Listed open dates in 2022: Jan 1-9, 1pm-5pm, April 15-19, May 21-29, June 10-12, 17-19, July 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, Aug 13-28, 2pm-6pm, Dec 26-31, 1pm-5pm.
Owners Muireann and Tony, who purchased Springfield in 2005, were kind enough to let us visit their home in January 2022, when Covid was still going strong. I was intrigued to see it as the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage dates its building to around 1750 !
It was not the “big house” of an estate but is related to the nearby Mount Lucas estate, whose house, unfortunately, is there no longer.
The main entrance is closed off so one enters into the yard through some outbuildings, with a lovely old arch. This leads into a yard and the door into the kitchen area.
The house is of seven bays and two storeys, with outbuildings to the east and with the remains of a walled garden to the north. We walked through the house from the kitchen to go out the front door, which is no longer used as the front door as the old drive to the house is no longer used.
The house has a pedimented breakfront of three bays wide, containing the front door flanked by two narrow windows. The timber sash windows have stone sills. The garden front has a round-headed window that lights the staircase, and next to that, a Diocletian window.
The National Inventory tells us that this country house, situated within extensive grounds, was built for the third son of the Lucas family who lived at the nearby Mount Lucas estate. Andrew Tierney suggests the house was built or rebuilt in 1764 by Samuel Lucas of Mount Lucas (1.2km sw, demolished) for his son, Samuel. 
There is an entry in Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland about the Lucas family of Mount Lucas. Benjamin Lucas (1704-1774), a Lieutenant Colonel in the army received sometime in the seventeenth century extensive grants of land in the counties of Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and King’s County (Offaly). He was father of Nathaniel Lucas, who married Eleanor Cooke of Cookesborough, County Westmeath. They had several daughters and six sons: Samuel, who died unmarried, John, Samuel, Robert, Cooke and Richard. The second son, John, inherited Mount Lucas. The first Samuel must have died and the next, third, son, must be Samuel, who built the house for his son Samuel.
The Lucas family lived at Mount Lucas until 1922, when they moved following an attack on the house. At that time Mount Lucas had been occupied by Deborah Elizabeth Ball, daughter of Benjamin Manly Ball and the Mount Lucas heiress Elizabeth Lucas. Deborah lived in Mount Lucas along with her aunt, Eleanor Lucas. The 1922 attack was traumatic, and Deborah was stripped and tied to a tree. 
You can read more about Mount Lucas in the book Mount Lucas a Quiet Hamlet by Kenneth Smyth and Damien Smyth. 
I could not find much information about the Cookes of Cookesborough, County Westmeath, except for stories about a later Cooke of Cookesborough, the eccentric Adolphus (1792-1876) who believed in reincarnation and that his father or grandfather had come back to life as a turkey-cock, or that his father might come back as a bee which explains the beehive structure of Adolphus’s father’s tomb, built around 1835.  Adolphus was the illegitimate son of Robert Cooke of Cookesborough, and since Robert’s sons predeceased him, Adolphus inherited Cookesborough.
Adolphus thought he himself might be reincarnated as a fox and had massive fox holes/covert built around his estate of Cookesborough, but also created a mausoleum with fireplace and library for himself for after his death in which, however, the local priest refused to bury him and he was instead interred in the beehive structure. 
The Springfield website, created by its current owners, tells us that the house was extensively modernised circa 1857 and all the joinery in the principal rooms date from this time, as do the chimneys and stone coping to gables. Andrew Tierney tells us that the house changed hands in 1857. [see 2] The western bays of the rear pile also appear to be an addition of this date.  Tony and Muireann showed us different parts of the house which led them to their conclusions. The house had been largely unaltered since the 1857 renovations until the current owners, who have undertaken considerable sensitive renovation and updating. The work included applying new lime render to the walls which were crumbling, and fixing the roof, and also the space under the house. They also lined one chimney – the other hasn’t been done yet as it is filled with a bees nest! – and renovated or replaced timber flooring and modernised and installed new bathrooms.
The house is “double pile” which means that it is two rows of rooms thick, each row consisting of two or more rooms. When someone refers to a house as a “pile” this is an architectural term! A “pile” is a row of rooms and is usually used in the term “double pile.” 
Muireann showed us the width of the wall via a lovely opening, which is part of what led her and Tony to believe that the rear pile was added later than the original build.
This opening can be used to pass dishes from the kitchen into the dining room. At the moment it serves as a lovely nook for books!
The website describes the house:
“The plan of the house comprises a central hall flanked by Drawing and Dining Rooms on the front, with above them the Upper Hall leading to the two principal bedrooms. To the rear is the Stair Hall, slightly off centre with a somewhat crude wreathed and ramped staircase with cut brackets and turned spindles. Flanking this there is a narrow bay which probably housed the service stair and in the corner, over the Kitchen, are two bedrooms (one very small) served by a short corridor, and in the 19th century addition, over what may have been a billiards room with a considerably higher ceiling, are again two bedrooms.”
It is such a beautifully solid house and I particularly love the large windows with their shutters, especially in the front hall and upstairs in the Upper Hall. The Upper Hall causes my heart to catch – there is something about the vastness of the space, with its lovely wooden floorboards and current emptiness, which struck a deep chord in me!
The house is a work-in-progress so I didn’t take many photographs inside.
The ceilings in different rooms of the ground floor are of different heights, which also leads to the theory that the two piles were built at different times.
There is a cellar under the western part of the front pile which may originally have been a basement. Tony opened the hatch for us which is in the floor of the Drawing Room, and we climbed down into the basement. The basement only extends under the western part of the front pile.
The basement area has an earthen floor. In one area was a circle of cobblestones and we speculated as to why they were so placed – I suggested that maybe there was a well. As Tony pointed out, the house is called “spring” field.
The bedrooms upstairs have original fireplaces in situ which I am sure were very necessary before central heating!
One bedroom has a particularly high ceiling, and a lovely little fanlight over the door.
Unfortunately I didn’t take a photograph in the kitchen but it is modern and spacious, and it extends out to a single storey enlargement with ceiling windows. It is where the original kitchen used to be. The flagstones which were originally on the floor are now outside forming a path.
There is a lean-to building outside the kitchen housing domestic offices. This area was overgrown and tumble-down when Muireann and Tony began to renovate. Muireann described discovering the “extra room”! It even has a fireplace, and has become a cosy reading room.
The back garden opens directly to the walled garden. Tony has done a lot of work to create a vegetable garden but it is not shown to best effect in cold January! They have also started an orchard.
Muireann and her family have done terrific work creating their home, and we wish them best of luck in the future!
contact: Rudolf Prosoroff Tel: 0043 676 5570097 Open: April 4-8, 19-28, May 2-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26, 30-31, June 1-2, 6-9, 13-16, 20- 23, 27-30, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €10, student /OAP/child €5
An article in the Irish Times by Gemma Tipton in March 2014 tells us that Ballindoolin near Edenderry is the old demesne of the Bor family. The Humphrey Bor family lived on the estate from 1620 untill the 1890s brought them financial difficulty and their land agent William Tyrell took over the demesne when they vacated it. The house was built in 1822.
When Robert Moloney inherited it in 1993, he and his wife Esther began a huge project of renovation and restoration, including reroofing, replumbing and rewiring.
Outside, with the help of Fáilte Ireland and some EU funds, the original large walled gardens were returned to their exact and former glory, as one of 26 chosen under the Great Gardens Restoration Scheme.
The house was again on the market in 2021. Gemma Tipton writes tells us a bit more about the house in the August article in the Irish Times: The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.
“Robert and Esther used documents and diaries to ensure the restoration, inside and out, was in-keeping, later donating 40 boxes of account books, ledgers and records to the archives at NUI Maynooth for safe-keeping.
