Visiting Headford

A guide to our natural and built heritage

Below is an  interactive map of the Headford area and the natural and built heritage it has to offer. Click on an area of the map then select a bullet to find out more about the site. To download a complete brochure of what Headford has to offer please click here.

Please note: Sites marked with an * are places of interest that are situated on private property and may only be viewed from the main thoroughfare.



Not far away, but in the parish of Killursa is the castle of Eanach Caoin. It is a square keep, the outer walls of which are perfect, except upon the north side. That upon the lake or west side is forty-six feet long, and that on the south, here represented, is fifty feet. There are also some remains of the outer enclosure, and the whole is surrounded by a very beautiful park of the finest land, ornamented with some aged ash.

Of all the castles surrounding Loch Coirib, this would appear from its masonry to be the oldest; for, although it has not been dilapidated for building purposes, it is not possible to find in it or around it a single dressed stone of any description; the quoins, door-ways, and window openings being, with the walls, both within and without, all formed of undressed stone. At the north-west corner there is a square tower, and probably a similar one existed on the north-east. All the outerwalls of this structure are six feet thick, and contain passages leading to the upper apartments and the parapet. Some of the arches of the windows and doors are circular, and others pointed; but all ingeniously constructed with stones to which a hammer or chisel was never applied--in like manner as in the arch of the east window in the beautiful old church of Cross, and as we find in other localities where the great abundance and variety in form of the surrounding limestone afforded ample materials for any description of building, and the ingenuity of the artists was equal to the task of rendering them subservient to architectural purposes. Even to the present day, every man in this and the adjoining limestone districts is more or less a mason.

Cahergal Fort

The great uncemented Cyclopean stone fort to which this extract refers still encircles the brow of the little island, as shown in the following illustration, but the scrubby brushwood around it partially obscures the masonry, which stands over a deep trench or fosse, that must have rendered its capture a matter of much difficulty before the general introduction of fire-arms. In all probability it served like a crannóg to guard Cairrgín Castle, or as a safe refuge for the persons and valuables of its inmates, or those of the surrounding country.There can, however, be no doubt that this structure belongs to the days of the unmortared dúns, cahers, and cashels long prior to the date of the Anglo-Norman invasion.The walls average six feet thick, and are still ten and a half feet high; but the stones of which they are composed, owing in all probability to the fact of their having been carried from the neighbouring mainland, are of comparatively small size.They enclose an oval space of one hundred and forty-four yards in circumference; and the doorway is on the east or land side, where the ditch is level to afford means of access.The present name of the island on the Ordnance Map is Ilaun Carbery, because a fanatic named Carbery lived for many years during the eighteenth century in a hut he built for himself within the enclosure.

About two miles east of the lake, in this parish, stands Cathair Geal, or "Whitefort," one of the finest specimens of ancient military architecture on the mainland of Ireland, and which can easily be reached by the roads leading from Coill Beag or Claoideach to Headford.From its colour it gives its English name to the townland, as, for similar reasons, we meet with the names of Roundfort and Darkfort, etc., in other localities.

The magnificent circular Cyclopean building, a portion of the external face of which is well shown in the subjoined illustration, encloses a space of one hundred and thirty-seven feet in diameter; and its massive walls of unhewn stone, of a whitish hue from the lichens covering them, are nine feet four inches thick, and, although lowered in many places, still average seven feet seven inches high.

The entrance on the south-eastern side, over the road leading to a farm house, is seven feet six inches wide; its external jambs, measuring five feet eight inches over ground, are each five feet broad, and twenty-one inches thick.Inside, on the south-east, is a fight of three massive steps, figured on the next page, which probably led to a parapet, as at Stague fort, in Kerry.Within the enclosure there are the remains of several intersecting walls; but, as the space is grass-grown, it is difficult to say whether they are the ruins of Clocháns,[fn42-1] of which there is a tradition.

Cargin Castle

Cargin Castle is our next stop. It has been a landmark on the Eastern shore of the Corrib for almost 7 centuries. For long a neglected ruin ,the Castle has been restored to it's former glory, using the same materials and techniques as the original 13th. century builders Modern comforts have been incorporated without detracting from the charm and simple grandeur of this ancient dwelling, a rare beautiful example of the medieval " Hall House. Despite its massive castellated wall, Cargin was never a mere fortress but rather an elegant home where a land owning family could have security in turbulent times. For 10 generations , the castle was occupied by descendants of its founder, Adam Gaynard III,the grandson of a Norman adventurer who took part in the colonisation of this locality in the early period of the Norman invasion .Sometime in the middle of the 17th. Century a period of intense turbulence in Irish History, another military adventurer ,George Staunton acquired 'the castle and the lands of Cargin which his descendants continued to own until 1946. By then the castle had long been abandoned and the roof was stripped in the early 18th. Century. Mush of the stonework was demolished to make lime for the construction of the nearby Georgian Mansion. However due to the efforts of the present owner the castle has been restored to its original majesty and glory in 1970- for that we are thankful.


