Castlebar Travel Blog› entry 25 of 68 › view all entries
All day, I had been excited to visit to the Museum of Country Life. Sadly, when I pulled up to the building, I found it had closed at 5:00pm and the last few visitors were just coming out. From the parking lot, however, I spotted an interesting round, stone tower in the distance, so I drove down for a closer inspection.
It turned out to be the recognized best-preserved round tower in Ireland! It stands roughly 21m (~69ft) tall and is situated about 6.4km (~4 miles) northeast of Castlebar. Similar round towers can be found around Ireland and range from 15m (~49ft) to 46 m (~151ft). Churches used them as bell-towers as well as hiding places for monks. In times of attack, mainly from the Vikings, these monks would use a ladder to enter through a doorway high up on the wall. With the people and their religious goods safely inside, they would hoist up the ladder until the threat had passed.
On a plaque by the entrance, I read that Turlough replaces the first church founded on the island by Saint Patrick. The tower was built between AD 900-1200 and the church in the 1700s, yet older elements include windows and a crucifixion plaque dated 1625. Burial grounds surround the church and a few graves rest inside the roofless structure as well. The newest tombstone marking I found was from 1998.