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Claregalway Castle

Living History


Christmas Fair 2016 at Claregalway Castle

Nollaig Shona - Happy Christmas from all at Claregalway Castle.

      Claregalway Castle – best known for its Garden Festivals and Medieval Tournament will host, for a third year, a wonderful Christmas Fair on Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th December. Doors open from 12 noon to 7pm daily. Admission is free. Savour this Historic Castle in Winter with some of the very best of the ‘Made in Galway’ Group of Craftspeople and Artisan Food Producers.

      Enjoy the festive atmosphere with a glass of mulled wine or hot chocolate while browsing through a fabulous array of stalls displaying some of the most creative and unusual products made in Galway city and County. ‘Made in Galway’is a Galway County Council initiative to promote world class local products and design and foster economic development. Prepare to be surprised and delighted!

      For children there will be a delightful Christmas Show with Tommy Baker and ‘Yer Mans Puppets’ (2 shows daily. 40 mins duration. Tickets €5 at Castle door). Also, a host of musical entertainment and a few surprise guests.

      Santa Claus will be taking up his annual residence in Claregalway Castle especially to meet children and their families.
Running concurrently with Christmas Fair from Friday 9th through to Tuesday 13th ‘Claregalway Castle’ Christmas Magic with Santa and friends for children - 1pm – 6.30pm (€18 per child and €10 per adult) Booking essential.

Phone (091)799666 or (086)2020999 or via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Regular buses to and from Galway city. Parking on site, at Arches Hotel and beside Claregalway Abbey.
Admission to Fair is FREE but booking necessary for Childrens Christmas Magic Show. Come and enjoy the magic of Christmas at Claregalway Castle 10th & 11th December, 12 - 7pm or visit Santa from Friday 9th to Tuesday 13th. and
phone 091-799666 for more information.

Phone 086-20 20 999 for more information


Fáilte roimh chách.  Nollaig Shona do chách.

Our Heritage Week Highlight


Ó Bhéal go Pár


Ciarán Bairéad and his Work in Claregalway 


 A celebration of the work of Ciarán Bairéad (1905-1976), one of the great collectors of Irish folklore.  The extensive, rich and varied materials he collected during his lifetime from the people of Claregalway, Turloughmore and further afield amount to a truly significant archive, whose importance has yet to be appreciated.

 Join us at Claregalway Castle, Claregalway, Saturday, 29 August, from 6.00pm to 8.30pm - to hear four distinguished scholars who are eminently well-qualified to speak on the archive, on Ciarán Bairéad and his times, and on the Irish language in Claregalway and environs.


The first two talks will be in English, the last two in Irish.


Contributions from the floor will be most welcome.


6.00pm Prof. Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh (Historian)
'Ciarán Bairéad: family background and cultural

6.30pm Prof. Séamas Ó Catháin (Folklorist and Irish scholar)
'Ciarán Bairéad at work'


7.00pm Break, with refreshments.

7.30pm Dr. Pádraig Ó Héalaí (Folklorist and Irish scholar)
'Béaloideas ó bhunscoileanna Bhaile Chláir, 1937-38'



8.00pm Dr. Brian Ó Curnáin (Dialectologist and Irish scholar)
 'Atógáil ár n-oidhreachta teanga i mBaile Chláir ó na fothracha aníos'

Ciarán Bairéad is a Shaothar i mBaile Chláir na Gaillimhe

Ceiliúradh ar shaothar Chiaráin Bhairéad (1905-1976), duine de mhórbhailitheoirí bhéaloideas na hÉireann. Is cnuasach thar a bheith luachmhar é an t-ábhar a bhailigh Ciarán ó phobal Bhaile Chláir agus a thimpeallacht i gcaitheamh a shaoil agus níl aitheantas cuí tugtha fós don tábhacht a bhaineann leis.

Bí linn ag Caisleán Bhaile Chláir na Gaillimhe ar an Satharn 29 Lúnasa, 6.00pm go 8.30pm - mar a dtabharfaidh ceathrar scoláirí oilte cuntas ar ghnéithe éagsúla d’obair an bhailiúcháin sa cheantar, ar shaol Chiaráin féin is saol a linne mar aon le scéal na Gaeilge i mBaile Chláir is a chomharsanacht.


