The medieval town of Athenry is an ancient town dating back a millenia. The history of the town can be seen through its monuments. The earliest remaining building in the town is Athenry Castle, built by Meiler de Bermingham, in 1238. Athenry Castle is one of the finest 13th century castles remaining in Ireland, consisting of a three-storied keep surrounded by a strong curtain-wall which had two corner-towers and a corner-buttress near the strongly fortified gate. Athenry Castle has being restored by the Office of Public Works and is open to the public.
The remains of St. Mary's Collegiate Church, the former parish church of Athenry, dates from the mid-13th century. It became Collegiate by order of Archbishop O'Murray of Tuam in 1484 but was destroyed in 1574 by the Earl of Clanricard's sons. In 1828 a church with a particularly elegant spire was built in its chancel and was in use by the Church of Ireland until quite recently. It is now the site of Athenry Heritage Centre.
In 1629 permission to hold a regular market and a fair in October was granted to Sir William Parsons, Bart. The market was held each Sunday within the town at the Town Square where the remains of a very fine market cross still stands. This cross is unique in Ireland, being of "lantern" or "tabernacle" type, and it dates from the late 15th century. The fair was held immediately outside the town-walls, close to the gate leading to Galway. The site of this fair is marked on old maps as "Parson's Fair Green" and can be located by a large stone which has a rectangular socket cut into it, obviously to take a cross at which bargains would be sealed.
The arrival of the railroads in the 19th century, making Athenry an important junction, revived the town, and it has ever since then been finding its way back to its former importance.
This must visit historical building is only minutes from Raheen Woods Hotel and has a seasonal opening from April to September each year. The Heritage Centre of Athenry is situated across from Athenry Castle and is open all year round.
For more information check out www.athenryheritagecentre.com