Places to visit and stay in Leinster: Offaly and Westmeath

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

Accommodation is in red. Section 482 properties are in purple.

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

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing;

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

Whole house accommodation is for more than 10 people.

Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly

7. Corolanty House, Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

8. Crotty Church, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly section 482

9. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

11. Leap Castle, County Offaly

12. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

13. Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

14. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

15. Woodland Cottage Garden, Birr, Offaly, IE 

Places to stay, County Offaly

1. Kinnitty Castle (formerly Castle Bernard), Kinnity, Co Offaly

2. Loughton House, County Offaly

3. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Whole house rental, County Offaly:

1. Ballycumber, County Offaly – whole house rental

Westmeath:

1. Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath – ruin, open to visitors 

2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath

3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

4. St. John’s Church, Loughstown, Drumcree, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath – section 482

5. Tullynally Castle & Gardens, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

6. Turbotstown, Coole, Co. Westmeath – section 482

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

Places to stay, County Westmeath: 

1. Annebrook House Hotel, Austin Friars Street, Mullingar, Co.Westmeath, Ireland, N91YH2F.

2. Lough Bawn House, Colllinstown, Co Westmeath – accommodation €€

3. Mornington House, County Westmeath – accommodation 

Whole House Rental/wedding venue, County Westmeath:

1. Bishopstown House, Rosemount, Westmeath – whole house rental https://www.bishopstownhouse.ie

2.  Middleton Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath – available to rent http://mph.ie

Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Rudolf Prosoroff
Tel: 0043 676 5570097
Open: April 4-8, 19-28, May 2-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26, 30-31, June 1-2, 6-9, 13-16, 20- 23, 27-30, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €10, student /OAP/child €5

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

An article in the Irish Times by Gemma Tipton in March 2014 tells us that Ballindoolin near Edenderry is the old demesne of the Bor family. The Humphrey Bor family lived on the estate from 1620 untill the 1890s brought them financial difficulty and their land agent William Tyrell took over the demesne when they vacated it. The house was built in 1822.  

When Robert Moloney inherited it in 1993, he and his wife Esther began a huge project of renovation and restoration, including reroofing, replumbing and rewiring.  

Outside, with the help of Fáilte Ireland and some EU funds, the original large walled gardens were returned to their exact and former glory, as one of 26 chosen under the Great Gardens Restoration Scheme.

The house was again on the market in 2021. Gemma Tipton writes tells us a bit more about the house in the August article in the Irish Times: The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie. Tipton tells us that the gate lodge is designed originally by  William Morrison for the Duke of Abercorn.
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

Tipton writes:

Robert and Esther used documents and diaries to ensure the restoration, inside and out, was in-keeping, later donating 40 boxes of account books, ledgers and records to the archives at NUI Maynooth for safe-keeping.  

These reveal a wealth of stories about the day-to-day running of the house, although it is just as easy to imagine them coming alive as you wander through the rooms. There is the wide, stone-flagged hallway, and the cosier, but still imposing back hall. The drawing room has its original wallpaper and chandelier; the marvellous fireplaces are intact. ”

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie. Gemma Tipton writes that The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.

Tipton tells us:

Ballindoolin last sold in 2017, to an Austrian businessman, who fell in love with the house, its enviable position (less than an hour’s drive to Dublin city centre) and its stories. His plan was to lavish it with care and attention, and ultimately move over with his family. The first part worked out beautifully – Ballindoolin is in showpiece condition, but the family’s plans changed, and so it is now on the market.

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

Ballybrittan Castle, County Offaly, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Rosemarie
Tel: 087-2469802 

www.ballybrittancastle.com

Open: Jan 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 21-30, 2pm-6pm.
Fee: Free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.

The National Inventory describes it: “Detached four-bay two-storey house, built c.1750, with return and extension to rear and adjoining outbuildings to north. Set within own grounds…Modest in design, this fine house retains its original character with minimal intervention. The simple well proportioned façade is enhanced by the survival of its sash windows and door, while the finely executed door surround forms a subtle adornment. The outbuildings to rear, along with the iron-mongery to the front, complete this appealing domestic complex.” [1]

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Alicia Clements Tel: 057-9120056

www.birrcastle.com

Open: May 17-Aug 31, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-2, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €20, child free

Birr Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [2]

Our tour guide was young but thoroughly knowledgeable. He walked a group of us over to the castle, across the moat, which he told us had been created, along with the walls surrounding the castle demesne, and the stone stable buildings, which are now the reception courtyard, museum and cafe, in 1847 when the owners of Birr Castle provided employment to help to stave off the hunger of the famine. 

Gates made by Lady Rosse, Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse, with the family motto, “For God and the Land to the Stars.” The motto was originally for God and King but, unhappy with the monarch’s response to the famine, the family changed their motto.

I was intrigued to hear that the gates had been made by one of the residents of the castle, Lady Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse. She was an accomplished ironworker!! She brought a fortune with her to the castle when she married the Earl of Rosse, which enabled him to build his telescope. But more on that later. 

Birr Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

More on Birr Castle soon!

Birr Castle, photograph by Liam Murphy, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website tells us:

In Anglo Norman Times, the Castle was built on the motte. The gate tower of this led into the castle bawn (courtyard) which is now the centre of the present building. The Central Gate Passage with its 12 foot walls can be seen in the lower floor of the present building.

The castle or fortress of Birr was re occupied by the O’Carroll’s who held it until the 1580s when it was sold to the Ormond Butlers. In 1620 the now ruined castle was granted to the Parsons family by James I.  Rather than occupy the tower house of the O’Carrolls, the Parsons decided to turn the Norman Gate Tower into their ‘English House’. Building on either side and incorporating two Flanking Towers.  Sir Laurence Parsons did a large amount of building and remodelling including the building of the two flanking towers, before his death in 1628. This is all accounted for in our archives.

The castle survived two sieges in the 17th century, leaving the family impoverished at the beginning of the 18th century. This led to little was done to the 17thcentury house.  However, sometime between the end of that century and the beginning of the 19th century, the house which had always faced the town, was given a new gothic facade, which now faces the park.  The ancient towers and walls, now the park side of the castle, were swept away, including the Black Tower (The Tower House) of the O’Carroll’s, which had stood on the motte. Around 1820 the octagonal Gothic Saloon overlooking the river was cleverly added into the space between the central block and the west flanking tower.

After a fire in the central block in 1836 the centre of the castle was rebuilt, with the ceilings heightened, a third story added and also the great dining room. In the middle of the 1840s a larger work force was employed during the famine times in Ireland. The old moat and the original Norman motte were flattened, and a new star-shaped moat was designed, with a keep gate. This was financed by Mary, Countess of Rosse. This period of remodelling was also overlapped with the construction of the Great Telescope, The Leviathan. Which was completed in 1845.

The final work on the castle was completed in the 1860s when a Square Tower at the back of the castle on the East side was added. This now contains nurseries on the top floor which have a great view over the town of Birr.”

Birr Castle gardens, photograph for Tourism Ireland, 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website also gives us a good history of the family:

The Parsons family arrived at Birr in 1620. They acquired the ruined fortress of Birr. It had been an O’Carroll castle, but had for some twenty years belonged to the Ormond Butlers. Sir Laurence [1576-1628], one of four brothers living in Ireland at the beginning of end of the 16th century, had been working with his cousin Richard Boyle the great Earl of Cork,(to whom he was related through the Fenton family, in Youghal). Laurence died suddenly in 1628 and was succeeded by his second son, William, ably supported by his mother, Anne, née Malham, a Yorkshire woman related to the Tempest family.

Sir Laurence’s elder brother, also William, became Surveyor General of Ireland and founded the elder branch of the family, living in Bellamont, Dublin. This branch died out at the end of the 18th century.

The 17th century was a turbulent one for the Parsons family in Birr. The castle was involved in two sieges, the first in the 1640s where the family moved for a time to London, before returning at the end of the Cromwellian period. In 1690 the castle was besieged again, by Sarsfield [Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan].This time the Castle held out and Sarsfield moved on.

The 18th century was a quiet period for the family who were left with little money and returned to improving their estates at Birr and living off the land. Towards the end of the century Sir Laurence, [1758-1841] 5th baronet, became a politician and friend of Flood and Grattan. He was praised for his honesty. He opposed the Act of Union. He became 2nd Earl of Rosse in 1807 when he inherited the title from his Uncle [Lawrence Harman Parsons-Harman, 1st Earl of Rosse, who had inherited Newcastle, County Longford].”

Birr Castle, this is the only photograph I can find of the inside as one cannot take photographs! photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website history of the family continues:

The 19th century saw the castle become a great centre of scientific research when William Parsons, 3rd Earl built the great telescope. (See astronomy).His wife, Mary, whose fortune helped him to build the telescope and make many improvements to the castle, was a pioneer photographer and took many photographs in the 1850s.  Her dark room – a total time capsule which was preserved in the Castle – has now been exactly relocated in the Science Centre.

