If you are looking for a unique and memorable experience in Galway, you should not miss visiting Claregalway Castle, a fully restored 15th century Anglo-Norman tower house that has witnessed some of the most turbulent events in Irish history.
Claregalway Castle was built in the 1440s by the powerful De Burgo (or Burke) family, who ruled over much of Connacht as the Earls of Clanricard. The castle was strategically located on a low crossing point of the River Clare, allowing the Burkes to control the water and land trade routes between Galway and Tuam.
The castle was the scene of many battles and sieges, involving rival clans, English invaders and Irish rebels. One of the most famous events was the Battle of Knockdoe in 1504, when Ulick Finn Burke, the 3rd Earl of Clanricard, clashed with Gerald Fitzgerald, the 8th Earl of Kildare, over a dispute about a cattle raid. The battle was one of the largest and bloodiest in medieval Irish history, involving an estimated 10,000 combatants. On the eve of the battle, Ulick Finn Burke stayed at Claregalway Castle (which is 5km’s from the battleground), drinking and playing cards with his troops. The Burke family lost the battle and the castle was later captured by the opponents, the Fitzgerald family.
In the 1600s, the castle was once again held by the De Burgo (Burke) family, this time another Ulick Burke, the 5th Earl of Clanricarde, who was loyal to King Charles I during the English Civil War. However, in 1651, Oliver Cromwell’s army besieged and took over the castle, making it their headquarters in Galway. Cromwell’s commander, Sir Charles Coote, later sold the castle to Lord St George, who converted it into a mansion.
In the 1700s, the castle fell into decay and disrepair, as it was no longer used as a military or residential site. In the 1800s, it was partly restored by a local landlord, Walter Blake Kirwan, who added a Gothic-style window to the tower.
In the 1900s, during the War of Independence in 1919-21, the British once again used the castle as a garrison and a prison for I.R.A soldiers. In later years, an interesting visitor, the famous actor Orson Welles, stayed there as a 16-year-old boy in 1931. He later claimed that he had seen a ghost in the castle.
In the 2000s, the castle was bought by Dr Eamonn O’Donoghue, an eye surgeon and art collector, who undertook a major restoration project to bring the castle back to its original medieval glory. He also established a cultural and educational centre at the castle, hosting various events such as festivals, concerts, exhibitions and workshops.
You can experience Claregalway Castle during some of the many great events and festivals that take place there each year. Rooms in the castle and on the grounds are also available to stay in via Airbnb should you wish to spend a night or two at the castle.
Claregalway Castle is a must-see attraction for anyone who loves history, culture and nature. It is a place where you can immerse yourself in the medieval past, enjoy the present and look forward to the future. So don’t miss the chance to visit this wonderful castle.
There are currently no reviews submitted.