Rockfleet Castle:  A Simple Structure that Tells a Fascinating Irish Story

Rockfleet Castle is an exciting example of the many ancient structures along the Western coast of Ireland. Getting to the castle in County Mayo, Connacht Province is a breeze if you're coming from Dublin Airport on the eastern coast.

Irish Expressions - Rockfleet Castle

Just drive clear across the island, from sea to sea, via the M4 and the N5. The last portion of the journey is along the N59, which takes you to the small lane leading to Rockfleet Castle.     

Things to Know About Rockfleet Castle

Here are some fun facts about this amazing Irish landmark.  Hopefully they will entice you to pay a visit in person!

But if that is not possible, you can always use them to impress your friends with your knowledge of one of the most-visited attractions in Ireland.

  • The tower house of Rockfleet Castle is a ruin that looks like a relatively standard tower structure at first glance.
  • However, the castle actually has a fascinating history. Located in County Mayo, the Castle was built in the middle of the 16th century for Grace O’Malley, a woman nicknamed the Pirate Queen.
  • O'Malley controlled much of the Western Coast of Ireland in the 16th century, and she famously switched sides and fought for, rather than against, the English in order to save her brother.
  • Although Rockfleet is privately owned, it is possible to get the key from the farmhouse next to the castle and tour it on your own.
  • The castle is known to many locals by another name: Carraigahowley. That's because in Irish, rock of the fleet translates literally to the phrase Carraig an Chabhlaigh.
  • The castle is said to have been built for two specific people: A man in iron and a pirate queen.
  • Risteárd an Iarainn Bourke, or Richard in Iron, always wore a coat of chain mail. This symbolized his Anglo-Norman ancestry and the fact that he owned the nearby ironworks at Burrishoole.
  • Richard's wife, Granuaile or Grace O'Malley, was the chieftain of the O'Malleys as well as a so-called pirate queen. After she married Richard and moved her ships into Rockfleet, she divorced him and took the castle.
  • There is a legend that says that all of the treasure once found in the castle is now buried in the surrounding hills. However, anyone who finds it and digs it up will be met by the Headless Horseman!
  • Rockfleet Castle, like many Irish castles during the 19th century, was largely abandoned and neglected. In the 1950s, it was partially restored.
  • Visitors are welcome to explore the castle, but don't expect amenities or a gift shop. If the castle doesn't look open, grab the key from next door and explore on your own. 
  • To get from the ground floor to the first floor, you'll need to a climb a wooden ladder. To reach the next two floors of the castle, there is a spiral staircase made of stone.
  • Visiting the castle is an incredible experience because you can literally have the place to yourself. This also allows for excellent photos without crowds of people getting in the way.

You can find more information about this amazing Irish landmark here.

Want More Irish Castles?

It is probably obvious - at Irish Expressions, we love Irish castles!  The Emerald Isle is dotted with hundreds of these incredible structures.  

Sharing pictures and stories about them gives us a deeper sense of connection with Ireland, wherever in the world we happen to be!

We have captured the most amazing pictures and descriptions of Irish castles in an e-book we call "An Illustrated Guide to Irish Castles and Abbeys."

This fun, free guide is available to you to download.  Scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email to get instant access!

That Was Fun!  Where Can I See More?

Great question! As you can see, exploring the castles of Ireland offers many opportunities for enjoying an Irish experience and expressing your personal Irish side!

For more information of this kind, you might pay a visit to our section on Ireland Sightseeing here!