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Video of Athenry, County Galway, Republic of Ireland

Athenry lies on the Galway-Dublin main line of the Irish rail network, at the junction of that route with the currently disused Limerick-Sligo line (dubbed the Western Railway Corridor). Work is now underway ('West on Track') to re-open these passenger links, with the Ennis-Athenry section due for re-opening by 2008 and the Athenry-Tuam section by 2010. The town received its charter in 1235, and Athenry Castle was built in the same year. In 1241, the Dominican Abbey was founded, a major institution which was eventually raised to the status of a university before being sacked by Cromwellian soldiers. Both buildings are now national monuments.

Its name derives from the ford ('Áth') crossing the river Clarin just east of the settlement. Because three kingdoms met at that point, it was called 'Áth na Ríogh', or 'the Ford of the Kings'. On some medieval maps of English origin the town is called Kingstown. The kingdoms were Hy-Many to the north-east, east and south-east; Aidhne to the south and south-west; Maigh Seola to the west and north-west. Up to around 1000 it was included in Uí Briúin Seóla. In the mid-11th century it was part of the trícha cét of Clann Taidg.

The earliest remaining building in the town is Athenry Castle which was built sometime before 1240 by Meyler de Bermingham. In 1241, the Dominican Abbey was founded, a major institution. It was ostensibly closed during the Protestant Reformation but survived until being desecrated and burned during the Mac an Iarla Wars of the 1570s, and was finally vandalised by Cromwellians in the 1650s. The Medieval walls around Athenry are among the most complete and best preserved in Ireland and still retain a number of the original towers as well as 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; it is here that Athenry's late 15th century Market Cross is located. The monument which is of Tabernacle orLantern 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 immediately North of the Square. The original church is largely destroyed but in 1828 a Church of Ireland church was built into its chancel.


Athenry is a heritage town, with the Heritage Centre located in the former Church of Ireland chapel which is itself set amongst the ruins of an older 14th century Collegiate church. The centre provides the historical context for the town's development, chronicling its evolution from the granting of the town charter in 1235 through to the 21st century. Athenry's town walls rank amongst the best in the British Isles. Dating from 1310 the walls originally enclosed an area of some 28 hectares. Approximately two-thirds of the original walls remain.  

Athenry Town

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