If you are interested in the history and heritage of Galway, you might want to visit Moylough Castle, a 13th century hall house that stands on a slight elevation overlooking the marshy lands near Moylough in North Galway. Moylough Castle is one of the few surviving examples of this type of castle, which was mostly built by English settlers in the west and midlands of Ireland.

A hall house is a rectangular building with three or four storeys, usually built of stone and mortar. The entrance was at the first floor level, accessed by a wooden staircase or ladder. The ground floor was used for storage or servants’ quarters, while the upper floors were the living quarters of the lord and his family. The top floor had a wall walk and battlements for defence. The hall house had narrow windows, some with semi-circular heads, and no fireplaces or latrines. The roof was probably made of thatch or wooden shingles.

Moylough Castle was built around the first half of the 13th century, between 1235 and 1240. It is not clear who exactly built it, but it is likely that it was either the de Cotterells or the de Cogeshales, two English families who were tenants of the de Berminghams, the Anglo-Norman lords of Athenry. The de Cotterells and the de Cogeshales had lands in Moylough and nearby areas, and may have built the castle to assert their authority and protect their interests. Alternatively, the castle may have been built by the de Berminghams themselves, or by the O’Concannons, the native Irish rulers of Ui Diarmada, who were displaced by the invasion.

Moylough Castle measures 12 meters in length and 6.6 meters in width. The walls are 2 meters thick and rise to a height of 14 meters. The walls are strengthened by a base batter, which is an outward slope that adds stability to the structure. The castle has seven narrow vertical loop windows on the ground floor, and more windows with semi-circular heads on the upper floors. The entrance is on the north-east wall, at the first floor level. There is a recess on the same wall that accommodated the door when fully opened. The first and second floors had timber floors supported by beams built into the walls. The slots for the beams are still visible today. There is no evidence of a stone staircase leading to the first floor, but there is a spiral staircase leading to the wall walk and battlements on the top floor.

Moylough Castle was probably occupied by the de Cotterells or the de Cogeshales until the late 13th or early 14th century, when they were either expelled or assimilated by the native Irish clans. The castle may have been used by the O’Kellys, who dominated Moylough and its surroundings until the 17th century. The castle was probably abandoned after the Cromwellian confiscations, when most of the lands in Galway were given to English settlers. The castle gradually fell into ruin, and today only three sides of it survive. The south-west wall has collapsed, exposing the interior of the building.

Moylough Castle is an interesting feature of Moylough village, and a rare example of a hall house in Galway. It is a testament to the turbulent history of Ireland, and the interactions between different cultures and peoples. The castle is located on private land, so please seek the landowners permission before visiting up close.


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Moylough Castle



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