07 Jan Aughnanure Castle Galway
Aughnanure Castle is a real hidden gem and one of my favorite castles in Ireland. Check it out on any Ireland tours.
It is one of well over 200 tower houses in County Galway built by large, wealthy , land owning families , mainly of Gaelic , but some of Old English (Anglo-Norman) stock.
Tower Houses are fortified residences and were places of power and control over the surrounding lands.
The name Aughnanure comes from the Gaelic Achadh na nIubhar – the field of yews, of which one old specimen remains nearby.
Situated on the banks of the Drimneed River , which flows into the wester side of Lough Corrib , 3km from Oughterard, the site was well chosen , as the river flows gently beneath the low cliff on which the castle was built , allowing boats bringing supplies to come right up to the gate of the fortification.
The O’Flahertys had been temporarily expelled from their ancestral lands west of Lough Corrib in Connemara by the Norman family of De Burgos in 1256 and the original castle at Aughnanure may have been built by Walter de Burgo, first Earl of Ulster.
However the expulsion of the O’Flahertys was only temporary and before the close of the 13th century and for the next three centuries, they were master of the entire territory of Iar-Connacht (West Connacht) extending from the west of bank of Lough Corrib to the sea.
Aughnanure became their strongest bastion against their neighbours to the south and east , particularly the citizens of Galway who controlled access from the ocean to Lough Corrib.
In the 13th century the land around the mouth of the Galway River was wrenched from the O’Flahertys by the Anglo-Normans who developed the town of Galway there.
This remained in Anglo-Norman control throughout the later Middle Ages.
The O’Flahertys never forgot the insult, and both land and used both land and water to harry Galway’s citizens who regarded them as ‘mountainous and wild people’ by whom ‘they were sometimes robbed and threatened.’
In 1537, Lord Grey , King Henry VIII’s Lord Deputy in Ireland , arrived in Galway to oblige the Irish chieftains to acknowledge the supremacy of the English monarch.
While Grey remained in the town , the surrounding Irish chieftains , O’Flaherty , O’Madden and Mac Yeoris (or Bermingham) came in and made their submissions but did not give hostages.
However the citizens of Galway still felt threatened and the city’s burghers erected a plaque over the western entrance to the town which read: This Gate was erected to protect us from the ferocious O’Flahertys.
The epithets of the O’Flaherty leaders , such as ‘the valiant’ and ‘of the wars’ shows them to have remained at loggerheads with the city during the 16th century , and none more so initially than Morogh na dTuadh ‘of the battle-axes’ a minor member in the family hierarchy who frequently mounted raids on the territory of the English around Galway.
In 1564 at Traban , the white strand , about 3km west of Galway , he decisively defeated an expedition sent against him. In 1569, he accepted a free pardon for his ‘offences’ and although not of the senoir brance of the O’Flaherty clan , allowed himself to be appointed by Queen Elizabeth I as chieftain in the territory of Iar-Connacht over the head of the legitimate chief of the the clan who lived at Aughnanure.
In consideration of this , Morogh undertook to ‘observe the Queen’s peace’ and learning of an uprising planned by his kinsmen, Morogh betrayed the plot to the English who sent Sir Edward Fitton , President of Connacht, to march against and take Aughnanure.
Though defended by muskets the castle was no match for the artillery which its defences were not designed to resist.
In 1572, the castle duly fell – for the only time in its long existence – and was delivered to Morogh who re-fitted and fortified it giving it the form we see today.
At Ireland Luxury Tours we love to visit the castle on our tours of Ireland…