The website tells us: “Trace the footprints of the generations who shaped this place. From early settlements and warring chieftains to foreign invaders and local heroes. This site on the River Shannon is the centre of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Over the centuries it has been the nucleus of the Anglo-Norman settlement; a stronghold of the rival local families the Dillons and the O’Kelly’s; the seat of the Court of Claims; the residence of the President of Connaught and the Jacobite stronghold during the sieges of Athlone. After the Siege of Athlone it became incorporated into the new military barrack complex. It remained a stronghold of the garrison for almost three hundred years.
In 1922 when the Free State troops took over the Barracks from their British counterparts, they proudly flew the tricolour from a temporary flagpole much to the delight of the majority of townspeople.
In 1967 the Old Athlone Society established a museum in the castle with a range of exhibits relating to Athlone and its environs and also to folk-life in the district. Two years later when the military left the castle it was handed over to the Office of Public Works and the central keep became a National Monument.
In 1991 to mark the Tercentenary of the Siege of Athlone the castle became the foremost visitor attraction in Athlone. Athlone Town Council (then Athlone UDC) made a major investment in the castle creating a multi-faceted Visitor Centre as it approached its 800th Anniversary in 2010. A total of €4.3million euro was invested in the new facility by Fáilte Ireland and Athlone Town Council and was officially opened by the then Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring T.D. on Tuesday 26th February 2012.
Athlone Castle Visitor Centre is now a modern, engaging, fun and unique family attraction which harnesses most significant architectural features, such as the keep, to act as a dramatic backdrop to its diverse and fascinating story.
It houses eight individual exhibition spaces, each depicting a different aspect of life in Athlone, the Castle and the periods both before and after the famous Siege. Fun, hands-on interactives, touchable objects and educational narratives immerse visitors in the drama, tragedy and spectacle of Athlone’s diverse and fascinating story. 3D maps, audio-visual installations, illustrations and artefacts bring the stories and characters of Athlone to life and The Great Siege of Athlone is dramatically recreated in a 360-degree cinematic experience in the Keep of the castle.
As part of Westmeath County Council’s commemoration of Ireland’s world-renowned tenor, John Count McCormack, a new exhibition dedicated to the celebrated singer was opened at Athlone Castle in October 2014.“
Archiseek tells us about Athlone Castle: “Towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification here. This was superceeded by a stone structure built in 1210, on the orders of King John of England. The Castle was built by John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich. The 12-sided donjon dates from this time. The rest of the castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged upon. In the early 1800s, during the Napoleonic Wars, the castle was rebuilt as a fortification to protect the river crossing, taking the form we largely see today. The machicolations of the central keep are all nineteenth century. In the interior is an early nineteenth century two-storey barrack building. The modern ramp up to the castle has a line of pistol loops. The castle was taken over by the Irish Army in 1922 and continued as a military installation until it was transferred to the Office of Public Works in 1970.” 
2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Belvedere in his 1988 book:
p. 39. “(Rochfort, sub Belvedere, E/DEP Rochfort/LGI1912; Marlay/LGI1912; Howard-Bury, sub Suffolk and Berkshire, E/PB; and Bury/IFR) An exquisite villa of ca 1740 by Richard Castle, on the shores of Lough Ennell; built for Robert Rochfort, Lord Bellfield, afterwards 1st Earl of Belvedere, whose seat was at Gaulston, ca 5 miles away. Of two storeys over basement, with a long front and curved end bows – it may well be the earliest bow-ended house in Ireland – but little more than one room deep.”
Bence-Jones continues: “The front has a three bay recessed centre between projecting end bays, each of which originally had a Venetian window below a Diocletian window. Rusticated doorcase and rusticated window surrounds on either side of it; high roof parapet. The house contains only a few rooms, but they are of fine proportions and those on the ground floor have rococo plasterwork ceilings of the greatest delicacy and gaiety, with cherubs and other figures emerging from clouds, by the same artist as the ceilings formerly are Mespil House, Dublin, one of which is now in Aras.“
In Belvedere, dining was an opportunity to impress guests not only by the room bu tby the sumptuous meals, presented by immaculately dressed servants. The rococo ceiling of puffing cherubs and fruits and foliage is attributed to Barthelemji Cramillion, a French stuccodore.
