Bantry House & Garden, Bantry, Co. Cork

contact: Julie Shelswell-White
Tel: 087- 9811149
www.bantryhouse.com
Open dates in 2022: Apr 1-Oct 31, 10am-5pm
Fee: adult €14, OAP/student €11.50, child €5, groups over 8-20, €8 and groups of 21 or more €9

Bantry House, overlooking Bantry Bay, from the top of the “Sky Steps” or 100 Steps. June 2022.
Photograph from the National Library of Ireland Creative Commons. This is taken c. 1895, and the conservatory is now gone, as well, unfortunately, as the stork sculptures on the steps!

What we see today at Bantry House started as a more humble abode: a three storey five bay house built for Samuel Hutchinson in around 1690. It was called Blackrock. A wing was added in 1820, and a large further addition in 1845.

In the 1760s it was purchased by Captain Richard White (1700-1776). He was from a Limerick mercantile family and he had settled previously on Whiddy Island, the largest island in Bantry Bay. The Bantry website tells us that he had amassed a fortune from pilchard-fishing, iron-smelting and probably from smuggling, and that through a series of purchases, he acquired most of the land around Bantry including large parts of the Beare Peninsula, from Arthur Annesley, 5th Earl of Anglesey. The house is still occupied by his descendants, the Shelswell-White family.

This looks like the main entrance to the house – we came in the back way.
The Visitors’ entry to the house.

Driving from Castletownshend, we entered the back way and not through the town. From the car park we walked up a path which gave us glimpses of the outbuildings, the west stables, and we walked all around the house to reach the visitors’ entrance. We were lucky that the earlier rain stopped and the sun came out to show off Bantry House at its best. I was excited to see this house, which is one of the most impressive of the Section 482 houses.

We missed the beginning of the tour, so raced up the stairs to join the once-a-day tour in June 2022. Unfortunately I had not been able to find anything about tour times on the website. We will definitely have to go back for the full tour! The house is incredible, and is full of treasures like a museum. I’d also love to stay there – once can book accommodation in one wing.

Captain Richard White married Martha Davies, daughter of Rowland Davies, Dean of Cork and Ross. During his time, Bantry House was called Seafield. They had a son named Simon (1739-1776), who married Frances Hedges-Eyre from Macroom Castle in County Cork. Their daughter Margaret married Richard Longfield, 1st Viscount Longueville.

The house overlooks Bantry Bay which is formative in its history because thanks to its views, Richard’s grandson was elevated to an Earldom.

Frances Jane and Simon had a son, Richard (1767-1851), who saw French ships sail into Bantry Bay in 1796. The British and French were at war from February 1793. It was in gratitude for Richard’s courage and foresight in raising a local militia against the French that Richard was given a title.

There are four guns overlooking the bay. The two smaller ones are from 1780, and the larger one is dated 1796. One is French and dated 1795 and may have been captured from an invading French ship.

United Irishman Theobald Wolfe Tone was on one of the French ships, which were under command of French Louis Lazare Hoche.

Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763–98) (named after his godfather, Theobald Wolfe) had sought French support for an uprising against British rule in Ireland. The United Irishmen sought equal representation of all people in Parliament. Tone wanted more than the Catholic Emancipation which Henry Grattan advocated, and for him, the Catholic Relief Act of 1793 did not go far enough, as it did not give Catholics the right to sit in the Irish House of Commons. Tone was inspired by the French and American Revolutions. The British had specifically passed the Catholic Relief Act in the hope of preventing Catholics from joining with the French.

Theobald Wolf Tone, who was on the ships which Richard White spotted in Bantry Bay carrying the French who were coming to support Irish Independence.

The Dictionary of Irish Biography tells us that

With the outbreak of war with France, Dublin Castle instituted a crackdown on Irish reformers who had professed admiration for the French, and by the end of the year the United Irishmen and the reform movement were in disarray. In quick succession, the Volunteers were proscribed, the holding of elected conventions was banned, and a number of United Irishmen… were hauled before the courts on charges of seditious libel.

Tone went to the U.S. and thought he might have to settle there but with others’ encouragement he continued in his work for liberating Ireland. He went to France for support. As a result 43 ships were sent to France.

In July 1796 Tone was appointed chef de brigade (brigadier-general) in Hoche’s army ... Finally, on 16 December 1796, a French fleet sailed from Brest crammed with 14,450 soldiers. On board one of the sails of the line, the Indomptable, was ‘Citoyen Wolfe Tone, chef de brigade in the service of the republic.’” [1]

Richard White had trained a militia in order to defend the area, and stored munitions in his house. When he saw the ships in the bay he raised defenses. However, it was stormy weather and not his militia that prevented the invasion. Tone wrote of the expedition in his diary, saying that “We were close enough to toss a biscuit ashore”.

The French retreated home to France, but ten French ships were lost in the storm and one, the Surveillante, sank and remained on the bottom of Bantry bay for almost 200 years. 

For his efforts in preparing the local defences against the French, Richard White was created Baron Bantry in 1797 in recognition of his “spirited conduct and important service.” In 1799 he married Margaret Anne Hare (1779-1835), daughter of William the 1st Earl of Listowel in County Kerry, who brought with her a substantial dowry. In 1801 he was made a viscount, and in 1815 he became Viscount Berehaven and Earl of Bantry. He became a very successful lawyer and made an immense fortune.

Bantry House. June 2022. The entrance is under the portico, which is now glassed in. This middle section is the original house. The part on the sea facing side is the part added in 1820. The addition that appears on the left hand side is part of the fourteen bay block added to the rear of the old house in 1845 by the 2nd Earl.
In this view of the house we can see the two copper domes of the stable ranges, either side of the house. The stable blocks were built in 1845 and the National Inventory tells us they are sited to appear as further lateral extensions of the house beyond its wings; when viewed from the bay they might be read as lower flanking wings in the Palladian manner.

Richard was not Simon White’s only son. Simon’s son Simon became a Colonel and married Sarah Newenham of Maryborough, County Cork. They lived in Glengariff Castle. Young Simon’s sister Helen married a brother of Sarah Newenham, Richard, who inherited Maryborough. Another daughter, Martha, married Michael Goold-Adams of Jamesbrook, County Cork and another daughter, Frances, married General E. Dunne of Brittas, County Laois. Another son, Hamilton, married Lucinda Heaphy.

A wing was added to the house in 1820 in the time of the 1st Earl of Bantry. This wing is the same height as the original block, but of only two storeys, and faces out to the sea. It has a curved bow at the front and back and a six bay elevation at the side. This made space for two large drawing rooms, and more bedrooms upstairs.

The side of the house which faces the bay. This is the six bay elevation with curved bow at front a back (not visible here) which was added to the original house by the 1st Earl of Bantry.
The entrance is under the Corinthian colonnade, which was built later onto the oldest part of the house. The bow in this photograph is part of the house added on during the time of the 1st Earl of Bantry.

The house was greatly enlarged and remodelled in 1845 by the son of the 1st Earl, Richard (1800-1867). The 1st Earl had moved out to live in a hunting lodge in Glengariff. This son Richard was styled as Viscount Berehaven between 1816 and 1851 until his father died, when he then succeeded to become 2nd Earl of Bantry. He married Mary O’Brien, daughter of William, 2nd Marquess of Thomond, in 1836.

The 2nd Earl of Bantry and his wife travelled extensively and purchased many of the treasures in the house. The website tells us he was a passionate art collector who travelled regularly across Europe, visiting Russia, Poland, France and Italy. He brought back shiploads of exotic goods between 1820 and 1840.

To accommodate his new furnishings he built a fourteen bay block on the side of the house opposite to the 1820 addition, consisting of a six-bay centre of two storeys over basement flanked by four-storey bow end wings.

To accommodate his new furnishings, the Viscount built a fourteen bay block to the rear of the old house consisting of a six-bay centre of two storeys over a basement flanked by four-storey bow end wings.

The website tells us:

.”..No doubt inspired by the grand baroque palaces of Germany, he gave the house a sense of architectural unity by lining the walls with giant red brick pilasters with Coade-stone Corinthian capitals, the intervening spaces consisting of grey stucco and the parapet adorned with an attractive stone balustrade.

Bantry House, County Cork.

He also lay out the Italianate gardens, including the magnificent terraces on the hillside behind the house, most of which was undertaken after he had succeeded his father as the second Earl of Bantry in 1851.

After his death in 1867 the property was inherited by his brother William, the third Earl (1801-1884), his grandson William the fourth and last Earl (1854-91), and then passed through the female line to the present owner, Mr. Shelswell-White.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us: “The house is entered through a glazed Corinthian colonnade, built onto the original eighteenth century front in the nineteenth century; there is a similar colonnade on the original garden front.” [2]

The Corinthian colonnade at the entrance to the house.
There is a colonnade similar to that on the front entrance on the other side of the oldest part of the house.
The cafe area to the side of the house.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside. You can see photographs of the incredible interior on the Bantry house website, and on the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne’s blog. [3]

The rooms are magnificent, with their rich furnishings, ceilings and columns. Old black and white photographs show that even the ceilings were at one time covered in tapestries. The Spanish leather wallpaper in the stair hall is particularly impressive.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The hall is large but low-ceilinged and of irregular shape, having been formed by throwing together two rooms and the staircase hall of the mid-eighteenth century block; it has early nineteenth century plasterwork and a floor of black and white pavement, incorporating some ancient Roman tiles from Pompeii. From one corner rises the original staircase of eighteenth century joinery.”

Staircase in Bantry House, photograph courtesy of Bantry house website.

The website tells us: “Today the house remains much as the second earl left it, with an important part of his great collection still intact. Nowhere is this more son than the hall where visitors will find an eclectic collection garnered from a grand tour, which includes an Arab chest, a Japanese inlaid chest, a Russian travelling shrine with fifteenth and sixteenth century icons and a Fresian clock. There is also a fine wooden seventeenth century Flemish overmantel and rows of family portraits on the walls. The hall was created by combining two rooms with the staircase hall of the original house and consequently has a rather muddled shape, though crisp black and white Dutch floor tiles lend the room a sense of unity.. Incorporated into this floor are four mosaic panels collected by Viscount Berehaven from Pompeii in 1828 and bearing the inscriptions “Cave Canem” and “Salve.” Other unusual items on show include a mosque lamp from Damascus in the porch and a sixteenth century Spanish marriage chest which can be seen in the lobby.

Bence-Jones continues: “The two large bow-ended drawing rooms which occupy the ground floor of the late eighteenth century wing are hung with Gobelins tapestries; one of them with a particularly beautiful rose-coloured set said to have been made for Marie Antoinette.

The Drawing Room in Bantry House, photograph courtesy of Bantry house website.

The Royal Aubusson tapestries in the Rose drawing room, comprising four panels, are reputed to have been a gift from the Dauphin to his young wife-to-be Marie Antoinette. In the adjoining Gobelin drawing room, one panel of tapestries is said to have belonged to Louis Philippe, Duc D’Orleans, a cousin of Louis XV.

The website tells us: “The most spectacular room is the dining-room, dominated by copies of Allan Ramsay’s full-length portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte, whose elaborate gilt frames are set off by royal blue walls. The ceiling was once decorated with Guardi panels, but these have long since been removed and sold to passing dealers at a fraction of their worth. The differing heights of the room are due to the fact that they are partly incorporated in the original house and in the 1845 extension, their incongruity disguised by a screen of marble columns with gilded Corinthian capitals. Much of the furniture has been here since the second Earl, including the George III dining table, Chippendale chairs, mahogany teapoy, sideboards made for the room, and the enormous painting The Fruit Market by Snyders revealing figures reputedly drawn by Rubens – a wedding present to the first Countess.

The Chippendale chairs and the George III dining table were made for the room.

King George III, a reproduction in Castletown, County Kildare.
Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, a reproduction in Castletown, County Kildare.

The description on the website continues: “The first flight of the staircase from the hall belongs to the original early eighteenth century house, as does the half-landing with its lugged architraves. This leads into the great library, built around 1845 and the last major addition to the house. The library is over sixty feet long, has screens of marble Corinthian columns, a compartmented ceiling and Dublin-made mantelpieces at each end with overhanging mirrors. The furnishing retains a fine rosewood grand piano by Bluthner of Leipzig, still occasionally used for concerts. The windows of this room once looked into an immense glass conservatory, but this has now been removed and visitors can look out upon restored gardens and the steep sloping terraces behind.

The Library in Bantry House, photograph courtesy of Bantry house website.

The third Earl, William Henry (1801-1884), succeeded his brother, who died in 1868. On 7 September 1840 William Henry’s surname was legally changed to William Henry Hedges-White by Royal Licence, adding Hedges, a name passed down by his paternal grandmother.

His grandmother was Frances Jane Eyre and her father was Richard Hedges Eyre. Richard Hedges of Macroom Castle and Mount Hedges, County Cork, married Mary Eyre. Richard Hedges Eyre was their son. He married Helena Herbert of Muckross, County Kerry. In 1760 their daughter, Frances Jane, married Simon White of Bantry, William Henry’s grandfather. When her brother Robert Hedges Eyre died without heirs in 1840 his estates were divided and William Henry the 3rd Earl of Bantry inherited the Macroom estate. [4] Until his brother’s death in 1868, William Henry Hedges-White had been living in Macroom Castle. [5]

Macroom Castle, photograph taken 2009 by “Shiny Things,” flickr constant commons.
Macroom Castle gate house, photograph taken 2007 by Carole Waller, flickr constant commons.

William Henry Hedges-White married Jane Herbert in 1845, daughter of Charles John Herbert of Muckross Abbey in County Kerry (see my entry about places to visit in County Kerry).

In November 1853, over 33,000 acres of the Bantry estate were offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates Court, and a separate sale disposed of Bere Island. The following year more than 6,000 further acres were sold, again through the Encumbered Estates Court. Nevertheless in the 1870s the third earl still owned 69,500 acres of land in County Cork.

His son, the 4th Earl, died childless in 1891. The title lapsed, and the estate passed to his nephew, Edward Egerton Leigh (1876-1920), the son of the 4th Earl’s oldest sister, Elizabeth Mary, who had married Egerton Leigh of Cheshire, England. This nephew, born Edward Egerton Leigh, added White to his surname upon his inheritance. He was only fifteen years old when he inherited, so his uncle Lord Ardilaun looked after the estate until Edward came of age in 1897. William Henry Hedges-White’s daughter Olivia Charlotte Hedges-White had married Arthur Edward Guinness, 1st and last Baron Ardilaun. Edward Egerton’s mother had died in 1880 when he was only four years old, and his father remarried in 1889.

Bantry House, County Cork, photograph 1989 from the National Library, flickr constant commons.

Edward Egerton married Arethusa Flora Gartside Hawker in 1904. She was a cousin through his father’s second marriage. They had two daughters, Clodagh and Rachel. In March 1916 an offer from the Congested Districts’ Board was accepted by Edward Egerton Leigh White for 61,589 tenanted acres of the estate. [6] Edward Egerton died in 1920.

Patrick Comerford tells us in his blog that during the Irish Civil War in 1922-1923, the Cottage Hospital in Bantry was destroyed by fire. Arethusa Leigh-White offered Bantry House as a hospital to the nuns of the Convent of Mercy, who were running the hospital. Arethusa only made one proviso: that the injured on both sides of the conflict should be cared for. A chapel was set up in the library and the nuns and their patients moved in for five years. [7]

In 1926, Clodagh Leigh-White came of age and assumed responsibility for the estate. Later that year, she travelled to Zanzibar, Africa, where she met and married Geoffrey Shelswell, then the Assistant District Commissioner of Zanzibar. (see [7])

Geoffrey Shelswell added “White” to his surname when in 1926 Clodagh inherited Bantry estate after the death of her father. They had a son, Egerton Shelswell-White (1933-2012), and two daughters, Delia and Oonagh.

During the Second World War, the house and stables were occupied by the Second Cyclist Squadron of the Irish Army, and they brought electricity and the telephone to the estate.

Clodagh opened the house in 1946 to paying visitors with the help of her sister Rachel who lived nearby. Her daughter Oonagh moved with her family into the Stable Yard.

Clodagh remained living in the house after her husband died in 1962, until her death in 1978. Brigittte, wife of Clodagh’s son Egerton, writes:

As far as I know it never occurred to Clodagh to live elsewhere. She thought nothing of having her sitting room downstairs, her kitchen and bedroom upstairs and her bathroom across the landing. No en suite for her! In the winter when the freezing wing howled through the house, she more or less lived in her fur coat, by all accounts cheerful and contented. She loved bridge and held parties, which took place in the Rose Drawing Room, or in the room next to the kitchen, called the Morning Room.

Brigitte also tells of wonderful evenings of music and dance hosted by Clodagh and her friend Ian Montague, who had been a ballet dancer with the Royal Swedish Ballet. Ian put on plays and dancing in period costumes. Members of the audience were taught about eighteenth century dance and were encouraged to join in. I think we should hold such dances in the lovely octagon room of the Irish Georgian Society!

Clodagh’s son Egerton had moved to the United States with his wife Jill, where he taught in a school called Indian Springs. When his mother died he returned to Bantry. The house was in poor repair, the roof leaking and both wings derelict. Jill decided to remain in the United States with their children who were teenagers at the time and settled into their life there.

Bantry House features in Great Irish Houses, which has a foreward by Desmond FitzGerald and Desmond Guinness (IMAGE Publications, 2008). In the book, Egerton is interviewed. He tells us:

p. 68. “The family don’t go into the public rooms very much. We live in the self-contained area. I remember before the war as children we used the dining rooms and the state bedrooms, but after the war my parents moved into this private area of the house. It feels like home and the other rooms are our business. You never think of all that furniture as being your own. You think of it more as the assets of the company.

The relatively modest private living quarters were completed in 1985. Sophie Shelswell-White, Egerton’s daughter, says, “When we were younger we shied away from the main house because of the intrusion from the public. Everyone imagines we play hide and seek all day long and we did play it a bit. We also used to run around looking for secret tunnels and passageways. I used to believe one day I’d push something and it would open a secret room, but it never happened.”

Mark Bence-Jones continues his description, moving to the stables: “Flanking the entrance front is an imposing stable range, with a pediment and cupola. The house is surrounded by Italian gardens with balustrades and statues and has a magnificent view over Bantry Bay to the mountains on the far shore. The demesne is entered by a fine archway.” (see [2])

The large stable complex is to one side of the house, the East Stables. This is where the horses and carriages were kept.

The National Inventory tells us about the East Stables:

A classically inspired outbuilding forming part of an architectural set-piece, the formal design of which dates to the middle of the nineteenth century when Richard White, Viscount Berehaven and later second Earl of Bantry, undertook a large remodelling of Bantry House. At this time the house was extended laterally with flanking six-bay wings that overlook the bay. This stable block and the pair to the south-west are sited to appear as further lateral extensions of the house beyond its wings; when viewed from the bay they might be read as lower flanking wings in the Palladian manner. This elaborate architectural scheme exhibits many finely crafted features including a distinguished cupola, playful sculptural detailing as well as cut stone pilasters to the façade. The survival of early materials is visible in a variety of fine timber sliding sash windows, which add to the history of the site.

View of the 1820 wing in foreground and 1845 behind, and behind that, the East Stables.
This impressive arch with pediment topped by urns and birds, which leads toward the east stable yard, as seen behind.
The East Stable yard.
The east stable yard as seen from the garden.

Egerton married Brigitte in 1981. They undertook many of the repairs themselves. They started a tearoom with the help of a friend, Abi Sutton, who also helped with the house. Egerton played the trombone and opened the house to musical events. They continued to open the house for tours. They renovated the went wing and opened it for bed and breakfast guests.

Coffee is served on the terrace, similar to that in the front, but only partly glazed. Unfortunately we arrived too late for a snack. Bantry House is breathtaking and its gardens and location magnify the grandeur. I like that the grandeur, like Curraghmore, is slightly faded: a lady’s fox fur worn down to the leather and shiny in places.

The balustraded area on the side of the house where tea and coffee are served overlooks a garden.

From the garden to one side of the house, you can see another stable complex, the West Stables.

Brigitte and Egerton continued restoration of the house and started to tackle the garden. They repaired the fountain and started work on the Italian parterre. In 1998 they applied for an EEC grant for renovation of the garden. They restored the statues, balustrades, 100 Steps, Parterre, Diana’s Bed and fourteen round beds overlooking the sea.

Looking past the fountain to the 100 Steps.
Bantry House, County Cork, photograph by Chris Hill, 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. Wisteria adds an extra oomph to the garden.

It is Egerton’s daughter Sophie who now lives in and maintains Bantry House, along with her husband and children.

The family donated their archive of papers to the Boole Library of University College Cork in 1997.

The National Inventory tells us the five-bay two-storey west stables were also built c.1845. They have a pedimented central bay with cupola above, which has a copper dome, finial, plinth and six Tuscan-Corinthian columns. [8] The West Stables were used as a workshop for outdoor maintenance and repairs. They had fallen into disrepair but were repaired to rectify deteriorating elements with the help of the Heritage Council in 2010-11.

These buildings, the West Stables, were used as a workshop for outdoor maintenance and repairs. They have fallen into disrepair but were repaired to rectify deteriorating element with the help of the Heritage Council in 2010-11.

[1] https://www.dib.ie/biography/tone-theobald-wolfe-a8590

[2] Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[3] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/09/08/when-its-gone-its-gone/

[4] https://landedestates.ie/family/1088 and https://www.dib.ie/biography/eyre-robert-hedges-a2978

See also

[5] Shelswell-White, Sophie. Bantry House & Garden, The History of a family home in Ireland. This booklet includes an article by Geoffrey Shelswell-White, “The Story of Bantry House” which had appeared in the Irish Tatler and Sketch, May 1951.

[6] https://landedestates.ie/family/1088

[7] http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2016/05/bantry-house-has-story-that-spans.html

[8] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20911813/bantry-house-seafield-bantry-co-cork

Places to visit per county

Below is a list of places to visit per county.

Places to visit in County Antrim 

1. Antrim Castle and Clotworthy House, County Antrim

2. Belfast Castle estate , County Antrim

3. Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim

4. Dunluce Castle (ruin), County Antrim

5. Galgorm Castle, County Antrim – now part of a golf club.

6. Glenarm Castle, County Antrim – private, can book a tour 

7. Lissanoure Castle, County Antrim – private, wedding venue

8. Malone House, Belfast, County Antrim – wedding and conference venue

9. Wilmont House (park only), Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Rose Gardens.

Places to visit in County Armagh:

1. Ardress House, County Armagh

2. The Argory, County Armagh 

3. Brownlow House, County Armagh

4. Derrymore House, Bessbrook, County Armagh – National Trust

5. Milford House, Armagh

Places to visit in County Carlow

1. Altamont, Kilbride, Co Carlow – gardens open to public, see OPW entry

2. Borris House, Borris, County Carlow – section 482

3. Carlow Castle, Carlow, Co Carlow – a ruin  

4. Duckett’s Grove, Carlow – a ruin 

5. Garryhill House, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow – can visit gardens

6. Hardymount House, Castlemore, Co Carlow – can visit gardens

7. Huntington Castle, Clonegal, Co Carlow – on section 482 

8. Old Rectory Killedmond, Borris, Co Carlow – section 482 

Places to visit in County Cavan

1. Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan (Hotel) – section 482

2. Castle Saunderson, Co. Cavan – a ruin

3. Clough Oughter, County Cavan

4. Corravahan House & Gardens, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan – section 482

Places to visit in County Clare:

1. Barntick House, Clarecastle County Clare – section 482

2. Bunratty Castle, County Clare

3. Craggaunowen Castle, Kilmurray, Sixmilebridge, County Clare

4. Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Clare

5. Kilrush House, County Clare – ‘lost,’ Vandeleur Gardens open

6. Knappogue or Knoppogue Castle, County Clare

7. Mount Ievers Court, Sixmilebridge, County Clare 

8. Newtown Castle, Newtown, Ballyvaughan, County Clare – section 482

9. O’Dea’s, or Dysert Castle, County Clare

Places to visit in County Cork:

1. Annes Grove Gardens, County Cork – OPW

2. Ashton Grove, Ballingohig, Knockraha, Co. Cork – section 482

3. Ballymaloe House, Cloyne, County Cork

4. Ballynatray, Youghal, County Cork (also Waterford) – section 482

5. Bantry House & Garden, Bantry, Co. Cork – section 482

6. Barryscourt Castle, County Cork – OPW

7. Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork

8. Blarney Castle & Rock Close, Blarney, Co. Cork – section 482

9. Blarney House & Gardens, Blarney, Co. Cork – section 482

10. Brideweir House, Conna, Co. Cork – section 482

11. Burton Park, Churchtown, Mallow, Co. Cork – section 482

12. Creagh House, Main Street, Doneraile, Co. Cork – section 482

13. Desmond Castle, Kinsale, County Cork – OPW

14. Doneraile Court, County Cork – OPW

15. Drishane Castle & Gardens, Drishanemore, Millstreet Town, Co. Cork – section 482

16. Drishane House, Castletownshend, Co. Cork – section 482

17. Dún Na Séad Castle, Baltimore, Co. Cork – section 482

18. Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens – OPW

19. Garrettstown House, Garrettstown, Kinsale, Co. Cork – section 482

20. Fenns Quay, 4 & 5 Sheares Street, Cork – section 482

21. Ilnacullin, Garanish Island, County Cork – OPW

22. Inis Beg gardens, Baltimore, County Cork

23. Kilcascan Castle, Ballineen, Co. Cork – section 482

24. Kilshannig House, Rathcormac, Co. Cork – section 482

25. Liss Ard Sky Garden, County Cork

26. Riverstown House, Riverstown, Glanmire, Co. Cork – section 482

27. Woodford Bourne Warehouse, Sheares Street, Cork – section 482

Places to visit in County Derry:

1. Bellaghy Bawn, County Derry 

2. Hezlett House, 107 Sea Road, Castlerock, County Derry, BT51 4TW on Downhill Demesne.

3. Mussenden Temple, Downhill Demesne

4. Springhill House, County Derry

Places to visit in County Donegal:

1. Cavanacor House, Ballindrait, Lifford, Co. Donegal – section 482

2. Doe Castle, County Donegal – OPW

3. Donegal Castle, County Donegal – OPW

4. Glebe Art Museum, County Donegal – OPW

5. Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal

6. Oakfield Park Garden, Oakfield Demesne, Raphoe, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

7. Salthill Garden, Salthill House, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

Places to visit in County Down:

1. Audley’s Castle, County Down

2. Bangor Castle Park, County Down

3. Castle Ward, County Down 

4. Dundrum Castle, County Down

5. Hillsborough Castle, County Down 

6. Montalto Estate, County Down

7. Mount Stewart, County Down

8. Newry and Mourne Museum, Bagenal’s Castle, County Down

9. Portaferry Castle, County Down

Places to visit in County Dublin

1. Airfield, Dundrum, Dublin

2. Aras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, Dublin – OPW

3. Ardan, Windgate Road, Howth – gardens by appt

4. Ardgillan Castle, Dublin

5. Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park, Dublin – OPW

6. Bewley’s, 78-79 Grafton Street/234 Johnson’s Court, Dublin 2 – section 482

7. Cabinteely House [formerly Clare Hill, or Marlfield], Cabinteely, Dublin

8. The Casino at Marino, Dublin – OPW

9. Charlemount House, Parnell Square, Dublin – Hugh Lane gallery

10. Clonskeagh Castle, 80 Whitebean Road, Clonskeagh, Dublin 14 – section 482

11. Colganstown House, Hazelhatch Road, Newcastle, Co. Dublin – section 482

12. Corke Lodge Garden, Shankill, Co. Dublin – section 482

13. Dalkey Castle, Dublin – heritage centre

14. Doheny & Nesbitt, 4/5 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2 – section 482

15. Drimnagh Castle, Dublin

16. Dublin Castle, Dublin – OPW

17. Fahanmura, 2 Knocksina, Foxrock, Dublin 18 – section 482

18. Farm Complex, Toberburr Road, Killeek, St Margaret’s, Co. Dublin – section 482

19. Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin – OPW

20. Fern Hill, Stepaside, Dublin – gardens open to public

21. Georgian House Museum, 29 Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Merrion Square, Dublin 2 – virtual visit only

22. “Geragh”, Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin – section 482

23. 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin

24. Hibernian/National Irish Bank, 23-27 College Green, Dublin 2 – section 482

25. Howth Castle gardens, Dublin

26. Howth Martello Tower Hurdy Gurdy Radio Museum

27. Knocknagin House, Delvin Bridge, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin – section 482

28. Knockrose Garden, The Scalp, Kiltiernan – garden open

29. Lambay Castle, Lambay Island, Malahide, Co. Dublin – section 482

30. Lissen Hall, County Dublin – ihh member, check dates, May and June.

31. Malahide Castle, County Dublin

32. Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, County Dublin

33. Martello Tower, Portrane, Co. Dublin – section 482

34. Meander, Westminister Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18 – section 482

35. Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin

36. MOLI, Museum of Literature Ireland, Newman House, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin

37. Mornington Garden, Dalkey – gardens open

38. Newbridge House, Donabate, County Dublin

39. 11 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1 – section 482

40. 81 North King Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7 – section 482

41. The Odeon (formerly the Old Harcourt Street Railway Station), 57 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2 – section 482

42. The Old Glebe, Upper Main Street, Newcastle, Co. Dublin – section 482

43. Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2 – section 482

44. Primrose Hill, Very Top of Primrose Lane, Lucan, Co. Dublin – section 482

45. Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin – OPW

46. Royal Hospital Kilmainham (Irish Museum of Modern Art, IMMA) – OPW

47. 10 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2 – Section 482

48. St. Enda’s Park and Pearse Museum, Dublin – OPW

49. St. George’s, St. George’s Avenue, Killiney, Co. Dublin – section 482

50. Swords Castle, Swords, County Dublin.

51. The Church, Junction of Mary’s Street/Jervis Street, Dublin 1 – section 482

52. Tibradden House, Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16 – section 482

53. Tickknock Gardens, Ticknock Lodge, Ticknock Road, Sandyford, Dublin, Dublin 18

54. Tyrrelstown House Garden, Powerstown Road, Tyrrelstown, Dublin, D15 T6DD – gardens open

Places to visit in County Fermanagh:

1. Castle Archdale Countryside Centre & War Museum – demolished in 1970 but the stables remain intact.

2. Castle Balfour (ruin), County Fermanagh 

3. Castle Coole, County Fermanagh

4. Crom Estate, County Fermanagh

5. Enniskillen Castle, County Fermanagh

6. Florence Court, County Fermanagh 

Places to visit in County Galway

1. Ardamullivan Castle, Galway – national monument, to be open to public in future – check status

2. Ardcarrig Garden, Oranswell, Bushypark, County Galway

3. Athenry Castle, County Galway  – open to public

4. Aughnanure Castle, County Galway (OPW)

5. Castle Ellen House, Athenry, Co. Galway – section 482

6. Claregalway Castle, Claregalway, Co. Galway – section 482

7. Coole Park, County Galway – house gone but stables visitor site open

8. Gleane Aoibheann, Clifden, Galway  – gardens

9. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

10. The Grammer School, College Road, Galway – section 482

11. Oranmore Castle, Oranmore, Co. Galway – section 482

12. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

13. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – gardens open

14. Signal Tower & Lighthouse, Eochaill, Inis Mór, Aran Islands, Co. Galway – section 482

15. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

16. Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden, Craughwell, Co. Galway – section 482, garden only

Places to visit in County Kerry:

1. Ballyseede Castle, Tralee, Co. Kerry – section 482, also a hotel for accommodation €€

2. Derrynane House, Caherdaniel, County Kerry – OPW

3. Derreen Gardens, Lauragh, Tuosist, Kenmare, Co. Kerry – section 482

4. Dhu Varren garden, Knockreigh, Milltown, Kerry, V93 VX27

5. Kells Bay House & Garden, Kells, Caherciveen, County Kerry

6. Killarney House, County Kerry

7. Knockreer House and Gardens, County Kerry

8. Listowel Castle, County Kerry – OPW

9. Muckross House,  Killarney, County Kerry – open to visitors

10. Ross’s Castle, Killarney, County Kerry

11. Staigue Fort, County Kerry

12. Tarbert House, Tarbert, Co. Kerry – section 482

Places to visit in County Kildare:

1. Blackhall Castle, Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare – section 482

2. Burtown House and Garden, Athy, Co. Kildare – section 482

3. Castletown House, County Kildare – OPW

4. Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co. Kildare – section 482

5. Donadea Forest Park and ruins of Donadea Castle, County Kildare

6. Farmersvale House, Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare – section 482

7. Griesemount House, Ballitore, Co Kildare – section 482

8. Harristown House, Brannockstown, Co. Kildare – section 482

9. Kildrought House, Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare – section 482

10. Larchill, Kilcock, Co. Kildare – section 482

11. Leixlip Castle, Leixlip, Co. Kildare – section 482

12. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare – OPW

13. Millbrook House, County Kildare: House and limited garden access for groups only

14. Moone Abbey House & Tower, Moone Abbey, Moone, Co. Kildare – section 482

15. Moyglare Glebe, Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare – section 482

16. Steam Museum Lodge Park Heritage Centre, Lodge Park, Straffan, Co. Kildare – section 482

Places to visit in County Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt.

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny 

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny

Places to visit in County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – gardens sometimes open to public

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

4. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

5. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

6. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Places to visit in County Leitrim:

1. Lough Rynn Castle gardens, Mohill, Co Leitrim

2. Manorhamilton Castle (Ruin), Castle St, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim – section 482

3. Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim (OPW)

Places to visit in County Limerick:

1. Ash Hill, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – section 482

2. Askeaton Castle, County Limerick – OPW

3. Desmond Castle, Adare, County Limerick – OPW

4. Desmond Castle, Newcastlewest, County Limerick – OPW

5. Glebe House, Holycross, Bruff, Co. Limerick – section 482

6. Glenville House, Glenville, Ardagh, Co. Limerick – section 482

7. Glenquin Castle, Newcastle West, Co Limerick – open to visitors

8. Glenstal Abbey, County Limerick

9. Kilpeacon House, Crecora, Co. Limerick – section 482

10. King John’s Castle, Limerick

11. Odellville House, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick – section 482

12. Mount Trenchard House and Garden, Foynes, Co. Limerick – section 482

13. The Turret, Ryanes, Ballyingarry, Co. Limerick – section 482

14. The Old Rectory, Rathkeale, Co. Limerick – section 482

Places to visit in County Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford, open by previous arrangement.

2. Maria Edgeworth Visitor Centre, Longford, County Longford.

3. Moorhill House, Castlenugent, Lisryan, Co. Longford – section 482

Places to visit in County Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

2. Carlingford Castle, County Louth – OPW

3. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth

4. Collon House, County Louth

5. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

6. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – OPW

7. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Places to visit in County Mayo:

1. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – hotel and gives tours

2. Brookhill House, Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo – section 482

3. Enniscoe House & Gardens, Castlehill, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

4. Old Coastguard Station, Rosmoney, Westport, Co. Mayo – section 482

5. Partry House, Mayo

6. Prizon House, Prizon North, Balla, Co. Mayo – section 482

7. Turlough Park, Museum of Country Life, Mayo

8. Westport House, County Mayo

Places to visit in County Meath

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation and sometimes open for visits

2. Beau Parc House, Beau Parc, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

3. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

4. Dunsany Castle, Dunsany, Co. Meath – section 482

5. Gravelmount House, Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

6. Hamwood House, Dunboyne, Co. Meath – section 482

7. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

8. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

9. Oldbridge House, County Meath – Battle of the Boyne Museum – OPW

10. Slane Castle, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

11. St. Mary’s Abbey, High Street, Trim, Co. Meath – section 482

12. The Former Parochial House, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

13. Swainstown House, Kilmessan, Co. Meath – section 482

14. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

15. Trim Castle, County Meath – OPW

Places to visit in County Monaghan:

1. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan – section 482

2. Hilton Park House, Clones, Co. Monaghan – section 482

3. Mullan Village and Mill, Mullan, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan – section 482

Places to visit in County Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly

[at some time, to re-open to the public, the gardens at Bellefield – see Robert O’Byrne’s blog: https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/05/02/bellefield/

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly

7. Corolanty House, Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly

8. Crotty Church, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

9. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly

10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

11. Leap Castle, County Offaly

12. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly

13. Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Places to visit in County Roscommon:

1. Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon – OPW

2. Castlecoote House, Castlecoote, Co. Roscommon – section 482

3. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon – section 482

4. King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon – section 482

5. Rathcroghan, County Roscommon – OPW

6. Shannonbridge Fortifications, Shannonbridge, Athlone, Co. Roscommon – section 482

7. Strokestown Park House, Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon – section 482

Places to visit in County Sligo:

1. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo (OPW)

2. Ballynafad Castle (or Ballinafad), Co Sligo – a ruin, OPW

3. Coopershill House, Riverstown, Co. Sligo – section 482

4. Lissadell House & Gardens, Lissadell, Ballinfull, Co. Sligo – section 482

5. Markree Castle, Collooney, Co Sligo – section 482

6. Newpark House and Demesne, Newpark, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

7. Rathcarrick House, Rathcarrick, Strandhill Road, Co. Sligo – section 482

Places to visit in County Tipperary:

1. Beechwood House, Ballbrunoge, Cullen, Co. Tipperary – section 482

2. Cahir Castle, County Tipperary – OPW

3. Carey’s Castle, Clonmel, County Tipperary

4. Clashleigh House, Clogheen, Co. Tipperary – section 482

5. Cloughjordan House, Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary – section 482

6. Fancroft Mill, Fancroft, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary – section 482

7. Farney Castle, Holycross, County Tipperary

8. Grenane House, Tipperary, Co. Tipperary – section 482

9. Killenure Castle, Dundrum, Co Tipperary – section 482

10. Nenagh Castle, County Tipperary

11. Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary – OPW

12. Redwood Castle, Redwood, Lorrha, Nenagh, North Tipperary – section 482

13. Roscrea Castle and Damer House, County Tipperary

14. Silversprings House, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary – section 482

15. Swiss Cottage, County Tipperary – OPW

Places to visit in County Tyrone:

1. Ashfield Park, County Tyrone – gardens open to visitors 

2. Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, County Tyrone – open for tours, self catering accommodation on the grounds 

3. Hill of The O’Neill and Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre, County Tyrone

4. Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone

5. Lissan House, Drumgrass Road, Cookstown, County Tyrone, BT80 9SW.

6. Prehen, County Tyrone

Places to visit in County Waterford:

1. Ballynatray Estate, Co. Waterford – section 482

2. Ballysaggartmore Towers, County Waterford

3. Bishop’s Palace Museum, Waterford

4. Cappagh House (Old and New), Cappagh, Dungarvan, Co Waterford – section 482

5. Cappoquin House & Gardens, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

6. Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co. Waterford – section 482

7. Dromana House, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

8. Dungarvan Castle, Waterford – OPW

9. Fairbrook House, Garden and Museum, County Waterford

10. Lismore Castle Gardens

11. Mount Congreve Gardens, County Waterford

12. The Presentation Convent, Waterford Healthpark, Slievekeel Road, Waterford – section 482

13. Reginald’s Tower, County Waterford – OPW

14. Tourin House & Gardens, Tourin, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

Places to visit in County Westmeath:

1. Athlone Castle, County Westmeath

2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath

3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath

4. St. John’s Church, Loughstown, Drumcree, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath

5. Tullynally Castle & Gardens, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath

6. Turbotstown, Coole, Co. Westmeath

7. Tyrrelspass Castle, County Westmeath – restaurant and gift shop

Places to visit in County Wexford:

1. Ballyhack Castle, Co. Wexford – open to public OPW

2. Ballymore, Camolin, Co Wexford – museum

3. Berkeley Forest House, County Wexford

4. Clougheast Cottage, Carne, Co. Wexford – section 482

5. Enniscorthy Castle, County Wexford

6. Ferns Castle, Wexford – open to public, OPW

7. Johnstown Castle, County Wexford maintained by the Irish Heritage Trust

8. Kilcarbry Mill Engine House, Sweetfarm, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford – section 482

9. Kilmokea Country Manor & Gardens, Great Island, Campile, New Ross, Co. Wexford – section 482

10. Loftus Hall, County Wexford

11. Newtownbarry House, Wexford

12. Tintern Abbey, Ballycullane, County Wexford – concessionary entrance to IGS members, OPW

13. Wells House, County Wexford

14. Woodville House, New Ross, Co. Wexford – section 482

Places to visit in County Wicklow:

1. Altidore Castle, Kilpeddar, Greystones, Co. Wicklow – section 482

2. Avondale House, County Wicklow

3. Ballymurrin House, Kilbride, Wicklow, Co. Wicklow – section 482

4. Castle Howard, Avoca, Co. Wicklow – section 482

5. Charleville, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow – section 482

6. Corke Lodge, Co Wicklow – gardens open to visitors

7. Dower House, Rossanagh, Ashford, Co Wicklow – gardens open by appointment

8. Greenan More, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow – section 482

9. Huntingbrook, County Wicklow – gardens open to public

10. Killruddery House & Gardens, Southern Cross Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow – section 482

11. Kiltimon House, Newcastle, Co. Wicklow – section 482

12. Kingston House, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow – section 482

13. Knockanree Garden, Avoca, Co Wicklow – section 482, garden only

14. 1 Martello Terrace, Strand Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow – section 482

15. Mount Usher Gardens, Ashford, Co. Wicklow – section 482, garden only

16. Powerscourt House & Gardens, Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow – section 482

17. Russborough, The Albert Beit Foundation, Blessington, Co. Wicklow – section 482

18. Tinode, Blessington, Co Wicklow – June Blake’s Garden, open from Springtime 2022

Places to visit and stay in County Kilkenny, Leinster.

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

2. Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny €

3. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkenny – €€ for two, € for 3-8

5. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

6. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel 

7.  Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel 

8. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny

9. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

10. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

Whole House Rental County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house accommodation

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny – whole house accommodation

Places to visit in County Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Nicholas & Mary Kelly
Tel: 051-880464, 087-2567866
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 9am-5pm Fee: adult €5, OAP €3, child/student free

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

Ballysallagh House, County Kilkenny, February 2022.

contact: Geralyn & Kieran White
Tel: 087-2906621, 086-2322105
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student €5, child free, groups by arrangement

See my entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/17/ballysallagh-house-johnswell-co-kilkenny/

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

Creamery, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: John Comerford
Tel: 056-4400080
www.creameryhouse.com
Open: May 14-Sept 30, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-5pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 18 free

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

Kilfane, County Kilkenny, August 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/12/16/kilfane-glen-waterfall-kilfane-thomastown-co-kilkenny/
contact: Susan Mosse
Tel: 056-7727105, 086-7919318 

www.kilfane.com

Open: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student €6.50, child €6, family €20

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

Kilkenny Castle, May 2018.

Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny City by Sonder Visuals for Failte Ireland 2014.

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

contact: Aaron Quill
Tel: 064-6623331
www.kilkennydesign.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day and St Stephens Day, 10am-7pm Fee: Free

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

Kilrush House, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

William Robertson (1777 – 1850) was a native of Kilkenny where the patronage of Lord Ormonde stood him in good stead, since most of his work can be found in Kilkenny and the neighbouring counties of Laois, Tipperary and Waterford. When Richard St. George wished to move from his medieval castle at Kilrush near Freshford in 1820, Robertson was the obvious choice. His work is less exuberant than that of his namesake Daniel but he was a talented architect and produced an interesting early nineteenth century reinterpretation of the typical late-Georgian country house. 

The St Georges are a Norman family who ‘came over to England with the Conqueror’ and arrived in Ireland in the sixteenth century. They quickly became established here, with several branches in County Kilkenny and others in Galway, Leitrim and Roscommon.

The St Georges of Kilrush were active in political and cultural circles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Richard St George was an M.P. in the Irish Parliament, with a town house at No. 8 Henrietta Street, while his cousin St George Ashe was the Provost of Trinity College and a close friend of Dean Swift. St. George was also a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, which encouraged his numerous publications of scientific and national interest.

Richard considered moving out of his tower-house at Kilrush in the middle of the eighteenth century but this decision was left to his heirs, who built the existing house in the early nineteenth century. Kilrush has a three bay façade, a five bay garden front, a hipped roof with widely overhanging eaves, a single very large, central chimney-stack into which all the flues are diverted, and an interesting ground plan.

The cut-stone door case is a handsome arrangement of Doric half-columns and pilasters, supporting a deep entablature with swags beneath a semi-circular leaded fanlight. The ground floor windows to either side are set in shallow recesses with elliptical heads; otherwise the elevations are quite plain.

The most interesting internal space is the landing, a perfect Doric rotunda supporting a delicately glazed dome. This partly lights the inner hall below through a circular well in the floor. The dining and drawing rooms are both finely proportioned apartments, with many original fittings and furnishings, and their original wallpaper.

Kilrush looks out over mature parkland to a large mill, almost half a mile off.  The gardens contain a stupendous collection of snowdrops, there is a tower house, the former residence of the family in the attached yard, while an interesting early garden layout with connected canals has recently been identified and is currently in the course of restoration.” [1]

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

Rothe House, Kilkenny, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland [2]

Rothe House is a treasure, older than any house in Dublin! It was built around 1594-1610, by John Rothe FitzPiers (1560-1620) for his wife Rose Archer, and is the last merchant’s townhouse in Kilkenny surviving from the early post-medieval period. [3] The house, purchased by Kilkenny Archaeological Society in 1962, is open to the public as a museum displaying a selection of the historic artefacts collected by the Society since its founding in 1947.  The artefacts relate to Kilkenny heritage throughout the ages and some date from prehistoric times.  The adjoining garden has since 2008 been open to the public and is a faithful reconstruction of an early seventeenth-century urban garden. 

Garden at Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The National Inventory describes it:

Terraced five-bay two-storey over basement house with dormer attic on a U-shaped plan about a stone cobbled (east) courtyard with two-bay two-storey gabled central bay having jettied box oriel window to first floor, series of five round-headed openings to ground floor forming arcade, single-bay three-storey linking range to north-west, and three-bay three-storey parallel range to west (completing U-shaped plan about a courtyard) originally three-bay two-storey having round-headed carriageway to right ground floor. In use as school, c.1750. Restored, 1898, to accommodate use as Gaelic League house. Converted to use as museum, 1963-5. Restored, 1983. Restored, 1999, to accommodate use as offices.”

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The Archiseek website tells us:

In 1594 a wealthy merchant called John Rothe built this magnificent Tudor mansion. Second and third generation houses were built around the cobelled courtyards and a well dating to 1604. The façade houses shops, one of them was John Rothe’s own. During the Confederation of Kilkenny, many dignitaries were entertained here by John Rothe and his cousin, the Bishop of Ossory. The building has been restored magnificently and is now home to Kilkenny Archaeological Society.” [4]

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Plague Doctor! In 1348 there was Plague in Kilkenny. Friar John Clyn in the Franciscan Abbey across the road  recorded the effect of the plague on the town and the friary. He himself fell victim to the epidemic. 
Artefacts from the Confederation of Kilkenny.
Viking Sword.
“Pattens” – wooden shoes worn by women over their regular shoes to protect from mud.

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Geoffrey Cope,
Tel: 087-2437125
www.shankillcastle.com
Open: Feb 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Apr 2-3, 9-10, 16- 17, 23-24, 30, May 1, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-16, 21-24, 28-31, Aug 3-6, 10-21, 24-27, 31, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29- 30, Oct 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30, 31, Feb- Apr, 11am-4pm, May- Oct, 11am-5pm Fee: house & garden, adult €10 garden €5, OAP/student €8, gardens €4

The website tells us:

Situated near the ruins of an old church, Shankill Castle began life as a tower-house built by the powerful Butler family during the medieval period. In 1708, the house was rebuilt by Peter Aylward who bought the land from his wife’s family. The new Shankill Castle was constructed as a Queen Anne house, set in a formal landscape, vista to the front and canal to the rear.

Peter Aylward’s wife was Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Richard Butler, 2nd Baronet of Poulstown, County Kilkenny.

The website continues: “In the 1820s, the house was enlarged and castellated. Serpentine bays were added to the canal and an unusual polyhedral sundial given pride of place on a sunken lawn. A gothic porch bearing the Aylward crest and a conservatory were other additions. 

The stableyard and the castellated entrance to the demesne were built in 1850 and are attributed to Daniel Robertson.

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

Tybroughney, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Louis Dowley
Tel: 087-2313106
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-4pm Fee: adult €5, student €3, child/OAP free

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council

Woodstock Gardens, photograph from Lawrence Photograph Collections, National Library of Ireland, photograph from “In Harmony with Nature” exhibition at the Irish Georgian Society curated by Robert O’Byrne.

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Woodstock (1988):

p. 286. “(Fownes, Bt/EDB; Tighe/IFR) A house by Francis Bindon [for William Fownes, 2nd Baronet], probably dating from 1740s, which is unusual in being built round a small inner court, or light-shaft. Three storeys; handsomely rusticated entrance front of six bays with a central niche and statue above the entrance doorway…In 1770s Sarah Ponsonby lived here with her cousins, Sir William and Betty Fownes [born Elizabeth Ponsonby]; her friend, Eleanor Butler, having escaped from Borris, co Carlow, where she was being kept in disgrace, was let into Woodstock through a window, hiding herself in Sarah’s room for 24 hours before being discovered; shortly afterwards, the two friends left for Wales, where they subsequently became famous as the “Ladies of Llangollen.” Woodstock passed to the Tighes with the marriage of the daughter and heiress of Sir William Fownes to William Tighe, whose daughter-in-law was Mary Tighe, the poet, author of Psyche; she died at Woodstock 1810 aged 37, and Flaxman’s monument to her is in a small neo-Classical mausoleum behind the Protestant church in the village of Inistioge, at the gates of the demesne. There was also a statue of her in one of the rooms in the house. Woodstock was burnt ca 1920, and is now a ruin, but the demesne, with its magnificent beechwoods, still belongs to the Tighes.” [6]

The information board tells us that in 1804 flanking wings were added to designs by William Robertson (1770-1850). The house was burned in 1922 after being occupied by the Black and Tans.
The gardens at Woodstock, County Kilkenny, August 2021. The gardens at Woodstock, gloriously situated above the River Nore, were conceived on a grand scale by Colonel William Tighe (1794-1878) and Lady Louisa Lennox (1803-1900) as the centrepiece of a great estate.

The formal parterres were created in the 1860s by a Scotsman, Charles McDonald, for Colonel William Tighe (1794-1878) and his wife Lady Louisa née Lennox (1803-1900, daughter of Charles, 4th Duke of Richmond – she is not to be confused with Louisa Lennox (1743-1817) daughter of Charles 2nd Duke of Richmond, who married Thomas Conolly of Castletown, County Kildare). The parterre incorporates a shamrock motif. Robert O’Byrne tells us in his exhibition “In Harmony with Nature” at the Irish Georgian Society July 2022 that creating the parterres involved removing 200,000 cubic yards of earth and retention by a wall of cut granite quarried on the estate and ornamented by local craftsmen with stone finials, balls and vases.

Woodstock Gardens, photograph from Lawrence Photograph Collections, National Library of Ireland, photograph from “In Harmony with Nature” exhibition at the Irish Georgian Society July 2022 curated by Robert O’Byrne.

The estate passed to the daughter, Sarah, of William Fownes and Elizabeth Ponsonby, and Sarah married William Tighe (1738-1872) of Rossana, County Wicklow.

This information board tells us about the Arboretum at Woodstock, where a number of exotic trees were planted in the nineteenth century.
Entrance to walled garden at Woodstock.
Gardens at Woodstock, with reproduction Turner glasshouse.
“Turner bench” which matches the glasshouse at Woodstock.
The longest and oldest Monkey Puzzle Walk in Europe, at Woodstock.

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

http://ballyduffhouse.ie/booking-enquiries/ 

Ballyduff House, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us:

Ballyduff House is a classic Georgian country house with a 14th century castle, steeped in Irish history and full of the warmest of welcomes.

The River Nore sparkles as it runs along Ballyduff’s riverbank while sheep and cattle graze the pasture either side.

Open fires, the book lined library and the comfortable bedrooms furnished with Irish antiques capture an early 18th century experience tempered by discreet 21st century comfort.

