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.” 
8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny
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.  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.
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.”
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.” 
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
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.” 
The formal parterres were created in the 1860s by a Scotsman, Charles McDonald, for Colonel William Tighe (1794-1878) and his wifeLady 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.
Places to stay, County Kilkenny
1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny– wedding venue, B&B
“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 €
“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
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 Kilkenny – accommodation, whole house on airbnb: €€ for two, € for 3-8
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. 
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.”
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.
6. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny– hotel
Lyrath Estate by Colin Whittaker 2009, flickr constant commons.
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
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
“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.
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.“
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
“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
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.“
“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.”
2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny€€€ for two, € for 10
“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…”
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
“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.” 
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.”
 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.
“Dunmore Cave, not far from Kilkenny town, is a series of limestone chambers formed over millions of years. It contains some of the most impressive calcite formations found in any Irish underground structure.
The cave has been known for many centuries and is first mentioned in the ninth-century Triads of Ireland, where it is referred to as one of the ‘darkest places in Ireland’. The most gruesome reference, however, comes from the Annals of the Four Masters, which tells how the Viking leader Guthfrith of Ivar massacred a thousand people there in AD 928. Archaeological investigation has not reliably confirmed that such a massacre took place, but finds within the cave – including human remains – do indicate Viking activity.
Dunmore is now a show cave, with guided tours that will take you deep into the earth – and even deeper into the past.“
2. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.
General information: 056 772 4623, email@example.com
“Founded in the 12th century, Jerpoint Abbey is one of the best examples of a medieval Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. The architectural styles within the church, constructed in the late twelfth century, reflect the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The tower and cloister date to the fifteenth century.
Jerpoint is renowned for its detailed stone sculptures found throughout the monastery. Dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries these include mensa [table] tombs from the O’Tunney school, an exquisite incised depiction of two 13th century knights, the decorated cloister arcades along with other effigies and memorials.
Children can explore the abbey with a treasure hunt available in the nearby visitor centre. Search the abbey to discover saints, patrons, knights, exotic animals and mythological creatures.
A small but informative visitor centre houses an excellent exhibition.“
3. Kells Priory, Kells, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 772 4623, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“Kells Priory owes its foundation to the Anglo-Norman consolidation of Leinster. Founded by Geoffrey FitzRobert, a household knight and trusted companion of William Marshal the priory was one element of Geoffrey’s establishment of the medieval town of Kells.
Although founded in c. 1193 extensive remains exist today which include a nave, chancel, lady chapel, cloister and associated builds plus the remains of the priory’s infirmary, workshop, kitchen, bread oven and mill. The existence of the medieval defences, surrounding the entire precinct, underline the military aspect of the site and inspired the priory’s local name, the ‘Seven Castles of Kells’.“
4. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 770 4100, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“Built in the twelfth century, Kilkenny Castle was the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. Under the powerful Butler family, Kilkenny grew into a thriving and vibrant city. Its lively atmosphere can still be felt today.
The castle, set in extensive parkland, was remodelled in Victorian times. It was formally taken over by the Irish State in 1969 and since then has undergone ambitious restoration works. It now welcomes thousands of visitors a year.“
Kilkenny Castle has been standing for over eight hundred years, dominating Kilkenny City and the South East of Ireland. Originally built in the 13th century by William Marshall, 4th Earl of Pembroke, as a symbol of Norman control, Kilkenny Castle came to symbolise the fortunes of the powerful Butlers of Ormonde for over six hundred years. 
In 1967 James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde sold the Castle to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. Two years later it went into state ownership.
William Marshall (about 1146-1219) was married to the daughter of “Strongbow” Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. With the marriage, he gained land and eventually, the title, Earl of Pembroke. The daughter of Strongbow, Isabel, inherited the title of 4th Countess of Pembroke “suo jure” i.e. herself (her brother, who died a minor, was the 3rd Earl). Hence William Marshall became the 4th Earl through his wife, but then then was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke himself ten years after their marriage. They seem to have settled in Ireland and created place for themselves, beginning with setting up the town of New Ross and then restoring Kilkenny town and castle – a castle had pre-dated them, according to the Kilkenny Castle website. It tells us that the present-day castle is based on the stone fortress that Marshall designed, comprising an irregular rectangular fortress with a drum-shaped tower at each corner. Three of these towers survive to this day.
By 1200, Kilkenny was the capital of Norman Leinster and New Ross was its principal port. The Marshalls also founded the Cistercian abbeys at Tintern in County Wexford and Duiske in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, as well as the castles at Ferns and Enniscorthy. He died and was buried in England. 
In 1317, the de Clare family sold the Kilkenny castle to Hugh Despenser. The Despensers were absentee landlords. In 1391 the Despensers sold the castle to James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, 9th Chief Butler of Ireland (1360–1405). The first Butler to come to Ireland was Theobald Walter Le Botiller or Butler, 1st Baron Butler, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland (1165–1206). He was called “Le Botiller” because he received the monopoly of the taxes on wines being imported into Ireland (which The Peerage website tells us was eventually purchased back by the Crown from the Marquess of Ormonde for £216,000 in 1811.)
The Butlers were an important family in Ireland. They fought for the king in France and Scotland, and held positions of power, including Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the monarch’s representative in Ireland.
The castle now forms a “u” shape, because in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion, the fourth wall fell. After the Restoration of 1660, there was a major rebuilding of the old castle. In 1826, another remodelling of the castle began. In 1935, the Butler family held a great auction, selling all of the castle’s furnishings.
Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond (d. 1515) lacked a male heir, and on his death, the Earldom was contested between Sir Piers Butler and his grandchildren led by Sir Thomas Boleyn. Thomas was favoured by King Henry VIII when Henry married his daughter Anne Boleyn. Piers Butler (1467-1539) was a descendant of the 3rd Earl of Ormond. Piers relinquished the claim to the title Earl of Ormond to Boleyn and was created Earl of Ossory by Henry VIII. The lands of the 7th Earl were divided between both parties. After a rapid escalation of disputes with rural Fitzgeralds and Boleyns, Piers regained his position and was recognised Earl of Ormond in February 1538.
The Crown hoped Piers would improve the Crown’s grip over southern Ireland. Piers the 8th Earl of Ormond gained much from Crown, including suppressed monasteries. He married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of Gerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, in marriage arranged for the purpose of ending the long-standing rivalry between the two families. They lived in Kilkenny Castle and greatly improved it. Margaret urged Piers to bring over skilled weavers from Flanders and she helped establish industries for the production of carpets, tapestries and cloth. Margaret and her husband commissioned significant additions to the castles of Granagh and Ormond. They also rebuilt Gowran Castle, which had been originally constructed in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.
Walter Butler’s claim to the family estates was blocked by James I. The latter orchestrated the marriage of Black Tom’s daughter and heiress Elizabeth to a Scottish favourite Richard Preston, Baron Dingwall. The King gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond (after the Fitzgeralds lost the title, due to their Desmond Rebellion, and awarded his wife most of the Ormond estate, thus depriving Walter of his inheritance. Walter refused to submit and was imprisoned for eight years in the Fleet, London. He was released 1625. Walter’s nine-year-old grandson, James, became the heir to the titles but not the estates.
James Butler (1610-88) 12th Earl of Ormond (later 1st Duke of Ormond) was the eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and his wife Elizabeth Poyntz. Following his father’s death in 1619, 9-year-old James became direct heir to the Ormond titles. He was made a royal ward and was educated at Lambeth Palace under the tutelage of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury.
In order to reunite the Ormond title with the estates, plans were made for a marriage between James and the daughter of the Prestons, Elizabeth, to resolve the inheritance issue. In 1629 James married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates.
James succeeded to the Ormond titles in 1633 on the death of his grandfather, Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond.