These reveal a wealth of stories about the day-to-day running of the house, although it is just as easy to imagine them coming alive as you wander through the rooms. There is the wide, stone-flagged hallway, and the cosier, but still imposing back hall. The drawing room has its original wallpaper and chandelier; the marvellous fireplaces are intact. ”
Tipton tells us:
“Ballindoolin last sold in 2017, to an Austrian businessman, who fell in love with the house, its enviable position (less than an hour’s drive to Dublin city centre) and its stories. His plan was to lavish it with care and attention, and ultimately move over with his family. The first part worked out beautifully – Ballindoolin is in showpiece condition, but the family’s plans changed, and so it is now on the market.“
Open: Jan 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 21-30, 2pm-6pm. Fee: Free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.
The National Inventory describes it: “Detached four-bay two-storey house, built c.1750, with return and extension to rear and adjoining outbuildings to north. Set within own grounds…Modest in design, this fine house retains its original character with minimal intervention. The simple well proportioned façade is enhanced by the survival of its sash windows and door, while the finely executed door surround forms a subtle adornment. The outbuildings to rear, along with the iron-mongery to the front, complete this appealing domestic complex.” 
Open: May 17-Aug 31, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-2, 10am-2pm Fee: adult/OAP/student €20, child free
Our tour guide was young but thoroughly knowledgeable. He walked a group of us over to the castle, across the moat, which he told us had been created, along with the walls surrounding the castle demesne, and the stone stable buildings, which are now the reception courtyard, museum and cafe, in 1847 when the owners of Birr Castle provided employment to help to stave off the hunger of the famine.
I was intrigued to hear that the gates had been made by one of the residents of the castle, Lady Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse. She was an accomplished ironworker!! She brought a fortune with her to the castle when she married the Earl of Rosse, which enabled him to build his telescope. But more on that later.
More on Birr Castle soon!
The website tells us:
“In Anglo Norman Times, the Castle was built on the motte. The gate tower of this led into the castle bawn (courtyard) which is now the centre of the present building. The Central Gate Passage with its 12 foot walls can be seen in the lower floor of the present building.
The castle or fortress of Birr was re occupied by the O’Carroll’s who held it until the 1580s when it was sold to the Ormond Butlers. In 1620 the now ruined castle was granted to the Parsons family by James I. Rather than occupy the tower house of the O’Carrolls, the Parsons decided to turn the Norman Gate Tower into their ‘English House’. Building on either side and incorporating two Flanking Towers. Sir Laurence Parsons did a large amount of building and remodelling including the building of the two flanking towers, before his death in 1628. This is all accounted for in our archives.
The castle survived two sieges in the 17th century, leaving the family impoverished at the beginning of the 18th century. This led to little was done to the 17thcentury house. However, sometime between the end of that century and the beginning of the 19th century, the house which had always faced the town, was given a new gothic facade, which now faces the park. The ancient towers and walls, now the park side of the castle, were swept away, including the Black Tower (The Tower House) of the O’Carroll’s, which had stood on the motte. Around 1820 the octagonal Gothic Saloon overlooking the river was cleverly added into the space between the central block and the west flanking tower.
After a fire in the central block in 1836 the centre of the castle was rebuilt, with the ceilings heightened, a third story added and also the great dining room. In the middle of the 1840s a larger work force was employed during the famine times in Ireland. The old moat and the original Norman motte were flattened, and a new star-shaped moat was designed, with a keep gate. This was financed by Mary, Countess of Rosse. This period of remodelling was also overlapped with the construction of the Great Telescope, The Leviathan. Which was completed in 1845.
The final work on the castle was completed in the 1860s when a Square Tower at the back of the castle on the East side was added. This now contains nurseries on the top floor which have a great view over the town of Birr.”
The website also gives us a good history of the family:
“The Parsons family arrived at Birr in 1620. They acquired the ruined fortress of Birr. It had been an O’Carroll castle, but had for some twenty years belonged to the Ormond Butlers. Sir Laurence [1576-1628], one of four brothers living in Ireland at the beginning of end of the 16th century, had been working with his cousin Richard Boyle the great Earl of Cork,(to whom he was related through the Fenton family, in Youghal). Laurence died suddenly in 1628 and was succeeded by his second son, William, ably supported by his mother, Anne, née Malham, a Yorkshire woman related to the Tempest family.
Sir Laurence’s elder brother, also William, became Surveyor General of Ireland and founded the elder branch of the family, living in Bellamont, Dublin. This branch died out at the end of the 18th century.
The 17th century was a turbulent one for the Parsons family in Birr. The castle was involved in two sieges, the first in the 1640s where the family moved for a time to London, before returning at the end of the Cromwellian period. In 1690 the castle was besieged again, by Sarsfield [Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan].This time the Castle held out and Sarsfield moved on.
The 18th century was a quiet period for the family who were left with little money and returned to improving their estates at Birr and living off the land. Towards the end of the century Sir Laurence, [1758-1841] 5th baronet, became a politician and friend of Flood and Grattan. He was praised for his honesty. He opposed the Act of Union. He became 2nd Earl of Rosse in 1807 when he inherited the title from his Uncle [Lawrence Harman Parsons-Harman, 1st Earl of Rosse, who had inherited Newcastle, County Longford].”
The website history of the family continues:
“The 19th century saw the castle become a great centre of scientific research when William Parsons, 3rd Earl built the great telescope. (See astronomy).His wife, Mary, whose fortune helped him to build the telescope and make many improvements to the castle, was a pioneer photographer and took many photographs in the 1850s. Her dark room – a total time capsule which was preserved in the Castle – has now been exactly relocated in the Science Centre.
Their son the 4th Earl also continued astronomy at the castle and the great telescope was used up to the beginning of the 2nd world war. His son the 5th Earl was interested in agriculture and visited Denmark in search of more modern and successful methods. Sadly he died of wounds in the 1st world war.
His son, Michael the 6th Earl and his wife Anne created the garden for which Birr is now famous. (see the gardens and trees and plants) Anne, who was the sister of Oliver Messel the stage designer, brought many treasures to Birr from the Messel collection and with her skill in interior decoration and artist’s eye, transformed the castle, giving it the magical beauty that is now apparent to all. Michael was also much involved in the creation of the National Trust in England after the war.
Their son Brendan, the present Earl, spent his career in the United Nations Development Programme, living with his wife Alison and their family in many third world countries. He returned to Ireland on his father’s death in 1979. Brendan and Alison have also spent much time on the garden, especially collecting and planting rare trees. Their three children are all passionate about Birr and continue to add layers to the story for the future.
Patrick, Lord Oxmantown currently lives in London and is working on plans to bring large scale investment into Birr which will enable him and his family to move back to Ireland.
Alicia Clements managers the Birr Castle Estate and lives in the sibling house of Tullanisk.
Michael Parsons, works in London managing a portfolio of properties for the National Trust and is a board member to The Birr Scientific and Heritage Foundation.”
contact: Martin O’Rourke Tel: 086-2594914 Open: June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €2, student/child free, family €5
The National Inventory describes it: “Oval-shaped four-bay two-storey lock keeper’s house, built c.1800, with a projecting bow to the front and rear. Located at the 26th lock on the Grand Canal.”
5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 82. “(Bury/IFR) The finest and most spectacular early C19 castle in Ireland, Francis Johnston’s Gothic masterpiece, just as Townley Hall, Co Louth, is his Classical masterpiece. Built 1800-1812 for Charles William Bury, 1st Earl of Charleville, replacing a C17 house on a different site known as Redwood. A high square battlemented block with, at one corner, a heavily machicolated octagon tower, and at the other, a slender round tower rising to a height of 125 feet, which has been compared to a castellated lighthouse. From the centre of the block rises a tower-like lantern. The entrance door, and the window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch. The entire building is cut-stone, of beautiful quality. To the right of the entrance front, and giving picturesque variety to the composition, is a long, low range of battlemented offices, including a tower with pinnacles and a gateway. The garden front is flanked by square turrets. The interior is as dramatic and well-finished as the exterior. In the hall, with its plaster groined ceiling carried on graceful shafts, a straight flight of stairs rises between galleries to piano nobile level, where a great double door, carved in florid Decorated style, leads to a vast saloon or gallery running the whole length of the garden front. This is one of the most splendid Gothic Revival interiors in Ireland; it has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle; two lavishly carved fireplaces of grained wood, Gothic decoration in the frames of the windows opposite and Gothic bookcases and side-tables to match. The drawing room and dining room, on either side of the hall, are also of noble proportions, the dining room has a coffered ceiling and a fireplace which is a copy of the west door of Magdalen College chapel, Oxford. Staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls. Small octagonal library in octagon tower; charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star. Very heavily oak-wooded demesne, with grotto and serpentine walks; castellated entrance gateway. With the death of 5th Earl of Charleville 1875, the title became extinct; Charleville Forest passed to a sister of 4th Earl [Emily Alfreda Julia Bury, who married Kenneth Howard who added Bury to his surname], then to her son [Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury], and then to the grandson of another of 4th Earl’s sisters. After standing empty for many years, the castle has been let to Mr M.G. McMullen, who has restored it.” 
