Shrule Castle is situated near the banks of the Black River, on the Mayo/Galway border. This imposing three storey tower house was built circa 1238 by the de Burgh family. It passed from Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, into the hands of his son John de Burgh in 1308. The castle was captured in 1570 by a force consisting of Sir Edward Fitton, President of Connaught and Vice Treasurer of Ireland, and the McDonnells of Knocknacloy. The McDonnells of Knocknacloy were an infamous Highland Scottish clan who served as Gallowglass mercenaries mostly in Tyrone and Antrim. Mac Uilliam Ochtair, Lord of Thomond, the de Burghs of Mayo, and McDonnells of Mayo attempted to retake the castle but were unsuccessful. However during a battle on 18th June 1570 Edward Fitton was knocked from his horse seriously wounding his face, and the chief of the McDonnells of Knocknacloy, Calvagh McDonnell, was killed in the battle.
William Burke then occupied the building and granted it to his son John Burke in 1574. By 1619 the castle was leased by Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricarde to Piere Lynch, the Mayor of Galway City. In 1642 the castle played a pivotal role in the ‘Shrule Massacre’, this massacre is also mention in an earlier piece I did on Ross Errilly Friary. During the uprisings of 1642 a number of English Settlers surrendered to Irish authorities in Castlebar. The English Settlers were lead to Shrule Castle where they stayed for one week with the Sheriff of Mayo. They then were lead towards the border with Galway by Lord Mayo, as his authority only existed in Mayo. Just before the settlers were handed over to the Galway Authorities, Edmond Bourke, and Irish soldier leading the escort and cousin of Lord Mayo, directed his men to assassinate the settlers. The number of people that were massacred varies from thirty to sixty-five depending on sources, and the remaining survivors were taken to Headford by the monks at Ross Errilly.
The castle ruins are in quite a dangerous condition, with a lot of the stonework removed or collapsing, and a large crack runs from the base to the top of the building. Thankfully the beautiful bartizans that top each corner of the castle remain in a somewhat decent state.
GPS: 53.5196, -9.08574
5 thoughts on “Shrule Castle, Mayo, Ireland”
Do you know who owns the remains of the castle and whether there are any plans by any heritage groups to keep it intact so that it does not completely collapse into a heap? Wonderfully atmospheric place .
Apparently the owner of the land lives in England so I don’t know how much time or money they would invest in fixing it up. Actually some of the bricks at the bottom are removed, looks like it was done on purpose to perhaps destabilise the tower house also.
Such a great castle. As part of my PhD, it was discovered this castle was thirteenth-century chamber-tower with a detached but now lost ground floor medieval hall!!! I discovered this through geophysics. A tower-house is a much later medieval castle typically dating to very late fourteenth to early fifteenth century. Have a look at Dr. John Blair’s paper in Manorial Domestic Buildings in England and Northern France.
Hi Karen, thanks for your comment. I will check out Dr Blair’s paper. I’m intrigued to hear about the lost ground floor medieval hall! On which side of the castle was it located?