Galway castle was founded some 50 years before Henry II (1154-89) annexed the bulk of Ireland.  Turlough O'Connor (d.1156)was the nephew of King Muirchertach O'Brian (d.1119) who had helped force his uncle into retirement in 1118.  In 1124 Turlough founded a fort at Dun Gaillimhe which eventually grew into Galway castle and city.  Similarly he is recorded as having built Athlone castle in stone in 1129.  He is also reputed to have built Dunmore (as his capital) and Ballinasloe castles as well as refounding Cong abbey around 1135.  In 1132, Athlone castle faced a combined attack from the men of Munster (Turlough O'Brian (d.1167)) and Meath (Tiernan O'Rourke (d.1173)) and later Cormac MacCarthy of Desmond (d.1138) after he had taken Galway castle (Cairlen Bona Gaillme) with the aid of a fleet from Munster and forced his way up the Shannon.  By 1150 Turlough's power was failing and he gave hostages to Muirchertach MacLochlainn (d.1166), thereby admitting his supremacy.  It is unknown if he rebuilt Galway castle in this time.

Galway was occupied by Richard Burgh (d.1242), possibly as early as 1226 when he was granted Connaught.  Obviously he rebuilt or refounded the castle as it was attacked and seriously damaged in 1233 during the Marshall rebellion.  In 1247 a fire in Galway town also burned the wooden sections of the castle.  The fortress is claimed to have been rebuilt as Walter Burgh (d.1271) seems to have died in the it and it was supposedly dismantled after 1280 and the stone used to build the Red Earl's House by Earl Richard Burgh of Ulster (d.1326).

Nothing major remains of the castle apart from some rather pathetic foundations of a round tower under the Aran Sweater Market near the Spanish Gate and various lengths of the city walls.   The castle remains consists of the foundations of a poorly built turret, no more than 20' in diameter, with walls no more than 3' thick.

The Spanish Gate was built in 1584 as an extension of the older city walls which stretched from Martin's Tower in the north to the bank of the River Corrib/Galway in the south.  Further inland 2 round mural towers, including the north-easternmost Shoemaker Tower, with the north-east section of city wall, survives in the Eyre Square shopping centre.  These would appear to have been built before 1270.  Certainly a document from the 1270s mentions the making of:

a large fire to burn lime and for wood carried to the same and for the wages of masons and other workmen employed in breaking stone and conveying it... and for the wages of workmen and others assisting the masons to make walls on the side towards the sea and to build a tower beyond the great gate and in buying iron for making crowbars, pickaxes, nails and other tools.

That the sea wall was being built at this time would suggest that the rest of the enceinte away from the sea had already been completed, as too would the mention of the building of a tower before the land gate which therefore already existed.  St Nicholas' Collegiate church is thought to date from the 1320s and may incorporate an older building in the chancel's south wall.

Perhaps you would like to join me in visiting this and other great castles of Ireland in October with Scholarly Sojourns.  Details of the trip can be found by clicking here.


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