Dun Hill and its surrounding area in Bunowen is saturated with local history.
O’Flaherty’s castle, built in the early 1500s, overlooks a private beach which, in days gone by, would have been used as the main access point to and from the castle. For the ‘Ferocious O’Flahertys’ were seafarers; the head of the clan, Donal, even married the legendary pirate queen Granuaile (Grace O’Malley), living together at Bunowen for sixteen years and bearing three children until his untimely death on a hunting trip.
Near to the beach, an old ruined church from the Early Christian Period, thereby predating the castle, can also be examined. Inside, a tablet of old, indistinguishable writing is set into the floor, providing perhaps an interesting specimen from which to do a charcoal or crayon rubbing. With a wonderful beach-side view, communal mass conducted in this chapel would have certainly felt spiritual.
A structure closely resembling a ring-fort is visible from the chapel ruin too. The circular, stone-walled enclosure was more than likely built to keep sheep in rather than as an actual fortress though. Interestingly, 'dun' translates to 'fort' from Gaelic to English, which literally suggests that Dun Hill was in fact a hill-fort in times long past.
Upon ascending Dun Hill itself, a British World War I tower, designed for the purpose of monitoring all sea activity for enemy forces, sits atop in fine condition. Furthermore it is believed by some locals that the oddly-shaped ‘M’ and ‘V’ foundations to be discovered just outside date as far back as Napoleon.
As a native of Ballyconneely, I was privileged to climb Dun Hill and explore the rest of the castle grounds because it is private property and, therefore, does not usually open its doors to the general public. This location is undeniably one of Galway’s, and indeed, Ireland’s secret historical gems.