The website tells us: “A staunch royalist, Ormond was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland in 1641. He served his first term of three as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1648 to 1650. Following the defeat of the royalists in Ireland, Ormond went to exile and spent most of the years 1649 to 1660 abroad, moving about Europe with the exiled court of Charles II. After the restoration of the monarchy in England, Ormond was rewarded with a dukedom and several high offices by a grateful king. Though he enjoyed the king’s favour, Ormond had enemies at court and as a result of the machinations of the Cabal, which included powerful figures such as the Earl of Shaftesbury, he was dismissed from his post as Lord Lieutenant in 1669. When he was raised to a dukedom in the English peerage in 1682, Ormond left Ireland to reside in England. During his last term as Lord Lieutenant (1677-85), he played a major role in the planning and founding of the Royal Hospital for old soldiers at Kilmainham, near Dublin. The last decade of his life was marked by tragedy: all three of his sons and his wife died during that time. He died at his residence at Kingston Lacy in Dorset was buried in Westminster Abbey.“
Note that the “Cabal” was the term used to refer to the clique around the king. The term comes from an acronym of their names, Sir Thomas Clifford 1st Baron Clifford, Henry Benet 1st Earl of Arlington, George Villiers 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Ashley 1st Earl of Shaftesbury and John Maitland, 1st Duke and 2nd Earl of Lauderdale.
The 1st Duke of Ormond carried out improvements to the castle. Mark Bence-Jones describes:
“The Great Duke transformed the castle from a medieval fortress into a pleasant country house, rather like the chateau or schloss of contemporary European princeling; with high-pitched roofs and cupolas surmounted by vanes and gilded ducal coronets on the old round towers. Outworks gave place to gardens with terraces, a “waterhouse” a fountain probably carved by William de Keyser, and statues copied from those in Charles II’s Privy Gardens. The Duchess seems to have been the prime mover in the work, in which William (afterwards Sir William) Robinson, Surveyor-General and architect of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, was probably involved, supervising the construction of the Presence Chamber 1679. Robinson is also believed to have designed the magnificent entrance gateway of Portland and Caen stone with a pediment, Corinthian pilasters and swags which the second Duke erected on the street front of the castle ca 1709. Not much else was done to the castle in C18, for the Ormondes suffered a period of eclipse following the attainder and exile of the 2nd Duke, who became a Jacobite after the accession of George I.” 
The website tells us that there has been an entrance hall here at least since the 17th century rebuilding of the castle. The north doorway through the massive curtain wall was remodelled on two occasions in the 19th century. The black and white stone floor is laid with Kilkenny Black Marble and local sandstone, laid in the 19th century.
This 19th century mahogany staircase was designed and made by the local firm of Furniss & Son, Kilkenny and leads to the Tapestry Room and first floor. The use of mahogany in domestic furniture, which is so synonymous with the Grand House, is virtually unknown before the 18th century. Most of the wood imported came from the Jamaican Plantations which were cleared in order to plant sugar cane and cotton. During the 19th century this staircase was hung with several beautiful tapestries from the Decius Mus suite, some of which are now housed in the Tapestry Room.
The Tapestry Room in the North Tower shows how the medieval castle was transformed in the 17th century to become a magnificent baroque ducal palace. This room was called the Great Chamber in the 17th century and the walls were decorated with embossed and gilded leather hangings on the walls; a fragment of a late 17th/ early 18th century leather has been hung beside the door to give an impression of how rich the room must have been. In the 18th century, they were replaced by a set of tapestries.
The ground floor also contains the State Dining Room. The website tells us that this was the formal dining room in the 1860’s. Historic evidence shows that this room was hung in the late 19th century with a red flock paper when it was a billiard room. The strong blue on the walls echoes the colour in the original 19th century-stained glass windows and provides a backdrop for the Langrishe family portraits, which originated in Knocktopher Abbey, Kilkenny, and are now in the care of the State. Most large estate houses would have had both a formal and informal Dining Room. The collection of silverware contains some pieces from the original 18th century collection, purchased by Walter Butler, the 18th Earl after his marriage to the wealthy heiress Anna Maria Price Clarke.
From the website: “Today the first floor space is occupied by three rooms: Anteroom, Library and Drawing Room, as it was in the 19th century. The processional lay out of the rooms, each opening into the next is characteristic of the Baroque style of the 17th century and was know as an ‘enfilade’ suite of rooms. Baroque protocol dictated that visitors of lower rank than their host would be escorted by servants down the enfilade to the nearest room that their status allowed. In the 16th and 17th century the State Rooms were situated on this floor. 17th century history records that it was in these state apartments that James Butler 1st Duke of Ormonde received the Papal Nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini during the Irish Confederate Wars of that century. An Anteroom was a small room used as a waiting room, that leads into a larger and more important room. The Anteroom and the room below, today the Serving Room, were constructed in the area where an earlier stone staircase was situated.” The anteroom features a reproduction poplin wallpaper and bronze figurines in niches.
The anteroom leads to the library. “The interior decoration is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th century. Thanks to a salvaged fabric remnant found behind a skirting board, it was possible to commission the French silk poplin on the walls in its original pattern and colour from the firm of Prelle in Lyons in France. The claret silk damask curtains are also based on the originals were made in Ireland. One of the nine massive curtain pelmets is original and an Irish firm of Master Gilders faithfully reproduced matching gilt reproductions. The bookcases were also reproduced based on one original bookcase acquired by the OPW in the 1980s, this original with its 19th century glass stands in the right end corner of the library. The matching pair of pier mirrors over the mantelpieces was conserved and re gilded.”
The Drawing Room is typically the room in a house where guests and visitors are entertained. Drawing rooms were previously known as ‘withdrawing rooms’ or ‘withdrawing chambers’ which originated in sixteenth century.
The fabrics in this room are vintage glazed and block printed English and French chintzes and have been chosen to recreate the style of the rooms as they appeared in the 19th century family photographs. The Drawing Room picture hang reflects the Edward Ledwich description in his 1789 “Antiquities of Ireland!” when this room was the Presence Chamber or Alcove.
The 1st Duke of Ormond had three sons: Thomas (1634-1680), 6th Earl of Ossory; Richard (1639-1686), 1st and last Earl of Arran; and John (1634-1677), 1st and last Earl of Gowran. He had two daughters, Elizabeth (1640-1665) and Mary (1646-1710). Mary married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire and Elizabeth, the 2nd Earl of Chesterfield.
Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, his childhood was spent at Kilkenny until he went with his father and brother Richard to England in 1647. They then went to France, where he was educated at Caen and Paris at Monsieur de Camps’ Academy. In Holland he married Amelia of Nassau, daughter of Lodewyk van Nassau, Heer van Beverweerd, a natural son of Prince Maurice of Nassau. He was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.
Thomas enjoyed the favour and support of both King Charles II and his queen. Because of his wife’s Dutch connections he was frequently sent on royal missions to Holland. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend and referred to him as ‘a good natured, generous and perfectly obliging friend’. He died suddenly in 1680, possibly from food poisoning, at Arlington House in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey
James Butler (1665-1745) 2nd Duke of Ormonde [the final ‘e’ was added to the name around this time] was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler 6th Earl of Ossory. Following his father’s death in 1680, James became the heir to his grandfather, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, whom he succeeded in 1688.
Following his involvement in a Jacobite rising, a Bill of Attainder was passed against the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. His English and Scottish honours and his English estates were seized. Ormonde fled to France. He lived out his life in exile, and died at Avignon in France. Despite this, he was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.
James the 2nd Duke had no son, so the title passed to his brother Charles Butler (1671-1758). He was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates, but the dukedom ended with him. He was, however, also the 14th Earl of Ormonde and this title continued. He had no children, however, so the title passed to a cousin.
Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary was a younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond. There is a castle ruin still in Kilcash, under the protection of the Office of Public Works but not open to the public. His son was Walter Butler of Garryricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are this Walter’s sons Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).
Walter’s son Thomas (d. 1738) inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash. A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, Walter married Margaret Bourke, daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde, and widow of 5th Viscount Iveagh. It was their son John (d. 1766) who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as 15th Earl of Ormonde in 1758.
