Open dates in 2022: Jan 24-28, 31, Feb 1-4, 28, Mar 1-4, 7-11, May 7-22, June 27-30, July 1, 4-8, Aug 13-22, Sept 27-30, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child €2
St. Mary’s Abbey house is one of the oldest properties on the Section 482 list. Now a private home, the building was probably initially part of an Augustinian Abbey, situated across the River Boyne from Trim Castle. We visited Trim Castle after seeing the Abbey, and learned that in 1182 when Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath, he occupied this site at Trim Castle. See my entry about Trim Castle.
Hugh de Lacy (born before 1135, died 1186) was an Anglo-Norman who came to Ireland with King Henry II’s troops. He was created Lord Justice and fought to establish English authority. He was also put in charge of Dublin Castle so was a sort of first Viceroy of Ireland. As well as having Trim Castle built, he built a ring of castles around Dublin to secure the land. Other castles reputedly built by Hugh de Lacy in Meath are Dunsany, which is also a Section 482 property, and Killeen Castle, both of which were held by the Cusack family on behalf of the de Lacys.
St. Mary’s Abbey was established in the twelfth century, and is said to be on the site of a church established by St. Patrick, the fifth century missionary in Ireland. The church was destroyed in 1172 by the local Irishman Conor O’Loughlinn , and rebuilt by Hugh de Lacy, so the still standing steeple may have been built around the same time as Trim’s Castle Keep, or as the author of Trim: Its Ecclesiastical Ruins, Its Castle, Etc writes, the steeple was probably built after a fire in 1368.
The building listed on Revenue Section 482 is now called St. Mary’s Abbey, after the abbey of which it was probably a part. It is also called Talbot’s Castle as it was said to have been built, Mark Bence-Jones tells us, by Sir John Talbot (c. 1384-1453), 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, for his own occupation when he was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, although as I will explain, I do not think that this was the case.  The National Inventory dates the building to the incredibly early date of 1415, which would coincide with the idea that it may have been built by John Talbot. The Abbey itself existed before this, so Talbot may have taken part of the abbey to be his home. His crest adorns the wall of a tower part of the house. However, I think it is unlikely that Talbot ever lived here.
The Abbey was burned in 1368. Shortly after the fire, the abbey erected a statue of the Virgin Mary that became famous for its miracles of healing, and so became a place of pilgrimage. It seems unlikely that Talbot lived in the Abbey at this time, therefore. It was still an Abbey at the time of John Talbot, in 1415. Perhaps his coat of arms marks his financial support of the Abbey, thus giving him the blessings and prayers of the Abbey.
The Abbey was dissolved at the time of King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The author of Trim: Its Ecclesiastical Ruins, Its Castle, Etc tells us that on 15 May 1542 agents of Henry VIII forced Geoffrey Dardis, St. Mary’s last abbot, to sign his own expulsion, and the abbey’s lands were granted to Sir Anthony St. Leger (b. circa 1496, d. 1559), who in 1540 was Lord Deputy of Ireland. (see ).
It seems to me that it would have been after the dissolution of the abbey that the abbey building was converted into a secular residence.
The turret with the Talbot arms, which is of two storeys over a basement (although today it looks three storey), is distinct from the rest of the range, Christine Casey and Alistair Rowan point out in their Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster book. (see ) They write that: “The punched limestone rubble and big square embrasures still visible in the basement are similar to the Yellow Steeple and support and early to mid-C15 date.”
The stucco work would not have been part of the abbey, as bucrania, ox’s skulls, allude to the ancient Greek and Roman ceremonies of sacrifice, and sacrificial cattle were decorated with garlands of fruit and flowers or decorative ropes with tassels.
From the vestibule one enters the Gothic maroon coloured dining room, which leads into the drawing room, which is thought to have been the refectory of the abbey. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the building incorporated part of the Abbey cloister, which forms a vaulted recess on one side of the drawing room.
The dining room has a fireplace that looks like Connemara marble, and the swags again adorn the walls over the wood panelling.
The drawing room has what Casey and Rowan call a “remarkable and very rare medieval survival, an oriel window or gallery opening off the room in the southeast corner, roofed over by two bays of quadripartite vaulting, springing from octagonal shafts, all of punched grey limestone.”
Rowan and Casey continue: “One has only to look at the refectory building at Newtown Trim to recognize that this is the characteristic position of the reader’s desk or gallery from which scripture was read while the monks ate their meals.”
There’s also a wonderful fireplace that looks very old.
In 1617 King James I granted the churches, rectories and chapels of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Trim to Thomas Ashe of Trim. A website about the Ashe family tells us that Sir Thomas Ashe, of St. John‘s and of Drumsill (now Ashfield Hall), in the county of Cavan, was knighted at Dublin Castle by Sir George Carew, Lord Deputy, on St. James’s day, 25 July 1603, on the occasion of the coronation of James I. 
Little seems to be known about the building until it became a school. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the property was given gables in C17, by which time it has become a “Latin school.” Casey and Rowan write that in the opening years of the eighteenth century the Diocesan School of Meath, which was being run by Dean Jonathan Swift’s curate at Laracor, was without fixed accommodation.
In 1716 Jonathan Swift’s friend “Stella” (her read name was Esther Johnson) bought “St Mary’s Abbey” from John Blakely and the following year she either sold it or gave it to Swift, and it then became the Diocesan School. Peter has copies of the deeds framed. Swift sold it after another year.
Casey and Rowan tell us that after the building had become the Diocesan School in the eighteenth century, a report of the Commission for Irish Education of 1827 described it as “a very old building forming part of the quadrangle of St Mary’s Abbey.” Famous past pupils include Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) and William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865), Irish mathematician, astronomer, and physicist.
Peter showed us some metal bars outside an upstairs window which he suggested may have been supports for William Rowan Hamilton to mount a telescope.
The school closed down and the building was bought by the last schoolteacher, Rev James Hamilton. He was the uncle of William Rowan Hamilton.  The Dictionary of Irish Biography describes Reverend James Hamilton: “James Hamilton was a classicist with some knowledge of oriental languages; he recognised his nephew’s precocious talent and fed him an extraordinary diet of the classics, Hebrew, and a wide range of oriental and modern languages. He was quite a taskmaster, albeit a kindly and supportive one, and his nephew responded positively.” 
It was occupied as a private house by him and his descendants until 1909, when it was bought by Archibald Montgomery, who carried out various improvements and panelled the principal rooms. Montgomery was a Dublin lawyer and Sheriff of Dublin.
Casey and Rowan tell us that Archibald Montgomery added an attic storey with yellow-brick gables to the west end, and retained a mish-mash of pointed eighteenth century sash windows and Gothic-French windows throughout the rest of the building.
The lobby upstairs has lovely trefoil style windows. Casey and Rowan write that there are angel shield bearers in some window spandrels upstairs, and that they were probably found and reused in the 1909 reconstruction.
In the basement Peter pointed out a feature of the ceiling which would indicate its age. There are what look like scratches, which would be the remains of wickerwork ceiling.
We saw the same scratches on a ceiling in Trim Castle:
Montgomery died in 1942 and everything in the house was sold. The house was purchased in 1951 by an engineer from Manchester, John O’Leary. He was also a big game hunter, and won the bronze medal in the 1924 Olympics in Paris for shooting. He and his wife had no children. They left all the contents in the house. Peter Higgins moved in as Caretaker, and later had the opportunity to buy the property.
The gardens tier down to the river, and the house has wonderful views of Trim Castle and the River Boyne.
 Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland, North Leinster. The Counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.
 Mark Bence-Jones. 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.
Open dates in 2022: Mar 10-29, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 10am-2 pm
Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €8
Beauparc House has been in the one family since it was built around 1755. It is a beautiful ashlar stone faced three storey over basement house with the classic sequence of Diocletian window above a Venetian window above a tripartite doorway. The architecture is attributed to Nathaniel Clements (or it could have been Richard Castle, Iona told us, although if built in 1755 that is after Castle’s death in 1751. The central window arrangement is reminiscent of Richard Castle ). The door is framed by two pairs of Doric columns topped by a central pediment. The Dictionary of Irish Biography tells us about the architecture of Nathaniel Clements: “A talented architect, he is credited with an important part in developing the Palladian villa-farm style of Irish country houses. In the 1750s and ‘60s he may have designed or advised on the design of several country houses, for example at Brooklawn and Colganstown in Co. Dublin [also a Section 482 property, see my entry], at Belview, Co. Cavan, Beauparc, Co. Meath, and at Newberry Hall and Lodge Park, Co. Kildare [another Section 482 property which I have yet to visit], all of which show the influence of his mentor Richard Castle. His residences were Manor Hamilton and Bohey, Co. Leitrim; Ashfield, Cootehill, Co. Cavan; and Woodville, Lucan, Co. Dublin.”
The house reminds me of Coopershill in County Sligo which was designed around 1755 by Francis Bindon, who also worked with Richard Castle.
Approximately twenty years after it was built, two three-bay two-storey wings were added by Charles Lambart, in around 1778, joined to the house by quadrant walls, the design attributed to the Reverend Daniel Beaufort. Beaufort was the Rector of Navan, County Meath, from 1765. He is associated also with the architecture of Ardbraccan House in County Meath (along with Thomas Cooley and James Wyatt) and Collon church in County Louth (where his daughter Louisa designed the stained glass window).
We were greeted at the door by Iona Conyngham, who gave us a tour of her home.
The back of the house, or garden front, as Mark Bence-Jones tells us, is of two bays on either side of a curved central bow, which you can just about see in the photograph taken around 1900 by Robert French (see below).  We did not see the back of the house.
The estate has fine stone entrance piers and a cast iron gate, and a long sweeping drive to the house. The house is beautifully situated above the Boyne River, at the back of the house, giving beautiful views.
The house was built for Gustavus Lambart (born in 1717). He was MP for Kilbeggan from 1741-1776 and Collector of the Revenue for Trim, County Meath, from 1746-1760. He received excise tax from Kilbeggan Whiskey, a distillery that was established in 1757 under Gustavus Lambart’s patronage, by Matthias McManus. Iona told us that before Gustavus Lambart changed the name to Beauparc, it was previously called Fair Park.
It passed rather indirectly but within the same family to its current owner Lord Henry Mount Charles Conyngham of Slane Castle (and his wife Iona) after the death of the previous owner, Sir Oliver Lambart, in 1986. The Navan History website tells us:
“[The previous owner] willed the house and estate to Lord Henry Mount Charles a distant relative. Sir Oliver never told him and it came as a shock to Lord Henry.”
It must indeed have been a pleasant surprise to Lord Henry Mount Charles, since he already owned Slane Castle, and although Sir Oliver Lambart had no siblings nor children, his father had eleven siblings. However, only four of those siblings, Oliver’s aunts, lived longer than his father Gustavus, and none of Gustavus’s brothers had children. Oliver had several first cousins, but most, if not all of them, predeceased him. Sir Oliver’s grandmother was Frances Caroline Maria Conyngham, daughter of the 2nd Marquess. Henry Mount Charles Conyngham is the 8th Marquess, which makes him only distantly related to Sir Oliver Lambart, the previous owner.
It is fortunate that the Conynghams inherited Beauparc before the disaster of the fire at Slane Castle in 1991, so they had somewhere to live when Slane Castle was being renovated. Lord Mount Charles had already started to host rock concerts to raise money for the upkeep of the castle so perhaps Sir Lambart admired his enterprising spirit and felt that he was leaving his house to someone who would be able to undertake the upkeep of Beauparc. Henry Mountcharles also earns some of his money from the making of whiskey as in 2015 he opened a whiskey distillery at Slane Castle, the Slane Irish Whiskey Brand. Kilbeggan Whiskey still continues today also.
Gustavus Lambart married Thomasine Rochfort of Gaulstown, County Westmeath, the sister of the “wicked” Robert Rochfort, 1st Earl of Belvedere, who imprisoned his wife at her home for allegedly having an affair with his brother (see my entry about Belvedere ).
The Navan History website tells us of the history of the Lambart family:
“Oliver Lambart, first Baron Lambart [1573-1618], acquired lands in Cavan.” 
Oliver Lambart was a military commander and came to Ireland with the 2nd Earl of Essex and fought in the Nine Year’s War (1593-1603). Earlier he had fought against Spain and was knighted. In 1597 he was an MP for Southampton in England. In 1603 he served as Privy Counsellor in Ireland and In 1613 he was elected as MP for County Cavan in the Irish House of Parliament. He is buried in Westminster Abbey. 
His son Charles Lambart(1600-1660) succeeded him in 1618 as the 2nd Lord Lambart, Baron of Cavan, County Cavan. He followed in his father’s footsteps as MP, Privy Counsellor, and the military: He was commander of the forces of Dublin in 1642, helping to suppress the 1641 Uprising with a 1000 strong infantry regiment.  Previous to this, he had lived in England as an absentee landlord, due to debts which he inherited from his father. He took a seat in the Irish House of Lords in 1640 after failing to secure a seat in the English Parliament. He allied himself with the Catholic opposition to the government at first, criticising Thomas Wentworth (1593–1641), Earl of Strafford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. However, with the rebellious uprising in 1641, Lambart fled to Dublin and there took up arms against the Catholic rebels. He became an ally of the Duke of Ormond. The king rewarded his loyalty by creating him 1st Earl of Cavan in April 1647. 
His son Richard became the 2nd Earl of County Cavan. However, it was the 1st Earl of Cavan’s younger son Oliver (1628-1700) who inherited the family estates. The Navan History website tells us:
“Oliver Lambart was third son of Charles Lambart, and lived at Painstown. His elder brother, the second Earl [Richard], was deprived of his reason by a deep melancholy by which he was seized before, from a sense of injuries put upon him by his younger brother, Oliver, who by his father’s will got the estate of the family settled upon him. His son, Charles, succeeded him at Beau Parc.”
Oliver married four times. He died in 1700. His son Charles (d. 1753) was MP for Kilbeggan and later for Cavan. He lived at Painstown, County Meath. He married Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of Gustavus Hamilton (1642-1723), 1st Viscount Boyne. It was their son, Gustavus Lambart who had the house at Beauparc built. Gustavus was the second son. His elder brother Charles predeceased their father, unmarried.
We stepped into the impressive front hall. The plasterwork reminded me of that in Leinster House, which I have seen in photographs. A portrait of Lady Conyngham looks down over a map table, which was a gift to her, with shamrock, thistle and rose, symbols of Ireland, Scotland and England. The hall has stone flags. The interior is laid out, Christine Casey and Alistair Rowan tell us, in a variant of the standard mid-eighteenth century double-pile plan (see ). The house is two rooms deep. The hall has a large Doric cornice and six doors in lugged (i.e. shouldered) frames.
The Navan History website tells us: “Gustavus Lambert, son of Charles, was MP for Kilbeggan from 1741 to 1776 and was collector of Revenue for Trim from 1746-60. His son, Charles Lambart [c. 1740-1819], was M.P. for Kilbeggan between 1768 and 1783.” As mentioned earlier, Gustavus married Thomasine Rochfort. His son Charles married Frances Dutton, whose father was born James Lenox Naper (c. 1713-1776) but later took the surname Dutton after his mother, daughter of Ralph Dutton 1st Baronet Dutton, of Sherborne, Co. Gloucester. James Lenox Naper lived at lived at Loughcrew, County Meath, which is also a Section 482 property. It was Charles Lambart who added the wings to Beauparc.
The hall opens directly into the drawing room, with its wonderful view of the Boyne. The dining room and sitting room are on either side. The sitting room retains its original modillion cornice and two stuccoed niches flanking the chimneybreast (see ). The main stair is located off the hall to one side and is lit by the big Venetian window. The staircase is mahogany, with two Tuscan balusters per tread and side modillion motifs carved into the tread ends.
The Navan website continues: “Charles’s son, Gustavus [1772-1850], was born in 1772. As M.P. for Kilbeggan Gustavus voted against the Act of Union in 1800.” He married in 1810. Casey and Rowan tell us that Gustavus Lambart II may have had minor alterations made to Beauparc. He may have added Neoclassical chimneypieces, plasterwork, and some “vaguely Gothick joinery” in different rooms (see ).
His eldest son, Gustavus William Lambart (1814-1886), married Lady Frances Caroline Maria Conyngham, daughter of the 2nd Marquess Conyngham (Francis Nathaniel Burton Conyngham (1797-1876), of Slane Castle) in 1847.
