Days (part 3): Athenry

Well, what a great day we had, last Sunday, when we took ourselves off to Athenry. This little medieval walled town near Galway City was celebrating National Walled Towns Day. Athenry’s walls 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. It has retained it’s castle and a large Abbey too. We have frequently gone to great festival days in Athenry, they are always well organised with plenty to do… Which was the case on Sunday. Helped by -mostly!- dry weather (only the odd downpour) there was a great market set up on the green beside the castle. Here there were market stalls selling crafts, foodstuffs, art; a pig on a spit and many medieval way-of-life demonstrations: from butter churning, spinning, beekeeping, to Claíomh– a military living history group. Also, here on the green, there were fantastic free workshops for children making swords and wands…
Athenry Walled towns festival…while inside the castle there were more workshops making paper puppets (a huge hit in our house, many more have been made since!) Upstairs in the castle you could discover the sounds of medieval music and instruments of Nuada (Tania Opland and Mike Freeman) and of Ancient Music Ireland (Simon and Maria Dwyer) I spoke with and photographed some of the instruments Nuada had brought along: incredible in their craftsmanship and detail, beautiful in their tune! The most wonderful part, for us, of these kind of days out, is the generosity with which everyone imparts their knowledge; to answer all the questions which I’m sure have been asked a thousand times with interest and enthusiasm.

Athenry castleWhen we were done, and after another visit to the playground and everyone was starving, we walked down to the Newpark Hotel, where we had a delicious “Dunch” (lunch and dinner combined. Or so I thought! Oh ho! Oh, no! We had to embark on supper later that evening after my boys nearly collapsed at the horror of not being fed their “third meal of the day”, cue the thankfully quick and easy soda farls… Major fail on the parents behalf here)
hol 3I can heartily recommend the Newpark Hotel, for their welcoming service, gorgeous “shabby chic” surroundings and great value. The food was beautifully presented, and plenty of it; we will most certainly be back!