We were visiting Limerick and Galway recently and planned a visit to Thoor Ballylee Castle near Gort, county Galway. I first heard of Thoor Ballylee last year during the Yeats 150th celebrations, it featured on an RTE news report, highlighting it’s connection to the poet and subsequently I saw the castle on news reports about the bad flooding in the midlands and west of Ireland during Winter 2015. The castle lies beside a river and during heavy rainfalls it is liable to flood, the water rose so high it was at the roof of the thatched cottage that is connected to the tower.
Thoor Ballylee Castle is a fortified, 15th (or 16th) century Hiberno-Norman tower house built by the Burgo or Burke clan, near the town of Gort in County Galway, Ireland. It is also known as Yeats’ Tower because it was once owned and inhabited by the poet William Butler Yeats.
Yeats bought the tower and cottage in 1916 as he liked the rural location, the tower was originally part of the nearby Coole Estate, home of Lady Augusta Gregory, Yeats’ lifelong friend. It was in nearby Coole park, the Irish literary revival was established.
Yeats had the tower and cottage renovated and lived here with his wife Georgina and their two children during the 1920’s.
The tower is maintained and run by a group of local volunteers the Thoor Ballylee Society and it is opened to the public as a tourist attraction for the summer months, we were lucky to visit just a few days before it closed for the season. You can tour the tower and climb its winding stairs right to the rooftop with great views over the surrounding countryside. In the thatched cottage part, that is attached to the tower, they have a visitors section with exhibition information boards on Yeats, his poetry, lovers and muse and his life when he lived in the tower.
I read the book Willie & Maud – a Love story by Barry Shortall last year and it describes in detail about William’s many visits to the nearby Coole Park and his renovations to the tower, how he had the plaque you see in the photos mounted on the front of the tower and about an event during the civil war when the bridge beside the tower was blown up.