Loughrea Self Guided Historic Town Walk
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Loughrea was founded in 1236 by the Anglo-Norman knight, Richard de Burgo. Several heritage gems lie scattered around its lakeside setting: the town is home to Ireland’s only functioning medieval moat, a town gate dates from the 15th century and St. Brendan’s Cathedral contains the oldest wooden statue in the country.
Loughrea rises handsomely above the lake it is named after (Baile Locha Riach means ‘town of the grey lake’). It was founded in 1236 by Richard de Burgo, an Anglo-Norman knight who built a castle along an ancient route between the River Shannon and the coast.
One of the most intriguing features of today’s bustling market town is that its moat still functions. Indeed, it is the only medieval town moat still operating in Ireland – and can be seen at its best along a charming 18th-century mall known simply as ‘The Walk’.
Beginning with the moat and the town courthouse, Loughrea’s heritage trail goes on to stop at St. Mary’s Abbey, which contains the remains of a 14th-century Carmelite church and priory (and is believed to contain the grave of St. Ruth).
Another heritage highlight is St. Brendan’s Cathedral, designed by William Byrne and the foundation stone for which was laid in 1897. Inside, you’ll find two stained glass windows by Michael Healy, depicting the Ascension and the Last Judgement. Both are masterworks of the Irish Arts and Crafts style.
St. Brendan’s is also home to the Clonfert Diocesan Museum, whose varied treasures include the oldest wooden statue in Ireland (the Kilcorban Madonna, dating from around 1180 AD) and some embroidered banners designed by Jack B. Yeats.
Elsewhere on the trail, don’t miss Loughrea’s town gate (dating from the 15th-century and the only remaining gate through which you can enter the town), the original town hall (dating from 1860), the characterful mix of 18th and 20th-century buildings on Main Street and the small row of traditional townhouses along Victoria Terrace.
All told, this town is a sweet introduction to East Galway and from here you can go on to explore Coole Park, the Slieve Aughty Mountains, Athenry and Galway City.