The Navan website tells us about Gustavus William Lambart: “A graduate of Trinity College he was State Steward to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1876 Gustavus W. Lambart of Beauparc held 512 acres in County Meath. It is said that a Miss Lambart danced a jig in front of Queen Victoria and asked for the head of the Prime Minister, Gladstone. Gladstone was a supporter of Home Rule for Ireland, a cause which did not find favour among the Irish gentry and nobles. Gustavus William died in 1886.“
The Navan website continues: “His eldest son, Gustavus Francis William Lambart, was Chamberlain to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland between 1876 and 1880. He gained the rank of Major in the service of the 5th Battalion, Leinster Regiment. High Sheriff of County Meath in 1901, Gustavus was Comptroller and Chamberlain to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland between 1902 and 1905. He held the office of Secretary of the Order of St. Patrick. He was created 1st Baronet Lambart, of Beau Parc on 13 July 1911. He married Kathleen [Moore] Brabazon in 1911.” Kathleen Moore-Brabazon was daughter of John Arthur Henry Moore-Brabazon of Tara Hall, County Meath, who was born with the surname Moore but changed his name on the death of his uncle, the Reverend William John Moore-Brabazon, son of John Moore and Barbara Brabazon.
The Navan history website tells us that: “In January 1890 Cyril, brother of Gustavus, experimented with chasing kangaroos with the Beau Parc Staghounds. He also tried hunting Barbary sheep and Tralaia deer. Cyril later emigrated to Australia.” It sounds like he must have imported kangaroos to Beauparc! Unless the Navan website does not imply that he moved to Australia after chasing kangaroos!
The website continues, telling us of the final generation of Lambart who lived in Beauparc: “Gustavus’s son, Sir Oliver Francis Lambart, born in 1913, became the 2nd Baronet on his father’s death in 1926. He served as 2nd Lieutenant in the service of the Royal Ulster Rifles. He fought in the Second World War between 1939 and 1944, with the Royal Army Service Corps. Sir Oliver’s uncle was Lord Brabazon of Tara and Minister of Aircraft Production during the Second World War. Sir Oliver Lambart was last of the Lambarts to live in the house. A popular local figure Sir Oliver had an interest in cricket and took part in the local team. He donated a field to the local GAA club as a football pitch. The Land Commission acquired 300 acres of the estate in the 1960s for distribution. Sir Oliver’s mother died in 1980 at 100 years of age. Sir Oliver died in 1986 aged 72. He willed the house and estate to Lord Henry Mount Charles a distant relative. Sir Oliver never told him and it came as a shock to Lord Henry.”
Sir Oliver Lambart’s mother, Kathleen Moore-Brabazon, seems to have been quite a character. Iona told us that she bred German Shepherd dogs, had racehorses, and also raced hot air balloons! There was a photograph of her in a hot air balloon! When I “googled” her I found a wonderful resource, the National Portrait Gallery of England’s website, that allows downloads for non-commercial use. 
Iona pointed out an 1853 portrait of a young boy, and asked us to notice that his belt is red. It was Queen Victoria, she told us, who changed the traditional colour for male babies to blue!
Casey and Rowan tell us that the cross-corridor of the double-pile plan appears in the basement and at the bedroom-floor level, where it is vaulted. We did not see either the basement nor the bedroom floor level of the house. Casey and Rowan tell us that the large central bedroom at the rear of the house has an internal apse backing onto this cross-corridor, which echoes its bow windows. The room must have a splendid view over the River Boyne.
Henry Mount Charles and his wife brought some of the family heirlooms from Slane Castle, which join the historic portraits and photographs of the Lambarts. Beauparc is a beautiful secluded family home. Unfortunately we did not explore the grounds. I must make a return trip to Slane Castle, which is now occupied by Henry Mount Charles’s son and his family.
On our way out along the drive we stopped to photograph a lovely pair of pheasants.
 p. 157. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. The Counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.
 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.
 G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 116. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
I’ve been looking forward to staying in Castlecor house, after seeing a photograph of its incredible octagonal room.
The website tells us:
“The construction of this magnificent residence, as it stands today, spanned 300 years, originally built in the mid 1700’s as a Hunting Lodge with additions in the 19th & 20th century.
The website continues: “It was built by the Very Revd. Cutts Harman (1706 – 1784), son of the important Harman family of nearby Newcastle House [which offers accommodation]. He was Dean of Waterford cathedral from 1759 and was married to Bridget Gore (1723-1762) from Tashinny [Tennalick, now a ruin, which passed from the Sankey family to the Gore family by the marriage of Bridget’s mother Bridget Sankey to George Gore, son of Sir Arthur Gore, 1st Baronet of Newtown Gore, County Mayo] in c. 1740.“
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (www.buildingsofIreland.ie) gives the building an unusually long appraisal which explains the unusual building:
“It was originally built as a symmetrical two-storey block on octagonal-plan with short (single-room) projecting wings to four sides (in cross pattern on alternating sides), and with tall round-headed window openings between to the remaining four walls. The single wide room to the octagon at first floor level has an extraordinary central chimneypiece (on square-plan) with marble fireplaces to its four faces; which are framed by Corinthian columns that support richly-detailed marble entablatures over. The marble fireplaces themselves are delicately detailed with egg-and-dart mouldings and are probably original. This room must rank as one of the most unusual and interesting rooms built anywhere in Ireland during the eighteenth-century.“
The National Inventory continues: “The walls of the octagonal room are decorated with Neo-Egyptian artwork, which may have been inspired by illustrations in Owen Jones’ book ‘Decoration’, published in 1856. The inspiration for this distinctive octagonal block is not known. Some sources suggest an Italian inspiration, such as the pattern books of the noted architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475 – 1554) [Mark Bence-Jones suggests this ], or that it was based on the designs of the much larger hunting lodge (Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi) that was built for the Duke of Savoy, near Turin, between 1729 and c. 1731 (The later seems a highly fanciful idea but there are some similarities in plan, albeit on a much larger scale at Stupinigi); while Craig (1977, 15) suggests that the ‘inspiration is clearly the hunting lodge at Clemenswerth in Lower Saxony, Germany’, which was constructed between 1737 – 1747 to designs by Johann Conrad Schlaun for Prince Clemens August, a structure that Castlecor resembles in terms of scale and plan. However, it may be that the plan of this building was inspired by William Halfpenny (died 1755), an English Palladian architect who created a number of unexecuted designs for Waterford Church of Ireland cathedral and for an associated bishop’s palace from c. 1739. Interestingly, a number of these unexecuted plans for the bishop’s palace included a central octagonal block with projecting wings, while a number of the church plans included an unusual separate baptismal building attached to the nave, which is also on an octagonal-plan. The Very Revd. Cutts Harman may well have been aware of Halfpenny’s unexecuted designs, being Dean of the cathedral from 1759 and was probably associated with the diocese from an earlier date, and perhaps he used these as his inspiration for the designs of Castlecor. The central four-sided chimneypiece is reminiscent of the centerpiece of the Rotunda of Ranelagh Gardens, London, (built to designs by William Jones 1741 – 2; demolished c. 1803) albeit on a much reduced scale at Castlecor. The plan of Castlecor is also similar to a number of buildings (some not executed) in Scotland, including Hamilton Parish Church (built c. 1733 to designs by William Adam (1698 – 1748) and the designs for a small Neoclassical villa prepared by James Adam (1732 – 92), c. 1765, for Sir Thomas Kennedy. The exact construction date of Castlecor is not known, however the traditional building date is usual given as c. 1765. The architectural detailing to the interior of the original block, and perhaps the personal life of Very Revd. Cutts Harman (married in 1751 to a daughter of Lord Annaly of Tennalick 13402348; his duties at Waterford cathedral from 1759; Cutts Harmon leased out a number of plots of land in Longford from c. 1768) would suggest an earlier date of, perhaps, the 1740s. The architect is also unknown although it is possible that Harman designed the house himself (perhaps inspired by a pattern book or by Halfpenny’s unexecuted designs); while Craig (1977) suggest that the architect may have been Davis Ducart (Daviso de Arcort; died 1780/1), an Italian or French architect and engineer who worked extensively in Ireland (particularly the southern half of the island) during the 1760s and 1770s.” We saw Ducart’s work at Kilshannig in County Cork, another section 482 property, see my entry .
The website tells us:”The Rev. Cutts Harman who had Castlecor built died without issue, it was inherited by his niece’s son [or was it his sister Anne’s son? If so, it was her son Lawrence Harman Parsons (1749-1807); she married Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet of Birr Castle. Her son added Harman to his surname when he inherited Castlecor from his uncle], Laurence Harman- Harman, later Lord Oxmantown, and finally Earl of Rosse. Peyton Johnston, the Earl’s nephew, rented the house during this time. Captain Thomas Hussey, Royal Marines; purchased Castlecor in c.I820. There is very little documentary evidence relative to Captain Hussey’s occupancy. He resided there from 1832/3 to 1856 and was High Sheriff of Longford.“
Mark Bence-Jones adds: “To make the house more habitable, a conventional two storey front was built onto it early in C19, either by Peyton Johnston, who rented the house after it had been inherited by the Earl of Rosse, or by Thomas Hussey, the subsequent tenant who bought the property ante 1825. This front joins two of the wings so that its ends and theirs form obtuse angles. In the space between it and the octagon is a top-lit stair. Early in the present century, a wider front of two storeys and three bays in C18 manner, with a tripartite pedimented doorway, was built onto the front of the early C19 front. Castlecor subsequently passed to a branch of the Bonds, and was eventually inherited by Mrs C. J. Clerk (nee Bond).”
The National Inventory continues to tell us the history of the house: “The building was extended c. 1850 (the house appears on its original plan on the Ordnance Survey first edition six-inch map 1838) by the construction of a two-storey block to the northeast corner of the house, between two of the wings of the original structure. The earlier wing to the west may have been extended at this time also. The lion’s head motifs to the rainwater goods throughout the building (built around and before c. 1850) are very similar to those found at the gate lodge serving Castlecor to the northwest, built c. 1855, suggesting that the house was altered at this time, possibly as part of wider program of works at the estate.”
The National Inventory continues: “The projection to the south wing having the box bay window also looks of mid-to-late nineteenth century date and may also have been added at this time. The Castlecor estate was bought by the Hussey family during the late-eighteenth century following the death of Cutts Harman, and the first series of works may have been carried out when Capt. Thomas Hussey (1777 – 1866), High Sheriff of Longford from 1840 – 44, was in residence. However, the Castlecor estate was offered for sale by Commissioners of Incumbered Estates in 1855 when it was bought by a branch of the Bond family and, perhaps, the house was extended just after this date by the new owners. The Bonds were an important landed family in Longford at the time, and owned a number of estates to the centre of the county, to the north of Castlecor, and a branch also lived at adjacent Moygh/Moigh House (13402606) [still standing and in private hands] during the second half of the nineteenth century. Thomas Bond (1786 – 1869) [of Edgeworthstown] was probably the first Bond in residence at Castlecor. A John Bond, later of Castlecor, was High Sheriff of Longford in 1856. The last Bond owner/resident was probably a Mrs Clerk (nee Bond) [Emily Constance Smyth Bond] who was in residence in 1920. She married a Charles James Clerk (J.P. and High Sheriff of Longford in 1906) in 1901/2, and he was responsible for the three-bay two-storey block that now forms the main entrance, built c. 1913. This block was built to designs by A. G. C. Millar, an architect based on Kildare Street, Dublin. This block is built in a style that is reminiscent of a mid-eighteenth century house, having a central pedimented tripartite doorcase and a rigid symmetry to the front elevation. The house became a convent (Ladies of Mary) sometime after 1925 until c. 1980, and was later in use as a nursing home until c. 2007. This building, particularly the original block, is one of the more eccentric and interesting elements of the built heritage of Longford, and forms the centrepiece of a group of related structures.” 
The website tells us thatthe four wings adjoining the original octagonal hunting lodge align with the four cardinal compass points.
In 2009, the current owners Loretta Grogan and Brian Ginty set about purchasing the house, with the aspiration to restore Castlecor House, its grounds, native woodland and walled garden with pond and orchard to its former glory, opening it to the public by appointment and also welcoming guests.
2. Maria Edgeworth Visitor Centre, Longford, County Longford.
“The Maria Edgeworth Centre, in County Longford, is located in one of Ireland’s oldest school buildings that opened in 1841. Using a combination of audio, imagery and interactive displays, the centre tells the story of the Edgeworth family and the origins of the National School system. You will also learn about the role the family played in the educational, scientific, political and cultural life in Ireland. Maria Edgeworth was a notable pioneer of literature and education, a feminist and a social commentator of her time. Audios and displays are available in seven languages.”
contact: Michael O’Donnell Tel: 047-81952 Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-29, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/OAP/student/child €8
The National Inventory describes it:
“Detached three-bay two-storey over basement house on L-shaped plan, built c. 1815, having two-storey-storey return to rear (northwest) with pitched slate roof. Two-storey extension attached to the northwest end of rear return. Recently renovated. Possibly incorporating fabric of earlier building/structure. …This appealing and well-proportioned middle-sized house, of early nineteenth-century appearance, retains its early form, character and fabric. Its form is typical of houses of its type and date in rural Ireland, with a three-bay two-storey main elevation, hipped natural slate roof with a pair of centralised chimneystacks, and central round-headed door opening with fanlight. The influence of classicism can be seen in the tall ground floor window openings and the rigid symmetry to the front facade. The simple doorcase with the delicate petal fanlight over provides a central focus and enlivens the plain front elevation. The return to the rear has unusually thick walls and a relative dearth of openings, possibly indicating that it contains earlier fabric. This house forms an interesting group with the entrance gates to the southeast, the outbuildings (13401509) and walled garden to the rear, and the highly ornate railings to the southwest side featuring a sinuous vine leaf motif. The quality of these railings is such that their appearance is equally fine from both sides, the vine leaves being cast in three dimensions. They are notable examples of their type and date, and add substantial to the setting of this fine composition, which is an important element of the built heritage of the local area. Moorhill was the home of a R. (Robert or Richard) Blackall, Esq. in 1837 (Lewis). The Blackalls were an important family in the locality and built nearby Coolamber Manor c. 1837 [built for Major Samuel Wesley Blackhall (1809 – 1871)…to designs by the eminent architect John Hargrave (c. 1788 – 1833). Hargrave worked extensively in County Longford during the 1820s and was responsible for the designs for the governor’s house at Longford Town Jail in 1824; works at Ardagh House in 1826; the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Church of Ireland church at Newtown-Forbes; the remodelling of Castle Forbes, nearby Farragh/Farraghroe House (demolished); Doory Hall now ruinous; St. Paul’s Church of Ireland church, Ballinalee; and possibly for the designs of St. Catherine’s Church of Ireland church at nearby Killoe. …and [Coolamber Manor] may have replaced an earlier house associated with the Blackall family at Coolamber (a Robert Blackall (1764 – 1855), father of the above, lived in Longford in the late-eighteenth century)].
Moorhill House “was possibly the home of Robert Blackall, the father of Samuel Wensley, who was responsible for the construction of Coolamber Manor and later served as M.P. (1847 – 51) for the county before serving as Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1868 until his death in 1871. Moorhill may have been the residence of a Francis Taylor in 1894 (Slater’s Directory).”
Newcastle House is a 300-year-old manor house, set on the banks of the River Inny near Ballymahon, in Co. Longford.
The website tells us; “Standing on 44 acres of mature parkland and surrounded by 900 acres of forest, Newcastle House is only one and half hour’s drive from Dublin, making it an excellent base to see, explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Ireland. So whether you are looking for a peaceful place to stay (to get away from it all) or perhaps need a location to hold an event, or that most important wedding, give us a call.”
The website previously included a brief history of the inhabitants of Newcastle:
“Newcastle Wood was once part of Newcastle Demesne, an estate of some 11,000 hectares run by the King- Harman family in the 1800’s. The beautiful, historic nearby Newcastle House was where the King- Harmans lived and there are many features and place names in the woodland which refer back to that time.“
We came across Lawrence Harman Parsons (1749-1807) who became the 1st Earl of Rosse, and who added Harman to his surname to become Lawrence Harman Parsons Harman, when he inherited Castlecor in County Longford. He married Jane King, daughter of Edward Thomas King, 1st Earl of Kingston, from Boyle, County Roscommon. They had a daughter, Frances Parsons-Harmon, who married Robert Edward King (1773-1854), 1st Viscount Lorton of Boyle, County Roscommon. Their second son, Lawrence Harman King assumed the additional name of Harman to become Lawrence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875). It was his family who lived at Newcastle Wood.