The 15th Earl had no children so the title then passed to a cousin, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, a Catholic, was unable to exercise a political role. He undertook the restoration of the Castle, decorating some of the rooms with simple late eighteenth century plasterwork, and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre (also a Section 482 property). He also built the Dower House, now a hotel called Butler House.
He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved into the Dower House.
Their son John (1740-1795) became known as “Jack of the Castle” and was the 17th Earl. Jack’s sister Susannah married Thomas Kavanagh of Borris House in County Carlow (see my entry about Borris House). Jack married Anne Wandesford, pictured below.
Their son Walter (1770-1820) became the 18th Earl and 1st Marquess of Ormonde. He had no sons so his brother James Wandesford Butler (1777-1838) inherited the title of 19th Earl. He became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was recreated 1st Marquess of Ormonde in 1825 and officiated as Chief Butler of Ireland at the Coronation of George IV. He married Grace Louisa Staples in 1807, they had ten children.
James Wandesford Butler the 19th Earl and 1st Marquess undertook more renovations. Mark Bence-Jones describes:
“Ca. 1826, the Kilkenny architect, William Robertson, when walking in the castle courtyard with the Lady Ormonde of the day, noticed that a main wall was out of true and consequently unsafe. One suspects it may have been wishful thinking on his part, for it landed him the commission to rebuild the castle, which he did so thoroughly that virtually nothing remains from before his time except for the three old towers, the outer walls and – fortunately – the 2nd Duke’s gateway. Apart from the latter, the exterior of the castle became uncompromisingly C19 feudal; all the 1st Duke’s charming features being swept away. Robertson also replaced one of two missing sides of the courtyard with a new wing containing an immense picture gallery; the original gallery, on the top floor of the principal range, having been divided into bedrooms. Robertson left the interior of the castle extremely dull, with plain or monotonously ribbed ceilings and unvarying Louis Quinze style chimneypieces.”
William Robertson also designed a Section 482 property which I have yet to visit, Lismacue in County Tipperary.
The 1st Marquess died in Dublin in 1838 and was succeeded by his eldest son John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland (see his portrait below).
John the 2nd Marquess travelled extensively. His journals (now in National Library of Ireland) record his many journeys across Europe to Italy and Sicily. He published an account of his travels, Autumn in Sicily, and he also wrote an account of the life of St. Canice. He married Frances Jane Paget in 1843. He continued the work of rebuilding Kilkenny castle that was started by his father. His journals show him to have a deep interest in art, and there are careful descriptions of several of the great galleries in Italy to be found in his writing. Although he continued to write in his journals during the years 1847 to 1850, no mention of the Irish famine is made. He died while bathing in the sea near Loftus hall on Hook Head, Co. Wexford. A marble tomb was erected in his memory in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.
The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess in 1854. It was during his time that changes were made to the rather plain picture gallery block created by William Robertson. Robertston’s Picture Gallery, in keeping with his work on the rest of the castle, was in a Castellated Baronial style. Initially the gallery was built with a flat roof that had begun to cause problems shortly after its completion. The distinguished architectural firm of Deane and Woodward was called in during the 1860s to make changes to the overall design of the Picture Gallery block, and other corrections to Robertson’s work. These changes included the insertions of four oriels in the west wall and the blocking up of the eight windows, while another oriel added to the east wall.
“The magnificent Picture Gallery is situated in the east wing of Kilkenny Castle.This stunning space dates from the 19th century and was built primarily to house the Butler Family’s fine collection of paintings.“
From the website: “… The entire ceiling was hand painted by John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902), then Professor of Fine Arts at Newman College, Dublin, using a combination of motifs ranging from the quasi-medieval to the pre-Raphaelite, with interlace, gilded animal and bird heads on the cross beam.“
“The Marble Fireplace is made of Carrara marble and was designed by J. H. Pollen also in a quasi-medieval style. It was supplied by the firm of Ballyntyne of Dorset Street, Dublin. Foliage carving attributed to Charles Harrison covers the chimneypiece and a frieze beneath is decorated with seven panels, showing the family coat of arms and significant episodes from the family’s long history. Starting on the left, the first panel shows the buying the castle by the first Earl of Ormond in 1391 from the Despenser family – money changing hands is shown. The second panel depicts Theobald Fitzwalter acting as Chief Butler to the newly crowned King of England highlighting their ancient royal privilege and upon which their surname of Butler is based. On the third panel, you see King Richard the Second acting as godfather for one of the infants of the Butler family in 1391. The centrepiece is the family crest which can also be seen over the arch and gateway, with the family motto “comme je trouve”- “as I find”, as well as the heraldic shield guarded, the falcon, the griffin (a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) and the ducal coronet. In the fifth panel, the 1st Duke of Ormond can be seen entering the Irish House of Lords still bearing his sword. Indeed, he refused to hand his weapon over as were the protocols in case it was used inside during an argument; this became known as The Act of Defiance. The sixth panel next to this symbolizes the charity of the Butler family showing Lady Ormonde giving alms to the poor. Finally, the sixth and last panel portrays the First Duke of Ormond’s triumphant return to Dublin from exile on the Restoration of Charles the Second in 1662, when he also established the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and founded the Phoenix Park.”
The 3rd Marquess’s brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943) became 4th Marquess (and 22nd Earl) of Ormonde in 1919. He was educated at Harrow and joined the army becoming a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards. He was state steward to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1887 he married Ellen Stager, daughter of American General Anson Stager.
As I mentioned earlier, it was James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, youngest son of James Arthur, 4th Marquess of Ormonde, who in 1967 sold the Castle.
Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the interior was largely redecorated and wood-carvings in the manner of Grinling Gibbons were introduced into some of the family rooms in the South Tower after the castle suffered damage 1922 during the Civil War, when, having been occupied by one side, it was attacked and captured by the other; the Earl of Ossory (afterwards 9th Marquess) and his wife being in residence at the time. In 1935 the Ormondes ceased to live in the castle, which for the next thirty years stood empty and deteriorating. It is now a wonderful place to visit, and has fifty acres of rolling parkland, a terraced rose garden, playground, tearoom and man-made lake, for visitors to enjoy.
5. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 772 6894, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“This church was built in the late thirteenth century as a collegiate church and was served by a college – clerics who lived in a community but did not submit to the rule of a monastery.
The church was patronised by the Butler family and many early family members are commemorated here with elaborate medieval tombs. The impressive ruins were decorated by the Gowran Master whose stone carvings are immortalised in the poetry of Nobel Laureate Séamus Heaney.
The once medieval church was later partly reconstructed in the early 19th century and functioned as a Church of Ireland church until the 1970’s when it was gifted to the State as a National Monument. Today the restored part of the church preserves a collection of monuments dating from the 5th to the 20th centuries.“
 p. 167. 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.
Opening dates in 2022: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student €5, child free, groups by arrangement.
Ballysallagh House dates from 1722, as we can see on the date stone set in the wall next to the front door.  It is a Classical style house built on a T shape, with the stairs in the stem of the “T,” or the single bay full-height return, at the back of the house. The house is of two storeys over basement, with a dormer attic, and is five bays across, with a full-height pedimented entrance breakfront in the centre of one bay width.
The house has a tooled-cut round-headed Gibbsean doorcase with keystone and a Gothic glazed fanlight. A Gibbsean doorcase is an eighteenth century treatment of door or window surround seen particularly in the work of the British architect, James Gibbs (1862-1754), characterised by alternating large and small blocks of stone or intermittent large blocks and a head composed of five voussoirs (the wedge-shaped blocks forming an arch) and a pediment or entablature. 
The pediment of the breakfront has a lunette window at attic level. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage description tells us that the attic level may have been added later. 
Owners Geralyn and Kieran welcomed us on our visit, and we stopped outside so that they could introduce us to the special features and details of the house and its history.
