RINVILLE CASTLE

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Rinville Castle is a four storey tower house built by the De Burgo (Burke) family, one of the most powerful Norman families in Ireland. The castle has a rich and turbulent history, having changed hands several times over the centuries. It is now part of Rinville Park, a picturesque woodland park near the shores of Galway Bay.

Rinville Castle dates back to the 16th century, when it was built by Richard McThomas Oge, a member of the Burke family. The Burkes were descendants of William de Burgo, who came to Ireland with King John in 1210. They ruled over much of Connacht and parts of Munster, and were often in conflict with the native Irish clans and the English crown.

In 1574, Rinville Castle was attacked by Sir Edward Fitton, the president of Connacht, who was trying to enforce Queen Elizabeth I’s authority over the region. Fitton failed to capture the castle, but he burned the surrounding lands and crops. The castle remained in Burke hands until 1681, when it was granted to Robert Blake of Ardfry under the Act of Settlement. The Blakes were another prominent Galway family who supported the Catholic cause during the Cromwellian and Williamite wars.

The castle passed to Philip Lynch at the end of the 17th century, and then to Edmond Athy in the early 18th century as part of a marriage dowry to Margaret Lynch, daughter of Philip. The castle remained the property of the Lynch-Athy family until the middle of the 20th century. During this time, the castle was used as a residence, a farm and a school.

The castle fell into ruin until it was bought and largely restored by Galway County Council in 1979. Although access to the interior of the castle remains closed, the outside of the castle can be visited as it’s on the grounds of a public park, Rinville Park, which covers 84 hectares of land and features many amenities such as walking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, outdoor workout equipment and a sailing club.

Rinville Castle is a typical example of an Irish tower house, which were fortified residences built by both Anglo-Norman and Gaelic lords between the 14th and 17th centuries. Tower houses were designed to provide security and comfort for their owners and their families. They usually had four or five storeys, with a single entrance at ground level protected by a heavy wooden door and an iron grille. The ground floor was used for storage and sometimes as a stable. The first floor was the main living area, where the lord and his family ate, slept and entertained guests. The upper floors were used for additional bedrooms and storage. The top floor was often a watchtower.

Rinville Castle has some distinctive features that make it stand out from other tower houses. It has a square staircase turret that projects from the south-east corner of the building. This turret has spiral stairs that lead to all floors and also to a roof walk that offers panoramic views of the park and the bay. The castle also has two large chimneys on opposite sides of the building, which indicate that it had fireplaces on each floor. The castle has many original architectural features such as stone corbels (brackets), vaulted ceilings, window seats, loopholes (narrow openings for shooting) and garderobes (toilets).

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Rinville Castle

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