The old website continued: “The King- Harmans were generally regarded as good landlords by the local populace. They employed many local people in all sorts of trades. The last of the King- Harmans died in 1949. King- Harman sold lands to the Forestry Department in 1934 and over the following two years it was planted with a mixture of coniferous and broadleaf trees.“
Then National Inventory describes the house:
“Detached double-pile seven-bay three-storey over basement former country house, built c. 1730 and altered and extended at various dates throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, having curvilinear Dutch-type gable to the central bay and later gable-fronted single-bay single-storey entrance porch with matching curvilinear Dutch-type gable to the centre of the main block (southeast elevation), built c. 1820. Advanced three-bay single-storey over basement wing flanking main block to northeast, and advanced four-bay two-storey over basement wing flanking main block to southwest, both built c. 1785. Recessed single-bay single-storey over basement Tudor Gothic style addition attached to northeast elevation having gable-fronted rear elevation and chamfered corners at ground floor level having dressed ashlar limestone masonry , built c. 1850, and two-storey extension to southwest, built c. 1880. Possibly incorporating the fabric of earlier house(s) to site c. 1660. Later in use as a convent and now in use as a hotel…Round-headed door opening to front face of porch (southeast) having carved limestone surround with architrave, square-headed timber battened door with decorative cast-iron hinge motifs, wrought-iron overlight, and having moulded render label moulding over.…Painted stuccoed ceilings and ceiling cornices, some with a neoclassical character, a number of early panelled timber doors and marble fireplaces survive to interior...” 
Before belonging to the King-Harman family, Newcastle belonged to the Sheppard family. It came to the King-Harman family through the marriage of Frances Sheppard (d. 1766) daughter of Anthony Sheppard of Newcastle to Wentworth Harman (d. 1714) of Moyle, County Longford.
The National Inventory adds:
“The lands and house at Newcastle were successively in the possession of the Chappoyne/Chappayne/Choppin, the Sheppard, the Harman and the King-Harman families. The earliest mention of the estate is references to an Anthony Chappoyne at Newcastle in 1660, although this may have been the site of an earlier ‘castle’ from as early as the fourteenth century (as the placename suggests). In 1680 a Robert Choppayne appears to have purchased/consolidated the lands of Newcastle from Gerald Fitzgerald, 17th Earl of Kildare. Dowdall (1682) describes the site as ‘..on the southside of the river is Newcastle, the antient Estate of the Earl of Kildare now the estate and habitation of Robert Choppin Esqr where he hath lately built a fair house and a wooden bridge over said river’. The estate passed into the ownership of Anthony Sheppard (born 1668 – 1738), heir (son?) of Robert Chappoyne, c. 1693, who served as High Sheriff of County Longford in 1698. His son, also Anthony, was M.P. for Longford in 1727. The estate later passed by marriage into the ownership into the Harman family at the very end of the seventeenth century. Robert Harman (1699 – 1765; M.P. for Longford c. 1760 -5) [son of Wentworth Harman and Frances Sheppard] was in possession of the estate of much of the middle of the eighteenth century and it is likely that he was responsible for much of the early work on the house. The Very Revd. Cutts Harman, who built the quirky hunting/fishing lodge at nearby Castlecor, inherited the house c. 1765 following the death of his brother Robert. The estate later passed into the ownership of Lawrence Parsons-Harman (1749 – 1807) in 1784 (M.P. for Longford 1776 – 1792; Baron Oxmantown in 1792; Viscount Oxmantown in 1795; Earl of Rosse 1806; sat was one of the original Irish Representative Peers in the British House of Lords) and he greatly increased the Newcastle estate, and by his death (1807) its size had doubled to approximately 31,000 acres in size. It is likely that he was responsible for the construction of the side wings to the main block and general improvements to the house from 1784. The estate passed into the ownership of his wife Jane, Countess of Rosse (who partially funded the construction of a number of Church of Ireland churches and funded a number of schools in County Longford during the first half of the nineteenth century), who left the estate to her grandson Laurence King-Harman (1816 – 1878) after falling out with her son.Laurence King-Harman has probably responsible for the vaguely Tudor Gothic extension to the northeast elevation. The brick chimneystacks also look of mid-nineteenth century date and may have been added around the same time this wing was constructed. The King family had extensive estates in Ireland during the nineteenth century, owning the magnificent Rockingham House (demolished) and King House [also a Section 482 property which I hope to visit later this year], Boyle, both in County Roscommon;as well as Mitchelstown Castle in County Cork, burnt in 1922 (memorial plaques and carved stone heads from Mitchelstown Castle were built into the northeast elevation of Newcastle House c. 1925, but have been removed and returned to Cork in recent years). The estate reached its largest extent in 1888, some 38,616 acres in size, when Wentworth Henry King-Harman was in residence. The estate was described in 1900 as ‘a master-piece of smooth and intricate organisation, with walled gardens and glasshouses, its diary, its laundry, its carpenters, masons and handymen of all estate crafts, the home farm, the gamekeepers and retrievers kennels, its saw-mill and paint shop and deer park for the provision of venison. The place is self supporting to a much greater degree than most country houses in England’. The estate went in to decline during the first decades of the twentieth century, and with dwindled in size to 800 acres by 1911. The house and estate remained in the ownership of the King-Harman family until c. 1951, when Capt. Robert Douglas King-Harman sold the house to an order of African Missionary nuns (house and contents sold for £11,000). It was later in use as a hotel from c. 1980.” 
“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.
Here, you will unwind into the exceptionally relaxing atmosphere, a restful world where all you hear is peace, quiet and birdsong.“
This house was advertised for sale in recent years. The National Inventory describes it:
“Detached three-bay three-storey house, built c. 1750 and remodeled c. 1860, having single-bay single-storey porch with flat roof to the centre of the front elevation (north). Renovated c. 1994. Formerly in use as a Church of Ireland charter school (c. 1753 – 1826)…This elegant mid-sized Georgian house is a fine example of the language of classical architecture reduced to its essential elements. It retains its early character and form despite recent alterations….Set in extensive mature grounds, this fine structure is a worthy addition to the architectural heritage of County Longford….This house was the home of the Cuffe family during the first half of the eighteenth century. It was later inherited by Thomas Pakenham (later [1st] Baron Longford [of Pakenham Hall, or Tullynally, County Westmeath, another section 482 property, see my entry]) following his marriage to Elizabeth Cuffe (1714-94) in 1739 or 1740. It is possible that Viewmount House was constructed shortly after this date and it may have replaced an earlier Cuffe family house on or close to the present site. The house was never lived in by the Pakenham family but it was used by their agent to administer the Longford estate, c. 1860. It was apparently in use as a charter school from 1753 until 1826, originally founded under the patronage of Thomas Pakenham. There is a ‘charter school’ indicated here (or close to here) on the Taylor and Skinner map (from Maps of the Roads of Ireland) of the area, dated between 1777 – 1783. A ‘free charter school’ at Knockahaw, Longford Town, with 32 boys, is mentioned in an Irish Education Board Report, dated 1826 – 7 (Ir. Educ. Rept 2, 692 – 3).” 
contact: Bryan Bellew Tel: 041-6851205 Open: May 1-31, June 1-10, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-10, 9am-1pm Fee: adult /OAP/student €5, child free
2. Bellingham Castle, co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits: open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26)
“At Bellingham Castle, the welcome is warm, the facilities luxurious and the memories, eternal. Nestled in the medieval village of Castlebellingham in County Louth along Ireland’s Ancient East, Bellingham Castle is an elegant and spacious 17th Century authentic Irish Castle available for exclusive hire, to allow you become King or Queen of your very own castle for a truly memorable experience. The Castle opens for overnight stays on select dates throughout the year, but is predominantly a venue for spectacular Weddings, conferences or events.
Set at the gateway to the Cooley mountains and on the banks of the glistening River Glyde, Bellingham Castle is the centrepiece of a 17-acre estate that includes a weir and man-made river island where you can create memories that last a lifetime. The opulent 17th Century Irish castle is bursting with rich history, splendour and old-world luxury.
Fully refurbished, yet retaining all of its character and charm, Bellingham Castle prides itself on elegance and sophistication, intimacy and cosiness, luxury and exclusivity – all just 50 minutes from both Dublin and Belfast.
We wanted to create something different at Bellingham Castle, an exquisite combination of a welcoming atmosphere and luxury castle experience. From dreamy and palatial bedrooms, to magnificent reception rooms and meticulously manicured gardens, we ensure each guest enjoys high-quality, bespoke service in an idyllic and inspirational location.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Bellingham (1988):
p. 62. “The original castle here, called Gernonstown, which was acquired by Henry Bellingham [1622-1676] mid C17, was burnt by King James’s soldiers before the battle of the Boyne, when its then owner, Colonel Thomas Bellingham, was fighting for King William. Col Bellingham built a new house 1690/1700 [the National Inventory says 1712] and named it Castle Bellingham; it had a high-pitched roof and is said to have resembled Beaulieu, in the same county. Mrs Delany described it (1745) as “one of the prettiest places I have seen in Ireland.” The house was remodelled in later C18, when a third storey was added, and again in early C19, when it ws given a battlemented parapet, some turrets and a few other mildly dedieval touches. The final result was not so much a castle as a castellated house, with plain Georgian sash windows. The nine bay entrance front, which appears to be only of two storeys owing to the higher ground on this side; the entrance, through a Gothic porch not centrally placed, is, in fact, on the first floor, where the principal rooms are situated. The oppostie front, which also just misses being symmetrical – with three bays on one side of a shallow, curving bow and two bays and a turret on the other – which also has a curved bow. Simple, pleasant rooms; a small staircase in a narrow hall at right angles to the entrance. Garden with terraces overlooking the river Glyde, formerly adorned with statues brought from Dubber Castle, the seat of another branch of the Bellinghams; vista to shrine of the Virgin Mary, ereced by Henry Bellingham, a convert to Catholicism during the later years of the Oxford Movement. Straight avenue aligned on the entrance front of the house, terminated at the opposite end by a castellated gatehouse facing the village green. Having been sold by the Bellinghams ca 1956, Castle Bellingham is now an hotel.”
The website gives a further history of the castle:
“Bellingham Castle served as one of the ancestral homes for the Bellingham family from the 17th Century until the 1950s. The original castle was built around 1660 by Sir Henry Bellingham, who was a cornet in the Army during the Civil War.
He purchased the lands of Gernonstowne, Co. Louth, from a fellow soldier who had been granted them in lieu of arrears of pay. The purchase was confirmed by King Charles II.
There is some variation on the spelling of Gernonstowne. On various maps and other documents, it is spelled Gernonstowne, Gernonstown, Gernon’s-Town, Gormanstown, Germanstown, Garlandstown and Garland.
Irish road signs show the English as Castlebellingham, while the Irish translation still refers to Baile an Ghearlanaigh – or Gernonstown. It was not called Castlebellingham for at least 40 years after the purchase. The name does not appear on any document before the year 1700. Around 1710, it began to appear in journals and other sources as Castlebellingham.
The castle was occupied by troops and burned down in the autumn of 1689 by King James II, in revenge for Colonel Thomas Bellingham [son of Henry? 1645-1721?] being a guide for William III, prior to the Battle of the Boyne. It is said that King William’s armies camped the night before the Battle of the Boyne in the grounds of the castle.“
Thomas Bellingham had two sons. The estate passed to his grandson Alan Bellingham (1709-1796). It then passed to his son, another Alan (1740-1800). Alan’s brother William married Hester Frances Cholmondeley, daughter of Rev. Hon. Robert Cholmondeley and was created 1st Baronet Bellingham, of Castle Bellingham, co. Louth. His nephew Alan (1776-1827), son of Alan, became 2nd Baronet Bellingham of Castle Bellingham, County Louth.
The website continues: “Over time, Castlebellingham became an important gathering point in the county. Fairs were held there every year and a church was constructed next door to the castle, along with a graveyard that houses the Bellingham family vault. The Bellinghams became one of the most powerful and influential families in the county; for over 100 years, a Bellingham held the seat in Parliament for County Louth.
Records also note Castlebellingham for having ‘the best malt liquor’ in Ireland. A brewery was built on site about 1770 and belonged to an O’Bryen Bellingham [a son of Alan Bellingham]. For a number of years, a brewery partnership ran their liquor business. The brewery is still there but now houses the ‘button factory’ or Smallwares Ltd. The brewery was the main supplier of drink to the Boer War troops.
A history of the parish, dated 1908, states that the impressive Calvary standing at the entrance to Bellingham Castle was erected by Sir Henry Bellingham as a monument to the memory of his first wife, Lady Constance.
A collection of inset religious panels can be seen on the upper facades of many of the village buildings. These are also a reflection of Sir Henry’s religious sentiments, and they are unique in Ireland. In addition to the many panels, there are biblical quotations cut into the stone window sills of some buildings. North of the castle is a carefully preserved group of ‘widows’ dwellings’, built from charitable motives by Sir Henry.
In 1905, Bellingham Castle was the venue for the romantic wedding celebrations of Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham, daughter of Sir Alan Bellingham [1846-1921], 4th Baronet ; to the 4th Marquis of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart.
The Marquis, who was one of the wealthiest men in the British Isles at the time, spared no expense and treated his bride and guests to a lavish celebration, including chartering the Princess Maud steamer to take their guests and the Isle of Bute pipe band across the Irish Sea to Bellingham Castle for the wedding. As the society event of the year, the wedding attracted worldwide media attention, from California to New Zealand.
Footage from the wedding celebrations still exists. This remarkable film is believed to be the one of the earliest wedding films in the world. Bellingham Castle is clearly depicted in the footage, together with scenes at nearby Kilsaran Church and the village of Annagassan, from where the wedding party and their guests arrived and departed by steamer.
Castlebellingham was the ancestral home of the Baronetcy until the late 1950s. The last Bellingham to live there was Brigadier General Sir Edward Bellingham, born in 1879, who was the last Lord Lieutenant and Guardian of the Rolls (Custos Rotulorum).
It was purchased by Dermot Meehan in 1958 from the Irish Land Commission for £3,065.00. Mr Meehan spent several years converting the house into a hotel. The Meehan family sold the hotel and 17 acres in 1967 for £30,636.61 to Mr John Keenan and under the Keenan family stewardship, the castle prospered over the following four decades.
In December 2012, the castle – including the 17 acres – was acquired by the Corscadden family. The family also own Ballyseede Castle in Tralee, Co. Kerry; Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, and Markree Castle, Co. Sligo.
The next chapter in the history of Bellingham Castle has begun, as an exclusive venue for private weddings, civil ceremonies, conferences, meetings and corporate events.
Bellingham Castle is a building of intrinsic historical and architectural interest and is open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26).“
“Collon House, steeped in history, is full of character and charm; its gracious rooms are exquisitely furnished with period antiques and paintings, retaining the atmosphere of early Georgian living, making this a rare opportunity to experience less than one hour from Dublin City Centre, thirty minutes from Dublin Airport and just five miles from historic Slane.
Collon House is a perfect location from which to enjoy the wonderful treasures of the Boyne Valley. Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) prehistoric megalithic sites, The Battle of the Boyne visitors centre at Oldbridge, Slane Castle, Old Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice High Crosses are all less than twenty minutes drive from Collon House.“
The Historic Houses of Ireland (HHI) website tells us:
“Anthony Foster [1705-1778], Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, purchased the Collon estate in 1740 and chose to build in the centre of the County Louth village, now a market town on the road from Dublin to Derry. His early Georgian house was extended in the 1770s to form a substantial L-shaped dwelling, set back from the street at the central crossroads. The original dwelling is long and low but the later building is taller and more generous in scale with more elaborate interiors and a “handsome half-turn stair” that gives access to the upper floors.” 
Anthony’s son John [1740-1828] was elected to the family borough of Dunleer and became the member for Louth in 1768 at the age of twenty-one. Considered ‘the best informed man in the house’ he was briefly Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer before his election as Speaker of the Irish Commons. He held office from 1785 until 1800, when Parliament was dissolved for ever under the Act of Union, a measure which Foster had strenuously opposed. As Speaker he pronounced the final words at the closing session, choosing to retain his official mace ‘for future contingencies’. Mr. Speaker Foster was returned to Westminster after the Union and was finally rewarded with a UK peerage in 1821 (his wife had previously been granted two Irish titles) after an illustrious political career that spanned more than sixty years.
In ‘A Tour of Ireland‘published in 1780, the agronomist Arthur Young mentions Foster whose improvements on the Collon estate “were of a magnitude that I have never heard of before.” These included Oriel Temple, an elaborate and chastely classical lakeside folly, which was subsequently enlarged to form the principal family seat. Foster’s son Thomas married an heiress, Harriet Skeffington, and the family moved to Antrim Castle when she succeeded as Viscountess Massereene.”
The HHI website continues: “Collon House has been altered over the intervening years but the building retains many fine Georgian interiors, now greatly enhanced by sympathetic restoration, fine furniture, glass, porcelain, pictures and objects. Their rich decoration makes a striking contrast with the plain exterior.
