Aughnanure Castle is one of Ireland’s many historic sites in Galway County. It is just of the Lough (lake) Corrib and a short distance from Galway. It is a fully restored tower house near the river Drimneen and offers a stunning view of the Connemarra Mountains and surrounding area. This made for the good guard tower situation of its position. It also has caverns features in the stones below.
The following is a small interview with one of the volunteers, Mary:
How long has this historic site been in operation and how did it get it’s start?
Aughnanure Castle was occupied by members of the O’Flaherty from the early 16th century to the early 18th century when this historic site was recorded in a ruinous state. Unoccupied throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century the site was then purchased by a Peader O’Flaherty from Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1932, he was a descendant of the O’Flaherty’s of Iarconnacht and had purchased the castle with the view to restoring it. However this plan never materialised and in 1952 he donated Aughnanure Castle to the people of Ireland. The historic site then came into guardianship of the Office of Public works under National Monuments and throughout the 60’s and 70’s was restored. Aughnanure Castle the ancestral seat of the O’Flaherty family opened to the public in 1974 and has being open on a seasonal basis running from March-November ever since, welcoming over 35,000 visitors annually.
Due to some recent film work and television series, some of the historic sites have seen a huge increase in visits. How has this been beneficial and challenging to the heritage site?
Unfortunately we have not benefited from recent film and television work at our site. Due to our more remote location, historic sites closer to transport/airport facilities mainly in the east and south of the country have seen more of an increase in visits due to the film industry activities. Having said that our visitor numbers have increased year on year due to staff promotional efforts and also Fáilte Ireland introducing new initiatives for visitors, like the Wild Atlantic Way etc.
It may be of interest to you and your readers to know that in the past two films where shot here. In 1957 The Rising of Moon directed by John Ford in which the castle ruins where used as backdrop. Another film Lovespell filmed in 1979 and directed by Tom Donovan and released in 1981, a fantasy romantic tragedy film featuring Richard Burton as King Mark of Cornwall was also filmed here.
What is the biggest challenge that you have in running a site like this?
The biggest challenge with our site is ensuring that the visitor gets the best experience possible whether that be with or without a guided tour. This can be challenging as although we have not seen an increase in our visitor numbers due to a lot of film and television projects in recent years, we have had an annual increase in the last number of years due to Ireland becoming a very popular tourist distinction together with the promotion that Fáilte Ireland have undertaking with a new tourist attraction called the Wild Atlantic Way, the only coastal drive in the world of its kind. Which runs 2,500km from North to South along the western seaboard of the country. Due to our location on this route we have seen an increase in numbers, so we strive to insure that the visitors visit is a memorable experience here when we can have as many as 400+ visitors a day.
Do you have interpreters and re enactments at your site and what is involved in running some of these programs?
We do have a guide service on-site. We offer a guided tour (not compulsory and subject to guide availability)with each entry which lasts c.45mins and includes the history of this specific historical monument type ‘The Irish Tower House’ and the family that built and ruled the surrounding Lordship here from the 13th to 17th centuries, the O’Flaherty’s of Iarconnacht.
From time to time during national events like our annual Heritage week we do have re-enactors and events on site as an added enhancement to the visitor experience, one particular group called Claíomh that are based here in the west of Ireland are a very professional ‘living history’ group which re-creates a live and authentic image of medieval Ireland’s past.
Does your site have exhibits or host special exhibits on occasion?
Permanent illustrated information panels in both Irish and English guide visitors through the site and tell the story of the castle, the family who lived here and the world in which they lived. We also have various temporary exhibits throughout our season. At the moment we also have a display on late medieval Gaelic armour and the Origin of Irish Surnames, both which are proving very popular with visitors.