Some interesting info from Rena

Rena sent on this interesting information for our Tuesday tourists:

(Picture courtesy of


Near the town of Gort, in County Galway, you’ll find this 15th-century Norman castle with a small cottage attached. It was here that William Butler Yeats finally found peace, contentment and inspiration.

He was almost 50 when he confided to his dear friend Lady Gregory, who owned nearby Coole Park estate, that he wanted to settle down, to have a home and family. For years his heart had belonged to Maude Gonne, but his love was unrequited. He was alone. Lady Gregory offered to sell him Castle Ballylee and the attached cottage and in 1917 he bought it for 35 pounds. Yeats then promptly left for France to propose to Maude Gonne one last time. She refused. Shortly after he travelled to England where he met and married Georgina Hyde-Lees, almost 30 years his junior. No longer single, Yeats laboured to restore the old castle for his new bride, whom he called ‘George’. Their partnership was to become one of the most extraordinary and creative in the literary world.

In naming the property Yeats dropped the term ‘Castle’ and replaced it with ‘Thoor’, the Irish word for tower, and so the place became known as Thoor Ballylee. Yeats and George and their two children enjoyed the country retreat, using it as their summer home for years. In a letter to a friend, Yeats said about Thoor Ballylee, ‘Everything is so beautiful that to go elsewhere is to leave beauty behind’.

And a lovely setting it is too. Thoor Ballylee stands on the banks of the River Cloon which snakes through a landscape shaded with big trees and flowering shrubs. Entering the property from the main road, you turn onto a winding lane that connects to an old stone bridge just before the tower. The lane continues past the cottage, through the trees, and becomes a river walk which eventually leads to an old mill. The seclusion, even today, wraps the estate in a presence that shuns the outside world, carving out a protected niche where good things like love, peace and creativity can flourish.

Yeats loved this place. He described the ground-floor chamber as ‘the pleasantest room I have yet seen, a great wide window opening over the river and a round arched door leading to the thatched hall’. He even loved the spiral staircase, symbolically declaring ‘This winding, gyring, spiring treadmill of a stair is my ancestral stair.’

If you’d like to view Yeats’ winding, gyring, spiring treadmill of a stair, Thoor Ballylee is open to visitors between Spring and Autumn.

By the way, if that stretch of water in the picture looks vaguely familiar, if you’ve ever watched The Quiet Man, this is where Mary Kate Danagher throws caution to the wind, strips off her stockings and runs across the stepping stones, chased by Sean Thornton. 🥰

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