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Aughnanure Castle
 

County

Galway

Coordinates

N 53° 25' 07.44"   W 009° 16' 31.8"

Nearest town

Oughterard

Grid Ref.

M 15214 41715

Map No.

45

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

11

Date of visit

Tuesday 11 June 2019

GPS Accuracy (m)

4
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Aughnanure Castle seen from the opposite bank of the Drimneen River, on the north side, where the river forms a natural defense.


We came to this castle for the first time on June 26th, 1994, under a heavy rain, and never had the chance to go back because the weather was always miserable every time we were in the area!
This time it wasn't raining, so it seemed a good chance to visit it again.

The first castle on this site was probably built by the Walter de Burgh, 1st Earl of Ulster, when the O'Flahertys were expelled from their ancestral lands west of Lough Corrib.
The de Burgh family was of Norman origins and contributed to create and develop the town of Galway.
The O'Flahertys were regarded as ferocious, and would harass, raid or torment Galway people for several decades, and despite the intervention of the English crown, they never submitted to it, forcing the people of Galway to erect a town wall.
Anyway in 1569, Murrough na dTuadh, a minor member of the O'Flaherty clan, appointed to Queen Elizabeth I as Chieftain over the land and people living at Aughnanure, and even betrayed his kinsmen to the English who sent an army to crush an uprising. The castle didn't resist this attack in 1572, and fell to the English that handed it to Murrough na dTuadh, who re-fitted and fortified it as we see today.

In the following century the castle was still in the hands of the O'Flahertys, but in the middle of the 17th century it was occupied by the Ulick de Burgh, 1st Marquis of Clanricarde. In 1687, the Earl of Clanricarde rented the castle to the O'Flahertys, who gained total possession of it in 1719, only to pass it onto Lord St. George as a foreclosure of a mortgage. Anyway the O'Flahertys took ownership of the castle again and eventually handed it to the Commission of Public Works in 1952, who restored it in 1963.

The name Aughnanure comes from the Irish Achadh na nIubhar, meaning "The Field of the Yews". This castle is regarded as one of the finest tower houses in Connacht.

The structure of the fortification had a tower house, the residence of the family, within an inner bawn wall, then there were an outer ward and bawn wall. The Drimneen River forms a natural defence on the north side of the complex.

The tower house is 5-storey high and today hosts an exposition with the history of the castle explained. The ground floor was the entrance and store room. Above this floor a room for soldiers and guards was, with a garderobe or toilet, and a murder hole as a defence for the access to the castle. The upper two floors have a double height. On the first floor there was the living room and a sleeping room. The second floor was where guests were received and entertained. On the second floor there was a second toilet and an access to a secret chamber, where prisoners were tortured and left starve to death. This floor is covered with an amazing re-built oak roof where no nails have been used

In the middle of the ward there's a circular tower capped with a conical roof. Useless to say that this small feature is the most iconic detail of the whole castle. Now it's a stand-alone tower, but in origin it was inserted in the inner bawn wall as either a watch tower and a weapon store.

The Banqueting Hall was on the south side of the fortification, but it crumbled into the river flowing beneath when the natural stone arch on which the hall had been built collapsed, and today only the east wall survives. It is said this was a thatched building, hence the most unsafe place of the castle. The most interesting feature of this wall are the arched windows with their elaborated carvings representing vines and grapes to attest the sense of hospitality of the O'Flahertys, in particular of Murrough na dTuadh who used to import wine from France and Spain.

The outer bawn wall is still mostly intact and there are two corner turrets that still show several gun loops in their walls.


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