History and Archaeology of Barna Wood

Barna wood is an old woodland and the 1830’s ordnance survey map show its extent similar to the present day.

The wood has some interesting archaeological features such as a holy well and mass rock as well as undocumented reports of shell middens and a fulacht fiadh. Old field boundaries are also present within the wood.

1830’s map of Barna wood


Barna Castle 
In the thirteenth or fourteenth century, the O’Hallorans arrived and built Barna Castle on the west Bank of the Barna Stream where it flows into Lough Rusheen. The castle was still in existence in 1574 when it was occupied by Owen O’ Halloran. The castle was known as Sean Caislean Bhéarna, and it appears to have been completely demolished by the early nineteenth century.

The O’Flaherty family were also noteworthy occupants of the Barna area. The Lynches, who were originally one of the tribes of Galway, took over the castle in the seventeenth century. The castle was demolished before the 1st Edition Ordnance survey map was produced in 1838.

Barna Village 
Originally the village of Barna was called Freeport due to the fact that boats landed here in order to avoid taxes at the nearby Galway port. ‘Barna’ comes from the Irish bearna, meaning gap, which alludes to the gap between two drumlins along the shoreline.

It appears that the growth of Barna as a village began in the late eighteenth century following the sitting of Barna House near Silver Strand, to the northwest of Barna Castle, by Marcus Blake Lynch. A number of thatched cottages were built further inland in conjunction with the house. Barna House is in the Georgian style of architecture and is still extant today.
View of Barna house from the South wood

Tobar Éanna
This well is reputed to have been a resting place of St Enda in the 5th century on his way to the Aran Islands. Tradition has it that St Enda used to spend the night here on his way to the Aran Islands and that one day a well sprang up as he prayed. Pilgrimmages were made regularly to the well. The day of the biggest pilgrimage was always the last Sunday in July and it was the custom for departing pilgrims to throw pennies in the water.

Great faith was put in the healing powers of the well water. It was supposed to have beneficial effects for those suffering from eye and ear ailments

The Holy Well at Barna Wood


Faherty, P. (2000). Barna. A history.
Galway City Council (2006). Sailín to Silverstrand. Coastal Protection Scheme.
Environmental Impact Statement.
ICA (1982). Bearna and Na Forbacha. A local history.

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