Sean O’Reilly tells us in rish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life: “Bury’s intention, as he wrote in his own unfinished account of the work, was to ‘exhibit specimens of Gothic architecture’ adapted to ‘chimneypieces, ceilings, windows, balustrades, etc.’ but without excluding ‘convenience and modern refinements in luxury.’ This recipe for the Georgian gothic villa had already been used at Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in London, and Bury’s cultivated lifestyle in England certainly would have made him aware of that house and its long line of descendants.” 
My camera battery died before I had time to take photographs when I visited so please excuse these blurry pictures taken on my old phone. For much better pictures and more information, see the website of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne, https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/10/14/charleville/
O’Reilly tells us: “Charleville Forest’s patron, Charles William Bury, from 1800 Viscount and from 1806 Earl of Charleville, was a man well versed in contemporary English taste and style. He inherited lands in Limerick, through his father’s maternal line, and in Offaly. His great wealth, lavish lifestyle and generous nature allowed him simultaneously to distribute largesse in Ireland, live grandly in London and travel widely on the continent…[p. 139] Charleville’s lack of success in his search for a sinecure proved ill for the future of the family fortunes for, continuing to live extravagantly above their means, they advanced speedily towards bankruptcy. On Charleville’s death in 1835, the estate was ‘embarrassed’ and by 1844, the Limerick estates had to be sold and the castle shut up, while his son and heir, ‘the greatest bore the world can produce’ according to one contemporary, retired to Berlin.“
O’Reilly continues to tell us of the history of ownership: “The 3rd Earl [Charles William George Bury (1822-1859)] returned to the house in 1851, but with a much reduced fortune; the property was then inherited by his grand-daughter Lady Emily Howard-Bury, after whose death in 1931 it remained unoccupied.”
“Clonony Castle, built in the 1490’s by the Coghlan Clan, was seized by Henry VIII during the war of dominion by England. He ceded it to Thomas Boleyn, making him the Earl of Ormond, his daughter, the ill-fated Ann, a countess and marriageable by a king. When Henry tired of Ann and the Boleyns fell from grace, two ladies, Mary and Elizabeth, were sent back to Clonony and remained for the rest of their lives. Their tombstone lays beneath a tree in the castle bawn.
Following the ladies demise, a merchant, Sir Matthew de Renzi, wrote to Queen Elizabeth of the great significance of the castle and begged to be awarded it. These DeRenzi letters have become very important as they tell us what life was like in the 16th Century in the midlands. Possessing a great facility for language, speaking and trading with many countries, he wrote the first English/Irish dictionary.
Today the castle has been sensitively restored to reflect the way of life through this historical period and now is open to the public casually from 12 to 5 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through summer and anytime by appointment on 0877614034. There is no fee, but donations toward the maintenance of the castle is greatly appreciated. In June, the castle will open on weekends for glamping (glamourous camping). Early booking is essential.”
The National Inventory tells us it is: “Detached five-bay three-storey over basement country house, built c.1730, with two-storey addition to north. Set within its own grounds….Corolanty House displays some of the characteristics of a typical eighteenth-century Irish country house, which include its form and scale, the finely tooled Gibbsian door surround and the curiously concealed tooled limestone architrave surrounds to the window openings. The symmetrical form of the house is maintained by the inclusion of blind windows to the rear elevation, but this is somewhat disrupted by the two-storey addition to the north-facing side elevation. The retention of many original features, including the staircase, decorative plasterwork to the ceilings of the principal rooms and the interior joinery, contribute to the character of the house and its architectural and artistic significance. The remains of Corolanty Castle to the yard contributes an archaeological interest.” 
contact: Tom & Mary Alexander Tel: 087-2342135 Open: Jan 3-28, Mon-Fri, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student/child/OAP €7
The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:
“Just east of the road between Birr and Roscrea, Gloster is County Offaly’s most important remaining eighteenth century house. The formal facade, overlooking the steeply terraced garden, is unusually long and low, and is very grand. Thirteen bays wide and two stories high, the house is constructed in blue-grey limestone with a wealth of early architectural details in warm contrasting sandstone. The interior is equally splendid, especially the two principal rooms; the richly decorated double-height entrance hall and the great barrel-vaulted hall, or landing, on the piano nobile.
The Lloyd’s ancestor came to Ireland from Denbighshire, to serve in the army of King Charles I, and he acquired the estate in 1639 through marriage with an heiress, Margaret Medhop. Presumably they and their descendants lived in an earlier dwelling, of which no trace remains, until the present house was completed sometime after 1720. The architectural historian Maurice Craig, who edited the book of Pearce’s drawings, observed that, “Gloster has features which can hardly derive from anyone other than Sir Edward Lovett Pearce” (c.1699-1733). Craig also believed that, while Pearce may well have provided a design for his cousin, Trevor Lloyd, he almost certainly left the execution to others since “for all its charm, it is provincial in almost every respect”.
The central breakfront is relatively plain, apart from the typically 1700s hooded door case with pilasters to either side, while two recessed bays at either end of the facade are treated as wings, with Pearcean blind niches in place of windows on the upper storeys. Meanwhile the three intervening bays to either side are further divided by vertically paired pilasters, Doric below the string course and Corintian above, and their positions are reflected in the cornice, the parapet and in the intervals of the balustrade.
Inside, the elaborate double-height entrance-hall has a series of bust-filled niches while there is very grand upper hall on the piano nobile. This is approached by twin staircases and overlooks the entrance-hall though a series of round-headed openings with a profusion of architectural detail.
Samuel Chearnley may have had a hand in designing the gardens, which contain a canal, a lime avenue and a pedimented arch, flanked by obelisks in the manner of Vanburgh, while a series of later terraces in front of the house descend to a small lake.
Gloster was sold in 1958 and became a convent and nursing home, with a new school complex built on the site of the former stables. The school closed shortly after 1990 and the house fell into considerable disrepair. Happily Tom and Mary Alexander purchased the house and have carried out a thorough and sympathetic restoration.
Famous visitors to Gloster include John Wesley, who preached here in 1749, while the famous Australian “diva” Dame Nellie Melba sang from the gallery in the upper hall early in the 20th century.” 
10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482
“Sean Ryan of Leap Castle, insisted that he doesn’t fabricate when telling the story of what he and his wife see and hear at their home. Where most would refer to these apparitions as ghosts, Sean prefers to call them spirits. He describes the regular visions as people with a haze around them. Sometimes there is a lot of activity; other times less so. The sounds they hear are footsteps, doors opening and closing and crowds talking. However, on occasions that he has gone in the direction of the noise, nothing is apparent there, with the location of the spirits always out of reach. There is spirit, though, a lady, who touches off people. A lot of guests to the castle have also felt her presence. The remarkable thing Sean told us was that this experience never seems to alarm his guests, rather they always remain very calm, something that surprises them! Sean doesn’t regard his home as haunted and, as far as he is concerned, the spirits he sees and hears have as much right to live there as he does. Sean is happy to continue to live alongside them as he has done since 1994, when restoration on the castle began.“
Built in the early 1500’s under the supervision of the powerful and warring O’Carroll clan, Leap Castle has been the centre of much bloodshed.