This is real Ireland – calm, green and beautiful, set alongside the picturesque village of Inistioge with Dublin only an hour away.

The National Inventory tells us:

A country house representing an important component of the mid eighteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Kilkenny with the architectural value of the composition, one abutting a “roofed down” tower house, confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking broad parkland and the wooded River Nore; the compact rectilinear plan form centred on a restrained doorcase showing a simple radial fanlight; the diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual impression with the principal “apartments” or reception rooms defined by Wyatt-style tripartite glazing patterns; and the slightly oversailing roofline. Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior, including crown or cylinder glazing panels in hornless sash frames: meanwhile, contemporary joinery; restrained chimneypieces; and sleek plasterwork refinements, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition. Furthermore, an adjacent farmyard complex ; and a walled garden (extant 1839), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a self-contained estate having historic connections with the Coghill family including Sir Josiah Coghill (1773-1850), third Baronet (Lewis 1837 II, 18); the Connellans of nearby Coolmore House (see 12403210); and Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick William John Shore (1844-1916), fourth Baron Teignmouth (NA 1901; NA 1911). NOTE: Given as the birthplace of Sir John Joscelyn Coghill (1826-1905) of Glen Barrahane in Castletownshend, County Cork (Dod’s Peerage Baronetage and Knightage 1865, 186); and George Leopold Bryan (1828-80) of Jenkinstown (Dod’s Parliamentary Companion 1875, 174).

2. Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny

https://blanchville.ie/

Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny, photograph from website https://blanchville.ie/

The Coach Houses & Gardener’s Cottage are, as the name suggests, part of the beautiful old stone building that was originally the Coach House at Blanchville. The building has been sensitively and extensively refurbished and now offers guests comfortable and inviting Self-Catering Accommodation in three self-contained Holiday Homes.

These Heritage Holiday Lets feature a cosy woodburning stove or open fire, fully fitted modern kitchen and relaxing bedrooms – the perfect requisite for an enjoyable weekend break or holiday in Kilkenny.

3. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

https://www.butler.ie

View to Butler House and Garden, Kilkenny Leo Byrne Photography 2015. (see [2])

The National Inventory tells us about Butler house: “Semi-detached three-bay three-storey over basement house, built 1786, with pair of three-bay full-height bowed bays to rear (east) elevation. Extended, 1832, comprising two-bay three-storey perpendicular block to right. Renovated, 1972. Now in use as hotel. One of a pair…An elegantly-composed Classically-proportioned substantial house built either by Walter Butler (1713-83), sixteenth Earl of Ormonde or John Butler (1740-95), seventeenth Earl of Ormonde as one of a pair of dower houses…Distinctive attributes including the elegant bowed bays to the Garden (east) Front contribute positively to the architectural design value of the composition while carved limestone dressings with particular emphasis on the well-executed doorcase displaying high quality stone masonry further enliven the external expression of the house in the streetscape.”

The house was home to Lady Eleanor Butler who lived here after the death of her husband Walter in 1783. Lady Eleanor Butler was the mother of John, the 17th Earl of Ormonde and her daughter, also Eleanor, was one of the famous “Ladies of Langollen”.

James, Earl of Ormonde (1777-1838, and 1st Marquess) resided in the house while the Castle was under reconstruction in 1831. A soup kitchen was run from here during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

The Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland held their meetings in Butler House in 1870. Kilkenny Design, the state design agency, restored Butler House in 1972. The decor and furnishings reflect a certain 1970s Art Deco style, which because of the muted colours and natural fabrics used, proved sympathetic to the original features of the house. In 1989, the Kilkenny Civic Trust acquired both Butler House and the Castle Stables. 

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkennyaccommodation, whole house on airbnb: €€ for two, € for 3-8

Clomantagh Castle, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29346656?federated_search_id=050f383f-6e5e-45b5-9989-b166bfe7e70d&source_impression_id=p3_1650104926_er%2FjFSqCgEWzQLW5

The National Inventory tells us it is a farmhouse erected by John Shortal (d. 1857) or Patrick Shortal (d. 1858) representing an integral component of the mid nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Kilkenny with the architectural value of the composition, one occupying the site of a hall adjoining the fifteenth-century Clomantagh Castle.

Clomantagh Castle - was home to the [8th] Earl of Ormond, Pierce Ruadh (1467-1539). When he died in 1539 the castle along with other properties was passed to his son Richard Butler, first Viscount Mountgarret (1500-1571). The castle and its estate stayed in the Butler family until it was forfeited during the war with Cromwell to Lieutenant Arthur St. George [ancestor of the Kilrush family]. After the war the castle changed hands twice more and a farmhouse was added by the Shortall family, the owners in the 1800’s, before its last owner  Willie White a local vet. The property is now owned by a non profit making charity called the Landmark Trust who preserve historic buildings. 

The Landmark site tells us:

The name Clomantagh comes from the Irish “cloch mantaigh”, meaning missing tooth or gappy smile. Locals gave this name to the castle as the irregular castellation reminded them of someone smiling with missing teeth.  

It has been established that the tower and bawn were built in the 15th century (c.1430). The tower house has been modified and extended over the centuries, and in the early 19th century a farmhouse was added providing accommodation with comfort, rather than defence, in mind. In recent times, the bawn walls have sheltered the buildings of a 20th century working farm. It also has a rare clochán (small dome-roomed structure) knit into the bawn walls. Five other tower houses can be seen from the roof of Clomantagh Castle, and they were all strategically aligned for defence purposes.

Clomantagh followed mainstream castle design, emerging as an almost square building, six storeys high, with massive walls built from local limestone, and a corner staircase. Inserted high on the south wall is a Sheela-na-Gig. This pagan symbol was adopted by medieval builders and incorporated as the building was erected. High up the remains of the stepped battlement walls, the merlons can be seen – a specifically Irish feature whose inspiration is considered to be Venetian. Inside the battlements a wide walkway gave access to all sides of the building. In the north east corner, a high watchtower has been built. This is knows as Moll Gearailt’s Chair, after the particularly ferocious original mistress of the house, Maighréad nhee Gearóid, who used to sit watching over her fields to ensure that her labourers were not slacking at their work. The walkway, or Alure, was sloped outward to allow run off water through drainage holes and stone spouts. Generally, battlement walls have not survived well, their thinner construction and unstable sloping bases have contributed to their disappearance from tower houses.  [6]

5. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

http://grangemanorkilkenny.com

The website tell us: “Located in the heart of the Kilkenny countryside, this beautiful Georgian manorhouse is set into 26 acres of lush landscaped grounds. With the medieval city of Kilkenny just 20 mins drive, experience Irish culture at your own pace in in Grange Manor.”

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes the doorcase: “Classically-detailed doorcase not only demonstrating good quality workmanship in a deep grey limestone, but also showing a pretty overlight.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tell us: “Interior including (ground floor): central hall retaining carved timber surrounds to window openings framing timber panelled shutters on panelled risers with carved timber surrounds to opposing door openings framing timber panelled doors, and plasterwork cornice to ceiling on “bas-relief” frieze centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 145. “(Lannigan, Stannard and Dowdall, sub Bancroft/IFR) An old farmhouse to which Georgian reception rooms were added, producing a house of two storeys and nine bays, with a three bay breakfront centre higher than the bays on either side. Fanlighted doorway; high-pitched roof. Room with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval painted medallions.” 

It was occupied (1751) by Captain James Warren (d. 1758). It was advertised for sale in 2021.

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes: “double-height staircase hall (north) retaining carved timber surrounds to door openings framing timber panelled doors, moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling, staircase on a dog leg plan with turned timber “spindle” balusters supporting carved timber banister terminating in volute, carved timber Classical-style surround to window opening to half-landing framing timber panelled shutters, carved timber surrounds to door openings to landing framing timber panelled double doors having overlights, and decorative plasterwork cornice to coved ceiling centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. Staircase hall with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval medallions.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tells us about the gate lodge: “A gate lodge erected by John Stannard (né Lannigan) (d. 1836) contributing positively to the group and setting values of the Grange House estate with the architectural value of the composition suggested by such attributes as the compact square plan form centred on a featureless doorcase; and the openings showing pretty lattice glazing patterns.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

6. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel

Lyrath Estate by Colin Whittaker 2009, flickr constant commons.

https://www.lyrath.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 184. “(Wheeler-Cuffe, Bt/PB1934; Tupper/LGI1958) Originally a Tobin castle, acquired by the Wheeler family C17. By 1826, the house here consisted of a simple two storey five bay pedimented front facing west, with two wings running back from it to enclose a small three sided office court; the entrance door being on the south side; under a Regency veranda. In 1861, Sir Charles Wheeler-Cuffe, 2nd Bt, married Pauline Villiers-Stuart, daughter of Lord Stuart de Decies [of Dromana House, County Waterford – see my entry], whose parents did not regard this house as grand enough for her; so in that same year he rebuilt the main western block on a larger scale and in a rich Italianate style, while leaving the two storey wings more of less as they were.; his architect being John McCurdy. The entrance was moved from the south side to the new west front, which is pedimented and of five bays like its predecessor, but not entirely symmetrical; having a pair of windows on the ground floor to the left of centre, but a single window on the right. Entrance door framed by Ionic columns carrying a balustrade, above which is a Venetian window framed by an aedicule with a segmental pediment. All the ground floor windows have semi-circular heads, while the heads of the windows of the upper storey – apart from the central Venetian windows – are cambered. The garden front to the north has two single-storey balustraded curved bows, the windows of which are treated as arcades supported by Romanesque columns of sandstone. There is another Romanesque column separated the pair of windows in the centre of the front. The windows in the bow are glazed with curved glass. The roof is carried on a deep bracket cornice and there are prominent string courses, which give the elevations a High Victorian character. Hall with imposing imperial staircase, the centre ramp of which rises between two fluted Corinthian columns. There is a similarity between the staircase here and that at Dromana, Co Waterford, Pauline Lady Wheeler-Cuffe’s old home; except that the Dromana staircase was of stone, whereas that at Leyrath is of wood, with ornate cast-iron balustrades. On the centre ramp of the staircase there is still a chair with its back legs cut down to fit the steps; this was put there in 1880s for Pauline when she became infirm. Hall has a ceiling cornice of typical C19 plasterwork in a design of foliage, and door with entablatures which still have their original walnut graining. To the left of the hall, in the garden front, are the drawing room, ante-room and dining room, opening into each other with large double doors’ they have ceiling cornices similar to that in the hall, and good C19 white chimneypieces, enriched with carving; the drawing room and ante-room keep their original white and gold wallpaper. In the south wing there are smaller and lower rooms surviving from before the rebuilding; while first floor rooms in this wing have barrel ceilings throughout and contain some C18 chimneypieces of black marble.” 

The website tells us more about the history:

The name Lyrath is thought to date back to Norman times when “Strongbow” settled in Ireland during the Norman invasion. The area was originally called Le Rar or Le Rath by the French speaking De Ponte family who during the 12th century lived in the Monastery which was once located within the grounds. There is also a mention of a castle which was once said to have been situated within the grounds.

Prior to 1653 the lands were owned by the Shortall family, who then rented the ‘old castle in repair’ and land to Thomas Tobin, Constable of the Barony of Gowran. In 1664, a gentleman named Thomas Mances, paid a sum of 4s ‘hearth money’ for the old castle.

Later in the Seventeenth Century the property was acquired by Richard Wheeler through his kinship to Jonah Wheeler the Bishop of Ossary. By then the original ‘Tobin’ castle had been demolished.

Richard Wheeler’s son, Jonah Wheeler, married Elisabeth Denny-Cuffe, a descendant of the Desart-Cuffe family who had extensive landed property in the Counties of Carlow and Kilkenny, on his marriage Jonah decided to adopt the name Cuffe.

In 1814 the grandson of Jonah, also named Jonah, was living in the house with his with Elisabeth Browne, from Brownes Hill in neighbouring Carlow. Sir Jonah died in 1853 and his elder son, Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe succeeded him.

To redesign the house Sir Charles engaged the services of John McCurdy, a Dublin born Architect, whose other commissions with his partner, William Mitchell, include Kilkenny’s Knocktopher Abbey, Dublin’s famous ‘Shelbourne Hotel’ and the South City Markets.

The current house is one of the most important surviving country houses built by John McCurdy.

Sir Charles and Pauline had no children, so on the death of Sir Charles, his nephew Sir Ottway Fortesque Luke Wheeler-Cuffe inherited the baronetcy and demesne of Lyrath and became the primary resident. Sir Ottaway married Charlotte Isabel Williams in 1897. Lady Charlotte was the earliest known botanical explorer to reach the remote areas Burma and it was during these trips that she discovered several plants including two new species of Rhododendrons, Burmanicum, and Cuffianum (named after her). Cuffianum, the white rhododendron is extremely rare and has not been collected by any botanist since Lady Wheeler-Cuffe found in 1911.

Sir Ottway and Lady Charlotte stayed in Burma until Sir Ottway’s retirement in August 1921 when they finally returned to live at Lyrath. On her return to Lyrath, Lady Charlotte redesigned the gardens. The Conservatory adjacent to Tupper’s Bar in the new Hotel overlooks the Victorian garden designer by her which has been carefully restored to her original design (based on family records and drawings), they are also home to the ancient yew trees which are now protected by a preservation order.

Lady Charlotte lived in the house until her death in 1966 in her 100th year.

Following the death of Lady Charlotte, in 1967 the property was inherited by Lieutenant-Colonel G.W. Tupper whose grandfather had married Sir Charles’ sister in 1846. Reginald’s great nephew, Captain Anthony Tupper and his wife moved into the house and ran it as a traditional estate farm with a herd of Jersey cows, hens, and geese in the yard, calves in the haggard field and a big old-fashioned kitchen with dogs and cats which rambled in and out at will.

The Tuppers remained in the house until 1997.

When the Tuppers left, there was an auction at the house of all the furniture and the bits and pieces accumulated over several lifetimes laid out and labelled for sale. Fortunately, Xavier McAuliffe managed to obtain many of the items on auction that day, these items are now on display in the house and include to original large portraits hanging in the hallway and other paintings on display.

Xavier purchased the Estate in 2003 and developed the house into Lyrath Estate Hotel and Convention Centre, which opened its doors to the public in 2006.

7. Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel

Mount Juliet Gardens, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, photograph by Finn Richards 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Drawing room of Mount Juliet, County Kilkenny, Date/ 2 November 1920 courtesy of National Library of Ireland NLI Ref./ P_WP_2886.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Mount Juliet:

p. 214. “(Butler, Carrick, E/PB; McCalmont/IFR) A mid to late C18 house built by the 1st Earl of Carrick [Somerset Hamilton Butler, 8th Viscount Ikerrin and 1st Earl of Carrick (1719-1774)] across the River Nore from the former family seat, Ballylinch Castle on an estate which he had bought ca 1750 from Rev Thomas Bushe [1727-1795], of Kilmurry; traditionally named by him after his wife [Juliana Boyle, daugher of the 1st Earl of Shannon]. Of three storeys over basement, front of seven bays between two shallow curved bows, each having three windows. One bay central breakfront, with Venetian windows in the two upper storeys above tripartite pedimented and fanlighted doorway. Centre window in two lower storeys of bows roundheaded. Perron and double steps in front of entrance door, with iron railings. High pitched roof and massive stacks. Sold 1914 by 6th Earl of Carrick to the McCalmonts who had leased the house for some years. Major Dermot McCalmont made a new entrance in what had formerly been the back of the house, where the main block is flanked by two storey wings, extending at right angles from  it to form a shallow three sided court, and joined to it by curved sweeps. The interior of the house was richly decorated by 2nd Earl of Carrick 1780s with plasterwork in the manner of Michael Stapleton. The hall, which is long and narrow, is divided by an arcade carried on fluted Ionic columns, beyond which rises a bifurcating staircase with a balustrade of plain slender uprights; the present entrance being by way of a porch built out at the back of the staircase. The rooms on either side of the hall in what was formerly the entrance front and is now the garden front have plasterwork ceilings; one with a centre medallion of a hunting scene, another with a medallion of a man shooting. One of these rooms, the dining room, also has plasterwork on the walls, incorporating medallions with Classical reliefs. One of the wings flanking the present entrance front contains a ballroom made by Major Dermot McCalmont 1920s, with a frieze of late C18 style plasterwork; it is reached by way of a curving corridor. The demesne of Mount Juliet is one of the finest in Ireland, with magnificent hardwoods above the River Nore ; it includes the Ballylinch demesne across the river. There is a series of large walled gardens near the house Mount Juliet is famous for its stud, founded by Major Dermot McCalmont 1915. Sold 1987.” 

8. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny – see above

9. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

https://www.tubbridcastle.com/

Tubbrid Castle, photograph courtesy of https://www.tubbridcastle.com/

and https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29598290?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-06-05&check_out=2022-06-10&federated_search_id=6eebbe51-3470-4008-be61-4228d4019473&source_impression_id=p3_1652359358_O%2F1m3ENyNNeiOZ%2Bf

The entry tells us:

Tubbrid Castle is a unique 15th-century tower house, uninhabited for the last century and now restored to its former glory. We’ve highlighted original features to let you step back in time and added luxury touches so you can indulge your inner prince or princess.

Heritage

Tubbrid Castle stands at an important point on the borders of the ancient kingdoms of Laighean and Mumhan. Built as a defensive structure to protect the territory of the Butlers of Ormond, the tower house was home to generations of families allied to the Butlers of Kilkenny Castle. The architectural significance of Tubbrid Castle is denoted by its designation as a National Monument and a Protected Structure.

In 942 AD, Muircheartach, King of modern-day Ulster, marched his army of 1000 Leather Cloaks south to avenge his allies, who had been attacked by Callaghan, King of Cashel. Muircheartach’s bard, Colmanach, recorded the journey in an epic poem, Circuit of Ireland, in which he praised the beauty of Osraí (now Kilkenny), and the hospitality of its people. At the edge of enemy territory and on the cusp of battle, Muircheartach’s army set up camp in Tubbrid, on a plain that a millennium later is still called Bán an Champa (the Field of the Encampment). The King himself is thought to have slept at the fort where Tubbrid Castle now stands. A thousand years later, the people of Kilkenny still pride ourselves on our warm hospitality and from the top floor bedroom of Tubbrid Castle you can survey Bán an Champa and enjoy lodgings befitting a king.

Tubbrid Castle, photograph courtesy of https://www.tubbridcastle.com/

The website tells us that Margeret Fitzgerald, 8th Countess of Ormond, is supposed to have had the castle built. When the Countess visited Tubbrid, she is said to have slept at the castle’s highest point, to keep her safe from enemy attackers. She is buried with her husband Piers Butler (8th Earl of Ormond) under elaborate effigies at St Canice’s Cathedral, in Kilkenny City.

A detailed written description of the castle comes from James Mease in 1851, writing for the Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society. Mease claims that, according to locals at the time, there were three ditches surrounding the castle, which had been dug away for manure. Supposedly a cannon ball was found during these works. No trace of these outer fortifications survives today. Mease believed that the castle may have been built on an ancient mound or rath, and perhaps at an old habitation site that might have been the location where the King of Aileach, mentioned in the poem of 971 camped. The ground and second floor were wicker-vaulted and at the time this paper was written, some of the wicker was still in place. We know from the Griffith Valuation that this castle was owned at the time by Arthur St. George, Esq. and leased to Catherine Campion.

Around the turn of the 19th century, the roof was removed from Tubbrid Castle, leaving it open to the elements and accelerating structural decay. By the turn of the millenium, the corners were crumbling and floors were sagging.

John Campion Snr began working on the tower house, aiming at first simply to prevent its collapse. Over several years he repointed the facade and applied a traditional lime mortar, known as harling. The tower house was re-roofed in green oak, in the same style as the original, with no nails or screws.

In 2016, John Campion Jnr took over the restoration of Tubbrid Castle. Following archaeological impact reports, and with input from the National Monuments Office, John completed the restoration and fit-out of the tower house, turning it into a three-bedroom home.”

10. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

https://www.watersideguesthouse.com

Phone: (059) 9724246

Email: info@watersideguesthouse.com

Waterside Guesthouse Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, photograph courtesy of website.

This is set in a beautiful old 19th century granite corn store on the River Barrow in Graiguenamanagh.

Whole House rental, County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house rental 

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

https://annamultcountryhouseestate.com

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

The website tells us:

Annamult County House Estate is a lovely Grade I listed ancient Manor House in the heart of the countryside in Kilkenny with parts dating back to the 16th century. But unlike other grand old homes, Annamult Country House Estate is warm, friendly and welcoming with unlimited hot water, central heating and log fires throughout with beautiful antiques. A uniquely beautiful Country Estate. It’s light, bright and airy. And the moment you step through the door it feels like home.

The website describes the accommodation as 7 Bedrooms, 1 on the lower ground floor, 1 wheelchair accessible bedroom on the ground floor and 4 very large formal bedrooms upstairs and our Japanese Bedroom at the heart of the house . 4 Bedrooms are ensuite with the Bed 1 and 2 sharing a Bathroom nestled between them

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

The National Inventory describes Annamult: “Detached four-bay two-storey double gable-fronted Tudor-style country house, c.1825, incorporating fabric of earlier house, pre-1771, with three-bay single-storey flat-roofed projecting open porch to centre ground floor, three-bay two-storey side elevations, and five-bay three-storey lower wing to left having single-bay (two-bay deep) two-storey connecting return to east...Forming a picturesque landmark rising above a mature wooded setting on a bank at the confluence of the Kings River and the River Nore a large-scale country house exhibiting a robust Tudor theme represents an important element of the architectural heritage of County Kilkenny. Having origins in an eighteenth-century range the architectural design value of the composition is identified by elegant attributes including the porch displaying high quality stone masonry reminiscent of a similar treatment at the contemporary (c.1825) Shankill Castle (12306002/KK-16-06-02), the Classically-inspired Wyatt-style tripartite openings, the enriched parapet, and so on: the wing incorporating minimal surface detailing is comparatively demure in quality. Having been carefully maintained to present an early aspect the house makes a significant contribution to the character of the locality. The house remains of additional importance for the associations with the Prim, the Nevill (Neville), and the Bayley families.

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.
Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.
Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

“You can dine inside or outside in luxury
you can picnic on the island , the riverside or in the woods .
You can relax or play on the lawns .
Climb trees
Boules on the lawns
Croquet on the lawns
You can swim in the river
You can fish in the river
You can walk in the woods
You can relax in the silence
You can star gaze at the firepit
You can play loud music
Great exploration for kids
you can birdwatch and spot some fab wildlife like our buzzards and hawks .
You may come across the deer in the woods
Watch out for badgers … Its ok they are nocturnal only .
Various local suppliers will run group activities on the grounds from yoga to tag archery.”

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.
Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

http://www.ballyburcastle.com/

Photograph courtesy of Ballybur website.

The website tells us:

Ballybur Castle is the ancient seat of the Comerford clan, built by Richard Comerford around 1588. Despite the violent times, it seems to have maintained a fairly peaceful existance. It was one of the seats of the powerful Comerford family, the only one remaining.

Ballybur Castle is typical of the single family castles of that period, built primarily for protection against warring groups travelling the countryside. They were usually surrounded by more temporary structures where the farm labourers lived and livestock were kept.

When trouble was brewing, a roofwatch was kept and at the sight of any hostile group, labourers and livestock were gathered into the castle.

The Comerford castles flourished in the 1500s and well into the 16th century, all three castles were clustered in this area. (There were two more castles near Ballybur Castle belonging to the Comerford clan).

One can imagine the social standing of the Comerfords, the entertainment and grand parties that took place in their castles were renowned. The Comerfords occupied Ballybur Castle during the confederation that took place in Kilkenny in 1641.

“And so it happened that the papal Nunco, Cardinal Rinnuncini on his way to Kilkenny stopped at Ballybur Castle where a reception was held in honour of him and many important personages came to pay their respect.”

The cardinal presented a very ornate rosary to Richard and Mary Comerford. This rosary was passed on through generations of the castle’s owners at Ballybur. It was presented to Rothe House by father Langton Hayward who said he was given the rosary by the Marnell sisters in 1970, who still occupied the castle.

John Comerford, son of Richard Comerford, was the last Comerford to reside at Ballybur Castle. He was banished to Connaught in 1654 and forfeited his castle and lands to Brian Manseragh during the Cromwellian distribution survey of that period. Interestingly, this Brian Manseragh is a forefather of Martin Manseragh, the present T.D. from Tipparary who was the Taoiseach’s special advisor for the north during the current peace negotiations.

We know little about the period between 1655 until 1841 when it is stated that Thomas Deigan was the occupier of Ballybur.

I found a photograph in the National Library of Ireland that seems to tell us that a James Murphy lived in Ballybur, who had a daughter, Kathleen. Carol Maddock provides an extract from the Kilkenny People on the day: “… in the O’Loughlin Memorial Church in St. John’s Parish, when Chevalier Thomas O’Loughlin, Killarney Villa, Ballarat, Australia, was united in marriage with Miss Kathleen Murphy, fifth daughter of Mr. James Murphy, Ballybur Castle, Co. Kilkenny. Chevalier O’Loughlin (or Count O’Loughlin, as he now is[…]) is a prominent figure in the Catholic world in Ireland and Australia. A native of Kilkenny and the inheritor of a vast fortune in the Southern Continent … The wedding ceremony was fixed for 8 o’clock…[about thirty priests con-celebrated the mass, even some from Australia!] … followed by her sisters, the Misses Daisy and Sheela Murphy…”

Chevalier O’Loughlin wedding, large family group, 27 September 1911 (date of wedding) Photographer: A. H. Poole of Poole Photographic Studio, Waterford National Library of Ireland Ref POOLEWP 2350a

Locally it is known that the Marnell sisters married into the Deigan family. They occupied Ballybur until Frank and Aifric Gray bought it in 1979.

“The Grays at Ballybur By Ruan Gray

When mum and dad bought Ballybur in 1979, there was no roof on the castle as it is said that; “Cromwell blew it off with a cannon at the end of Ballybur lane.”

At the time when my parents bought the castle, it was in a very poor state of repair. It was their intention to spend five years on it’s restoration. They received grant aid from the Kilkenny County Council to replace the windows, some help towards the rebuilding of the roof from the Heritage Council and from Barrow Suir Development to complete the renovation.

