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Today we are off to visit the town of Portumna and its spectacular castle that is located in the eastern part of County Galway.
The name of the town Portumna, Port Omna – from the Irish language means ‘the landing place of the oak’ and it’s a market town on the banks of the River Shannon and Lough Derg and is linked by a bridge to County Tipperary .This historic crossing point over the River Shannon between counties Tipperary and Galway has a long history of bridges and ferry crossings.
On the south-western edge of the town lies Portumna castle, the old Cistercian friary and the forest park.
There is a fine car park in the forest park so let’s head up the laneway for a look around. We are blessed with fine dry weather today, just perfect for an autumn stroll.
Our first stop will be at the friary , which was founded by the Cistercians around the 13th Century and then taken into the care of the Dominicans sometime around 1414. It is located close to the lake and the mighty Shannon river so must have close connections with the famous Clonmacnoise monastic settlement located some 20 miles away.
Take a look at the lovely windows, cloister and a range of domestic buildings. The friary fell into disrepair around the 17th Century but we can still get a sense of monastic life.
Let’s hike along through a forest trail that leads us to the highlight of today’s walk, the magnificent Portumna castle.
Dating from the early 17th century the castle is built in the Renaissance style and is more of a fortified house than a traditional castle. Having paid our admission fee we head in and take a closer look .
It was built by Richard Burke the 4th earl of Clanricarde between 1610 and 1617 and at the time cost 10,000 pounds to build . The Renaissance features of the exterior are not commonly found in Ireland with a front entrance and the Tuscan gateway of the innermost courtyard, but the layout is styled on Renaissance ideas. The castle is symmetrical in shape and consists of three stories over a basement with square corner projecting towers. The castle measures 29.7m by 21.2m and the corner towers are 6.5m square with gunports. A central corridor, 3m wide, runs longitudinally from top to bottom, supported by stone walls which contain numerous recesses and fireplaces.
A major fire in 1826 left the castle a roofless shell, but the state began to bring it back from ruin in the 1960s. Restoration work continues to this day. We can walk through part of the ground floor and see the restoration works in progress. I think that you will agree that it’s interesting to see the shell of the castle from the inside and get a real understanding of the scale and challenge of restoration.
Now, here is something interesting : As with many other historic buildings a number of local legends have grown up around the castle. One recounts that a child fell from one of the upper windows. An Irish wolf hound raced over, broke the child’s fall and saved the child. A marker stone now rests on the site. The bones of the dog, called Fury according to a marker stone erected at the time of his death in April 1797, have been found during excavations in 1997 and are now on display and we can take a look !
Let’s head out to the formal gardens, the last of the lavender is still in bloom and there is a lovely kitchen garden filled with flowers and herbs that we can visit. I think that you will agree this is a really lovely setting and it’s great that we can stroll around these elegant gardens and get a real sense of the opulence and grandeur of times gone by.
Don’t know about you, but I have worked up quite an appetite, luckily there is a great tearoom on the grounds and I’m tempted by the array of cakes and treats . let’s stop and rest our legs before we hit the road !
I hope that you enjoyed todays walk and with our gift giving season fast approaching don’t forget to take a look at all our Celtic Jewelry, handcrafted here in Ireland at www.connemaramarble.com take care until next time. Stephen
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