“The O’Carrolls were a fierce and brutal clan, continually struggling for power and supremacy. They were known to be particularly violent and cunning in the attempts for domination. John O’Carroll was thought to be the first Prince of Ely who lived at Leap Castle. It is very probable that it was he who was responsible for the construction of the earliest sections of Leap Castle. John O’Carroll died at Leap Castle, suffering from the plague. John O’Carroll was succeeded by his son named Mulrony O’Carroll. Mulrony O’Carroll was renowned for his strength, bravery and valour and was considered a great leader. The Great Mulrony as he was known died (most likely) at Leap in 1532 after a rulership of forty two years. Mulrony was succeeded by his son Fearganhainm.“
The website continues with the history of one brother after another killing each other for supremacy.
The website tells us:
“In 1629 John O’Carroll, nephew of Charles O’Carroll was given the official ownership of the Leap Estate. The year 1649 the property of Leap Castle was handed over to the first of the Darby line, Jonathon. He was a soldier of the Cromwellian forces and was handed the property and land in lieu of pay.
1664 saw the property handed back to John O’Carroll due to his continued loyalty to Charles the 1st. This arrangement was unfortunately reversed in 1667 due to the differing views of Charles the 2nd. The Leap Castle was once again back in the hands of the Darbys.“
“Jonathon Darby the 2nd, a Cromwellian soldier obtained Leap Castle in 1649. This was lieu of payment for his services. Jonathon and his wife Deborah had a son also named Jonathon.“
The estate was passed through a line of Jonathan Darbys.
“Jonathon Darby the 5th maintained the Leap Estate until his death in 1802. As Jonathon fathered no male children, Leap Castle was passed on to his younger brother Henry.
Henry d’Esterre Darby, born in 1750 climbed through the Naval ranks to become Admiral Sir Henry d’Esterre Darby in 1799. Henry died in 1823 bearing no children of his own. Upon Henry’s death, the Leap Castle estate was inherited by his brother John Darby.
John Darby married Anne Vaughan and died in 1834. He was succeeded by their sons William Henry, Christopher, George, Susan, Jonathon, Horatio d’Esterre, John Nelson and Sarah Darby.
William Henry Darby inherited Leap Castle died in 1880. His eldest son had died in 1872 aged 45 so the Leap Estate was passed on to his grandson Jonathon Charles Darby.
Jonathon married Mildred Dill aka Mildred Darby in 1889.“
“In the early hours of Sunday morning, 30 July 1922 a party of eleven raiders set fire to the Leap totally destroying the North and larger wing and its valuable contents. Giving evidence in the claims court Richard Dawkins said that on 30 July 1922, he was living in the Castle as caretaker with his wife and baby. They were the only persons in the castle that night. Richard Dawkins stated that at 2.20am there was a knock on the door. He opened the window, put out his head, and saw men outside who stated that they wanted a night’s lodging. They ordered him to open the door. He went down and opened the door and was subsequently held at gunpoint. The raiders then stated that they were going to burn the castle. Dawkins asked for time to get his wife and child out and was given twenty minutes to do so. The raiders then went into the castle and poured petrol over the rooms, and set them on fire. They kept the family outside from 2.30am to 5.00am. Each of the men had a tin of petrol, and all were armed. Some had trench coats and other had bandoleers over their civilian clothes. The men broke furniture before setting the castle on fire.…
In a newspaper report Jonathan Darby said that it looked as if there were explosives used in the destruction of the castle he had found some dynamite in the cellar where the raiders got so drunk they could not explode it. He said that it was the locals who burned the castle.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his 1988 book of Kinnitty Castle, formerly named Castle Bernard: p. 62. [Castle Bernard]: “[Bernard 1912; De la Poer Beresford, Decies] A Tudor-Revival castle of 1833 by James and George Pain [built for T. Bernard]. Impressive entrance front with gables, oriels and tracery windows and an octagonal corner tower with battlements and crockets; all in smooth ashlar. Subsequently the home of 6th Lord Decies [Arthur George Marcus Douglas De La Poer Beresford (1915-1992)], by whom it was sold ca. 1950. Now a forestry centre.”
The website used to include a history, which told us:
“The present building was originally built by William O’Carroll on the site of the old Abbey in 1630. The English Forces, as part of the plantation of Offaly, or “Kings County” as it was renamed, confiscated this in 1641. In 1663 Colonel Thomas Winter was granted 2,624 acres by King Charles II for military services rendered. The Winter family sold the building in 1764 to the Bernards of County Carlow. This building was reconstructed as a castellated mansion in 1811 by the famous Pan Brothers at the commission of Lady Catherine Hutchinson, wife of Colonel Thomas Bernard. The building was burned in 1922 by Republican forces and rebuilt by means of a Government grant of £32,000 in 1927. The building became the property of Lord Decies in 1946. He in turn sold it and the estate to the Government of Ireland on 12th December 1951. The State used the castle as a Forestry Training centre from 1955 until it was purchased in 1994 and turned into a 37 bedroom luxurious hotel for all guests both locally and internationally to enjoy.“
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us about Ballycumber:
“Originally built as a castle in 1627 and remodelled at a later date, the regular from of this well proportioned house is enhanced by architectural detailing such as the finally executed doorcase and attractive, steeply-pitched hipped roof. The building retains many notable features and materials such as the timber sash windows with the date plaque, which adds historical interest to the site. The related outbuildings and walled garden create an interesting group of agricultural structures, while the folly and landscaped tree-lined river walk make a positive contribution to the setting of the house, reflecting the era of the large country estate.“
The Offaly history blog tells us more about the occupants of Ballycumber:
“Ballycumber House was bought by Francis Berry Homan Mulock in 1899 from the Armstrong family who had been in possession of the estate for successive generations. Originally built as a castle in 1627 by the Coghlan family, it was extensively remodelled by the Armstrongs in the eighteenth century into a detached five-bay two storey over basement country house, much as it is today.” 
I would love to stay at Ballycumber because the Bagot family of County Offaly intermarried with the Armstrong family who owned Ballycumber. I’m not sure if my own Baggot family is related to the Bagots of Offaly but there is a good possibility!
The website tells us: “Trace the footprints of the generations who shaped this place. From early settlements and warring chieftains to foreign invaders and local heroes. This site on the River Shannon is the centre of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Over the centuries it has been the nucleus of the Anglo-Norman settlement; a stronghold of the rival local families the Dillons and the O’Kelly’s; the seat of the Court of Claims; the residence of the President of Connaught and the Jacobite stronghold during the sieges of Athlone. After the Siege of Athlone it became incorporated into the new military barrack complex. It remained a stronghold of the garrison for almost three hundred years.
In 1922 when the Free State troops took over the Barracks from their British counterparts, they proudly flew the tricolour from a temporary flagpole much to the delight of the majority of townspeople.
In 1967 the Old Athlone Society established a museum in the castle with a range of exhibits relating to Athlone and its environs and also to folk-life in the district. Two years later when the military left the castle it was handed over to the Office of Public Works and the central keep became a National Monument.
In 1991 to mark the Tercentenary of the Siege of Athlone the castle became the foremost visitor attraction in Athlone. Athlone Town Council (then Athlone UDC) made a major investment in the castle creating a multi-faceted Visitor Centre as it approached its 800th Anniversary in 2010. A total of €4.3million euro was invested in the new facility by Fáilte Ireland and Athlone Town Council and was officially opened by the then Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring T.D. on Tuesday 26th February 2012.
Athlone Castle Visitor Centre is now a modern, engaging, fun and unique family attraction which harnesses most significant architectural features, such as the keep, to act as a dramatic backdrop to its diverse and fascinating story.
