History

Newtown Castle is a beautifully restored 16th century cylindrical fortified tower house - one of only few such buildings in Ireland. Essentially built as a dwelling with an eye to defence, its tall slender profile reflects the vertical arrangement of the living quarters, characteristic of such buildings. The first three floors exhibit many defensive features such as narrow slit windows, gun loops and murder holes, while around the steeply pitched slate roof is a parapet walk with defended projections or machcoulis. The battlements and roof have been reconstructed from the remaining corbels and allure wall.


  • Ground Floor: Just behind the front entrance on the right, there is a small chamber in the North-East corner of the base batter, known as the 'doghouse'. The circular main chamber on the ground floor was used for storing food. Its twelve foot thick walls and darkness made it an ideally cool larder. The ceiling is covered in wattle and daub with the twigs still intact.?

  • First Floor: Here we find four narrow windows with original mullions and gun loops beside each for defence. The ceiling has been restored to its former glory with the sympathetic use of genuine Irish oak. Another new feature is the cut limestone lintel over the fireplace.

  • Second Floor: Now called the Scriptorium, the second floor features a wattle ceiling, as well as three gun loops and a door from which, it is speculated, occupants could exit the castle by means of a 30ft ladder.

  • Main Hall: Situated on the third floor, the Main Hall with its fine balcony allows unimpeded view of the beautiful restoration work done on the roof, made from seven tones of solid Irish oak - mortised, tennoned, dowelled and clad in Killaloe slates. It provides commanding views of the Burren landscape and Galway Bay from its four windows: to the North, the eye picks out Connemara, Galway Bay, the Martello Tower at Finavarra Point and Ballyvaughan village; to the South - Corkscrew Hill and valley; to the East - Ailwee Cave and Ballyalaban; to the West - Newtown Trail with its rich flora and fauna, sheep and goat cahirs, 19th century water works, folly and lime kiln. Further West, but requiring closer inspection, are three fúlacht fiadh (ancient cooking sites) under Cappanawalla mountain.

The Main Hall and Balcony present a visual record of the castle restoration which was accomplished in 1994. The architect and his team of craftsmen restored the wickerwork -framed stone and mortar domes of the chambers, relaid the floors with Moher flag, reinserted the mullioned windows and gun loops, repaired the stairs and, with the support of archaeological evidence, recreated a wooden circular balcony in the upper chamber.


Today...


One of the most distinctive landmarks of the Burren, Newtown Castle is part of the Burren College of Art. Honouring the tradition of third level learning in the Burren, the library of the College houses copy folios from the famous Egerton 88 glossary of the Brehon Laws, compiled by the O'Davorens in the 16th century - the original of which is now housed in the British Museum.


Linking with the Burren College's vocation in the fine arts, it also presents a limited edition facsimile copy of The Book of Kells, representing the finest example of the celtic illuminated manuscript tradition.


Download a Newtown Castle brochure