Kieran speculated that the central breakfront may be the oldest part of the house, with the corner quoins part of a later addition, which makes sense since they do not quite mirror each other. The limestone dressings include a chamfered plinth course to the basement (i.e. a chamfered edge is a surface formed by cutting off a square edge, usually at an angle of forty-five degrees and a plinth is a projecting base beneath a wall or column). The window openings to the basement are camber-headed (i.e. slightly upward curved) whereas the rest of the windows have square headed openings. The windows on the lower level are taller than the windows at the upper level.
Eight limestone steps lead up to the timber panelled front door, with iron railings. Around the house is a ha-ha, created so that from the house the landscape looks continuous, but in reality the ditch around the house prevents animals such as cattle and sheep from approaching too near the house.
The National Inventory describes the entrance gates:
“Gateway, c.1725, to south-east comprising pair of limestone ashlar piers with cut-limestone capping, iron double gates, iron flanking pedestrian gates, limestone ashlar outer piers having cut-limestone capping, and painted rendered curved flanking walls over random rubble stone construction having cut-limestone coping.” [see 2]
The land of Ballysallagh was owned by the Purcell family, who came to Ireland during the Anglo-Norman incursion in the twelfth century. Ballysallagh land was in the hands of the Purcells by December 1571 when Nicholas Purcell fitz Edmund of Ballysallagh was pardoned by the crown authorities, according to Robert O’Byrne. 
Richard Purcell was granted the feudal title of Baron of Loughmoe (in County Tipperary) in 1328 by the first Earl of Ormond, James Butler. [see 4]
A “baron” is a title related to land – a baron is the head of a barony. A good explanation of the term “baron” can be found on the website of “The Baronage Press.” It tells us that in classical Latin baro means dunce or fool. In Low Latin baro means slave or servant – but servants in the houses of the greater nobles of the eleventh century tended to be young men from noble families. The website also tells us that in the early feudal times this was extended to allow the king’s barons, his tenants-in-chief, to have their own barons through a process of “subinfeudation,” but the continuation of this practice was restricted in England when King Edward I [1239-1307] recognised the danger it represented to his centralised power and fiscal efficiency. By 1328 Edward III was king. The 1st Earl of Ormond was palatine Lord of Tipperary (a palatine was an area ruled by a hereditary nobleman enjoying special authority and autonomy from the rest of a kingdom), and granted the feudal title to the Baron of Loughmoe.  There were several palatine districts in Ireland, of which the most notable were those of the Earls of Desmond and the Earls of Ormond in Tipperary. The latter continued until abolished by the County Palatine of Tipperary Act 1715. A Baron does not hold a peerage, so did not have a right to sit in the House of Lords.  One feudal title that continued until recently is the Knight of Glin.
The Barons of Loughmoe built Loughmoe Castle, County Tipperary, which still stands as an impressive ruin, rather similar to Kanturk Castle in County Cork or even Portumna Castle in County Galway, both of which one can visit (Kanturk and Portumna are OPW owned properties, whereas Loughmoe is on private land).  The Purcells were allied with the powerful Butler family, and intermarried with them over the generations.
James Purcell (1609-1652) 12th Baron of Loughmoe married the sister of the 1st Duke of Ormond, Elizabeth Butler (1613-1675). He is buried at Holycross Abbey. His son Nicholas was the last Baron of Loughmoe. James and Nicholas lost their lands at Ballysallagh and Loughmoe in 1653 under the Cromwellian seizures and in the 1652 Act of Settlement. (see )
James died in 1652 and his wife Elizabeth married for a second time, to Colonel John Fitzpatrick (1640-1694), son of the 3rd Baron of Upper Ossory, (Florence Fitzpatrick). Colonel Fitzpatrick recovered the land which had been owned by the Purcells, on behalf of his stepson Nicholas. In the Down Survey, as we saw on a large map in the house at Ballysallagh, Nicholas Purcell is listed as owner of the land at Ballysallagh.
The Down Survey was taken in 1656-58, the first ever detailed land survey that was completed on a national scale in the world. It does not have to do with County Down, as I assumed, but the survey mapped “down” the townlands of Ireland. It especially measured land forfeited by Irish Catholics in order to facilitate its redistribution. The survey was carried out by Sir William Petty.
Ballysallagh is unusual in that it remained in Catholic ownership. The owners did not rely on land ownership for their income, but were of the professional class, with homes also in Dublin. The house passed from Purcell to Byrne ownership by marriage, and then to the Doyle family, also by marriage.
Robert O’Byrne tells us that in the early 18th century James Purcell was living at Ballysallagh and in 1720 his daughter and heiress, Mary Purcell wed Gerald Byrne from County Carlow. Mary and her husband were assigned the property as part of the marriage settlement. It seems likely the couple built the present house soon afterwards in 1722, as noted on the date stone.
Daniel Byrne-Rothwell writes in his book, The Byrnes and O’Byrnes: A Social History of the Clan, volume 2, published in 2010, (p. 92) that Gerald Byrne was the grandson of Edmond mac Hugh Geangach O’Byrne (c. 1652-1737), also known as Edmond “Concagh” of Ballinakill, and his father was Phelim Byrne of Tankardstown, County Carlow.
The house continued to remain in the same family hands until 1939. It passed from Mary Purcell and Gerald Byrne via their only surviving child, Catherine Byrne, who married William Doyle of County Kildare, to their grandson, Gerald Doyle, in 1760, upon the death of Gerald Byrne.
Daniel Byrne-Rothwell tells us that by 1767 a Robert Kelly (d. 1786) was inhabiting Ballysallagh. He was a brother-in-law of the Byrne family, being married to Elinor Byrne (1740-1800). However, Gerald Doyle who had inherited from his grandfather, and his brother Lawrence, were back living in Ballysallagh by 1770. Gerald Doyle of Ballysallagh died in 1816 and his brother Lawrence Doyle of Ballysallagh died in 1812.
Catherine Byrne died at the young age of 26 and her husband William Doyle remarried. He married another Purcell, Frances Purcell of Usher’s Island, Dublin. I am not sure if the two Purcell families are related to each other beyond by the marriage to William Doyle!
William and Frances Doyle nee Purcell went on to have more children. Neither Gerald Doyle who inherited Ballysallagh nor his brother Lawrence had children, so Gerald sold his interest in Ballysallagh to his stepmother, Frances Doyle nee Purcell, in 1785, along with 450 acres. In this way, Ballysallagh remained in the family and passed to a son from William Doyle’s second marriage, another William Doyle, Barrister.
This younger William Doyle, Geralyn told us, also owned property at 46 Rutland Square West (now Parnell Square) in Dublin. The younger William Doyle died unmarried in 1847 and Ballysallagh passed to his brother, Joseph Doyle, a doctor who served as Surgeon to the College at Maynooth, County Kildare. He also had a property at 41 Blessington Street in Dublin.
Joseph Doyle married another Purcell! I do not know his wife’s name, but they had a son, John Joseph Doyle, who inherited Ballysallagh, and lived there until his death in 1890 at the age of 75 (his wife Eliza died in 1900, daughter of Thomas Hartford). In 1876 he is recorded as holding 572 acres at Ballysallagh. John Joseph’s son Gerald Doyle was the last of the family to live at Ballysallagh: following his death in 1939 for the first time the place was put on the market. Gerald had a brother, Major Joseph Ignatius Purcell Doyle, Royal Army Medical Corps, who died in 1913 in France.
In February 1940 Ballysallagh was sold, and the following month, the contents of the house were auctioned. There is a poster in the house advertising the sale. Robert O’Byrne points out that the newspaper advertisement listed many of the items for sale, including a ‘large Antique Hanging China Display Press, enclosed by two glazed panel doors of unique design, Ornamental Frieze and Fluted Columns.’ This, however, remains in the Hall of the house.
Kieran and Geralyn White purchased the house in 1987, falling in love with the architecture and the house’s possibilities. They have done much to renovate the house, both inside and out. In recognition of their care, in 2020 they received the inaugural O’Flynn Group Heritage Prize. A newspaper article from December 2020 by Gemma Tipton in the Irish Times tells us that architectural historian Robert O’Byrne created this annual prize of €5,000, which acknowledges the owners’ commitment to the preservation of buildings.  In 2021 the owners of Clonalis in County Roscommon won the prize.
