Located just two miles outside Oughterard, approaching from Galway on the N59, is this 16th century Irish Tower House. Much of the surrounding area was occupied by the O’Flaherty clan, up until this time, but was taken over by The first Earl of Ulster, Walter de Burgo, in 1256. The original castle was probably built by the Earl during this time but was re-conquered by the O’Flaherty Clan by 1300.
Aughnanure Castle lies in picturesque surroundings close to the shores of Lough Corrib. In 1546 the O’Flaherty’s motto “Fortune favours the strong” and the powerful Mayo O’Malleys Motto “Powerful by land and by sea”, were joined in the marriage of Donal an Chogaidh O’Flaherty and Grainuaile/Grace O’Malley. Standing on what is virtually a rocky island, the castle is a particularly well-preserved example of an Irish tower house. In addition, visitors will find the remains of a banqueting hall, a watch tower, an unusual double bawn and bastions and a dry harbour.
By 1569, Aughnanure Castle and surrounding lands were declared to be property of the crown and in control of Murrough na Doe O’Flaherty was named chief, undermining the rightful chief, Donal an Chogaidh. This decree split the tribe and the eastern portion of the property, including Aughnanure Castle, were controlled by Murrough and the western portion remained with Donal. For 60 years, the castle remained in possession of the crown and was used as a stronghold against attacks from Galway during Cromwellian times.
In 1630, Roderick O’Flaherty petitioned to have the castle returned and the scholar and writer was successful in, once again, retaining possession. It, however, in the difficult years to come, with Roderick being a Catholic, the castle suffered the poverty which he eventually died in.
In recent years, the castle was bought by the Office of Public Works and was fully restored.
The castle was built beside, and at some positions straddling, a small river, the Drimneen, that has cut intriguing caverns in the stone below it. The building consists of a small (probably) guard look-out, a lower floor for storage and two upper floors – one for used for living quarters (containing a secret room) and the other for sleeping. At the top of the castle, there is an area to take in the fabulous views of the surrounding area.
Outside the castle are two courtyards, one original and one that was added at a later period. There is well-known fable that there was once a trap door where unwelcome guests could be dropped into the river flowing below the courtyard.