Menlo Castle is located just outside of Galway City on the eastern bank of the Corrib River in County Galway, Ireland.
The castle buildings and the nearby barn were built of limestone. A small harbor, which was also part of the property, has been preserved.
The castle belonged to an English noble family named Blake. It came into their possession in 1569 and was passed down through various generations. The last owner in residence was Sir Valentine Blake, the 14th Baronet.
Sir Valentine was a popular landlord, partly because he opened his gates and grounds to the locals once a year for an event known as “Maying in Menlo.”Sports and events such as yachting, tennis, music, and rowing were held in the castle grounds.
Sire Valentine lived at Menlo Castle with his wife and daughter Eleanor (or possibly Elanor or Ellen, reports are inconsistent), who was an invalid. The family remained in residence until July 1910, when a terrible tragedy occurred.
On the night of July 26, 1910, Sir Valentine Blake and his wife were in Dublin. Reports from the time state that, as well as Eleanor, there were two maids (Anne Browne and Delia Earley) and the coachman (James Kirwan) inside the castle.
Just after 5.30 am, Kirwan was awoken by the sound of the two maids screaming. Outside his bedroom, a fire was raging, and he was forced to climb through the window to escape.
Once outside, Kirwan tried to help the two maids down from the roof as they’d gone up there to escape the fire. All the ladders were too short to reach that high, so Kirwan and some helpers laid bales of hay on the ground and told the two women to jump. Browne survived, Earley did not.
Kirwan managed to summon firefighters, soldiers, and police to assist him, but none of them were able to save Eleanor Blake’s life. It was assumed that, since she was an invalid, she was unable to save herself from the flames. Her body was never found.
The fire was so fierce that by 7 am, it had completely gutted the building. All wood, paintings, ceilings, tapestries, and many valuable heirlooms were destroyed. Only ruins were left behind and the family did not try to rebuild.
After the castle was abandoned, the locals started to consider the grounds as common land which was open to anyone. They regularly allowed their animals to graze on it.
This practice continued until around 2000 when the ruins became the property of the Galway City Council by means of a compulsory purchase order. Once the castle was in the possession of the Council, various ideas were put forward as to what to do with it.
Some proposals centered around renovating and improving the structure while others worked on the basis of keeping the former castle as a preserved set of ruins.
A potential project which reached the newspapers was that of Mr. Noel Smyth, a solicitor and businessman, who wanted to turn the castle into a maritime museum and craft center.
Currently, the Irish ruins are so thoroughly overgrown with vines that they have taken on a natural beauty all of their own. Although the castle is a great structure that is visible from afar, sometimes it can also be lost in the landscape because of the vegetation that surrounds it.
The bare stone beneath the greenery allows visitors to appreciate the size of the structure. It is possible to get inside and look up at the stately ruins, imagining how the castle could have looked centuries ago.
The photographer who kindly gave us permission to share those photographs of Menlo Castle is Keith McGovern who lives in Dublin, Ireland. He is an amateur photographer and publishes his amazing work on his Instagram page and Flickr account.
On Keith’s pages, you can find everything from 35mm film photography to long exposure photography to off-camera flash photography. Enjoy!