Hearts Through History Romance Writers

A Castle By Any Other Name …

by | February 8, 2010 | 11 comments

“They” say that everything happens for a reason. “They” say that there are no coincidences in life. I don’t know if I really believe that, but certainly I’ve begun to believe in destiny over the past year or so.
Some time ago, I began an e-mail friendship with an Irish actor whom I’d written to on a previous occasion. Over the course of our e-mails, I asked him many questions pertaining to the theatre and acting, since the hero of my current work-in-progress is also an actor. He was unfailingly generous in sharing his theatrical insights and experiences with me.

Eventually I sent him a copy of my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, and I asked him if he thought the cover was as evocative of Ireland as I’d hoped. In reply, he informed me that my cover looked like Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, Galway. The castle holds medieval banquets during the summer season, and has a show, a literary history of Ireland, that is performed after the meal.

Well, naturally, as soon as I heard that, I had to find out more. So I Googled Dunguaire Castle, and much to my amazement, Dunguaire Castle looked identical to Ballycashel House, as depicted on the cover of In Sunshine or in Shadow.
Here’s what I found out about Dunguaire Castle: Built in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan on the shores of Galway Bay, the castle is believed to have been the royal palace of Guaire Aidhne, the legendary King of Connacht and progenitor of the clan.

This is the backstory I created for Ballycashel House (yes, I do write backstory for my settings): a medieval castle in Galway, by the sea. The name Ballycashel means “town of the castle,” and Ballycashel House sits on the ruins of the castle of the ancient chieftain, Sean Donnelly. It’s said the ghost of the chieftain appears to forewarn of a death in the family.

Fate? Destiny? Coincidence? I don’t know for sure, But I was able to visit Dunguaire last July, and I’m convinced that Dunguaire and Ballycashel are one and the same.
Here’s a lovely bit of a verse taken from the entertainment at Dunguaire Castle, written by Carolyn Swift:

For Guaire, King of Connacht, was famed throughout the land

For unrivalled hospitality and a generous giving hand;

And since the seventh century his right arm legend told,

Was longer than his left from giving gold.

He had a royal palace on a river isle near Gort,

But on this very ground there stood Rath Durlois, his fort,

Which often-we are told-was called “the fort of lasting fame,”

And “white-sheeted fort of soft stones”’ was another of its names.

Alas King Guaire feared the saintly bishop of Kilmore,

Though he renounced the crown that should be rightfully his by law,

And determined to settle it without a shade of doubt,

Guaire had the Bishop murdered-but was all too soon found out.

So then, in guilty sorrow at the wrong which he had done,

He traveled to the monks of whom his victim had been one,

And there-in Clonmacnoise,-he died ,within the monastery,

Respected once again by all-the year; six, sixty three.


  1. Obe

    Wow, you gotta love it when fate steps in.. awesome. Both are very beautiful places.


  2. Pat McDermott

    It sounds as if that rascally ghost was "ghostwriting" with you, Cynthia! Stranger things have happened where stories about Ireland are concerned. I've been to Dunguaire Castle, a gorgeous setting, perfect for your Ballycashel House. I'm sure seeing it inspired you even more!

  3. Cynthia Owens

    Hi Nan, thanks for stopping by. It was pretty awesome to visit "my" castle, and imagine the characters from my stories living there a century ago.

  4. Cynthia Owens

    Hi Pat, ghosts, faeries or fate, I don't know which, but it was definitely inspiring. And you're right about the gorgeous setting. But then, is there a single place in Ireland that's NOT gorgeous? Thanks for visiting!

  5. Rebecca Lynn

    That is a really great story.

    One of my friends would say you were "channeling the island", and another would say you must have lived there in a past life, and another would say "your muse must be Irish." Whatever it is, it sounds like destiny to me.

    Thanks for the post.

  6. Cynthia Owens

    Rebecca, I think you might be right – perhaps I did live there in a past life. I don't know about my muse being Irish, but as I like to say, even though I haven't a drop of Irish blood, I'm Irish in spirit. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Mary McCall

    How awesome, Cindy! I think ye auld Celtic spirits are working here. So fabulous that you actually got to visit your "own" castle.

  8. Cynthia Owens

    Hi Mary, it was an amazing experience. I actually felt myself grow very emotional thinking about walking in the footsteps of "my" peopel.

  9. Anonymous

    Enjoyed reading the comments. Some of the castles sound interesting to visit. I bet they were drafty and cold.

  10. Cynthia Owens

    The castles were wonderful, Joye. Cold and drafty, yes, but with a wonderful sense of history. Being up on the battlements was scary, especially for an acrophobic like me, but it was also exhilirating. I really believe I'd been there before. Thanks for visiting!

  11. gaffneyjove@aol.com

    I also visited Dunguaire Castle several yers ago and attended the medieval feast. It was wonderful and added a lot to my undestanding of the size of keeps and the rooms inside. I expected things to be larger tha they were.

    I write late 16th century Irish(in Ulster).



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