It is now 25 years since the work began, and it has been mostly accomplished by dad and some local builders. Now it is completely refurbished and open to visitors. It truly has been a labour of love.

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny – whole house rental

hhiref@castleblunden.com https://www.castleblunden.com/

Castle Blunden courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

A few miles from the cathedral city of Kilkenny, Castle Blunden stands on an elevated site in the midst of mature parkland. Dating from the 1750s, and still owned by the Blunden family, this pretty seven-bay building is typical of County Kilkenny houses from the mid-Georgian period. The house is rendered, with a profusion of cut limestone decoration and details, and a handsome sprocketed roof, while the later Doric porch compliments the symmetry of the facade. The basement is concealed by a ramped gravel approach, which makes the house appear both lower and wider than is actually the case, while the small lakes to either side add to the overall air of enchantment.” [7]

The National Inventory tells us:

Representing an important element of the mid eighteenth-century architectural legacy of County Kilkenny a Classically-composed substantial country house built to designs attributed to Francis Bindon (c.1698-1765) in a manner reminiscent of the contemporary (1737) Bonnettstown Hall (12401909/KK-19-09) nearby has been very well maintained to present an early aspect with the original composition attributes surviving in place together with most of the historic fabric both to the exterior and to the interior. Sparsely-detailed the external expression of the house is enlivened by limestone dressings including a somewhat squat portico displaying high quality stone masonry. Forming the centrepiece of a large-scale estate the resulting ensemble having long-standing connections with the Blunden family makes a pleasant contribution to the visual appeal of the local landscape.”

[1] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Kilrush%20House

[2] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en

[3] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/12000025/rothe-house-15-16-parliament-street-gardens-st-johns-par-kilkenny-co-kilkenny

[4] https://archiseek.com/2010/1594-rothe-house-kilkenny-co-kilkenny/

[5] Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[6] https://www.irishlandmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Clomantagh_castle.pdf

and http://kilkennyarchaeologicalsociety.ie

[7] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Castle%20Blunden

Places to visit and stay in County Louth, Leinster

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

2. Carlingford Castle, County Louth – OPW

3. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth 

4. Collon House, County Louth

5. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

6. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – OPW

7. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Places to stay, County Louth:

1. Ballymascanlon House, Louth  – hotel 

2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth [also Oriel Temple] – B&B, plus guided tours 

3. Darver Castle, County Louth

4. Ghan House, Co Louth – accommodation 

5.  Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, Co Louth – accommodation

Whole House Rental, County Louth:

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, €€€ for two, € for 6-12

2. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth – weddings

Places to visit in County Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

Barmeath, County Louth, October 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/23/barmeath-castle-dunleer-drogheda-county-louth/

contact: Bryan Bellew
Tel: 041-6851205
Open: May 1-31, June 1-10, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-10, 9am-1pm Fee: adult /OAP/student €5, child free

2. Carlingford Castle, County Louth – OPW

See my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

King John’s Castle, Carlingford, Co Louth, photograph by Nomos Production for Failte Ireland 2022.
Carlingford Castle, Carlingford Lough, County Louth, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

3. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits:

Open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26)

Castle Bellingham, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

The website tells us:

At Bellingham Castle, the welcome is warm, the facilities luxurious and the memories, eternal. Nestled in the medieval village of Castlebellingham in County Louth along Ireland’s Ancient East, Bellingham Castle is an elegant and spacious 17th Century authentic Irish Castle available for exclusive hire, to allow you become King or Queen of your very own castle for a truly memorable experience. The Castle opens for overnight stays on select dates throughout the year, but is predominantly a venue for spectacular Weddings, conferences or events.

Set at the gateway to the Cooley mountains and on the banks of the glistening River Glyde, Bellingham Castle is the centrepiece of a 17-acre estate that includes a weir and man-made river island where you can create memories that last a lifetime. The opulent 17th Century Irish castle is bursting with rich history, splendour and old-world luxury.

Fully refurbished, yet retaining all of its character and charm, Bellingham Castle prides itself on elegance and sophistication, intimacy and cosiness, luxury and exclusivity – all just 50 minutes from both Dublin and Belfast.

We wanted to create something different at Bellingham Castle, an exquisite combination of a welcoming atmosphere and luxury castle experience. From dreamy and palatial bedrooms, to magnificent reception rooms and meticulously manicured gardens, we ensure each guest enjoys high-quality, bespoke service in an idyllic and inspirational location.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Bellingham (1988):

p. 62. “The original castle here, called Gernonstown, which was acquired by Henry Bellingham [1622-1676] mid C17, was burnt by King James’s soldiers before the Battle of the Boyne, when its then owner, Colonel Thomas Bellingham [1645-1721], was fighting for King William. Col Bellingham built a new house 1690/1700 [the National Inventory says 1712] and named it Castle Bellingham; it had a high-pitched roof and is said to have resembled Beaulieu, in the same county. Mrs Delany described it (1745) as “one of the prettiest places I have seen in Ireland.”

The house was remodelled in later C18, when a third storey was added, and again in early C19, when it was given a battlemented parapet, some turrets and a few other mildly medieval touches. The final result was not so much a castle as a castellated house, with plain Georgian sash windows. The nine bay entrance front, which appears to be only of two storeys owing to the higher ground on this side; the entrance, through a Gothic porch not centrally placed, is, in fact, on the first floor, where the principal rooms are situated. The opposite front, which also just misses being symmetrical – with three bays on one side of a shallow, curving bow and two bays and a turret on the other – also has a curved bow. Simple, pleasant rooms; a small staircase in a narrow hall at right angles to the entrance. Garden with terraces overlooking the river Glyde, formerly adorned with statues brought from Dubber Castle, the seat of another branch of the Bellinghams; vista to shrine of the Virgin Mary, erected by Henry Bellingham, a convert to Catholicism during the later years of the Oxford Movement. Straight avenue aligned on the entrance front of the house, terminated at the opposite end by a castellated gatehouse facing the village green. Having been sold by the Bellinghams ca 1956, Castle Bellingham is now an hotel.” [2]

The website gives a further history of the castle:

Bellingham Castle served as one of the ancestral homes for the Bellingham family from the 17th Century until the 1950s. The original castle was built around 1660 by Sir Henry Bellingham [1622-1676], who was a cornet in the Army during the Civil War.

He purchased the lands of Gernonstowne, Co. Louth, from a fellow soldier who had been granted them in lieu of arrears of pay. The purchase was confirmed by King Charles II.

There is some variation on the spelling of Gernonstowne. On various maps and other documents, it is spelled Gernonstowne, Gernonstown, Gernon’s-Town, Gormanstown, Germanstown, Garlandstown and Garland.

Irish road signs show the English as Castlebellingham, while the Irish translation still refers to Baile an Ghearlanaigh – or Gernonstown. It was not called Castlebellingham for at least 40 years after the purchase. The name does not appear on any document before the year 1700. Around 1710, it began to appear in journals and other sources as Castlebellingham.

The castle was occupied by troops and burned down in the autumn of 1689 by King James II, in revenge for Colonel Thomas Bellingham [1645-1721] being a guide for William III, prior to the Battle of the Boyne. It is said that King William’s armies camped the night before the Battle of the Boyne in the grounds of the castle.

Thomas Bellingham had a son, Henry. The estate passed Henry’s son Henry, but he had no children so when he died in 1755 it passed to his brother Alan Bellingham (1709-1796).

Alan’s son O’Bryen Bellingham (d. 1798) set up a brewery on site around 1770. The website tells us:

The website continues: “Over time, Castlebellingham became an important gathering point in the county. Fairs were held there every year and a church was constructed next door to the castle, along with a graveyard that houses the Bellingham family vault. The Bellinghams became one of the most powerful and influential families in the county; for over 100 years, a Bellingham held the seat in Parliament for County Louth.

Records also note Castlebellingham for having ‘the best malt liquor’ in Ireland. A brewery was built on site about 1770 and belonged to an O’Bryen Bellingham [d. 1798, a son of Alan Bellingham]. For a number of years, a brewery partnership ran their liquor business. The brewery is still there but now houses the ‘button factory’ or Smallwares Ltd. The brewery was the main supplier of drink to the Boer War troops.

Alan’s son William married  Hester Frances Cholmondeley, daughter of Reverend Robert Cholmondeley and was created 1st Baronet Bellingham, of Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth. He did not have any children and the title passed to his brother Alan’s son, another Alan (1740-1800), who became 2nd Baronet Bellingham of Castle Bellingham, County Louth.

The website continues: “A history of the parish, dated 1908, states that the impressive Calvary standing at the entrance to Bellingham Castle was erected by Sir [Alan] Henry Bellingham [4th Baronet]as a monument to the memory of his first wife, Lady Constance.

A collection of inset religious panels can be seen on the upper facades of many of the village buildings. These are also a reflection of Sir Henry’s religious sentiments, and they are unique in Ireland. In addition to the many panels, there are biblical quotations cut into the stone window sills of some buildings. North of the castle is a carefully preserved group of ‘widows’ dwellings’, built from charitable motives by Sir Henry.

In 1905, Bellingham Castle was the venue for the romantic wedding celebrations of Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham, daughter of Sir Alan Bellingham [1846-1921], 4th Baronet to the 4th Marquis of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart.

The Marquis, who was one of the wealthiest men in the British Isles at the time, spared no expense and treated his bride and guests to a lavish celebration, including chartering the Princess Maud steamer to take their guests and the Isle of Bute pipe band across the Irish Sea to Bellingham Castle for the wedding. As the society event of the year, the wedding attracted worldwide media attention, from California to New Zealand.

Footage from the wedding celebrations still exists. This remarkable film is believed to be the one of the earliest wedding films in the world. Bellingham Castle is clearly depicted in the footage, together with scenes at nearby Kilsaran Church and the village of Annagassan, from where the wedding party and their guests arrived and departed by steamer.

Castlebellingham was the ancestral home of the Baronetcy until the late 1950s. The last Bellingham to live there was Brigadier General Sir Edward Bellingham [5th Baronet], born in 1879, who was the last Lord Lieutenant and Guardian of the Rolls (Custos Rotulorum).

It was purchased by Dermot Meehan in 1958 from the Irish Land Commission for £3,065.00. Mr Meehan spent several years converting the house into a hotel. The Meehan family sold the hotel and 17 acres in 1967 for £30,636.61 to Mr John Keenan and under the Keenan family stewardship, the castle prospered over the following four decades.

In December 2012, the castle – including the 17 acres – was acquired by the Corscadden family. The family also own Ballyseede Castle in Tralee, Co. Kerry; Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, and Markree Castle, Co. Sligo.

The next chapter in the history of Bellingham Castle has begun, as an exclusive venue for private weddings, civil ceremonies, conferences, meetings and corporate events.

Bellingham Castle is a building of intrinsic historical and architectural interest and is open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26).

4. Collon House, County Louth

Collon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [3]

https://www.collonhouse.com

House & garden tour with tea/coffee & cake… €20 per person

Lunch for larger parties is available as is a more formal 5 course evening dinner, for more information please contact us.

Telephone +353 87 2355645 

The website tells us:

Collon House, steeped in history, is full of character and charm; its gracious rooms are exquisitely furnished with period antiques and paintings, retaining the atmosphere of early Georgian living, making this a rare opportunity to experience less than one hour from Dublin City Centre, thirty minutes from Dublin Airport and just five miles from historic Slane.

Collon House is a perfect location from which to enjoy the wonderful treasures of the Boyne Valley. Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) prehistoric megalithic sites, The Battle of the Boyne visitors centre at Oldbridge, Slane Castle, Old Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice High Crosses are all less than twenty minutes drive from Collon House.

The Historic Houses of Ireland (HHI) website tells us:

Anthony Foster [1705-1778], Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, purchased the Collon estate in 1740 and chose to build in the centre of the County Louth village, now a market town on the road from Dublin to Derry. His early Georgian house was extended in the 1770s to form a substantial L-shaped dwelling, set back from the street at the central crossroads. The original dwelling is long and low but the later building is taller and more generous in scale with more elaborate interiors and a “handsome half-turn stair” that gives access to the upper floors.” [4]

Anthony Foster married Elizabeth Burgh of Bert House (now called de Burgh Manor, available as a whole house rental, see my entry www.irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/), County Kildare.

The HHI website continues: 

Anthony’s son John [1740-1828] was elected to the family borough of Dunleer and became the member for Louth in 1768 at the age of twenty-one. Considered ‘the best informed man in the house’ he was briefly Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer before his election as Speaker of the Irish Commons. He held office from 1785 until 1800, when Parliament was dissolved for ever under the Act of Union, a measure which Foster had strenuously opposed. As Speaker he pronounced the final words at the closing session, choosing to retain his official mace ‘for future contingencies’. Mr. Speaker Foster was returned to Westminster after the Union and was finally rewarded with a UK peerage in 1821 (his wife had previously been granted two Irish titles) after an illustrious political career that spanned more than sixty years. 

In ‘A Tour of Ireland published in 1780, the agronomist Arthur Young mentions Foster whose improvements on the Collon estate “were of a magnitude that I have never heard of before.” These included Oriel Temple, an elaborate and chastely classical lakeside folly, which was subsequently enlarged to form the principal family seat. Foster’s son Thomas married an heiress, Harriet Skeffington, and the family moved to Antrim Castle when she succeeded as Viscountess Massereene.”

John Foster, (1740-1828), Last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, later 1st Baron Oriel Date 1799 Engraver Patrick Maguire, Irish, fl.1783-1820 After Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755-1828. Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.

For more about the Foster family see my Cabra Castle entry, www.irishhistorichouses.com/2021/03/28/cabra-castle-kingscourt-county-cavan/ 

The HHI website continues: “Collon House has been altered over the intervening years but the building retains many fine Georgian interiors, now greatly enhanced by sympathetic restoration, fine furniture, glass, porcelain, pictures and objects. Their rich decoration makes a striking contrast with the plain exterior.

The gardens have also been restored with inspired and authentic planting. The entrance overlooks a sunken garden with an intricate box parterre, while the herbaceous border in the ornamental garden leads to a classical summer house in the Grecian style.” [4]

Collon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [3]

The National Inventory tells us it is a: “Corner-sited attached five-bay three-storey house, built c. 1770. Rectangular-plan, extended by two-bays into two-storey terrace to east, three-bay two-storey wing to north, extended former mews buildings surrounding courtyard to north, single-storey flat-roofed entrance porch to west elevation…This imposing house, the principal home of the Foster family, at the heart of Collon, has historical associations with John Foster, the last man to speak in the Irish House of Commons. It contains many details of interest, such as stone window dressings. Its prominence at the heart of the village is of intrinsic importance to the architectural heritage of Collon.” (see [3])

5. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

Killineer, Drogheda, County Louth, June 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/08/10/killineer-house-county-louth/
contact: Charles & Eithne Carroll
Tel: 086-2323783
www.killineerhouse.ie
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-15, June 1-10, Aug 10-24, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult/OAP/child/student, house: €4, garden €6

6. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – OPW

See my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

7. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Rokeby, County Louth, September 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/17/rokeby-hall-grangebellew-county-louth/
contact: Jean Young
Tel: 086-8644228
www.rokeby.ie
Open: May 1-31, Mon-Sat, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-30, Mon-Sat, 10am-2pm Fee: adult/OAP €7, child/student €5

Places to stay, County Louth:

1. Ballymascanlon House, Louth  – hotel

 https://www.ballymascanlon.com

Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

The website tells us: “The Ballymascanlon House is set on 130 acres of beautiful parkland, this impressive Victorian House forms the heart of this Hotel. It is one of the most remarkable historical estates in Ireland dating back to 833 A.D. Steeped in history, Ballymascanlon estate is located in Ireland’s North East on the Cooley Peninsula in close proximity to the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains. Less than 1 hour from Dublin and Belfast, and 20 minutes from the medieval town of Carlingford. We are delighted to welcome you to our beautiful luxurious venue, ideal for both Business and Leisure.”

Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]
Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

Ballymascanlon House is a multiple-bay two-storey over basement with attic Tudor-Revival house, built in 1863 for James Wolfe MacNeil, incorporating fabric of earlier building, with gables, mullioned windows, hood-mouldings and a recessed doorway. MacNeil owned the nearby corn mills. There may be been a house previously located on the site, David Hicks tells us in Irish County Houses, A Chronicle of Change. [6]

Hicks tells us that the house was sold and further improved by architect P.J. Byrne for Frederick Foster. The red brick gate lodge was added at this time. Frederick Foster (1799-1888) married Isabella Vere. He was the son of John William Foster (1745-1809). Frederick had no children. His sister Louisa Jane married Thomas Span Plunkett, 2nd Baron Plunket of Newton.

Further building works were carried out in 1904 and 1919 for Katherine Plunkett, daughter of Louisa Jane and Thomas Span Plunkett. who then owned the house. The house has high pitched gables and projecting bays. The Plunkett coat of arms over the front door depicts and horse and the Plunkett motto, Festina Lente, or Make Haste Slowly. Hicks continues his description:

Inside, a spine corridor leads past the various reception rooms that overlook the gardens through mullioned windows. This corridor provided ample space for family portraits and landscapes that once decorated the walls. One of the most interesting features of the interior is the glazed dome that provides light to the inner hall at the centre of the house where the hotel reception is. The various reception rooms of the house are tastefully decorated and have retained much of their old world charm.

The house was offered for sale in 1943 and purchased by George Noble Plunkett, a Papal court who received his title from Pope Leo XIII for donating money to Catholic charities. He was the father of Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising.

George Noble Plunkett and his wife Josephine Cranny were children of Pat Plunkett and Pat Cranny, two successful property developers who built many of the red brick Victorian houses in Dublin. Count Plunkett began his professional life as the director of the National Museum. After his son was killed he entered politics. After his wife died, he sold the house to the Quinn family, who turned it into a hotel.

Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth – see above

3. Darver Castle, County Louth

Darver Castle by Barry McGee 2016 courtesy of Flickr constant commons.

https://www.darvercastle.ie/home/

The website tells us:

The Castle, dating from the 15th century is situated in a fine parkland setting and surrounded by mature trees. The courtyard, approached through a medieval arched gateway has lofted stone faced buildings while the outer yard has very impressive stone faced buildings with stabling for 20 horses. Also included is an outdoor manège, partly walled garden and orchard. The lands, all in old pasture, have excellent road frontage and are renowned for their fattening qualities.In the early 12th Century a man named Patrick Babe was given 500 acres of land in the parish of Derver by King James II. He built a castle for himself and his family to live in on the grounds formerly owned by the church. The castle was built on the north side of the hill north of the cave and on the edge of the deep slope that led to the banks of two rivers, which provided fish and eels for the family food.The rivers acted as security from the enemy advancing from the north. With a large yard wall to the east 12 feet high and 20 acres of woodland to the west helped keep the enemy out. But a problem arose on the southside of the hill as it sloped to a deep valley and joined the high hill of newtown Darver. As the top of this hill is just 4 feet higher than the level of the top of the castle. So the soldiers were unable to see the enemy approaching from the south. Patrick Babe had a round tower built on the very top of the hill and placed soldiers into this garrison which gave them a clear view for 40 miles away so no enemy ever got near Darver Castle Estate during all the wars.

The church was never reached by Cromwell because of the protection from the hilltower. When the wars were over, Patrick Babe had wings put on the front of the tower and converted it into a windmill, and used it to ground corn for himself and his tenants. This continued for 150 years until large mills were built on the edge of the rivers, powered by the water, so that the use of the towermill ended and it was later demolished and the land around made arable. The hill is still known as windmill hill. 12thC Patrick Babe built the castle. Later he built 14 tenant houses. 1385 John Babe was given the advocasy of the church 1655 The Babes rented the castle to Abraham Ball. He died in 1742. 1740 James Babe sold the castle and 500 acres of land to Richard Fiscall Dublin for $4,000 1777 According to a survey done by Taylor and Skinner. The castle was idle. 1789 John Booth bought the castle. He died in 1840. 1840 Joseph Booth appears. He added the new wing and porch. 1857 John Filgate Booth died there. 1890 Frances Rutherford died there. 1894 Elizabeth Booth died there. 1906 Charles Rutherford died there. 1921 Zane Booth died there. 1980 John Booth died there. 1993 McCormack family took over and shortly afterwards Aidan and his wife Mary took ownership. Through a lot of hard-work and love for the castle, they have transformed it into the castle wedding venue it is today. The Carville family still continue to care for the castle, with improvements happening endlessly.

4. Ghan House, Co Louth

 https://www.ghanhouse.com

The National Inventory tells us: “Built in 1727 by William Stannus, this building, with its unadorned façade and finely-balanced elegant classical proportions, is a handsome representative of architectural developments during the Georgian era. It retains a large amount of original and early fabric, including handsome boundary walls, corner tower and carriage arch.”

5.  Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, Co Louth

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/11738928?source_impression_id=p3_1574613728_Shdh4WSLqYmh5i8M

Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, County Louth, March 2022.

The airbnb entry describes the little castle:

Hatch’s Castle has many beautiful features including the Dome Hall,  the original spiral staircase, and a wonderfully restored drawing room on the first floor, where you can sit down and relax. 
We’re situated in the lovely town Ardee, which is surrounded by many historic places such as the Jumping Church and Newgrange. There are few restaurants around Ardee and several shops.
 

Walking inside Hatch’s castle on the Main Street of Ardee is a feeling of space and tranquility. From that moment you know you have entered a castle that is waiting to be explored.  There are four floors, each boasting character and an ambiance of true charm and comfort.  Ground floor entrance hall with dome ceiling is also used as a dining room. The 1st floor has the drawing room with an open fire. Here you can help yourself to a drink, relax, read and unwind. Breakfast can be served here in the large window over looking the Main Street. The 2nd and 3rd floor have a bedroom and private bathroom each.  

It is possible to see Ardee and its surrounding countryside from the roof.  There is a cobble stone yard to sit in and a walled garden to enjoy during the summer months. 

The entire castle is here for you to explore and enjoy. There is a front door entering the castle from the main street.

The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster (1993) has an entry for Hatch’s Castle:

p. 117. “Rectangular four storey tower house with rounded corners and a façade only one window wide. C15 or C16 and for centuries a property of the Hatch family. Two semicircular turrets project at rear. The castle is sandwiched between ordinary two and three-storey houses on the main street. In 1837 it was described by Lewis as ‘recently fitted up as a dwelling by Wm Hatch,’ which probably accounts for the new battlements, windows and hoodmouldings. Quaint interior, with timber panelling in the barrel-vaulted hall and a carpeted turret stair.” [7]

Whole House Rental, County Louth:

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louthsection 482, see above, €€€ for two, € for 6-12

2. Bellingham Castle, co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits 

https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

See above

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13826003/bellingham-castle-castlebellingham-castlebellingham-castlebellingham-louth

[2] Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[3] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13828001/collon-house-drogheda-street-ardee-street-collon-collon-louth

[4] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Collon%20House

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13900756/ballymascanlon-house-ballymascanlan-ballymascanlon-louth

[6] p. 147. Hicks, David. Irish County Houses: Chronicle of Change. Collins Press, Cork, 2012. 

[7] p. 117, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[15] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en

Places to visit and stay in County Meath, Leinster

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Meath

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation and sometimes open for visits

2. Beau Parc House, Beau Parc, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

3. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

4. Dunsany Castle, Dunsany, Co. Meath – section 482

5. Gravelmount House, Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

6. Hamwood House, Dunboyne, Co. Meath – section 482

7. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

8. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

9. Oldbridge House, County Meath – Battle of the Boyne Museum – OPW

10. Slane Castle, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

11. St. Mary’s Abbey, High Street, Trim, Co. Meath – section 482

12. The Former Parochial House, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

13. Swainstown House, Kilmessan, Co. Meath – section 482

14. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

15. Trim Castle, County Meath – OPW

Places to stay, County Meath:

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation 

2. Bellinter House near Bective, County Meath – hotel and restaurant €€

3. Boyne House Slane (formerly Cillghrian Glebe), Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482 accommodation €

4. Clonleason Gate Lodge, Fordstown, County Meath:

5. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

6. Highfield House, Trim, County Meath

7. Johnstown Estate, Enfield, Co Meath – hotel

8. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482 accommodation

9. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

10. Rosnaree, Slane, Co Meath – accommodation 

11. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

12. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Whole house booking/wedding venues, County Meath

1. Ballinlough Castle, County Meath

2. Boyne Hill estate, Navan, County Meath – whole house rental

3. Durhamstown Castle, Bohermeen, County Meath – whole house rental

4. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

5. Mill House, Slane – weddings

6. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

Places to visit in County Meath

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation and sometimes open for visits

www.balrathcourtyard.com

The house is open to the public from January 9th – February 3rd and from May 1st – June 9th, daily from 9.00am – 1.00pm.

Fee: Adult €8
OAPs / Students / Children €4

The website tells us:

Balrath House & Courtyard, County Meath is a superb Georgian family home built in c. 1760 – the traditional architecture of which echoes a sense of the past. Yet nothing can prepare you for the beautiful and inviting warmth of the interior design...

The house is set in 1.5 acres of stunning & elegant gardens in a mature setting surrounded by 20.5 acres on the River Nanny which will assure you both privacy and tranquility...

The current owners Ray and Frances O’Brien have renovated the old out houses which were used at one time for milking cows, shoeing horses, housing animals and coaches to cosy, bright self catering cottages...

The cottages are located beside the classical style Georgian house that was built for the Walsh family. The Walsh’s wealth was created from their milling business,  and historical records show that in 1654 there were over 100 corn mills in County Meath. The substantial remains of one such corn mill are situated in the lower garden where it is still possible to see the site of the former mill wheel and mill race.

There is a strong history associated with the house and many of the original features still remain, for example the original Lock and key and the Adam plasterwork.

The estate is an ideal location for walking and offers splendid views of the “forty shades of green” which Ireland is famous for.”