Their son the 4th Earl also continued astronomy at the castle and the great telescope was used up to the beginning of the 2nd world war. His son the 5th Earl was interested in agriculture and visited Denmark in search of more modern and successful methods. Sadly he died of wounds in the 1st world war.

His son, Michael the 6th Earl and his wife Anne created the garden for which Birr is now famous. (see the gardens and trees and plants) Anne, who was the sister of Oliver Messel the stage designer, brought many treasures to Birr from the Messel collection and with her skill in interior decoration and artist’s eye, transformed the castle, giving it the magical beauty that is now apparent to all.  Michael was also much involved in the creation of the National Trust in England after the war.

Their son Brendan, the present Earl, spent his career in the United Nations Development Programme, living with his wife Alison and their family in many third world countries.  He returned to Ireland on his father’s death in 1979.  Brendan and Alison have also spent much time on the garden, especially collecting and planting rare trees.  Their three children are all passionate about Birr and continue to add layers to the story for the future.

Patrick, Lord Oxmantown currently lives in London and is working on plans to bring large scale investment into Birr which will enable him and his family to move back to Ireland.

Alicia Clements managers the Birr Castle Estate and lives in the sibling house of Tullanisk.

Michael Parsons, works in London managing a portfolio of properties for the National Trust and is a board member to The Birr Scientific and Heritage Foundation.”

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Martin O’Rourke
Tel: 086-2594914
Open: June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €2, student/child free, family €5

Boland’s Lock, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Designed by Michael Hayes of Tullamore Harbour.

The National Inventory describes it: “Oval-shaped four-bay two-storey lock keeper’s house, built c.1800, with a projecting bow to the front and rear. Located at the 26th lock on the Grand Canal.”

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

Charleville Castle, August 2018.

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.” [3]

The entrance door, and the window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch.

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.” [4]

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/

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.

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.”

Charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.
Charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.
It has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle.
The ceiling, with its coffered panels, sports family emblems of the Moores and the Burys, all supported on a light Gothic crested frieze, dating to 1875 and a remnant of William Morris’s only Irish commission. (see [5]) The oak forest and lands were gifted by Queen Elizabeth I to Moore, Earl of Charleville in 1577. Due to the lack of male heirs in the Moore family the land was inherited by Charles William Bury who was the grand nephew of the last Earl [Charles Moore (1712-1764), 1st Earl of Charleville] just six months old.
Staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls.

6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly

https://www.visitoffaly.ie/Things-to-do/Culture-Heritage/Clonony-Castle/

The website tells us:

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.”

7. Corolanty House, Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

Corolanty House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Siobhan Webb
Tel: 086-1209984
Open: Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm Fee: Free

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.” [5]

8. Crotty Church, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly section 482

contact: Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277
Open: all year, 1pm-5pm Fee: Free

9. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

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.” [6]

10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: George Ross
Tel: 086-3831992

www.no6highstreet.com

Open: Jan 4-31, Mon -Fri, May 1-18, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-24, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student €5, OAP €4, child under 12 free

11. Leap Castle, County Offaly

https://www.visitoffaly.ie/Things-to-do/Culture-Heritage/Leap-Castle/

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.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The Leap Castle website gives us more information: http://leapcastle.net

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.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

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.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

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.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

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.” 

–          Noel Guerin

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

13. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

Loughton House, County Offaly, May 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/01/loughton-house-moneygall-county-offaly/
contact: Michael Lyons 
Tel: 089-4319150
www.loughtonhouse.com
Open: 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

14. Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Muireann Noonan
Tel: 087-2204569
www.springfieldhouse.ie

Open: 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
Fee: Free

Write-up coming soon!

15. The Maltings

Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277 

www.canbe.ie

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

16. Woodland Cottage Garden, Birr, Offaly, IE 

https://www.gardensofireland.org/directory/42/woodland+cottage+garden/

Contact: Anne Ward 

Tel: +353 (0) 57 912 1215 

Mobile: +353 (0) 86 305 1697 

Email: nanoward@eircom.net 

Web: www.loughderggardens.com 

Places to stay, County Offaly

1. Kinnitty Castle (formerly Castle Bernard), Kinnity, Co Offaly https://www.kinnittycastlehotel.com/index.html

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

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.” 

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

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.

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

2. Loughton House, County Offaly – see above

https://loughtonhouse.com

3. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

contact: Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277 

www.canbe.ie

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

Whole house rental, County Offaly:

1. Ballycumber, County Offaly – whole house rental

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/21064152?source_impression_id=p3_1646848147_zcYarfp2zhDKFdHo

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.” [7]

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!

Westmeath:

1. Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath – ruin, open to visitors http://www.athlonecastle.ie/ 

Cruising by Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Fennell Photography 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

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.

Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Ros Kavanagh 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

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.” [8]

Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Ros Kavanagh 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Sonder Visuals 2021 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.

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.”

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.
Robert Rochfort (1708-1774) 1st Earl of Belvedere.

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.

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021: “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.
Hallway, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.
The portrait is of Charles Howard-Bury, who was one of the owners of Belvedere.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath. The Dining Room occupies one end bow of the house, and has a Venetian window overlooking Lough Ennell.

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.

The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath: The rococo ceiling of puffing cherubs and fruits and foliage is attributed to Barthelemji Cramillion, a French stuccodore.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.

Bence-Jones continues: “The staircase, wood and partly curving, is in proportion to the back of the house.

The Venetian window that lights the stairs, on the back facade of the house. The wooden porch below is an entrance into the basement of the house.
Drawing Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath. The drawing room occupies one of the bows of the house, and has a Venetian window overlooking the terrace and Lough Ennell.

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.

Ceiling of the Drawing Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The kitchen is in the vaulted basement of Belvedere and has an interesting ghostly display of servants.

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 [3])

“The Jealous Wall,” Belvedere.

The jealous wall is rather disappointingly attached to the visitor centre of Belvedere at the entrance to the park.

Visitor centre attached to the Jealous Wall, Belvedere.
Visitor centre attached to the Jealous Wall.

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.

Charles Brisley Marlay built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later. The terraces are said to have been inspired by the terraces at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, the home of his sister.
Charles Brisley Marlay built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later.

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 brought a bear back from Kazakhstan!

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.

Belvedere garden folly, Courtesy of Westmeath County Council (www.visitwestmeath.ie), photograph by Clare Keogh,2019.
The Octagonal Gazebo, Belvedere. It was once panelled with wood on the walls, floor and ceiling adn was used for summer picnics, where guests would be waited on by servants.
Lough Ennell.

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

Fee: adult €4

4. St. John’s Church, Loughstown, Drumcree, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath – section 482

contact: Billy Standish
Tel: 044-9666570
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult €4, child/OAP/student €2

5. Tullynally Castle & Gardens, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

Tullynally, County Westmeath, August 2021.

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/19/tullynally-castle-and-gardens-castlepollard-county-westmeath/
contact: Octavia Tullock
Tel: 044-9661856 

www.tullynallycastle.com
Open: Castle, May 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28, June 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30, July 1- 2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, Aug 13-21, 25-27, Sept 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 10am-2pm Garden: Apr 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, May 1-2, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-6, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, Aug 1, 4-7, 11-21, 25-28, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29-30, 11am-5pm

Fee: adult, castle/garden €16, garden €8.50, child, castle/garden €8, garden €4 (over 10 years only admission to castle) families (2+2) garden €22

6. Turbotstown, Coole, Co. Westmeath – section 482

contact: Peter Bland
Tel: 086-2475044
Open: July 22-31, Aug 1-31, Dec 1-20, 9am-1pm Fee: adult/student €8, child/OAP €4

7. Tyrrelspass Castle, Co Westmeath – restaurant and gift shop https://www.facebook.com/tyrrellspasscastle/ 

Places to stay, County Westmeath: 

1. Annebrook House Hotel, Austin Friars Street, Mullingar, Co.Westmeath, Ireland, N91YH2F.

https://www.annebrook.ie/gallery.html

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 €€

http://loughbawnhouse.com

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 

https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/mornington-house/

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.

Whole House accommodation, County Westmeath:

1. Bishopstown House, Rosemount, Westmeath – whole house rental https://www.bishopstownhouse.ie

The website tells us of the history:

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.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14911023/ballybrittan-house-ballybrittan-co-offaly

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

[3] 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.

[4] p. 136. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998. 