It houses eight individual exhibition spaces, each depicting a different aspect of life in Athlone, the Castle and the periods both before and after the famous Siege. Fun, hands-on interactives, touchable objects and educational narratives immerse visitors in the drama, tragedy and spectacle of Athlone’s diverse and fascinating story. 3D maps, audio-visual installations, illustrations and artefacts bring the stories and characters of Athlone to life and The Great Siege of Athlone is dramatically recreated in a 360-degree cinematic experience in the Keep of the castle.
As part of Westmeath County Council’s commemoration of Ireland’s world-renowned tenor, John Count McCormack, a new exhibition dedicated to the celebrated singer was opened at Athlone Castle in October 2014.“
Archiseek tells us about Athlone Castle: “Towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification here. This was superceeded by a stone structure built in 1210, on the orders of King John of England. The Castle was built by John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich. The 12-sided donjon dates from this time. The rest of the castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged upon. In the early 1800s, during the Napoleonic Wars, the castle was rebuilt as a fortification to protect the river crossing, taking the form we largely see today. The machicolations of the central keep are all nineteenth century. In the interior is an early nineteenth century two-storey barrack building. The modern ramp up to the castle has a line of pistol loops. The castle was taken over by the Irish Army in 1922 and continued as a military installation until it was transferred to the Office of Public Works in 1970.” 
2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Belvedere in his 1988 book:
p. 39. “(Rochfort, sub Belvedere, E/DEP Rochfort/LGI1912; Marlay/LGI1912; Howard-Bury, sub Suffolk and Berkshire, E/PB; and Bury/IFR) An exquisite villa of ca 1740 by Richard Castle, on the shores of Lough Ennell; built for Robert Rochfort, Lord Bellfield, afterwards 1st Earl of Belvedere, whose seat was at Gaulston, ca 5 miles away. Of two storeys over basement, with a long front and curved end bows – it may well be the earliest bow-ended house in Ireland – but little more than one room deep.”
Bence-Jones continues: “The front has a three bay recessed centre between projecting end bays, each of which originally had a Venetian window below a Diocletian window. Rusticated doorcase and rusticated window surrounds on either side of it; high roof parapet. The house contains only a few rooms, but they are of fine proportions and those on the ground floor have rococo plasterwork ceilings of the greatest delicacy and gaiety, with cherubs and other figures emerging from clouds, by the same artist as the ceilings formerly are Mespil House, Dublin, one of which is now in Aras.“
In Belvedere, dining was an opportunity to impress guests not only by the room bu tby the sumptuous meals, presented by immaculately dressed servants. The rococo ceiling of puffing cherubs and fruits and foliage is attributed to Barthelemji Cramillion, a French stuccodore.
Bence-Jones continues: “The staircase, wood and partly curving, is in proportion to the back of the house.“
Information boards tells us that the Drawing Room was the place for afternoon tea, after-dinner drinks, music and conversation. Belvedere’s last owners, Charles Howard-Bury and Rex Beaumont would have passed many happy hours relaxing and reminiscing about their wartime experiences and travels across the world, as well as planning trips to Tunisia and Jamaica.
Bence-Jones tells of the house’s occupants; “Soon after the house was finished, Lord Bellfield’s beautiful wife [Mary Molesworth, daughter of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth of Swords, Dublin] confessed to him that she had committed adultery with his brother; whereupon he incarcerated her at Gaulston, where she remained, forbidden to see anyone but servants, until his death nearly thirty years later; while he lived a bachelor’s life of great elegance and luxury at Belvedere. Another of his brothers lived close to Belvedere at Rochfort (afterwards Tudenham Park); having quarrelled with him too, Lord Belvedere, as he had now become, built the largest Gothic sham ruin in Ireland to blot out the view of his brother’s house; it is popularly known as the Jealous Wall. In C19, the Diocletian windows in the front of the house were replaced with rectangular triple windows; and the slope from the front of the house down to the lough was elaborately terraced. Belvedere passed by inheritance to the Marlay family and then to late Lt-Col C.K. Howard-Bury, leader of the 1921 Mount Everest Expedition; who bequeathed it to Mr Rex Beaumont.” (see )
The jealous wall is rather disappointingly attached to the visitor centre of Belvedere at the entrance to the park.
Robert Rochfort managed to have children despite his antipathy toward his wife. George Rochfort (1738-1814), 2nd Earl of Belvedere inherited Belvedere and other estates when his father died in 1774. He also inherited debts, and sold Gaulston House, the house where his mother had been imprisoned by his father. Unfortunately Gaulston House was destroyed by fire in 1920. George Rochfort built an extension onto the rear of Belvedere but spent most of his time in his townhouse, Belvedere House in Great Denmark Street, Dublin.
The 2nd Earl of Belvedere had no children. His wife inherited his Dublin property but his sister Jane inherited Belvedere. Jane married Brinsley Butler, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough. She inherited Belvedere when she was 77 years old! She had married a second time and the income from the estate allowed herself and her second husband to live in fine style in Florence. The male line of the Earls of Lanesborough died out after two more generations. Jane’s son Robert Henry Butler (1759-1806) 3rd Earl of Lanesborough married Elizabeth La Touche, daughter of David La Touche and Elizabeth Marlay, whom we came across when we visited Harristown, County Kildare (see my entry) and Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, Dublin. The estate passed down to their son, Brinsley Butler, 4th Earl of Lanesborough. The estate then passed through the female line. The 3rd Earl’s sister Catherine married George Marlay (1748-1829), the brother of Elizabeth who married David La Touche.
Catherine and George Marlay had a son, George, who married Catherine Tisdall, and the estate passed to his son, Charles Brinsley Marlay (1831-1912). He was only sixteen when he inherited Belvedere from his cousin the Earl of Lanesborough. It was Charles Brisley Marlay who built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later. He spent many hours planning the 60 metre long rockery to the side of the terraces, and also built the walled garden. He was known as “the Darling Landlord” due to his kindness to tenants, and for bringing happiness and wealth back to Belvedere. He was cultured and amassed an important art collection, as well as improving the estate.
The inheritance of Belvedere continues to be even more complicated. It passed via Catherine Tisdall’s family. Her mother Catherine Dawson had married twice. Catherine’s second husband was Charles William Bury (1764-1835), the 1st Earl of Charleville. We came across him earlier, as an owner of Charleville Forest, in Tullamore, County Offaly. Belvedere passed to his descendent, Lt. Col Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1963). The 3rd Earl of Charleville, Charles William George Bury (1822-1859) had several children but the house passed to the fourth child as all others had died before Charles Brinsley Marley died. It was therefore the son of Emily Alfreda Julia Bury (1856-1931) who inherited Belvedere. She married Kenneth Howard, who added Bury to his surname. Their son was Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury.
Charles Howard-Bury left Belvedere to his friend, Rex Beaumont. Eventally financial difficulties caused Mr Beaumont to sell the property, and it was acquired by Westmeath County Council. Two years previously, in 1980, Mr Beaumont sold the contents of the house – I wonder where those things ended up?
The estate is a wonderful amenity for County Westmeath, with large parklands to explore with several follies, as well as the walled garden.
3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482
contact: Liam O’Flanagan Tel: 044-9661226 Open: Mar 16-22, Apr 15-18, May 1-4, June 1-7, July 14-24, Aug 1-7, 13-22, Sept 1- 7, Oct 28-31, 2pm-6pm
“The family run Annebrook House Hotel Mullingar opened its doors February 2007. Originally an Old Georgian residence for the local county surgeon, Dr O’Connell, the historic Annebrook House Hotel was purchased by the Dunne family in 2005. With his experience in hospitality and construction Berty Dunne set about creating a hotel as unique as the man who owns it. The Annebrook’s central location, its diverse range of accommodation from 2 bedroomed family suites to executive doubles has made it a very popular location for those coming to experience all that the midlands has to offer.
