O’BRIEN’S CASTLE / FURMINA CASTLE
If you are looking for a unique and historical destination in Ireland, you might want to consider visiting O’Brien’s Castle on Inisheer Island, the smallest of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. O’Brien’s Castle, also known as Furmina Castle or The Great Fort, is an impressive tower house that dates back to the early 15th century and stands on the site of an ancient ringfort.
O’Brien’s Castle was built by the Clann Teige, a branch of the powerful O’Brien (Uí Briain) family, who ruled much of Munster and parts of Connacht in medieval times. The castle was strategically located at one of the island’s highest points, overlooking Galway Bay and the mainland. It was designed to be a stronghold and a residence for the local chieftain and his followers.
The castle was involved in several conflicts and sieges over the centuries. It was taken by the Ó Flaithbheartaigh (O’Flahertys) of Connemara around 1582, who were rivals of the O’Briens. It was also captured and damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1652, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. After that, the castle was abandoned and fell into ruin and disrepair.
Today, O’Brien’s Castle is a National Monument of Ireland and a popular attraction for visitors to Inisheer Island. You can explore the remains of the castle and admire its architecture and craftsmanship. The castle is a rectangular donjon (keep) with four stories and a parapet. The original doorway was into the first floor, accessed by an external wooden stairs. The first floor was a great hall, with mural stairs up to the parapet. The ground floor was a basement or storage area with three vaulted chambers. One of the most striking features of the castle is the corbel of a bartizan (a small projecting turret) that has a human face carved into it.
From the castle, you can also enjoy stunning views of the island and the sea. You can see the patchwork of stone walls and fields that characterize the landscape of Inisheer, as well as other landmarks such as Teampall Chaomháin (a 10th century church), Cill Ghobnait (a 15th century church), Tobar Éinne (a holy well), and Plassey Shipwreck (a cargo vessel that ran aground in 1960). On a clear day, you can also see the other Aran Islands, Inishmaan and Inishmore, as well as the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren on the mainland.
To get to O’Brien’s Castle, you need to get to Inisheer Island first. There are several options for reaching the island from Galway or Doolin. You can take a ferry from either port, which takes about 30 minutes from Doolin or 90 minutes from Galway. You can also take a plane from Connemara Regional Airport, which takes about 10 minutes. The ferry and plane schedules vary depending on the season and weather conditions, so it is advisable to check them in advance and book your tickets online.
Once you are on the island, you can walk to O’Brien’s Castle from the pier or from your accommodation. The island is only about 3 km long and 2 km wide, so it is easy to explore on foot. Alternatively, you can rent a bike or take a horse-drawn carriage tour to see more of the island and its attractions.
O’Brien’s Castle is a must-see destination for anyone who wants to experience the history, beauty, and charm of Inisheer Island. It is a place where you can immerse yourself in the past and present of the Aran Islands and Ireland. It is a place where you can admire the stunning scenery and the rich culture of the islanders.
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