17th December 2015
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The Yeats Golden Mile was entered into the Golden Mile of Galway Awards, 2015 by the Burren Lowlands Group. The annual awards were initiated by Ms. Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer, Galway County Council. One of the great elements of this project is that all age groups have been involved in various aspects of the work of presenting the Yeats Golden Mile for the competition. Our group were delighted to receive the award for Mile With The Best Built Heritage.

The first feature you will encounter on this mile is Ballylee Mill. This mill is probably seventeenth or early eighteenth century in date. It was originally operated by the Rowlands, a family who had long been connected with milling in South Galway. Michael McTigue was the "old miller" referred to by W.B.Yeats when the poet first visited Ballylee in 1899.  In the 1990s FAS  restored the corn mill, the miller's house and the weir wall. A further restoration is being carried out (November 2020). 

Next you will see Ballylee Castle or as Yeats called it Thoor Ballylee. It is first recorded in the Composition of Connacht 1585 but it is probably much older than that.  The castle was sold to Robert Gregory of Coole Park by the De Burgos in 1783. In 1917 it was bought by the poet W.B.Yeats for the give-away price of £35 ! The castle was Yeats's tower, his inspiration and his retreat. He wrote to a friend:" To leave here is to leave beauty behind". In 2015 , on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Yeats's birth, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society leased the building from Failte Ireland. It is now operated by volunteers under the able guidance of Rena McAllen. 

Next you will see the cottage which was built some time after 1837. The Cunningham family lived there until 1915 when they relocated to Castletown.  It  is now part of the Thoor Ballylee Visitors' Centre. 

As you proceed along the road you can see a turlough in the distance. This area is known locally as "the callows".

The home of the Hynes family can be found further on as well as a boreen which is now completely overgrown and closed in.  It led to the house of a local beauty named Mary Hynes of Ballylee who was eulogised by the poet Raftery in the poem An Pabhsae Gleigeal. 

Tobar Sleamhnan can be seen further on It is said to have a cure for sore eyes.

Other sites of interest on the mile are the Fahy family farmhouse, dating back to c. 1850, the Newtown forts and Ballyaneen  ringfort or lios. 

Sources

Fahy, Mary de Lourdes, Many Leaves , One Root - A  History of the  Parish of Kiltartan. (Kiltartan Gregory Cultural Society, 2004).

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