Situated in the heart of Mullingar overlooking 10 acres of parkland, the Award Winning 4 star Annebrook House Hotel presents a modern day styling coupled with 17th century heritage. As a family run hotel the Annebrook prides itself on quality and high standards of customer service, working as part of one team to ensure all guests of their best and personal attention at all times. Annebrook House Hotel is steeped in history and enjoys the enviable advantage of being one of the most centrally located hotels in Mullingar town. This unique venue mixes old world charm with modern comfort and has established itself as one of Westmeath’s top wedding venues and was recently voted Best Wedding Venue Ireland by Irish Wedding Diary Magazine. With accommodation ranging from executive hotel rooms, family suites, luxurious champagne suites and apartments, the Annebrook has much to offer those visiting Mullingar. Offering a range of dining options from Berty’s Bar to fine dining in the award winning Old House Restaurant. The four star Annebrook House Hotel offers an excellent service to both its corporate & leisure guests. The hotel is accessible by car just 50 mins from Dublin and is only 10 minutes from the local Train Station.“
2.Lough Bawn House, Colllinstown, Co Westmeath – B&B accommodation €€
“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.
The house and estate has been in the same family since it was built in 1820 by George Battesby, the current occupier, Verity’s, Great Great Great Grandfather. The house is being lovingly restored by Verity, having returned from England to live in the family home. Verity ran her own catering and events company in Gloucestershire for over 20 years. Her passion for cooking & entertaining shines through. Guests enjoy an extensive and varied breakfast with much of the ingredients being grown or reared by Verity herself, and delicious dinners are on offer. Breakfast is eaten in the large newly restored dining room, with wonderful views over the lough and of the parading peacocks on the rolling lawns.
Both of the large, en-suite rooms have fine views down the length of Lough Bane and over the wooded hills while the single room and the twin/double room have sweeping views of the surrounding parklands. Guests are warmly welcomed and encouraged to relax in the homely drawing room in front of a roaring fire or to explore one of the many local historical sites, gardens, walks or cultural entertainments on offer.
Several areas of the estate have been classified as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC‘s) due to the incredibly varied and rare flora. Wild flowers can be found in abundance and a charming fern walk has been the created amongst the woodland near the house.“
3. Mornington House, County Westmeath – B&B 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.
Mornington House is hidden away in the midst of a charming and dramatic landscape with rolling hills, green pasture, forests with ancient, heavy timber and sparkling lakes, deep in an unexplored corner of County Westmeath. Nearby are ancient churches, castles and abbeys, and delightful small villages to explore, away from all hustle and bustle of 21st century life, yet just 60 miles from Dublin.
There has been a house at Mornington since the early 17th century but this was considerably enlarged in 1896 by Warwick’s grandparents. It is now a gracious family home with a reputation for delicious breakfasts which are prepared in the fine tradition of the Irish Country House and really set you up for the day ahead.
A special place to stay for a romantic or relaxing break Mornington House’s location in the centre of Ireland just an hour’s drive from Dublin and Dublin Airport makes it ideal for either a midweek or weekend country break. Guests can walk to the lake or wander round the grounds. Excellent golf, fishing, walking and riding can be arranged. The Hill of Uisneach, the Neolithic passage tombs at Loughcrew and Newgrange and the early Christian sites at Fore and Clonmacnoise are all within easy reach, as are the gardens at Belvedere, Tullynally and Loughcrew.“
“Bishopstown House is a three-storey Georgian house built in the early 1800s by the Casey family. After he passed away, the original owner, Mr. J Casey left Bishopstown to his two daughters, who then sold the house to Mr Richard Cleary in 1895.
Mr Richard Cleary, formally from the famed lakeside Cleaboy Stud near Mullingar, planned and erected Bishopstown House and Stud. In his younger days he rode horses at Kilbeggan, Ballinarobe, Claremorris and other Irish meetings with varying degrees of success, but as a trainer he knew no bounds. In his later years he devoted his time to breeding and training, and in time he became one of Ireland’s most famous trainers, breeding some excellent horses, including the winner of the 1916 Irish Grand National, Mr James Kiernan’s All Sorts!
Other famous horses from the Bishopstown stud include Shaun Spada and Serent Murphy who both won the Aintree Grand National in England. Another horse called Dunadry won the Lancashire Steeple Chase. Other stallion winners include Sylvio III, Lustrea and Irish Battle who frequently had their names in the limelight throughout Irish and English racecourses.
After being left fall into a dilapidated state, the stud farm and house was purchased by Paddy and Claire Dunning, the owners of the award-winning Grouse Lodge Recording Studios and Coolatore House and members of the Georgian society. It was restored to its former glory in 2009 and is now available for rent.“
2. Middleton Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath – available to rent http://mph.ie
Middleton Park House featured in The Great House Revival on RTE, with presenter (and architect) Hugh Wallace. The website tells us:
“Carolyn and Michael McDonnell, together with Carolyn’s brother Henry, joined together to purchase this expansive property in Castletown Geoghegan. Built during the famine, the property was last in use as a hotel but it had deteriorated at a surprisingly fast rate over its three unoccupied years.
Designed by renowned architect George Papworth, featuring a Turner-designed conservatory, Middleton Park House stands at a palatial 35,000sq. ft. and is steeped in history. Its sheer scale makes it an ambitious restoration.
The trio’s aim is to create a family home, first and foremost, which can host Henry’s children at the weekends and extended family all year-round. Due to its recent commercial use, the three will need to figure out how to change industrial-style aspects to make it a welcoming home that is economical to run.
Henry will be putting his skills as a contractor and a qualified chippy to use, and Michael will be wearing his qualified engineer’s hat to figure out an effective heating system. Carolyn will be using her love of interiors to work out the aesthetic of the house, and how to furnish a property the size of 35 semi-detached houses in Dublin.“
The trio have now made the house available for accommodation and as a wedding venue.
 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.
 p. 136. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com. 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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 wiht 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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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.
We also visited Duckett’s Grove, maintained by Carlow County Council; Woodstock Gardens and Arbortetum maintained by Kilkenny County Council; Johnstown Castle, County Wexford maintained by the Irish Heritage Trust (which also maintains Strokestown Park, which we have yet to visit – hopefully this year! it’s a Section 482 property – and Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens, which we visited in 2020); Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, which is maintained by Shannon Heritage, as well as Newbridge House, which we also visited in 2021. Shannon Heritage also maintains Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle and Cragganowen Castle in County Clare, King John’s Castle in Limerick, which we visited in 2019, Malahide Castle in Dublin which I visited in 2018, GPO museum, and the Casino model railway museum. We also visited Belvedere House, Gardens and Park – I’m not sure who maintains it (can’t see it on the website).
We were able to visit two historic properties when we went to view auction sales at Townley Hall, County Louth and Howth Castle, Dublin.
Finally some private Big Houses that we visited, staying in airbnbs, were Annaghmore in County Sligo and Cregg Castle in Galway.
Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, Mar 1-2, 8-9, May 4- 5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31, June 1-4, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-2, 9am-1pm, Sundays 2pm- 6pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €5
Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 1pm-11pm
Portnason, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal Madge Sharkey Tel: 086-3846843 Open dates in 2021: Jan 18-22, 25-29, Feb 1-5, 8-12, Aug 14-30, Sept 1-17, 20-23, 27-28, Nov 15- 19, 22-26, Dec 1-3 6-10, 13-14, 9am-1pm
Open dates in 2021: Jan 14-17, 23-24, 28-29, Feb 4-7, 11-12, 19-21, 26-28, May 3-13,16, 18-20, 23-27, June 2-4, 8-10, 14-16, 19-20, Aug 14-22, weekdays 2.30pm-6.30pm, weekends 10.30am-2.30pm Fee: adult/OAP €8 student €5, child free, Members of An Taisce the The Irish Georgian Society (with membership card) €5
Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden
Craughwell, Co. Galway Margarita and Michael Donoghue Tel: 087-9069191 www.woodvillewalledgarden.com Open dates in 2021: Jan 29-31, Feb 1-28, Apr 1-13, 11am- 4.30pm, June 1, 6-8, 13-15, 21-22, 27- 29, July 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 1-2, 6-8, 13-22, 27-29, Sept 4-5, 11am-5pm Fee: adult/OAP €6, child €3, student, €5, family €20, guided tours €10
Open dates in 2021: all year, National Heritage Week, events August 14-22 Fee: Free
Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: Jan 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 23-24, 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, Mar 6-7,13- 14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, June 12-13,19-20, 26-27, July 3-4,10- 11,17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 14-22, Sept 4-14, 2pm-6pm.
