Gaelic Ireland

Learn of the story of Boyle before the arrival of the King family in 1603. Our interactive exhibits show what life was like in these turbulent times. The local area was controlled by the Mac Dermott clan who can be found enjoying a feast, celebrating a successful cattle raid. The Battle of the Curlews Pass was another major incident, fought between English soldiers and Irish forces in 1599, an engagement of the wider Nine Years’ War. See a monk at work in the scriptorium of Boyle Abbey and try to copy his handiwork! At King House you can literally step into the shoes of a Gaelic chieftain!

We first see a feast being held by the MacDermott family, the local Gaelic chieftains. Food consisted of wild boar, venison and beef roasted on a great fire. History records that huge caskets of wine were opened with an axe blow and the wine flowed freely. The regular Irish diet of the time consisted mainly of oats so feasts were rare, and enjoyable, occasions! The men are celebrating a recent victory against a neighbouring clan, a cattle raid, in which many cattle were taken. The McDermott’s stronghold, known as ‘The Rock’, was on Castle Island (in what is now Lough Key Forest Park) until the arrival of the Kings. The ruins of the old castle can still be seen today.

Another island on Lough Key, Trinity Island, is the setting for the sad tale of Tomas Laidir Costello and Una Bhan MacDermott. Una Bhan’s father disapproved of her love for Tomas and as a result she slipped into a deep melancholy. Fearing for her safety, her brother sent for Tomas who sat by her bedside. His closeness caused her to recover, and before he left the island he vowed he we would never return unless Una’s father summoned him before he reached the shore again. Tragically, Una relapsed but the messenger reached Tomas too late and she died. Tomas was broken-hearted and each night he swam to the island to sit by Una’s grave. One stormy night while making the swim, Tomas drowned and he was buried next to Una. Legend has it that a tree grew from each of their graves and the branches knotted and intertwined, a symbol of the love each had for the other. 

Boyle Abbey

Boyle Abbey

See a monk scribing a page of the Gospels in the scriptorium. This represents another Boyle attraction, Boyle Abbey. The abbey is the final resting place of many members of the King family. They were all buried in the dead of night under the nave.