Bence-Jones continues: “The staircase, wood and partly curving, is in proportion to the back of the house.“
Information boards tells us that the Drawing Room was the place for afternoon tea, after-dinner drinks, music and conversation. Belvedere’s last owners, Charles Howard-Bury and Rex Beaumont would have passed many happy hours relaxing and reminiscing about their wartime experiences and travels across the world, as well as planning trips to Tunisia and Jamaica.
Bence-Jones tells of the house’s occupants; “Soon after the house was finished, Lord Bellfield’s beautiful wife [Mary Molesworth, daughter of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth of Swords, Dublin] confessed to him that she had committed adultery with his brother; whereupon he incarcerated her at Gaulston, where she remained, forbidden to see anyone but servants, until his death nearly thirty years later; while he lived a bachelor’s life of great elegance and luxury at Belvedere. Another of his brothers lived close to Belvedere at Rochfort (afterwards Tudenham Park); having quarrelled with him too, Lord Belvedere, as he had now become, built the largest Gothic sham ruin in Ireland to blot out the view of his brother’s house; it is popularly known as the Jealous Wall. In C19, the Diocletian windows in the front of the house were replaced with rectangular triple windows; and the slope from the front of the house down to the lough was elaborately terraced. Belvedere passed by inheritance to the Marlay family and then to late Lt-Col C.K. Howard-Bury, leader of the 1921 Mount Everest Expedition; who bequeathed it to Mr Rex Beaumont.” (see )
The jealous wall is rather disappointingly attached to the visitor centre of Belvedere at the entrance to the park.
Robert Rochfort managed to have children despite his antipathy toward his wife. George Rochfort (1738-1814), 2nd Earl of Belvedere inherited Belvedere and other estates when his father died in 1774. He also inherited debts, and sold Gaulston House, the house where his mother had been imprisoned by his father. Unfortunately Gaulston House was destroyed by fire in 1920. George Rochfort built an extension onto the rear of Belvedere but spent most of his time in his townhouse, Belvedere House in Great Denmark Street, Dublin.
The 2nd Earl of Belvedere had no children. His wife inherited his Dublin property but his sister Jane inherited Belvedere. Jane married Brinsley Butler, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough. She inherited Belvedere when she was 77 years old! She had married a second time and the income from the estate allowed herself and her second husband to live in fine style in Florence. The male line of the Earls of Lanesborough died out after two more generations. Jane’s son Robert Henry Butler (1759-1806) 3rd Earl of Lanesborough married Elizabeth La Touche, daughter of David La Touche and Elizabeth Marlay, whom we came across when we visited Harristown, County Kildare (see my entry) and Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, Dublin. The estate passed down to their son, Brinsley Butler, 4th Earl of Lanesborough. The estate then passed through the female line. The 3rd Earl’s sister Catherine married George Marlay (1748-1829), the brother of Elizabeth who married David La Touche.
Catherine and George Marlay had a son, George, who married Catherine Tisdall, and the estate passed to his son, Charles Brinsley Marlay (1831-1912). He was only sixteen when he inherited Belvedere from his cousin the Earl of Lanesborough. It was Charles Brisley Marlay who built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later. He spent many hours planning the 60 metre long rockery to the side of the terraces, and also built the walled garden. He was known as “the Darling Landlord” due to his kindness to tenants, and for bringing happiness and wealth back to Belvedere. He was cultured and amassed an important art collection, as well as improving the estate.
The inheritance of Belvedere continues to be even more complicated. It passed via Catherine Tisdall’s family. Her mother Catherine Dawson had married twice. Catherine’s second husband was Charles William Bury (1764-1835), the 1st Earl of Charleville. We came across him earlier, as an owner of Charleville Forest, in Tullamore, County Offaly. Belvedere passed to his descendent, Lt. Col Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1963). The 3rd Earl of Charleville, Charles William George Bury (1822-1859) had several children but the house passed to the fourth child as all others had died before Charles Brinsley Marley died. It was therefore the son of Emily Alfreda Julia Bury (1856-1931) who inherited Belvedere. She married Kenneth Howard, who added Bury to his surname. Their son was Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury.
Charles Howard-Bury left Belvedere to his friend, Rex Beaumont. Eventally financial difficulties caused Mr Beaumont to sell the property, and it was acquired by Westmeath County Council. Two years previously, in 1980, Mr Beaumont sold the contents of the house – I wonder where those things ended up?
The estate is a wonderful amenity for County Westmeath, with large parklands to explore with several follies, as well as the walled garden.
