top of page
Brackloon garden 2.jpg

Welcome to Brackloon Castle and Farm


Visit Brackloon Castle 

We are fortunate to live at Brackloon Castle, a 500-year old fortified tower house in the heart of Ireland. Located in County Galway, less than five miles from the River Shannon, Brackloon is one of the oldest (and smallest) Irish castles that is still in use as a family home. Its recorded history stretches back to 1557. 

We are passionate about the history, heritage and the natural landscape of East Galway and we enjoy sharing this passion with you. Join us for tea and refreshments on an unhurried exclusive private visit of our cosy and inviting home and we will take you through five floors and five hundred years of history in one unique building.

Book and check availability through the following links:






For times and dates not listed, contact us directly on


Donal and Alison Burke.

castle in purple sky.jpg

The story of the Castle

Brackloon Castle was built in the early 1500s by the O Maddens in the east of their ancient Gaelic lordship of Síl Anmchadha. The first reference to the castle occurs in 1557 when it was attacked by troops of the English Lord Deputy. The Maddens retained ownership of the castle up to the middle of the seventeenth century and were responsible for some architectural changes about 1600 which included work to the upper floors and chimneys. Although the Cromwellian John Eyre acquired the castle and lands along with vast tracts locally in the 1650s, the Maddens remained at Brackloon into the early eighteenth century, renting their former property from the Eyres of Eyrecourt.

Penelope Lawrence of Lisreaghan, daughter and heiress of Ambrose Madden junior of Brackloon was still living in 1720 but the senior line of the Brackloon Maddens died with her. Minor branches appear to have continued locally but the castle fell into ruin and remained so up until the late 1800s. By that time the Eyres had encountered financial difficulties and had sold Brackloon and its adjacent lands. The local farmer on whose land it stood in the late 1800s had a roof and floors put in and over the next twenty years the castle was temporary home to a number of local tenant families who lived here for short periods. The last of these left sometime about 1905 and the castle fell once again into ruin until it was restored at the start of this century by the late Ken McLeod from Dromore in County Down, from whom it passed to the Burkes.

Decca and Donal 2.jpg

The story of the farm

Brackloon Castle was formerly a hive of local agricultural activity. Throughout the sixteenth and into the seventeenth century its stables, sheds and offices resounded with the noise of family members and followers, cowherds and retainers busily engaged in the day to day life of farming and running of a household. Communal dining, entertaining and much of daily life centred around the hall, a single storey building detached from the tower and all surrounded by a high stone bawn wall protecting the family and livestock from the raids of neighbouring families.

Over time, turbulent historical events resulted in the tower eventually falling into ruin, its hall and outbuildings, of more transitory construction, disappeared and the castle no longer the focus of an extensive estate. In the early 1600s much of the land of the surrounding parish was attached to the castle, stretching from the local height of Redmount Hill to the banks of the River Shannon. Now, only the fields of our small farm form the lands associated with the restored castle.

The Burke family have lived in this parish for several centuries. For us, farming and sustainability go hand in hand. We are inspired by a vision of responsible animal and soil management and respect for tradition and history. We believe in farming practices that are good for people and animals and good for the land.

Here at Brackloon we have recently begun to build a small herd of pedigree Kerry cattle. One of the oldest cattle breeds in Europe, these small black cattle once roamed Ireland in large herds but are now so rare as to be endangered. Ideally suited to our Irish landscape and climate, their gentle nature make them a pleasure to work with. From small beginnings we hope to grow our herd and play our part in preserving this wonderful ancient native Irish breed.


Our Local Area

The wider area around Brackloon is steeped in history, not least as a result of its proximity to an ancient ecclesiastical and urban centre and three important crossing points on the River Shannon. Over the centuries many of the major historical events that have occurred nationally have also played themselves out in this region and their reverberations have resulted in the cultural, built and natural landscape we see around us here today.

