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Heritage Ireland

Drumharsna Castle

A castle marked by a brutal and tragic history

Unguided sites

Drumharsna South
Galway

Drumharsna Castle

A castle marked by a brutal and tragic history

Unguided sites

Drumharsna South
Galway

Notice

Drumharsna Castle is a state-owned free National Monument in the care of the Office of Public Works

*For External Viewing Only*

Drumharsna Castle

Located 5 kilometres (3.11 miles) south west of the village of Ardrahan, Co. Galway, this solid though formidably bleak five-story early-to-mid-16th-century tower house was built by the Anglo-Norman Kilkelly (McGillakelly) family, and was later owned by Shane Ballagh, of the O’Shaughnessy family, who was granted the castle and lands in 1574 by Queen Elizabeth I of England. In the early 18th century that castle came into the possession of the French family.

Originally protected by a bawn, or walled enclosure, the tower was designed as a defensive fortification, with an arched north eastern entryway, thick walls and tall narrow windows on each floor. The inside storeys are connected by a spiral staircase in the south east corner and the castle also contains several mural passageways. The second and fourth storeys are vaulted and the fifth floor is made up of an attic of a later period, of which there is one remaining gable-ended wall, and of battlements with a machicolation, or “murder hole”, strategically positioned above the ground-floor entrance for throwing large stones or pouring boiling water on would-be attackers.

The castle was occupied right up to the early years of the 20th century, with various alterations being made to its internal structure, including the addition of fireplaces and chimneys. Although most of the internal floorings have gone, the corbels that supported them and the ceilings can still be seen. During the Irish War of Independence (1919 -1921), Drumharsna was used by the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary, as an interrogation centre for Irish republican rebels and their civilian sympathisers.

The castle was the scene of one of the most gruesome killings of that conflict when, on 26th November 1920, two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), brothers Patrick and Harry Loughnane were brought here for interrogation. Nine days later their mutilated, burnt and disfigured bodies were found hidden in a pond 5 kilometres north of Ardrahan. The brothers were laid to rest at Shanglish Cemetery, in Gort, Co. Galway. Full details of the incident can be found in the Bureau Of Military History collection of the Irish Military Archives at: www.militaryarchives.ie

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This national monument is protected in accordance with the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2014

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