Athenry is a medieval town that is located 14 miles from Galway City and has a long and rich history. The town was founded in the 13th century by Meiler de Birmingham, who fortified the town with a special type of wall complete with a moat to keep it safe from invaders.
Athenry is in the heart of a rich farming country, made famous by the popular song ‘The Fields of Athenry’. The Medieval Festival that takes place in August has become a very popular tourist attraction. Attractions in Athenry include the Arts and Heritage Center which is located at St Mary’s, the 13th century collegiate church. The North Gate is known locally as ‘The Arch’ and is the only one of the five original gates remaining.
The Dominican Priory with its history of destruction, restoration and enlargement, also contains the impressive tomb of Lady Mathilda Birmingham. Athenry Castle is one of the finest 13th century castles in the country. Market Cross is a unique 15th century lantern-type market cross in the town’s square.
The Aran Islands
The three Aran Islands are situated across the mouth of Galway Bay, about 30 miles from Galway City, less than seven miles from the nearest point in either County Clare or Connemara. According to legend, Galway Bay was once a large lake formerly called Loch Lurgan, which in prehistoric times eroded its banks, leaving the Aran Islands forever battling against the mighty waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
The islands are well-known and attract visitors from all over the world; their unique culture and heritage continue to inspire a large number of world famous writers and artists. The islands have become synonymous with some of the finest writers and painters of this century and among them are dramatist JM Synge and writer Liam O’Flatherty, a native of Inishmore. Artists like Jack B Yeats, Seán Keating, Harry Clarke and many others were frequent visitors here.