seemingly frozen in time, the skies above as reflected below are in constant flux.Facebook/Peter Nagy
27 Stunning Photos Of McDermott’s Castle, The Irish Palace With A Haunting Secret
While McDermott's Castle is a picturesque sight to behold, the Medieval structure has a rich history in its walls that calls out for visitors to study it. And its 12th-century foundations aren't the only features spurring curiosity — the surrounding lake of Lough Key inspired Irish legends that are just as entrancing.
The History Of McDermott's Castle
McDermott's Castle is situated on Lough Key lake in County Roscommon in north-central Ireland. It was built in the 12th century on what has since been known as Castle Island. Though the isle holds several structures which date to various historical periods, the story of McDermott's Castle began with the titular clan itself.
Sources are scarce with insight into the region's Medieval period, with the Annals of Loch Cé most relevant. This Irish historical record chronicled the events of the Connaught (or "Connacht" in Irish) province, a Medieval Irish kingdom that contained Moylurg (or "Magh Luirg") — or modern-day County Roscommon.
Wikimedia CommonsA view of Castle Island from afar.
The Mac Diarmada family, later anglicized as McDermott, ruled Moylurg from the 10th to 16th centuries. Their eponymous castle was erected in the 12th century, but the Annals of Loch Cé (or "Lough Key") noted that disaster struck in 1184 as a lightning bolt engulfed the castle in fire.
Escalating tensions between the powers of Connaught and Moylurg led to war in 1235 A.D. The 1st Baron of Connaught, Richard Mór de Burgh, laid siege to Cormac McDermott's castle. Despite de Burgh's victory in battle with raft-mounted catapults and fireships, McDermott's family retained the castle until the 16th century.
The Historical Lough Key Site Today
Legend has it that a chief of the McDermotts during their reign was so opposed to his daughter's romance with a local boy of a lower class that he forbade her from leaving the island. When the boy tried swimming to her, he drowned — and the girl died of grief. Ultimately, folklore gave way to more considerable history.
It was in the 17th century, during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, that the King family was given the island. They intended to use it for social gatherings, but let it fall into disrepair. Author William Butler Yeats tried to purchase the castle from them in 1899 to turn it into a heritage site, but was turned away.
It was last actually used as a summer home until a fire during World War II relegated the castle to an abandoned husk. While the siege warfare and Lough Key tragedies remain shrouded in myth, these latest developments are undoubtedly factual — as was the auction of 2018.
Though BidX1 listed the property for around $110,000, it has been retained as a national historic site of Ireland — with local boat tours and on-site visits available for historians and folklore buffs alike.
After viewing these images of McDermott's Castle, check out these nine abandoned castles still glorious despite their decay. Then, learn about Loftus Hall — the most haunted mansion in Ireland.
A staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff has also published work at outlets including People, VICE, and Complex, covering everything from film to finance to technology. He holds dual bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a master's degree from New York University.