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Dundrum, County Down


Ir. Dún Droma ‘hillfort of the ridge’


5.5km NE of Newcastle

par: Kilmegan bar: Lecale Upper

Dundrum townland includes the coastal village of that name, north of which is a castle overlooking Dundrum Inner Bay.  The shore was the site of a battle in 1147, and was then considered part of Lecale (AFM). The erection of the castle is usually attributed to John de Courcy following his invasion of Ulster in 1177 and a defensive bank of this period has been located during the excavations (ASCD 207).  The castle was surrendered to King John in 1210 and remained in royal hands until restored to Hugh de Lacy in 1227.  It was described as ruinous in an inquisition of 1333 and seems to have passed into Irish (Magennis) hands during the 14th century.  In 1517, it was taken by the Earl of Kildare and again in 1538 by Grey, the Lord Deputy (ASCD 207).  Grey had just burned the monastery of Down and carried off its relics, and the Irish annals note that he fell into the dungeon (AU).  Although the site seems to have been occupied from at least the 7th or 8th century AD, the nature of the early defences is uncertain (ASCD 108).

John O’Donovan edited a poem composed by Giolla Bríde Mac Conmidhe lamenting the death of Brian Ó Néill and the defeat of the Irish at the battle of Downpatrick in AD 1260, and identified a place called Dún Droma Dairine as Dundrum (Aeidhe ma chroidhe 1849, 158 l.146 and note).  The classical author Ptolemy’s co-ordinates for a map c.150 AD locate an early tribe called Darini approximately ‘in south Antrim and north Down’, and the Englishman Richard Bartlett on a map c.1602 located the Darini at Slemish (Bartlett maps Esch. Co. maps 1).  In Irish tradition the Dáirine were usually located in Munster (Onom. Goed. 329 sv. dairine; CGH 461 sv. Dáirfhine). However, ‘their name implying descent from Dáire (*Darios) shows them to have been a branch of the Érainn,’ as were Dál Riada of the Antrim glens and the Ulaidh or Dál Fiatach of Lecale (EIHM 7).  Indeed, the name in the poem is probably not ‘the fort of Dairinne's ridge’ as O’Donovan translated it, but ‘Dún Droma / Dundrum of the Dáirine’ where Dáirine means Érainn and refers to the Ulaidh of Downpatrick.

Another 19th century Irish scholar, Eugene O'Curry, suggested that Dundrum Castle now occupies the site of Dún RudhraigheRudhraighe’s hill-fort’ celebrated as the scene of Bricriu's Feast in the Ulster Cycle tale of that name (Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish iii 17).  Although Dundrum Inner Bay was known in early Irish as Loch Rudhraighe ‘Rudhraighe’s lough’, Rudhraighe (a personal or tribal name) was used in medieval Irish tradition to name the common ancestor of the Ulster Cycle warriors, and this is probably the reference here.  Bricriu's fort of Dún Rudhraighe was more likely at Loughbrickland in Co. Down which was named after Bricriu himself (Irish Loch Bricreann, later Loch Bricleann, PNI vi 54-7).

Ir. Dún Droma [doon druma] ‘fort of the ridge’. The well-known Norman castle, the remains of which stand on the summit of a rocky hill overlooking the village, was built on the site of an early Irish fort.


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 63; KM, 2009

Additional Information

T., 1851 Census

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

traigh Dúin droma hi lLeith Chathail

1147AFM ii 1082

ar brú traga Duni Dromma [not located in source]

1160cLL 372 (MS page?)

Duin-droma, caislen

1517AU iii 528

Duin-a-droma, gu faith[ch]e caisléin

1538AU iii 624

Dún Droma

1680cLCABuidhe 247 l.125


1808Neilson's Intro. 74

Dun droma, ''fort of the ridge or long hill''

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) 142

Dún Droma

1905Post-Sheanchas 64

Dún Droma

1969AGBP 116

Dún Droma

1988Éire Thuaidh

Dún Droma

1989GÉ 98

Dún Droma ""fort of the ridge""

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 63

Dún Droma "fort of the ridge"

1999Cel. Ulst. Tds 19
Rath [castle]1221CDI $1015
Dondrome1551CPR Ed. VI $723
Dondrome, manor of1551CPR Ed. VI $723
Dondrom1567Goghe's Map
Dundrum1570cNowel's Ire. (1)
Dondrome1580cIre map c.1580
Dondrom (x4)1583cFiants Eliz. $4327
Dondrome1583cFiants Eliz. $4327
Domdrom Ca.1599Boazio's Map (BM)
Dondrom1610Speed's Ulster
Dundrum ca1610cNorden's Map
Dundrome1616CPR Jas I 320b
Dundrum1617CPR Jas I 304a
Dundrum al'' Dondrum1618CPR Jas I 336a
Dundrome1620CPR Jas I 430b
Dundrome1622CPR Jas I 511a
Dundrome1623CPR Jas I 571a
Dondrumme1641Wars Co. Down 76
Dundrum (x3)1655cCiv. Surv. x $69
Dundrumcastle1655cCiv. Surv. x $70
Dundrum1657cHib. Reg. Lecale
Dondrome1659cCensus 1659 70
Dundrum1661BSD 97
Dondrom1663Sub. Roll Down 269
Dondrom1663Sub. Roll Down 269
Dundrom Towne1672cHib. Del. Down
Dundrum1767Map of Down (OSNB) 142
Dundrum1810Wm. Map (OSNB) 142
Dundrum1834cJ O'D (OSNB) 142
Lecale Upper
Parish in 1851
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