The gardens have also been restored with inspired and authentic planting. The entrance overlooks a sunken garden with an intricate box parterre, while the herbaceous border in the ornamental garden leads to a classical summer house in the Grecian style.” 
The National Inventory tells us it is a: “Corner-sited attached five-bay three-storey house, built c. 1770. Rectangular-plan, extended by two-bays into two-storey terrace to east, three-bay two-storey wing to north, extended former mews buildings surrounding courtyard to north, single-storey flat-roofed entrance porch to west elevation…This imposing house, the principal home of the Foster family, at the heart of Collon, has historical associations with John Foster, the last man to speak in the Irish House of Commons. It contains many details of interest, such as stone window dressings. Its prominence at the heart of the village is of intrinsic importance to the architectural heritage of Collon.”
4. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth– section 482
The website tells us: “The Ballymascanlon House is set on 130 acres of beautiful parkland, this impressive Victorian House forms the heart of this Hotel. It is one of the most remarkable historical estates in Ireland dating back to 833 A.D. Steeped in history, Ballymascanlon estate is located in Ireland’s North East on the Cooley Peninsula in close proximity to the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains. Less than 1 hour from Dublin and Belfast, and 20 minutes from the medieval town of Carlingford. We are delighted to welcome you to our beautiful luxurious venue, ideal for both Business and Leisure.”
Ballymascanlon House is a multiple-bay two-storey over basement with attic Tudor-Revival house, built in 1863 for James Wolfe McNeill, incorporating fabric of earlier building, with gables, mullioned windows, hood-mouldings and a recessed doorway.
2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth – see above
“The Castle, dating from the 15th century is situated in a fine parkland setting and surrounded by mature trees. The courtyard, approached through a medieval arched gateway has lofted stone faced buildings while the outer yard has very impressive stone faced buildings with stabling for 20 horses. Also included is an outdoor manège, partly walled garden and orchard. The lands, all in old pasture, have excellent road frontage and are renowned for their fattening qualities.In the early 12th Century a man named Patrick Babe was given 500 acres of land in the parish of Derver by King James II. He built a castle for himself and his family to live in on the grounds formerly owned by the church. The castle was built on the north side of the hill north of the cave and on the edge of the deep slope that led to the banks of two rivers, which provided fish and eels for the family food.The rivers acted as security from the enemy advancing from the north. With a large yard wall to the east 12 feet high and 20 acres of woodland to the west helped keep the enemy out. But a problem arose on the southside of the hill as it sloped to a deep valley and joined the high hill of newtown Darver. As the top of this hill is just 4 feet higher than the level of the top of the castle. So the soldiers were unable to see the enemy approaching from the south. Patrick Babe had a round tower built on the very top of the hill and placed soldiers into this garrison which gave them a clear view for 40 miles away so no enemy ever got near Darver Castle Estate during all the wars.
The church was never reached by Cromwell because of the protection from the hilltower. When the wars were over, Patrick Babe had wings put on the front of the tower and converted it into a windmill, and used it to ground corn for himself and his tenants. This continued for 150 years until large mills were built on the edge of the rivers, powered by the water, so that the use of the towermill ended and it was later demolished and the land around made arable. The hill is still known as windmill hill. 12thC Patrick Babe built the castle. Later he built 14 tenant houses. 1385 John Babe was given the advocasy of the church 1655 The Babes rented the castle to Abraham Ball. He died in 1742. 1740 James Babe sold the castle and 500 acres of land to Richard Fiscall Dublin for $4,000 1777 According to a survey done by Taylor and Skinner. The castle was idle. 1789 John Booth bought the castle. He died in 1840. 1840 Joseph Booth appears. He added the new wing and porch. 1857 John Filgate Booth died there. 1890 Frances Rutherford died there. 1894 Elizabeth Booth died there. 1906 Charles Rutherford died there. 1921 Zane Booth died there. 1980 John Booth died there. 1993 McCormack family took over and shortly afterwards Aidan and his wife Mary took ownership. Through a lot of hard-work and love for the castle, they have transformed it into the castle wedding venue it is today. The Carville family still continue to care for the castle, with improvements happening endlessly.“
The National Inventory tells us: “Built in 1727 by William Stannus, this building, with its unadorned façade and finely-balanced elegant classical proportions, is a handsome representative of architectural developments during the Georgian era. It retains a large amount of original and early fabric, including handsome boundary walls, corner tower and carriage arch.”
“Hatch’s Castle has many beautiful features including the Dome Hall, the original spiral staircase, and a wonderfully restored drawing room on the first floor, where you can sit down and relax. We’re situated in the lovely town Ardee, which is surrounded by many historic places such as the Jumping Church and Newgrange. There are few restaurants around Ardee and several shops.
Walking inside Hatch’s castle on the Main Street of Ardee is a feeling of space and tranquility. From that moment you know you have entered a castle that is waiting to be explored. There are four floors, each boasting character and an ambiance of true charm and comfort. Ground floor entrance hall with dome ceiling is also used as a dining room. The 1st floor has the drawing room with an open fire. Here you can help yourself to a drink, relax, read and unwind. Breakfast can be served here in the large window over looking the Main Street. The 2nd and 3rd floor have a bedroom and private bathroom each.
It is possible to see Ardee and its surrounding countryside from the roof. There is a cobble stone yard to sit in and a walled garden to enjoy during the summer months.
The entire castle is here for you to explore and enjoy. There is a front door entering the castle from the main street.“
The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster (1993) has an entry for Hatch’s Castle:
p. 117. “Rectangular four storey tower house with rounded corners and a façade only one window wide. C15 or C16 and for centuries a property of the Hatch family. Two semicircular turrets project at rear. The castle is sandwiched between ordinary two and three-storey houses on the main street. In 1837 it was described by Lewis as ‘recently fitted up as a dwelling by Wm Hatch,’ which probably accounts for the new battlements, windows and hoodmouldings. Quaint interior, with timber panelling in the barrel-vaulted hall and a carpeted turret stair.” 
Whole House Rental, County Louth:
1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, see above, €€€ for two, € for 6-12
2. Bellingham Castle, co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits
The house is open to the public from January 9th – February 3rd and from May 1st – June 9th, daily from 9.00am – 1.00pm.
Fee: Adult €8 OAPs / Students / Children €4
The website tells us:
“Balrath House & Courtyard, County Meath is a superb Georgian family home built in c. 1760 – the traditional architecture of which echoes a sense of the past. Yet nothing can prepare you for the beautiful and inviting warmth of the interior design...
The house is set in 1.5 acres of stunning & elegant gardens in a mature setting surrounded by 20.5 acres on the River Nanny which will assure you both privacy and tranquility...
The current owners Ray and Frances O’Brien have renovated the old out houses which were used at one time for milking cows, shoeing horses, housing animals and coaches to cosy, bright self catering cottages...
The cottages are located beside the classical style Georgian house that was built for the Walsh family. The Walsh’s wealth was created from their milling business, and historical records show that in 1654 there were over 100 corn mills in County Meath. The substantial remains of one such corn mill are situated in the lower garden where it is still possible to see the site of the former mill wheel and mill race.
There is a strong history associated with the house and many of the original features still remain, for example the original Lock and key and the Adam plasterwork.
The estate is an ideal location for walking and offers splendid views of the “forty shades of green” which Ireland is famous for.”
Art Kavanagh tells us about the Aylmer family who lived in Balrath, in his book The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, volume 1 (published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005). Gerald Aylmer (c. 1485-1560) of Balrath was Chief Justice of Ireland. As a leading figure in the Dublin administration he co-orchestrated the military campaign that defeated Silken Thomas, and he escorted Silken Thomas and his five uncles to London when they were captured.
He assisted Lord Deputy Leonard Grey in his campaign against the O’Neills of Ulster and was rewarded with the manor and lordship of Dollardstown in County Meath. His elder brother Richard Aylmer of Lyons, County Kildare, received the manor house at Donadea. [p. 3, Kavanagh].
The Aylmers of Balrath descended from Nicholas Aylmer (1541- c. 1608). He married Margaret Plunkett, third daughter and co-heir of Christopher Plunkett 7th Lord Killeen and by this marriage, Balrath came into the ownership of the Aylmer family.
Christopher Aylmer (1615-1671) signed a document swearing loyalty to the King, repudiating the power of the Pope over the king, asking, however, for repeal of the laws against Catholics. He was made a Baronet shortly afterwards. His son Gerald, 2nd Baronet, a staunch Catholic, joined the Jacobite forces. He was imprisoned and his brother Matthew, a Protestant, petitioned to be granted his land. Matthew was later created Lord Aylmer, Baron of Balrath.
Gerald had some of his estates returned to him. He was succeeded by his son John, 3rd Baronet, who was succeeded by his brother the 4th Baronet. The 5th Baronet died unmarried and Balrath was divided between his sisters: Mabel, who married James Strong and received Balrath as part of their settlement; Margaret who married twice, to Robert Luttrell a Dublin merchant then to Robert Netterville fo Cruicerath; and Catherine who married John Malpas but had no family. [p. 10, Kavanagh].
contact: Randall Plunkett Tel: 046-9025169 www.dunsany.com Open: June 24-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-22, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €25, OAP/student/12-18 years €15, child under 12 years free, National Heritage Week €10, under12 years free
contact: Charles Hamilton Tel: 086-3722701 www.hamwood.ie Open: Apr 1-Sept 25, Fri-Sun, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 10am-7pm Fee: adult €10, child under 12 free
The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:
“Hamwood is a smaller Palladian house of the 1770s, near the town of Dunboyne on the borders of Meath and Kildare, with a central block joined to little octagonal ‘pepper-pot’ wings by elegantly curved sweeps. Unusually, the left hand wing contains the main entrance, since it is said that the house was so cold when built that the family decided to move the hall door as far from the main rooms as possible. The resulting effect is interesting, since the principal facade lacks a central feature and looks more like a garden front. Internally this has allowed the creatiion of a double drawing room that runs along the entire length of the facade, an unusual feature in a house of this size.” 
The Hamwood website tells us:
“Hamwood House sits surrounded by wooded gardens in unspoilt countryside between Dunboyne and Maynooth in Kildare, and is unique in having been occupied by the same family since it was built almost 250 years ago. Hamwood so called due to its creators Charles Hamilton I *[1738-1818] (see below) and his wife Elizabeth Chetwood [from Woodbrook, County Laois] amalgamating their last names, not on account of its wooded surroundings. On arrival at this area at the time one would have been both in awe of the far reaching views towards the Dublin mountains and the ferocious winds which battered this high point in the landscape, being 300 feet above sea level. There was good reason for choosing such a site however, in that the land was amongst the best in Ireland but also it fell naturally from where the house stood allowing good natural drainage. Most importantly too the House was built on rock, the best of foundations.
While works were progressing on the house the family occupied Courthill -an attractive Georgian house in Dunboyne . Mr Hamilton became the agent serving the then Duke of Leinster at Carton estate , a role that passed from father to son through all generations up til Charles VI in the 1960’s , although the Estate had already been sold. The relationship between the Hamilton family and the Leinsters was a special one and they took an active interest in the development of Hamwood , donating such features as the pair of granite steps to the front of the house , thinnings to form the woodlands and various shrubs and ornamental trees. For such an exposed site it was crucial to protect the house from the strong winds which explains the heavily wooded surroundings. Charles I formed the front door and hallway to where now is the back door. His son added the two Palladian wings and the front entrance placed at the end of the west wing at his wife’s insistence that the draughts were kept well away from the main living areas.
Many new additions and developments were carried out by different generations including the walled garden and pine walk where visitors can see an abundance of well established shrubs , plants and ornamental trees amongst the relics of former days when there were several men working the gardens.”
The website has a terrific description of the family who lived in Hamwood and still occupy it today, so I will quote verbatim!
“Hugh Hamilton 1572-1655 The Hamiltons had been established in Scotland for some 300 years before arriving in Ireland. Our Scottish ancestor Sir James Hamilton of Evendale had 4 sons, the youngest of whom Hugh emigrated to Ireland as part of the colonisation known as the Ulster plantation. In 1616 Hugh became ‘denizen’ of Ireland (an Irish citizen). He settled at Lisbane near Bangor in Co.Down. He died aged 83 and is buried in the churchyard at Bangor.
Alexander George Hamilton 1640-1676 Son of Hugh, settled at Killyleagh, Co Down. Married Jean Hamilton. Their daughter Jane married William Sloane brother of Sir Hans Sloane whose Collections formed the British Museum.
Hugh Hamilton 1664-1728 Son of Alexander. Married Mary Ross of Rostrevor, an heiress. They lived in Ballybrenagh, Co Down. He had 3 daughters and 2 sons, George and Alexander.
Alexander Hamilton 1690-1768 Settled at Knock Co Dublin and married Isabella Maxwell of Finnebrogue. Became M.P. for Killyleagh from 1730-1761. Became wealthy owning town lands worth £50,000.
Of his children his eldest son Hugh became Dean of Armagh then Bishop of Ossory. George became M.P. for Belfast 1769-1776, settled at Hampton Hall, Balbriggan, and built the fishing village into a flourishing town with cotton mills, and a trading port which he had built as well as a lighthouse. The firm Smyth and Co traded for 200 years and Queen Victoria was a client. George was made a Baron in the Court of Exchequer Belfast. Anne, one of the daughters married Colonel Henry Caldwell, who fought in Canada under General Wolfe and they settled near Quebec. As Wolfe’s ADC he was sent to England to announce news of the victory over the French at Quebec, where Wolfe died in battle.
Charles Hamilton I 1738-1818 | Builder of Hamwood
Youngest son of Alexander. Educated at Blackrock College and then at a new school at Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan founded by Lord Bath. He married Elizabeth Chetwood and they had 15 children, though some died young. According to her daughter in law, Elizabeth “never consulted a physician except in childbirth and still lived till she was 79.” Charles started working life as apprentice to a wine merchant by the name of Mr Crummie of Port Stuart mainly trading in claret. He subsequently started his own store and moved to Mount Venus near Marlay to be nearer Dublin. While here he became a member of the notorious Hellfire Club becoming the toastmaster. The gavel he used is still at Hamwood. While at Mount Venus he met Miss Chetwood who he subsequently married and they called the house they were to build by taking the first and last syllables of their names – Ham wood. Charles’ brother Robert married the other Miss Chetwood [Hester].
Charles was left a townland in the North of Ireland which he sold for £7,000 and bought land from a Mr James Hamilton of Ballymacoll where he built Hamwood house. Ballymacoll, between Maynooth and Dunboyne right on the Kildare border with Meath, had a reputation from the 1950’s as one of the best stud farms in the world breeding such majestic horses as Arkle who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times in succession 1964-1966, and countless Classic winners including the Derby.
Before moving in to Hamwood Charles I rented a house in Dunboyne – Courthill – so he could oversee the building works, until the house was completed in 1777. When he and his family moved to Hamwood he decided to pursue a different way of life and took on Agencies, firstly for the Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Lansdowne. In 1798 came the Rebellion following the American and French revolutions and it was dangerous times for those who owned landed estates. Charles was taken down to Dunboyne with others including the Agent to the Duke of Leinster to face the rebel firing squad. Happily thanks to the intervention of a respected local man O’Reilly, whose family still practice as blacksmiths in the area, asked that Mr Hamilton be spared as “he was more useful (to them) alive than dead.” It was said that this was probably in recognition of his moral, learned and industrious character.
The position of agent to the Duke of Leinster now being vacant, Charles asked the then Duke if he might consider him as his Agent and this was granted. The creation and running of Carton, the seat of the Leinster family, thereby began its long history. The position of Agent to the Leinster Estate stayed with the Hamiltons passing from father to son for 150 years right until the last heir died and the Estate was finally acquired by Lord Brocket in the 1950’s.
Charles II 1772-1857
Educated at Blackrock College and then at a new school at Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan founded by Lord Bath. He was a classics scholar and completed his education at Trinity College Dublin before being called to the Bar in 1792. He spent some years in London while practicing as a lawyer before returning to Ireland. In 1801 he married Caroline Tighe of Rosanna Co Wicklow, and in 1802 their son Charles William was born.
Charles 11 and Caroline set about making major improvements to Hamwood, extending the existing house and adding the wings, and also the interior adding ornate furniture wall coverings etc. Much of the furniture was procured for the house, some of it specially designed and fitted.
He was responsible for laying the foundations of the Gardens.