The front hall is divided from the stair hall by folding doors which were introduced in 1810. A fanlight stretches across the division, and it matches the China display press. The display cabinet is of a wagon wheel design, and the fanlight is made up of similar spokes, and is made from the same dark wood. The cabinet is beautifully carved and decorative with fluted columns and frieze. There is a pattern of foxgloves on the spokes of the cabinet, which could refer to frescoes of foxglove found in Pompeii. The edges of the fanlight has a sunburst pattern, or what looked to me like a ruffle or the folds of an accordion. This pattern is repeated on the window shutters.
The fanlight over the front door is similarly matched by a fanlight visible from the front hall, over a door leading to the basement and kitchen, reached by descending a few stairs. The front door fanlight is also echoed in both the front and back of the house, in the attic storey. Robert O’Byrne tells us that the one in the front in the attic level was installed by the current owners.
The front hall has a lovely wide plaster frieze and cornice and is quite spacious. Here we paused while Geralyn and Kieran pointed out the special features in the cabinet and fanlight and plaster. The details show that the house was designed for someone with a good eye for detail and with knowledge of contemporary trends, influenced by Europe and even the discovery of the ruins of Pompei and Herculaneum.
The ceiling rose is unusual, with the Prince of Wales feather motif. The front door is the original to the house.
The stair hall is in the single bay full height return.
The main reception rooms lie on either side of the entrance hall. In the Drawing Room, Geralyn told us about the portraits which she was fortunate enough to identify and to bring back to their home, a marriage pair of John Doyle and Frances Savage from 1770 attributed to Thomas Pole Stevens. According to the Adams Catalogue which I found online when “googling” their names, John Doyle died May 1819, and is recorded in the archives of the Royal College of Surgeons as being of 14 Usher’s Island, Dublin. Geralyn told us that Frances Savage was John Doyle’s second wife, and that she was from Finglaswood House (formerly owned by the Seagrave family ), which was also called King James’s Castle as King James II was said to have stayed there when fleeing the Battle of the Boyle.
The duck-egg blue drawing room has a good white marble chimneypiece, and carved panelled shutters. Some of the shutters and other repairs to the house are salvaged from Long Orchard House, County Tipperary, home of Barrister and Master of the Mint Richard Lalor Sheil (setting of The Big Wind by Beatrice Coogan).
The dining room has brass picture rails and curtain rails, which Kieran told us were covered with layers of paint. It has a black Kilkenny marble fireplace, as does the golden yellow study, or morning room, also on the ground floor. Also on the ground floor, next to the dining room, is a Butler’s pantry with its original shelves and hooks for hanging game, and lovely large windows. The shouldered architrave on the door shows us, Kieran pointed out, that this part of the house was not modernised during the 1810 renovations.
The wooden staircase leads up to a spacious upper hall, with four bedrooms off it. Stairs lead from this hall to the upper level, to which we did not ascend. The large size of the upper hall with its impressive height adds to the grandeur of the house.
Stone stairs lead to the basement, where the kitchen is still located, although it does not feel like a basement as it has newly installed French doors and plenty of sunlight. On the way down, Kieran pointed out the handy built-in “shoe cricket” at the bottom of the stairs – a contraption with a handle and grip for removing boots!
The Whites had a French drain installed around the house to dry the dampness from the basement, and they recently renovated another room in the basement, creating a wonderfully cosy library with some shelving created from doorcases salvaged from Long Orchard and others newly carved to match.
The gardens of Ballysallagh have been created to complement the sophistication of the house. Geralyn has developed several gardens, the crowning glory being the Winter Garden, which has clipped hedges in a design which Geralyn created to reflect the gothic windows that light the staircase. I had coincidentally only come across the description of a “winter garden” that week having read a review by Fionnuala Fallon in the Irish Times (published Saturday 29th January 2022) of a newly published book by Andrew Montgomery and Clare Foster, Winter Gardens, a book of photographs displaying the sculptural beauty of winter gardens.
Alongside the drive is an avenue of maples. Kieran counted the rings of a fallen larch tree to estimate its age: it was planted around 1761!
 Daniel Byrne-Rothwell writes in his book, The Byrnes and O’Byrnes: A Social History of the Clan, volume 2, published in 2010, that in December 1808 Ballysallagh House together with 50 acres of land was advertised to let and the house is described as “lately built.” The 1722 date stone was discovered in the attic, so Byrne-Rothwell speculates that it may have been recycled from an earlier house.
 p. 28. 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.
I am compiling a list of Historic Houses open for visits.
I am working on fuller descriptions with photographs of places that may not be Section 482 but may be open to the public on specific dates, and will be publishing these soon, probably by Province, as I did for the Office of Public Works properties.
Some big houses are now hotels or b&bs, and may be possible to visit, so I am including them on this list [in red]. This list is neither exhaustive nor necessarily accurate – check listing in advance to see if they are still open to the public.
Here is the Summary List – I hope it will be useful for you for trips around the country, including Northern Ireland which is a treasure trove! Let me know if you have any other recommendations!
I am listing the Section 482 properties in purple to distinguish them from other places to visit. On the map, what I call “whole house accommodation,” by which I mean for 10 or more guests, such as wedding venues, are marked in orange.
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;
€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;
€€€ – over €250 per night for two.
1. Antrim Castle and Clotworthy House, County Antrim – estate and gardens open to the public, the Castle was destroyed by fire. The stable block, built in the 1840s and now known as Clotworthy House, is used as an arts centre.
“A 19th century coach house adjacent to Ballyhannon Fortress Castle. Take a step back in time, and enjoy the unique experience of this historic landmark, at our bed and breakfast. We are at the end of a private drive, so no one will be “passing by” to interfere with your peace and tranquility.”
“Rising bluntly out of the craggy landscape, Ballyportry is the finest example in Ireland of a complete medieval Gaelic Tower House. Built in the 15th century it has been beautifully restored with careful attention being paid to retaining all its original features and style, yet with the comforts of the 21st century.”
4. Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare – hotel €€€
Estate Cottage 1 – The Coach House – up to 7 people – Self Catering – from €1,200 A 3 bedroom/4 bathroom separate 1,200 square foot home with a private outdoor dining terrace. This building has been renovated from the original coach house for the main manor house – and perfect for up to 7 people.
Estate Cottage 2 – The Stone Cottage – up to 10 people – Self Catering – from €2,200 A stand-alone 1,800 square foot home with 4 bedrooms/4.5 bathrooms with its own private garden. This building was the original gardener’s cottage for the main manor house – now fully renovated that will sleep up to 10 people comfortably.
Manor House (Partial) – up to 20 people – Self Catering – from €8,800 You will enjoy private use of Two Wings of the Manor House including 8 ensuite bedrooms and a range of living rooms, dining rooms, country style kitchen and outdoor dining options (can be catered or staffed by request).
Manor House (Whole) – from 28 to 36 people – Full Catered & Staffed Only – on request There are 14 Bedrooms in the Manor House that can accommodate up to 36 adults + 3 children sharing and a whole range of living and entertainment spaces. Due to the numbers, this is only available on a fully catered and staffed basis.
Whole Estate – from 44 to 54 people – Fully Catered & Staffed Only – on request The entire Estate consisting of the Manor House, Stone Cottage and Coach House for your private and exclusive use. A total of 22 ensuite bedrooms which is fully staffed and catered. This can cater for up to 54 adults + 4 children sharing.