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14942001/corolanty-house-curralanty-offaly

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

[7] https://offalyhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/sun-too-slow-sun-too-fast-ethel-and-enid-homan-mulock-of-ballycumber-house-by-lisa-shortall/

[8] https://archiseek.com/2009/athlone-castle-co-westmeath/

Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow

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

Laois:

29. Emo Court, County Laois

30. Heywood Gardens, County Laois

Longford:

31. Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, County Longford

Louth:

32. Carlingford Castle, County Louth

33. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth

Meath:

34. Battle of the Boyne site, Oldbridge House, County Meath

35. Hill of Tara, County Meath

36. Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath

37. Newgrange, County Meath

38. Trim Castle, County Meath

Offaly:

39. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly

Westmeath:

40. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath

Wexford:

41. Ballyhack Castle, County Wexford

42. Ferns Castle, County Wexford

43. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford

44. Tintern Abbey, County Wexford

Wicklow:

45. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow

46. Glendalough, County Wicklow

47. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow

Laois:

29. Emo Court, County Laois:

Emo, County Laois, June 2021. Unfortunately the stone lions which flank the front steps, carved by Richard Carter of Cork in 1854, were in boxes on the day we visited. [1]

General enquiries: 057 862 6573, emocourt@opw.ie

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 [1920] 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.” [2]

The entrance front has seven bay centre with a giant pedimented Ionic portico. Andrew Tierney tells us that the portico was changed in 1822 from Gandon’s Doric order to a pedimented tetrastyle Ionic portico by the Dublin architects Arthur and John Williamson. [see 1]
The view from the front of the house. The 3rd Earl of Portarlington planted the long avenue of Wellingtonia trees.

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. [3]

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.” [4]

Many of Gandon’s original drawings, plus those of his successors, are currently on display in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin. [5] 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.

Emo Court, Photograph by Liam Murphy 2016 for Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool [6]. The windows in the single bay pavilions are pedimented and set in relieving arches.

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]

The end pavilions are a single storey with 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. In the photograph is the Arts side, with an Irish harp and two figures unfurling the plans for the house. [see 1]
The Coade stone relief of putti in a pastoral scene, representing Agriculture.
The side and garden front of the house. The side elevation, which is of three storeys including the attic, is of one bay on either side of a curved central bow.
I love the way these balusters go droopy-bellied to match the angle of the stairs!

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]

Photograph from the National Library of Ireland, around 1900-1920, showing the garden front of the house. The 2nd Earl of Portarlington engaged Lewis Vulliamy (who designed the portico) and A. & J. Williamson, Dublin architects (who did the interior), 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. The rotunda was only finished in 1860.
The garden front of Emo with its pillared portico by Lewis Vulliamy.
Pillared portico by Lewis Vulliamy.
The garden front portico, probably part of the 1850s work by William Caldbeck, has portico and entablature of grey limestone and doorcase and window surrounds of yellow sandstone. This is set against a cement render. [see 1]
Under the portico in the garden facing facade is a Coade stone frieze of a Dionysian procession. [see 1]

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. [7] 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. [8]

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

The walled garden at Emo Court.
The walled garden at Emo Court.

30. Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, County Laois:

Heywood Gardens by Edwin Lutyens, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General enquiries: 086 810 7916, emocourt@opw.ie

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. [9] 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. [10] 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).

Looking over the lake towards the exterior of Heywood House, photograph by A.E. Henson, not used, from archive for Country Life, volume XLV, 1919.
The dining room at Heywood House, ceiling probably by Michael Stapleton, photograph by A.E. Henson, from Country Life, volume XLV, 1919.

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.” [11]

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.

The north wall of the pleached alley at Heywood House. Photograph by A.E. Henson,Published originally Country Life 04/01/1919.

For more on the gardens, see the blog of the Irish Aesthete, Robert O’Byrne. [12]

Longford:

31. Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Kenagh, County Longford:

Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Co. Longford, photograph by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Co. Longford, photograph by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General enquiries: 043 332 2386, corlea@opw.ie

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.

Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Co. Longford, photograph by Christ Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Wooden block wheel excavated in Doogarymore, County Roscommon, now in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin. From around 400BC. It may be the type of wheel that was used on the ancient roads!
Information board from the National of Ireland Kildare Street.

Louth:

32. Carlingford Castle:

Carlingford Castle, also known as King John’s Castle (not to be confused with the one in Limerick), County Louth, photograph by Brenda Harris 2021 for Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

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. [13]

Carlingford Castle Co Louth NLI by Robert French, Lawrence Photograph Collection.
Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey (1768-1854), Viceroy in 1828 and 1830.

33. Old Mellifont Abbey, Tullyallen, Drogheda, County Louth:

Old Mellifont Abbey, photograph by Eilish Tierney, 2020 for Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Mellifont Abbey from National Library of Ireland Lawrence photograph collection, flickr constant commons.

General enquiries: 041 982 6459, mellifontabbey@opw.ie. 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.

Mellifont Abbey ruins, the octagonal lavabo, built in around 1200, photograph by Brian Harte, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

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. [14] 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.

Mellifont Abbey ruins, photograph by Chris Hill, 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

Meath:

34. Battle of the Boyne site and visitor centre, Oldbridge House, County Meath.

Oldbridge House, County Meath, October 2019.

General Enquiries: 041 980 9950, battleoftheboyne@opw.ie

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.” [15]

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. [16] 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. [17]

Oldbridge House, County Meath, October 2019. The inset canonball was recovered from the field from the Battle of the Boyne.

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.

Battle of the Boyne painted by Jan Wyck, in the National Gallery of Ireland. The point of view is that of the Williamites who were based on high ground north of the River Boyne, looking southwards towards Donore Hill where James II and his troops were based.

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.” [15]

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.

Many phrases can be traced back to the Battle of the Boyne, such as those written on the wall in the museum.
Oldbridge, County Meath, October 2019.

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.

Oldbridge, County Meath, October 2019.

35. Loughcrew Cairns, Corstown, Oldcastle, County Meath:

Loughcrew cairns, photograph by Macmillan media, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

general enquiries: 087 052 4975, info@heritageireland.ie

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.

Loughcrew cairns, photograph by Macmillan media, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Carved stone from Loughcrew, in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

36. Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre, Newgrange and Knowth, County Meath.

Newgrange, seen from the top of another nearby tumulus, Dowth. Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dates to some 5,000 years ago…Photograph by Dave Walsh, 2004 for Tourism Ireland. [see 6]

General Information: 041 988 0300, brunaboinne@opw.ie

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.

Newgrange, County Meath, December 2013.
Newgrange, County Meath, December 2013.
Newgrange, Co Meath, Ireland, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Newgrange, Co Meath , Ireland, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Winter Solstice, Newgrange, Co Meath , Ireland, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

37. Hill of Tara, Navan, County Meath:

Hill of Tara, County Meath, photograph by macmillan media 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Diorama of Tara in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin, 2022. Key: 2. Rath/Fort of the Kings, a hilltop enclosure; 3: Royal Seat, a barrow; 4. Cormac’s House, a ringfort; 5. Stone of Destiny, Liah Fail, a standing stone; 6. Mound of the Hostages, a passage tomb; 7. Rath of the Synods, an enclosure; 8. Banqueting Hall, a linear earthwork.

General information: 046 902 5903, hilloftara@opw.ie

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.

Article about the 1956 excavation of the portal tomb passage grave on the Mound of the Hostages, in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.
Items excavated at Tara, in the National Museum of Ireland Kildare Street.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.

38. Trim Castle, County Meath:

Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General information: 046 943 8619, trimcastle@opw.ie

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!

Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2006 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

Patrick Comerford gives an excellent history of Trim Castle in his blog. [18] 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. [19]

Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Trim Castle, Co. Meath, 1938, photograph from National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.
Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by macmillan media, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

Offaly:

39. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly:

Clonmacnoise, May 2018.

General information: 090 9674195, clonmacnoise@opw.ie

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.

Clonmacnoise, May 2018. O’Rourke’s Tower. The Annals of the Four Masters record that it was completed in 1124 under the patronage of Toirrdelbach O Conchobhair, King of Connacht. In 1135 its top was struck off by lightning. The eight square headed windos at the top belong to a late medieval arrangement.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018. Temple Finghin, a twelfth century church with integrated round tower.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018.

Westmeath:

45. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath:

Fore Abbey, County Westmeath, August 2021.

“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 cloister is remarkably well-preserved.

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 Columbarium or Pigeon house 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.

St Feichin’s Church, with Fore Abbey in background on far left.
St. Feichin’s Church, built in the 10th century with later additions.

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.

The Anchorite’s Cell.
Front of the Anchorite Cell Chapel with the Nugent coat of arms.

County Wexford:

46. Ballyhack Castle, Arthurstown, County Wexford

Ballyhack Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General enquiries: 051 398 468, breda.lynch@opw.ie

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!

Ballyhack Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

47. Ferns Castle, County Wexford:

Ferns Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General information: 053 9366411, fernscastle@opw.ie

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.

Ferns Castle, photograph by Chris Hill, 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

48. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford:

General Information: 046 9423490, jfkarboretum@opw.ie

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:

Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General information: 051 562650, tinternabbey@opw.ie

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.

Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Colclough Walled garden, Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

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. 

Garden at Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Tintern Abbey, photograph by Celtic Routes, 2019 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

Wicklow:

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:

Glendalough, County Wicklow, July 2017.

General information: 0404 45352, george.mcclafferty@opw.ie

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.

Gilt wooden statue dating from the 15th or 16th century, found at Lugduff, County Wicklow, in a ruined building near the upper lake at Glendalough. It is a carved statue of yew wood and depicts an unknown figure, probably a saint; now in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.
Information board from National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street.
Silver penny of Sitric Rex Dublin, found at Sevenchurches or Camaderry, Glendalough County Wicklow. It represents the earliest Irish coinage, showing Sitric, King of Dublin, and was minted in AD995. It is now in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.
Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, photograph by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

52. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow:

General Information: 0404 48844, botanicgardens@opw.ie

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. [20]

Kilmacurragh House, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural History.

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.

and

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.” [21]

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.

[1] p. 336. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[2] https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/emo-court/

[3] 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.

[4] https://emocourt.ie/history/

For information on Gandon’s house in Lucan, see https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11201034/canonbrook-house-lucan-newlands-road-lucan-and-pettycanon-lucan-dublin

Canonbrook, Lucan: “Detached multiple-bay two-storey over basement house, c.1800, on an L-plan. A handsome, substantial rural Georgian house which, though altered, retains its imposing form and feel, and is situated in mature grounds. Historically important as the former home of James Gandon.” Gandon is also said to have designed Primrose Hill House in Lucan, which is a section 482 property.

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/02/27/emo-court/

[6] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en/media-assets/media/81101

[7] http://www.fatherbrowne.com

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/03/14/of-changes-in-taste/

and https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/02/01/seen-in-the-round/

For photographs of the stuccowork, see https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/03/21/forgotten-virtuosi/

[9] p. 96. Sadleir, Thomas U. and Page L. Dickinson. Georgian Mansions in Ireland with some account of the evolution af Georgian Architecture and Decoration. Dublin University Press, 1915. 

[10] p. 356. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[11] p. 61. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of  Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998. 

[12] https://theirishaesthete.com/2018/08/27/heywood/

and https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/05/12/to-smooth-the-lawn-to-decorate-the-dale/

[13] p. 175, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster: the counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[14] p. 387, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster: the counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

and see also my entry on Killineer, County Louth.

[15] https://battleoftheboyne.ie/battle-beyond/

[16] p. 446-7. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[17] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14402016/oldbridge-house-oldbridge-sheephouse-co-meath

[18] http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2016/10/trim-castle-is-strong-symbol-in-stone.html

[19] p. 511, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster: the counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[20] p. 160. Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.

[21] https://botanicgardens.ie/kilmacurragh/

Happy New Year!

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.

Mount Usher Gardens, County Wicklow (June 2021).
Killruddery, County Wicklow (we visited in April 2021).
Killineer House and Gardens, County Louth (visited in June 2021).
Salthill Gardens, County Donegal (visited in July 2021.
Stradbally Hall, County Laois (visited in June 2021).
Enniscoe, County Mayo (visited in August 2021).
Tullynally, County Westmeath (visited in August 2021).
Kilfane Glen and Waterfall, County Kilkenny (visited in August 2021).
Gardens at Killedmond Rectory, County Carlow (visited in August 2021).
Coopershill, County Sligo (visited in August 2021).
Newpark House, County Sligo (visited in August 2021).
Markree Castle, County Sligo (visited in August 2021).
Wilton Castle, County Wexford (visited in November 2021).

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.

Inside Dublin Castle (visited in September 2021).
Irish National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin, designed by Lutyens (we go walking here all the time!).
National Botanic Gardens, Dublin (visited in September 2021).
Inside Rathfarnham Castle (visited in September 2021).
The Iveagh Gardens, Dublin (visited in October 2021).
The Gardens at Royal Hospital Kilmainham (visited in January 2022).
Emo Park, County Laois (visited in June 2021).
Portumna Castle, Galway (visited in July 2021).
Fore Abbey, County Westmeath (visited in August 2021).
Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim, maintained by the OPW (visited in August 2021).
Ballymote Castle, County Sligo (visited in August 2021).

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).

Duckett’s Grove, County Carlow (visited in August 2021).
Woodstock House, County Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council (visited in August 2021).
Johnstown Castle, County Wexford, maintained by the Irish Heritage Trust (visited in November 2021).
Dunguaire Castle, County Clare (visited in July 2021).
Newbridge House, County Dublin (visited in June 2021).
Belvedere House, County Westmeath (visited in August 2021).

We were able to visit two historic properties when we went to view auction sales at Townley Hall, County Louth and Howth Castle, Dublin.

The domed rotunda in Townley Hall, County Louth (visited in October 2021).
Howth Castle, County Dublin (visited in September 2021).

Finally some private Big Houses that we visited, staying in airbnbs, were Annaghmore in County Sligo and Cregg Castle in Galway.

Annaghmore, County Sligo, where we stayed as airbnb guests with Durcan and Nicola O’Hara (in August 2021).
Cregg Castle, County Galway (in July 2021).

Here are the listings for January 2021:

Cavan

Cabra Castle (Hotel)

Kingscourt, Co. Cavan

Howard Corscadden.

Tel: 042-9667030

www.cabracastle.com

Open dates in 2021: all year, except Dec 24, 25, 26, 11am-12 midnight

Fee: Free

Cabra Castle, County Cavan.

Corravahan House & Gardens

Corravahan, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan

Ian Elliott

Tel: 087-9772224

www.corravahan.com

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 

Corravahan, County Cavan.

Clare

Newtown Castle

Newtown, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Mary Hawkes- Greene

Tel: 065-7077200

www.newtowncastle.com , www.burrencollege.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-May 31, Mon-Fri, June 1-30 Mon-Sat, July 1-Aug 31 daily, Sept 1-Dec 17 Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm
Fee: Free 

Newtown Castle, County Clare. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Cork

Blarney Castle & Rock Close

Blarney, Co. Cork

C. Colthurst

Tel: 021-4385252

www.blarneycastle.ie

Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, Jan-Mar, Mon-Sat, 9am- sundown, Sun, 9am-6pm 

Apr-May, 9am-6pm, June-Aug, Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm, Sun, 9am-6pm, Sept, Mon-Sat, 9am-6.30pm, Sun, 9am-6pm,
Oct, Nov, Dec daily 9am-6pm,
Fee: adult €18, OAP/student €15, child €10, family and season passes 

Brideweir House

Conna, Co. Cork

Ronan Fox

Tel: 087-0523256

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-Dec 24, 11am-4pm 

Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child free

Woodford Bourne Warehouse

Sheares Street, Cork

Edward Nicholson

Tel: 021-4273000

www.woodfordbournewarehouse.com

Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 1pm-11pm 

Fee: Free

Donegal

Portnason House 

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 

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €5 

Dublin City

Bewley’s 

78-79 Grafton Street/234 Johnson’s Court, Dublin 2

Peter O’ Callaghan

Tel 087-7179367

www.bewleys.com

Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Day, 

11am-7pm Fee: Free 

Hibernian/National Irish Bank

23-27 College Green, Dublin 2

Dan O’Sullivan 

Tel: 01-6755100

www.clarendonproperties.ie

Open dates in 2021: all year, except Dec 25, Wed-Fri 9.30am-8pm, Sun 11am-7pm, Sat, Mon, Tue, 9.30-7pm 

Fee: Free 

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre

59 South William Street, Dublin 2

Mary Larkin

Tel: 01-6717000

Open dates in 2021: All year except New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day & Bank Holidays, Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm, Thurs, 10am-8pm, Sundays, 12 noon-6pm

Fee: Free

Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin City.

10 South Frederick Street

Dublin 2

Joe Hogan

Tel: 087-2430334

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-24, May 1, 3-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-27, Aug 14-22, 2pm-6pm 

Fee: Free 

County Dublin 

“Geragh” 

Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin

Gráinne Casey

Tel: 01-2804884

Open dates in 2021: Jan 28-29, Feb 1-5, 8-12, 15-22, May 4-31, Aug 14-22, Sept 1-3, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €7, OAP €4, student €2, child free  

Meander

Westminister Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18,

Ruth O’Herlihy, 

Tel: 087-2163623

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, May 1, 4-8, 10-11, 17-22, June 8-12, 14-19, 21- 26, Aug 14-22, 9am-1pm 

Fee: adult €5, OAP/child/student €2 

Tibradden House

Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Selina Guinness

Tel: 01-4957483

www.selinaguinness.com

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 

Galway 

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 

Kerry

Derreen Gardens

Lauragh, Tuosist, Kenmare, Co. Kerry

John Daly

Tel: 087-1325665

www.derreengarden.com 

Open dates in 2021: all year, 10am-6pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €8, child €3, family ticket (2 adults and all children under 18 and 2 maps) €20 

Kildare

Farmersvale House

Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare

Patricia Orr

Tel: 086-2552661

Open dates in 2021: Jan 18-31, Feb 1-6, July 23-31, Aug 1-31, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: adult €5, student/child/OAP €3, (Irish Georgian Society members free) 

Harristown House

Brannockstown, Co. Kildare

Hubert Beaumont
Tel: 087-2588775

www.harristownhouse.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 11-15, 18-22, Feb 8-12, 15-19, May 4-28, June 7-11, Aug 14-22, Sept 6-10, 9am-1pm 

Fee: adult/OAP/student €10, child €5 

Harristown House, County Kildare.

