Knights in fight setting — full contact battle in Claregalway Castle

The first full-contact medieval tournament in Ireland for more than 400 years will take place at Claregalway Castle on September 19 and 20.

Armoured knights from across the globe will be descending on the superbly restored 15th century castle for this very unusual, but very real, combat tournament.

Team Ireland, who competed at the World Championships in Poland for the first time last May, will have a tough fight on its hands, with combatants from across Britain, Denmark, Spain, and the USA all competing to take home the Claregalway Castle Shield.

The sport of full-contact medieval combat is not for the faint-heartet. Wearing full medieval armour, with sword, axe, or mace in hand, the competitors will be going toe to toe in a brutal and exhausting contest of strength, speed, endurance, and skill. A huge range of attacks is allowed, from strikes with weapons to shield punches, throws, kicks, and headbutts.

There will be a mix of one-on-one fights as well as group categories and, along with all the fighting, a fine selection of other attractions and entertainment guaranteeing an unforgettable weekend. This is not reenacting; this is not choreographed; this is the medieval tournament brought back to life.

National Heritage Week officially kicks off on August 22, and Claregalway Castle has a series of educational and entertaining events lined up. Guided daily tours of the castle by historian Dr Chris Doyle will take place every day during the week at 12 noon, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm, reflecting the industrial design elements of the castle in addition to its extensive history and archaeology. Admission for adults is €5 and €3 for children (concession: €3 ). Tickets for the entire family can be purchased for €10.                        

A medieval armoured combat display will take place on Saturday August 22 from 1pm to 2pm and 3pm to 4pm, including displays by members of the Irish Medieval Armoured Combat Team. 

An archery display will also take place on August 22 from 1pm to 2pm. Attendees can delight in an exhibition by master bowyer Jack Pinson. From 2pm to 4pm on the same day, a bow and arrow workshop for children aged six to 12 years is on offer. Places are limited to 20 and admission to the course costs €20.

A series of educational evening talks will also take place during the week. On Wednesday August 26 from 6pm to 7pm, NUI Galway's Dr Chris Doyle will provide an interesting talk on the history of Claregalway Castle and Cromwell's siege of Galway.

On Thursday August 27, from 6pm to 7pm, award winning botanical artist, graphic designer, and author, Jane Stark, will give a lecture on the heritage of Irish botanical art from the year 1750 to the present day. Stark will also give painting demonstrations during the afternoon.

On Friday 28, from 6pm to 7pm, Dr Eamonn O’Donoghue will hold a talk concerning discoveries made during the restoration of Claregalway Castle. Admission to evening talks cost €5 for adults with children free (Concession: €3 ).

The highlight of Heritage Week will take place on Saturday August 29, from 6pm to 8.30pm, with a celebration of the work of Ciarán Bairéad, one of the great collectors of Irish folklore. The extensive, rich, and varied materials he collected during his lifetime from the people of Claregalway, Turloughmore, and further afield, amount to a truly significant archive whose importance has yet to be appreciated.

Hear four distinguished scholars who are eminently qualified to speak on different aspects of the archive, on Ciarán Bairéad and his times, and on the Irish language in Claregalway and environs. Speakers include Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh (6pm ), Professor Séamas Ó Catháin (6.30pm ), Dr Pádraig Ó Héalaí (7.30pm ), and Dr Brian Ó Curnáin (8pm ). The chair for the event is Professor Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha of NUI Galway.

For further information call Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha on 087 7502095

For more details of events taking place at Claregalway Castle this Heritage Week visit the castle's Facebook page. For a full listing of the events taking place during the week, check out www.heritageweek.ie/news/national-heritage-week-2015-theme. 

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