The Rock of Dunamaise

The Rock of Dunamaise

The Rock of Dunamaise is one of the most historic and impressive sites in Ireland. Sited in County Laois, it is visible from the M7 Portlaoise bypass and has existed for thousands of years. It was known by the Celts as Dún Masc or the “Fort of Masc”. Ptolemy, one of Alexander the Great’s most trusted generals, and one of the most influential Greek astronomers and geographers of his time knew of it and called it “Dunnum”, in his famous 2nd century “Map of the World”.

The Rock, a mighty limestone outcrop standing 150ft high is a natural defensive position. It was first fortified by pre-Celtic Bronze Age settlers. King Laois Mór, who gave the county its name, was one of its earliest inhabitants. The Vikings plundered it in 845AD. In the 13th century it was gifted to Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow when he married Aoife, daughter of Art McMurrough, a great Irish chieftain, by his new son-in-law Diarmuid McMurrough. It was passed by Strongbow to the Mortimer family who were Anglo-Normans and from them to the descendants of Laois Ceann Moore, who used it to harass the Normans and make their lives a living hell.

The O’Moore’s renovated the castle in the 15th century and successfully defended it for over a century until the arrival of the Planters, who exiled the O’Moores to Kerry along with the Fitzpatricks, the O’Dempseys and the O’Dunnes in 1607. Oliver Cromwell (‘The Butcher’) sacked the castle in 1650 and his troop trenches can still be seen today.

A fire-breathing unearthly family pet named Bandog still roams the ruins and guards treasure hidden deep in its recesses...


“I moved to Laois some 10 years ago (1998), with my wife Betty, and roamed the plains where the O’Moores and the O’Dempseys rampaged in County Laois. One day I came upon the edifice - The Rock of Dunamaise, suffused in an autumnal light. I was compelled to register my feelings: oil and canvas was my medium. When I first saw it, the words of Shakespeare from ‘Julius Caesar’ came to mind, personifying The Rock.

“Why, man, he doth bestride the world like a Colossus,
and we petty men walk under his huge legs,
and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves.”

William Shakespeare, from Julius Caesar

Based in the plains, you can see the Slieve Bloom mountains from The Rock.

“I am monarch of all I survey, my right there is none to dispute”.
William Cowper

The original painting lies in the hands of Pat Fox. No more than 200 numbered, limited edition reproductions will be made of this image and when one is purchased it is certifiable as one of this 200. I hope you enjoy my impression.”