Aughnanure Castle in Connemara – a well hidden gem

This castle is a treasure in more ways than one – why you should include it in your Galway stay and what else you can do in Connemara, I’ll tell you here…

The "castle hound" of Aughnanure Castle
The “castle hound” of Aughnanure Castle (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)


I admit it, I’m a big Castle fan. Whenever I see a “castle” sign on the side of the road somewhere, I stop by at least once.

This happens a lot in Ireland, because practically every small town has a castle. This is because the Irish clans, of which there were many, had at least one square tower as a fortified dwelling.

Larger clans also had more than one – the trend was towards a second castle…

At a time when everyone was constantly raiding everyone else, this probably made sense.

Round tower and keep inside Aughnanure Castle
Round tower and keep inside Aughnanure Castle (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Today, most of these square towers have fallen into ruin. Some castles are more complex castle complexes and some castles are also magnificent residential palaces. But the latter were built much later, when the Middle Ages were over and not everyone was constantly raiding everyone else.

Aughnanure Castle is one of those extended, medium-sized castle complexes with a square residential tower (keep), surrounding walls and several defence towers. It is partly in ruins, but the residential tower is still very well preserved.

What I particularly liked: Although Aughnanure Castle is practically on the outskirts of Galway, there wasn’t much going on here and I was able to explore the lovely castle in peace and quiet with just a few other visitors.

So is this a “hidden gem”? Yes – absolutely!

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Incidentally, we are from Germany and have been living in Ireland as a second home for several years. In the summer, we run our motorbike rental business ( and our guest rooms ( from our base south of Dublin.

I discovered Aughnanure Castle on one of my motorbike tours through Ireland.

Some background to Aughnanure Castle

There are over 200 Tower Houses in County Galway. Most were built in the 15th and 16th centuries by Gaelic and Anglo-Norman landowners. Most of them are now derelict.

Aughnanure Castle is also a tower house in terms of building style, in this case with walls around it.

Gaelic and Anglo-Norman are in direct contradiction and illustrate the conflicts of the time, when the Irish Gaelic clans were defeated and displaced in many battles by Anglo-Norman conquerors.

English domination was to continue for several centuries, but the Gaelic Irish repeatedly rebelled against it. This ultimately led to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 and the subsequent transition to the present-day independent Republic of Ireland.

The Irish were therefore more successful than the Gaelic Scots who, after losing several battles, are still discussing their possible or impossible independence from England today…

Aughnanure Castle
Aughnanure Castle (Photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Aughnanure Castle is the only medieval castle in Connemara that is open to the public today.

It was built at the end of the 16th century by the influential Gaelic noble family O’Flaherty. The family had controlled large parts of Connemara since the 13th century.

About a hundred years later, the castle was taken by Sir Edward Fitton. He was loyal to the English crown and the English had a great interest in reducing the influence of the Gaelic clans.

In the course of Cromwell’s wars in the 17th century, the castle changed hands several more times, was then bought back into the family estate by an O’Flaherty descendant in 1932, but was sold to the Irish state in 1952. The state restored the castle to its present form in the 1960s.

Visiting Aughnanure Castle

If you are travelling on the N59 from Galway towards Clifden, look out for the signs at the side of the road just before Oughterard. At Killarone, a small road leads off to the right towards the golf club and Lough Corrib. It leads to a small car park where there is not much to see at first apart from bushes and trees.

Round tower in Aughnanure Castle
Round tower in Aughnanure Castle (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Follow the small footpath for a short distance and then you will see the entrance to the castle in front of you.

The entrance fee is very reasonable and then you can move around the grounds freely. There are several very well-designed boards on the grounds and in the Tower House which explain the history and background of the castle, the building style and the function of the individual rustic rooms very well.

Also take the time to walk around the grounds a bit and explore the walls and defence towers, I really enjoyed discovering them. See:

Inside a round tower at Aughnanure Castle
Inside a round tower at Aughnanure Castle (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

What else you can see in the area


The castle is only about half an hour’s drive from Galway and can therefore be visited as a half-day excursion from Galway. But if you’ve already travelled a little way into the beautiful Connemara region, then be sure to drive a little further…

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey is the most important and probably the most beautiful sight in Connemara. You can find my article about it here:


Clifden is the secret “capital” of Connemara. The pretty town offers many opportunities to stay overnight, eat, drink and shop and is a popular stopover for travellers on a round trip. The N59 leads from Galway to Clifden.

Pines Isle Viewpoint in Connemara
Pines Isle Viewpoint in Connemara (photo by Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

The highlands of Connemara

The beautiful low mountain world of Connemara lies to your right on your way to Clifden. At Pines island Viewpoint, you already have a wonderful view of it. The heartland of the mountains is Connemara National Park, whose visitor centre can be found near the village of Letterfrack. See:

Beaches and coasts of Connemara

From Clifden, you should also take the small roads towards the coast. The rocky coastline offers many beautiful cliffs, but also beautiful sandy beaches, such as Dog’s Bay, Coral Strand, Renvyle beach or Glassilaun Beach.

The great lakes in County Galway

Aughnanure Castle lies almost on the shores of the large Lough Corrib. This and Lough Mask are the large lakes in the region with many opportunities for boat trips, paddling or fishing. But the many small lakes in the mountains are also beautiful, such as Lough Inagh, Derryclare Lough or Lough Fee.

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If you like browsing and exploring, then Aughnanure Castle is the place for you. It’s not the biggest attraction in Ireland, but I think it’s a very nice one.

It’s a little tucked away, too small for the big crowds and not one of those sights that have been Instagrammed 10,000 times.

But that’s what makes it particularly appealing to me. Here you will find an authentic piece of Irish history and culture – a “hidden gem”.

I wish you lots of fun at Aughnanure Castle and in beautiful Connemara!

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Picture credits cover picture: Aughnanure Castle, photo by Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (

Uli Written by:

Hello and welcome to my blog. Originating from Germany, my family and I now live in Ireland (at least part time). We have travelled this amazing isle many times and know many parts of it very well. In this blog, I would like to share valuabe tips and information for your next trip to Ireland with you. Enjoy the content, yours, Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg