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truly magnificent setting, overlooking the broad sweep of Clifden Bay with the lawns, painfully carved out of bog, sweeping down to the sea. It is approached through a beautiful entrance arch and gothic walls along a winding avenue edged with a series of five standing stones – only one of which is original. Te others were robbed from other antiquities in the area. Apart from being decorative eye candy, they were a vain attempt by the D’Arcys to give themselves a sense of belonging in this ancient landscape far from their East Galway origins in Kiltullagh.


A


Te Clifden district was devastated by the great famine of the 1840s. Te much-feared Clifden Workhouse, built to relieve distress, was overwhelmed and bankrupted by the famine. Many of the local landlords suffered financially. Te D’Arcy Estate, like almost all of the others, was bankrupted by the famine and the D’Arcys were forced to sell. It was bought for Tomas Eyre, an English gentleman from Bath for £21,245, who continued to improve the castle and its grounds. Te Eyres were, by and large, absentee landlords coming only for the summer season and holidays.


Te castle is now a picturesque ruin but it has lost none of its dramatic impact. In a hollow behind it is a very fine Gothic-like folly complete with waterfall and behind a well-proportioned stable block.


14 Clifden Castle


bout 1810 the D’Arcy family built their own magnificent castellated mansion, a mile to the west of the town over- looking the broad sweep of Clifden Bay. Te castle has a


Te Land Commission, following major clashes between the


Sinn Fein supporting Joyces who had acquired the property in a private deal with the Eyre’s Estate and the tenants who wanted the land divided among them, broke up the estate in the 1930s. Te Joyces were in the end forced to sell back the land for redis- tribution. In addition to the demesne land being divided into multiple ownership so was the castle. It was gradually stripped bare during the poverty stricken years of the 1920s and 30s.


Today it stands as a crumbling ruin, home to chuffs and rooks, an eerie reminder of the once powerful Landlords of Connemara.


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