Greenfields owes its fame to not only having a very pleasant location on the lakeshore, but also it is by far the most important fishing berth on the east shore of Lough Corrib. In early Summer, it is agog with activity as anglers gather from all over the world for the trout fishing, when the mayfly rises. Leading from Greenfields, stretching across the water is a long, narrow roadway. This road was built in the early 1960s, and links Inchaquin, one of the largest islands on the lake, to the mainland. Indeed, according to William R. Wilde, it encompasses an area of 229acres, and supported 14 families in 1909 (Galway Express, July 1909). It has associations with St. Brendan the Navigator, who it is said built a church there. However there is little trace of that building now.


Inchaquin, the largest island in Lough Corrib, contains 229 acres. "On this island of Insequin St. Brendan built a chappell and worked divers miracles," wrote O'Flaberty, and in 580 St. Meldan was abbot of the institution put up by Brendan. This and the other Corrib isles were pilliaged by the Danes. Its Irish name is Inis Mac-Hy-Chuinn, or the island of the descendants of Con, monarch of Ireland in the second century, and in olden times the lake itself was called lnis-Ui-Chuinn. Here King Roderick rested after his dethronement in 1183.

Kilbeg Pier

We continue the narrow winding road which for some distance resembles more a grassy path than a roadway,and we come to Kilbeg on the lakeshore. This is the narrowest point of the lake and directly across from Kilbeg on the west side is Knockferry .The pier which extends a short distance out in the lake is a reminder of former days . Little used now except by anglers and the occasional pleasure boat,it was used extensively in the past as a stopping point when ferries travelled regularly on the lake from Cong to Galway. The steamer 'St. Patrick 'operated between Galway and Cong up to 1914 and was obviously in demand as the timetable indicates."leaves Wood Quay ( alway) on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays for Cong at 12 noon calling at Kilbeg and returning from Cong on each alternate dayduring the Winter months. In Summer from 15th. March to 15th. October ,she leaves Wood Quay at 3.00p.m. returning from Cong the following day at 8p.m. One hopes the endeavours of many people on both sides of the lake to build a bridge across the water at this point will come to fruition.


Killursa is about 1.5 miles west of Headford on the Greenfields road. It is a ruined church set in an extensive graveyard. The ruin measures 70feet by 24feet, and it has a gothic pointed doorway, and a large mullioned gothic window, which indicates that the present structure was erected after the Norman invasion, 1169. A wall was built across this church, probably cutting off a section for the officiating clergyman, who had his habitat there.

Killursa means the church of St. Fursa whose statue one sees as one enters the graveyard. It was here St. Fursa had the famous visions of the unseen world, which grave authors assert inspired Dante to write his "Comedia Divina". Among those visions, Fursa narrates how the holy Bishops Meldan, and Beacon appeared to him, and described the enormous evils of pride, especially spiritual and intellectual pride, and they told him that abstinence, and self-denial were unavailing, unless the soul was cleansed from malice and iniquity! This same Fursa is remembered in Peronne, a small town east of Paris. Here he preached in the 7th century and we can see a fine statue of him in the Catholic Church in Peronne, and there is also an alleyway and a pharmacy called after him!

St. Mary's Parish - Claran/Headford

The Roman Catholic parish of Headford/Claran is one of fifty-six parishes in the archdiocese of Tuam of which Dr. Michael Neary D.D is archbishop. Two churches; one in Claran and one in Headford services the parish. Father Peter Conway built both Slaint Mary's Church in Claran and St. Mary's Church in Headford. Claran Church was built in 1859 and Headford Church was built in 1865.