Charles William III 1802-1880 He married Letitia Charlotte Armstrong in 1841. He had a keen interest in Agriculture and was deeply involved in the Royal Dublin Society. He was particularly concerned about the state of Agriculture in the country prior to the Famine of 1845 and he urged the Repeal MP William Smith O’Brien to set up agricultural societies and colleges throughout Ireland to instruct farmers in modern methods. He corresponded frequently with Prime Minister William Gladstone about the terrible conditions caused by the potato blight and deplored the lack of assistance given. Although the effects were not nearly so bad in Leinster, soup kitchens were available to those who needed it, one being at Hamwood. One of Charles William’s passions was painting and he toured extensively, visiting Scotland and France, where he was arrested by the French whilst painting a warship in Antibes harbour. Presumably he convinced them he was simply an artist and no spy and was released! At Hamwood he planted the Pine Walk ca 1860, at a time when trees were becoming available from across the globe particularly from North America and the Himalayas. A Monterey Pine still stands among various Cedars, Sequoia and large Pines lining this Walk.
Charles Robert IV 1846-1913 Married Louise Brooke in 1874 who had 10 children, of whom 2 boys died in infancy, one being the first born and heir. The two chestnut trees in the Lawn field were planted in their memory. There were 6 daughters among whom were the exceptional artists Letitia and Eva, and of the boys Gerald Charles the future heir, and Freddie . Charles Robert was educated at home by a governess and at the age of 17 he went to Trinity to study law. He was a member of the Kildare Street Club and was passionate about the garden at Hamwood, where he transformed the Walled Garden, and in order to create an impact he employed a head gardener from Kew Gardens in London. He gained a great deal of help from his large family particularly Connie (Constance) who took up landscaping professionally. Charles Robert travelled with his wife to the continent frequently and at times further afield to visit relations in Canada near Montreal.
Gerald Francis Charles V 1877-1961 Educated at Haileybury and Downton Agricultural College. Became Land Agent to Estates in Gloucestershire , including Dodington Estate (now owned by the inventor James Dyson) before returning to Hamwood upon his father’s death. Became Justice of the Peace (J.P.). Married Violet Travers Hamilton daughter of Robert Craigie Hamilton (of the Hawkesbury Hamiltons) and Charlotte Lewis also from Canada. Both Violet and Francis Charles descended from the same great-great-grandfather so were distant cousins. Violet came to England to visit and ‘do the season’ as it was known. Francis Charles was ‘directed’ by his father to look after his Canadian cousin during the Cheltenham festival which he probably thought was a bit of a chore … until he met her. After that he managed to find plenty of time to accompany her to the various social events of the Summer. Eventually Violet returned to Canada and subsequently travelled to India but after some persistence Francis Charles persuaded her to return to Cheltenham and in 1911 they were married. They had three children, Esme a wonderful writer of children’s books who had the artist Lionel Edwards to illustrate them, and Betty who was an exceptional horsewoman and BHS qualified, and Charles the heir. Tragically Violet died prematurely in 1947. A few years later Francis Charles married Rosamund Bauer who built up Hamwood’s dairy herd and helped see the estate through some difficult times during post war depression. Francis Charles took on the Agencies of the Leinster Estate whose seat was Carton located only a few miles away near Maynooth. Francis Charles died in 1961 and left the estate to his son Charles.
Charles Robert Francis VI 1918-2005 Educated at Twyford prep school and Stowe, subsequently Sandhurst Military Academy. Shortly after, war broke out and he served in the Indian Cavalry primarily with Probyns Horse. For most part he was based near Gilgit in Kashmir keeping control of the tribal factions over an area the size of Wales. He relished the life there where he partook in the local sport, pig-sticking, bear hunting, fishing and game hunting, and particularly polo. He later played at Phoenix Park, Dublin and captained Ireland.
He remained in India until 1947 and was asked to take on the role of Political Agent to assist in the transition of Partition, but this coincided with news that his mother was dying and he returned to Ireland just in time to be at her side.
He managed farms and estates in England before returning to Ireland in the mid 50’s when he met Anne Spicer from Carnew, Co. Wicklow but originally from Wiltshire, and they married in 1958. The Major as he was known, carried on the Agency work which included Slane and Clonbrock in Galway, before taking over Hamwood in 1961. They had two children Annabelle and Charles VII both born on the same day but one year apart.
Many exceptional women have passed through Hamwood’s doors. The following are but a few and some may be omitted through lack of information.
Caroline Hamilton (1777-1861), née Tighe, married Charles II and was responsible for decorating and furnishing the house in the style of the time. She came from a fine house in Wicklow, called Rossanagh. Her grandparents were Sir William and Lady Elizabeth Fownes, owners of Woodstock, from where Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, the Ladies of Llangollen, made their escape to a life together in North Wales, causing a certain amount of uproar at the time. Woodstock was burnt to the ground in July 1922 by the IRA.
Caroline spent much of her younger years in London and took lessons in art from the notable printmaker and portrait painter John Spilsbury (1737-1812) who had taught at Harrow where her brother was at school, and later Maria Spilsbury (1776-1820), his daughter. She became a skilled artist, especially in creating pen and ink drawings of Irish society of the day, using a satirist angle on such subjects as religion, education and the ruling classes.
After rearing and educating her six children, Caroline dedicated her time to the improvement and development of Hamwood House and its gardens, her art and, in particular, her writing. Her Memoirs are one of the most significant records of Irish life of the time, and in addition, she became heir to the diaries of the Ladies of Llangollen, which are now in the collection of the Hamwood papers held in the National Library, Dublin. Caroline’s cousin, Mary Tighe (1772-1810), was an accomplished poet best known for her poem, Psyche. Her artistic talent and to some extent, that of her husband, Charles III, passed down to her great-grandchildren, Eva and Letitia.
Eva Henrietta Hamilton (1876-1960) was born and reared at Hamwood, as was her sister, Letitia. One of five sisters and two brothers, only one sister, Lily, got married, with Eva and Letitia becoming established artists. Both fought for recognition in a society where art was considered as a male preserve and women artists were not treated as equals. Eva was an exceptional portrait artist having studied under Sir William Orpen ( 1878-1931) at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (DMSA) which she entered in 1907 at the age of 31 and later, under Henry Tonks, at the Slade in London. Many of her portraits were commissioned by members of her extended family and their social circle. Normally painted against a simple background, Eva’s skill was in reading the character of her sitters and transferring that on to her canvas. With the coming of independence in Ireland in 1922, the market for these type of portraits was much reduced and Eva switched her attention to landscapes which although not particularly innovative in their production were attractive and well observed.
Eva was the first of the sisters to exhibit her work, showing a portrait and a figure subject in 1898 at the annual exhibition of the Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI). Watercolours were then seen as an acceptable medium for women artists. Her works were shown in London, Paris and Brussels as well as the Irish International Exhibition in Dublin in 1907. She first exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Dublin in 1904 where she continued to exhibit until 1945.
With the death of their mother in 1922, Eva assumed much of the housekeeping role and had less time to devote to her painting. The sisters lived together for most of their lives, in their later years in a series of large rented houses. Among these was Fonthill in Palmerstown, now the offices of the Ballymore construction company. In 1946, they made their final move to Woodville in Lucan, an eighteenth century house designed by the architect, Richard Castle (1690-1751). Fondly known as ‘the Aunts’ nest’ they continued to give memorable parties in their rather eccentric lifestyles. A tree with many sweeping branches stood in the garden from where old umbrellas hung, and in a rather artistic way resembled a tree with huge drooping fruit!
Eva did produce some stunning works, one of which, The Piper, featuring the village of Dunboyne c. 1911, was chosen by the then Taoiseach, John Bruton, for his Christmas card to send to dignitaries around the world. She would have been delighted! Another of her works, “Ceilidh at Dunboyne’, dating from c. 1910, was included in the A Time and Place. Two Centuries of Irish Social Life exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland in 2006.
Letitia Marion Hamilton (1878-1964) was a talented and prolific landscape artist who, like her sister, studied under Open in the DMSA. Compared to Eva, she remained less influenced by him and more by the works of European artists that she saw during her time abroad. An inveterate traveller, she made trips to France, Belgium and Holland before the war in Europe curtailed these visits. During WWI she volunteered as a nurse but, in reality, seemed to spend most of the time rolling bandages in the Irish War Hospital Supply Depot which was located in Moore Abbey, Monastervin which had been converted into a recuperation centre for wounded soldiers. The family lived in one of the estate houses in the town where Letitia painted scenes of the town square, nearby Portarlington and the area of bog in between.
With the cessation of hostilities, Letitia’s travels recommenced with trips abroad, often accompanied by Eva, and during the 1920s, she travelled widely in France, Italy and Yugoslavia. She visited Venice for the first time in the autumn of 1923 and during the 1930s made regular visits to the city and northern Italian lakes. Fascinated by the interplay of light on the buildings and water, this area was to provide the subject matter for numerous paintings. Many of these featured the Venetian canals with their bridges, lined by closely packed buildings. Using a brightly coloured palette to create atmosphere, these were amongst the most original and successful canvases she produced.
Frustratingly, it is difficult to date her work exactly as she left her pictures undated and returned to the same subject matter on a number of occasions, often using the same title. Letitia signed her early paintings ‘MH’ (she was known as May by her family), reverting to the more familiar ‘LMH’ from about 1920 onwards.
With the onset of war again in Europe in 1939, Letitia switched her attention to her home country and produced a large body of work depicting the local landscapes and seascapes. Frequent visits to Roundstone and Glengarriff gave rise to a series of paintings of the area. More muted in tone, these often featured the rugged landscape and big skies of the locality. With an increasing use of impasto (layering of paint on the canvas), colour was applied in a broad sweep using a palette knife.
With horses central to the Hamilton family way of life, it was inevitable that equestrian scenes would form an important part of Letitia’ work. Scenes of riders and packs of hounds from the local hunts were prominent as were depictions of local fairs and race meetings. It was for one of these that Letitia won the bronze medal in the paintings section in the Sport in Art competition of the XIVth. Olympiad (Olympics) in 1948 in London. It featured an image of the pre-race parade of horses at the Meath point-to-point meeting. In fact, she became the last person to win such an award as Art was subsequently excluded from Olympic ‘sports’. (The current whereabouts of the painting, medal and diploma are unknown).
Letitia was a serial exhibitor – no sooner was one exhibition completed, then she was out painting for the next one. She was a founding member of the Society of Dublin Painters in 1920, along with Jack Butler Yeats, Paul Henry and Mary Swanzy. This provided a forum for the exhibition of more impressionist and avant-garde works away from the more conservative environment of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). She remained a member throughout its existence; Eva became President in 1948. She did also become a member of the RHA, one of its earliest female members, becoming an Associate Member in 1934 and full member in 1944. Only missing two years, 1927 and 1931, Letitia exhibited in the annual exhibition in the RHA every year from 1909 to 1964. Her crowning glory was a series of exhibitions in the Dawson Gallery in Dublin from 1958 to 1963. The last one was held the year before her death – these sell-out shows confirmed her popularity with the buying public. Recently, her painting of A Fair Day, Clifden was included in the ‘Birth of Modernism in Irish Art’ exhibition in Dublin Castle.
During her final years, Letitia’s sight began to fail and she developed a slight tremor in her hand. Nevertheless, she continued to paint, concentrating on smaller canvases, often studies of beach scenes in Dublin and equestrian scenes of hunting and polo which she finished rapidly but still managed to retain a sense of movement and life. Following a fall in Woodville, she died in the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin on 9 August 1964, aged 86.
There has been a debate as to which of the sisters was the better artist but their differences in style and technique makes this difficult to assess. Letitia produced a significant body of work with her characteristic layering of paint on the canvas making it readily identifiable. Much of Eva’s early work was portraiture, a genre in which she excelled but this was an arena that Letitia seldom ventured in to. What is certain was they both blazed a trail for women artists in Ireland at a time when it was dominated by their male counterparts such as Sean Keating, Paul Henry and Jack Yeats. Eva and Letitia’s images of pre-war Europe and scenes from Irish towns and villages preserve a way of life that has now vanished for ever.“
7. Kilgar Gardens, Kilgar house, Gallow, Kilcock, Co Meath W23E7FK
Garden: all year, 11am-5pm Fee: adult €7, OAP €6, student €5, child €3.50, group concessions
The website tells us:
“Loughcrew is an estate made up of 200 acres of picturesque rolling parkland complete with a stunning house and gardens. It provides the perfect family friendly day out as there is something to suit all ages and interests.
The House and Gardens within at Loughcrew Estate date back to the 17th century – making it a landscape of historical and religious significance. Here, you’ll find a medieval motte and St. Oliver Plunkett’s family church among other old buildings. You’ll also find lime and yew avenues, extensive lawns and terraces, a water garden and a magnificent herbaceous border.There is a Fairy Trail for children and a coffee shop too!”
13. The Former Parochial House, Slane, Co. Meath– section 482
contact: Alan Haugh Tel: 087-2566998 www.parochialhouseslane.ie Open: May 1-Sept 30, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: adult 5, child/OAP/student €3
The website tells us:
“‘Parochial House’, The Square, Slane, Co. Meath is one of the 4 landmark buildings within the centre of the historic village of Slane known as the Square although formed in actuality of an Octagon. This central ‘Square’ is formed of four symmetrically placed houses set a 45 degrees to the main crossing.
A dwelling house of three bays and three storeys, it was constructed c. 1768, and was the second of the four houses to be built to form the ‘Square’. In the Buildings of Ireland – North Leinster by Christine Casey and Alistair Rowan it is noted that the plot on the north east corner was granted to one Henry Fischer with the stipulation:
‘House to be built within 5 years, same plan as new inn opposite recently built, also the other houses same plan as laid down for building in the said town of Slane.’
The determination was evident from the beginning that this set-piece of rural town planning would be of the same uniformity and quality as its more urban equivalents. The house essentially retains its original features with excellent joinery, plasterwork, and some original chimneypieces extant.
Parochial House is a three bay three storey over basement stone dwelling with hipped roof and gable chimneystacks. Stonework is coursed and squared limestone rubble with cut limestone dressings to openings. The entrance doorway is variously described as a’block and start’ doorway or more commonly a Gibbsian style doorway after James Gibbs. The door is raised on limestone stones with the exposed portion of the basement acting as a plinth. Remaining facades are rendered.
The proportion of window to wall favours the masonry lending the houses a certain austerity. As a formal composition the grandeur of the Square has rarely been equalled in rural Ireland. Nineteenth-century enclosing walls were added to better define the private and public realms in the Square. The principal entrance door is a nine-panelled door although the present unpainted finish seems too modern.
To the rear, the elevation is rendered in a medium aggregate dash, likely of modern installation. Window dressings are set recessed behind the plain of the render and are tooled and hammered with a simple keystone. Cills are quite slight in proportion in comparison with the cills used on the front elevation. The roof is finished in natural slate and the stacks appear to have been rebuilt from centre upwards in red machine made brick.“
“You will find an oasis of rural luxury set in the Boyne Valley- the most historically rich area of Ireland’s Ancient East – offering the seclusion of a Georgian courtyard – yet only 20 minutes from Dublin Airport and 10 minutes from Newgrange.
The house is set in 1.5 acres of stunning & elegant gardens in a mature setting surrounded by 20.5 acres on the River Nanny which will assure you both privacy and tranquility.
The self-catering accommodation in the courtyard is of 4 Star Fáilte Ireland approved standard.
The current owners Ray and Frances O’Brien have renovated the old out houses which were used at one time for milking cows, shoeing horses, housing animals and coaches to cosy, bright self catering cottages.
There are eight cottages to choose from each offering something unique, decorated to modern living while still maintaining features of its past.
The cottages are located beside the classical style Georgian house that was built for the Walsh family. The Walsh’s wealth was created from their milling business, and historical records show that in 1654 there were over 100 corn mills in County Meath. The substantial remains of one such corn mill are situated in the lower garden where it is still possible to see the site of the former mill wheel and mill race.
There is a strong history associated with the house and many of the original features still remain, for example the original Lock and key and the Adam plasterwork.“
The house is open to the public from January 9th – February 3rd and from May 1st – June 9th, daily from 9.00am – 1.00pm.
Fee: Adult €8 OAPs / Students / Children €4
The estate is an ideal location for walking and offers splendid views of the “forty shades of green” which Ireland is famous for.”
2. Bellinter House near Bective, County Meath – hotel and restaurant€€
“A magnificent 18th century Georgian house, located in the heart of the Boyne Valley, less than 5 minutes of the M3 and under 30 minutes from Dublin City centre and Dublin airport.
A property designed originally by Richard Castles for John Preston [1700-1755], this house was once used as a country retreat for the Preston Family, to abscond from the city for the summer months.
Following over 270 years of beautiful history the purpose of Bellinter House remains the same, a retreat from ones daily life.
