Visitors to this relatively small tower house cannot fail to be delighted by the elegant simplicity of its architecture and by the stark beauty of its setting on an inlet of Crew Bay. But the principal attraction of this romantic place is its association with the legendary Grainne ni Mhaille, Grace O'Malley, who lived here after she married Sir Richard Burke (Richard the Iron) in 1566. Few figures in Irish history catch the imagination more than this remarkable woman, known as the "Pirate Queen", for her undisputed control over the west coast in the late 16th century. Her navy routed large Government seaborne expeditions sent against Rockfleet in 1574 and 1579, while in 1588 she captured ships of the dispersed Spanish Armada and mercilessly killed the crews - an exploit which resulted in her being received in great state by Queen Elizabeth I. After the death of her husband in 1583 she remained at Rockfleet with "all her followers and 1,000 head of cows and mares".
The castle has four storeys with a small rectangular corner turret rising above the parapet. The principal apartment must have been in the top floor where there is a fireplace. After the last war the building was restored by the diplomat Sir Owen O'Malley, a direct descendant of Grace, who lived in the nearby late Georgian house. In more recent years it was acquired by a former American ambassador to Ireland.
8 km (5 miles) W of Newport. NGR: L 915954.
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