Kildrought House

Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare

June Stuart

Tel: 01-6271206, 087-6168651

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-20, May 18-26, Aug 11-31,10am-2pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3, child under 5 years free, school groups €2 per head 

Moyglare Glebe

Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

Joan Hayden

Tel: 01-8722238

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, May 1-31, Aug 14-22, Sept 4-7, 8.30am-12.30pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3 

Kilkenny

Kilkenny Design Centre

Castle Yard, Kilkenny

Joseph O’ Keeffe, Tel: 064-6623331

www.kilkennydesign.com

Open dates in 2021: all year,10am-7pm 

Fee: Free

Laois

Ballaghmore Castle

Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois

Grace Pym

Tel: 0505-21453

www.castleballaghmore.com

Open dates in 2021: all year, 9.30am-6pm
Fee: adult €5, child/OAP €3, student free, family of 4, €10 

Leitrim

Manorhamilton Castle (Ruin)

Castle St, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim

Anthony Daly

Tel: 086-2502593

Open dates in 2021: Jan 7-Dec 21, National Heritage Week, Aug 14-22, closed Sat & Sun, 10am- 5pm
Fee: adult €5, child free 

Limerick

Ash Hill 

Kilmallock, Co. Limerick

Simon and Nicole Johnson 

Tel: 063-98035

www.ashhill.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open dates in 2021: Jan 15-Oct 31, Nov 1-29, Dec 1-15, 9am-4pm Fee: adult/student €5, child/OAP free 

Glebe House

Bruff, Co. Limerick

Colm McCarthy

Tel: 087-6487556

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-29, May 10-28, Aug 13-22, Sept 13-24, Mon-Fri, 5.30pm-9.30pm, Sat- Sun, 8am-12 noon 

Fee: Free 

Mayo

Brookhill House

Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo

Patricia and John Noone

Tel: 094-9371348

Open dates in 2021: Jan 13-20, Apr 13-20, May 18-24, June 8-14, July 13-19, Aug 1-23, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €6, student €3, OAP/child/National Heritage Week free

Meath

Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane (or Stackallan)

Slane, Co. Meath

Alan Haugh

Tel: 041-9884444

www.boynehouseslane.ie

Open dates in 2021: all year, National Heritage Week, Aug 14-22, 9am-1pm Fee: Free 

Dardistown Castle

Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath

Lizanne Allen

Tel: 086 -2774271

www.dardistowncastle.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 9-31, Feb 11-21, May 15-21, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, student/OAP €5, child free 

Dardistown Castle, County Meath.

Gravelmount House 

Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath
Brian McKenna
Tel: 087-2520523
Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-13, May 10-30, June 1-20, Aug 14-22, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3 

Moyglare House

Moyglare, Co. Meath

Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare

Angela Alexander

Tel: 086-0537291

www.moyglarehouse.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1, 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, May 1-21, 24-28, 31, June 1-3, Aug 14-22, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student/child €5 

St. Mary’s Abbey

High Street, Trim, Co. Meath

Peter Higgins 

Tel: 087-2057176

Open dates in 2021: Jan 25-29, Feb 22-26, Mar 8-12, Apr 12-16, May 24-30, June 21-27, July 19- 25, Aug 14-22, Sept 13-17, 20-24, 2pm-6pm 

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child €2 

Tankardstown House 

Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath

Tadhg Carolan, Tel: 087-7512871

www.tankardstown.ie

Open dates in 2021: All year including National Heritage Week, 9am-1pm

Fee: Free

Tankardstown, County Meath.

Monaghan

Castle Leslie

Glaslough, Co. Monaghan

Samantha Leslie 

Tel: 047-88091

www.castleleslie.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open dates in 2021: all year, National Heritage Week, events August 14-22 Fee: Free 

Castle Leslie, County Monaghan.

Offaly

Ballybrittan Castle

Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

Rosemarie

Tel: 087-2469802 

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. 

Corolanty House

Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly

Siobhan Webb

Tel: 086-1209984

Open dates in 2021: Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm

Fee: Free

Crotty Church

Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Brendan Garry

Tel: 086-8236452

Open dates in 2021: All year, except Dec 25, 9am-5pm 

Fee: Free

High Street House

High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

George Ross

Tel: 086-3832992

www.no6highstreet.com

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, May 1-18, Aug 14-22, Sept 1-24, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student €5, OAP €4, child under 12 free 

Springfield House 

Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly Muireann Noonan
Tel: 087-2204569
www.springfieldhouse.ie 

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-14, 1pm-5pm, May 14-16, 24-28, July 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, Aug 7-29, 2pm- 6pm, Dec 26-31, 1pm-5pm
Fee: Free 

Roscommon

Strokestown Park House

Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon

Ciarán

Tel: 01-8748030

www.strokestownpark.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 2-Dec 20, Jan, Feb, Mar 1-16, Nov, Dec,10.30am-4pm, March 17-Oct 31, 10.30am-5.30pm,
Fee: adult €14, €12.50, €9.25, OAP/student €12.50, child €6, family €29, groups €11.50 

Tipperary

Beechwood House

Ballbrunoge, Cullen, Co. Tipperary

Maura & Patrick McCormack

Tel: 083-1486736

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-8, 18-22, Feb 1-5, 8-12, May 1-3, 14-17, 21-24, June 11-14, 18-21, Aug 14-22, Sept 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, 10.15am-2.15pm 

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student €2, child free, fees donated to charity 

Waterford 

The Presentation Convent 

Waterford Healthpark, Slievekeel Road,Waterford Michelle O’ Brien
www.rowecreavin.ie
Tel: 051-370057 

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-Dec 31, excluding Bank Holidays and Sundays, Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm, Sat, 10am-2pm, National Heritage Week, Aug 14-22
Fee: Free 

Wexford

Clougheast Cottage

Carne, Co. Wexford

Jacinta Denieffe

Tel: 086-1234322

Open dates in 2021: Jan 11-31, May 1-31 August 14-22, 9am-1pm Fee: €5 

Wilton Castle

Bree, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

Sean Windsor

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Tel: 053-9247738 

www.wiltoncastleireland.com   

Open dates in 2021: all year

Wilton Castle, County Wexford.

Wicklow

Castle Howard

Avoca, Co. Wicklow

Mark Sinnott

Tel: 087-2987601

Open dates in 2021: Jan 11-13, Feb 1-5, Mar 1-3, 22-24, June 10-12, 14-15, 19, 21-26, 28, July 5-9, 19-22, Aug 13-22, Sept 6-11, 18, 25, Oct 4-6, 11-13, 9am-1pm 

Fee: adult €8.50, OAP/student €6.50, child €5 

Castle Howard, County Wicklow.

Mount Usher Gardens

Ashford, Co. Wicklow

Caitriona Mc Weeney

Tel: 0404-49672

www.mountushergardens.ie

Open dates in 2021: all year 10am-6pm

Fee: adult €8, student/OAP €7, child €4, no charge for wheelchair users

Powerscourt House & Gardens

Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Sarah Slazenger

Tel: 01-2046000

www.powerscourt.ie

Open: All year, closed Christmas day and St Stephens day, 9.30am-5.30pm, ballroom and garden rooms Sun, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: Mar-Oct, adult €11.50, OAP €9, student €8.50, child €5, family ticket €26, Nov- Dec, adult €8.50, OAP €7.50, student €7, child €4, family ticket 2 adults + 3 children €18, children under 5 free 

Powerscourt, County Wicklow.

Tullynally Castle and Gardens, Castlepollard, County Westmeath

contact: Octavia Tullock
Tel: 044-9661856 

www.tullynallycastle.com
Open in 2022: Castle, May 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28, June 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30, July 1- 2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, Aug 13-21, 25-27, Sept 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 10am-2pm Garden: Apr 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, May 1-2, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-6, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, Aug 1, 4-7, 11-21, 25-28, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29-30, 11am-5pm

Fee: adult, castle/garden €16, garden €8.50, child, castle/garden €8, garden €4 (over 10 years only admission to castle) families (2+2) garden €22

We visited Tullynally Castle and Gardens when we were staying near Castlepollard with friends for the August bank holiday weekend. Unfortunately the house tour is only given during Heritage Week, but we were able to go on the Below Stairs tour, which is really excellent and well worth the price.

