Tour 2 - Ballymote
A small, busy town, Ballymote is most famous for its castle, which is on the other side of the road from the railway station (opened in December 1862).
Ballymote Castle
This Anglo-Norman building was built by Richard de Burgo, the 'Red Earl' of Ulster, in 1300, to protect his newly-won possessions in Sligo, and was the last and reputedly the strongest of the Norman fortresses in Connacht. It is almost square in plan, with massive three-quarter round towers at each angle. There was a formidable double towered gate in the centre of the north wall, and subsidiary D-shaped towers in the centre of the east and west curtain walls.
In 1317 it was lost to the O'Connors, but from this date until 1584 possession of the castle alternated between the O'Connors and the MacDonaghs. It is thought that the famous manuscript, The Book of Ballymote, which is now in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, was compiled here in about 1400AD. It contains, on 251 vellum pages, chronological, genealogical and historical pieces in prose and verse relating to saints, remarkable Irishmen and important families, among other things, and was mainly the work of Solomon O'Droma and Manus O Duigenann

In 1584 the castle was taken by the notorious governor of Connaught, Richard Bingham, but in 1598 it was in the possession of the MacDonaghs who sold it to Red Hugh O'Donnell (one source says he bought it for £400 and 300 cows). It was from here that O'Donnell marched to the disastrous Irish defeat at Kinsale in 1601. In 1652 the castle was surrendered by the Taaffes to parliamentary forces, and in 1690 it was captured by one of the O'Connors who surrendered it to the Williamites, who subsequently had it dismantled and the moat filled in.
An exhibition which started in July and August 2004 inside the castle walls showed reconstructions of 19th century horse-drawn carriages.
Although there are now no traces of the interior domestic buildings, you can see inside the walls if you phone the Enterprise Centre, Grattan Street on 071-9183992 to get the key (for a small deposit). The Centre is open from Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm, and frequently (at restricted times) on weekends in the summer. You show yourself around. Ask for the information leaflet.

Franciscan Friary and park walk
Nearly opposite the castle, on the right of the Catholic church, you can enter an old churchyard through double iron gates to see the ruins of a Franciscan friary (built 1450). The altar stood under the large east window. The west door is surmounted by a stone carving which local tradition identifies as Pope Eugene IV with a Papal tiara (although this has been questioned). It was this pope who issued a Papal License for the Third Order Regular Franciscan House here in 1442. However, the carving is so overgrown with ivy at the time of writing, that it is hardly visible.
Every 50 years there is a reunion mass, the 550-years anniversary mass having been held here in 1992. For the last two anniversaries, the McDonogh Chalice (named after the guardian Fr Anthony McDonogh who ordered it to be made) was used. This chalice is dated to 1685-7, and was lost for some time. When it came up for sale at Christies of London in 1942, friends notified the National Museum and the Franciscans. The Museum was able to purchase the chalice for £1,200 sterling.
Round the back of the friary, the church and the castle, a park walk is at present under construction. One entrance is on the Sligo road, just beyond the Esso garage on the left (R296). The walk takes you behind the church, through the attractive station car park, the gardens and grounds of the castle (through all of which you can enter the park walk), bringing you out on the R293 Gurteen-Ballaghaderreen road at the other end of the town.
If you turn left and continue on the R293, you could finish by visiting Riverstown and its County Sligo Agricultural Museum and Rural Heritage Park.


Continue on up this road to the town.


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