3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath
Lough Park House, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
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
St. John’s Church, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
contact: Billy Standish Tel: 044-9666570 Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €4, child/OAP/student €2
“The family run Annebrook House Hotel Mullingar opened its doors February 2007. Originally an Old Georgian residence for the local county surgeon, Dr O’Connell, the historic Annebrook House Hotel was purchased by the Dunne family in 2005. With his experience in hospitality and construction Berty Dunne set about creating a hotel as unique as the man who owns it. The Annebrook’s central location, its diverse range of accommodation from 2 bedroomed family suites to executive doubles has made it a very popular location for those coming to experience all that the midlands has to offer.
Situated in the heart of Mullingar overlooking 10 acres of parkland, the Award Winning 4 star Annebrook House Hotel presents a modern day styling coupled with 17th century heritage. As a family run hotel the Annebrook prides itself on quality and high standards of customer service, working as part of one team to ensure all guests of their best and personal attention at all times. Annebrook House Hotel is steeped in history and enjoys the enviable advantage of being one of the most centrally located hotels in Mullingar town. This unique venue mixes old world charm with modern comfort and has established itself as one of Westmeath’s top wedding venues and was recently voted Best Wedding Venue Ireland by Irish Wedding Diary Magazine. With accommodation ranging from executive hotel rooms, family suites, luxurious champagne suites and apartments, the Annebrook has much to offer those visiting Mullingar. Offering a range of dining options from Berty’s Bar to fine dining in the award winning Old House Restaurant. The four star Annebrook House Hotel offers an excellent service to both its corporate & leisure guests. The hotel is accessible by car just 50 mins from Dublin and is only 10 minutes from the local Train Station.“
2.Lough Bawn House, Colllinstown, Co Westmeath – B&B accommodation €€
“A classic Georgian house in a unique setting. Lough Bawn house sits high above Lough Bane with amazing sweeping views. Nestled in a 50 acre parkland at the end of a long drive, Lough Bawn House is a haven of peace and tranquillity.
The house and estate has been in the same family since it was built in 1820 by George Battesby, the current occupier, Verity’s, Great Great Great Grandfather. The house is being lovingly restored by Verity, having returned from England to live in the family home. Verity ran her own catering and events company in Gloucestershire for over 20 years. Her passion for cooking & entertaining shines through. Guests enjoy an extensive and varied breakfast with much of the ingredients being grown or reared by Verity herself, and delicious dinners are on offer. Breakfast is eaten in the large newly restored dining room, with wonderful views over the lough and of the parading peacocks on the rolling lawns.
Both of the large, en-suite rooms have fine views down the length of Lough Bane and over the wooded hills while the single room and the twin/double room have sweeping views of the surrounding parklands. Guests are warmly welcomed and encouraged to relax in the homely drawing room in front of a roaring fire or to explore one of the many local historical sites, gardens, walks or cultural entertainments on offer.
Several areas of the estate have been classified as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC‘s) due to the incredibly varied and rare flora. Wild flowers can be found in abundance and a charming fern walk has been the created amongst the woodland near the house.“
3. Lough Bishop House, Collinstown, County Westmeath€
“Built in the early 19th Century, Lough Bishop is a charming Country House nestling peacefully into a south-facing slope overlooking Bishop’s Lough in County Westmeath, Ireland.
Breathtaking scenery in an unspoilt and tranquil setting, amid the rolling farmlands and lakes of Westmeath make Lough Bishop an ideal refuge from the hustle and bustle of modern life. There are family dogs in the background and animals play a large part of life at Lough Bishop House.
Lough Bishop House is a family run business offering Country House Bed & Breakfast accommodation in a wonderful location in the middle of a working organic farm. We even have a purpose built trailer towed behind the quad bike to give guests a tour of the farm and the opportunity to get up close to the animals.
Following extensive renovation this attractive Georgian Country Farmhouse offers its guests luxurious bed and breakfast accommodations, peaceful surroundings and fine home cooked food much of which comes from our own farm, garden and orchard.“
4. Mornington House, County Westmeath – B&B accommodation
“Mornington House, a historic Irish Country Manor offering luxury country house accommodation located in the heart of the Co. Westmeath countryside, just 60 miles from Ireland’s capital city of Dublin. Tranquility and warm hospitality are the essence of Mornington, home to the O’Hara’s since 1858.
Mornington House is hidden away in the midst of a charming and dramatic landscape with rolling hills, green pasture, forests with ancient, heavy timber and sparkling lakes, deep in an unexplored corner of County Westmeath. Nearby are ancient churches, castles and abbeys, and delightful small villages to explore, away from all hustle and bustle of 21st century life, yet just 60 miles from Dublin.