The excellent website Meath History Hub tells us more about the history of the house:

Balrath House was erected in 1780 by the Walsh family. The family were the owners of the mill which now stands ruinous across the road. The plan of the house is just one room deep with a hall in the middle and a dining room and drawing room on either side. Both have pretty neoclassical plasterwork similar in style to nearby Somerville. The drawing room has a frieze of fruit, flowers and musical instruments and a polychrome marble chimneypiece. The dining room has a border of feathers, swags, urns and rams heads and a Kilkenny marble fireplace. The three storey house has a walled garden. As well as the water mill across the road there is the remains of a windmill near the house. The windmill was erected in 1780 to supplement the watermill. A millrace from the River Nanny powered the corn mill. The water mill closed in 1902. Balrath House is featured in “Classic Irish House of Middle Size” by Maurice Craig. 

In 1811 Bishop Plunket spent the day with Mr. Walsh of Balrath, the brother of the parish priest of Blacklion, Rev. T. Walsh, on his visitation of the parishes of Meath. Fr. Thomas Walsh, was the parish priest of Blacklion, now called Kentstown, for 25 years. Upstairs in Balrath House, on the top floor, looking south, is the bedroom used by Dr. Patrick Plunkett, Bishop of Meath on his visitation to Kentstown. Mass was often celebrated in Balrath House in the Penal Law times. 

Richard Walsh married Jane Dowd. Their son, James, was born in 1816.  

In Kentstown Church, built in 1844, there is a fine monument to Eliza Jane, who died in 1847, wife of Richard Junior Walsh. Eliza died in 1847 aged 26. The monument bears the signature of James Kirk, son of the Thomas Kirk who carved the statute of Nelson at the top of the “Pillar” in O’Connell Street. 

James C. Walsh, Fleet Surgeon in the Royal Navy, died at Balrath in 1884 aged 66. 

Richard Walter Walsh, who was born on 6 December 1843, was the eldest son of Richard Walsh, of Balrath House, Navan, Co. Meath. He was educated in Carlow and became an engineer. In 1865 he was appointed assistant engineer for the Varty waterworks. From 1870 until 1873 he worked on the Dublin main drainage; he was about to become resident engineer on the scheme when it was halted. He then set up in private practice. About 1890 he moved to live at his wife’s home of Williamstown House, Castlebellingham. In 1901 and 1911 Annie Walsh, spinster, lived at Balrath. 

The Walsh family resided at Balrath House from 1760-1940.” [1]

2. Beau Parc House, Beau Parc, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Emer Mooney
Tel: 041-9824163, 087-2329149
Open: Mar 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 10am-2 pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €8

See my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/07/22/beauparc-house-beau-parc-navan-co-meath/

3. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

Dardistown Castle, County Meath, July 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/dardistown-castle-county-meath/
contact: Lizanne Allen
Tel: 086 -2774271
www.dardistowncastle.ie
Open: Jan 8-31, July 1-23, closed Sundays, August 8-28, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €3

4. Dunsany Castle, Dunsany, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Randall Plunkett
Tel: 046-9025169
www.dunsany.com
Open: June 24-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-22, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €25, OAP/student/12-18 years €15, child under 12 years free, National Heritage Week €10, under12 years free

Dunsany Castle, County Meath, June 2019.
Dunsany Castle by Alexander Campbell ‘Monkey’ Morgan National Library of Ireland.

5. Gravelmount House, Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Brian McKenna
Tel: 087-2520523
Open: Jan 2-15, May 10-30, Aug 13-22, Sept 1-15, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

6. Hamwood House, Dunboyne, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Charles Hamilton
Tel: 086-3722701
www.hamwood.ie
Open: Apr 1-Sept 25, Fri-Sun, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 10am-7pm Fee: adult €10, child under 12 free

Hamwood House, County Meath, photograph from Country Life.

We visited in November 2022 – write up coming soon!

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

Hamwood is a smaller Palladian house of the 1770s, near the town of Dunboyne on the borders of Meath and Kildare, with a central block joined to little octagonal ‘pepper-pot’ wings by elegantly curved sweeps. Unusually, the left hand wing contains the main entrance, since it is said that the house was so cold when built that the family decided to move the hall door as far from the main rooms as possible. The resulting effect is interesting, since the principal facade lacks a central feature and looks more like a garden front. Internally this has allowed the creatiion of a double drawing room that runs along the entire length of the facade, an unusual feature in a house of this size.” [2]

The Hamwood website tells us:

Hamwood House sits surrounded by wooded gardens in unspoilt countryside between Dunboyne and Maynooth in Kildare, and is unique in having been occupied by the same family since it was built almost 250 years ago. Hamwood so called due to its creators Charles Hamilton I *[1738-1818] (see below) and his wife Elizabeth Chetwood [from Woodbrook, County Laois] amalgamating their last names, not on account of its wooded surroundings. On arrival at this area at the time one would have been both in awe of the far reaching views towards the Dublin mountains and the ferocious winds which battered this high point in the landscape, being 300 feet above sea level. There was good reason for choosing such a site however, in that the land was amongst the best in Ireland but also it fell naturally from where the house stood allowing good natural drainage. Most importantly too the House was built on rock, the best of foundations. 

While works were progressing on the house the family occupied Courthill -an attractive Georgian  house in Dunboyne . Mr Hamilton became the agent serving the then Duke of Leinster at Carton estate , a role that passed from father to son through all generations up til Charles VI in the 1960’s , although the Estate had already been sold. The relationship between the Hamilton family and the Leinsters was a special one and they took an active interest in the development of Hamwood , donating such features as the pair of granite steps to the front of the house ,  thinnings to form the woodlands and various shrubs and ornamental trees. For such an exposed site it was crucial to protect the house from the strong winds which explains the heavily wooded surroundings. Charles I formed the front door and hallway to where now is the back door. His son added the two Palladian wings and the front entrance placed at the end of the west wing at his wife’s insistence that the draughts were kept well away from the main living areas. 

Many new additions and developments were carried out by different generations including the walled garden and pine walk where visitors can see an abundance of well established shrubs, plants and ornamental trees amongst the relics of former days when there were several men working the gardens.” 

7. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

Contact: Emily Naper
Tel: 049-8541356
(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

www.loughcrew.com

Garden: all year, 11am-5pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP €6, student €5, child €3.50, group concessions

Ruins of Loughcrew House, 22nd May 2010.
Photographs of Loughcrew in Mark Bence-Jones’s A Guide to Irish Country Houses.
Lough Crew 22nd May 2010

The website tells us:

Loughcrew is an estate made up of 200 acres of picturesque rolling parkland complete with a stunning house and gardens. It provides the perfect family friendly day out as there is something to suit all ages and interests.

The House and Gardens within at Loughcrew Estate date back to the 17th century – making it a landscape of historical and religious significance. Here, you’ll find a medieval motte and St. Oliver Plunkett’s family church among other old buildings. You’ll also find lime and yew avenues, extensive lawns and terraces, a water garden and a magnificent herbaceous border. There is a Fairy Trail for children and a coffee shop too!”

8. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

Moyglare House, County Meath, June 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/02/15/moyglare-house-county-meath/
Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare
contact: Angela Alexander
Tel: 086-0537291
www.moyglarehouse.ie
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, May 1-21, 23-27, 30-31, June 1-2, Aug 12- 21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student/child

10. Oldbridge House, County Meath – Battle of the Boyne Museum – OPW

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

11. Slane Castle, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Slane Castle, County Meath, April 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/slane-castle-county-meath/
contact: Jemma Smith
Tel: 041-9884477
www.slanecastle.ie
Open: Jan 16, 23, 30Feb 6, 13, 20, 27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, April 2-3, 9- 10, 16-18, 23-24, 30, May 1-2, 6-8, 13-15, 20-23, June 3, 6, 10, 17, 24, July 1, 7-8, 14-15, 22, 28, 31, Aug 1, 4-5, 11-21, 25-26, 28, Sept 4,18, 25, Jan- Apr, and June 10am-4pm, May, Fri-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12 noon 4pm, July, Thurs-Sat, 10am- 4pm, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm, Aug, Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm, Sept, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm

Fee: adult €14, OAP/student €12.50, child €7.50, concession family ticket (2 adults and 2 children €39, additional adults €1, additional children €6

12. St. Mary’s Abbey, High Street, Trim, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Peter Higgins
Tel: 087-2057176
Open: Jan 24-28, 31, Feb 1-4, 28, Mar 1-4, 7-11, May 7-22, June 27-30, July 1, 4-8, Aug 13-22, Sept 27-30, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child €2

See my entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/09/17/st-marys-abbey-high-street-trim-co-meath/

13. The Former Parochial House, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Alan Haugh
Tel: 087-2566998
www.parochialhouseslane.ie
Open: May 1-Sept 30, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: adult 5, child/OAP/student €3

The website tells us:

‘Parochial House’, The Square, Slane, Co. Meath is one of the 4 landmark buildings within the centre of the historic village of Slane known as the Square although formed in actuality of an Octagon. This central ‘Square’ is formed of four symmetrically placed houses set a 45 degrees to the main crossing.

A dwelling house of three bays and three storeys, it was constructed c. 1768, and was the second of the four houses to be built to form the ‘Square’. In the Buildings of Ireland – North Leinster by Christine Casey and Alistair Rowan it is noted that the plot on the north east corner was granted to one Henry Fischer with the stipulation:

‘House to be built within 5 years, same plan as new inn opposite recently built, also the other houses same plan as laid down for building in the said town of Slane.’

The determination was evident from the beginning that this set-piece of rural town planning would be of the same uniformity and quality as its more urban equivalents. The house essentially retains its original features with excellent joinery, plasterwork, and some original chimneypieces extant.

Parochial House is a three bay three storey over basement stone dwelling with hipped roof and gable chimneystacks. Stonework is coursed and squared limestone rubble with cut limestone dressings to openings. The entrance doorway is variously described as a’block and start’ doorway or more commonly a Gibbsian style doorway after James Gibbs. The door is raised on limestone stones with the exposed portion of the basement acting as a plinth. Remaining facades are rendered.

The proportion of window to wall favours the masonry lending the houses a certain austerity. As a formal composition the grandeur of the Square has rarely been equalled in rural Ireland. Nineteenth-century enclosing walls were added to better define the private and public realms in the Square. The principal entrance door is a nine-panelled door although the present unpainted finish seems too modern.

To the rear, the elevation is rendered in a medium aggregate dash, likely of modern installation. Window dressings are set recessed behind the plain of the render and are tooled and hammered with a simple keystone. Cills are quite slight in proportion in comparison with the cills used on the front elevation. The roof is finished in natural slate and the stacks appear to have been rebuilt from centre upwards in red machine made brick.

14. Swainstown House, Kilmessan, Co. Meath – section 482

Swainstown House, County Meath, August 2019

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/10/swainstown-house-kilmessan-county-meath/
contact: Caroline Preston
Tel: 086-2577939
Open: Mar 7-8, 10-11, April 4-5, 7-8, May 2-8, June 6-12, July 4-10, Aug 13-21, Sept 5-16, Oct 3-4, 6-7, Nov 7-8, 10-11, Dec 5-6, 8-9, 11am-3pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child free

15. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Tankardstown House, County Meath, August 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/11/tankardstown-estate-demesne-rathkenny-slane-co-meath/
contact: Brian Conroy
Tel: 087-2888925
www.tankardstown.ie
Open: all year including National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: Free

16. Trim Castle, County Meath – OPW

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

Places to stay, County Meath:

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation  

www.balrathcourtyard.com

See above.

The website tells us:

You will find an oasis of rural luxury set in the Boyne Valley- the most historically rich area of Ireland’s Ancient East – offering the seclusion of a Georgian courtyard – yet only 20 minutes from Dublin Airport and 10 minutes from Newgrange.

The house is set in 1.5 acres of stunning & elegant gardens in a mature setting surrounded by 20.5 acres on the River Nanny which will assure you both privacy and tranquility.

The self-catering accommodation in the courtyard is of 4 Star Fáilte Ireland approved standard.

The current owners Ray and Frances O’Brien have renovated the old out houses which were used at one time for milking cows, shoeing horses, housing animals and coaches to cosy, bright self catering cottages.

There are eight cottages to choose from each offering something unique, decorated to modern living while still maintaining features of its past.

The cottages are located beside the classical style Georgian house that was built for the Walsh family. The Walsh’s wealth was created from their milling business,  and historical records show that in 1654 there were over 100 corn mills in County Meath. The substantial remains of one such corn mill are situated in the lower garden where it is still possible to see the site of the former mill wheel and mill race.

There is a strong history associated with the house and many of the original features still remain, for example the original Lock and key and the Adam plasterwork.

The house is open to the public from January 9th – February 3rd and from May 1st – June 9th, daily from 9.00am – 1.00pm.

Fee: Adult €8
OAPs / Students / Children €4

The estate is an ideal location for walking and offers splendid views of the “forty shades of green” which Ireland is famous for.”

2. Bellinter House near Bective, County Meath – hotel and restaurant €€ 

www.bellinterhouse.com

Bellinter House from flickr constant commons 2007.
Bellinter House, photograph for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

The website tells us:

A magnificent 18th century Georgian house, located in the heart of the Boyne Valley, less than 5 minutes of the M3 and under 30 minutes from Dublin City centre and Dublin airport.

A property designed originally by Richard Castles for John Preston [1700-1755], this house was once used as a country retreat for the Preston Family, to abscond from the city for the summer months.

Following over 270 years of beautiful history the purpose of Bellinter House remains the same, a retreat from ones daily life.

On arriving, you will find yourself succumb to the peacefulness and serenity that is Bellinter House.

The National Inventory tells us about Bellinter House:

Designed by the renowned architect Richard Castle in 1751. Bellinter is a classic mid eighteenth-century Palladian house with its two-storey central block, linked to two-storey wings by single-storey arcades, creating a forecourt in front of the house. This creates a building of pleasant symmetry and scale which is of immediate architectural importance. The building is graded in scale from ground to roofline. It gets progressively lighter from semi-basement utilising block and start windows on ground floor to lighter architraves on first floor to cornice. The house forms an interesting group with the surviving related outbuildings and entrance gates.” [4]

Art Kavanagh tells us in his The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, Volume 1 (published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005) that John Joseph Preston (1815-1892) had only a daughter, and he leased Bellinter House to his friend Gustavus Villiers Briscoe. When John Joseph Preston died he willed his estate to Gustavus.

Much of the land was dispersed with the Land Acts, but Bellinter passed to Gustavus’s son Cecil Henry Briscoe. His son George sold house and lands to the Holdsworth family, who later sold the land to the Land Commission. The house was acquired by the Sisters of Sion in 1966, who sold it in 2003.

[See Robert O’Byrne’s recent post, https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/05/21/crazy-wonderful/ for more pictures of Bellinter.]

3. Boyne House Slane (formerly Cillghrian Glebe), Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482 accommodation

contact: Alan Haugh
Tel: 041-9884444
www.boynehouseslane.ie
Open: all year, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: Free

“Boyne House Slane boasts 6 tastefully appointed luxury ensuite Heritage Bedrooms in the Main House along with 4 additional Bedrooms in the Coach House, offering luxurious accommodation and private rental in the heart of Slane village.” Photograph courtesy of website.

The website tells us: “Boyne House Slane is a former rectory dating from 1807, magnificently renewed, whilst retaining much of its original features to offer luxury accommodation comprising 10 guest bedrooms offering exceptional levels of comfort and style, the perfect retreat for the visitor after exploring 5,000 years of history and culture in the area.

Discreetly tucked away behind the centrally located Village Garden and recreation area, ‘Boyne House Slane’ is set in its own grounds, comprising a small patch of woodland with well-aged Copperbeech, Poplar and Chestnut trees.

Originally named Cillghrian Glebe, the property was built in 1807 as a rectory or Glebe. The name Cillghrian, sometimes anglicised as Killrian, derives from the words ‘cill’ for church and ‘grian’ which translated as ‘land’ giving the house the simple name ‘church land’. The house retains many of its original features complete with excellent joinery, plasterwork and chimneypieces.”

Boyne House Slane, Photograph courtesy of website.
Boyne House Slane, from website: “Discreetly tucked away behind the centrally located Village Garden and recreation area in Slane, Boyne House Slane is set in its own grounds, comprising a small patch of woodland with well aged Copperbeech, Poplar and Chestnut trees.”

4. Clonleason Gate Lodge, Fordstown, County Meath: Hidden Ireland €

www.clonleason.com

Clonleason gate lodge, photograph courtesy of myhome.ie – Clonleason House was advertised for sale in September 2022 so gate lodge accommodation may no longer be available.

Our 18th century riverside cottage has been converted into an elegant one bedroom hideaway for a couple. Set in blissful surroundings of gardens and fields at the entrance to a small Georgian house, the cottage is surrounded by ancient oak trees, beech and roses. It offers peace and tranquillity just one hour from Dublin.

A feature of the cottage is the comfy light filled sitting room with high ceiling, windows on three sides, an open fire, bundles of books and original art. The Trimblestown river, once famous for its excellent trout, runs along the bottom of its secret rose garden. Garden and nature lovers might enjoy wandering through our extensive and richly planted gardens where many unusual shrubs and trees are thriving and where cyclamen and snowdrops are massed under trees. The Girley Loop Bog walk is just a mile down the road.

The bedroom is luxurious and the kitchen and bathroom are well appointed. There is excellent electric heating throughout.

We offer luxury self-catering accomodation in an idyllic setting. Our self-sufficient cottage, furnished and fitted to a high standard, sleeps 2 and boasts a kitchen, a wetroom w/c with a power shower plus ample relaxation space, all kept warm and cosy by a woodburning stove.

Ideally suited to couples who are looking for a luxurious, romantic break in the peaceful and beautiful countryside of Ireland.

5. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482, see above

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/dardistown-castle-county-meath/
contact: Lizanne Allen
Tel: 086 -2774271
www.dardistowncastle.ie
Open: Jan 8-31, July 1-23, closed Sundays, August 8-28, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €3

Dardistown Castle, photograph courtesy of Dardistown airbnb website.

6. Highfield House, Trim, County Meath

https://highfieldguesthouse.com

Highfield House, photograph courtesy of website.

The website tells us:

Highfield House is an elegant, 18th century residence run by Edward and Geraldine Duignan and situated in the beautiful heritage town of Trim. Known as the birthplace of Ireland’s Ancient East, Trim is renowned as one of Ireland’s most beautiful towns. The award winning accommodation boasts magnificent views of Trim Castle, The Yellow Steeple, and the River Boyne. 

Guests can book Highfield House for their overnight stay while visiting the area, or book the entire property as a self catering option in Meath.

The house was built in the early 1800’s and was opened as a stately maternity hospital in 1834 and remained so up to the year 1983, making it 175 years old. A host of original, antique interior features still remain. Spend the morning sipping coffee on our patio, relax with a book in our drawing room or wile away the afternoon people watching from our garden across the river.”

7. Johnstown Estate, Enfield, Co Meath – hotel

https://thejohnstownestate.com

Johnstown Estate, photograph courtesy of website.

The website tells us:

The original manor – or The Johnstown House as it was known – is as storied as many other large country house in Ireland.  Luckily, the house itself has stood the test of time and is the beating heart of the hotel and all its facilities which together form The Johnstown Estate. 

Built in 1761, The Johnstown House (as it was then known) was the country residence of Colonel Francis Forde [1717-1769], his wife Margaret [Bowerbank] and their five daughters. Colonel Forde was the 7th son of Matthew Forde, MP, of Coolgraney, Seaforde County Down, and the family seat is still in existence in the pretty village of Seaforde, hosting Seaforde Gardens.

The Colonel had recently returned from a very successful military career in India and was retiring to become a country gentleman.  Enfield – or Innfield as it was then known –  satisfied his desire to return to County Meath where his Norman-Irish ascendants (the de la Forde family) had settled in Fordestown (now Fordstown), Meath, in the 13th century. Enfield was also close to Carton House in Maynooth, the home of the Duke of Leinster – at the time the most powerful landowner in Ireland.

After 8 years completing the house and demesne and establishing income from his estates, Colonel Forde left for a further military appointment in India. His boat, The Aurora, touched the Cape of Good Hope off Southern Africa on December 27th, 1769 and neither he, nor the boat, were heard from again.

Thereafter the house was owned by a variety of people including a Dublin merchant, several gentlemen farmers, a Knight, another military man, an MP and a Governor of the Bank of Ireland.  In 1927 the Prendergast family bought the house and Rose Prendergast, after whom ‘The Rose’ private dining room is named, became mistress of Johnstown House for over fifty years.

The house was restored to its previous glory in the early years of the new millennium and a new resort hotel developed around it to become The Johnstown House Hotel.  In 2015, under new ownership, the hotel was extensively refurbished, expanded and rebranded to become The Johnstown Estate.

8. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482 accommodation

Killeen Mill, July 2022.

contact: Dermot Kealy
Tel: 086-2619979
(Tourists Accommodation Facility) Open: April 1- Sept 30

9. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482, see above

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/02/15/moyglare-house-county-meath/
Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare
contact: Angela Alexander
Tel: 086-0537291
www.moyglarehouse.ie
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, May 1-21, 23-27, 30-31, June 1-2, Aug 12- 21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student/child

10. Rosnaree, Slane, Co Meath – accommodation

https://www.facebook.com/theRossnaree/ 

The website tells us: “This stylish historic country house in Slane, County Meath, offers boutique bed and breakfast with magnificent views across the Boyne Valley and the megalithic passage tomb of Newgrange.

Rossnaree (or “headland of the Kings”) is a privately owned historic country estate in Slane, County Meath, located only 40 minutes from Dublin and less than an hour from Belfast.

An impressive driveway sweeps to the front of Rossnaree house, standing on top of a hill with unrivalled views across the River Boyne to Ireland’s famous prehistoric monuments, Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.

Rossnaree has been transformed into a boutique bed and breakfast, offering four luxury rooms for guests and also an original venue for special events and artistic workshops.

11. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

https://www.ross-castle.com

See my County Cavan entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/03/county-cavan-historic-houses-to-see-and-stay/

12. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Tankardstown, County Meath, August 2019.

www.tankardstown.ie

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/11/tankardstown-estate-demesne-rathkenny-slane-co-meath/

Whole house booking/wedding venues, County Meath

1. Ballinlough Castle, Clonmellon, Navan, County Meath

https://www.ballinloughcastle.ie/

Ballinlough Castle, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us Ballinlough Castle is available for exclusive hire of the castle and the grounds (minimum hire 3 nights) is available for private or corporate gatherings. Focussing on relaxed and traditional country house hospitality, assisted by a local staff.

Ballinlough Castle, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us of its history:

The Nugent family at Ballinlough were originally called O’Reilly, but assumed the surname of Nugent in 1812 to inherit a legacy. They are almost unique in being a Catholic Celtic-Irish family who still live in their family castle.

The castle was built in the early seventeenth century and the O’Reilly coat of arms over the front door carries the date 1614 along with the O’Reilly motto Fortitudine et Prudentia.

The newer wing overlooking the lake was added by Sir Hugh O’Reilly (1741-1821) in the late eighteenth century and is most likely the work of the amateur architect Thomas Wogan Browne, also responsible for work at Malahide Castle, the home of Sir Hugh O’Reilly’s sister Margaret.  

Sir Hugh was created a baronet on 1795 and changed the family name in 1812 in order to inherit from his maternal uncle, Governor Nugent of Tortola.

As well as the construction of this wing, the first floor room above the front door was removed to create the two-storey hall that takes up the centre of the original house. The plasterwork here contains many clusters of fruit and flowers, all different. A new staircase was added, with a balcony akin to a minstrel’s gallery, and far grander than the original staircase that still remains to the side.

Sir Hugh’s younger brothers James and Andrew entered Austrian military service, the latter becoming Governor-General of Vienna and Chamberlain to the Emperor.  His portrait hangs in the castle’s dining-room.

The family traces directly back to Felim O’Reilly who died in 1447. Felim’s son, John O’Reilly was driven from his home at Ross Castle near Lough Sheelin and settled in Kilskeer. His grandson Hugh married Elizabeth Plunket with whom he got the estate of Ballinlough, then believed to have been called Bally-Lough-Bomoyle. It was his great-grandson James who married Barbara Nugent and about whom an amusing anecdote is told in Duffy’s Hibernian Magazine of 1860:

During the operation of the penal laws in Ireland, when it was illegal for a Roman Catholic to possess a horse of greater value than five pounds, he was riding a spirited steed of great value but being met by a Protestant neighbour who was on foot, he was ordered by him to relinquish the steed for the sum of five pounds sterling.  This he did without hesitation and the law favoured neighbour mounted his steed and rode off in haughty triumph.  Shortly afterwards, however, James O’Reilly sued him for the value of the saddle and stirrups of which he was illegally deprived and recovered large damages.

The investment in the castle by James’ son, Hugh was recorded in The Irish Tourist by Atkinson 1815, which contained the following account of a visit to Ballinlough:

The castle and demesne of Ballinlough had an appearance of antiquity highly gratifying to my feelings ….. I reined in my horse within a few perches of the grand gate of Ballinlough to take a view of the castle; it stands on a little eminence above a lake which beautifies the demesne; and not only the structure of the castle, but the appearance of the trees, and even the dusky colour of the gate and walls, as you enter, contribute to give the whole scenery an appearance of antiquity, while the prospect is calculated to infuse into the heart of the beholder, a mixed sentiment of veneration and delight.  

Having visited the castle of Ballinlough, the interior of which appears a good deal modernised, Sir Hugh had the politeness to show me two or three of the principal apartments; these, together with the gallery on the hall, had as splendid an appearance as anything which I had, until that time, witnessed in private buildings.  The rooms are furnished in a style- I cannot pretend to estimate the value, either of the furniture or ornamental works, but some idea thereof may be formed from the expenses of a fine marble chimney-piece purchased from Italy, and which, if any solid substance can in smoothness and transparency rival such work, it is this.  I took the liberty of enquiring what might have been the expense of this article and Sir Hugh informed me only five hundred pounds sterling, a sum that would establish a country tradesman in business! The collection of paintings which this gentleman shewed me must have been purchased at an immense expense also- probably at a price that would set up two: what then must be the value of the entire furniture and ornamental works?

Sir Hugh was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son James, who was succeeded by his brother Sir John, who emulated his uncle in Austria in becoming Chamberlain to the Emperor.  His eldest son Sir Hugh was killed at an early age so the title then passed to his second son Charles, a racehorse trainer in England. Sir Charles was an unsuccessful gambler which resulted in most of the Ballinlough lands, several thousand acres in Westmeath and Tipperary being sold, along with most of the castle’s contents.

