A 16th-Century stronghold of the O’Kelly clan, Barnaderg Castle, also known as Barnaderg Tower House, is a five-storey castle located near the village of Barnaderg, southeast of Tuam in Galway. It was built by Malachy O’Kelly, a member of the O’Kelly clan, in the 16th century. The castle is a remarkable example of late medieval architecture.
The O’Kelly clan was one of the most powerful and influential families in the region of Hymany, which covered parts of counties Galway and Roscommon. They were descendants of Maine Mor, a legendary king of Connacht. The O’Kellys were involved in many battles and conflicts with other clans and with the English invaders. They also patronized arts and culture, especially poetry and music.
In the past, given the low-lying land that easily floods around the castle in winter, the castle is believed to have had a drawbridge and a moat to protect it from attacks. The castle had four floors above the ground floor, which was used for storage and stables. The first floor was the main living area, with a large hall, a fireplace and a spiral staircase. The second floor had smaller rooms for sleeping and private activities. The third floor had a chapel and a guardroom. The fourth floor had a vaulted roof and battlements.
The castle witnessed many historical events and legends. One of them is the story of Grace O’Malley, the famous pirate queen who visited Barnaderg Castle in 1598 to meet with Red Hugh O’Donnell, the leader of the Irish rebels against Queen Elizabeth I. Another legend is that of Donal O’Kelly, who was hanged from the castle window by Cromwellian soldiers in 1652 for refusing to surrender.
Today, Barnaderg Castle is in ruins, but it still stands as a testament to the history and heritage of the O’Kelly clan and the region of Hymany. The castle is owned by the state and is under the care of the Office of Public Works. It is not open to the public, but it can be viewed from the road.
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