Athenry Castle Travel Tips: 
Experience a 13th Century Defensive Structure with a Rich Irish History

These Athenry Castle travel tips are our latest contribution to your virtual tour of the castles of Ireland. The castle is nestled in Galway County, and part of the Connacht Province.  It is easily accessed from the Dublin Airport simply by following road signs to Galway.

Athenry Castle

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. 

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 and Athenry Castle travel tips at the official website here.

Athenry Castle Travel Tips

Ok, fine these tips are more useful if you ARE lucky enough to visit in person.  But reading them will give you a fuller experience of the Castle either way:

View of Athenry Castle from gated entrance. Photocredit:  Shutterstock.

1. Make sure to schedule your visit between April and November when tours are available. 

2. Start your day early to avoid large tour groups and to experience the castle in a more serene setting. (Tip by: Andrea Smith, Lonely Planet)

3. Begin your tour at the Athenry Heritage Centre which is just a two-minute walk from the castle. 

4. Be Prepared for Stairs: As part of the castle's security measures, visitors must climb a set of wooden stairs to enter the castle, so make sure you're comfortable with this before your visit. 

5. Wear Comfortable Shoes: As there is a lot of walking, climbing, and exploring involved, make sure to wear comfortable shoes. (Tip by: Siobhan Maguire, The Sunday Times)

6. Take Advantage of Photography Opportunities: Don't forget to bring your camera. The castle, with its impressive structure and beautiful surroundings, offers many great photo opportunities. (Tip by: Pól Ó Conghaile, The Independent)

7. Enjoy Local Cuisine: After your exploration, enjoy some local food at the Old Barracks, a restaurant using local products from throughout County Galway. 

8. Take Note of Architectural Details: Pay special attention to the architectural details such as the window openings and topmost part of the columns carved using floral imagery. These details signify the room's importance to its residents. 

9. Learn About the Castle's History: Research some background information about the history of the castle before your visit. This will give you more context and make your visit more meaningful. (Tip by: Fionn Davenport, Lonely Planet)

10. Respect the Castle: Although it's a must-visit tourist attraction, remember that Athenry Castle is a historical site. Be mindful and respectful of the site during your visit. (Tip by: Fáilte Ireland)

Remember to have fun exploring one of Ireland's most well-preserved castles in a 13th-century walled town.

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 and enter your email 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!