Europe

A Disappointing Experience at Dunguaire Castle

When you’re anticipating a trip, you can plan everything out until you are sure you’ve got it all just right, but when it comes down to it, no matter how prepared you think you are, sometimes things will still go awry. And that’s what happened to us at Dunguaire Castle on our second morning in Ireland.

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

None of us had ever seen a real castle in person, much less been inside one, so we were really looking forward to checking out Dunguaire Castle, the most photographed castle in all of Ireland. Located in County Galway on the shores of Galway Bay, we had a good 45-minute drive to get to it from where we were staying in Doolin, but we’d already planned to make a day of it and check out Galway while we were in the area, so we didn’t mind the drive.

When we arrived, something didn’t look quite right to me. At first I thought it was because the castle looked so much smaller than I’d expected it to be. In fact, it didn’t look very castle-y at all. It looked more like a fort or a prison than a castle. But Dunguaire Castle’s size wasn’t the only thing that had me puzzled – something else was different, I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

We arrived about an hour after the castle was due to be open. Only a few other visitors were there, so we didn’t feel any pressure to hurry inside and get our tickets before it got crowded. We took a walk along the trail lining the perimeter of the castle, taking pictures and running our fingers over the cracks in the old stone walls. Built sometime in the 16th century, Dunguaire Castle has since been restored, but it still looks plenty old to me!

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

Finally we made our way into the castle courtyard where all the other tourists had gathered. At first I didn’t notice because I was too busy trying to get shots of the castle without people in them, but when I stopped for a moment I realized everyone was just standing around and peering in the windows. No one was actually going inside. Why? Because it was closed. No explanation, just closed. So we joined the people pressing their faces against the glass to get a glimpse of the inside and then left. What a disappointment.

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

It wasn’t until we were making our way to the front gates of the castle, looking at the grounds as we passed, that it finally hit me why I didn’t recognize the castle when I first saw it. Oh my gosh! The lake is missing! In all of the pictures I’d seen, Dunguaire Castle looked infinitely more beautiful because there was a body of water beside it, but when we visited, it was just gone! A few pools of water had formed from groundwater coming up by the castle, but that was it. How bizarre! As disappointed as I felt about our castle plans going down the drain, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself for not noticing such a drastic difference right away.

Legend has it that people who stand at the front gates of Dunguaire Castle and ask a question of King Guaire will have an answer by the end of the day. Well, I’ve got two for you, King Guaire – just when is your castle open, and what happened to your lake?!

Dunguaire Castle: Website
Address: Kinvarra, County Galway

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Dunguaire Castle In County Galway, Ireland

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  • Marina
    February 27, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    I guess you might better enjoy it while taking part of its medieval banquet! I did it in Knappogue Castle Banquet, and although it is quite expensive, it’s absolutelly worth it.

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 28, 2015 at 6:29 PM

      Thank you for the link! I definitely think we would have enjoyed it, especially my daughter. We will have to try to do something like that sometime. I bet it’s a very memorable experience!

  • Decla nash
    November 5, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    Hi im from kinvara and to answer your question about the “lake”, there is no lake I don’t know why you thought there was a lake. When the tide is high it surrounds the castle. Opening times for the castle is 10-5 April to October

    • Sarah Shumate
      November 5, 2014 at 8:11 AM

      Hi Decla! Thanks for your comment! The reason I thought there was a lake was because I’m not from Kinvara and had only seen pictures of Dunguaire Castle online and in every one, there was what appeared to be a lake on one side. I didn’t realize until we got there that it is only beside the castle when the tide is in!

      We visited the castle in mid-April after 11am (we had checked the website and had seen it should have been open) and the castle was closed – no explanation of why. I hate we missed getting to tour it!

  • Sara Louise
    May 28, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    That’s a bummer!

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 29, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      It’s okay! There will be more castles! :)

      • Sara Louise
        May 29, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        That’s the great thing about Europe, there’s always another castle! :D

  • Emmymom
    May 19, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    Awe bummer- sorry it didn’t work out. We have had experiences with places we were planning on going being closed too, never fun.

  • Jo
    May 14, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    What a bummer!

