Menlo Castle: an Irish abandoned castle claimed by nature
We are in Ireland, just outside of Galway City on the banks of the River Corrib that flows through the city into Galway Bay. This mysterious abandoned castle is visible right from across the river from the National University of Ireland, Galway and it is so thoroughly overgrown with vegetation it is almost disappearing into the scenery.
The 16th-century castle, not by chance known also “Blake Castle”, was the ancestral home of the Blake family, English nobles that inhabited the Menlo estate from 1569 up until a fire destroyed the castle in 1910, tragically claiming the life of the family’s disabled daughter, Ellen.
The castle was strategically positioned and the Blake family opened their grounds to the public as a venue for all kinds of sports and athletics, yachting, tennis, rowing, music, and dancing. Sweet vendors worked day and night preparing sugar sticks and sweet-pipes which were sold at a halfpenny each.
A tradition that of course came to an end with the terrible fire that occurred in the castle on July 26, 1910. That tragic day, Sir Valentine (14th baronet) and Lady Blake were away in Dublin and It was said to be the worst fire in the west in half a century. Only the walls were left standing. It is not known how the fire started but it was probably in the apartment of Miss Ellen Blake.
A servant, Delia Earley, died instantly burned by fires. She was 25 years old and had been in the Blake’s employ for a matter of weeks.
The castle was destroyed and no trace of Ellen’s body was never found. She is presumed to have died and cremated in the flames. There had been an important and valuable collection of paintings, tapestries, plate, and heirlooms in the castle, but nothing was saved. It was Sir Ulick Blake (16th baronet) inherited the ruin, but he was found dead in his car some years later.
The riverside path alongside the ruins of the castle is very quiet and attended by just a few locals joggers from the university or dog’s owners. The green vegetation that blankets the castle makes it difficult to spot, because it blends in with its natural surroundings. However, if you continue along the path, you’ll come upon the ruins of a small stone hut and the castle will soon come into view.
When you get close enough, the large round towers distinguish the castle from the surrounding trees. Green hanging vines cover nearly the entire stone exterior, indicating just how long the castle has been deserted and reclaimed by the natural landscape.
Author’s note: the castle is a half-hour walk from the city center. Walk to the end of the dirt road and jump over the locked gate at the end. So it’s possible to go inside and explore the castle, even if it is empty and ruined.