3. Ballinterry House, Rathcormac, Co Cork – accommodation
The website tells us: “Ballymacmoy is the estate of origin of the wild geese family, the Hennessy’s of Cognac and is still owned and inhabited by their descendants. 40 kilometres from Cork International Airport, Ballymacmoy is a 23 acre estate located at the edge of the little village of Killavullen (200 inhabitants). It is made up of grasslands and wooded areas with 3.5 miles of exclusive fishing rights along the Blackwater river, it includes a 1 acre walled garden and a unique prehistoric private cave reserved for guests.”
a. the Coach House: The two storey Coach House takes centre stage in the stable yard and has been transformed into a beautiful, luxurious 4 bedroom self catering property. Downstairs there is a very relaxing style open plan kitchen & dining area with comfortable couches which allow for great conversations even while you prepare a bite of lunch or dinner.
b. the Garden Flat is located in the stable yard and is suitable for those looking for a self-catering holiday. There are two double bedrooms on the ground floor which would ideally suit two couples or if the need arises one of the bedrooms can be changed to be a twin room.
c. The Garden House is a quaint little cottage that sits at the bottom of the walled garden next to the beautiful Ballynatray House. Set across two floors the Garden House boasts a beautiful double room complete with comfortable armchairs either side of the open fire that fills the complete upstairs area. This is an ideal adult only location where romantic notions are never very far away.
d. Renovated & situated in the stable yard the Groom’s Flat is an ideal self catering option for two people.
8. Ballyvolane, Castlelyons, Co Cork – Hidden Ireland accommodation €€€
Careysville House sits on an escarpment overlooking the fishery, with stunning views of the Blackwater valley. Guests can look out of their bedroom window and see one of the most stunning stretches of salmon fishing in Ireland, not to mention watch the salmon jumping in the pools below. It was built in 1812 in the Georgian style, on the site of the old ruined Ballymacpatrick Castle.
8. Drishane House whole house rental and holiday cottages – see above
Built around 1619 by Sir Baptist Jones, Bellaghy Bawn is a fortified house and bawn (the defensive wall surrounding an Irish tower house). What exists today is a mix of various building styles from different periods with the main house lived in until 1987.
Springhill has a beguiling spirit that captures the heart of every visitor. Described as ‘one of the prettiest houses in Ulster’, its welcoming charm reveals a family home with portraits, furniture and decorative arts that bring to life the many generations of Lenox-Conynghams who lived here from 1680. The old laundry houses one of Springhill’s most popular attractions, the Costume Collection with some exceptionally fine 18th to 20th century pieces.
Dating back to 1830, this sympathetically restored Georgian property offers a tranquil rural setting midway between Portstewart and Portrush. Whilst retaining many of the original features and charm, the open plan extension has been adapted to suit modern living. The accommodation comprises three main reception areas, a Magnificent Family Kitchen /Living and Dining area, a cosy and tastefully decorated Snug with open fire, access to south facing Orangery and large secluded cottage gardens. Upstairs are four well proportioned bedrooms sleeping up to eight guests and a spacious first floor balcony with sea views. Minimum 3 night stay.
contact: Selina Guinness Tel: 01-4957483 www.selinaguinness.com Open: Jan 6-10, 14, 17, 21, 24, 28, Feb 4, 7, 11, 14, 28, Mar 7, 11, 14, 25, 28, May 3-6, 10-13, 17-22, 24-29, June 8-11, 13, 17-19, 21-23, Aug 13-21, Jan, May, June, 10am-2pm, Feb, Mar, 2.30pm-6.30pm, National Heritage Week, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult/OAP €8 student/child free, Members of An Taisce and The Irish Georgian Society €6
“The Cottage has a great history and has stood here for over 200 years looking down over the City boundaries, Dublin Bay and beyond.
This unique Irish Cottage has been tastefully restored to the highest modern standards so as to provide four star comforts within its two foot thick walls. The Cottage is a great place from which to explore.“
15. Tibradden Farm Cottages, Rathfarmham, Dublin 16 € for 4-8
Waterloo House is situated in Ballsbridge Dublin 4, just off the bustling Baggot Street and only a few minutes walk from St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street and many of Dublin’s key places of interest.
contact: Michael Mullen Tel: 087-2470900 www.aranislands.ie Open: June-Sept, 9am-5pm. Fee: adult €2.50, child €1.50, family €5, group rates depending on numbers
19. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway
20.Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden – section 482, garden only Craughwell, Co. Galway
Margarita and Michael Donoghue Tel: 087-9069191 www.woodvillewalledgarden.com Open: Jan 28-31, Feb 4-7, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, June 1-30, Aug 13-22, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €10, OAP €8, student, €6, child €3 must be accompanied by adult, family €20-2 adults and 2 children
8. Kildrought House, Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare – section 482
contact: June Stuart Tel: 01-6271206, 087-6168651 Open: Jan 15-31, Feb 1-3, May 16-31, June 1-3, Aug 11-31, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3, child under 5 years free, school groups €2 per head
9. Larch Hill, Kilcock, Co. Kildare – section 482
contact: Michael De Las Casas Tel: 087-2213038 www.larchill.ie Open: May 1-20, 23-31, June 1-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, Aug 13-21, 27-28, 10am- 2pm Fee: adult/OAP/student €8, child €4, concession for groups
Discover this boutique gem, a secret tucked away in the heart of Ireland. This magnificent 17th century manor is complemented by its incredible countryside surroundings, and by the four acres of meticulously-maintained garden that surround it. Within the manor you’ll find a place of character, with open fires, beautiful furniture, fresh flowers and Irish literature. The manor retains its stately, historic charm, and blends it with thoughtful renovation that incorporates modern comfort.
1. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – hotel and gives tours
2. Brookhill House, Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo – section 482
contact: Patricia and John Noone Tel: 094-9371348, 087-3690499, 086-2459832 Open: Jan 13-20, Apr 13-20, May 18-24, June 8-14, July 13-19, Aug 1-25, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/child/student €3, National Heritage Week free
3. Enniscoe House & Gardens, Castlehill, Ballina, Co. Mayo – 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, under 12 years free
“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.“
2. Hilton Park House, Clones, Co. Monaghan – section 482
contact: Fred Madden Tel 047-56007 www.hiltonpark.ie (Tourist Accommodation Facility) Open: April- Sept House and garden tours available for groups Jan 31, Feb 1-4, 7-11, 28, Mar 1-4, 7-11, May 3-6, 8-20, June 2, 13-17, 20-24, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 11, 18, 25, weekdays, 9am-1pm, Sunday, 1pm-5pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €8, child €5
3. Mullan Village and Mill, Mullan, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan – section 482
contact: Michael Treanor Tel: 047-81135 www.mullanvillage.com Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 2pm-6.30pm Fee: €6
“Birdhill House & Gardens offers the ultimate mix of homeliness and grandeur. The perfect place to reflect and re-energize. Enjoy the welcoming warmth of this mid 1700’s Georgian country house. Nestled in the Suir valley with panoramic views of Knockmealdown and Comeragh mountains.
Explore the tranquil and breathtaking beauty of the gardens. Take the time to relax on one of the many terraces. Sip a glass of wine or dine al fresco around the fire pit. If you feel like a little exercise you might stroll along the river bank, be tempted to take out the rowing boat/kayak. Or maybe enjoy an energetic game of tennis. On a chilly day sit by a roaring fire in the drawing room or gather friends and family around the kitchen table to play games. Hide away in the library for a quiet read surrounded by relaxed elegance. Retire to the delightfully decorated bedrooms and snuggle down for sweet dreams, but be warned: the morning chorus here at Birdhill House & Gardens is quite spectacular. Oh! And watch out for Millie and her daughter Hettie, the sweetest of dogs.
Birdhill House and Gardens offers guests luxury accommodation with the option to add breakfast and dinner if you wish.
The west wing of the house also can be exclusively rented where guests can enjoy the freedom of self-catering and is an ideal house for family breaks. Contact the house directly to check availability for the exclusive rental of Birdhill House & Gardens.”
“Cahir House Hotel is a Historical Town House and the leading hotel in Cahir, County Tipperary. This former manor house offers luxury hotel accommodation in Cahir and is the ideal base for your hotel break in the South East of Ireland.“
This was the home of Richard Butler (1775-1819), 10th Baron Cahir and 1st Earl of Glengall and his wife, Emilia Jefferyes of Blarney Castle, when they moved from Cahir Castle. It was they who built the Swiss Cottage.