On arriving, you will find yourself succumb to the peacefulness and serenity that is Bellinter House.“
The National Inventory tells us about Bellinter House:
“Designed by the renowned architect Richard Castle in 1751. Bellinter is a classic mid eighteenth-century Palladian house with its two-storey central block, linked to two-storey wings by single-storey arcades, creating a forecourt in front of the house. This creates a building of pleasant symmetry and scale which is of immediate architectural importance. The building is graded in scale from ground to roofline. It gets progressively lighter from semi-basement utilising block and start windows on ground floor to lighter architraves on first floor to cornice. The house forms an interesting group with the surviving related outbuildings and entrance gates.” 
Art Kavanagh tells us in his The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, Volume 1 (published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005) that John Joseph Preston (1815-1892) had only a daughter, and he leased Bellinter House to his friend Gustavus Villiers Briscoe. When John Joseph Preston died he willed his estate to Gustavus.
Much of the land was dispersed with the Land Acts, but Bellinter passed to Gustavus’s son Cecil Henry Briscoe. His son George sold house and lands to the Holdsworth family, who later sold the land to the Land Commission. The house was acquired by the Sisters of Sion in 1966, who sold it in 2003.
contact: Alan Haugh Tel: 041-9884444 www.boynehouseslane.ie Open: all year, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: Free
The website tells us: “Boyne House Slane is a former rectory dating from 1807, magnificently renewed, whilst retaining much of its original features to offer luxury accommodation comprising 10 guest bedrooms offering exceptional levels of comfort and style, the perfect retreat for the visitor after exploring 5,000 years of history and culture in the area.
Discreetly tucked away behind the centrally located Village Garden and recreation area, ‘Boyne House Slane’ is set in its own grounds, comprising a small patch of woodland with well-aged Copperbeech, Poplar and Chestnut trees.
Originally named Cillghrian Glebe, the property was built in 1807 as a rectory or Glebe. The name Cillghrian, sometimes anglicised as Killrian, derives from the words ‘cill’ for church and ‘grian’ which translated as ‘land’ giving the house the simple name ‘church land’. The house retains many of its original features complete with excellent joinery, plasterwork and chimneypieces.”
4. Clonleason Gate Lodge, Fordstown, County Meath: Hidden Ireland €
“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.“
The website tells us: “A place to wind down and relax or a base to explore all that Ireland has to offer. Make yourself at home in our secluded, romantic cottage, nestled in the beautiful countryside of the Royal County.
We offer luxury self-catering accomodation in an idyllic setting. Our self-sufficient cottage, furnished and fitted to a high standard, sleeps 2 and boasts a kitchen, a wetroom w/c with a power shower plus ample relaxation space, all kept warm and cosy by a woodburning stove.
Ideally suited to couples who are looking for a luxurious, romantic break in the peaceful and beautiful countryside of Ireland.“
“Highfield House is an elegant, 18th century residence run by Edward and Geraldine Duignan and situated in the beautiful heritage town of Trim. Known as the birthplace of Ireland’s Ancient East, Trim is renowned as one of Ireland’s most beautiful towns. The award winning accommodation boasts magnificent views of Trim Castle, The Yellow Steeple, and the River Boyne.
Guests can book Highfield House for their overnight stay while visiting the area, or book the entire property as a self catering option in Meath.
The house was built in the early 1800’s and was opened as a stately maternity hospital in 1834 and remained so up to the year 1983, making it 175 years old. A host of original, antique interior features still remain. Spend the morning sipping coffee on our patio, relax with a book in our drawing room or wile away the afternoon people watching from our garden across the river.”
“The original manor – or The Johnstown House as it was known – is as storied as many other large country house in Ireland. Luckily, the house itself has stood the test of time and is the beating heart of the hotel and all its facilities which together form The Johnstown Estate.
Built in 1761, The Johnstown House (as it was then known) was the country residence of Colonel Francis Forde [1717-1769], his wife Margaret [Bowerbank] and their five daughters. Colonel Forde was the 7th son of Matthew Forde, MP, of Coolgraney, Seaforde County Down, and the family seat is still in existence in the pretty village of Seaforde, hosting Seaforde Gardens.
The Colonel had recently returned from a very successful military career in India and was retiring to become a country gentleman. Enfield – or Innfield as it was then known – satisfied his desire to return to County Meath where his Norman-Irish ascendants (the de la Forde family) had settled in Fordestown (now Fordstown), Meath, in the 13th century. Enfield was also close to Carton House in Maynooth, the home of the Duke of Leinster – at the time the most powerful landowner in Ireland.
After 8 years completing the house and demesne and establishing income from his estates, Colonel Forde left for a further military appointment in India. His boat, The Aurora, touched the Cape of Good Hope off Southern Africa on December 27th, 1769 and neither he, nor the boat, were heard from again.
Thereafter the house was owned by a variety of people including a Dublin merchant, several gentlemen farmers, a Knight, another military man, an MP and a Governor of the Bank of Ireland. In 1927 the Prendergast family bought the house and Rose Prendergast, after whom ‘The Rose’ private dining room is named, became mistress of Johnstown House for over fifty years.
The house was restored to its previous glory in the early years of the new millennium and a new resort hotel developed around it to become The Johnstown House Hotel. In 2015, under new ownership, the hotel was extensively refurbished, expanded and rebranded to become The Johnstown Estate.“
“The Loftus family were resident on the Killyon Manor estate at the far western edge of County Meath from the 16th century, possibly in a tower house within the house that ‘Loftus the Magnificent’ built in the mid-18th century. Rather unusually the house remains one room deep, although a ballroom was added at the rear sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century; there is also a perpendicular wing – the oldest part of the Georgian building. The façade was redone c. 1800 and a small Ionic portico added as well as long flanking screen walls with blind arches. It passed to the Magan family in the 1850s when William Henry Magan of Clonearl in County Offaly married the heiress Elizabeth Georgina Loftus. Their combined fortunes included 20,000 acres in Westmeath, Offaly and Shankill, Co. Dublin in addition to a house on St Stephen’s Green, where their daughter Augusta, jilted as an unsuitable match, is said to have left her wedding breakfast uncleared for 30 years (and as such was possibly the inspiration for Miss Haversham in Great Expectations). Over her lifetime, she became a hoarder and by the time of her death had filled the ballroom to waist-height with her impulsive, largely unopened purchases. A protracted decade-long legal battle over Augusta’s bizarre will ultimately led to the loss of much of the fortune. It was sold out of the family in the 1960s by Brigadier Bill Magan, who in retirement published a well-regarded memoir called ‘Umma-More’, which tells the story of the various houses owned by the family. Currently owned by the Purcell family, the estate, on a tributary of the River Boyne, is being rewilded and has become an important biodiversity zone.” 
11. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath– section 482, see above
The website tells us: “This stylish historic country house in Slane, County Meath, offers boutique bed and breakfast with magnificent views across the Boyne Valley and the megalithic passage tomb of Newgrange.
Rossnaree (or “headland of the Kings”) is a privately owned historic country estate in Slane, County Meath, located only 40 minutes from Dublin and less than an hour from Belfast.
An impressive driveway sweeps to the front of Rossnaree house, standing on top of a hill with unrivalled views across the River Boyne to Ireland’s famous prehistoric monuments, Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.
Rossnaree has been transformed into a boutique bed and breakfast, offering four luxury rooms for guests and also an original venue for special events and artistic workshops.“
13. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meathwhole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €
“Durhamstown Castle is 600 years old inhabited continuously since 1420. Its surrounded by meadows, dotted with mature trees. We take enormous pleasure in offering you our home and hospitality.“
The website tells us that in 1590:
The Bishop of Meath, Thomas Jones [1550-1619], who resided in next door Ardbraccan, at this time, owned Durhamstown Castle & we know from the records, that he left it to his son, Lord Ranelagh, Sir Roger Jones; who was Lord President of Connaught.Thomas Joneswas witness & reporter to the Crown on negotiations between the Crown Forces & the O’Neills. He was known to be close to Robert Devereux, The Earl of Essex – Queen Elizabeth’s lover. (Later, executed for mounting a rebellion against Her.) Letters are written – copies of which are in the National Library – from Devereux to the Queen both from Ardbraccan & Durhamstown (“the Castle nearby”).
Roger Jones, 1st Viscount Ranelagh (before 1589 – 1643) was a member of the Peerage of Ireland and lord president of Connaught. He was Chief Leader of the Army and Forces of Connaught during the early years of the Irish Confederate Wars. In addition to Viscount Ranelagh, he held the title Baron Jones of Navan.
Jones was the only son of Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Thomas Jones, and his wife Margaret Purdon. He was knighted at Drogheda on 24 March 1607. In 1609, he married Frances Moore, the daughter of Sir Garret Moore, eventual 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda. Jones was a member of the Parliament of Ireland for Trim, County Meath from 1613 to 1615. In 1620, he was named to the privy council of Ireland. He was the Chief Leader of the Army and Forces of Connaught and was Vice President of Connaught from 1626.
In 1608 his father became involved in a bitter feud with Lord Howth, in which Roger also became embroiled. His reference to Howth as a brave man among cowards was enough to provoke his opponent, a notoriously quarrelsome man to violence. In the spring of 1609, Jones, Howth and their followers engaged in a violent fracas at a tennis court in Thomas Street, Dublin, and a Mr. Barnewall was killed. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, an enemy of Howth, had him arrested immediately, though he was never brought to trial.
On 25 August 1628, Jones was created Baron Jones of Navan and 1st Viscount Ranelagh by King Charles I. He was made Lord President of Connaught on 11 September 1630 to serve alongside Charles Wilmot, 1st Viscount Wilmot.
Jones was killed in battle against Confederate forces under the leadership of Owen Roe O’Neill in 1643.
An Uncle, Colonel Michael Jones, was the military Governor of Dublin at the time and supported Cromwell’s landing at Ringsend, after the Battle of Rathmines. Troops assembled at Durhamstown to fight on Cromwell’s side. When they marched on Drogheda they laid the place waste & murdered all before them. They brought the severed heads of the Royalist Commanders to Dublin. The Jones’ generally seem to have been a bloodthirsty lot; & were known to be unrelenting in their enforcement of the new Credo. Michael Jones even had his own nephew executed. Roger Jones’ son, Arthur was also embroiled in huge controversy when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was supposed to have diverted all the taxes to pay for the King’s Mistresses!
[From 1750] From this time onwards we think the Thompsons lived here. One of the Thompsons was said to have died from septicaemia as a result of an apoplectic rage caused by his Irish labourers refusing to knock down the Church of Durhamstown. He is alleged to have grabbed the shovel & attempted the work himself ; only for the shovel to bounce back & bury itself in his leg, or in some recordings it hacked off his leg; which subsequently became septic & “he died miserably from his wounds” But the stones & spire were taken to build Ardbraccan Church.“
In 1840 “One of the Thompsons married a Roberts from Oatlands just at the back of Durhamstown, & they lived here up until 1910. A couple of years ago Janice Roberts, from America, called to the House but we were out!! Luckily Ella, a neighbour realised the importance of it & arranged for her & her husband to call back. We had a fascinating afternoon going through old photographs & records & tramping quietly round the nearby graveyards with them, filling in the blanks. She promised us a photograph of an oil painting of the Castle intact. Her grandfather lived in Durhamstown & later he sold it, taking some of the furniture & artefacts to his house in Dalkey, called Hendre.“
In 1996 Sue (Sweetman) & Dave Prickett buy Durhamstown Castle. “And we have been working on it ever since! We have re-roofed the entire Castle & the majority of the Buildings in the Yard. It was in a ruinous state when we bought it.“
3. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath– section 482
Contact: Emily Naper Tel: 049-8541356 (Tourist Accommodation Facility) Open: all year
“Built in 1766, The Millhouse and The Old Mill Slane, the weir and the millrace were once considered the largest and finest complex of its kind in Ireland. Originally a corn mill powered by two large water wheels, the harvest was hoisted into the upper floor granaries before being dried, sifted and ground.
Over time, the Old Mill became a specialised manufacturer of textiles turning raw cotton into luxury bed linen. Times have changed but this past remains part of our history, acknowledged and conserved.
In 2006, The Millhouse was creatively rejuvenated, transformed into a hotel and wedding venue of unique character – a nod to the early 1900’s when it briefly served as a hotel-stop for passengers on pleasure steamer boats.”
5. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meathwhole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €
 p. 66. 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.
Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.
I have noticed that an inordinate amount of OPW sites are closed ever since Covid restrictions, if not even before that (as in Emo, which seems to be perpetually closed) [these sites are marked in orange here]. I must write to our Minister for Culture and Heritage to complain.
29. Emo Court, County Laois – house closed at present
30. Heywood Gardens, County Laois
31. Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, County Longford
32. Carlingford Castle, County Louth
33. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – closed at present
34. Battle of the Boyne site, Oldbridge House, County Meath
35. Hill of Tara, County Meath
36. Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath – guides on site from June 16th 2022
37. Newgrange, County Meath
38. Trim Castle, County Meath
39. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly
40. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath
41. Ballyhack Castle, County Wexford – closed at present
42. Ferns Castle, County Wexford – closed at present
43. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford
44. Tintern Abbey, County Wexford
45. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow – closed at present
46. Glendalough, County Wicklow
47. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow
29. Emo Court, County Laois:
General enquiries: 057 862 6573, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“Emo Court is a quintessential neo-classical mansion, set in the midst of the ancient Slieve Bloom Mountains. The famous architect James Gandon, fresh from his work on the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, set to work on Emo Court in 1790. However, the building that stands now was not completed until some 70 years later [with work by Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and Arthur & John Williamson, from Dublin, and later, William Caldbeck].
The estate was home to the earls of Portarlington until the War of Independence forced them to abandon Ireland for good. The Jesuits moved in some years later  and, as the Novitiate of the Irish Province, the mansion played host to some 500 of the order’s trainees.
Major Cholmeley-Harrison took over Emo Court in the 1960s and fully restored it [to designs by Sir Albert Richardson]. He opened the beautiful gardens and parkland to the public before finally presenting the entire estate to the people of Ireland in 1994.
You can now enjoy a tour of the house before relaxing in its charming tearoom. The gardens are a model of neo-classical landscape design, with formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks just waiting to be explored.” 
Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the 1st Earl of Portarlington was interested in architecture and was instrumental in bringing James Gandon to Ireland, in order to build the new Custom House. The name Emo is an Italianised version of the original Irish name of the estate, Imoe. 
The Emo Court website tells us of the history:
“John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington [1744-1798] commissioned the building of Emo Court in 1790 although the house was not finally completed until 1870, eighty years later. Emo Court is one of only a few private country houses designed by the architect James Gandon. Others were Abbeyville, north Co. Dublin for Sir James Beresford [or is it John Beresford (1738-1805)? later famous for being the home of politician Charles Haughey] and Sandymount Park, Dublin for William Ashford. In addition, Gandon built himself a house at Canonbrook, Lucan, Co. Dublin.” 
Many of Gandon’s original drawings, plus those of his successors, are currently on display in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin.  The Emo Court website continues:
“James Gandon was born in London of Huguenot descent. He studied classics, mathematics and drawing, attending evening classes at Shipley’s Academy in London. At the age of fifteen, James was apprenticed to the architect Sir William Chambers and about eight years later, set up in business on his own. His first connection with Ireland was in 1769 when he won the second prize of £60 in a competition to design the Royal Exchange in Dublin, now the City Hall. He was invited to build in St Petersburg, Russia, by Princess Dashkov, and offered an official post with military rank. However, he chose instead to accept an offer from Sir John Beresford and John Dawson, Lord Carlow, later 1st Earl of Portarlington, to come to Dublin to build a new Custom House. This was begun in 1781. The following year, Gandon was commissioned to make extensions to the Parliament House, originally designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. Here he added a Corinthian portico as entrance to the Lords’ Chamber. After the Act of Union in 1801, the building became the Bank of Ireland. In 1785, Gandon was commissioned to design the new Four Courts. The third of his great Dublin buildings was the King’s Inns, begun in 1795. His few private houses were designed for patrons and friends.” [see 4]
The website continues: “In the early 18th century, Ephraim Dawson [1683-1746], a wealth banker, after whom Dawson Street in Dublin is named, purchased the land of the Emo Estate and other estates in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois). He married Anne Preston, heiress to the Emo Park Estate and fixed his residence in a house known as Dawson Court, which was in close proximity to the present Emo Court. His grandson, John Dawson, was created 1st Earl of Portarlington in 1785. Three years later, he married Lady Caroline Stuart, daughter of the [3rd] Earl of Bute, who was later Prime Minister of England. John Dawson commissioned Gandon to design Emo Court in 1790.“
“After Gandon died in 1823, to be buried in Drumcondra churchyard, the 2nd Earl of Portarlington, also John Dawson, engaged Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and A. & J. Williamson, Dublin architects, to finish the house. In the period, 1824-36, the dining room and garden front portico with giant Ionic columns were built, but on the death of the 2nd Earl in 1845, the house still remained unfinished. It was not until 1860 that the 3rd Earl, Henry Ruben John Dawson [or Dawson-Damer, the son of the 2nd Earl’s brother Henry Dawson-Damer, who had the name Damer added to his name after the family of his grandmother, Mary Damer, who married William Henry Dawson, 1st Viscount Carlow] commissioned William Caldbeck, a Dublin architect, and Thomas Connolly, his contractor, to finish the double height rotunda, drawing room and library.” [see 4] Caldbeck also added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.
