08 Jan Oughterard Castle , Galway
This is one of my favorite castles in all of Ireland and a real hidden gem for any Ireland tours.
The very first people to set foot upon the land surrounding Oughterard were most likely hunter gatherers of the middle stone or Mesolithic age around 4,000- 3,000 BC.
Little is known about these early people’s way of life but there are some megalithic tombs still surviving just North of Oughterard and a court tomb remains just outside Cong in a cleared pasture.
Early Christianity left its mark, as well, in the form of monastic building ruins.
The O’Fflahertie (O’Flaherty) tribe , one of the first groups to settle and thrive in the area , was very powerful and owned a sizeable area from Galway city to Clifden on the west coast of Ireland.
During the Norman invasion , their stronghold was taken over by Walter de Burgo who built the original “castle” in the Oughterard area.
The O’Fflaherties re-conquered their land by the end of the 13th century and in the 16th century , on the same site as de Burgo, built their “castle” or tower house. The “castle” has been well restored and is located within two miles of the village in a townland named Aughnanure.
The O’Fflaherties also built a 15th century castle on Ross Lake , just outside Oughterard.
The Martin family , which was one of the 14 tribes of Galway City , took over a large portion of the land formerly occupied by the O’Fflaherties and built a 17th century mansion on the former castle foundation. This mansion is well known as Ross Castle.
With the English conquest came forced suppression of all Norman and Gaelic culture and the destruction of many of the mansions and castles , though many have since been restored.
Over this time the prevalence of the native Irish (Gaelic) language had declined.
There were then several “landlord” dwellings built and the locals began the first settlement of modern Oughterard as a few thatched cottages , many of which still exist today.
The 1845 Famine brought about the collapse of the landlord system and tenants regained possession of their land. To find Irish being spoken across the country by this time was rare but it survived in Oughterard and the surrounding Connemara area and is still an integral part of life.
Oughterard exists today as a thriving village and many families have lived in the area for over a century.
Farming is still a large part of the culture with its prevalent sheep and cattle.
There is also a fine trade done in the town centre in its many shops.
Tourism is very popular in the area, as well, and the town and people are well prepared for visitors from all over the world to appreciate the fantastic fishing , scenery and culture.
Ireland Luxury Tours likes to include this area on tours of Ireland.