Sir Charles’ only son was killed in a horseracing fall in Belgium in 1903, before the birth of his own son, Hugh a few months later.  Sir Hugh inherited the title on the death of his grandfather in 1927 and, having created a number of successful businesses in England, retuned to Ballinlough and restored the castle in the late 1930s.  His son Sir John (1933- 2010) continue the restoration works and the castle is now in the hands of yet another generation of the only family to occupy it.”

2. Boyne Hill estate, Navan, County Meath – whole house rental

https://www.boynehillhouse.ie

Set in 38 acres of pretty gardens and parklands and just 35 minutes from Dublin, this stunning country house estate becomes your very own private residence for your special day.

3. Durhamstown Castle, Bohermeen, County Meath – whole house rental

https://durhamstowncastle.com

Durhamstown Castle is 600 years old inhabited continuously since 1420. Its surrounded by meadows, dotted with mature trees. We take enormous pleasure in offering you our home and hospitality.

The website tells us that in 1590:

The Bishop of Meath, Thomas Jones [1550-1619], who resided in next door Ardbraccan, at this time, owned Durhamstown Castle & we know from the records, that he left it to his son, Lord Ranelagh, Sir Roger Jones; who was Lord President of Connaught. Thomas Jones was witness & reporter to the Crown on negotiations between the Crown Forces & the O’Neills. He was known to be close to Robert Devereux, The Earl of Essex – Queen Elizabeth’s lover. (Later, executed for mounting a rebellion against Her.) Letters are written – copies of which are in the National Library – from Devereux to the Queen both from Ardbraccan & Durhamstown (“the Castle nearby”).

Roger Jones, 1st Viscount Ranelagh (before 1589 – 1643) was a member of the Peerage of Ireland and lord president of Connaught. He was Chief Leader of the Army and Forces of Connaught during the early years of the Irish Confederate Wars. In addition to Viscount Ranelagh, he held the title Baron Jones of Navan.

Jones was the only son of Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Thomas Jones, and his wife Margaret Purdon. He was knighted at Drogheda on 24 March 1607. In 1609, he married Frances Moore, the daughter of Sir Garret Moore, eventual 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda. Jones was a member of the Parliament of Ireland for Trim, County Meath from 1613 to 1615. In 1620, he was named to the privy council of Ireland. He was the Chief Leader of the Army and Forces of Connaught and was Vice President of Connaught from 1626.

In 1608 his father became involved in a bitter feud with Lord Howth, in which Roger also became embroiled. His reference to Howth as a brave man among cowards was enough to provoke his opponent, a notoriously quarrelsome man to violence. In the spring of 1609, Jones, Howth and their followers engaged in a violent fracas at a tennis court in Thomas Street, Dublin, and a Mr. Barnewall was killed. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, an enemy of Howth, had him arrested immediately, though he was never brought to trial.

On 25 August 1628, Jones was created Baron Jones of Navan and 1st Viscount Ranelagh by King Charles I. He was made Lord President of Connaught on 11 September 1630 to serve alongside Charles Wilmot, 1st Viscount Wilmot.

Jones was killed in battle against Confederate forces under the leadership of Owen Roe O’Neill in 1643.

An Uncle, Colonel Michael Jones, was the military Governor of Dublin at the time and supported Cromwell’s landing at Ringsend, after the Battle of Rathmines. Troops assembled at Durhamstown to fight on Cromwell’s side. When they marched on Drogheda they laid the place waste & murdered all before them. They brought the severed heads of the Royalist Commanders to Dublin. The Jones’ generally seem to have been a bloodthirsty lot; & were known to be unrelenting in their enforcement of the new Credo. Michael Jones even had his own nephew executed. Roger Jones’ son, Arthur was also embroiled in huge controversy when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was supposed to have diverted all the taxes to pay for the King’s Mistresses!

[From 1750] From this time onwards we think the Thompsons lived here. One of the Thompsons was said to have died from septicaemia as a result of an apoplectic rage caused by his Irish labourers refusing to knock down the Church of Durhamstown. He is alleged to have grabbed the shovel & attempted the work himself ; only for the shovel to bounce back & bury itself in his leg, or in some recordings it hacked off his leg; which subsequently became septic & “he died miserably from his wounds” But the stones & spire were taken to build Ardbraccan Church.

In 1840 “One of the Thompsons married a Roberts from Oatlands just at the back of Durhamstown, & they lived here up until 1910. A couple of years ago Janice Roberts, from America, called to the House but we were out!! Luckily Ella, a neighbour realised the importance of it & arranged for her & her husband to call back. We had a fascinating afternoon going through old photographs & records & tramping quietly round the nearby graveyards with them, filling in the blanks. She promised us a photograph of an oil painting of the Castle intact. Her grandfather lived in Durhamstown & later he sold it, taking some of the furniture & artefacts to his house in Dalkey, called Hendre.

In 1996 Sue (Sweetman) & Dave Prickett buy Durhamstown Castle. “And we have been working on it ever since! We have re-roofed the entire Castle & the majority of the Buildings in the Yard. It was in a ruinous state when we bought it.

4. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

Contact: Emily Naper
Tel: 049-8541356
(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

www.loughcrew.com

See above, under places to visit.

5. Mill House, Slane – weddings

https://www.themillhouse.ie

The Mill House, Slane, March 2022.

The website tells us:

Built in 1766, The Millhouse and The Old Mill Slane, the weir and the millrace were once considered the largest and finest complex of its kind in Ireland. Originally a corn mill powered by two large water wheels, the harvest was hoisted into the upper floor granaries before being dried, sifted and ground.

Over time, the Old Mill became a specialised manufacturer of textiles turning raw cotton into luxury bed linen. Times have changed but this past remains part of our history, acknowledged and conserved.

​In 2006, The Millhouse was creatively rejuvenated, transformed into a hotel and wedding venue of unique character – a nod to the early 1900’s when it briefly served as a hotel-stop for passengers on pleasure steamer boats.”

6. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

https://www.ross-castle.com

Photograph by Rowan McLaughlin, flickr constant commons.

See my County Cavan entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/03/county-cavan-historic-houses-to-see-and-stay/

[1] https://meathhistoryhub.ie/houses-a-d/

[2] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Hamwood

[3] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14403107/bellinter-house-ballinter-meath

[5] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Killyon%20Manor%20

Places to visit and stay in County Laois, Leinster

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – gardens sometimes open to public 

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

4. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

5. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

6. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Places to Stay, County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballyfin House, Co. Laois – hotel €€€

3. Castle Durrow, Co Laois a hotel 

4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois

5. Inch House, County Laois €

6. Roundwood, Mountrath, Co Laois – guest house

and the forge and writer’s cottage at Roundwood

Whole House Rental County Laois:

1. Ballintubbert House, County Laois – whole house and weddings

2. Inch House, County Laois

3. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois – whole house accommodation

Places to visit in County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

contact: Grace Pym
Tel: 0505-21453
www.castleballaghmore.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day, 10am-6pm Fee: adult €5, child/OAP/student €3, family of 4, €10

Castle Ballaghmore, photograph courtesy of website.

The website tells us:

Ballaghmore Castle was built in 1480 by the Gaelic Chieftain MacGiollaphadraig (now called Fitzpatrick), meaning son of the servant of Patrick. Lords of Upper Ossory. They defended North Munster, strategically placed as they were on the old Irish Road. A Sheela-na-Gig carved in stone is on the front facing wall, a pagan fertility symbol to ward off evil.

Castle Ballaghmore, photograph courtesy of website.

Ballaghmore was partially destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1647. It was restored in 1836 by a Mr. Ely who found a hoard of gold on the land. Ely was shot by an angry tenant and never lived in the castle. The castle was then used as a granary and afterwards fell into disuse, until the present owner Gráinne Ní Cormac, bought it in 1990 and restored it. Now furnished.

Castle Ballaghmore, photograph courtesy of website.

Gráinne (Grace) will delight you with stories of the history of the MacGiollaphadraigs (changed to Fitzpatrick by order of Henry 8th of England) which goes back to 500 B.C.

Castle Ballaghmore, photograph courtesy of website.
Castle Ballaghmore, photograph courtesy of website.
Castle Ballaghmore, photograph courtesy of website.
Castle Ballaghmore, photograph courtesy of website.

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – open to public 

https://www.discoverireland.ie/laois/ballintubbert-gardens-house

The gardens at Ballintubbert have been described as ‘An enchanting work of art – intimate and extraordinarily peaceful”. 

The historic gardens at Ballintubbert have been expanded with an Arts & Crafts influence to include an impressive variety of over 40 ‘garden rooms’ and pedimented yew cloisters within 14 acres. 

Of particular note is the Sir Edwin Lutyens design water garden complimented by Gertrude Jekyll style planting schemes. 

There are wild flower meadows and woodlands influenced by William Robinson’s approach to ‘wild gardening’ in contrast to the formal lime walks that flank a hundred meter canal in the more classical gardening tradition. 

Opening Hours 

The gardens are open to view every Thursday from 10am to 5pm 
(April to September) 

Very occasionally the gardens may be closed with a private event – please check our Facebook page for details 

Admission €5 (children under 8 free) 
Guided tours available by appointment 

Allow 2 hours and please feel welcome all day. Relax & savour what lies ahead – this is a rich experience of the senses 

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

www.castledurrow.com 

See below, under places to stay.

The website tells us that the gardens were started 300 years ago.

After the Ashbrook Family left, the garden fell into a period of neglect until the Castle was opened as a hotel and restaurant in 2000 by the Stokes family. The gardens are a work in progress, years of renovations and restoration with the end nowhere in sight. In its present form Castle Durrow’s garden is a mature, charming and very beautiful garden. With 50 acres of lush lawns, colourful borders, green parkland, wild forest, meandering river and plentiful orchards. With each season, the gardens change and grow, giving each visit a unique feel.

Masses of bulbs in springtime, going up the tree lined avenue and in the walled garden.

A Haven for Connoisseurs and Amateurs, our Gardens are, like the Hotel they surround, divided into Rooms each with their own Identity, Feel and Character. At the Back of the House, Follow Your Nose and Walk up the Steps into our Courtyard room, filled with hundreds of fragrant David Austin Roses. From Here Step into the Walled Garden, where Some of the areas are Decorated Picturesque ,like the Orchard, Filled with Old Fruit Trees and Inhabited by Our Duck Family and the Chickens. Others areas are very grand, like our Sunken Garden with the canal and its Ornamental Pots and Statues.

Via the Main Corridor with its Majestic Blue and Pink Hued Borders, you step into the Foodie Room, our Kitchen Garden, it’s Produce handpicked daily by our Award Winning Head Chef, Graham Gallagher. Follow the meandering path by the recently Restored Ha-Ha flanked by spring, summer and autumn bulbs, towards the Victorian Grotto. The pleasure garden is where historically the gardeners would have planted the specimen trees. We have started to plant oak here again after many years.

4. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

Emo Court, County Laois.

5. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

6. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Stradbally Hall, County Laois, June 2021.

contact: Thomas Cosby
Tel: 086-8519272
www.stradballyhall.ie
Open: May 1-31, June 1-9, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-14, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child free

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/10/14/stradbally-hall-stradbally-co-laois/

Places to Stay, County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482 – see above.

There is the tower house castle, a farmhouse or a cottage to stay in.

2. Ballyfin House, Co. Laois – hotel €€€

https://ballyfin.com

Ballyfin, photograph by Tony Pleavin 2018 for Tourism Ireland [1].

The website tells us: “Steeped in Irish history, the site of Ballyfin has been settled from ancient times and was ancestral home in succession to the O’Mores, the Crosbys, the Poles, the Wellesley-Poles (the family of the Duke of Wellington) and later the Cootes.”

Ballyfin, photograph from “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.
Photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.

The website continues:

The Coote family was descended from Sir Charles Coote, an Elizabethan adventurer who came to Ireland in 1601. The Coote coat-of-arms is prominently displayed above the entrance to Ballyfin.

The house itself was built in the 1820s for another Sir Charles Coote to designs by the great Irish architects Sir Richard and William Morrison. The Cootes enjoyed the house for exactly one hundred years employing a large team of servants to preserve the life of refined leisure that is documented in Edwardian photographs showing tea on the terrace or skating in the walled garden. As the political situation changed with the dawning of the Irish Independence, the Cootes sold the estate to the Patrician Brothers who, for much of the twentieth century, ran a much-loved school at Ballyfin. After many years of restoration Ballyfin reopened its doors in May 2011.

The restoration project took nine years – significantly longer than it took to build the house in the first place. Every single aspect of the house from the roof down required remedial attention. Skilled craftsmen worked on the elaborate inlaid floors, repaired the gilding and the stucco work or treated the stone work of the house which was disintegrating. After this emergency work, a process of redecoration could begin with carefully selected paint finishes, papers and textiles bringing the interiors back to life. The house has been furnished with a collection of Irish art and antiques from around the world, fine Irish mahogany, French chandeliers and mirrors by Thomas Chippendale. The result was spectacular, and one of Ireland’s most endangered great houses emerged ready for the current century, a place of grandeur, yet warmth, providing the kind of welcome envisaged when the house was first built.”

Ballyfin, photograph by Tony Pleavin 2018 for Tourism Ireland (see [1]). Wrought-iron curvilinear Victorian conservatory, c.1855, on a rectangular plan with apsidal ends and glazed corridor linking it to Ballyfin House. Designed by Richard Turner.
Photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.

Ballyfin was built between 1821 and 1826 by Sir Charles Coote, 9th Baronet of Castle Cuffe, Queens County, or County Laois (1794-1864). He was the son of Chidley Coote of Ash Hill, County Limerick, where Stephen and I stayed during Heritage Week in 2022 – another Section 482 property. The 8th Baronet Coote of Castle Cuffe, Charles Henry Coote, who was also the 7th Earl of Mountrath, had no legitimate children. The 8th and 9th Baronet Cootes seem to be rather distantly related.

Coote’s house replaced a long, plain house of 1778 which had been the seat of William Wellesley-Pole (1763-1835), afterwards 1st Baron Maryborough and 3rd Earl of Mornington, a brother of the Duke of Wellington. They had lived in Dangan Castle in County Westmeath. Coote, the Premier Baronet of Ireland, bought the estate from Wellesley-Pole ca 1812. William Wellesley-Pole was born William Wellesley and added the name Pole to his surname when he inherited from his cousin, William Pole (1713-1801), who owned Ballyfin. William Pole married Sarah Moore, daughter of Edward, 5th Earl of Drogheda. A bedroom in the hotel is named after Sarah. She dedicated much attention to the gardens at Ballyfin. She and William had no children, and so William Wellesley (Pole) inherited Ballyfin.

William Pole’s sister Sarah married Dudley Cosby (1662-1729) of Stradbally Hall also in County Laois.

William Wellesley-Pole’s father was Garret Wesley (1735-1781) who was created 1st Earl of Mornington. His father was Richard Wesley (c. 1758) who was born Richard Colley, who in 1728 inherited the estates of Dangan and Mornington, County Meath, on the death of his cousin, Garret Wesley. So there are many name changes in the family! Richard Colley’s sister Anne married William Pole (1680-abt. 1732) and they were the parents of William Pole who owned Ballyfin and who left it to his cousin William Wellesley-Pole.

Charles Coote 9th Baronet married Caroline Whaley, granddaughter of “Burn Chapel” Whaley (Richard Chapel Whaley) whom we came across when we visited the Museum of Literature of Ireland in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that Charles Coote seems to have (p. 21) “…employed an architect named Dominick Madden, who produced a design for a two storey house with a long library at one side running from front to back, and extending into a curved bow in the centre of the side elevation; a room very similar to the library at Emo Court, a few miles away.

When this end of the house – which also contained a top-lit rotunda, another feature doubtless inspired by Emo – had been built, Coote switched from Madden to Richard Morrison, who, assisted by his son William Vitruvius Morrison, completed the house according to a modified plan, but incorporating Madden’s library wing which forms the side elevation of Morrison’s house, just has it would have done of Madden’s; it is of one bay on either side of the central curved bow, which is fronted by a colonnade of giant Ionic columns.” [2]

The south front of Ballyfin, with the grand bow window for the library. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin, County Laois, from “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.

Bence-Jones continues: “The side elevation is now prolonged by a gracefully curving glass and iron conservatory of ca 1850. The principal front is of thirteen bays with a giant pedimented Ionic portico, the two end bays on either side being stepped back.

The interior, almost entirely by the Morrisons, is of great magnificence and beautifully finished, with exciting spatial effects and a wealth of rich plasterwork, scagiola columns in Siena porphyry, green and black; and inlaid parquetry floors; originally the rooms contained a fine collection of pictures and sculpture and furniture said to have been made for George IV as Prince of Wales. A rather restrained entrance hall, with a coffered ceiling and a floor of mosaic brought from Rome, leads into the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end.” [2]

The hall at Ballyfin, built in the 1820s for Sir Charles Coote to designs by Sir Richard and William Morrison. The mosaic centrepiece on the floor came from Rome in 1822. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin Hallway, photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

The upstairs top-lit saloon reminds me of that at Stradbally Hall. The first son of Charles Coote and Caroline Whaley died unmarried, the second son predeceased the first son, after marrying Margaret Mary Cosby of Stradbally. The third son, Algernon, became 11th Baron Coote and joined the clergy. He died in 1920 and afterwards the house was sold.

Ballyfin, the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin top-lit saloon, photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.
Ballyfin, the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Detail of the ceiling in the saloon at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: The saloon is flanked by the rotunda, which is surrounded by Ionic columns and has a coffered dome, and the staircase hall, which has pairs of engaged and recessed columns round its upper storey; the balustrade of the stairs and gallery being of brass uprights.

The rotunda at Ballyfin, which is encircled by eight Siena scagliola columns. The coffered dome is ornamented with hexagonal panels containing decorative stars set in an emphatic geometrical lattice. Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The staircase hall at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The staircase hall at Ballyfin. Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.
The doorway in the saloon at Ballyfin, looking through to the staircase hall. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: “There is a splendid vista through the centre of the house, from the staircase hall to the library, which lies at right angles to this central axis, beyond the rotunda; it is divided by screens of Ionic columns. The drawing room has characteristic Morrison ceiling and gilt Louis XV decoration on the walls dating from 1840s and by a London decorator. Classical entrance gates with piers similar to those at Kilruddery, Co Wicklow and Fota, Co Cork; and a folly castle in the park. Ballyfin was sold by the Coote family 1920s and is now a college run by the Patrician brothers.” 

The library at Ballyfin, with screens of Scagliola columns, photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.
The library at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Gold Drawing Room at Ballyfin, photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.
The Gold Room in Ballyfin during restoration, photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.
The “Whispering Room” at Ballyfin, photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.
The dining room at Ballyfin, photograph courtesy of website.
The Lady Caroline Coote Room at Ballyfin, photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website. With its gracefully rococo stucco work ceiling, the Lady Caroline Coote Room (formerly Lady Coote’s boudoir) is among the most pleasingly elegant bedrooms at Ballyfin.
The decoration with a vivid, electric blue wallpaper transforms the room into a suggestive tent-like enclosure. It perfectly reflects the interest in textiles seen in interiors of the Empire period. The colour serves as an ideal foil for the early-Georgian portrait over the chimneypiece showing Henry Meredyth of Newtown, County Meath, by the Irish artist Charles Jervas.
The Westmeath bedroom, with a wonderfully carved French bed positioned prominently in the centre of room and richly patterned wallpaper. The portrait above the chimneypiece, from the studio of Sir Thomas Lawrence, depicts the dashing Marianne Jeffreys of Blarney Castle, County Cork, after whom the room is namedshe married the 7th Earl of Westmeath.

The Ballyfin website tells us:

At Ballyfin, stone walls enclose 614 acres of parkland, a lake and ancient woods, delightful garden buildings, follies and grottoes. The landscape, laid out in the mid-eighteenth century, is among the finest examples in Ireland of the natural style of gardening inspired by ‘Capability’ Brown.

There are many highlights that will keep garden lovers and outdoor enthusiasts exploring for days. These include the medieval-style tower, built as a folly in the 1860’s, the walled garden with its formal borders and kitchen gardens, the abundant wildlife to be seen on early morning walks and the restored Edwardian rock garden.”

Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.
The new cascade and classical temple at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The south front of Ballyfin, with the grand bow window for the library. Beyond is the lake made in the 1750s. Photograph courtesy of Ballyfin website.

3. Castle Durrow, Co Laois – a hotel 

https://www.castledurrow.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Durrow (1988):

p. 66. “(Flower, Ashbrook, V/PB) An early C18 house of an attractive pinkish stone, with a high-pitched roof and tall stacks’ built 1716-18 by Col William Flower [b. 1685], MP, afterwards 1st Lord Castle Durrow, who employed a builder named Benjamin Crawley or Crowley. Of two storeys – originally with a dormered attic in the roof – and nine bays; the front being divided into three groups of three bays by giant Doric pilasters and entablature with urns; now erected on the front of a C19 enclosed porch. Alterntive triangular and segmental pediments over ground floor windows. Originally the house was flanked by single-storey outbuildings with mullion-and-transom windows; but these have since been replaced by other outbuildings; while the front has been extended by the addition of two projecting bays at one side. The interior was originally panelled, the hall and dining room in oak; but the panelling now survived only in two rooms. Subsequent generations of the family, who from 1751 held the title of Viscount Ashbrook [Henry Flower (1712-1752)], adorned the house with C18 plasterwork and C19 stained glass; as well as building the impressive castellated entrance gate in the square of the little town of Durrow. Castle Durrow was sold by 9th Viscount Ashbrook 1922 and is now a convent school.In recent years, the attic dormers have been removed.” 

The 4th Viscount, Henry Flower, married Deborah Susannah Freind. Their son the 5th Viscount, Henry, married Frances Robinson, daughter of John Robinson, who became 1st Baronet Robinson, of Rokeby Hall, Co. Louth, a section 482 property (see my entry). He was born John Freind, and changed his name to Robinson when he inherited Rokeby. The 6th and 7th Viscounts had no male heirs and the 8th Viscount, Colonel Robert Thomas Flower, was the son of the 5th Viscount. It was his son, the 9th Viscount, who sold Castle Durrow.

The website tells us:

Colonel William Flower commenced with the construction of the Manor in 1712. The Flower family assumed residence of Castle Durrow in 1716 and continued to expand and improve their estate on various occasions during their 214 year reign. Past research indicates that the Ashbrook family were generally regarded as benevolent landlords and of course the largest employer of Durrow Village.

In 1922 the banks finally foreclosed and the Flower family were forced to relocate to Britain. The castle was sold to Mr Maher of Freshford, County Kilkenny who was primarily interested in the rich timber reserves of the Estate and sold of most of the beautiful old oak trees to Britain, by 1928 the old hard wood forests of Durrow were scarce.

The Land Commission divided up the arable portions of the property and the Forestry department took over many of the woods for further plantation. During this time the great manor house remained entirely empty. The Bank of Ireland acquired the town and consequently for the next 40 years house property in Durrow was purchased from that bank.

In 1929 with the Bishop’s approval the Parish of Durrow acquired the Estate for the purchase price of £1800 and Castle Durrow was transformed into a school, St. Fintan’s College and Convent. The establishing of a school at Castle Durrow was testimony to the fact that beautiful buildings of the past could be used in the modern world. The Presentation order ran the castle as a closed convent before they opened up the castle as a primary and secondary school which stayed open until 1987.

In the 90’s, Peter and Shelly Stokes purchased Castle Durrow and began the castle’s renovations. The works took over 3 years to complete. The renovations were a bigger job than originally was thought; the roof had to be completely replaced, new wiring and plumbing was put in through the whole castle. When the roof was renewed the original black oak beams were exposed and they are now a feature in the oriental rooms. Irish oak floors with underfloor heating were put in. New wooden sash windows were made for the castle to replace the old rotten ones. The stained glass windows, fire places and magnificent plastered ceilings were all restored. Furniture for the entire house was handpicked from Irish and European auction houses and many family heirlooms and antiques can be found dotted around the grounds. The Stokes family manage the daily running of the castle and they are an intricate part of the charming homely feel.

4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois

http://www.coolanowle.com

The website tells us:

Coolanowle Country House is a multi award winning County House B&B offering an inviting and welcoming stay for all its guests. It also offers two tastefully restored  self catering holiday cottages as well as a cosy log house self catering chalet. In total it can accommodate up to 38 guests. 

Coolanowle is the perfect venue for small parties & events.  Set on 3 acres of natural woodland with historic flax ponds, it’s the perfect place to experience country living. Famous for organic traditional food and personal attention to detail, a stay here at Coolanowle will rejuvinate, regenerate and revive!  

5. Inch House, County Laois €

https://inchhouseireland.ie/

Inch House, Monaferrick, Stradbally, Co Laois, ©Michael Fitzpatrick _Inch House Ireland.

The National Inventory tells us that it was built around 1830.

6. Roundwood, Mountrath, Co Laois – guest house

https://roundwoodhouse.com 

and the forge and writer’s cottage at Roundwood

The website tells us: “Nestled in 18 acres of native woodland, just over an hour from Dublin, Roundwood House is a B&B and restaurant with six bedrooms in the Main House, four in the older restored Yellow House, two self-catering cottages, a wonderful library, a dog that gives walking tours, two little girls, some hens and ducks to greet you on arrival and a rooster named Brewster.”

The website tells us a little of the history of the house: “Built in 1731 for a prosperous Quaker family of cloth makers by the name of Sharp, it retains much of its charm and feel from its early days.

Most of its original features remain intact including chimney pieces of Black Kilkenny marble, carved timber architraves, sash windows and Rococo plasterwork.The 1970s were a particularly colourful time in Roundwood’s history. Then, under the ownership of the Irish Georgian Society, Roundwood became a party house for a young, upper-class, bohemian setSome individuals stand out during the 1970s in Roundwood, including Brian Molloy, who abandoned his law degree in favour of working on restoring houses with the Irish Georgian Society. Molloy brought the derelict Roundwood back to life and guests remember his hospitality, with candlelight, bouquets of wild flowers and “music floating out from somewhere”.

