Athenry Castle:  A 13th Century Defensive Structure with a Rich Irish History

Athenry Castle is nestled in Galway County, and part of the Connacht Province.

The historic castle is easily accessed from the Dublin Airport simply by following road signs to Galway.

Shortly before you arrive in Galway via the M6, you'll take Exit 17 and drive just a few miles before arriving at this grand 13th century structure.    

Athenry Castle

Things to Know About Athenry Castle

Here are some fun facts about this amazing Irish landmark.  Hopefully they will entice you to pay a visit in person!

But if that is not possible, you can always use them to impress your friends with your knowledge of one of the most-visited attractions in Ireland.

  • One of the oldest walled towns in Ireland is Athenry, which is home to the 13th century Athenry Castle.
  • Meiler de Bermingham is responsible for the construction of the castle in County Galway, which was designed with security rather than beauty in mind.
  • This is a must-see structure for history buffs, because parts of the 13th century enclosure walls and battlements remain.
  • Visitors can climb a wooden staircase to enter the half-keep, the most preserved part of the castle that still stands.
  • Situated just west of a ford across the River Clarin, the name Athenry is derived from the Irish 'Áth na Ríogh', or 'the Ford of the Kings'.
  • The Irish folk song "Fields of Athenry" is well-known, particularly in sports circles, and contributes to the notoriety of the town of Athenry and to Athenry Castle.
  • The original castle at Athenry, built in the 13th century, was a low and squat structure. Unfortunately, that original design was insufficient, since the castle was attacked in 1316.
  • After that attack, further work was done on the Castle. Most importantly, it was surrounded by impressive walls designed to protect the residents of the property.
  • Of interesting note at the castle is the entrance. In order to get into the castle, you need to climb a set of wooden stairs on the outside of the walled building.
  • Once again, this was designed as a security measure. The stairs could be burned or removed in battle, preventing intruders from finding their way into the castle.
  • Pay close attention to the window openings, which signify that the room was of importance to its residents. 
  • The capitals, or the topmost part of the columns in the castle, are also special. They are carved using floral imagery, and the style is unique to this part of Ireland.
  • Tours of Athenry Castle start at the Athenry Heritage Centre. Fortunately, it's just a two-minute walk from where you purchase your tickets to the castle itself.
  • Before you take the tour, leave time for a brief film at the Heritage Centre. It's just 20 minutes long, but it does an excellent job of summarizing the history and significance of the castle.
  • Tours are the best way to see the castle and learn more about it in the process. They are available between April and November, and they last 45 minutes. 
  • If you've worked up an appetite touring the Castle, look for the nearby stone building with bright yellow shutters. This is the Old Barracks, a popular restaurant using local products from throughout County Galway.

You can find more information at the official website here.

Want More Irish Castles?

It is probably obvious - at Irish Expressions, we love Irish castles!  The Emerald Isle is dotted with hundreds of these incredible structures.  

Sharing pictures and stories about them gives us a deeper sense of connection with Ireland, wherever in the world we happen to be!

We have captured the most amazing pictures and descriptions of Irish castles in an e-book we call "An Illustrated Guide to Irish Castles and Abbeys."

This fun, free guide is available to you to download.  Scroll to the bottom of this page to get instant access!

That Was Fun!  Where Can I See More?

Great question! As you can see, exploring the castles of Ireland offers many opportunities for enjoying an Irish experience and expressing your personal Irish side!

For more information of this kind, you might pay a visit to our section on Ireland Sightseeing here!

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