Castles are an essential part of the Irish landscape, and while Galway has fewer manor houses and castles than the east, we've still got a good few to show off.
You'll find them in various states, from fully-restored historic attractions to abandoned ivy-covered relics, halfway reclaimed by nature. We can't say which we prefer, as they're both lovely!
This 16th-century tower house is one of over 200 in Galway county, located in Oughterard on the banks of the Lough Corrib. Throughout most of medieval history, the land was controlled by the O’Flaherty clan. Around the time of its build, the castle was declared the legal property of the English crown and was taken from the rightful chief, Donal an Chogaidh, and given to Sir Murrough ne doe O’Flaherty. For sixty years, the castle functioned as a stronghold against attacks from Galway during Cromwellian times.
Aughnanure, Oughterard, Galway // MORE HERE
Built for John D’Arcy and his family in 1818, Clifden Castle is more aptly a manor house located about 3km from Clifden town. Decorative elements were added later to give it a very “classic castle” look. With its wide windows, the manor house was certainly never intended to withstand battles. Clifden Castle has a rather sad, neglected history. It has passed through many hands and in 1935 the contents of the house were torn away, and the roof, windows, timber and lead were stripped as well. Without a roof, Clifden Castle fell into the disrepair visible now. Today, the former 200-acre castle demesne is split between different families. Still, it cuts an imposing figure and has a rather mournful beauty, tucked against the hills of Connemara.
Clifden Demesne, Galway // MORE HERE
Built along the coast in the 15th century, Oranmore Castle was the fortress of the Clanricardes, a notable Norman family of Galway. In 1666, the 6th Count Clanricardes rented the castle to Walter Athy, whose descendants retained control of Oranmore until 1853. It has passed through many hands since them, falling into disrepair and restored again. The castle is now occupied by artist Leonie King (daughter of Anita Leslie and Bill King) and her husband Alec Finn of the music band De Danaan. Unfortunately for landscape purists (if such a thing exists), the castle is now located in quite close proximity to a shopping centre — but once you pass it, the views of the castle and Galway Bay beyond are lovely.
The castle of Portumna is a beautiful example of a Renassiance-style semi-fortified house. Built in the early 17th century, it was the first of its kind in the British Isles and was considered unrivaled in Ireland for its size and grandeur. Formal enclosed gardens, courtyards and small houses on the property, which sits on the shores of Lough Derg, just add to the beauty of the place. It was abandoned after a fire in 1826, and the property has since been restored and run by the Office of Public Works.
Portumna, Galway // MORE HERE
Here’s one of Ireland’s most often photographed castles, on the southeastern coast of Galway Bay, near the picturesque fishing village of Kinvara. This 16th-century tower house has been home to old Irish clans and writers, serving most recently as a retreat for writers such as Oliver St. John Gogarty, Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats. The 23-meter castle and its defensive walls certainly make for a nice photo, situated so close to the coastline. It has featured in two films, first ‘Guns in the Heather’ (1969) starring Kurt Russell, and then ‘North Sea Hijack’ (1979) where it was styled as a Scottish fortress.
Dungory East, Kinvarra, Galway // MORE HERE
On the west bank of the Clarin River, Athenry is a Heritage Town, boasting not just a castle but the original medieval walls of the town. It was originally a 13th-century Norman castle, complete with arrow
loops and other battlements.
Gorteenacra, Athenry, Galway // MORE HERE
Claregalway Castle is a fully-restored 15th-century Norman tower house, situated on the banks of the River Clare. It was the chief fortress of the powerful Clanricarde de Burgos family, also known as the
Burkes, who were descendants of the original 13th-century Anglo-Normans invaders. The castle has a long, bloody history, which you can learn all about on the regular tours at the castle!
Claregalway, Galway // MORE HERE
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel
Ballynahinch castle hotel is a three-story detached country house was built in 1754 and had been owned by Richard Martin from 1754-1834. After Martin, the manor was passed down to Ranji who purchased the property and its salmon and sea-trout fisheries from the Berridge Family in 1924. The castle was made into a Bed & Breakfast style resort where you can enjoy historic scenery and fine dining. You can enjoy the scenery of the Twelve Bens mountain range as well as the famous salmon fishery upon your stay. Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is located along the Wild Atlantic Way in the West of Ireland, making it the perfect base for touring this amazing driving route from Donegal to Cork. Local attractions in Connemara on the drive include Killary Harbour, Inish Bofin, Sky Road and Roundstone village.
Ballynahinch Castle Recess Connemara, Galway // MORE HERE
Dunsandle castle was built during the 15th century by De Burgo (Burke) family and was then passed on to the Daly family. During the 1650s, the castle was turned into a manor house but was deemed uninhabitable and fell to ruin by 1791. The castle was recently restored and made available to the public. The castle is full of unique and antique architectural features like the great hall with tie beams as well as a groin vault construction, 18th century ice house, a murder hole and the remains of a bawn with defense tower with original gun loops.
Dunsandle, Galway // MORE HERE
Dunsandle Castle by | © Simon Weda
This fabulous building is a 13th century manor house, restored by the current owner after languishing, which took more than two centuries. The Church like structure of the building presents you with a different perspective on the way manors were built in 13th century Ireland! The castle is located on the shores of Lough Corrib which allows you to relax and enjoy a boating and fishing experience on the lake while also enjoying walking, riding and sightseeing around the seven acres of beautiful lawns, park and woodland that surround the castle. This castle is a great example of a medieval Irish “hall House” which lets you dwell upon its history!
Cargin Castle, Clydagh, Headford, Galway // MORE HERE
Menlo Castle is a beautiful 16th century castle just outside the city on the bank of river Corrib. The castle belonged to the Blake family who lived there from 1600-1910, to were rumored to be the
richest Irish family in Galway in 1592 and owned many properties in Mayo, Clare and Galway. Menlo castle was also used as festival grounds for “Maying in Menlo” where villagers were invited to celebrate with the Blakes. In the late 17th century the family added a Jacobean mansion to the old tower. Tragedy struck in 1910, when a fire broke out and took the lives of Lord and Lade Blake’s daughter Eleanor and two maids. Eleanor’s body was never found. The building was emptied and contents were destroyed leaving only the ivory covered walls to be seen today. The castle is widely accessible and during the summer months many joggers and kayakers can be seen around the area.
Menlo, Galway // MORE HERE
Words by Anastasiya Sytnyk