Although it was not built during Gandon’s time, most of the house is as it was designed by Gandon, wiht some additions or changes. Mark Bence-Jones describes the house:
“Of two storeys over a basement, the sides of the house being surmounted by attics so as to form end towers or pavilions on each of the two principal fronts. The entrance front has seven bay centre with a giant pedimented Ionic portico; the end pavilions being of a single storey, with a pedimented window in an arched recess, behind a blind attic with a panel containing a Coade stone relief of putti; on one side representing the Arts, on the other, a pastoral scene. The roof parapet in the centre, on either side of the portico, is balustraded. The side elevation, which is of three storeys including the attic, is of one bay on either side of a curved central bow.” [see 3]
Bence-Jones continues: “The house was not completed when the 1st Earl died on campaign during 1798 rebellion; 2nd Earl, who was very short of money, did not do any more to it until 1834-36, when he employed the fashionable English architect, Lewis Vulliamy; who completed the garden front, giving it its portico of four giant Ionic columns with a straight balustraded entablature, and also worked on the interior, being assisted by Dublin architects named Williamson. It was not until ca 1860, in the time of 3rd Earl – after the house had come near to being sold up by the Encumbered Estates Court – that the great rotunda, its copper dome rising from behind the garden front portico and also prominent on the entrance front, was completed; the architect this time being William Caldbeck, of Dublin, who completed the other unfinished parts of the house and added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.” [see 3]
The website continues: “Emo court remained the seat of the Earls of Portarlington until 1920, when the house and its vast demesne of over 4500 ha, (11,150 acres), was sold to the Irish Land Commission. After the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Emo Court was the largest enclosed estate in Ireland. The house remained empty until 1930 when 150 ha., including the garden, pleasure grounds, woodland and lake were sold to the Society of Jesus for a novitiate. The Jesuits made several structural changes to the building to suit their purposes, including the conversion of the rotunda and library as a chapel. The distinguished Jesuit photographer, Fr Frank Browne lived at Emo Court from 1930-57.  A notable novitiate was the Irish author, Benedict Kiely.
The Jesuits remained at Emo until 1969 and the property was eventually sold to Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison. He embarked upon a long and enlightened restoration, commissioning the London architectural firm of Sir Albert Richardson & Partners to effect the restoration.
In 1994, President Mary Robinson officially received Emo Court & Parklands from Major Cholmeley-Harrison on behalf of the Nation.” [see 4]
Unfortunately Emo Park house has been closed to the public for renovation for several years, and was closed on the day we visited in July 2021. I am looking forward to seeing the interior, which from photographs and descriptions I have seen, look spectacular. From the outside we gain little appreciation of the splendid copper dome.
In the meantime, you can read more about Emo and see photographs of its interiors on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne. 
There are beautiful grounds to explore, however, on a day out at Emo, including picturesquely placed sculptures, an arboretum, lake, and walled garden. Here is a link to a beautiful short film by poet Pat Boran, about the statues at Emo Park, County Laois. https://bit.ly/35uXPO1
30. Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, County Laois:
General enquiries: 086 810 7916, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“The entrancing eighteenth-century landscape at Heywood Gardens, near Ballinakill, County Laois, consists of gardens, lakes, woodland and some exciting architectural features. The park is set into a sweeping hillside. The vista to the south-east takes in seven counties.
The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the formal gardens [around 1906], which are the centrepiece of the property. It is likely that renowned designer Gertrude Jekyll landscaped them.
The gardens are composed of elements linked by a terrace that originally ran along the front of the house. (Sadly, the house is no more.) One of the site’s most unusual features is a sunken garden containing an elongated pool, at whose centre stands a grand fountain.
The Heywood experience starts beside the Gate Lodge. Information panels and signage will guide you around the magical Lutyens gardens and the surrounding romantic landscape.“
The gardens at Heywood were created by Michael Frederick Trench (1746-1836), at his home, Heywood House, a house which was unfortunately burnt down in 1950 (my father as a young boy was at a musical concert nearby and saw the house burning!). Heywood House was built around 1789, and was captured before it burned down in photographs in Country Life, volume XLV in 1919. The article tells us that after Michael Frederick Trench built the house in the 1770s, he landscaped the area between his house and the village of Ballinakill, moving hills, digging lakes (he made three artificial lakes), planting trees and placing follies. The house was named after his mother-in-law, Mary Heywood (daughter of a Drogheda merchant). He was an amateur architect, and designed the parish church of Swords, as well as an addition to the Rotunda in Dublin.  The garden, set within a 250 acre demesne, is, Andrew Tierney claims, the best of its kind in Ireland: a blend of the Arcadian and the Picturesque, above which Edwin Lutyens later erected his walled terraces and enclosures.  One of the follies is a window from nearby Aghaboe Abbey (my grandfather had owned this property until the land was bought by compulsory purchase by the Land Commission in 1977).
Heywood House was inherited by the Domvile family in the mid 19th century (Michael Frederick’s daughter Helena married Comptom Pocklington Domvile, 1st Baronet Domvile, of Templeogue and Santry, Dublin), and later enlarged by Lt-Col William Hutchison-Poë, 1st Baronet Hutchison-Poë, in 1875, who had married Helena’s granddaughter Mary Adelaide Domvile. It was then bought by the Salesian Fathers in 1923. It was transferred to State ownership in November 1993 from the Salesian Fathers.
It was only in around 1906 that Lutyens added to the gardens. Sean O’Reilly describes his addition:
“Lutyens worked on the gardens from about 1906. He complemented the strong architectural framework with an informal planting style, following the same combination of structure and nature developed at Lambay and made popular with his associate – and Country Life author – Gertrude Jekyll. Laying out the garden in a series of terraces and stepped passageways exploding east and west from the falling southern terraces of the house itself, the architect shaped these spaces with a bewildering variety of retaining walls – vertical and battered, stepped and sheer – screen walls – straight and curved, large and dwarf – columns, steps and architectural artifacts.” 
Tierney describes the garden: The gardens stretch from the principal gates for almost a kilometer and a half, incorporating a sequence of three adjoining lakes and a fourth, further east, and areas of rolling parkland skirted by woodlands. Trench named each part of his garden after Alpine scenery. Trench’s Gothic follies include the Abbeyleix gate, an arrangement of octagonal towers joined by a Tudor-arched gateway. The Trench coat of arms is visible to the right of the gateway arch. From this gate the winding drive opens to Trench’s valley. Nearby, marking a split in the road, is the Spire, a shaft raised in memory of Trench’s friend Andrew Caldwell. Further along is a sham castle. High up behind that isa bridge, and a ruin, on the other side, with the Aghaboe windows. Up the pathway is the Gothic Greenhouse, a brick construction with five lancets with hood mouldings. On the east side of the lake is a grotto or bath house. On the east side of the demesne is the Trench mausoleum. [see 10]
The Lutyens garden descends to a sunken garden, with terraced borders leading down to a pool surrounded by bronze tortoises perched on stone balls. On the east side of the pond Luytens created a Pavilion with Portland stone dressings, terracotta tiled roof and saucer-domed interior, containing two Corinthian capitals rescued by Trench from the Parliament House in Dublin, which he was involved in remodelling. The north wall had busts of philosphers in oval niches, now replaced by urns.
For more on the gardens, see the blog of the Irish Aesthete, Robert O’Byrne. 
31.Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Kenagh, County Longford:
General enquiries: 043 332 2386, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“Hidden away in the boglands of Longford, not far from Kenagh village, is an inspiring relic of prehistory: a togher – an Iron Age road – built in 148 BC. Known locally as the Danes’ Road, it is the largest of its kind to have been uncovered in Europe.
Historians agree that it was part of a routeway of great importance. It may have been a section of a ceremonial highway connecting the Hill of Uisneach, the ritual centre of Ireland, and the royal site of Rathcroghan.
The trackway was built from heavy planks of oak, which sank into the peat after a short time. This made it unusable, of course, but also ensured it remained perfectly preserved in the bog for the next two millennia.
Inside the interpretive centre, an 18-metre stretch of the ancient wooden structure is on permanent display in a hall specially designed to preserve it. Don’t miss this amazing remnant of our ancient past.“
32. Carlingford Castle, County Louth:
From the OPW website:
“Carlingford lies in the shade of Slieve Foye, a mountain that in legend takes its form from the body of the sleeping giant Finn MacCumhaill. The castle dominates the town and overlooks the lough harbour. It was a vital point of defence for the area for centuries.
Carlingford Castle was built around 1190, most likely by the Norman baron Hugh de Lacy. By this time Hugh’s family had grown powerful enough to make King John of England uneasy. John forced them into rebellion and seized their property in 1210. He reputedly stayed in his new castle himself. It is still known as King John’s Castle.
The Jacobites fired on the castle in 1689; William of Orange is said to have accommodated his wounded soldiers there following the Battle of the Boyne.
Carlingford Lough Heritage Trust provides excellent guided tours of this historic Castle from March to October.“
By 1778 the building was ruinous. The task of repair and preservation was begun by the Henry Paget the 1st Marquess of Anglesey in the later nineteenth century (he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1848, and as Master General of the Ordinance), and has been continued by the OPW. 
33. Old Mellifont Abbey, Tullyallen, Drogheda, County Louth:
General enquiries: 041 982 6459, firstname.lastname@example.org. Mellifont means “fountain of honey.”
From the OPW website:
“Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. St Malachy of Armagh created it in 1142 with the help of a small number of monks sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux [and with the aid of Donough O’Carroll, King of Oriel – see 14]. The monks did not take well to Ireland and soon returned to France, but the abbey was completed anyway and duly consecrated with great pomp.
It has several extraordinary architectural features, the foremost of which is the two-storey octagonal lavabo [the monk’s washroom].
The monks at Mellifont hosted a critical synod in 1152. The abbey was central to the history of later centuries, too, even though it was in private hands by then. The Treaty of Mellifont, which ended the Nine Years War, was signed here in 1603, and William of Orange used the abbey as his headquarters during the momentous Battle of the Boyne.“
The ruins contain the medieval gatehouse, parish church, chapter house and lavabo. The octagonal lavabo was designed as a freestanding structure of two storeys, with an octagonal cistern to supply the water located at the upper level over the wash room. Wash basins were arranged around a central pier, now gone, which supported the weight of the water above.  The entire monastery was surrounded by a defensive wall. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Mellifont was acquired in 1540 by William Brabazon (died 1552), Vice Treasurer of Ireland, and passed later to Edward Moore (Brabazon’s wife Elizabeth Clifford remarried three times after Brabazon’s death, and one of her husbands was Edward Moore), who established a fortified house within the ruins around 1560. His descendents (Viscounts of Drogheda) lived there until 1727 (until the time of Edward Moore, 5th Earl of Drogheda), after which the house, like the abbey, fell into disrepair.
Garret Moore, 1st Viscount of Drogheda, hosted the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603.
34. Battle of the Boyne site and visitor centre, Oldbridge House, County Meath.
General Enquiries: 041 980 9950, email@example.com
The Battle of the Boyne museum is housed in Oldbridge Hall, which is built on the site where the Battle of the Boyne took place.
From the website:
“Oldbridge House was built in the 1740’s by either John Coddington or his nephew Dixie Coddington. [John Coddington purchased the land in 1724 from Henry Moore the 4th Earl of Drogheda.]
It is believed to have been designed by George Darley, a local mason architect who also designed the renovated Dunboyne Castle, Dowth House and The Tholsel in Drogheda, Co. Louth.
To the left of the house there is a cobble stone stable yard with fine cut stable block. This originally contained coach houses, stables, tack and feed rooms.
To the right of the house is a small enclosed courtyard which contains the former butler’s house which is not open to the public.” 
Oldbridge House was purchased by the state in 2000, and renovation began.
Oldbridge House is a three storey house with a plain ashlar frontage of seven bays, with the centre three widely spaced and set somewhat advanced from the rest of the facade. Quadrant walls link the house to its park, with rusticated doors. The house is of two dates. Originally, in around 1750 it was a three bay, three storey block with low single-storey wings, and in around 1832, two floors were added to each wing, said to be by Frederick Darley. Similarity to nearby Dowth Hall suggests the involvement of the earlier and related George Darley in the original design.  It has a centrally located tripartite doorcase with pilasters surmounted by a closed pediment, which holds a canonball from the fields of the Battle of the Boyne. It has a string course between ground and first floors and sill course to first floor, and three central windows on first floor with stone architraves. 
An ancestor of Stephen’s, Elizabeth Coddington (1774-1857), grew up in Oldbridge House! She married Edward Winder (1775-1829). The son of John Coddington who purchased the land predeceased his father so John’s nephew, Dixie (1725-1794), son of his brother Nicholas, inherited. Dixie in turn had no sons, so the estate passed to his brother Henry. Dixie is also associated with Tankardstown House, a section 482 property. Henry Coddington (1734-1816) was father to Stephen’s ancestor Elizabeth. Henry was a barrister, and served as MP for Dunleer, County Louth, and he married Elizabeth Blacker from Ratheskar, County Louth.
The Battle of the Boyne was just one of several battles that took place in Ireland when the rule of King James II was challenged by his son-in-law, a Dutch Protestant Prince, William of Orange. James II was Catholic, and he attempted to introduce freedom of religion, but this threatened families who had made gains under the reformed Protestant church. When James’s wife gave birth to a male heir in 1688, many feared a permanent return to Catholic monarchy and government. In November 1688, seven English lords invited William of Orange to challenge the monarchy of James II. William landed in England at the head of an army and King James feld to France and then to Ireland. William followed him over to Ireland in June 1690.
“On 1 July 1690 (Old Style), King William III clashed with his father-in-law, King James II, on the River Boyne at Oldbridge, County Meath.
Both kings commanded their armies in person. There were 36,000 men on the Williamite side and 25,000 on the Jacobite side. It was the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield. English, Scottish, Dutch, Danes and Huguenots (French Protestants) made up William’s army (Williamites), while James’ men (Jacobites) were mainly Irish Catholics, reinforced by 6,500 French troops sent by King Louis XIV. At stake were the British throne, French Dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland.
William’s camp was on the north side of the river. James’s was on the south side with the two armies facing each other. William’s battle plan was to trap the Jacobite army in a pincer movement. He sent 10,000 men towards Slane which drew the bulk of the Jacobities upstream in response. With 1,300 Jacobites posted in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. All the fighting took place on the south side of the river, as the vastly outnumbered Jacobites defended their position against the advancing Williamites. William himself crossed at Drybridge with 3,500 mounted troops.
The pincer movement failed. King James’s army retreated across the River Nanny at Duleek and regrouped west of the Shannon to carry on the war.
Approximately 1,500 soldiers were killed at the Boyne.” 
After winning the battle, William gained control of Dublin and the east of Ireland. However, the war continued until the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691, which led to the surrender at Limerick the following autumn. The surrender terms promised limited guarantees to Irish Catholics and allowed the soldiers to return home or to go to France. The Irish Parliament however then enacted the Penal Laws, which ran contrary to the treaty of Limerick and which William first resisted, as he had no wish to offend his European Catholic allies.
The gardens of Oldbridge House have been resotred, with an unusual sunken octagonal garden, peach house, orchard and herbaceous borders, with a tearoom in the old stable block. Throughout the year outdoor theatre, workshops and events such a cavalry displays and musket demonstrations help to recreate a sense of what it might have been like on that day in July 1690.
35.Loughcrew Cairns, Corstown, Oldcastle, County Meath:
general enquiries: 087 052 4975, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“The Loughcrew cairns, also known as the Hills of the Witch, are a group of Neolithic passage tombs near Oldcastle in County Meath. Spread over four undulating peaks, the tombs are of great antiquity, dating to 3000 BC.
Cairn T is one of the largest tombs in the complex. Inside it lies a cruciform chamber, a corbelled roof and some of the most beautiful examples of Neolithic art in Ireland. The cairn is aligned to sunrise at the spring and autumn equinoxes and at these times people gather there to greet the first rays of the sun.“
36. Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre, Newgrange and Knowth, County Meath.