5. Cashel Palace Hotel, Cashel, County Tipperary €€€
“Crocanoir is a home away from home tucked away down a leafy boreen. This beautifully restored house offers a truly relaxing holiday where hospitality and a traditional Irish experience is offered in abundance. It enjoys stunning views of Slievenamon mountain and there are lovely countryside walks only a stroll from the doorstep. Guests are welcome to wander the woodland paths and leave the world behind. The Old House has oodles of character and is ideal for large families or groups of friends.“
7. Dundrum House, County Tipperary – hoteland self-catering cottages €€
4. Cappagh House (Old and New), Cappagh, Dungarvan, Co Waterford – section 482
contact: Charles and Claire Chavasse Tel: 087-8290860, 086-8387420 http://www.cappaghhouse.ie Open: April, June, & August, Wednesday & Thursday, May & September Wednesday Thursday & Saturday, National Heritage Week, August 13-21, Oct 1, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/OAP/student/€5, child under 12 free
“The Earl of Cork built Richmond House in 1704. Refurbished and restored each of the 9 bedrooms feature period furniture and warm, spacious comfort. All rooms are ensuite and feature views of the extensive grounds and complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access is available throughout the house. An award winning 18th century Georgian country house, Richmond House is situated in stunning mature parkland surrounded by magnificent mountains and rivers.
Richmond House facilities include a fully licensed restaurant with local and French cuisine. French is also spoken at Richmond House. Each bedroom offers central heating, direct dial telephone, television, trouser press, complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access, tea-and coffee-making facilities and a Richmond House breakfast.”
“A classic Georgian house in a unique setting. Lough Bawn house sits high above Lough Bane with amazing sweeping views. Nestled in a 50 acre parkland at the end of a long drive, Lough Bawn House is a haven of peace and tranquillity.“
3. Mornington House, County Westmeath – accommodation
“Mornington House, a historic Irish Country Manor offering luxury country house accommodation located in the heart of the Co. Westmeath countryside, just 60 miles from Ireland’s capital city of Dublin. Tranquility and warm hospitality are the essence of Mornington, home to the O’Hara’s since 1858.“
Whole House Rental/Wedding Venue County Westmeath:
“Kilmokea is a former Georgian rectory, in a quiet, rural location where the Three Sister Rivers, the Suir, Nore and Barrow, meet before flowing out into Waterford Harbour. It’s rightly renowned for its seven acres of award-winning gardens, with a wide range of unusual sub-tropical plants and wonderful organic vegetables. Nearby is beautiful Hook Peninsula, with excellent coastal walks and magnificent Blue Flag beaches, or you can stay at home and relax in our private indoor pool or with a soothing aromatherapy treatment.
Kilmokea in County Wexford, was originally a simple late Georgian Church of Ireland rectory built in 1794 and bought by Colonel and Mrs. David Price, who planned and planted a seven acre garden between 1950 and the mid 1980s with determination and taste. The mild, frost-free climate allowed them to plant a wide range of unusual plants from all around the world, including a number of sub-tropical species. These all flourished at Kilmokea and the garden became justly famous.“
contact: Anthony Ardee Tel: 01-2863405 www.killruddery.com Open: Apr 1-Oct 31, Tue-Suns and Bank Holidays. National Heritage Week 13-21, 9am-6pm, Fee: adult €8.50, garden and house tour €15.50, OAP/student €7.50, garden and house tour €13, garden and house tour €13, child €3, 4-16 years, garden and house tour €5.50
14. Knockanree Garden, Avoca, Co Wicklow – section 482, garden only
contact: Peter Campion and Valerie O’Connor Tel: 085-8782455 www.knockanreegardens.com Open: May 20-21, 23-28, 30-31, June 1-4, 6-11, 13-18, 20-25, 27-30, July 1-3, Aug 13-21, Oct 1, 3-8, 10-14, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult €3, OAP/student €2
Wicklow Head Lighthouse has safeguarded the scenic Wicklow coastline since 1781. It is a peace seeker’s haven with inspiring and refreshing views of the Irish Sea. The landscape and scenery surrounding the lighthouse provide a perfect backdrop for a unique and memorable break.
I love starting a new year. The new listing for Section 482 properties won’t be published until February or March, so at the moment we will have to rely on 2021 listings (January listings below).
I had an amazing 2021 and visited lots of properties! As well as those I’ve written about so far, I am hoping to hear back for approval for a few more write-ups. Last year Stephen and I visited thirteen section 482 properties, thirteen OPW properties, and some other properties maintained by various groups.
The Section 482 properties we visited were Mount Usher gardens and Killruddery in County Wicklow; Killineer House and gardens in County Louth; Salthill Gardens in County Donegal; Stradbally Hall in County Laois; Enniscoe in County Mayo; Tullynally in County Westmeath; Kilfane Glen and Waterfall in County Kilkenny; Killedmond Rectory in County Carlow; Coopershill, Newpark and Markree Castle in County Sligo and Wilton Castle in County Wexford.
The OPW properties we visited were Dublin Castle, the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, National Botanic Gardens, Rathfarnham Castle, St. Stephen’s Green, Iveagh Gardens, Phoenix Park and Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin; Emo Court, County Laois; Portumna Castle, County Galway; Fore Abbey in County Westmeath; Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim; and Ballymote Castle, County Sligo.
We also visited Duckett’s Grove, maintained by Carlow County Council; Woodstock Gardens and Arbortetum maintained by Kilkenny County Council; Johnstown Castle, County Wexford maintained by the Irish Heritage Trust (which also maintains Strokestown Park, which we have yet to visit – hopefully this year! it’s a Section 482 property – and Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens, which we visited in 2020); Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, which is maintained by Shannon Heritage, as well as Newbridge House, which we also visited in 2021. Shannon Heritage also maintains Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle and Cragganowen Castle in County Clare, King John’s Castle in Limerick, which we visited in 2019, Malahide Castle in Dublin which I visited in 2018, GPO museum, and the Casino model railway museum. We also visited Belvedere House, Gardens and Park – I’m not sure who maintains it (can’t see it on the website).
We were able to visit two historic properties when we went to view auction sales at Townley Hall, County Louth and Howth Castle, Dublin.
Finally some private Big Houses that we visited, staying in airbnbs, were Annaghmore in County Sligo and Cregg Castle in Galway.
Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, Mar 1-2, 8-9, May 4- 5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31, June 1-4, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-2, 9am-1pm, Sundays 2pm- 6pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €5
Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 1pm-11pm
Portnason, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal Madge Sharkey Tel: 086-3846843 Open dates in 2021: Jan 18-22, 25-29, Feb 1-5, 8-12, Aug 14-30, Sept 1-17, 20-23, 27-28, Nov 15- 19, 22-26, Dec 1-3 6-10, 13-14, 9am-1pm
Open dates in 2021: Jan 14-17, 23-24, 28-29, Feb 4-7, 11-12, 19-21, 26-28, May 3-13,16, 18-20, 23-27, June 2-4, 8-10, 14-16, 19-20, Aug 14-22, weekdays 2.30pm-6.30pm, weekends 10.30am-2.30pm Fee: adult/OAP €8 student €5, child free, Members of An Taisce the The Irish Georgian Society (with membership card) €5
Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden
Craughwell, Co. Galway Margarita and Michael Donoghue Tel: 087-9069191 www.woodvillewalledgarden.com Open dates in 2021: Jan 29-31, Feb 1-28, Apr 1-13, 11am- 4.30pm, June 1, 6-8, 13-15, 21-22, 27- 29, July 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 1-2, 6-8, 13-22, 27-29, Sept 4-5, 11am-5pm Fee: adult/OAP €6, child €3, student, €5, family €20, guided tours €10
Open dates in 2021: all year, National Heritage Week, events August 14-22 Fee: Free
Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: Jan 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 23-24, 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, Mar 6-7,13- 14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, June 12-13,19-20, 26-27, July 3-4,10- 11,17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 14-22, Sept 4-14, 2pm-6pm.
