Galway is well-known as the cultural capital of the west of Ireland and has a vibrant Irish music scene which can be experienced in any of the streets of its main pedestrianized area and in its many cosy bars. At face value, Galway appears to be a young city, thanks to the many students who attend either the National University of Ireland at Galway or the city’s Institute of Technology and who seem to be omnipresent in the streets of the city at all times of the day and night. Nevertheless, Galway is a city that dates back to medieval times and for those interested in experiencing and getting a feel for the history of a place, we recommend taking in some or all of the following historical buildings and castles.
Dunguaire Castle is a 16th-century tower house built on the shore of Galway Bay near the town of Kinvarra in the south of County Galway. The castle was built in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan and the castle’s defensive wall and tower have been restored and are kept in very good condition. This is one of the most photographed castles in Ireland. There are medieval banquets from mid-May to mid-September when Dunguaire Castle is open to the public, with costumed performers who entertain guests playing traditional Irish music and dancing as well reciting extracts from Irish writers.
A fortified medieval tower known as Thoor Ballylee or Ballylee Castle is situated near the town of Gort just off the main Galway to Ennis road. This building is a treat for lovers of literature as for some years the castle was the home of one of the greatest Irish poets, William Butler Yeats. This tower has four floors with one room on each connected by a spiral stone stairway built into the thick outer wall. There is a window on each floor overlooking the Cloon River. Thoor Ballylee was WB Yeats’ summer home for twelve years and inspired him to write poems such as “The Tower” and “Coole Park and Ballylee”. The Yeats family moved out of the stone tower in 1929 but the building was restored as ‘Yeats Tower’ in 1965 when it became The Yeats’ Museum containing a collection of first editions and some furniture belonging to the family.
This castle was once home to one of the most powerful families in county Galway, the Lynch clan. This is a Gothic-style Irish building constructed of limestone and the coat of arms of the family can still be seen on the façade. The building is located between Shop Street and Abbeygate Street where we can fully appreciate the atmosphere of medieval Galway. Lynch’s Castle is the only complete medieval secular building remaining from medieval Galway. The Lynch family was the most powerful of the 14 ruling Galway ‘tribes’, and its members held the position of mayor 80 times between 1480 and 1650.
The coat of arms of King Henry VII can also be seen in a front panel of the building. There is a small museum open to the public. Historical Buildings in Calgary
The Spanish Arch
The site known as the Spanish Arch is actually part of the walls of Galway city located between Martin’s tower and the river Corrib, built to protect the quays. The Eyre family created an extension of the docks in the eighteenth century giving life to the arches that allowed access from the town to newer outlying areas. This arch is the only one left since a tsunami in 1755 destroyed all the other arches as a consequence of the Lisbon earthquake. Galway city Museumis also located just behind the Spanish Arch.
This castle was built around 1618 by Richard Burke, fourth Earl of Clanricarde and one of the famous de Burgo family members which can trace its history back to the Normans. Portumna castle was one of the first Renaissance style buildings in Ireland. The shell of this great mansion conveys an impression of splendour. The de Burgo family resided in the castle for over 200 years until it was destroyed by fire in 1826. The ground floor is open to the public and there are exhibitions in the castle and Gate House.
Hopefully readers will be inspired by our descriptions to take some time out during a visit to Galway to explore these sites to get a feel for Galway’s historic past. And, if you want to check out accommodation for your trip you can take a look at our guide to hotels in Galway, where we are confident you will find an accommodation option that will suit your preferences and your budget.