Gemma Grant continues her series on Irish Castles
Described as ‘a historical gem’ in the heart of Connemara, 16th century Aughnanure Castle is one of over 200 tower houses in County Galway, constructed mainly by the wealthy Gaelic and Anglo-Normans. The name itself, from the Irish, Achadh na n-Iubhar means the field of yew trees.
The six-storey Aughnanure tower house on the shores of Lough Corrib, was hearth and home to the ferocious O’Flaherty clan who ruled west Connacht for some 300 years. Their dwelling is considered to be a particularly well preserved example of an Irish tower house and “the finest fortified dwelling upon any part of the shores of Lough Corrib.”
The clan O’Flaherty built their humble dwelling to bear up against the ravages of time and trouble. They installed their own medieval burglar alarm system, to thwart off any potential intruders. A decorative doorway to the eastern side of the tower is enhanced by a machicolation, allowing the hosts to welcome guests unwanted, with a hail of stones or heavy objects, to be dropped on their heads.
For those guests with a thick skin, who managed to make it to the inside of the tower, a murder hole in the ceiling awaited. Here, intruders would be met with an array of arrows or boiling oil to drive the message home: that what the ferocious O’Flahertys had, they held.
Chief of the clan, Donal an Chogaidh (of the Wars), resided in his castle of Aughnanure and it is believed held court on the top floor of his residence, that offered a commanding view of the surrounding area. The Gaelic clans had a fierce reputation among Galway’s city dwellers.