According to Irish Historic Houses, by Kevin O’Connor, Tullynally Castle stretches for nearly a quarter of a mile: “a forest of towers and turrets pierced by a multitude of windows,” and is the largest castle still lived in by a family in Ireland [1]. It has nearly an acre of roof! It has been the seat of the Pakenham family since 1655. I love that it has stayed within the same family, and that they still live there.

The current incarnation of the Castle is in the romantic Gothic Revival style, and it stands in a large wooded demesne near Lake Derravaragh in County Westmeath.

We stayed for the weekend even closer to Lake Derravaragh, and I swam in it!

The lands of Tullynally, along with land in County Wexford, were granted to Henry Pakenham in 1655 in lieu of pay for his position as Captain of a troop of horse for Oliver Cromwell. [2] [3] His grandfather, Edward (or Edmund) Pakenham, had accompanied Sir Henry Sidney from England to Ireland when Sir Sidney, a cousin of Edward Pakenham, was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland. [4]

A house existed on the site at the time and parts still exist in the current castle. It was originally a semi-fortified Plantation house. When Henry Pakenham moved to Tullynally the house became Pakenham Hall. Over the years it was added to and transformed into Pakenham Castle. It was enlarged in 1780 to designs by Graham Myers (who, in 1789 was appointed architect to Trinity College, Dublin), when it became a Georgian house. The house was Gothicized by Francis Johnston in 1801-1806 to become a castle. Further work was carried out by James Sheil, and more by Richard Morrison, and in 1860 by James Rawson Carroll (d. 1911). It is only relatively recently that it reverted to its former name, Tullynally, which means “hill of the swans.”

Henry, who settled at Tullynally, left the property to his oldest son, Thomas (1649-1706) who became a member of Parliament and an eminent lawyer. His oldest son, Edward (1683-1721), became an MP for County Westmeath. Edward was succeeded by his son, Thomas Pakenham (1713-1766) [see 3]. Thomas married Elizabeth Cuffe, the daughter of Michael Cuffe of Ballinrobe, County Mayo. Her father was heir to Ambrose Aungier, 2nd and last Earl of Longford (1st creation). Michael Cuffe sat as a Member of Parliament for County Mayo and the Borough of Longford. Later, Thomas represented Longford Borough in the Irish House of Commons. In 1756 the Longford title held by his wife’s ancestors was revived when Thomas was raised to the peerage as Baron Longford. After his death, his wife Elizabeth was created Countess of Longford in her own right, or “suo jure,” in 1785. Michael Cuffe had another daughter, Catherine Anne Cuffe, by the way, who married a Bagot, Captain John Lloyd Bagot. I haven’t found whether my Baggots are related to these Bagots but it would be nice to have such ancestry! Even nicer because his mother, Mary Herbert, came from Durrow Abbey near Tullamore, a very interesting looking house currently standing empty and unloved.

It was Thomas’s son, Edward Michael Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford (1743-92) who had the 1780 enlargement carried out. The Buildings of Ireland website tells us that the original five bay house had a third floor added at this time. [5]

The oldest parts still surviving from the improvements carried out around 1780 are some doorcases in the upper rooms and a small study in the northwest corner of the house. The study has a dentil cornice and a marble chimneypiece with a keystone of around 1740. [see 2] The oldest part of the castle is at the south end, and still holds the principal rooms.

The entrance hall seems to survive from earlier incarnations of the house.

Francis Johnston added the porch, which was later altered by Richard Morrison. Johnston also added the arched windows on either side of the entrance porch.

The next work on the house was done by the son of the 2nd Baron, Thomas the 3rd Baron (1774-1834). The 2nd Baron died in 1792, predeceasing his mother Elizabeth the Countess of Longford, who died two years later. When she died, her grandson Thomas the 3rd Baron succeeded her to become the 2nd Earl of Longford. He sat in the British House of Lords as one of the 28 original Irish Representative Peers. It may have been this that prompted him to hire Francis Johnston to enlarge the house. Casey and Rowan call Francis Johnston’s work on the house “little more than a Gothic face-lift for the earlier house.” He produced designs for the house from 1794 until 1806. On the south front he added two round towers projecting from the corners of the main block, and battlemented parapets. He added the central porch. To the north, he built a rectangular stable court, behind low battlemented walls. He added thin mouldings over the windows, and added the arched windows on either side of the entrance porch.

the two round towers built by Francis Johnston.

Thomas married in 1817 and according to Rowan and Casey it may have been his wife Georgiana Lygon’s “advanced tastes” that led to the decision to make further enlargements in 1820. He was created Baron Silchester, of Silchester in the County of Southampton, in 1821, which gave him and his descendants an automatic seat in the House of Lords. They chose James Sheil, a former clerk of Francis Johnston, who also did similar work at Killua Castle in County Westmeath, Knockdrin Castle (near Mullingar) and Kileen Castle (near Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath). At Tullynally Sheil added a broad canted bay window (a bay with a straight front and angled sides) towards the north end of the east front, with bartizan turrets (rounds or square turrets that are corbelled out from a wall or tower), and wide mullioned windows under label mouldings (or hoodmouldings) in the new bay.

picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing the “canted bay window” – ie. the bay with windows on three sides, by James Sheil.
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Sheil also decorated the interior, and the dining room, drawing room and library were all decorated in his favoured simple geometrical shaped plasterwork of squares and octagons on the ceiling. The hall has a ceiling of “prismatic fan-vaults, angular and overscaled, with the same dowel-like mouldings marking the intersection of the different planes…The hall is indeed in a very curious taste, theatrical like an Italian Gothick stage set, and rendered especially strange by the smooth wooden wainscot which completely encloses the space and originally masked all the doors which opened off it.” [6] As this smooth wainscot and Gothic panelled doors are used throughout the other main rooms of the house and are unusual for Sheil, this is probably a later treatment. There is a long vaulted corridor that runs through the house at first-floor level which Rowan and Casey write is probably attributable to Sheil.

Terence Reeves-Smyth describes the front hall:

“Visitors entering the castle will first arrive in the great hall – an enormous room forty-feet square and thirty feet high with no gallery to take away from its impressive sense of space. A central-heating system was designed for this room by Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who earlier in 1794 had fitted up the first semaphore telegraph system in Ireland between Edgeworthstown and Pakenham Hall, a distance of twelve miles. In a letter written in December 1807, his daughter Maria Edgeworth, a frequent visitor to Pakenham Hall, wrote that “the immense hall is so well warmed by hot air that the children play in it from morning to night. Lord L. seemed to take great pleasure in repeating twenty times that he was to thank Mr. Edgeworth for this.” Edgeworth’s heating system was, in fact, so effective that when Sheil remodelled the hall in 1820 he replaced one of the two fireplaces with a built-in organ that visitors can still see. James Sheil was also responsible for the Gothic vaulting of the ceiling, the Gothic niches containing the family crests, the high wood panelling around the base of the walls and the massive cast-iron Gothic fireplace. Other features of the room include a number of attractive early nineteenth century drawings of the castle, a collection of old weapons, family portraits and an Irish elk’s head dug up out of a bog once a familiar feature of Irish country house halls.” [see 1]

The gate lodge was designed by James Sheil.

Georgina had further enlargements designed and built by another fashionable Irish architect, Sir Richard Morrison in 1839-45, with two enormous wings that linked the house to the stable court, and a central tower. Her husband the 2nd Earl had died, and in 1838 her son the 3rd Earl, Edward Michael, nicknamed “Fluffy,” turned 21. Casey and Rowan describe it: “On the entrance front the new work appears as a Tudoresque family wing, six bays by two storeys, marked off by tall octagonal turrets, with a lower section ending in an octagonal stair tower which joins the stable court. This was refaced and gained a battlemented gateway …The entrance porch, a wide archway in ashlar stonework, with miniature bartizans rising from the corners, was also rebuilt at this time. … The kitchen wing … [has] a variety of stepped and pointed gables breaking the skyline and a large triple-light, round-headed window to light the kitchen in the middle of the facade.

“The entrance porch, a wide archway in ashlar stonework, with miniature bartizans rising from the corners, was also rebuilt at this time [by Richard Morrison].”
The Tullynally motto, our tour guide told us, is “Glory in the shadow of virtue.”
“On the entrance front the new work appears as a Tudoresque family wing, six bays by two storeys, marked off by tall octagonal turrets, with a lower section ending in an octagonal stair tower which joins the stable court.”
The dry moat.
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing the older end, and the Tudoresque family wing, six bays by two storeys, marked off by tall octagonal turrets
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing the Tudoresque family wing and further, the battlemented stable courtyard with the red entrance door to the courtyard.
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, with the “banana shaped” conservatory, and the kitchen wing beyond.
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “The kitchen wing … [has] a variety of stepped and pointed gables breaking the skyline and a large triple-light, round-headed window to light the kitchen in the middle of the facade.”

