If you are looking for a place to visit that combines history, beauty and culture, look no further than Portumna Castle in Galway. This magnificent semi-fortified house was built in the early 17th century by the 4th Earl of Clanricarde, Richard Burke, one of the most powerful and influential lords in Ireland.
The castle is a rare example of the transitional architecture between medieval and Renaissance styles, blending elements of both in a harmonious and elegant way. The castle was the seat of the de Burgo family for centuries, until a fire in 1826 left it a roofless ruin. However, thanks to the efforts of the state and the heritage authorities, the castle has been gradually restored and opened to the public.
Portumna Castle was built between 1610 and 1617 by Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricarde, who was also the Lord President of Connaught and a prominent figure in Irish politics. He commissioned an Italian architect, possibly Alessandro Galilei, to design the castle in the Renaissance style that was popular in Italy and France at the time, but not common in Ireland or England. The castle cost about £10,000 to build, which was a huge sum at the time. The Earl also built another mansion, Somerhill House, in Kent, England.
The castle is symmetrical in shape and consists of three stories over a basement, with square corner towers projecting from each side. The castle measures 29.7m by 21.2m and the towers are 6.5m square, with gunports for defense. A central corridor, 3m wide, runs longitudinally from top to bottom, supported by stone walls that contain numerous recesses and fireplaces. The castle has four large rooms on each floor, each with a large window facing the gardens or the lake. The rooms were decorated with plasterwork, woodwork, paintings and tapestries.
The exterior of the castle features two Renaissance elements: the doorcase of the front entrance and the Tuscan gateway of the innermost courtyard. The doorcase is composed of two Ionic columns supporting an entablature and a pediment with the de Burgo coat of arms. The gateway has four Tuscan columns supporting an architrave and a triangular pediment with a carved lion’s head.
The castle is surrounded by a bawn wall with four corner bastions and two gatehouses. The wall encloses an area of about 4 acres, which includes several courtyards, stables, barns and other outbuildings. The castle also has a moat on three sides and a drawbridge on the fourth side.
The castle’s decline began in the 18th century, when the de Burgo family lost most of their lands and titles due to the Penal Laws that discriminated against Catholics. The castle became neglected and dilapidated, and was eventually abandoned as a home after a fire in 1826. The fire started in the basement and spread to the upper floors, destroying most of the interior and the roof. Only the walls and the towers remained standing.
The castle was left to decay for over a century, until the Office of Public Works acquired it in 1968 and began a long process of restoration and conservation. The restoration aimed to preserve the original features and materials of the castle, as well as to recreate some of the missing elements, such as the roof, the windows, the plasterwork and the gardens. The restoration is still ongoing, and is based on historical research and archaeological evidence.
Today, you can explore the ground floor of the castle, where an exhibition tells the story of the castle and its inhabitants, as well as admire the splendid formal gardens that surround it. The gardens are a faithful recreation of the original 17th century design, featuring geometric patterns, box hedges, roses and fruit trees. The walled kitchen garden is especially impressive, as it produces organic vegetables and herbs that are used in the castle’s tearoom.
Located in the town of Portumna in Galway, the castle also boasts a stunning view of Lough Derg, one of the largest lakes in Ireland and a popular destination for boating and fishing, while also being located next to Portumna Forest Park, a vast woodland area that offers scenic trails for walking, cycling and wildlife watching.
Portumna Castle is open daily from March to November and an entrance fee applies. You can also book a guided tour of the castle for an extra fee. Portumna Castle is a must-see attraction for anyone who loves history, nature and beauty. It is a place where you can immerse yourself in the past, enjoy the present and look forward to the future.
this castle is an astounding place to visit, very enjoyable, kid friendly. the virtual interactions really give you a sense of what the place is about, and what it was like to live in . i would really recommend for a day trip or just a flying visit. there’s no castle like it!!!!!