Historical landmark in Achill Island

Kildownet Castle

Discover Kildownet Castle on Achill Island, the 15th-century fortress of Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley with scenic coastal views.

Overlooking the rocky coastline of Achill Island, Kildownet Castle stands as a witness to the island's past conflicts and tales of piracy. Built in the 15th century, the castle was once the stronghold of the legendary Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley. Today, its ruins offer a glimpse into Ireland's tumultuous history, while providing panoramic views of the Clew Bay and the surrounding untamed landscape.

Historical Significance

Kildownet Castle, also known as Grace O'Malley's Castle, is a significant historical landmark that dates back to the 15th century. Grace O'Malley, also known as Gráinne Mhaol, was a formidable pirate and chieftain who commanded a fleet of ships along the west coast of Ireland. The castle served as one of her key strongholds, central to her seafaring exploits and resistance against English rule. Visitors can explore the remaining structure and imagine the days when O'Malley ruled the seas and led her people from this very fortress.

Architectural Features

Despite its ruinous state, Kildownet Castle showcases typical features of tower houses from the period. Its sturdy construction and strategic location were ideal for defense and control over the adjacent waters of Clew Bay. The remaining walls and partial structures allow for educational insights into the architectural methods and defensive strategies employed during the time of its construction.

Local Wildlife and Nature

Surrounding the castle, the natural beauty of Achill Island is on full display. The area is home to diverse wildlife, including numerous bird species – a delight for birdwatchers. The rugged landscape, with its cliffs and coastal features, invites nature enthusiasts to observe and enjoy the wild, unspoiled scenery that has changed little since the days of the O'Malley clan.


Kildownet Castle is situated on the southern part of Achill Island, which is connected to the mainland by bridge. The site is readily accessible by car, with parking available nearby. It's advised that visitors wear sturdy footwear to navigate the uneven terrain around the ruins. The castle itself can be reached by a short walk from the car parking area, making it accessible to most visitors.

Views and Scenery

The ruins offer stunning views of Clew Bay with its scattered islands, and on a clear day, you may be able to see the distant Nephin Beg mountain range. It's a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts aiming to capture the raw beauty of Ireland's western shoreline.

Activities and Tours

Although there are no official tours of Kildownet Castle, the site is a popular stop for those exploring Achill Island. Many choose to combine their visit with walks along the local beaches or a drive along the scenic Atlantic Drive. Local tour operators on Achill Island may include stories of Grace O'Malley in their broader historical accounts of the area during guided tours. The adventurous can even partake in water-based activities such as kayaking in Clew Bay, allowing for a unique perspective of the castle from the water.

Nearby Historical Sites

In close proximity to Kildownet Castle, visitors can also explore other historical sites on Achill Island, such as the Deserted Village at Slievemore, where abandoned stone cottages offer a poignant reminder of the Great Famine and subsequent emigration. Combining these stops provides a deeper understanding of the history and heritage of Achill Island and its people.

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