General Information: 041 988 0300, email@example.com
From the website:
“The World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne is Ireland’s richest archaeological landscape and is situated within a bend in the River Boyne. Brú na Bóinne is famous for the spectacular prehistoric passage tombs of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth which were built circa 3200BC. These ceremonial structures are among the most important Neolithic sites in the world and contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe.“
37.Hill of Tara, Navan, County Meath:
General information: 046 902 5903, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“The Hill of Tara has been important since the late Stone Age, when a passage tomb was built there. However, the site became truly significant in the Iron Age (600 BC to 400 AD) and into the Early Christian Period when it rose to supreme prominence – as the seat of the high kings of Ireland. All old Irish roads lead to this critical site.
St Patrick himself went there in the fifth century. As Christianity achieved dominance over the following centuries, Tara’s importance became symbolic. Its halls and palaces have now disappeared and only earthworks remain.
There are still remarkable sights to be seen, however. Just one example is the Lia Fáil – the great coronation stone and one of the four legendary treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann – which stands proudly on the monument known as An Forradh.
Guided tours of the site will help you understand the regal history of this exceptional place and imagine its former splendour.“
38.Trim Castle, County Meath:
General information: 046 943 8619, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“Few places in Ireland contain more medieval buildings than the heritage town of Trim. Trim Castle is foremost among those buildings.
In fact, the castle is the largest Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland. Hugh de Lacy and his successors took 30 years to build it.
The central fortification is a monumental three-storey keep. This massive 20-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was all but impregnable in its day. It was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and water-filled moat.
Modern walkways now allow you to look down over the interior of the keep – a chance to appreciate the sheer size and thickness of the mighty castle walls.
The castle is often called King John’s Castle although when he visited the town he preferred to stay in his tent on the other side of the river. Richard II visited Trim in 1399 and left Prince Hal later Henry V as a prisoner in the castle.” I never knew we had such a link to King Henry V and Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV!
Patrick Comerford gives an excellent history of Trim Castle in his blog.  The castle stands within a three acre bailey, surrounded by a defensive perimeter wall. The curtain wall of the castle is fortified by a series of semicircular open-back towers. There were two entrances to Trim Castle, one, beside the car park, is flanked by a gatehouse, and the second is a barbican gate and tower. 
We visited in May 2022, after visiting St. Mary’s Abbey (also called Talbot’s Castle) – more on that soon. We were late entering so the entry to inside the castle was closed, unfortunately – we shall have to visit again!
The information board tells us that in 1182 when Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath, he occupied this site bounded by the River Boyne to the north and marshy ground to the south. By 1175 his original wooden fortification had been replaced by this unusual keep, later surrounded by curtain walls with a simple gate to the north and a bridge across the moat. The south curtain wall with its D shaped buildings was completed by 1200, when new siege tactics forced a change in the design of castles. Later, the forebuildings and plinth were built, protecting the entrance and base of the keep.
Sometime before 1180, Hugh de Lacy replaced the timber palisade fence enclosing the keep with a stone enclosure. The fore-court enclosed stables and stores and protected the stairway and door to the keep. The new entrance was on the north side of the enclosure and had a drawbridge over the deepened ditch.
With the development of the curtain walls, the inner enclosure became obsolete.
The ditch was filled and three defensive towers – two survive – were built on its site. The drawbridge was replaced by a stone causeway leading to an arched gate and entrance stairway. A reception hall was built to accommodate visitors before they entered the Keep.
As the town and approach roads developed, the barbican gate provided a new entrance from the south. After the siege of 1224, the north curtain walls, towers and Trim gate required major repairs. During a period of prosperity in the second half of the 13th century, the great hall and solar were constructed on the site of the north curtain wall and tower. Trim and its abbeys and the Cathedral and borough of Newtown developed in the security of the castle.
The Boyne was used for transport of goods to the river gate. Stores, workshops and kitchens were built in the castle yard.
Though the castle buildings were often adapted to suit changing military and domestic needs, much of the fabric of Trim Castle has remained unchanged since the height of Anglo-Norman power in Ireland.
The information board tells us that courts, parliaments, feasts and all issues relating to the management of the Lordship were discussed at meetings in the Great Hall. After 1250, the great public rooms in the Keep were considered unsuitable for such gatherings, so this hall was built, lit by large windows with a view of the harbour and the Abbey of St. Mary’s across the river. The hall had a high seat at the west end, with kitchens and undercroft cellars to the east. Ornate oak columns rising from stone bases supported the great span of the roof.
The hall was heated from a central hearth and vented by a lantern-like louvre in the roof.
Early in the 13th century the weirs were completed on the Boyne, allowing the moat to be flooded, and the Leper River was channelled along the south curtain wall. A new gate was constructed guarding the southern approaches to the castle. This gatehouse, of a rare design, was built as a single cylindrical tower with a “barbican,” defences of a forward tower adn bridge. An elaborate system of lifting bridges, gates and overhead traps gave the garrison great control over those entering the castle. The arrangement of plunging loops demonstrates the builders’ knowledge of the military requirements of defending archers.
By the middle of the 13th century, the design of castle gates was further developed and a twin tower gatehouse with a passage between the two towers became standard.
39. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly:
General information: 090 9674195, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“St Ciarán founded his monastery on the banks of the River Shannon in the 6th Century. The monastery flourished and became a great seat of learning, a University of its time with students from all over Europe.
The ruins include a Cathedral, two round Towers, three high crosses, nine Churches and over 700 Early Christian graveslabs.
The original high crosses, including the magnificent 10th century Cross of the Scriptures area on display in a purpose built visitor centre adjacent the monastic enclosure.
An audiovisual presentation will give you an insight into the history of this hallowed space.“
45. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath:
“Fore” comes from the Irish “fobhar” meaning well or spring.
From the OPW website:
“In a tranquil valley in the village of Fore, about a 30-minute drive from Mullingar in County Westmeath, you can visit the spot where St Feichin founded a Christian monastery in the seventh century AD.
It is believed that, before Feichin’s death, 300 monks lived in the community. Among the remains on the site is a church built around AD 900. There are also the 18 Fore crosses, which are spread out over 10 kilometres on roadways and in fields.
Seven particular features of the site – the so-called ‘Seven Wonders of Fore’ – have acquired legendary status. They include: the monastery built on a bog; the mill without a race (the saint is said to have thrust his crozier into the ground and caused water to flow); and the lintel stone raised by St Feichin’s prayers.
St Feichin’s Way, a looped walk around the site, provides an excellent base from which to explore these fabled places.“
The Benedictine Priory was founded around 1180 by Hugh de Lacy, the first Viceroy of Ireland. Before this there was a monastery in Fore, founded by Feichin in the seventh century. The Benedictines had a link with France and its first monks came from France. The Priory sufffered plundering attacks so needed defensive towers and fortification. It was built around a Cloister or courtyard.
The “columbarium” mentioned in the diagram is a house for keeping pigeons – we saw one previously at Moone Abbey tower, and there is one at Fore.
The monastery founded at Fore in the seventh century by St Feichin, a Sligo-born holy man who travelled widely in Ireland, was large and prosperous but was superceded by Fore Abbey, the nearby Benedictive abbey founded by the Norman deLacys. The remaining building of St Feichins is the church, which was built in the tenth century. A new chancel was added around 1200, and the arch leading to this was re-erected in 1934. The east window was inserted in the 15th century.
The Anchorite’s Cell is a small tower with attached chapel. The tower had two storeys and on the top floor lived a number of Anchorites, or hermits. The chapel has a vault below, the crypt of the Nugent family of nearby Castle Delvin and Clonyn Castle, Earls of Westmeath. Delvin, or Castletown-Delvin, was granted by Hugh de Lacy to his son-in-law Gilbert de Nugent. The 1st Earl of Westmeath was Richard Nugent (1583-1642). His father was Christopher Nugent, 5th Baron Delvin.
46.Ballyhack Castle, Arthurstown, County Wexford
General enquiries: 051 398 468, email@example.com
from the OPW website:
“Ballyhack Castle commands an imperious position on a steep-sided valley overlooking Waterford Estuary. It is thought that the Knights Hospitallers of St John, one of the two mighty military orders founded at the time of the Crusades, built this sturdy tower house around 1450.
The tower is five stories tall and the walls survive complete to the wall walk. Built into the north-east wall of the second floor is a small chapel complete with a piscina, aumbry and altar. The entrance to the castle is protected externally by a machicolation and internally by a murder hole – that is, an opening through which defenders could throw rocks or pour boiling water, hot sand or boiling oil, on anyone foolish enough to attack.
Currently on display at Ballyhack Castle are assorted items of replica armour relating to the Crusades and the Normans – guaranteed to ignite the imagination!“
47. Ferns Castle, County Wexford:
General information: 053 9366411, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“Before the coming of the Normans, Ferns was the political base of Diarmait Mac Murchada, king of Leinster. William, Earl Marshall built the castle around 1200. Since then it has had many owners, of diverse political and military colours.
Originally, the castle formed a square, with large corner towers. Only half of the castle now stands, although what remains is most impressive. The most complete tower contains a beautiful circular chapel, several original fireplaces and a vaulted basement. There is a magnificent view from the top.
There is an extraordinary artefact to be seen in the visitor centre. The Ferns Tapestry showcases the pre-Norman history of the town via the thousand-year-old art of crewel wool embroidery. Stitched by members of the local community, the 15-metre-long tapestry comprises 25 panels of remarkable accomplishment and beauty.“
48.John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford:
General Information: 046 9423490, email@example.com
When John F. Kennedy died, a number of Irish-American societies expressed the wish to establish a tribute to him in Ireland. The Irish government suggested a national arboretum, and secured 192 acres surrounding Ballysop House, just six kilometres from the Kennedy ancestral home at Dunganstown, County Wexford. The arborterum is planted in two interwoven botanical circuits: one of broadleaves and the other of conifers. The Arboretum was formally opened on 29th May 1968.
From the OPW website:
“Dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy, whose great-grandfather, Patrick, was born in the nearby village of Dunganstown, this arboretum near New Ross, County Wexford, contains a plant collection of presidential proportions.
It covers a massive 252 hectares on the summit and southern slopes of Slieve Coillte and contains 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world. There are 200 forest plots grouped by continent. Of special note is an ericaceous garden with 500 different rhododendrons and many varieties of azalea and heather, dwarf conifers and climbing plants.
The lake is perhaps the most picturesque part of the arboretum and is a haven for waterfowl. There are amazing panoramic views from the summit of the hill, 271 metres above sea level. A visitor centre houses engaging exhibitions on JFK and on the Arboretum itself.“
Along the northern perimeter of the site are some 200 forest plots. Each covers an area of one acre and comprises a single species of forestry tree. These provide information on the performance of different types of plantation species in the Irish climate.
Through the garden are a number of trails, and a miniature train runs during the summer, and there is a cafe.
49.Tintern Abbey, County Wexford:
General information: 051 562650, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“This Cistercian monastery was founded c. 1200 by William, Earl Marshal on lands held through his marriage to the Irish heiress, Isabella de Clare [daughter of Strongbow]. This abbey, founded as a daughter-house of Tintern Major in Wales is often referred to as Tintern de Voto.
The nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister still stand. In the 16th century the old abbey was granted to the Colclough family [Anthony Colclough (d. 1584) was a soldier and the land was granted to him after the dissolution of the monasteries] and soon after the church was partly converted into living quarters and further adapted over the centuries. The Colcloughs occupied the abbey from the sixteenth century until the mid-twentieth.”
The Colclough (pronounced Coakley) family lived there until 1958, when it was presented to the state by Lucy Biddulph-Colclough. Anthony’s son Thomas married Martha Loftus, daughter of Adam Loftus, Lord Archbishop of Dublin, who built Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin. Their son Adam Colclough became 1st Baronet of Tintern Abbey, County Wexford. The 3rd Baronet had no heir so the title expired and the lands passed to his sister Margaret. She married firstly, in 1673, Robert Leigh, of Rosegarland, who thereupon assumed the surname of Colclough; and secondly, in 1696, John Pigott, of Kilfinney, County Limerick, who also assumed the surname of Colclough. She was succeeded by a relative, Caesar Colclough (1696-1766), eldest son of Dudley Colclough, of Duffrey Hall. The property passed through generations until it was donated to the state.
The website continues: “Conservation works have included special measures to protect the local bat colonies. The abbey is set in a special area of conservation and is surrounded by woodland within which are walking trails. Not to be missed is the restored Colclough Walled Garden situated within the old estate.“
Following the donation of Tintern Abbey to the Irish State in 1959 the walled garden was abandoned to nature and became overgrown. The gradual restoration of the walled garden by a team of volunteers began in 2010 and the 1830s layout shown on the Ordnance Survey was reinstated. The restored garden, which opened to the public in 2012, is divided into two sections: the Ornamental Garden and the Kitchen Garden.
50. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow:
From the OPW website:
“This thatched and whitewashed cottage nestles in the shade of Keadeen Mountain off the Donard to Rathdangan road in County Wicklow.
Today, it seems like an unlikely site of conflict. However, in the winter of 1799 it was a different story. It was from this cottage that the famed rebel Michael Dwyer fought the encircling British. One of Dwyer’s compatriots, Samuel McAllister, drew fire upon himself and was killed. This allowed Dwyer to make good his escape over the snow-covered mountains.
The cottage was later destroyed by fire and lay in ruins for almost 150 years. It was restored to its original form in the twentieth century. Now, it contains various items of the period – both those that characterised everyday life, such a roasting spit and a churn, and those that only appeared in the throes of combat, such as deadly pikes.“
51.Glendalough, County Wicklow:
General information: 0404 45352, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“In a stunning glaciated valley in County Wicklow, in the sixth century, one of Ireland’s most revered saints founded a monastery. The foundation of St Kevin at Glendalough became one of the most famous religious centres in Europe.
The remains of this ‘Monastic City’, which are dotted across the glen, include a superb round tower, numerous medieval stone churches and some decorated crosses. Of particular note is St Kevin’s Bed, a small man-made cave in the cliff face above the Upper Lake. It is said that St Kevin lived and prayed there, but it may actually be a prehistoric burial place that far predates him.“
52. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow:
General Information: 0404 48844, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kilmacurragh House was home to seven generations of the Acton family. It was built in 1697 by Thomas Acton, whose father came to Ireland as part of Oliver Cromwell’s army, for which he was granted the lands surrounding the ruined abbey of St. Mochorog. The five bay Queen Anne house is thought to be the work of Sir William Robinson, who is better known today for his work at Marsh’s Library in Dublin, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin Castle and Charles Fort, Kinsale, County Kerry. 
From the OPW website:
“There was a monastery at Kilmacurragh, in this tranquil corner of County Wicklow, in the seventh century, and a religious foundation remained right up until the dissolution of the monasteries. After Cromwell invaded the land passed to the Acton family.
By the time the estate came to Thomas Acton in 1854, an unprecedented period of botanical and geographical exploration was afoot. In collaboration with the curators of the National Botanic Gardens, Acton built a new and pioneering garden.
In 1996, a 21-hectare portion of the old demesne officially became part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. The following ten years were spent giving the estate’s rare and beautiful plants a new lease of life.
Kilmacurragh is now part of the National Botanic Gardens, providing a complementary collection of plants to its parent garden at Glasnevin. Arrive in spring to witness the transformation of the walks, as fallen rhododendron blossoms form a stunning magenta carpet.“
“The Gardens lies within an estate developed extensively during the nineteeth century by Thomas Acton in conjunction with David Moore and his son Sir Frederick Moore, Curators of the National Botanic Gardens at that time. It was a period of great botanical and geographical explorations with numerous plant species from around the world being introduced to Ireland for the first time. The different soil and climatic conditions at Kilmacurragh resulted in many of these specimens succeeding there while struggling or failing at Glasnevin. Kilmacurragh is particularly famous for its conifer and rhododendron collections.” 
Thomas Acton’s son William married Jane Parsons of Birr Castle. Their son Thomas Acton inherited, then his son Lt Col William and then his son Thomas (1826-1908). Along with his sister Janet, he had a passion for collecting plants. They travelled to the Americas and Asia in search of plants, and established one of the finest arboreta in Ireland, and formed a friendship with David Moore, curator of the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Thomas died unmarried in 1908 and Kilmacurragh was inhierted by his nephew, Captain Charles Annesley Acton, who had been born in Peshawar. However, he was killed fighting in World War I as was his brother Reginald. Thus in eight years, three consecutive owners of Kilmacurragh had died, inflicting death duties amounting to 120% of the value of the property. The Actons were forced to sell the estate. The house fell into ruin and the arboretum became overgrown. The state acquired Kilmacurragh in 1996 and have restored the arboretum, making it part of the National Botanic Gardens.
 p. 336. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.
 p. 119. 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 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.