Terence Reeves-Smyth details the enlargement of Tullynally in his Big Irish Houses:

“Additions to Johnson’s work were made by the second Earl in the early 1820’s when James Sheil added a bow on the east garden front and redesigned the entrance hall. More substantial additions followed between 1839 and 1846 when Richard Morrison, that other stalwart of the Irish architectural scene, was employed by the Dowager Countess [the former Georgiana Lygon] to bring the house up to improved Victorian standards of convenience. Under Morrison’s direction the main house and Johnson’s stable court were linked by two parallel wings both of which were elaborately castellated and faced externally with grey limestone. Following the fashion recently made popular by the great Scottish architect William Burn, one of the new wings contained a private apartment for the family, while the other on the east side of the courtyard contained larger and more exactly differentiated servants’ quarters with elaborate laundries and a splendid kitchen.” [On the tour, our guide also told us of the various additions. She told us that “Fluffy” Pakenham, the third Earl, lived with his mother and chose to follow the fashion of living in a wing of the house].

“After the third Earl’s death in 1860 his brother [William] succeeded to the title and property and proceeded to modernise the castle with all the latest equipment for supplying water, heat and lighting. Except for a water tower erected in the stable court by the Dublin architect J. Rawson Carroll [architect of Classiebawn, Co Sligo, built for Lord Palmerston and eventually Lord Mountbatten’s Irish holiday home in the 1860s], these modifications did not involve altering the fabric of the building, which has remained remarkably unchanged to the present day.” [1 and 7]

We purchased our tickets in the café and had time for some coffee and cake and then a small wander around the courtyard and front of the Castle, before the tour.

The arched red gateway door is the entrance to the stable courtyard. Picture from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Inside the stable courtyard, looking back at the arched gateway through which we came. According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Single-bay two-storey castellated gate house (on rectangular plan with integral Tudor-pointed carriage arch and a projecting polygonal tower rising a further storey above crenellated parapet over) to north end of complex gives access to outer courtyard.”
Stephen inside the castellated gate house arch.

I didn’t get to find out what is in every higgeldy piggeldy tower and behind every window, and I suspect it’s a place to get to know by degrees!

We entered through this archway to begin the “downstairs” tour with our tour guide. We entered into another, smaller courtyard. Look at all those chimneys! According to the National Inventory: “Inner courtyard accessed through two-storey block (on rectangular plan) having integral segmental-headed carriage with open belfry/clock tower (on hexagonal plan) over having sprocketed natural slate roof and cast-iron weather vane finial.”
This is the rectanguar stable block with turreted walls by Francis Johnston. The historic water pump is in the foreground, and cafe in the back.
another view of the entrance archway to the stable courtyard.

Behind those blue doors was a shed containing a carriage:

The Pakenham Coach. It was built by Hoopers of London and brought to Ireland in the 1840s by Dean Henry Pakenham, the brother of Thomas, the 2nd Earl of Longford. The coat of arms on the door [see the photograph below] incorporates three Irish crests: the Pakenham eagle, the Sandford boar’s head (Dean Henry’s wife was Eliza Catherine Sandford), and the Mahon tiger (Dean Henry’s son Henry married Grace Catherine Mahon).

The coach was passed down to Olive Pakenham-Mahon of Strokestown, Roscommon (another property on our list to be visited!), who was Dean Henry’s great granddaughter. Olive sold it to her cousin Thomas Pakenham, the present owner of Tullynally. It was restored by Eugene Larkin of Lisburn, and in July 1991 took its first drive in Tullynally for over a hundred years. Family legend has it that the coach would sometimes disappear from the coachhouse for a ghostly drive without horses or coachman! It was most recently used in 1993 for the wedding of Eliza Pakenham, Thomas’s daughter, to Alexander Chisholm.

There was a handy chart of the recent family on the wall in the courtyard café:

It was only afterwards that I learned that one of my favourite writers, Antonia Fraser, who wrote amongst other things a terrific biography of Marie Antoinette and another wonderful one of King Charles II of England, was born a Pakenham in Tullynally! She is a sister of Thomas. Stephen noted with satisfaction that Thomas Pakenham does not use his title, the 8th Earl of Longford. That makes sense of course since such titles are not recognised in the Republic of Ireland! In fact Stephen’s almost sure that it is against the Irish Constitution to use such titles. This fact corresponds well with the castle’s change in name – it was renamed Tullynally in 1963 to sound more Irish.

The tour brought us through the arch from the first courtyard containing the café, into a smaller courtyard.

Inner courtyard, Picture from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
The telescoped Octagon tower. Laundry is on the right side of the courtyard when facing the octagon tower.
The family apartment was in this section, built by Richard Morrison.
The kitchen is on the left hand side of the courtyard when facing the octagon tower. The servants’ hall was in the basement below.

We toured the wings of the castle that had been added by Fluffy and his mother. A wing was built for the staff, and it was state of the art in the 1840s when Richard Morrison built these additions. Fluffy never married, and unfortunately died in “mysterious circumstances” in a hotel in London. His brother then took up the reins, a middle-aged army sergeant named William, the 4th Earl.

Richard Morrison spent more time working on the laundry room than on any other part of the house.

The “state of the art” laundry room. These undergarments would have been for little boys as well as girls, and the boys would wear dresses over the pantaloons. Boys were dressed as girls up to the age of about six years old, so that the fairies would not steal them away, as supposedly fairies favoured boys. The boys would have long hair to that age also.

It was at this time that the “dry moat” was built – it was not for fortification purposes but to keep the basements dry.

Our guide described the life of a laundress. After the installation of the new laundry, water was collected in a large watertank, and water was piped into the sinks into the laundry.

A laundry girl would earn, in the 1840s (which is during famine time), €12/year for a six day week, and start at about fourteen years of age. A governess would teach those who wanted to learn, to read and write, so that the girls could progress up in the hierarchy of household staff. There was even a servants’ library. This was separate of course from the Pakenham’s library, which is one of the oldest in Ireland. There was status in the village to be working for Lord Longford, as he was considered to be a good employer. His employees were fed, clothed in a uniform, housed, and if they remained long enough, even their funeral was funded. There was a full time carpenter employed on the estate and he made the coffins.

The laundry girls lived in a world apart from household staff. They ate in the laundry. Their first job in the morning would be to light the fire – you can see the brick fireplace in the first laundry picture above. A massive copper pot would be filled with water, heated, and soap flakes would be grated into the pot. The laundry girls would do the washing not only for their employers but also for all of the household staff – there were about forty staff in 1840. As well as soap they would use lemon juice, boiled milk and ivy leaf to clean – ivy leaves made clothes more black. The Countess managed the staff, with the head housekeeper and butler serving as go-between.

William, the 4th Earl of Longford, had a hunting lodge in England and since he had installed such a modern laundry in Tullynally, he would ship his laundry home to Pakenham Hall be washed!

Next, the washing would be put through the mangle.

The Box Mangle, for sheets.
The Box Mangle, invented by Baker of Fore Street, London invented in 1808 and patented: “An important improvement in the construction of the common mangle…by which the otherwise unwieldy heavy box was moved with great facility backwards and forewards, by a continuous motion of the handle in one direction; and by the addition of a fly wheel to equalise the motion, a great amount of muscular exertion is saved to the individual working the machine.” [quoted from the information on the mangle, from The Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopedia, London, 1838].

The girls might have to bring laundry out to the bleaching green. A tunnel was installed so that the girls avoided the looks and chat of the stable boys, or being seen by the gentry. William also developed a drying room. Hot water ran through pipes to heat the room to dry the clothes.

the drying racks could be pulled out along treads on the floor then pushed back in to the heated area to dry.

There was also an ironing room.

The next room was a small museum with more information about the castle and family, and included a receipt for the iron end of a mangle, purchased from Ardee Street Foundry, Brass and Iron Works, Dublin. We live near Ardee Street!

This information board tells us details about the staff, as well as giving the layout of the basement:

The basement contained the Bake room, boot room, beer cellar, servant’s hall, brushing room, butler’s pantry, footman’s bedroom, and across the courtyard, the bacon room.

By 1860 Pakenham Castle was run in the high Victorian manner. The Butler and Housekeeper managed a team of footmen, valets, housemaids and laundry maids, whilst Cook controlled kitchen maids, stillroom maid and scullery maids. A stillroom maid was in a distillery room, which was used for distilling potions and medicines, and where she also made jams, chutneys etc. There was also a dairy, brewery and wine cellar. The Coachman supervised grooms and stable boys, while a carpenter worked in the outer yard and a blacksmith in the farmyard. Further information contains extracts from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1859), detailed duties of a housemaid, a laundry-maid, and treatment of servants. The estate was self-sufficient. Staff lived across the courtyard, with separate areas for men and women. There were also farm cottages on the estate. Servants for the higher positions were often recruited by word of mouth, from other gentry houses, and often servants came from Scotland or England, and chefs from France.

