Castle/Manor House

This great semi-fortified manor house overlooks the River Shannon in south east Galway where the river enters Lough Derg. Built between 1610 and 1618, it was without equal in Ireland at the time in style, grandeur and distinction, which can be attributed to the wealth of its builder, Richard de Burgo (Burke), 4th Earl of Clanricarde and Lord President of Connacht, of the famous de Burgo family of Norman extraction. It remained the home of the de Burgo family for over 200 years until sadly it accidentally burned in 1826.

The house is considered transitional in style between once heavily fortified castles and the newer non-fortified manor houses and hence can be called by either name. And it was one of the first (if not the first) buildings in Ireland with some Renaissance influence which was already common in Italy and France. In addition to the layout, the doorcase of the front entrance and the Tuscan gateway of the innermost courtyard are Renaissance inspired, as well as the very distinctive Italian formal gardens. The castle is three stories over a basement with square corner projecting towers containing gunports. A central lengthwise supporting wall contains numerous fireplaces and recesses and divides the first floor into two large halls.


Tuscan Gateway

Tuscan gateway

Portumna's garderobe consisted of two dedicated latrine towers with chutes to discharge waste into a large stone lined drain under the castle, a type of sewer system. It was traditional that a gong farmer, or "gongfermor", would dig out the cesspit and remove the waste at night.The castle remained as a ruin after the accidental burning until work commenced by the OPW in 1968. After extensive conservation and renovation, the ground floor is now open to the public as well as the formal (geometric) gardens and a recently restored 17th century walled kitchen garden.

Interior Exhibition

When we visited in April this garden was ablaze with flowers and vegetables, and the repointing of stonework in the halls was clearly evident. Further work is ongoing with plans to install a main staircase and internal floors. We are looking forward to a return visit to keep up with the restoration of this remarkable historical structure.

Situated: Easy, Portumna is located on the N65, if you enter Portumna from Loughrea go to the end of the road till it turns sharp left. then take the next left to the castle.

Discovery Map 53: M 8521 0401. Last visit April 2012.

Longitude: 8° 13' 15" W

Latitude: 53° 5' 12" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey and Deb Snelson.

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