I mBéarla a bheidh an chéad dá chaint agus i nGaeilge a bheidh an dá chaint dheireanacha.


Cuirfear fáilte mhór roimh fhreagairt nó ceisteanna ón úrlár.


6.00pm An tOll. Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh (Staraí)
'Ciarán Bairéad: family background and cultural

6.30pm An tOll. Séamas Ó Catháin (Scoláire Béaloidis is Gaeilge)
'Ciarán Bairéad at work'


7.00pm Bolgam le n-ól is le n-ithe


7.30pm An Dr. Pádraig Ó Héalaí (Scoláire Béaloidis is Gaeilge)
'Béaloideas ó bhunscoileanna Bhaile Chláir, 1937-38'


8.00pm An Dr. Brian Ó Curnáin (Scoláire Gaeilge is Canúineolaíochta)
'Atógáil ár n-oidhreachta teanga i mBaile Chláir ó na
 fothracha aníos'



 Chair: Prof. Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha (Old Irish, NUIG)

 Cost: €5.00 (concessions €3)

 Includes optional tour of the castle at 5.00pm approx.





A History of Claregalway Castle.


Claregalway Castle was a chief stronghold of the Clanricarde Burkes. Construction of Claregalway Castle began in the early 1400s and was probably competed in the 1440s. Located on a low crossing point of the River Clare, the castle controlled water and land trade routes, exacted tolls, and maintained Clanricarde Burke authority in the surrounding countryside, a region known in pre-Norman times as Magh Seóla (the level plain). By 1580, there was a network of Clanricarde Burke castles stretching from Lough Corrib to the River Shannon. The castle once had a six metre high bawn/defensive wall, an imposing gate-house, a moat as well as other buildings including a dining hall.



The Battle of Knockdoe, 1504:

 This battle took place 5 kilometres from Claregalway Castle and was one of the largest pitched battle in Medieval Irish history, involving an estimated 10,000 combatants. The battle was fought between the Clanricarde Burkes, led by Lord Ulick Finn, and a combined force headed by the Earl of Kildare, Gearóid Mór Fitzgerald. The official reason for this battle was that Ulick Finn had aggressively overstepped his authority in Connacht. However, the unofficial reason involved scandal. Ulick Finn Burke was allegedly having an affair with the wife of another lord who consequently complained to Fitzgerald, demanding justice.  The fact that Burke was already married to Fitzgerald's sister Estacia didn't help matters. Taking offence at the disrespect shown towards his sister by Burke, Fitzgerald moved westward towards Clanricarde territory to confront Burke, collecting allies from all over Ireland.

Ulick Finn Burke spent the eve of the battle at Claregalway Castle, drinking and playing cards with his men. The next day, Burke and his army marched off to meet Fitzgerald's forces at a nearby hill, later called Knockdoe or Cnoc Tuagh/Hill of the Axes. There was terrible slaughter and Burke's army was defeated, though he himself survived. At least 3,000 men died in close, hand-to-hand combat. A contemporary account described the aftermath; 'for the plain on which they were was impassable, from the vast and prodigious numbers of mangled bodies stretched in gory litters; of broken spears, cloven shields, shattered battle-swords, mangled and disfigured bodies stretched dead, and beardless youths lying hideous, after expiring…'

 Afterwards, Fitzgerald captured Claregalway Castle, taking some of Burke's children as hostages. He then proceeded to Galway city whose mayor provided over 7,000 gallons of wine for the victors to celebrate with. 

Ulick na gCeann Burke: Known as Ulick of the heads because of his having taken many heads of defeated enemies. This charismatic figure travelled to meet Henry VIII at Greenwich Palace, London. There, as part of Henry's 'Surrender and Regrant' policy in Ireland, Ulick knelt before Henry, accepting his claim as King of Ireland. In return, Ulick was granted the title of Earl of Clanricarde, along with lands and property near Dublin.  Prior to visiting England, Ulick married Dame Marie Lynch, a rich widow from Galway city. Marie helped Ulick prepare for English court etiquette, and also taught him some English since Ulick spoke only Gaelic and Latin. Unfortunately, Ulick already had two other wives; Grainne O' Carroll and his cousin Honora De Burgo. In the following generation, there were bitter wars of succession between the sons from these different marriages, and Connacht suffered as a consequence. 