Fee: free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.
Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm
Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: All year, except Dec 25, 9am-5pm
contact: Michael Lyons Tel: 089-4319150 www.loughtonhouse.com Open in 2022: May 10-June 30, Tue-Sunday, Aug 2-7, 9-21, 11am-3.30pm Fee: adult €5, OAP/student €4, child €3 (under 12 free), family (2 adults & 2 children over 12) €15
We drove up a long tree-lined avenue to Loughton House. Stephen rang from the car on our way and spoke to Michael Lyons, who was out chopping wood, so told us that Andrew would be at the house to meet us.
Loughton House was built on the site of a previous house, in 1777. When we arrived, we wondered why there were two front doors. I think Andrew Vance, who greeted us, explained, but we were so busy introducing ourselves and immediately got along so well, that I forget what he told me about the two doors. That’s a question for next time!
According to the website, alterations were made to the house in 1835 by James and George Pain. I don’t know who the architect of the 1777 house is, but originally the house faced north, with a shallow full-height half hexagon bow in the centre.
Mark Bence-Jones describes the house in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“Of elegant and restrained late-Georgian character, the main front consisting of two wide and shallow three sided bows of three bays each, with a two bay centre between them. Single storey wing of two bays, adorned with pilasters. Pediments and entablatures on console brackets over ground floor and first floor windows. Parapeted roof. Very handsome Georgian stables.” 
The 1777 house was built for Major Thomas Pepper. Thomas, born around 1735, of Ballygarth, Julianstown, Co Meath, son of Lambert Pepper and Jane Otway, was Major in the 14th Light Dragoons. The Peppers acquired Ballygarth Castle (now a ruin) and lands in County Meath after the Restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660, for their loyalty to the Stuart monarchy.  Thomas Pepper married Mary Ryder, daughter of John Ryder, the Archbishop of Tuam, County Roscommon. The 14th Light Dragoons was originally called James Dormer’s Dragoons, and were raised in the south of England in 1715 in response to the Jacobite Rebellion. They were sent to Ireland in 1717. In 1747 they were renamed the 14th Regiment of Dragoons, and became the Light Dragoons in 1776 . Loughton House passed to their son Thomas Ryder Pepper (1760-1828), who in 1792 married Anne Bloomfield, daughter of John Benjamin Bloomfield and Charlotte Anne Waller, of Newport, County Tipperary. The Bloomfield family had originally settled at Eyrecourt, County Galway.
When Thomas Ryder Pepper died, the house passed to his brother-in-law, Benjamin Bloomfield, 1st Baron Bloomfield (1815) of Oakhampton and Redwood (1768-1846). Redwood House in County Tipperary no longer exists. Oakhampton, also in Tipperary, still stands. He was Lieutenant General in the British Army and fought the rebels in 1798 at Vinegar Hill, County Wexford. He rose in the ranks to become Keeper of the Privy Purse for King George IV. This was a particularly difficult job – we came across King George IV before at several houses listed in the Revenue Section 482 Property list. The king enjoyed a romance with Elizabeth Conyngham of Slane Castle, and relished the good life: food, drink and beauty in the form not only of women but in architecture, with the help of John Nash. He was therefore rather a Big Spender. Naturally, therefore, he came to resent Benjamin Bloomfield and his efforts to tighten the purse strings.
We have already seen that several houses underwent alterations in expectation of a visit from King George IV in 1821. In Charleville, County Wicklow, a new floor was installed at great expense. Here in Loughton, a bedroom was done up for the King. Unfortunately, the King never made it to Loughton.
It was later that Bloomfield hired James and George Richard Pain to renovate Loughton House, in 1835.
James and George were sons of James Pain, an English builder and surveyor. Their Grandfather William Pain was the author of a series of builder’s pattern books, so they had architecture in the blood. According to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, James and his younger brother George Richard were both pupils of John Nash, one of the foremost British architects of his day responsible for the design of many important areas of London including Marble Arch, Regent Street and Buckingham Palace. He was architect to the prolific lover of architecture the Prince Regent, later King George IV. When Nash designed Lough Cutra Castle in County Galway for Charles Vereker in 1811, he recommended that the two brothers should be placed in charge of the work, so it was at this time that they came to Ireland. Lough Cutra is an amazing looking castle privately owned which is available for self-catering rental.  James Pain settled in Limerick and George in Cork, but they worked together on a large number of buildings – churches (both Catholic and Protestant), country houses, court houses, gaols and bridges – almost all of them in the south and west of Ireland.  In 1823 James Pain was appointed architect to the Board of First Fruits for Munster, responsible for all the churches and glebe houses in the province.
The Pains Gothicized and castellated Dromoland Castle in County Clare at some time from 1819-1838, now a luxury hotel.  They took their Gothicizing skills then to Mitchelstown Castle in 1823-25, but that is now a ruin. In 1825 they also worked on Convamore (Ballyhooly) Castle but that too is now a ruin. They also probably worked on Quinville in County Clare and also Curragh Chase in County Limerick (now derelict after a fire in 1941), Blackrock Castle in County Cork (now a science centre, museum and observatory which you can visit ), they did some work for Adare Manor in County Limerick (also now a luxury hotel), Clarina Park in Limerick (also, unfortunately, demolished, but you can get a taste of what it must have been like from its gate lodge), Fort William in County Waterford, probably they designed the Gothicization and castellation of Ash Hill Towers in County Limerick (also a section 482 property!), alterations and castellation of Knoppogue Castle, County Clare (you can also visit and stay, or attend a medieval style banquet), Aughrane Castle mansion in County Galway (demolished – Bagots used to own it, I don’t know if we are related!), a castellated tower on Glenwilliam Castle, County Limerick and more.
The Pain brothers reoriented Loughton House to face south, and the main doorcase was put to the east end, the Loughton House website tells us. In his Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly, Andrew Tierney tells us that this oblique approach of typical of James Pain. 
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage claims that Loughton House is probably the Pain’s finest Classical work . The exterior is relatively plain, with limestone window dressings with keystones. The north facing side is the original house, whereas the south facing side, of eight bays instead of the seven in the north side, is by the Pain brothers. The windows on this side have moulded cement detailing: architrave, cornice and consoles, and pediments. We saw more of the Pains’ work inside, in the Drawing and Dining Rooms which date from their renovation, and the wonderful curved stone cantilevered staircase.
The current owners, who acquired the house in 2016, are both medical doctors, as was the previous owner, Dr. James Reilly, who was also a former Minister for Health in the Irish government. When we visited, the house exuded a comfortable quirky chic, with marble busts on pillars in the front hall and a touch of whimsy, with a stag’s head draped in a fur at the bottom of the sweeping cantilevered staircase.
The Loughton House website tells us:
“The house has very fine detailing – traces of the late eighteenth-century decoration can be seen in the house as well as early nineteenth-century changes in internal layout.
“The ground floor is laid out with bright and generously proportioned formal reception rooms with magnificent decorative cornicing and ceilings, ornate plaster work and large original period fireplaces. The original wood floors remain throughout and the grand sash bay windows permit torrents of light into the house. Most notable are the wood-carved shutters and door panels in the original Billiard room.” 
Loughton passed to Bloomfield’s son, John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield (1802-1879). He succeeded as 2nd Baron Bloomfield on his father’s death. He was a diplomat and travelled widely, was envoy to St. Petersburg and Ambassador to Austria. He was appointed Privy Counsellor on 17 December 1860. He was created 1st Baron Bloomfield of Ciamhaltha, Co. Tipperary on 7 August 1871. In 1834 his father had a hunting lodge built, Ciamhaltha House, County Tipperary, so the new title referred to this house . He and his wife Georgiana Liddell had no son and the titles ended with his death. Georgina served as a Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria between 1841-45. Upon Georgiana’s marriage to Baron Bloomfield in 1845, when Georgiana left her position in the house of the Queen, Victoria gave her a cutting from a vine, which still grows at Loughton House today. Georgiana wrote the book Reminiscences of Court and Diplomatic Life, published 1883. It sounds fascinating!
