Aughnanure Castle is located just outside the town of Oughterard in County Galway, Ireland. This page is dedicated to the castle's fascinating history and features.
The O’Flahertys were driven out of the lands that were to be developed
into the town of Galway by the incoming Normans during the 13th century.
The O’Flaherty’s were a proud and fierce clan who never forgot the
They remained in conflict with the city as well as with rural
Norman families until well into the 16th century. They were known to the
largely English speaking Galwegians as ‘mountainous and wild people’
who came to rob and threaten them.
Aughnanure Castle located some 15
miles from Galway town became their strongest bastion against the
Normans in the south and east and against the town of Galway who
controlled sea traffic into Lough Corrib.
Aughnanure is a very unique sort of a castle.If you
have visited some of the Anglo-Norman castles of Ireland such as
Claregalway Castle, Annaghdown Castle, or English Plantation castles
such as Parke’s Castle, you will have observed the straight lines and
neat orderly finishes applied there which to my mind reflect how Anglo-
Norman and later English society was very ordered and structured.
the attentive eye, Aughnanure shows how the life style of Gaelic tribes
varied greatly to that of the Anglo- Normans. Aughnanure was, after all
the rough and ready abode of the wild O’Flaherty clan who dominated
much of West County Galway and Mayo tormenting and terrifying the
citizens of the town who erected a plaque over the western town gate
which read: “This Gate was erected to protect us from the ferocious
This Gaelic castle however, has a much more rustic and
rough finish. Gaelic chieftains, even as late as the 16th century, were
still living lives close to those of their ancient ancestors who loved
nature and lived in harmony with it.
Many Gaelic castle owners would not
permanently reside at the castle but would prefer to be out in nature
during the summer months where they might hunt or follow their cattle
and celebrate outdoor feasts staying in temporary huts or residential
halls erected quickly for that purpose, or even in age old stone forts
built by their ancestors.
The O’ Flaherties were sea faring, trading with faraway places such as
Spain and France as witnessed by the remaining stone carvings in the
window frames of the banqueting hall. To suit their needs they
incorporated a small harbour into the castle.
They created a break in
the bawn wall for a small water inlet where they could dock their boats.
The photo above shows the castle as seen from the former port.
The river was drained in the 1950ies lowering the water levels. Back in the day the castle was surrounded by water on three sides, and
the water was quite fierce and wide and difficult to cross. Therefore,
their safety was not really compromised by the gap in the defensive
A secret chamber was found at Aughnanure Castle. It is located in the
main keep where a hole in the the floor of the garderobe is the only
entrance to it. Although very small, this chamber was probably designed
as an oubliette.
One of the wildest features at Aughnanure Castle was a trap door in the
floor of the banqueting hall which allowed for a surprise attack and
instant disposal of unwanted visitors into the fast flowing river below.
Use of this gruesome facility was indeed practised and is documented
historically. During the 16th century, the son of an Anglo- Norman lord
was sent to the O’Flaherties to demand and collect payment due to the
‘overlord’. The O’Flaherties drowned him through this trap door, then
cut off his head and sent it back to the father in a bag. (Oh, the
By the 16th century, most Irish
chieftains had submitted to the Crown, and most of the country was
conquered. In the West of Ireland however, remote and difficult to
access places remained and often gave Gaelic chieftains the upper hand.
There were no proper maps which made matter worse. Artillery was
cumbersome to transport.
It was these circumstances which granted
castles like Aughnanure an extended lease of life. In reality, the means
to overcome their defences had long been invented, and they became
easier and easier to access, too, especially with the help of rivals who
had sided with the English.
The O’Flaherty’s were eventually
defeated by the English at Aughnanure in 1572 with the use of heavy
artillery. They were planning a rebellion, but were betrayed by one of
their own kinsmen who had changed sides over to the English three years
earlier, Morogh na dTuadh (‘of the battle axes’).
He was a minor member
of the O’Flaherty clan, but the English granted the castle to him
subsequently. Much of the Tudor colonialization of Ireland was won in
this way where one part of a clan was set up against another by using
‘pardons’ by the Queen or a strategically used policy of ‘surrender and
re-grant’ which caused much such chaos.
Aughnanure Castle makes for a great castle visit for the whole family and if you haven't been yet, we say, go!
If you love castles, take our medieval castle quiz and learn as you go!
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