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Baile Áth na Ríogh
Athenry Castle
Country Ireland
Province Connacht
County County Galway
47 m (154 ft)
 • Urban
Irish Grid Reference M500282

Athenry ( Irish: Baile Áth na Ríogh, meaning Town of the Ford of the Kings) is a town in County Galway, Ireland, which lies 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of Galway city. Some of the attractions of the medieval town are its town wall, Athenry Castle, its priory and its 13th century Anglo-Norman street-plan. The town is also well known by virtue of the song "The Fields of Athenry".


St Marys Athenry (31935565175)
St. Mary's Parish Church in Athenry.

Its name derives from the ford ('Áth') crossing the river Clarin just east of the settlement. Though other inaccurate explanations are still given, it was called 'Áth na Ríogh' ('Ford of the Kings') because it was the home area of the Cenél nDéigill, kings of the Soghain, whose leading lineage were the Ó Mainnín [1]. On some medieval maps of English origin the town is called Kingstown.

Originally, Soghain was surrounded by Uí Maine to the east, Aidhne to the south, and Maigh Seola to the west. However after 1135, and by 1152, Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair forcibly incorporated it into the newly-created trícha cét of Clann Taidg, ruled by lords such as Fearghal Ó Taidg an Teaghlaigh, who expelled the Ó Mainnín family. In the 1230s the Ó Taidg an Teaghlaigh family were in turn displaced by Meyler de Bermingham [2].

The earliest remaining building in the town is Athenry Castle which was built sometime before 1240 by Meyler de Bermingham. In 1241, the Dominican Priory was founded, and became an important center for learning and teaching. It was ostensibly closed during the Protestant Reformation but survived until being desecrated and burned during the Mac an Iarla wars of the 1560s-80s, and was finally vandalised by Cromwellians in the 1650s. The medieval walls around Athenry are among the most complete and best preserved in Ireland with 70% of original circuit still standing, along with some of the original towers and the original North gate. The remains of the Lorro Gate were partially unearthed in 2007 during redevelopment road works in the area.

In the centre of the town is the 'square'; markets were held from the 17th century onwards and where the town's late 15th century 'Market Cross' is still located. The monument which is of Tabernacle or Lantern type is the only one of its kind in Ireland and the only medieval cross still standing in situ in the country. A Heritage centre now occupies the remains of the mid-13th century St Mary's Collegiate Church adjacent to the town Square. The original medieval church is largely destroyed but in 1828 a Church of Ireland church was built into its chancel.

In 1791, Caquebert de Montbret visited the town, which he described as:

[covering] 50 acres but has no more than 60 houses. ... there is an abbey of which the ruins are almost all standing. ... There is a big uninhabited castle called Bermingham's Court.. In the middle of Athenry is the stump of a cross destroyed in the wars, on which a crucifix in bas-relief still remains. ... I noticed at the door of a tavern a large cake decorated with a bouquet. It was a prize for the best dancer. ... The road from Athenry is very beautiful and there are no barriers (turnpikes)

Moyode Castle is another tall 16th-century fortified tower house of the Dolphin family, which went to the Persse family. The castle is now restored and inhabited and is located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from the town of Athenry.

Economy and transport

Athenry Priory NE 2009 09 13
Athenry Dominican Priory.


By road, Athenry is served by the M6 Motorway which links Galway city to Dublin. By rail, it is served by Athenry railway station which opened on 1 August 1851 and lies on the Galway–Dublin main line of the Irish rail network. The town is at the junction the Galway–Dublin line, and the partially complete LimerickSligo line (dubbed the Western Railway Corridor). Work ('West on Track') is underway to re-open further links, with the Ennis-Athenry section open since March 2010, and the Athenry-Tuam section due in 2011, though not completed yet.


In 2015, Apple Inc. decided to build a €850m data center near Athenry, and a similar one in Viborg, Denmark.

International relations

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in the Republic of Ireland

Twin towns – Sister cities

Athenry is twinned with the town of Quimperlé in Brittany and, as of the 15th of August 2013, Renews-Cappahayden, Newfoundland and Labrador.


The following is a list of notable natives of Athenry:

  • Slim Barrett, born 1960s- award-winning jewellery designer and artist
  • Anthony Richard Blake, (1786–1849) – 'backstairs viceroy of Ireland'
  • Robert Blakeney MP for Athenry
  • Dominic Burke (c. 1603–1649) – Dominican priest and political agent
  • John de Burgh, (1590–1667) – Archbishop of Tuam
  • Oliver Burke (c. 1598–1672) – Bishop of Kilmacduagh.
  • Thomas Burke, (c.1747–1783) – governor of North Carolina
  • Rev. James Patrick Broderick (1891–1973) – Jesuit and religious writer
  • Conainne fl. c. 500 – early Christian missionary
  • Ciarán Cannon (born 1965) – Fine Gael TD for Galway East.
  • Eugene Cloonan (born 1978) – sportsperson
  • Professor John Cummings (1828-after 1913), Irish piper.
  • Owen Cunnigam, (mid-19th century), piper.
  • Patrick D'Arcy (1598–1668) – leading Irish Confederate
  • Vincent Dillon, Irish Dominican martyr, died 1651.
  • Basilia de Bermingham (fl. c.1250) – religious patron
  • Meyler de Bermingham – founder of Athenry
  • Rickard de Bermingham (d.1322) – victor of the Second Battle of Athenry
  • Liam Deois (fl. early 1800s) – highwayman
  • Padraic Fallon (1905–1974) – poet
  • Julie Feeney, born 1979 – award-winning singer and composer
  • Fearghal Ó Taidg an Teaghlaigh, Marshall to the Kings of Connacht, (died 1226)
  • Paul Hession (born 1983) – Olympic sprinter
  • Kerrill Christian missionary – fl. c. 480?
  • Nannie Lambert, poet, journalist, equestrian, fl. 1877–1897.
  • Larry Lardner fl. 1920 – I.R.A. commander
  • Maél Póil – medieval abbot of Templemoyle
  • P.J. Molloy (born 1952) – former hurler
  • Fr. Tom O'Connor – missionary priest and controversial historian
  • Joe Rabbitte (born 1970) – local hurler
  • Frank Shawe-Taylor (died 1920) – ex-High Sheriff of County Galway, killed during Irish War of Independence
  • Brian Shawe-Taylor(1915-1999) – Racing-car driver, son of Frank Shawe-Taylor, participated in 3 World Championship Grands Prix and numerous non-Championship Formula One races
  • Mary Lavin (writer) (1912-1996) – spent her childhood in Athenry
  • Noël Browne (doctor, politician) (1915-1997) – spent part of his childhood in Athenry
  • Bryan Mahon (Irish-born general of the British Army and Senator of the Irish Free State) (1862-1930) – born in Belleville
  • Marcas Ó Callanáin (1784–1836) – poet and balladier
  • Robert French, 1716–1776, M.P. and re-founder of Monivea
  • Tomás Bobhdacing, fl. c. 1300, founder of the Bodkin family
  • John O'Heyne, historian and Dominican, c. 1648–1713
  • Edward Carson, (1854-1935) - Irish Unionist leader and barrister, son of Isabella Lambert, of Castle Lambert, where he spent much of his childhood
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