The Brian Boru/Irish Harp: While at Greenwich,KingHenry presented Burke with a gift of the so-called Irish Harp, the national symbol of Ireland, now held at Trinity College Dublin. Tradition says that Ulick brought this famous instrument back to Claregalway Castle with him, where its music likely echoed through the castle's great hall.


Ulick Burke (1604-57), 5th Earl of Clanricarde, spent time at the castle during the late 1640s/early 1650s. He was the Royalist commander in Ireland for King Charles II in the closing stages of the English Civil War which had also extended into Ireland. Correspondence  written by Burke from Claregalway Castle to the King  survives.

Ulick Burke, 5th Earl of ClanricardeIn 1651 Claregalway Castle was captured by Oliver Cromwell’s commander for Connacht, the brutal Sir Charles Coote II, who made the castle his headquarters. The English Civil Wars combined with the Irish Rebellion were by then nearly over.  Galway, a staunch Royalist stronghold, was the last town in Ireland to yield to Cromwellian forces but only after a dreadful nine month siege prosecuted by Coote. On 5April 1652, Galway's leaders surrendered the town to Coote at Claregalway Castle.  It is probably sometime after this that the castle was slighted, meaning that its battlements and bawn walls were demolished. In the centuries after this, the castle fell into disrepair.




There was an English military garrison stationed at the castle in the early 1700s. In 1791, a French diplomat, Coquebert de Montbert passed through Claregalway while on a tour of Connacht. De Montbert described the castle as being in good condition, but without its roof and battlements.


At some point, either in the late 1700s or early 1800 centuries, there was a water-wheel and flax mill in operation at the castle. An etching by Samuel Lover in 1831, and an enigmatic engraving by the famous artist William Henry Bartlett from about 1841, show the ruined castle, with the water-wheel, the original eleven-arched bridge beside the castle and the nearby beautiful Franciscan Friary.




The castle was used by the British as a garrison and as a prison for I.R.A. soldiers during War of Independence, 1919-21. The first Garda Siochána (Irish police force) station in the area was based at the castle for a short time. In 1931, the famous actor Orson Welles, then a 16 year old unknown, stayed at the castle for a time as part of his travels in Ireland. 


Today the castle is fully restored and is open to the public for six months of the year. It hosts the annual Galway Garden Festival, Christmas Fayre, among other events. It also takes in curriculum-based school tours. Claregalway Castle is the home of the Medieval Armoured Combat Ireland (MACI) team.

National Heritage Week 2015 at Claregalway Castle

Click here to see Claregalway Castle events for Hetitage Week.


   At Claregalway Castle we have lined some very special events for you that are highlighted below. If you want more details on any of these then please go to the EVENTS section of this website.


  • 22/Aug: Castle Tours.
  • 22/Aug: Medieval Armoured Combat Display
  • 22/Aug: Archery Display
  • 22/Aug: Bow and Arrow Workshop (for kids).


  • 23/Aug: Castle Tours


  • 24/Aug: Castle Tours


  • 25/Aug: Castle Tours


  • 26/Aug: Castle Tours
  • 26/Aug: Talk: Claregalway Castle and Cromwells siege.


  • 27/Aug: Castle Tours
  • 27/Aug: The Heritage of Irish Botanical Art


  • 28/Aug: Castle Tours
  • 28/Aug: Discovery during Castle Restoration



  • 30/Aug: Castle Tours.


Dont forget that you can see these and more on our EVENTS SECTION.


HAVE A GREAT WEEK. Bain sult as an tseachtain.

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Caisleán Bhaile Chláir / Claregalway Castle
Baile Chláir, Gaillimh, H91 E93T, Éire / Claregalway, Co.Galway, H91 E93T, Ireland.   Fón:: +353 (0)86 20 20 999



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