Hannah’s parents, Frank and Rosemary Kennan, bought Roundwood in 1983, after it had been rescued by the Irish Georgian Society from the fate of demolition. A decade of restoration by the Society followed, after which Hannah’s parents opened their home to guests and lovingly ran it for 25 years.

Just over a decade ago, Hannah & Paddy took the reins. Paddy Flynn, a musician from Canada, met Hannah in Galway where she was studying Classical Civilization. They decided that a life as live-in hosts in a Georgin Country House was an appealing prospect and so left their city life behind to do just that. They and their two girls, Amélie and Lucie, look forward to welcoming you into their beautiful home.

An added feature of Roundwood is a special library:

Frank’s Library is situated in the old Coach House on the grounds of Roundwood House. It is an English language library with approximately two thousand volumes.

The library is intended to facilitate a general understanding of the development of civilisation & to celebrate those individuals who successfully climbed onto the shoulders of millions to give us something new & beautiful; a poem, a philosophy, a scientific theory, a painting, a symphony, a new kind of politics or technology. The intention is to do this within the overall picture of our history from the beginning, with our darkest periods included.

Spread over two levels, with ample desks and armchairs in cosy corners, the library is couched in exposed brick, with beautiful brass lighting fixtures, a wrought-iron gallery and spiral staircase. Its book cases are packed wall to wall with everything from Fisk’s tome on the Middle East to an impressive fine art and limited edition facsimile copy of the Book of Kells.

The Library is open to guests staying in the house and the self-catering cottages. For anyone  not booked to stay, but interested in visiting the library , please contact us in advance.

Whole House Rental County Laois:

1. Ballintubbert House, County Laois – whole house and weddings

https://www.ballintubbert.com/exclusive-hire/manor-house/

Ballintubbert is a five-bay two-storey over basement rectory, c. 1835. It was previously owned by actor John Hurt, and poet Cecil Day-Lewis.

The Manor House has five double bedrooms and the Garden Wing has four additional double bedrooms. A beautiful country style kitchen, two stunning living rooms and a dining room that sits twenty. The house has six bathrooms.

2. Inch House, County Laois – see above

3. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois – whole house accommodation

https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/preston-house/

Hidden Ireland tells us:

We are delighted that you have found our beautifully restored 18th Century Georgian House, with a private courtyard and wooded garden, located on the Main Street of the picturesque Heritage Town of Abbeyleix.

Preston House is the perfect space to unite for family gatherings or private parties. Boasting the home from home comforts of a fully equipped country kitchen, a drawing room, a music parlour & two dining rooms, our six luxurious suites are individually decorated with a quirky mix of chic and antique furnishings, providing ample living space to comfortably accommodate 14 people.

Our country manor kitchen, with an Aga to boot, was originally designed to cater for up to 80 people but it’s perfect for large or small gatherings. The individual room mixes are the perfect setting for family dining, relaxing with friends or celebrations. The house as a whole can be transformed into an event or workshop space, a cultural gathering or wellness space.

With a beautiful courtyard for outdoor dining, historic curtledge and a wonderful tree lined garden Preston House is the perfect place for a family break, a celebration or a unique wedding setting.

The Lords Walk is just a short walk from Preston House, every day, there is an adventure waiting in Laois. With its mountains, canals, forest trails, rivers & lakes, Laois is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, Preston House and Abbeyleix is the perfect starting point to explore!

Each of the suites in Preston House has its own unique & fascinating story to tell. The Pembroke Suite was named after Pembroke Terrace, a group of four impressively designed houses built as part of a dowry by the 11th Earl of Pembroke & Montgomery when his daughter Emma married Thomas De Vesci the 3rd. At the turn of the century a constabulary barracks, an inspector’s house and the post office occupied Pembroke Terrace. The Preston Suite was named after a previous incarnation of this fine premises which was a post-primary school. Mr A. E. M. Charleton of Galway Grammar School was appointed Head Master in 1895. Two months later the school opened to both boarders and day pupils. It served as an excellent educational establishment until it closed in September 1966. The Heritage Suite was named after our local tourism and community centre Heritage house: It was a Boys National School until 1995, it now serves as heritage centre with a museum, meeting rooms and playground. It’s open to the public for guided tours, cultural events and exhibitions. Exhibits include ancient artifacts and recent traditional craft from Laois as well as artifacts from the Titanic Carpet factory here in Abbeyleix.

The Sexton Suite was named after Sexton House. On the retirement of the last sexton (an officer of a church), the house became somewhat derelict but as it forms a significant part of the town’s heritage its restoration was widely welcomed and it is now a notable stop on the Heritage Trails around the town. The Bramley Suite is named after Bramley’s premises on lower Main St dates back to the early 19th century. The first business was a saddlery and post office. Early in the 20th Century, the first automobile garage in Abbeyleix was opened at the rear of Bramley’s premises. The property beside Bramley’s was formerly the site of the Abbeyleix Carpet Factory, which closed in 1914. The De Vesci Suite is named after Abbeyleix House, home of the De Vesci family for over 300 years. It is a magnificent building built beside the Nore and situated in the rolling pastureland of the estate. It is now in private ownership. The estate is rich in history with the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey and the tomb of Malachy, King of Laois on its grounds.

[1] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en

[2] Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

Places to visit and stay in County Donegal, Ulster

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

The province of Ulster contains counties Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Donegal:

1. Cavanacor House, Ballindrait, Lifford, Co. Donegalsection 482

2. Doe Castle, County Donegal – OPW

3. Donegal Castle, County Donegal – OPW

4. Glebe Art Museum, County Donegal – OPW

5. Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal

6. Oakfield Park Garden, Oakfield Demesne, Raphoe, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

7. Salthill Garden, Salthill House, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

Places to Stay, County Donegal

1. Bruckless House Gate Lodge, Bruckless, County Donegal

2. Castle Grove, County Donegal – hotel €€

3. Cavangarden, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal – B&B

4. Dunmore, Carrigans, Co Donegal – weddings and accommodation

5. Frewin, Ramelton, Co Donegal – B&B and self-catering €

6. Lough Eske Castle, near Donegal, Co Donegal – hotel €€€

7. Rathmullan House, Co Donegal – hotel €€

8. Railway Crossing Cottage near Donegal town: Irish Landmark property €€

9. Rock Hill, Letterkenny, Co Donegal – hotel €€€

10. St. Columb’s, St Mary’s Road, Buncrana, Co Donegal

11. St John’s Point Lighthouse cottage, Dunkineely, County Donegal € for 3-4

12. Termon House, Dungloe, County Donegal, whole house rental: € for 3-6 

13. Woodhill House, Ardara, County Donegal

Whole House Rental, County Donegal:

1. Drumhalla House, Rathmullen, County Donegalwhole house rental and wedding venue

2. Dunmore, Carrigans, Co Donegal – weddings and accommodation

Places to visit in County Donegal:

1. Cavanacor House, Ballindrait, Lifford, Co. Donegal – section 482

Cavanacor House, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Joanna O’Kane
Tel: 074-9141143, 085-8165428
www.cavanacorgallery.ie
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 14-22, 1pm-5pm 

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €6 

2. Doe Castle, County Donegal – OPW

Doe Castle, Sheephaven Bay, Co Donegal, Gareth Wray Photography for Failte Ireland 2021.

see OPW entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/18/office-of-public-works-properties-ulster/

3. Donegal Castle, County Donegal – OPW

Donegal Castle, Feb 2014.

see OPW entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/18/office-of-public-works-properties-ulster/

4. Glebe Art Museum, County Donegal – OPW

see OPW entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/18/office-of-public-works-properties-ulster/

5. Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal

www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie

You can take a virtual tour online on the website.

Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool

Mark Bence-Jones writes in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 139. “(Adair/LG1863) A Victorian Baronial castle of rough-hewn granite at the end of a wooded promontory jutting out into Lough Veagh, surrounded by the bare and desolate hills of a deer-forest, so large as to seem like a world apart. Built 1870 [the website tells us 1857-9] by J.G. [John George] Adair, of Bellegrove, Co Leix, whose wife was a rich American heiress [Cornelia Wadsworth]; designed by his cousin, J.T. Trench. The castle consists of a frowning keep with Irish battlements, flanked by a lower round tower and other buildings; the effect being one of feudal strength. The entrance is by way of a walled courtyard. Glenveagh has always had an American connection; after the death of Mrs Adair, it was bought by the distinguished American archaeologist, Prof Kingsley Porter; then, in 1938, it was bought by its late owner, Mr Henry McIlhenny, of Philadelphia. Mr McIlhenny, whose hospitality was legendary, decorated and furnished the interior of the castle in a way that combined the best of the Victorian age with Georgian elegance and modern luxury; and which contrasted splendidly with the rugged medievalism of the exterior and the wildness of the surrounding glen. He also made what is now one of the great gardens of the British Isles. There are terraces with busts and statues, there is a formal pool by the side of the lough, an Italian garden, a walled garden containing a Gothic orangery designed by M. Philippe Jullian; while the hillside above the castle is planted with a wonderful variety of rare and exotic trees and shrubs.” 

Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see[3]).

The website tells us:

The estate of Glenveagh was created in 1857-9 by the purchase of several smaller holdings by John George Adair, a wealthy land speculator from Co. Laois. John Adair was to later incur infamy throughout Donegal and Ireland by ruthlessly evicting some 244 tenants in the Derryveagh Evictions.

After marrying his American born wife Cornelia, Adair began the construction of Glenveagh Castle in 1867, which was completed by 1873. Adair however was never to fulfil his dream of creating a hunting estate in the highlands of Donegal and died suddenly in 1885 on return from a business trip to America.

After her husband’s death Cornelia took over the running of the estate and introduced deer stalking in the 1890’s. She continually sought to improve the castle’s comforts and the beauty of its grounds, carrying out major improvements to the estate and laying out the gardens. Over the next 30 years she was to become a much noted society hostess and continued to summer at the castle until 1916.

Following the death of Mrs Adair in London in 1921, Glenveagh fell much into decline and was occupied by both the Anti-treaty and Free State Army forces during the Irish civil war.

Glenveagh’s next owner was not to be until 1929 when purchased by Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter of Harvard University who came to Ireland to study Irish archaeology and culture. The Kingsley Porters mainly entertained Irish literary and artistic figures including close friend AE Russell whose paintings still hang in the library of the castle. Their stay was to be short however as Arthur Kingsley Porter mysteriously disappeared from Inishbofin Island in 1933 while visiting the island.

The last private owner was Mr Henry McIlhenny of Philadelphia who bought the estate in 1937. Henry McIlhenny was an Irish American whose Grandfather John McIlhenny grew up in Milford a few miles north of Glenveagh. After buying the estate Mr McIlhenny devoted much time to restoring the castle and developing its gardens.

Eventually Henry McIlhenny began to find travelling to and from Ireland too demanding and the upkeep of the estate was also becoming a strain. In 1975 he agreed the sale of the estate to the Office of Public Works allowing for the creation of a National Park. In 1983 he bestowed the castle to the nation along with its gardens and much of the contents.

Glenveagh National Park opened to the public in 1984 while the castle opened in 1986. Today as under private ownership Glenveagh continues to attract and inspire visitors from all over the world.”

Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, photograph by Gareth Wray, 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.

The website tells us about the gardens:

The two major elements of the Garden, the Pleasure Gardens and the Walled Garden were constructed in the late 1880’s. The original Victorian Garden layout remains intact. It was for Mrs. Cornelia Adair that the gardens were constructed. Mrs. Adair had a Gardener’s House constructed at the top of the Walled Garden and employed a Kew trained gardener to lay out the gardens. Some of the planting in the Pleasure Grounds such as the purple maples and the shelter belt of Scots pine trees were planted at this time.

In 1929 Lucy and Arthur Kingsley-Porter became the new owners. They were also keen gardeners and Mrs Porter introduced the dahlia seed from which was grown the unique cultivar known as Dahlia ‘Matt Armour’ to Glenveagh.

The last private owner, Henry P McIlhenny began to develop the gardens in the late 1940’s with the assistance of Jim Russell of Sunningdale Nurseries and Lanning Roper his Harvard classmate, both well-known garden design consultants. From the late 1950’s through to the early 1980’s the design and layout of the garden was developed and refined to include the Gothic Orangery, the Italian Terrace, the Tuscan Garden, an ornamental Jardin Potager and the development of the plant collection.

Glenveagh is well known today for its rich collection of trees and shrubs specialising in southern hemisphere species and a diverse Rhododendron collection. Displays of Rhododendrons are at their best from late March to the end of May. A large collection of old narcissi varieties from Donegal gardens fills the walled garden in March and April. Displays of colour in the Walled Garden are at their best through the summer months. Fine specimens of the white flowered Eucryphia adorn the gardens in late summer. Dramatic autumn colour follows in October.

April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, the walled garden of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, the walled garden of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle: the Gardener’s House.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
April 2011, Tuscan Gardens of Glenveagh Castle, Italian Garden.
April 2011, Glenveagh Castle.
February 2015, Glenveagh Castle.
November 2017, Glenveagh Castle.
November 2017, gardens of Glenveagh Castle.
November 2017, The Italian Terrace of Glenveagh Castle.

6. Oakfield Park Garden, Oakfield Demesne, Raphoe, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

Oakfield Park, County Donegal, July 2022.

contact: David Fisher
Tel: 074-9173068 www.oakfieldpark.com

Open dates in 2022: Apr 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30, May 1-2, 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, 12 noon-6pm, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm, Sept 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29-30, 12 noon-6pm, Dec 1-5, 8-12, 15-23, Dec 1-17, weekdays, 4pm-10pm, weekends, 12noon-10pm, Dec 18-23, 12 noon-10pm 

Fee: adult €9, child €6, family and annual passes available.

Write-up coming soon!

Train, Oakfield Park.
Boardwalk, Oakfield Park.
Folly, Oakfield Park, July 2022.

7. Salthill Garden, Salthill House, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only

Salthill Garden, County Donegal, July 2021.

See my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/10/06/salthill-garden-salthill-house-mountcharles-county-donegal/
contact: Elizabeth Temple
Tel:  087-7988078, 074-9735014
www.donegalgardens.com
Open: May 1, 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, 27-29, June 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, July 1-3, 5-9, 12-24, 26-31, Aug 2-7, 9-22, 26-28, 30-31, Sept 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-30, 2pm- 6pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 10 years €2, over 10 years €3 

Places to Stay, County Donegal

1. Bruckless House Gate Lodge, Bruckless, County Donegal

www.hiddenireland.com/stay/self-catering-holiday-rentals

The website tells us:

Open all year round, Bruckless House Gate Lodge is available to rent for self-catering holidays. Situated on 18 acres of parkland, the Gate Lodge is surrounded by its own garden just off the private driveway leading to Bruckless House. Guests can stroll down the avenue to reach the rocky shoreline of Bruckless Bay. They are always welcome to call at Bruckless House with its informal gardens and cobbled yard, where poultry wander between the Connemara Ponies.

The Gate Lodge is comprised of four rooms in total. Bruckless Gate Lodge has an open plan living room and kitchen with an open fireplace, a full-sized bathroom and two bedrooms. There is a television set provided and all rooms have electric storage heating. Free wireless Internet connection is also available to guests at Bruckless Gate Lodge.

Bruckless House was built in mid-18th century by a Plantation family, Nesbitt, but quickly passed into the hands of an Irish family, the Cassidys. It remained with them right into the 20th century. Legend has it that a Gate Lodge was built along with the House and that it was located at the then main entrance, near the River Stank off the present-day main road. Today there are no signs of this building – it was probably demolished to make way for the tracks of the County Donegal Railway. By 1894 the main entrance had been removed to the present location, using a bridge to cross the railway, but no Gate Lodge was built until the new century.

2. Castle Grove, County Donegal – hotel €€

Castlegrove, County Donegal. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.castlegrove.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 70. “(Campbell-Grove/IFR) A two storey Georgian house, repaired and modernized by Thomas Brooke (nee Grove) ca. 1825. Tripartite pedimented doorcase, with Doric columns and pilasters. Attractive early C19 conservatory of glass and wood flanking entrance front.” 

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us:

Castle Grove Country House Hotel is one of the few remaining family run private estates in the North West of Ireland.  Located six miles north of Letterkenny, it provides the perfect base to explore the beautiful scenery of Donegal and the Wild Atlantic way. 

This near-original Georgian house was built in 1695 and is situated at the end of a mile-long avenue on the shores of Lough Swilly. The 250 acre grounds are made up of farmland and extensive gardens that were designed by Capability Brown.

The Grove family estate dates to 1656 when William Grove resided at Castle Shanaghan, approximately 1 mile from the current location. During the ‘Siege of Derry’, James II lauded William Grove for his military knowledge, which led to the family house being burnt down after the siege.

After the ‘Siege of Derry’ in 1690, Castle Grove House was built in 1695 nearer Lough Swilly and was later added to between 1750 and 1780. 

The ownership of Castle Grove throughout the years is as significant as the history of the house. It remained in the Grove family until 1970 when the last of the family died. 

The Grove/Boyton family played a pivotal role in the election of Daniel O’Connell to Parliament in 1828. Another famous son who left Castle Grove to achieve greatness was General Richard Montgomery who left the British Army in 1772 and emigrated to America where he later led the cavalry in the Battle of Quebec where he was slain in 1775.  His bravery was later honoured by having his remains interred at St. Pauls cathedral in New York City.

In 1970 Castle Grove passed to a relative who used it as a private home until 1989 when it was sold to the current owners, The Sweeney’s.

3. Cavangarden, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal – B&B 

http://www.cavangardenhouse.com

The website tells us:

Cavangarden House, a spacious Georgian period residence offering B&B accommodation dates back to 1750 when it was built by the Atkinson family and it still retains the character of that by-gone age, with antique furniture, majestic gardens and a private tree-lined entrance.

Located in the tranquil Donegal countryside the house is now owned by the Mc Caffrey family and is surrounded by a working farm of 380 acres.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 81. “Atkinson/LFI1958) A two storey gable ended house built 1781 by John Atkinson. Entrance front of one bay on either side of a central bow, to which an enclosed pillared porch was later added. Attic lit by windows in gable-ends; gable-ends truncated, making the roof partly hipped.” 

Self-catering in Cavangarden Court http://www.cavangardencourt.com/

4. Dunmore, Carrigans, Co Donegal – accommodation € 

https://www.dunmoregardens.ie/our-history/

Dunmore House, County Donegal. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
The Suite, Dunmore Gardens, County Donegal, photograph courtesy of Dunmore Gardens.

The website tells us that Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) apparently visited Dunmore and enjoyed its gardens on a few occasions as a guest of the McClintocks of Dunmore, to whom she was related through marriage! The website informs us that the siege of Derry is a key event in the history of the area and that the army of King James II may have burnt the original house as it retreated.

In 1709 the McClintocks demolished the ruins of Dunmore although the cellars remained and thus predate the existing house. The house as we know it was built in 1742.

The house was purchased by the current owner’s grandfather, and was turned into a guest house and wedding venue in 2017. There is also a log cabin for accommodation.

The bedroom suite, Dunmore, photograph courtesy of Dunmore Gardens.
Log Cabin accommodation, Dunmore.

The history of Dunmore starts with the Ulster plantations. Dunmore is situated just outside Carrigans, near Derry. It overlooks the Foyle and is just down the road from the castle of Mongavlin, where Red Hugh O’Donnell was born. After the flight of the Earls in 1607, when the O’Neills and the O’Donnells fled, the estates of these great Gaelic lords were confiscated and distributed among planters. Carrigans was a planter town. And it was the Scottish Stewarts and Cunninghams who settled in the area.

The Harveys of Malin Head, who had been merchants in Bristol, originally owned Dunmore. Their daughter, Elizabeth, married William McClintock [1657-1724], apparently in 1685.

A gatepost shows four key dates associated with Dunmore:

  • 1620
  • 1678 dh (David Harvey)
  • 1709 wm (William McClintock)
  • 1742 jm (John McClintock).
  • Mark Bence-Jones describes Dunmore House in Burke’s Guide to Country Houses 1978 as “A gable ended mid C18 house which Dr Craig considers may be by Michael Priestly. 2 storey with an attic lit by windows in the gable ends, 5 bay front with central venetian window above tripartite doorway later obscured by a porch. Lower 2 storey wing added later.  Staircase extending into central projection at the back of house.”
Entrance to Dunmore House, County Donegal. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Robert McClintock, 1804 -1859 [grandson of William], built the walls of the walled garden in the early 19th century. Certainly there was work on the walls as famine relief. There is a plague on the wall of the garden with the date of 1845.

The oldest known picture of Carrigans village shows a mill. The mill was apparently built on the ruins of Carrigans castle.

In the 20th century Robert McClintock lived at Dunmore. He was a keen and talented engineer. He built a series of interconnected ponds and a collection of sundials, scattered through the walled gardens. He also invented the Bangalore torpedo while in the British Indian Army unit, the Madras Sappers and Miners, at Bangalore, India, in 1912. They were a means of exploding booby traps and barricades left over from the Boer and Russo-Japanese Wars and were used at the Battle of the Somme.

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

5. Frewin, Ramelton, Co Donegal – B&B and self-catering cottage accommodation

Frewin House, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.Detached multiple-bay two-storey with attic level former Church of Ireland rectory on complex L-shaped plan, built c. 1890.

https://www.frewinhouse.com/

Formerly a rectory. The National Inventory tells us:

This fine and well-maintained late nineteenth-century\late Victorian former Church of Ireland rectory retains its early form and character, and is one of the most attractive examples of its type and date in County Donegal. Its complex and eclectic form with advanced bays, canted bays, gablets, gable-fronted bays, half-dormers, irregular fenestration pattern, and a variety of differently-shaped window openings helps to create a varied composition of some picturesque appeal. The deliberate asymmetry to the main elevations is a characteristic feature of many late Victorian and Edwardian middle class domestic houses and structures found throughout Ireland. Its visual appeal and integrity is enhanced by the retention of all its salient fabric including natural slate roof, a variety of timber sliding sash windows, and timber panelled door. Although probably originally rendered (rubble stone masonry), the contrast between the pale dimension stone and the extensive red sandstone and red brick trim adds textural interest to this unusual house on the outskirts of Ramelton. Interest is added at roofscape level by the tall, well-detailed red brick chimneystacks, the terracotta ridge tiles and finial, and the detailing to the gable-fronted bay and half-dormers….It appears to have been built by 1894 (Slater’s Directory) when a Revd. H.F. McDonald was the rector.

Frewin House, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Frewin House, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Entrance to Frewin House, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

6. Lough Eske Castle, near Donegal, Co Donegal – 5 * hotel €€€

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.lougheskecastlehotel.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 192. “(Brooke, sub Brookeborough, V/PB; White/LGI1912) A Tudor-Baronial castle of 1866 by FitzGibbon Louch, built for the Donegal branch of the Brookes whose progenitor built Donegal Castle. Of ashlar; two storeys built over high basement, with four storey square tower at one end. Imposing Gothic porch betwen two oriels; battlemented parapet with two curvilinear blind gables. Tower with machicolations, crow-step battlements and curved corbelled oriels. Lower two storey battlemented range with corner turret at other end of front. Sold 1894, after the death of Thomas Brooke, to Major-Gen H.G. White. Largely gutted by fire 1939; but one wing remains intact and is still occupied.” 

Lough Eske Castle hotel, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3]).

The National Inventory tells us that after the fire in 1939 Lough Eske was unoccupied and derelict until c. 2007. Now rebuilt (2007) and in use as a hotel with multiple modern extensions to the rear (north-west) and to the south-west elevation.

David Hicks has a chapter about Lough Eske Castle in his book Irish County Houses: Chronicle of Change (Collins Press, Cork, 2012). He tells us that it was built for Thomas Young, who inherited the property from his mother’s brother, Thomas Grove, who had taken the name Brooke when he inherited the Lough Eske property from his uncle Henry Vaughan Brooke (1743-1807). As a condition of inheriting the property, Thomas Young also had to adopt the Brooke name and coat of arms, so he became Thomas Young Brooke.

The family are descended from Basil Brooke (1567-1633) who lived in Brooke Manor in County Donegal. He was granted Donegal Castle and large amounts of land in Donegal, including the land on which Lough Eske was built.

His son Henry (d. 1671) lived in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh. He was granted land in Fermanagh after he fought to suppress the 1641 uprising. He married three times and had several children. Henry’s son Basil Brooke (1638-1692) married and had a son, Henry Brooke (1692-abt. 1725). He married Elizabeth Vaughan, daughter of Colonel George Vaughan of Buncrana, County Donegal. They had a son, Basil Brooke (abt. 1705-1768), who married Jane Wray from Castle Wray, County Donegal. Their children were Henry Vaughan Brooke and Rose Vaughan Brook.

Henry Vaughan Brooke (1743-1807) inherited Lough Eske. His sister was Rose Vaughan Brooke. She married James Grove (1725-1793) of Castle Grove, County Donegal. It was their son Thomas Grove who took the name Brooke. He, however, died childless in 1830, so the property passed to Thomas Young, son of Jane Grove (Thomas Grove Brooke’s sister) and Thomas Young.

Thomas Young Brooke (1804-1884) placed the Brooke coat of arms over the front door of the castle which he had built. It was built on the site of an old Jacobean house. His architect, Fitzgibbon Louch was from Derry. The National Inventory tells us that the present edifice replaced earlier houses on the same site, which where built in 1621 and 1751. It is possible that the building retains fabric from the earlier 1751 house as the south-east part of the house occupies much the same footprint as the earlier building. The 1621 house, the Inventory tells us, “was probably built for the Knox family, who owned the Lough Eske Castle until 1717 when it passed, through marriage, into the ownership of the Brooke family.” I’m not sure about this, I can’t find the Knox family who owned the property nor can see what married this refers to.

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The entrance front of the castle is 130 feet long, and the front door is under a carved stone porch.

