Dungiven Castle is a 19th Century castle with great views of the countryside around the town of Dungiven and the Sperrin Mountains.
The first castle in Dungiven was built by the O’Cahan family. It was defended in front by earthworks and had two rectangular walls. The inner wall was the more substantial of the two and had square flanking towers at the corners. The main keep had round towers and were fitted with gun ports for muskets.
During the flight of the Earls in 1607 the chief of the O’Cahans, Sir Donnell O’Cahan, was implicated in treason and had his lands and titles confiscated, including Dungiven Castle.
The basis for Dungiven Castle was constructed a short distance away by Captain Edward Carey in the mid-17th Century as a simple single-storey courtyard castle.
At this time castles were falling out of favour so it could be viewed as a manor house with castle-like features.
The castle we see in Dungiven today was built by Robert Ogilby between 1836 and 1839 on top of Carey’s castle which had been badly damaged in a fire.
Unfortunately Ogilby died before construction was completed. His successors took no interest in the castle and the partially-complete castle was neglected before it had even been finished.
The basic structure of the castle was stable and intact – it just lacked a proper interior. The castle passed through various hands, but no-one actually took on the job of finishing it properly.
During the Second World War Dungiven Castle was used to house the US Army. After the war it was used as a dance hall and music venue, when it played host to Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck amongst others.
Eventually the site was purchased by Limavady Borough Council. The building was in such a state of disrepair that they sought to have it demolished. Fortunately a local pressure group was formed to save the castle and find a new use for it, and they succeeded.
In 1989 Dungiven Castle was leased by Glenshane Community Development who, with the help of various funding bodies, renovated and redeveloped it. It re-opened as a budget accommodation in March 2001.
In 2009 the castle was renovated and redecorated yet again. This time in a manner more befitting a historic manor house.
Today parts of the castle are open to the public with the rest of it serving as a hotel with a 4* Castle Estate designation. The rooms have been decorated with a Laura Ashely interior design and the castle now boasts an award-winning restaurant.
Dungiven Castle stands in 22 acres of landscaped grounds which is also open to public as Dungiven Castle Park. The park has a range of activities for visitors including a Victorian Garden, two urban walks, a duck pond and woodlands.
The park is due to host three sculptures by renowned Irish artist Maurice Harron. The sculptures will depict the story of Sir Donnell O’Cahan whose story, it is said, inspired the tune of “Danny Boy”.
The last 20 years have seen the castle undergo a complete transformation. From a near-ruin Dungiven castle has been transformed into award-winning luxury hotel accommodation with facilities available for corporate functions, meetings and even private wedding functions.
Front of Dungiven Castle
Dungiven Castle and Benbradagh Mountain