The house passed to the Baron’s sister, Georgina, and her husband, Henry Trench, of Cangort Park, County Offaly (still standing, privately owned). The Landed Estates website tells us that in the 1870s, Henry Trench owned 4,707 acres in county Tipperary, 2,113 acres in county Offaly, 1,926 acres in county Limerick, 1,581 acres in county Galway, 704 acres in county Clare and 432 acres in county Roscommon. 
When James Reilly sold Loughton House, he unfortunately sold its contents, including an archive of family papers. Michael Parsons of The Irish Times wrote of the auction:
“Lot 2066, The Loughton Papers circa 1749-1960 – an archive of documents including correspondence, diaries, journals, sketch books and recipe books created by the various families who had lived at Loughton House – sold for €12,000 (above the estimate of €5,000-€8,000).“
“Sheppard’s said the buyer was Galway businessman Pat McDonagh, founder and managing director of the Supermac’s fast-food chain and owner of the Barack Obama Plaza – a services area on the M8 motorway just outside the village of Moneygall built following the visit of the US president.”
Fortunately, the article continues to reassure the readers that the documents will be properly preserved and accessible:
“In a statement issued via the auction house, Mr McDonagh described the archive “part of a tapestry of history” and that his “first priority” was its “preservation for historians, the community and the country”.
“The statement said: “Mr McDonagh commended Offaly County Council for their interest in working with Supermac’s for the preservation of the papers” which will be digitised, and that “historians owe a debt of gratitude to the owners of Loughton House, Dr James Reilly and his wife Dorothy”.
“Mr McDonagh “confirmed also that the visitor centre at the Barack Obama Plaza will host a Loughton House section, where extracts from the archive will be displayed on a rolling basis.” He said the plaza would work to ensure that the heritage of the house was not lost to the community, adding that he would encourage local and expert input to ensuring that the archive would be educational, appropriate and accessible.” 
The wood carved panels shutters and door panels in the billiards room, now a dining room, were decorated by one of the Trenches, Dora. The form of decoration, with details rendered by a hot poker, is exquisitely done. The portrait of the artist, Dora, hangs next to the doors. Dora was Henry Trench’s son Benjamin Bloomfield Trench’s wife, Dora Agnes Caroline Turnor. Dora Trench died in 1899, after a brief illness. Benjamin and Dora had two daughters, Sheelagh Georgiana Bertha and Theodora Caroline. 
Dora illustrated the doors with crests and intricate patterns, and all of the doors from the room are decorated, along with the shutters. I was delighted when Stephen asked if I could take a photograph of the door – I didn’t like to ask, knowing that most section 482 houses forbid indoor photography. Andrew’s assent typified his warm welcome. You can see photographs of the room, called Dora’s Room, on the Loughton website, along with photographs of the other reception rooms, the Library, Dining and Drawing Rooms. “Dora’s Room” contains a long table and chairs, and an intricately carved fireplace.
The fireplace in Dora’s Room can be seen on the Loughton website. It is, Andrew Tierney tells us in his Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster, Tudor Revival, of 1862. The male caryatid figure on the right is the original, Andrew thinks, whereas the figure on the left is a copy. It’s strange how such fireplaces are carved in wood and manage to survive the fire they contain. Andrew said it throws out great heat. It has a second flue behind, from which the fire can draw its oxygen, rather than drawing from the warmed air inside the room.
The Loughton website tells us that the Trenches remained in residence until 1973 when the property was passed to the Atkinson family.
Major Anthony Guy Atkinson (b. 1909) inherited Loughton in 1970 from his cousins Thora and Sheelah Trench (Dora’s daughters). Henry Trench, Georgina Bloomfield’s husband, had a sister, Anne Margaret Trench. She married Guy Caddell Atkinson. They inherited Cangort Park in County Tipperary and Major Anthony Guy Atkinson was a descendant of Anne Margaret Trench.  He made Loughton over to his son, Guy Nevill Atkinson (b. 1950), who sold it in 2001.
From Dora’s Room we came upon the hallway with the sweeping floating stone cantilever staircase. This was originally the entrance hall, before James Pain added the staircase and moved the entrance to the east end.
Andrew drew our attention to an old tall clock with barometer. It was from Lissadell House, and, appropriately, was made by a man named Yates – not the poet Yeats who frequented the house, note the different spelling, but in a nice touch, the picture hanging beside it was of the poet. Incidentally, one of the Trench family, a sister of Benjamin Bloomfield Trench who inherited Loughton, Louisa Charlotte, married Colonel James Gore-Booth, of the Lissadell family. The owners have taken their time to populate the house appropriately, with respect for its history and a dash of humour.
I was most enamoured with the next room, the library, with its floor to ceiling built in bookshelves. It retains original wallpaper, worn but still in situ.
“This is where we sit in the evenings, with a glass of wine,” Andrew told us. I could just see myself there too, in the well-worn couches, facing the fireplace. You can also see this room on the website, with its comfy leather armchairs. The Equine pictures are appropriate as Andrew is Master of the local Hunt!
In the Drawing Room, a formal room with sofas, carpets and lovely salmon pink walls, gorgeous cabinets, piano and ornate gilt overmantel mirror, Andrew pointed out another treasure: the fire insurance plaque from a building. The various insurance companies had their own firetrucks and teams, and they only put out fires of the buildings insured by them. Unfortunate neighbours burned down. I was excited to see the plaque as I had seen one on the Patriot Inn in Kilmainham, one of the few remaining, and learned about them in a lecture in Warrenmount in Dublin.
We then entered the second dining room (if we consider Dora’s Room, the former Billiards room, to be a dining room also, as it is currently furnished), a larger room than the first. This dining room also has a clever fireplace, this one of steel, with secret cabinets at the sides to keep the plates and dishes hot. It also had vents, and further vents built into the walls of the room, to control temperature and air flow.
A painting above the door is by Sarah, Lady Langham, an artist, who has also applied her creative skills to the house, and who manages the day-to-day operation of the house. She has made curtains and even the wallpaper of The King’s Bedroom. On our way to the back staircase we ran into Sarah herself, as I was photographing the chain that was used to pull the coal to the upper floors.
The final rooms we viewed are Sarah’s piece de resistance, “the King’s Suite,” which comprises two rooms – the room where George IV was meant to sleep, and a room next to it also furnished with a bed, which might have been his dressing room or a parlour.
Sarah created the wallpaper. It features a crest of a unicorn and a lion around the top – and a stag that is pictured in the recurring motifs below. She also made the magnificant curtains and pelmet.
The fireplace is interesting. It is made of limestone, which contains fossils of tubular sea creatures:
This, along with other rooms, is available for guest accommodation.
There is a stable complex to one side of the house. Andrew brought us out to show us the function room, which was originally a coal shed. It’s huge, and would be wonderful for parties, and is available for hire. The garden outside it, which would also be available for the functions, is romantic and beautiful, with a pond and stone walls.
Then we sat at a table outside and Andrew brought us coffees – such a lovely touch!
Michael joined us briefly and shared with us a photograph he had found in the national archives in England, of a group gathered at what is now the back of the house.
Andrew then urged us to wander in the gardens. We walked over to what looks like a Norman keep. It is Ballinlough Castle (not to be confused with Ballinlough Castle of County Westmeath), which dates back to the early seventeeth century, and belonged to the O’Carroll family. I climbed nearly all the way to the top (at my own peril!)!
We then found our way to the walled garden. Michael told us he hopes to restore the glasshouse.
I’d love such a large growing space, with space for fruit trees and sheltering walls. I have had my own allotment for seven years!
I’d love to stay in the cottage, which is also available to rent.
 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.