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory description continues:

Set back from road in extensive mature wooded and landscaped grounds to the south-west corner of Lough Eske, and to the north-east of Donegal Town. Mature parkland to the south and wooded grounds to the west and the south-west. Modern gravel forecourt to the south-east. Associated outbuildings to the rear, walled garden to the north-east, gate lodges to the east and to the south/south-west , memorial cross to the east, and two-storey building to the north. Rubble stone boundary wall to estate, now largely ruinous. Remains of earlier castle in grounds to the east. [this is an O’Donnell castle]

This rambling Elizabethan-style or Tudor Revival house, with its dramatic roofline of Tudoresque chimneystacks, turrets, curvilinear gables, machicolations and crenellated parapets, is one of the more important elements of the built heritage of County Donegal. It is well-built using local ashlar sandstone masonry and it is extensively detailed with carved and cut sandstone of the highest quality (the sandstone is apparently from Monaghan’s Quarry near Frosses, and was transported to the site along a road specifically constructed for the task). The central three-storey block with the entrance porch flanked by canted-bay windows is symmetrical, but the other elevations of the main block, the tower, and the ancillary wings are irregular, which creates an interesting and complex plan with contrasting elevations and perspectives.

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory continues: “Lough Eske Castle is a notable example of the nineteenth century penchant for dramatic architecture, and is built in a highly effective revivalist fifteenth/sixteenth/early seventeenth-century architectural idiom that compliments the spectacular site and perhaps references the history of the surrounding area (the history of the Brooke family who arrived as part of the Plantation at the start of the seventeenth century and of Donegal Castle in particular). Lough Eske Castle was originally built to designs by Fitzgibbon Louch (1826 – 1911) for Thomas Brooke. The main contractor involved was Albert Williams, and the clerk of works was a Michael Stedman. The finely carved coat-of-arms/family crest over the main doorway is of the Brooke family.”

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

When Thomas Young Brooke died in 1884 the castle was advertised for sale. It was purchased by Major General Henry George White in 1894, who moved his family here from Wales. His son Major Henry White (d. 1936) inherited the castle in 1906. A Celtic high cross marks his father’s grave on the property.

Henry extended the castle in 1911, adding a ballroom wing, and he modernised it with electricity and new plumbing.

Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The family left the castle during the Irish Civil War, since many big houses were being burned down. The contents were sold and the house placed on the market.

The National Inventory continues: “The estate later passed into the ownership of the Knee family who ran a hotel here from 1930 until 1939. The castle was largely burnt-out during a disastrous fire in 1939, and remained derelict until c. 2007 when it was renovated and extended to form a hotel. The façade was re-created in these works using the original designs. This fine edifice forms the centrepiece of an extensive collection of related structures along with the outbuildings to the rear, the walled garden to the north-east, gate lodges to the east and to the south/south-west , memorial cross to the east, and a two-storey building to the north, and represents an important element of the built heritage and history of the local area.”

The castle was sold after the fire to Scott Swan, David Hicks tells us, who renovated and lived in one of the wings. It was sold again and lay empty for years until Donegal man Pat Doherty, CEO, chairman and founder of Harcourt Developments, who renovated it to be a five star hotel.

7. Rathmullan House, Co Donegal – hotel €€

WWW.RATHMULLANHOUSE.COM

Rathmullan House, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us:

The original house was built in typical Georgian style around 1760s and was part of the Knox family estates. Bishop Knox of Derry and Raphoe built the house as a bathing place when he left the priory in Rathmullan to move to Prehen in Derry. Later in the 18oo’s it became the country residence of the Batt family who were linen brokers and founders of the Belfast bank, now the Northern and Northern Irish Bank. The Batt family townhouse in Belfast is now Purdysburn Hospital.

Thomas Batt’s substantial renovations in 1870 doubled the house in size. The three bay windows were added and the grounds extensively planted. The Batt family resided here until the 1940’s. After the war the Holiday Fellowship used the house as a centre for walking holidays until the train service to Buncrana ceased.

Bob and Robin Wheeler bought the house in 1961. After lovingly transforming the dormitories back into the original bedrooms, they opened the house in 1962 as a 22 bedroom hotel. The original pavilion dining room designed by the late Dr Liam Mc Cormick was built in 1969 with a swimming pool and a new bedroom wing added in the 1990’s. In 2004, the new regency bedroom wing opened along with The Gallery Room and the Cook & Gardener restaurant was renovated and redesigned.

Mark and Mary are now the second generation to run the house and take pride in keeping as many original features whilst adding in modern comforts for their guests.

8. Railway Crossing Cottage near Donegal town €€

www.irishlandmark.com

Sleeps two, from €350 for two nights.

9. Rockhill House, Letterkenny, Co Donegal – hotel €€€

Rockhill House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.rockhillhouse.ie

The website tells us of the history of Rockhill House:

Rockhill House can trace its roots to the 17th Century plantation of Ulster. Seat of the Chambers family for 172 years, the property was acquired in 1832 by the aristocratic ornithologist, John Vandeleur Stewart. Stewart engaged famed Dublin architect, John Hargrave [c. 1788-1833], to design a radical extension and remodelling of the house, and the new owner carried out comprehensive draining, planting and cultivation of the lands to create the lush, Georgian idyll that remained in his family until the 1936 break-up of the Estate and sale of the property and 100 acres to the Commissioner of Public Works.

A headquarters of the Irish Defence Forces through to early 2009, the Army’s exit began a period of vacancy that allowed Rockhill House to slip into disrepair and decay. The Estate, too, was a shadow of what it was during its days of care and plenty under the Stewarts.

When today’s owners, the Molloy family, got the keys in 2014, a vast task met them. When they first stepped into the house, it was possible to stand in the basement and see the roof, three storeys above!

This began a three-year labour of love for the Molloys, whose sensitive restoration, while being true to Rockhill’s rich past, now takes it into a great new heyday. Once again, the great halls and galleries of the Big House are filled with light and the colours and textures of its Georgian tastemakers.

Original features – from cornices, ceiling roses, and spiral staircases to picture rails, ironwork and fireplaces – have been salvaged where possible, and historically replicated wherever the original has been lost to time. The Estate is springing back to life, with verdant gardens adorned with Temple and fountain; and lost woodland walks uncovered for new exploration.”

Rockhill House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

10. St. Columb’s, St Mary’s Road, Buncrana, Co Donegal

~ Tel: 087 4526696 ~ Email: info@stcolumbshouse.com

https://stcolumbshouse.com

St Columbs House B&B is a beautifully restored 6 bedroom period house located on the Wild Atlantic Way in the historic seaside town of Buncrana on the Inishowen peninsula. It has a Catholic Church across the road and on its doorstep is a variety of bustling restaurants, bars and a variety of shopping, all just a short walk away.

11. St John’s Point Lighthouse cottage, Dunkineely, County Donegal € for 3-4

SJ Schooner: “Schooner is located on St. John’s Point Lighthouse station in Co. Donegal. It’s quite a thrill driving down to St. John’s Point Lighthouse, to see it looming at the end of one of the longest peninsulas in Ireland. Stay at Schooner and enjoy all that St. John’s Point, Donegal and surrounds have to offer.” Sleeps 4. From €442 for 2 nights.

and SJ Clipper: “Clipper is located on St. John’s Point Lighthouse station in Co. Donegal. It’s quite a thrill driving down to St. John’s Point Lighthouse, to see it looming at the end of one of the longest peninsulas in Ireland. Stay at Clipper and enjoy all that St. John’s Point, Donegal and surrounds have to offer.” Sleeps 4. From €442 for 2 nights.

https://www.irishlandmark.com/properties/

12. Termon House, Dungloe, County Donegal, whole house rental: € for 3-6 

Termon House, County Donegal, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/cottages-and-houses/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApL2QBhC8ARIsAGMm-KFInICcRSxwLSiDxfFNk5WFytNcVrLvOQYhzJbIBes4V-M65iXz0gYaAln_EALw_wcB

Termon House, a former 18th century land agent’s house in Maghery, near Dungloe, is located in the heart of the Gaeltacht area. Sleeps 6. From €487 for 2 nights.

13. Woodhill House, Ardara, County Donegal

https://www.woodhillhouse.com

The website tells us:

Woodhill House is an historic coastal manor house dating back in parts to the 17th century. The 6th century religious relic, St. Conal’s Bell, was mysteriously stolen from Woodhill House in 1845.

The house which overlooks the beautiful Donegal Highlands is set in its own grounds with an old walled garden. It is half a mile from the sea and a quarter of a mile from the coastal town of Ardara on the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’. The house offers unusual and interesting accommodation with private bathrooms, 3 star rated. There is a fully licensed lounge bar, which has occasional music sessions for tourists and locals alike. Woodhill House is well known for its high quality and reasonably priced restaurant which accommodates house guests and the general public. The menu is French/Contemporary Irish based using fresh Irish produce, especially seafood from nearby Killybegs.”

Whole House Rental, County Donegal

1. Drumhalla House, Rathmullen, County Donegal – whole house rental and wedding venue

https://drumhallahouse.ie

Steeped in history, the house was originally built in 1789 by Dr Knox of Lifford. The house and grounds have now been beautifully restored by the present owner and offer luxury accommodation as well as a unique, private location for a variety of functions including weddings and corporate events.

Drumhalla House offers superior 5 star accommodation and is a much sought after and unique wedding venue.

Panoramic views over Lough Swilly and the renowned Kinnegar beach provide the perfect backdrop for your wedding day. The beautifully maintained grounds and lawns at Drumhalla House make it perfect for your guests to enjoy and explore.

Allow our Country Manor House, complete with 5 star accommodation at Drumhalla to transform your wedding ideas into the fairytale you always dreamed of.

All of our bedrooms are individual and unique and everything one would expect in a much loved Manor House. The rooms are very comfortable and traditional in style and filled with carefully chosen furnishings. They are located on the 1st floor of the house and provide varied views over the gardens and beach.

Places to visit and stay in County Offaly

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly

[at some time, to re-open to the public, the gardens at Bellefield – see Robert O’Byrne’s blog: https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/05/02/bellefield/

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly

7. Corolanty House, Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly

8. Crotty Church, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

9. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly

10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

11. Leap Castle, County Offaly

12. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly

13. Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Places to stay, County Offaly

1. Ballynacard House, Birr, County Offaly €

2. Kinnity Castle (formerly Castle Bernard), Kinnity, County Offaly €€

3. Loughton House, County Offaly

4. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Whole house rental, County Offaly:

1. Ballycumber, County Offaly – whole house rental (13 guests)

2. Loughton House, County Offaly

Places to visit in County Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

contact: Rudolf Prosoroff
Tel: 0043 676 5570097
Open: April 4-8, 19-28, May 2-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26, 30-31, June 1-2, 6-9, 13-16, 20- 23, 27-30, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €10, student /OAP/child €5

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

An article in the Irish Times by Gemma Tipton in March 2014 tells us that Ballindoolin near Edenderry is the old demesne of the Bor family. The Humphrey Bor family lived on the estate from 1620 untill the 1890s brought them financial difficulty and their land agent William Tyrell took over the demesne when they vacated it. The house was built in 1822.  

When Robert Moloney inherited it in 1993, he and his wife Esther began a huge project of renovation and restoration, including reroofing, replumbing and rewiring.  

Outside, with the help of Fáilte Ireland and some EU funds, the original large walled gardens were returned to their exact and former glory, as one of 26 chosen under the Great Gardens Restoration Scheme.

The house was again on the market in 2021. Gemma Tipton writes tells us a bit more about the house in the August article in the Irish Times: The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie. Tipton tells us that the gate lodge is designed originally by  William Morrison for the Duke of Abercorn.
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

Tipton writes:

Robert and Esther used documents and diaries to ensure the restoration, inside and out, was in-keeping, later donating 40 boxes of account books, ledgers and records to the archives at NUI Maynooth for safe-keeping.  

These reveal a wealth of stories about the day-to-day running of the house, although it is just as easy to imagine them coming alive as you wander through the rooms. There is the wide, stone-flagged hallway, and the cosier, but still imposing back hall. The drawing room has its original wallpaper and chandelier; the marvellous fireplaces are intact. ”

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie. Gemma Tipton writes that The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.

Tipton tells us:

Ballindoolin last sold in 2017, to an Austrian businessman, who fell in love with the house, its enviable position (less than an hour’s drive to Dublin city centre) and its stories. His plan was to lavish it with care and attention, and ultimately move over with his family. The first part worked out beautifully – Ballindoolin is in showpiece condition, but the family’s plans changed, and so it is now on the market.

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

Ballybrittan Castle, County Offaly, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Rosemarie
Tel: 087-2469802 

www.ballybrittancastle.com

Open: Jan 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 21-30, 2pm-6pm.
Fee: Free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.

The National Inventory describes it: “Detached four-bay two-storey house, built c.1750, with return and extension to rear and adjoining outbuildings to north. Set within own grounds…Modest in design, this fine house retains its original character with minimal intervention. The simple well proportioned façade is enhanced by the survival of its sash windows and door, while the finely executed door surround forms a subtle adornment. The outbuildings to rear, along with the iron-mongery to the front, complete this appealing domestic complex.” [1]

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly

contact: Alicia Clements Tel: 057-9120056

www.birrcastle.com

Open: May 17-Aug 31, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-2, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €20, child free

Birr Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [2]

Our tour guide was young but thoroughly knowledgeable. He walked a group of us over to the castle, across the moat, which he told us had been created, along with the walls surrounding the castle demesne, and the stone stable buildings, which are now the reception courtyard, museum and cafe, in 1847 when the owners of Birr Castle provided employment to help to stave off the hunger of the famine. 

Gates made by Lady Rosse, Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse, with the family motto, “For God and the Land to the Stars.” The motto was originally for God and King but, unhappy with the monarch’s response to the famine, the family changed their motto.

I was intrigued to hear that the gates had been made by one of the residents of the castle, Lady Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse. She was an accomplished ironworker!! She brought a fortune with her to the castle when she married the Earl of Rosse, which enabled him to build his telescope. But more on that later. 

Birr Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

More on Birr Castle soon!

Birr Castle, photograph by Liam Murphy, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website tells us:

In Anglo Norman Times, the Castle was built on the motte. The gate tower of this led into the castle bawn (courtyard) which is now the centre of the present building. The Central Gate Passage with its 12 foot walls can be seen in the lower floor of the present building.

The castle or fortress of Birr was re occupied by the O’Carroll’s who held it until the 1580s when it was sold to the Ormond Butlers. In 1620 the now ruined castle was granted to the Parsons family by James I.  Rather than occupy the tower house of the O’Carrolls, the Parsons decided to turn the Norman Gate Tower into their ‘English House’. Building on either side and incorporating two Flanking Towers.  Sir Laurence Parsons did a large amount of building and remodelling including the building of the two flanking towers, before his death in 1628. This is all accounted for in our archives.

The castle survived two sieges in the 17th century, leaving the family impoverished at the beginning of the 18th century. This led to little was done to the 17thcentury house.  However, sometime between the end of that century and the beginning of the 19th century, the house which had always faced the town, was given a new gothic facade, which now faces the park.  The ancient towers and walls, now the park side of the castle, were swept away, including the Black Tower (The Tower House) of the O’Carroll’s, which had stood on the motte. Around 1820 the octagonal Gothic Saloon overlooking the river was cleverly added into the space between the central block and the west flanking tower.

After a fire in the central block in 1836 the centre of the castle was rebuilt, with the ceilings heightened, a third story added and also the great dining room. In the middle of the 1840s a larger work force was employed during the famine times in Ireland. The old moat and the original Norman motte were flattened, and a new star-shaped moat was designed, with a keep gate. This was financed by Mary, Countess of Rosse. This period of remodelling was also overlapped with the construction of the Great Telescope, The Leviathan. Which was completed in 1845.

The final work on the castle was completed in the 1860s when a Square Tower at the back of the castle on the East side was added. This now contains nurseries on the top floor which have a great view over the town of Birr.”

Birr Castle gardens, photograph for Tourism Ireland, 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website also gives us a good history of the family:

The Parsons family arrived at Birr in 1620. They acquired the ruined fortress of Birr. It had been an O’Carroll castle, but had for some twenty years belonged to the Ormond Butlers. Sir Laurence [1576-1628], one of four brothers living in Ireland at the beginning of end of the 16th century, had been working with his cousin Richard Boyle the great Earl of Cork,(to whom he was related through the Fenton family, in Youghal). Laurence died suddenly in 1628 and was succeeded by his second son, William, ably supported by his mother, Anne, née Malham, a Yorkshire woman related to the Tempest family.

Sir Laurence’s elder brother, also William, became Surveyor General of Ireland and founded the elder branch of the family, living in Bellamont, Dublin. This branch died out at the end of the 18th century.

The 17th century was a turbulent one for the Parsons family in Birr. The castle was involved in two sieges, the first in the 1640s where the family moved for a time to London, before returning at the end of the Cromwellian period. In 1690 the castle was besieged again, by Sarsfield [Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan].This time the Castle held out and Sarsfield moved on.

The 18th century was a quiet period for the family who were left with little money and returned to improving their estates at Birr and living off the land. Towards the end of the century Sir Laurence, [1758-1841] 5th baronet, became a politician and friend of Flood and Grattan. He was praised for his honesty. He opposed the Act of Union. He became 2nd Earl of Rosse in 1807 when he inherited the title from his Uncle [Lawrence Harman Parsons-Harman, 1st Earl of Rosse, who had inherited Newcastle, County Longford].”

Birr Castle, this is the only photograph I can find of the inside as one cannot take photographs! photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website history of the family continues:

The 19th century saw the castle become a great centre of scientific research when William Parsons, 3rd Earl built the great telescope. (See astronomy).His wife, Mary, whose fortune helped him to build the telescope and make many improvements to the castle, was a pioneer photographer and took many photographs in the 1850s.  Her dark room – a total time capsule which was preserved in the Castle – has now been exactly relocated in the Science Centre.

Their son the 4th Earl also continued astronomy at the castle and the great telescope was used up to the beginning of the 2nd world war. His son the 5th Earl was interested in agriculture and visited Denmark in search of more modern and successful methods. Sadly he died of wounds in the 1st world war.

His son, Michael the 6th Earl and his wife Anne created the garden for which Birr is now famous. (see the gardens and trees and plants) Anne, who was the sister of Oliver Messel the stage designer, brought many treasures to Birr from the Messel collection and with her skill in interior decoration and artist’s eye, transformed the castle, giving it the magical beauty that is now apparent to all.  Michael was also much involved in the creation of the National Trust in England after the war.

Their son Brendan, the present Earl, spent his career in the United Nations Development Programme, living with his wife Alison and their family in many third world countries.  He returned to Ireland on his father’s death in 1979.  Brendan and Alison have also spent much time on the garden, especially collecting and planting rare trees.  Their three children are all passionate about Birr and continue to add layers to the story for the future.

Patrick, Lord Oxmantown currently lives in London and is working on plans to bring large scale investment into Birr which will enable him and his family to move back to Ireland.

Alicia Clements managers the Birr Castle Estate and lives in the sibling house of Tullanisk.

Michael Parsons, works in London managing a portfolio of properties for the National Trust and is a board member to The Birr Scientific and Heritage Foundation.”

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

contact: Martin O’Rourke
Tel: 086-2594914
Open: June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €2, student/child free, family €5

Boland’s Lock, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Designed by Michael Hayes of Tullamore Harbour.

The National Inventory describes it: “Oval-shaped four-bay two-storey lock keeper’s house, built c.1800, with a projecting bow to the front and rear. Located at the 26th lock on the Grand Canal.”

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

Charleville Castle, August 2018.

Charleville Castle was built to replace a seventeenth century house called Redwood. It was built 1800-1812 for Charles William Bury (1764-1835), later 1st Earl of Charleville, and was designed by Francis Johnston. Charles William Bury was from Shannongrove, County Limerick, and his mother from Sopwell Hall County Tipperary. His father John succeeded to the Charleville estates of his maternal uncle, Charles Moore, 1st Earl of Charleville. On Charles Moore’s death the title became extinct, until Charles William Bury was created 1st Earl of Charleville of the second creation in 1806. Due to the lack of male heirs in the Moore family after Charles Moore’s death in 1764, and the fact that John Moore died later that year in 1764 the land was inherited by Charles William Bury who was the grand nephew of the last Earl, at just six months old.

The entrance door, and the ecclesiasticali inspired window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 82. “(Bury/IFR) The finest and most spectacular early C19 castle in Ireland, Francis Johnston’s Gothic masterpiece, just as Townley Hall, County Louth, is his Classical masterpiece. Built 1800-1812 for Charles William Bury, 1st Earl of Charleville, replacing a C17 house on a different site known as Redwood. A high square battlemented block with, at one corner, a heavily machicolated octagon tower, and at the other, a slender round tower rising to a height of 125 feet, which has been compared to a castellated lighthouse. From the centre of the block rises a tower-like lantern. The entrance door, and the window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch. The entire building is cut-stone, of beautiful quality.” [3]

To the right of the entrance front, and giving picturesque variety to the composition, is a long, low range of battlemented offices, including a tower with pinnacles and a gateway.

To the right of the entrance front, and giving picturesque variety to the composition, is a long, low range of battlemented offices, including a tower with pinnacles and a gateway. Charleville Castle, August 2018.

Mark Bence-Jones continues:

The garden front is flanked by square turrets.

The interior is as dramatic and well-finished as the exterior. In the hall, with its plaster groined ceiling carried on graceful shafts, a straight flight of stairs rises between galleries to piano nobile level, where a great double door, carved in florid Decorated style, leads to a vast saloon or gallery running the whole length of the garden front.

In the hall, with its plaster groined ceiling carried on graceful shafts, a straight flight of stairs rises between galleries to piano nobile level, where a great double door, carved in florid Decorated style, leads to a vast saloon or gallery running the whole length of the garden front.

My camera battery died before I had time to take photographs when I visited so please excuse these blurry pictures taken on my old phone. For much better pictures and more information, see the website of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne, https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/10/14/charleville/

Charleville Castle Tullamore by Alex Johnson June 2017, courtesy of flickr constant commons.

Mark Bence-Jones continues:“This is one of the most splendid Gothic Revival interiors in Ireland; it has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle; two lavishly carved fireplaces of grained wood, Gothic decoration in the frames of the windows opposite and Gothic bookcases and side-tables to match.

Charleville Castle Tullamore by Alex Johnson June 2017, courtesy of flickr constant commons.
It has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle. Heraldic shields depict different branches of the Bury family.
Charleville Castle Tullamore by Matt McKnight 2007, courtesy of flickr constant commons.

Sean O’Reilly tells us in Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life: “Bury’s intention, as he wrote in his own unfinished account of the work, was to ‘exhibit specimens of Gothic architecture’ adapted to ‘chimneypieces, ceilings, windows, balustrades, etc.’ but without excluding ‘convenience and modern refinements in luxury.’ This recipe for the Georgian gothic villa had already been used at Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in London, and Bury’s cultivated lifestyle in England certainly would have made him aware of that house and its long line of descendants.” [4]

Charles William Bury was President of the Royal Irish Academy between 1812 and 1822. He was closely involved in the creation of his house in Charleville Forest and saw himself as the castle’s architect. From his work on the castle, Francis Johnston gained many more commissions.

Charleville Forest was written up by Mark Girouard for Country Life in 1962. Just over fifty-three years later another article has appeared (October 2016) in the same prestigious publication and this time by Dr Judith Hill, awarded a doctorate for her work on the Gothic in Ireland.

Photograph of Charleville Forest Castle that appeared in 1962 in Country Life. The castle was uninhabited at this time and the furniture was borrowed from Belvedere, County Westmeath.
Photograph of Charleville Forest Castle that appeared in 1962 in Country Life. The castle was uninhabited at this time and the furniture was borrowed from Belvedere, County Westmeath.

Judith Hill did some digging about the role that Charles William Bury’s wife, Catherine, played in the design of Charleville, and shared her findings in a lecture given to the Offaly History Society and published on the Offaly History blog. She tells us:

“…it was time to look more closely at the collection of Charleville drawings which had been auctioned in the 1980s. Many of these are in the Irish architectural Archive, and those that were not bought were photographed. Here I found two pages of designs for windows that were signed by Catherine (‘CMC’: Catherine Maria Charleville). There is a sketch of a door annotated in her hand writing. There is a drawing showing a section through the castle depicting the wall decoration and furniture that had been attributed to Catherine. Rolf Loeber had a perspective drawing of the castle which showed the building, not quite as it was built, in a clearing in a wood. The architecture was quite confidently drawn and the trees were excellent. It was labelled ‘Countess Charleville’. I looked again at some of the sketches of early ideas for the castle in the Irish Architectural Archive. In one, the building design was hesitant while the trees were detailed; an architect wouldn’t bother with such good trees for an early design sketch. There was another that had an architect’s stamp; the massing of the building quickly drawn, the surrounding trees extremely shadowy. I could see Catherine and [Francis] Johnston talking about the design in these drawings.

O’Reilly tells us: “Charleville Forest’s patron, Charles William Bury, from 1800 Viscount and from 1806 Earl of Charleville, was a man well versed in contemporary English taste and style. He inherited lands in Limerick, through his father’s maternal line, and in Offaly. His great wealth, lavish lifestyle and generous nature allowed him simultaneously to distribute largesse in Ireland, live grandly in London and travel widely on the continent…[p. 139] Charleville’s lack of success in his search for a sinecure proved ill for the future of the family fortunes for, continuing to live extravagantly above their means, they advanced speedily towards bankruptcy. On Charleville’s death in 1835, the estate was ‘embarrassed’ and by 1844, the Limerick estates had to be sold and the castle shut up, while his son and heir, ‘the greatest bore the world can produce’ according to one contemporary, retired to Berlin.

The drawing room and dining room are on either side of the hall. The dining room has a coffered ceiling and a fireplace which is a copy of the west door of Magdalen College chapel, Oxford.

The is an intricate tightly curved staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls.

Staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls.
Charleville Castle Tullamore by Matt McKnight 2007, courtesy of flickr constant commons.

The 3rd Earl, Charles William George Bury (1822-1859), returned to the house in 1851, but with a much reduced fortune. He died young, at the age of 37, and his son, also named Charles William, succeeded as the 5th Earl at the age of just seven years old. His mother had died two years earlier. It seems that many of the Bury family were fated to die young. A tragic accident occurred in 1861 when the 5th Earl’s young sister Harriet was sliding down the balustrade of the Gothic staircase from the nursery on the third floor and fell. She is said to haunt the staircase and to be heard singing.

A small octagonal library sits in the octagon tower, and a charming little boudoir in the round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.

Charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.
Charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.