HISTORY OF ROUNDSTONE
The history of Connemara reaches far back, long before formal records were made. In the early Middle Ages, most of the territory was held by the Conmaicne Mara, the Conmaicne of the Sea; the name ‘Connemara’ is almost the only trace of their former presence. Fenced by steep mountains to the north, Lough Corrib to the east, the Atlantic to the west, and level sea-plains and lakes to the south. The natural, sheltered harbour of Roundstone has long been inhabited, and the abundant sea-life sustained the local community, indicated by the pre-historic midden heaps located at Dog’s Bay, later the harbour village was known as The Quay.
The Roundstone of today was established in 1820s by the Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo, who was commissioned with opening up the coastal areas with roads due to waning agricultural prosperity. Once established, Scottish fisherman started to settle, followed by Franciscan Brothers who founded the Roundstone Monastery (whose gates and tower still remain, located in the IDA park) in 1835, and a boy’s school.
It quickly expanded to a thriving fishing village with a population of over 400, partly due to the local boat builders, newly built piers (1825 & 1848), slipway, and boat house. The boat house was two stories high, and the upper story was used to repair nets in bad weather and for storing fishing gear. The bottom story would fill at high tide and a small boat could be floated into it for repair.
Due to overpopulation and severe mismanagement by the then government, including an iniquitous land system, Ireland was plunged into The Great Famine. Roundstone did not escape the devastating effects, with the community being forced into subsistence farming. The thatched building known as The Fort, as you enter Roundstone, was the local workhouse. Sadly many did not survive, and many more emigrated affecting families, the local population and commerce.
As the Irish economy and then tourism started to pick up, Roundstone became a popular resort village in the West, with it’s beautiful setting, exquisite ever-changing light & clouds, it had a magnetic pull for many artists. Some notable visitors include Gerard Dillon, James McIntyre, George Campbell, Paul Henry, Maurice MacGonigal, Jack Butler Yeats, Cecil Maguire, Michael Hanrahan, some arrive and decide it’s best to stay, including our own Rosie McGurran.
Multi-coloured houses perched along a ribbon of road which hugs a curving harbour, bobbing boats and hand built stone piers, views to the Atlantic Ocean, across to Cashel Hill or the beautiful mountain peaks of the Twelve Bens & Errisbeg Hill, the surrounds offer endless inspiration!
Music & dance has always been a part of the rich history of Ireland, Roundstone attracts many traditional music players, and during the high summer months you are encouraged to attend the Roundstone Irish Nights, where you won’t be able to resist tapping your feet. If lucky you will catch Ann Conneely in the hotel, she will be happy to discuss local and international artists with you!
Roundstone has also been a popular film and television location, including The Mackintosh Man (1973, Paul Newman), The Match Maker (1997, David O’Hara, Janeane Garofalo) ), which included most of the locals as extras, and features Eldon’s, Marley & Me (2008, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Anniston), Monty Hall’s Great Irish Escape (2011) and most recently The North Sea Connection (small screen series, 2022).
Roundstone has, and continues to be, a place of profound beauty with a warm and friendly local community, we look forward to talking with you more about it.
For a deep dive into the rich and intricate history of Connemara we recommend Connemara; A Little Gaelic Kingdom & Connemara; Listening to the Wind, by the much loved & missed local author and cartographer Tim Robinson.