Fee: free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.
Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm
Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: All year, except Dec 25, 9am-5pm
Open: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm Fee: adult €7, OAP/student €6.50, child €6, family €20
Some section 482 properties are “garden only.” I have marked these in the listings on my home page. In the listings it is not always obvious whether the house or just the gardens are open according to the Section 482 rules, so I contacted the Business Taxes Policy & Legislation Division of Revenue, who clarified for me which properties are garden only. Kilfane is one of the properties which is genuinely “garden only.”
The yellow house next to the gardens looks gorgeous but it is a private residence. It is not the main house at Kilfane. The main house was built in 1798 for the Power family (it may have been added on to a previously existing house, owned by the Bushe family, who owned the land before the Powers married into it ) and has a three storey five bay centre block with three bay wings, which are single-storey at the front and two storey at the back. This house is located a distance from Kilfane Glen and Waterfall, and we did not see it. For more on the life in that big house, see the chapter on Kilfane in Mark Bence Jones, Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London (1996), and for more on the old main house at Kilfane, see Robert O’Byrne’s entry about it on his Irish Aesthete website. 
The house which we saw at Kilfane was originally a worker’s cottage or woodsman’s house. built around 1850, probably incorporating fabric of earlier ranges. It was altered to become a dwelling in 1830, probably incorporating fabric of earlier ranges, for Thomas Seigne, who was the land agent for Kilfane.  Susan Mosse tells me that according to Jeremy Williams, it was designed by an architect who then emigrated to the US and went on to design the heating system in Washington DC. The White House was designed by a Kilkenny man, James Hoban, in 1792, so he may well have known the designer of the heating system for his building, if he was a fellow Irishman from Kilkenny! The design of Hoban’s White House was greatly influenced by that of Leinster House, designed by Richard Castle in 1750 for the Duke of Leinster.
There is plenty to see, however, in the grounds of Kilfane.
We drove through the woods to reach the car park for Kilfane Glen and Waterfall. The current owners have opened the gardens to the public and restored the key attraction, a romantic glen, waterfall, and cottage ornée in the style of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon, a country-style cottage where she used to play at being a regular person. There is more to the gardens, however, than the glen. The glen, as Robert O’Byrne describes it, is on the edge of the estate: “there existed an area of woodland where the land dropped away to reveal a rock face thirty feet high descending to an open vale dramatically strewn with boulders.” The Powers added a mile-long canal leading to the glen, which spills down as a waterfall. A thatched cottage ornée was added – Robert O’Byrne tells us that advocates of the Picturesque argued that such landscapes needed a humanising focus in the same way as the paintings which had inspired them. There had to be a central point to which the eye was drawn. 
We followed the map, provided on paper from the entrance kiosk, and reproduced on a large canvas next to the kiosk. We entered the oak wood, next to a frog pond.
The gardens themselves are an example of a romantic era garden, and date from the 1790s. The gardens embody the theory of the Picturesque. Robert O’Byrne tells us that “the picturesque is associated with painting (it derives from the Italian term ‘pittoresco’ meaning ‘in the manner of a painter’). It was thus used by a key figure in the evolution of the concept William Gilpin who in his 1768 Essay on Prints defined picturesque as being ‘expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture.’ Essentially the picturesque as proposed by Gilpin and others offers an aesthetic experience between the extremes of the sublime (which induces an emotion akin to terror [as theorized by Edmond Burke, whom we came across at Annaghmore in County Sligo]) and the beautiful which relies on symmetry and a calm-inducing order. The inspiration for landscapes that might be classified as picturesque came from artists of the previous century, most notably Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Poussin. In Ireland one of the most perfect expressions of this kind of landscape design can be found at Kilfane, County Kilkenny where theories of the picturesque were put into practice with enchanting results.“
Robert O’Byrne writes: “we do not know the precise date for the site’s creation or indeed who was responsible for its design (perhaps the Powers themselves, since the main house contained a famed library and they were likely to be familiar with the theories of Gilpin, along with those of other proponents of the picturesque such as Sir Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight).” Susan Mosse, current owner of the gardens and woodsman’s cottage, adds that “in the Royal Society of Antiquaries photos, the drawings specifically refer to MRS POWER, and I believe she must be included as the gardening force in Kilfane. She is known to have helped various others in their gardens (Grattan, et al).” [note that Harriet Bushe’s mother was Mary Grattan.]. The website adds that Sir John’s twin brother Richard, founder of the Kilkenny Theatre, also had a hand in the garden.
The Kilfane website adds to this description: “Under the influence of Rousseau and the Romantic movement, a trend had begun in the final days of the 18th century for the improvement of parks, demesnes and gardens in a new style: more rugged and wild, expressionistic landscapes became the preferred mode, away from the earlier arcadian, pastoral, sublime fashions of the early 18th century. The use of water (cascades and waterfalls) for most dramatic effect, the exploitation of more savage and withdrawn places (ravines and valleys), and the introduction of architectural caprices (caves and grottoes), combined to create and heighten a series of picturesque scenes which might embody the perfect Romantic attitude and transport the soul in a sweet and tender melancholy.“
Throughout the garden are pieces of art.
The orchard has a border called the Blue Border, with a lovely collection of flowers.
We entered into the next garden (the entire garden is divided into sections like rooms), that contains the lily pond.
Beyond the lily pond is the “moon garden.”
Next to the moon garden is a grassed, hedged “room” that looked rather like an archery lawn.
Beyond the formal gardens is a fern walk, leading down to the “faeries’ gate.”
By the faeries’ gate, we entered more luscious woodland. This included spots tantalizingly named “hell” and “heaven.” We didn’t work out which was which, though there was a path that looked as if it was made of moss-covered bones, so I decided that this must be “hell.”
We then passed by the Insect Meadow with its swinging seat, and the top of a decorative Ionic column on the ground.
From here we went toward the stone steps, which lead toward the glen.
At the bottom of the steps is “Mr. Butler’s Bridge.”
There are two ways then to reach the cottage and waterfall – we chose to take the longer Cliff Walk. I’m glad we did, as we approached the glen from above, which gave us lovely views of the cottage. To get down to the glen, we had to climb down a spiral staircase!
Robert O’Byrne tells us more about the garden, and about the enormous amount of work the current owners have put into the property: “Gradually the whole place fell into decay, the cottage becoming a ruin, the grassy lawn and surrounding paths overgrown, the woodlands surrendered to laurel and rhododendron (with consequent loss of more delicate ground cover) and the waterfall dried up as the canal was breached and broken. Such might have remained the case to the present but for the discovery and rescue of this delightful spot by its present owners who more than twenty years ago embarked on a complete restoration of the place. Thanks to their admirable diligence the grounds today look much as they did when first created over two centuries ago.”
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage describes the cottage, which has been called Potter’s Cottage: “Detached two-bay single-storey cottage orné with dormer attic, c.1800, with single-bay single-storey recess to right. Restored, 1989. Hipped roof (hipped to dormer attic windows) with reed thatch in English style having rope work to ridge, rendered chimney stack, and overhanging eaves (on timber post to recess).” 
We headed back to the house and picnic area, and noticed a tree house in the garden. All together, it makes for a lovely day out. I envy those who live nearby, who can visit such beauty often!
 Kilfane passed through the marriage of Harriet Bushe to John Power (1771-1844), later 1st Bt Power of Kilfane, from the Bushe family to the Power family. Robert O’Byrne tells us: “The land here had originally belonged to the Cantwells, prior to the family being banished to Connaught in the 17th century. It then passed into the ownership of Colonel John Bushe who was granted Kilfane in 1670, and his descendants remained on the estate for most of the following century. In the late 1700s, John Power married Harriet Bushe whose brother Henry Amias Bushe then lived at Kilfane. Power was the son of a County Tipperary landowner who had served with the British army in India where he had been aide-de-camp to Clive during the Battle of Plassey. Eventually he took a lease in perpetuity on Kilfane from his brother-in-law, and carried out many improvements on the estate.”