Doe Castle was built in the early 16th Century by a branch of the MacSweeny Clan. Its name comes from the Irish word tuath meaning territory and the family who built it became known as MacSuibhne na dTuath (in English, MacSweeny of the Territory or MacSweeny Doe).
The castle itself consists of a four storey tower house inside a high-walled bawn. The castle sits on a small peninsula, Cannon Point, that juts into Sheephaven Bay. It is surrounded by water on three sides and there is a moat hewn out of the rock on the landward side to protect the walls.
The MacSweeny's held on to the castle for the first 200 years of its life. Its time after that was quite eventful. In 1588 the then Chieftain Eoghan Og gave refuge in the castle to shipwrecked survivors of the Spanish Armada and as a result was given special mention in the Annals of the Four Masters (a medieval Irish chronicle).
Eoghan Og's nephew, Maolmhuire, succeeded him. Maolmhuire was the last MacSweeny Chief to occupy Doe Castle and he was one of the most colourful characters to live at Doe. He lived during the Tyrone Rebellion (Nine Years War) and he switched between the two sides to suit his own advantage. In 1599 he was knighted Sir Myles MacSweeny Doe by the Earl of Essex, but a scant few months later he was back on the side of the Irish helping Red Hugh O'Donnell to capture a substantial amount of English cavalry. He was arrested for this, but he made a daring escape from an English ship on his way to trial.
In 1601 he joined Red Hugh O'Donnell at the Battle of Kinsale. He finally surrendered to the English and received a pardon in 1603 and around 1610 he was granted some lands back at the Plantation of Ulster.
Doe castle changed hands numerous times in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries. The MacSweenys lost the castle to an English garrison 1685 and regained it and lost it again a few times over the next few decades. The family finally lost the castle in 1691 after the siege of Limerick in 1691.
In 1761 the castle was aquired by George Vaughan. His grandson, General George Vaughan Harte, completed extensive renovations to the castle in the early 19th Century. His construction included repairs to the wall and the construction of a ground floor annex. He also modifed the interior of the keep by adding fireplaces and arched recesses. On the entrance on the east side General Harte added his coat of arms and his initials GVH, which can still be seen today.
In the early part of the 20th Century the castle was abandoned and left to fall into ruin. In 1932 the Office of Public Works bought the castle and had it vested as a National Monument and the Irish Government still owns it today.
In the last few years the castle has undergone extensive renovation with the walls being repointed, the floors renewed and new stairs being fitted. Importantly the roof on the keep has also been completed which should help minimise further damage. The castle is still closed as the repair and renovation work is carried out. The MacSweeny clan is keeping track on the renovation progress at www.jmswd.com/sweeneyclan/castles/doerestoration.html.
Status: Closed for repairs
Owner: Government of Ireland
Opening Times: N/A
The keep and wall at Doe Castle
The river, keep and outer walls at Doe Castle