CLOONDAGAUV CASTLE / CLONDEGOFF CASTLE
If you are looking for a scenic and historic destination in County Galway, you might want to visit Cloondagauv Castle, also known as Clondegoff Castle or Cloondagough Castle, a medieval tower house that sits on the western shore of Lough Derg. This castle is one of the many castles built by the De Burgo (Burke) family, who were powerful lords in Connacht and Munster.
Cloondagauv Castle was erected by the Burke of Ballydoogan, a cadet branch of the Earls of Clanricarde. These Burkes had settled at Cloghroark Castle and then in Ballintubber, before moving to Ballydoogan. They built Cloondagauv Castle in the late 15th or early 16th century, probably as a defensive outpost and a base for fishing and trading on Lough Derg.
The castle is clearly marked in the Ordnance Survey 6-Inch Maps of 1842, where it is noted as Cloondadauv Castle. The castle site is located in the townland of Cloondadauv and the civil parish of Ballynakill, within the barony of Leitrim and the county of Galway.
The castle was owned by the Burke family until the 17th century, when it was confiscated by the Cromwellian forces during the Irish Confederate Wars. The castle was then granted to Sir Thomas Newcomen, an English soldier and politician.
In the 19th century, the castle was leased by Garrett Burke, who lived at Burkes Court, a nearby mansion. The castle was the scene of a great eviction during the land wars in 1887, when the tenants of the estate resisted the attempts of the landlord to raise the rents. The eviction was met with violent resistance, and the police had to use dynamite to break down the gates of Burkes Court. The castle was occupied by a group of men who fired shots at the police and bailiffs who came to evict them. The siege lasted for several days, until the police managed to breach the castle walls and arrest the rebels. The eviction was widely reported in the newspapers and became a symbol of the struggle for land reform in Ireland.
Cloondagauv Castle is a rectangular shaped tower house consisting of five storeys. It measures about 10 metres by 8 metres at the base, and about 18 metres in height. The walls are about 1.5 metres thick, and are made of limestone rubble with sandstone quoins. The castle has a number of architectural elements that indicate its defensive function and its status as a residence. Some of these features are:
- A boxed machicolation over the entrance on the south side, which allowed defenders to drop stones or boiling water on attackers.
- Bartizans on the northwest and southeast corners, which are small projecting turrets that provided views and fire positions along the walls.
- Chimney stacks on the east and west sides, which indicate that there were fireplaces on each floor.
- A sloping ramp immediately beside the castle on the north side, which would have allowed boats to be drawn up from the lake.
- A medieval harbour close by, to the north, which would have facilitated trade and communication with other settlements on Lough Derg.
The interior of the castle is not accessible to visitors, but it is likely that it had a typical layout for a tower house of its period. The ground floor would have been used for storage, while the upper floors would have contained living quarters, such as a hall, a kitchen, bedrooms, and a solar (a private chamber). The top floor would have been an attic or a garret, which could have served as an additional bedroom or a lookout.
Today, Cloondagauv Castle is a protected structure under the National Monuments Act, and is in the care of the Office of Public Works. The castle is not open to the public, but it can be viewed from the road or from the lake. You will need to seek the landowner’s permission to see the castle up close. The castle is a striking sight, especially at sunset, when its grey stone walls contrast with the blue water and the green fields. The castle is a reminder of the past, but also a witness to the present and the future of Galway.
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