Towns of Galway
Athenry —County Galway
Athenry, about 23km east of Galway city, is a town steeped in the history of the county. After the Norman conquest in 1235, Meiler de Bermingham built his castle here by the ford on the River Clareen, and founded the mediaeval town of Athenry, surrounding it with a curtain wall with towns and a moat. Today, Athenry contains some of the finest remaining town walling in Ireland including five towers and a town entrance known as North Gate. The castle, surrounded by its own curtain wall and towers, had three phases of construction between the 13th and 15th centuries. It later fell into ruin, but has recently been re-roofed by the Office of Public Works and is annually the scene of a mediaeval-type festival. There is also an Arts & Heritage Centre.
Nearby, stand the ruins of the Dominican Priory, founded in 1241 and eventually suppressed by the Cromwellians in 1652. It contains many interesting grave slabs and tombs, including an impressive tomb of Lady Mathilda Birmingham (died 1788) with some fine, if rather rare stucco-work by Coade of London. Rare also, if not unique in Ireland, is the 15th century 'Lantern' type market cross in the town square. However, the market and fairs have now been replaced by a cattle-mart, which makes Athenry an important centre in the heart of this rich farming country, made famous by the popular song, 'The Fields of Athenry'.