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 14, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      It’s okay! We hope to check out Windsor Castle this month. Hopefully that’ll be a better experience!

      • Jo
        May 14, 2014 at 2:36 PM

        Hoping to run into some royals? :)

        • Sarah Shumate
          May 14, 2014 at 2:49 PM

          We’d probably have better luck at Buckingham or Kensington Palace if that were our goal! :)

          I still think it’s crazy that William and Harry were in my old hometown a couple weeks ago. Lots of my friends from high school caught glimpses of them entering and leaving a famous restaurant downtown, which means my friends in Memphis, TN have seen the royal family, but I still haven’t! Something is wrong there.

          • Jo
            May 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

            I once had lunch at the Pizza Hut across from my office and prince Laurent (Belgian prince) was there. He’s also been at our ‘local’ McDonald’s while we were there with our kids … But I would actually like to see Wills or Harry :)

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    May 12, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    haha oh man, I get disappointed by “castles” too sometimes. I’ve been to some good ones but a lot of them are like this and just look like fortresses. Not quite the fairytale castles of my childhood.

  • Autumn @ The Spirited Violet
    May 11, 2014 at 3:29 AM

    This makes me so sad that the castle was closed and the lake was dried up! I hope your next castle experience is a lot better!

  • Katrin
    May 10, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Haha I am pretty sure that I would not have realized the missing lake either. But I am sorry about the disappointing trip. It is such a shame that the castle was closed! :( I love visiting castles (and old cemeteries)….Hope you will be able to visit again at some point!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    May 10, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    How crazy!! No lake, not open! That would be disappointing!

  • Mrs. Match
    May 10, 2014 at 5:02 AM

    Oh what a huge disappointment! I’ve had experiences like that before and it’s so frustrating!

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    May 9, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    Haha Sarah, you’re so funny. Cinderella’s castle does look a wee bit better. Weird about the lake though?! If you ever find out, please let me know!

  • Stacie Stamper
    May 9, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Love your choice of questions!

  • stephanie
    May 9, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    What happened to your lake?! That made me laugh out loud for some reason!! I’m sorry your castle trip was a flop. Maybe the next castle will be even more impressive and worth the wait!

  • Mandy Southgate
    May 9, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    Oh no! Castles are one of my three favourite things, along with ruins and churches and I would be gutted if I went all the way there and couldn’t get inside!! I’d also definitely like to see the lake – what on earth could have happened to it??

    I feel like I need to take you castle hopping! I love castles so much I have a “castle” tag on my blog and Kent has many castles!!

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 11, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      Cory thinks that maybe we visited too early in the day – maybe the lake fills up in the afternoon when the tides come in from the bay? That’s the only explanation we can come up with.

      We are hoping to attempt a second castle experience two weekends from now. We want to rent a car to go to Stonehenge and Avebury, and on our way back we’ll check out Windsor Castle. Hopefully we can fit all of that into one day! :)

      • Mandy Southgate
        May 13, 2014 at 8:39 PM

        I think you can if you leave early enough. Stonehenge is actually quite close (but perhaps I’m only thinking that because it was our first milestone on a five hour journey to Cornwall).

        • Sarah Shumate
          May 14, 2014 at 1:53 PM

          Good – I was hoping we could do it. We planned to be at Stonehenge when it opened, less crowds that way. Then head to Avebury, then Windsor Castle. It’ll be a full day, but we didn’t want to rent the car for more than one. Cornwall is another place we’d love to see! (I’m growing quite the list in England alone!)

    • Andrea
      July 22, 2018 at 1:43 AM

      It might be a good idea to get the facts before you complain!! Dunguaire Castle is situated on a bay, which means it is sea water, not a lake. The sea has high and low water, if you happen to be there at low tide, imagine! The water is all gone!

      • Sarah Shumate
        July 22, 2018 at 8:34 PM

        Yes, we did realize that after the fact. I’d never seen a photo of the castle in which the tide was low, so I didn’t realize the water wasn’t always there.

        However, I wasn’t really complaining. That’s just how things go when you travel. Of course we were disappointed to discover the castle was closed with no explanation (it was supposed to be open that day), but maybe someday we’ll be back in the area and can try again!