Fr. Conway was well known in the Archdiocese as a builder of churches and he was the driving force behind the building of a number of churches in parishes where he worked. The Presentation Sisters founded a convent in Headford in 1906 and served the community in a variety of ways mainly by their involvement in our schools both at primary and secondary level. Because of a decline in vocations the convent closed in 1997 and it is now being used as a 'Day Care Centre' by the Western Health board. The parish priest of Headford/Claran resides in Headford beside St Mary's Church. There are approximately 700 homes in the parish and a population of 3,000 people. Headford is growing in its population because of its closeness to Galway City. A lot of new houses have being built in the area in recent years and its trend is expected to continue for some years to come. The resulting increase in population has consequences and significance for our schools and parish but it is a welcome challenge and we as a parish community extend a "Cead Mile Failte" to all newcomers in our parish and hope that they feel at home and welcome in Claran/Headford.

The parish is an active vibrant community catering for the educational and spiritual needs of all members of all age groups. It is served by five national schools under the patronage of Bishop Neary, which cater for children up to the age of twelve and one secondary community school, which has an enrolment of almost seven hundred and caters for our young people up to the age of eighteen. Every age group, every standard, every need is catered for by caring and committed teachers in all our schools.

The sporting needs for our young people are catered for by a wide range of sport and cultural clubs and societies in our parish. There is a parish hall/community centre both in Headford and in Claran which is used extensively by people of all age groups, catering for such things as;-Parish prayer groups; I.C.A meetings; Sean-Chairde (old people) meetings; ballroom dancing; Women's groups; Cub & scouts, music lessons and many more.

There is an excellent community spirit in our parish; where everyone feels a sense of belonging and welcome, and where people genuinely have the care and interest in each other at heart. The parish community came together to celebrate our faith and to worship god on a daily basis and at weekends and many people are actively involved in church ministries such as, Ministers of the Word, Eucharistic Ministers, Ushers, Senior choir, Youth club, Altar Society. People are always welcome to volunteer their talents and their services to the parish community at any time.

The patron saint of our parish is St. Fursa who can be dated back to the middle of the sixth century. He was born in Inchaquin and ruins of his church at Killursa survive to this day. We place all members of our parish community at home or away in his care and in the care of Mary the mother of God in whose honour our two churches in Headford and Claran take their name.

Ross Errilly Friary

Standing in serene solitude on the South bank of the Black River, just two miles West from the town of Headford in Co. Galway the Franciscan Friary of Ross is recognised by many historians both past and present as the best preserved monastic ruin of its period in Ireland. It was founded in 1349 by the then Archbishop of Tuam Dr. Malachy MacHugh, who was a native of the Headford area and, as it happens, a member of the Franciscan order. The story of the foundation of the Friary is still told today with the same fervour and fascination as it has been for the past six hundred years.

The story goes, that during the reign of Archbishop MacHugh a great plague "The Black Death" was rampant in Ireland and it was particularly bad in the Tuam area. Many people had contracted the plague and the priests of the area were constantly being called out to the sick and dying. In fact some of the priests themselves had fallen foul of the deadly disease while performing their duties and had died as a result which meant that the Archbishop too was going out in order to help his priests. It is said, that late one evening he returned to his house totally exhausted from his labours and having spent the day administering to the sick and dying and after having had his supper and before retiring to his bed, the Archbishop then went to the church to pray for an end to the plague and for the strength to continue his work. While praying he is said to have fallen into a deep sleep in which he had a dream. In this dream he was visited by an angel, who told him, that in order for his prayers to be answered and the plague to end that he must build a Friary for the poor friars. He asked where the friary was to be built and was told to go West from Tuam to Headford and to the townland of Cordarra and that a sign would be given to him there.

The following morning he, along with three of his friars set off from Tuam, about a mile North of Headford they stopped their chariot at Cordarra and waited for the sign. After a short time three swans, each with a bunch of flax seed in his bill, rose from the long sedges which were beside them on the roadside and circled around three times. They then flew westward towards the Black River and alighted on a The West Windowsmall rise in the middle of a marshy piece of ground not far from the rivers bank. The Archbishop and his friars went to the place where the swans had alighted and found that they had disappeared, but in the spot where they had landed they found growing three bunches of flax in full bloom even though it was still only the month of February. The archbishop took this as the heavenly sign promised to him in his dream, and so, together with his monks he went to the nearby church at Kilursa, which had been founded by St. Fursa, patron saint of our parish and nephew of St. Brendan the navigator. After some time of prayer and fasting, the Archbishop and his monks together with local craftsmen returned to the spot and began to dig the foundations of the original Friary. This was the year 1349 and it is said that when the foundations were complete, that the plague ended. The first stage of the Friary took three years and was completed in the year 1351 but the Archbishop himself never lived to see it, he died from the plague in 1349.