Thoor Ballylee castle is a 16th Century tower house built on a small island in the Cloon River at Ballylee. It was built for the powerful de Burgo family who were Earls of Ulster and Lords of Connaught and was originally known as Islandmore Castle or Ballylee Castle.
The castle is four stories high with each story containing only one room. A stone spiral staircase is built into the thick outer wall and leads up to the flat roof and battlements.
The poet W.B. Yeats purchased the castle in 1916 for a nominal sum and he fell in love with the place. He renamed it Thoor Ballylee; dropping the word ‘castle’ from its name and replacing it with the Irish word for tower ‘thoor’. He made extensive (and expensive) renovations to the building and finally moved in in 1918. For the next 12 years it served as his summer home and the Coole Estate became the centre used for meetings by the Irish literary group.
Yeats wrote several poems about the castle and its surrounding area. It featured on the front cover of his 1928 book ‘The Tower’ and was the poetic model for his famous poem “Blood and the Moon”. “The Winding Stair” and the “Tower Poems” were also inspired by the castle.
After Yeats left in 1929 the castle fell into disrepair, but it was given by the Yeats family to the Kiltartan Society who restored it back to the condition it would have been in in Yeats’ time and they reopened it for the centenary of his birth in 1965.
The tower was refitted as a Yeats museum and it houses a collection of first editions of his work and a number of items of furniture. There is an audio-visual presentation which tells of the life and times of the poet and there are push-button audio guides in the tower rooms.
Thoor Ballylee Castle is currently undergoing renovations due to flood damage caused when the river burst its banks in 2009. Latest indications are that the castle has been cleaned and restored to a pristine condition. It remains closed to the public however.
Owner: Charitable Trust
Tel: +353 (0) 91 537700
Opening Times: Closed for repairs
Thoor Ballylee by River Cloon