One mile to the north of Brackloon lies the ancient cathedral of Clonfert with its celebrated twelfth century Hiberno-Romanesque doorway and the ruins of the seventeenth century Bishop’s Palace. These two buildings are almost all that remains of the important medieval town and ecclesiastical centre of Clonfert, founded in the sixth century by St. Brendan the Navigator. Nothing else remains above ground of the town itself, its Augustinian abbey or its nunnery, with the exception of a few merchant’s tokens in the British Museum and possibly the medieval statue of the Clonfert Madonna and child, venerated in the small local church just a few hundred yards down the road from Brackloon.

Within a short distance lies Meelick church, which at over 600 years old is one of the oldest churches still in use for Catholic services in Ireland, its turbulent history interwoven with that of Brackloon. To the west lies the planned village of Eyrecourt, founded in the late 1600s by the Cromwellian John Eyre who acquired Brackloon along with innumerable other confiscated properties about that time. To the east the bridge over the Shannon at the busy town of Banagher replaced Meelick as the principal river crossing locally. Both were of sufficient military importance to warrant forts and garrisons and later Napoleonic fortifications.

Apart from a large number of ecclesiastical ruins, including Clontuskert, Kilconnell and Clonmacnoise and sites of conflict, the wider area is home to notable houses and castles and other buildings both large and small, in varying states of preservation and each with its own unique story to tell.

The region’s natural heritage equals that of its architectural, to a large degree a result of its location on the central grassy limestone plain of Ireland. The plain is enriched locally by large areas of raised bog, a sandy ridge of eskers and the low-lying Shannon callow meadows, the subject of seasonal flooding. The local height of Redmount Hill, visible across the fields from the battlements of the castle, is crowned by seven clumps of trees known as ‘The Seven Sisters’. The variety of this landscape provides a rich habitat for a diverse array of flora and fauna.


Experience the convivial atmosphere of one of Ireland’s smallest surviving medieval castles still in use as a family home and the relaxed Irish hospitality of the castle owners.

Upper floor guests.jpg

We enjoy providing a warm personal welcome for guests who would like to spend time with us and experience life as lived today in an Irish castle. Join us for tea and refreshments on an unhurried private visit of our cosy and inviting home and we will take you through five floors and five hundred years of history in one unique building.

kitchen guests.jpg

Book and check availability through the following experiences link:


For times and dates not listed, contact us directly on

We look forward to welcoming you to Brackloon Castle

Donal and Alison Burke

castle lit at night.jpg

"We had a wonderful experience at Brackloon Castle today. Just wonderful. Alison and Donal shared their experience in renovating and living in this unique residence. We enjoyed lively conversation with tea, pastries and smoked salmon. This was more than a tour. It was a really unique experience and we feel grateful to Alison and Donal for opening their home to us. We highly recommend Brackloon Castle."


Mike and Louise,

Virginia, USA

About us

Tango dancing.jpg

Donal and Alison Burke met in 2009 when Donal took up Argentinian tango classes in Galway City. Alison was living and working at that time in the city and dancing for a number of years. They married in 2012 and now live in Brackloon Castle, in Donal's home parish of Clonfert in County Galway.

Alison is a city girl originally, from Dundrum in Dublin, who never imagined that she would love life in rural East Galway as much as she does. In fact, she once told her future husband that she could never live in the country! In the first year, when she and Donal were settling in to the castle, Alison was finishing her PhD in addition to a busy schedule working with organisations who support people with disabilities. Now, she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else!

She loves music, dancing, food culture, photography and trying to persuade her husband to go on long walks in the country since moving to Brackloon.

Alison on roof.jpg
Donal on roof.jpg

Donal is a Consultant Herald of Arms to the Chief Herald of Ireland and previously worked for many years as an architect with an interest in conservation. He has a life-long passion for history, art and architecture, influenced by his upbringing in the historic parish of Clonfert. In his spare time, he published a website;, dedicated to original research relating to the history, architecture and genealogy of the families of this region.

bottom of page