Ardamullivan Castle is a restored tower house consisting of six storeys. Although there is no history of the exact date of when the castle was built, it is believed it was built in the 16th century as it was first mentioned in 1567 due to the death of Sir Roger O’Shaughnessey who held the castle at the time.
Ardmullivan Castle is located near the town of Gort, about 8 km south of Lough Cutra, a scenic lake that is home to many waterfowl and fish. The castle is surrounded by lush green fields and trees.
Sir Roger was succeeded by his brother Dermot, ‘the Swarthy’, known as ‘the Queen’s O’Shaughnessy’ due to his support shown to the Crown. Dermot became very unpopular among the public and even among his own family after he betrayed Dr Creagh, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, who had sought refuge in the woods on O’Shaughnessy territory.
Tensions came to a boil in 1579, when John, the nephew of Dermot, fought with Dermot outside the south gate of the castle in dispute over possession of the castle. Both men were killed in the fight.
The castle fell into ruin over the centuries. Since then, it has been restored with care and respect for its original features and materials. The restoration work included reroofing and plastering with lime mortar, as well as uncovering some remarkable late medieval wall paintings on the first and fourth levels of the tower. The paintings depict various religious and secular scenes, such as a bishop, a stag hunt, Saint Christopher, a Passion cycle, and St Michael weighing souls on Judgement Day. The paintings are rare examples of Irish art from this period and have been compared to those at Abbeyknockmoy and Clare Island Abbey.
The tower house has six storeys and is accessed by a spiral staircase. It has many defensive features, such as bartizans (small turrets) on the corners and along the south wall, a machicolation (an opening for dropping stones or boiling oil on attackers), a murder hole (a hole above the entrance for shooting arrows or spears), many slit windows, fireplaces and a slopstone (a basin for disposing of waste). The tower also has traces of walls around it that may have been part of the original bawn (a fortified enclosure).
Ardmullivan Castle is a National Monument of Ireland and is open to the public for free. However, there are no signs or facilities at the site, so visitors should be careful and respectful when exploring the castle.
Ardmullivan Castle is a fascinating and beautiful place that offers a glimpse into the history and culture of County Galway. It is well worth a visit if you are interested in castles, art or nature. A truly magnificent hidden gem in the Irish countryside.
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