Thoor Ballylee

Thoor Ballylee


Location: Gort Map

Constructed: 13th century by de Burgo


Thoor Ballylee is a Norman tower house in a town of Gort in County Galway in Ireland. Thoor Ballylee Castle was erected in 13th century by de Burgo.


In 1929, when the Yeats family moved here, the fortress was desolate, but in 1965 it was restored as the “Yeats Tower” and subsequently became a museum, preserving an interesting collection of the first editions, as well as pieces of furniture of the poet.

The adjoining cottage was used as a tea room and a shop. The tower was equipped with a sound system, so a pre-recorded comment can be listened to with the click of a button. In addition, part of the floor was adapted to reproduce an audiovisual presentation dedicated to Yeats's years of life here. The rest of the tower’s history is most often ignored.

The building dates from the thirteenth century, it was bought by Yeats for a symbolic amount in 1917. The original fortifications were erected by the De Burgo family, which was consolidated in Connacht after 1200. The poet William Yates was so enchanted by the castle that he not only bought it, but then restored it. For twelve years, this place became the summer home of the poet, who found him “so full of history and romance” that he was inspired to write “Winding Stairs” and “Tower Poems”. He once said: “Leaving here is to leave the beautiful behind,” and in a letter to Olivia, Shakespeare wrote: “We are in our Tower, and now I write poems, as I always do here, and, as it always does, no matter how I will begin, the love of poetry comes before I finish them. ”

The castle originally belonged to one of the septa of Burke, mainly forming part of the large possessions of the Earls of Clanricard. The castle has four floors, the original windows are still preserved in the upper part, although Yates and his architect Professor William A. Scott installed wider windows on the lower floors. The ground floor setting was described by Yates as "the most pleasant room I have ever seen, a magnificent wide window overlooking the river and a rounded arched door leading to the thatched hall." He also liked the wall staircase, symbolically described as "This winding, swirling, galloping staircase resembles my family tree."


Bellily Castle was abandoned and began to collapse in the early 1930s. By the centenary of the poet’s birth in 1965, the building was rebuilt so that it appeared as it was during Yates’s life. The fortress also hosts a help center for his life and work.

In order not to be forgotten that this place was once the poet’s house, there is a plate on the wall that serves as a reminder of his stay here, on which is written:

"I, the poet William Yeats,
With old mill boards and sea-green slates,
And smithy work from the Gort forge,
Restored this tower for my wife George;
And may these characters remain
When all is ruin once again.
Yates, William Butler »