Galway History


Shrouded by its surrounding woodland, Dunsandle Castle out in Athenry is well hidden from view but once you navigate your way through the 20 acres of tree-lined trails, you’ll be enchanted by this imposing building and its lengthy history.

Said to have been built back in the 15th century for a wealthy landowner in the area before falling into the hands of the De Burgo (Burke) family and later to the Daly clan, the stones of Dunsandle Castle have seen a lot throughout their many years. Extending into a manor house in the 1650s before gradually descending into ruin by 1791, the charming building has been lovingly restored to its current state with a number of unique architectural features being carefully preserved.

While the incredible façade and exquisite grounds are more than enough to draw the eye, what lies within this fascinating castle is what really interests us. While in most medieval castles spiral staircases are built clockwise to ensure a better vantage point for guards to tackle intruders on the stairs, the staircase at Dunsandle Castle follows an anti-clockwise spiral for strategic purposes unknown to us.

There is also a recess located behind the main door of the castle playfully dubbed The Killing Room in which attackers would find themselves enclosed by heavy oak doors with metal grills and an overhead murder hole, through which a defender would soon attack.

Dunsandle Castle by @mariuszrybak72
Photo by @mariuszrybak72


Other intriguing features include the Ice House - which was a converted corner tower insulated with ice presumably used to store meat for up to ten months at a time - and the Great Hall, in which much of the living was done around a great fireplace the size of a south-facing window atop an oubliette or dungeon. The castle’s Groin Vault is said to be the building’s most interesting aspects, built using a technique known as wicker centering.

This involved the build of an arch shaped wooden scaffolding then covered with woven wickerwork mats followed by a layer of lime and sand mortar with stones set down on top. This type of vault construction was first established by the Romans and is just one of the many reasons why Dunsandle castle is a much loved tourist attraction in the Athenry area.

If you’re lucky enough to count Dunsandle Castle among the highlights of your surrounding 5km, make sure to pack a picnic and head for a hike - it won’t disappoint. Thank you to @shane.g.ireland for the feature photo; follow their Instagram page for more