We are also given the figures for servants’ wages in 1860.

The next board tells us more about General William Pakenham, the 4th Earl, with a copy of his diary from when he arrived home from the Crimean War. He married Selina Rice Trevor. Her family, as our guide told us, “owned most of Wales.” We can even read his proposal to her:

William the 4th Earl installed a new plumbing system. He also developed a gas system, generating gas to light the main hall. The gas was limited, so the rest of the light was provided by candles, and coal and peat fires. His neighbour Richard Lovell Edgeworth provided the heating system.

The ground floor of the main house contains Lord Longford’s study, the dining room, library, drawing room, Great Hall, Lady Longford’s sitting room, Plate room and Servant’s Libary.

The family are lucky to have wonderful archives and diaries. Mary Julia Child-Villiers, wife of the 5th Earl of Longford, Brigadier General Thomas Pakenham, was left a widow with six children when her husband died during World War I in Gallipoli. The history panels continue with extracts from the Memoires of Mary Clive, daughter of the 5th Earl of Longford, 1912-1914.

Other information tells us that since 1915 the family have been writers (before that, they were mostly military). Edward the 6th Earl was a prolific playwright who restored the Gate Theatre in Dublin and taught himself Irish, and with his wife Christine (nee Trew), created the Longford Players theatrical company which toured Ireland in the 30s and 40s. A brother of Edward, Frank, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Harman) Lady Longford, wrote biographies, as did their children, Antonia Fraser, Rachel Billington and Thomas Pakenham. Thomas’s wife Valerie has published also, including The Big House in Ireland (I must get it out of the library!). Their daughter Eliza Pakenham has published a book about the Duke of Wellington: Tom, Ned and Kitty: An Intimate History of an Irish Family. A daughter of the second Baron Longford, Kitty, fell for a local naval man, but the family refused to let her marry him. He promised her that he would return to marry her. He went off to sea to earn his fortune, and she was brokenhearted. He, Arthur Wellesley, did indeed return to marry her, as the Duke of Wellington! He was not a very nice man, however, and is reported to have said loudly as she walked up the aisle of the church to marry him, “Goodness, the years have not been kind.”

Next, we headed over toward the kitchen. On the way we passed a water filter system, which was a ceramic jar containing an asbestos and charcoal filter system. However, staff were given beer to drink as it was safer at the time than water. We saw a container used to bring food out to staff in the fields – the food would be wrapped in hay inside the container, which would hold in the heat and even continue to cook the food. We stopped to learn about an ice chest:

The ice box.

The ice chest would be filled with ice from the icehouse. We were also shown the coat of a serving boy, which our tour guide had a young man on the tour don – which just goes to show how young the serving boys were:

A serving boy would wear this uniform. He would carry dishes from the kitchen to the dining room, which was as far from the kitchen as possible to prevent the various smells emanating from the kitchen from reaching the delicate nostrils of gentry. The serving boy would turn his back to the table, and watch mirrors to see when his service was needed at the table, under the management of the butler. Later, when the ladies had withdrawn to the Drawing Room, to leave the men to drink their port and talk politics, the serving boy would produce “pee pots” from a sideboard cupboard, and place a pot under each gentleman! Our guide told us that perhaps, though she is not sure about this, men used their cane to direct the stream of urine into the pot. The poor serving boy would then have to collect the used pots to empty them. Women would relieve themselves behind a screen in the Drawing Room.

In the large impressively stocked kitchen, we saw many tools and implements used by the cooks. Richard Morrison ensured that the kitchen was filled with light from a large window.

This kitchen was used until around 1965. The yellow colour on the walls is meant to deter flies. Often a kitchen is painted in blue either, called “Cook’s blue,” also reputed to deter flies. Because this kitchen remained in continuous use its huge 1875 range was replaced by an Aga in the 1940s.

The huge butter maker. Our guide also pointed out the large mortar and pestle in the wooden press. Sugar came in a loaf and was bashed down in a mortar and pestle.
Heated niches, to keep dishes warm.

The cookware is made of copper, and you can see by the stove a large ceramic vessel topped with muslin for straining jams.

The rusty looking pronged instrument above is a metal torch – rushes were held in the top and dipped in paraffin.

Candles were made from whale blubber. Candles made from blubber closer to the whale’s head were of better quality.

The housekeeper would have her own room, which our guide told us, was called the “pug room” due to the, apparently, sour face of of the housekeeper, but also because she often kept a pug dog!

Next we were taken to see Taylor’s room. Taylor was the last Butler of the house. We passed an interesting fire-quenching system on the way.

Next, the tour guide took us to see the servants’ staircase and set of bells. We passed the mailbox on the way:

This would normally be the end of the tour, but since we were such a fascinated, attentive group, the guide took us into the basement to see the old servants’ dining hall.

Basement hall, with what I think is an old fire extinguisher.
I think this was the carpenter’s workshop; unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of the dining hall! See how the basement has vaulted ceilings.
This lovely little fellow sat on the ground at the bottom of the stairs.

The gardens, covering nearly 30 acres, were laid out in the early 19th century and have been restored. They include a walled flower garden, a grotto and two ornamental lakes.

The ha ha and castle terraces. The ha ha is a sharp downward slope in a lawn to prevent animals coming too close to the house, or, as we were told in another house, to hide the servants walking past.

The current owner Thomas Packenham has published a five book series on trees that begins with Meetings with Remarkable Trees and the most recent is The Company of Trees.

Here is the description of the gardens, from the Irish Historic Houses website:

“The gardens, illustrated by a younger son in the early eighteenth century, originally consisted of a series of cascades and formal avenues to the south of the house. These were later romanticised in the Loudonesque style, with lakes, grottoes and winding paths, by the second Earl and his wife [Thomas (1774-1835) and Georgiana Lygon (1774-1880)]. They have been extensively restored and adapted by the present owners, Thomas and Valerie Pakenham, with flower borders in the old walled gardens and new plantings of magnolias, rhododendron and giant lilies in the woodland gardens, many collected as seed by Thomas while travelling in China and Tibet. He has recently added a Chinese garden, complete with pagoda, while the surrounding park contains a huge collection of fine specimen trees.” [8]

A. Castle Terraces, B. Pleasure Garden or Woodland Garden, C. Grotto, D. Flower Gardens, E. Kitchen Garden, F. Yew Avenue, G. Llama Paddock, H. Queen Victoria’s Summerhouse, I. Upper Lake, J. Tibetan Garden, K. Forest Walk or Stream Garden, L. Chinese Garden, M. Gingerbread House, N. Lower Lake or Swan Pool, O. Viewing Hut, P. Viewing Mound, Q. Magnolia Walk.
The upper lake. This was originally a bathing place with a bathhouse, now replaced by a small summerhouse. It was extended to the present size in 1884. It originally also served the purpose for water to be released into the millpond to drive the water wheel, and later, turbine, in the farm mill.
The lily pond with the “weeping pillar” of eroded limestone.
One of the two sphinxes by the gate leading to the Kitchen Garden which were once part of an 18th century classical entrance gate to the estate.
llamas!
A lovely little shed.

I befriended the resident cat.

She was so happy to have her tummy rubbed – not like our Bumper – and was so friendly that I wanted to take her home!

A summerhouse copied from an old photograph of Queen Victoria’s summer house in Frogmore, near Windsor. It was built by Antoine Pierson in 1996 for the present owners.
A Fossil Tree: a Dawn Redwood, considered extinct and only known about from fossils from 60 million years ago, until discovered in 1941 in China.
A romantically placed seat. Tullynally, with its various turrets and spires, set in its beautiful gardens, is a great exemplar of the picturesque.
Entrance to Forest Walk, originally formed part of an extended woodland garden created in the 1820s. The path leads to the Chinese garden and to the Lower Lake, reputedly one of the lakes where the Children of Lir stayed as swans.
Another romantic spot. The Chinese Garden was created in 1994 with plants grown from seed by Thomas Pakenham from Yunnan in southern China. The Pagoda was made by local craftsmen.
I’m afraid Stephen is a little irreverent in this one.

Goodbye Tullynally! I hope to get back for the house tour sometime, usually open during Heritage Week!

[1] Reeves-Smyth, Terence. Big Irish Houses. Appletree Press Ltd, The Old Potato Station, 14 Howard Street South, Belfast BT7 1AP. 2009

[2] p. 525. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[3] p. 135. Great Houses of Ireland. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd and Christopher Simon Sykes. Laurence King Publishing, London, 1999.

[4] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Westmeath%20Landowners

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/15400321/tullynally-castle-tullynally-co-westmeath

[6] p. 527. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[7] p. 138, Montgomery-Massingberd and Sykes.

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