In many ways it could be said that William Yeats did more for Ireland at the turn of the century than anyone else. As perhaps the most prominent member of the Literary Revival he helped to banish the then prevailing sense that British culture was superior to Irish. He was a founding member of both the National Dramatic Society and the Abbey Theatre - which, under himself, Lady Gregory and J.M. Synge, became one of the most respected theatre companies in the world. Moreover, Yeats had the uncanny penchant for giving valuable advice; his fortuitous suggestions propelled both Lady Gregory and J.M. Synge into their greatness.
Yeats' writings often depicted the rural Ireland of fable and myth that so captivated him throughout his life. Many of his works drew directly upon the legends of pre-Christian Ireland, such as his poems The Wanderings of Oisin and The Lake Isle of Innisfree. The Ireland Yeats wrote of captured the world's attention in a new way. In 1927 he became the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize.
It was on one of his many journeys to Lady Gregory's Coole Park that Yeats discovered Ballylee. The small village was named in a number of countryside tales that fascinated Yeats, and in 1917 he purchased a 14th century Norman tower-house there. So it was that Yeats became a resident of Co. Galway at Thoor-Ballylee for the latter portion of his days. The tower became deeply symbolic to Yeats and it appeared prominently in his poems for the last two decades of his life; many of those poems appear in the 1928 collection The Tower and the posthumous 1939 Last Poems.
Thoor Ballylee regularly attracts scholars and tourists who make the 20-mile pilgrimage from Galway City. The Visitors Centre at Thoor Ballylee shows a video on Yeats' life and work; the Centre is open 10am–6pm daily, Easter to September.
Photos from European Literary Trails: A Study Abroad Program
This site has photographs of Yeats' tower, from both the outside and inside. It also has links to other sites where you can see more of the places in the west of Ireland that were important in Yeats' life.