When is a castle not a castle?
Clifden Castle is a stunning castle style manor in the Connemara region of Galway on the Sky Road out of Clifden. In it’s short history, it has had many owners and is now in the hands of several local families who graze their livestock there.
Originally built around 1818 by John D’arcy who founded Clifden town, on his death it passed to his eldest son, Hyacinth. Sadly, Hyacinth wasn’t as good at running the family properties as his father. (With a name like Hyacinth, the poor lad probably had enough on his plate to be dealing with.)
The famine years resulted in a fall in rental income for the D’arcys, and it wasn’t long before the estate went bankrupt. When the manor was put up for sale in 1850, the Eyre brothers from Bath purchased it and much of the surrounding lands. Charles and Thomas Eyre used the manor as a holiday home prior to Thomas buying Charles’ share. Their nephew, John Joseph, inherited the castle on Charles’ death and, following his passing, a trust was set up to administer the estate.
Eventually, the Land Commission purchased the manor before selling it on to a local butcher, J.B. Joyce, much to the annoyance of the local priest and the local farmers who took it on themselves to drive Joyce’s cattle off the lands. Joyce eventually sold the land in 1920/1921 to Clifden Cooperative, a group of trustees, who sold it in 1935 to the Land Commission who passed on the ownership to the tenants.
The roof, timbers, windows and lead were stripped from the house, and eventually it fell into ruins.
Where to park when visiting Clifden Castle
The beautiful Clifden Manor is accessed from an archway just off to the left of the Skye Road out of Clifden. There is a small area opposite the archway where it is possible to park several cars. It is not advisable to park at the archway as there are private residences just inside.
The walk from the archway to the manor slopes gently downhill with beautiful views over Clifden Bay.
Behind the manor and stretching to the North and north west are lush green fields where sheep and cows graze contentedly. (I’m assuming they’re content with all that lovely grass surrounding them.)
Clifden House – some features
The manor is of gothic revival style and possesses some beautiful features. I probably didn’t photograph all of them on the day, but I took as many photographs as time would allow.
Above the main entrance is the Eyre family crest with beautiful foliage detail to the sides (although part of this has fallen away).
Below are corbels flanking the doorway, also with foliage detail.
Through the ruins of one of the windows to the west of the building can be seen what was probably servants’ quarters or stables/lodges. These are on private farmland, and there are signs that there is a bull on the land, so it’s obvious that the owners don’t want tourists wandering around.
The owners are gracious enough to allow the public to view the castle, so I wasn’t going to climb any fences or cross any land, whether or not there was a bull around.
I went as far as the laneway at the back of the castle and then turned back.
My tour of Clifden Castle was definitely the highlight of visiting Clifden, and it’s a location I’d return to. I’d advise keeping small children close by as there are floors missing from within the castle and uneven ground within.