There has been a house at Mornington since the early 17th century but this was considerably enlarged in 1896 by Warwick’s grandparents. It is now a gracious family home with a reputation for delicious breakfasts which are prepared in the fine tradition of the Irish Country House and really set you up for the day ahead.
A special place to stay for a romantic or relaxing break Mornington House’s location in the centre of Ireland just an hour’s drive from Dublin and Dublin Airport makes it ideal for either a midweek or weekend country break. Guests can walk to the lake or wander round the grounds. Excellent golf, fishing, walking and riding can be arranged. The Hill of Uisneach, the Neolithic passage tombs at Loughcrew and Newgrange and the early Christian sites at Fore and Clonmacnoise are all within easy reach, as are the gardens at Belvedere, Tullynally and Loughcrew.“
The National Inventory tells us:
“A well-detailed middle-sized country house, on complex plan, which retains its early aspect, form and much of its important early fabric. The ascending breakfronts to the entrance front of this structure adds to the overall form and its architectural impact. The facade, incorporating extensive moulded detailing and a very fine doorcase, is both visually and architecturally impressive and displays a high level of workmanship. The present entrance front (east) is built to the front of an earlier house, the form of which suggests that it might be quite early, perhaps early eighteenth-century in date. The 1896 entrance front was built to designs by W.H. Byrne (1844-1917), a noted architect of his day, best remembered for his numerous church designs. Apparently, Mornington is one of only two domestic commissions that can be attributed to this noteworthy architect, adding extra significance to this structure. The building was completed by 1898 at a cost of £2,400. Mornington House was in the ownership of the Daly Family in the early eighteenth-century and has been in the ownership of the O’Hara Family since 1858. It forms the centrepiece of an interesting, multi-period, complex with the outbuildings, the walled gardens and the fine entrance gates to the south. It represents an important element to the architectural heritage of Westmeath and occupies attractive nature grounds to the east of Multyfarnham.” 
Whole House accommodation, County Westmeath:
1. Bishopstown House, Rosemount, Westmeath (sleeps up to 18 people)
“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 – wedding venue and accommodation
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.
The National Inventory tells us:
“A very fine and distinguished large-scale mid-nineteenth country house, which retains its early form, character and fabric This well-proportioned house is built in an Italianate style and is elevated by the fine ashlar limestone detailing, including a well-executed Greek Ionic porch/portico and a pronounced eaves cornice. This house was (re)built for George Augustus Boyd [1817-1887] in 1850 to designs by George Papworth (1781-1855) and replaced an earlier smaller-scale house on site, the property of a J. Middleton Berry, Esq., in 1837 (Lewis). The style of this house is quite old fashioned for its construction date and has the appearance of an early-nineteenth/late-Georgian country house. The form of this elegant house is very similar to Francis Johnston’s masterpiece Ballynagall (15401212), located to the north of Mullingar and now sadly in ruins. This house remained in the Boyd-Rochfort family until 1958 and was famously offered as a prize in a raffle in 1986 by its then owner, Barney Curly. This house forms the centerpiece of an important collection of related structures along with the elegant conservatory by Richard Turner (15318024), the service wing to the north (15318020), the stable block to the north (15318022) and the main gates (15318017) and the gate lodge (15318018) to the west. This building is an important element of the built heritage of Westmeath and adds historic and architectural incident to the landscape to the south of Castletown Geoghegan.” 
 Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 136. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998.
Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.
I have noticed that an inordinate amount of OPW sites are closed ever since Covid restrictions, if not even before that (as in Emo, which seems to be perpetually closed) [these sites are marked in orange here]. I must write to our Minister for Culture and Heritage to complain.
1. Emo Court, County Laois – house closed at present
2. Heywood Gardens, County Laois
3. Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, County Longford
4. Carlingford Castle, County Louth
5. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – closed at present
6. Battle of the Boyne site, Oldbridge House, County Meath
7. Hill of Tara, County Meath
8. Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath – guides on site from June 16th 2022
9. Newgrange, County Meath
10. Trim Castle, County Meath
11. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly
12. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath
13. Ballyhack Castle, County Wexford – closed at present
14. Ferns Castle, County Wexford – closed at present
15. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford
16. Tintern Abbey, County Wexford
17. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow – closed at present
18. Glendalough, County Wicklow
19. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow
“Emo Court is a quintessential neo-classical mansion, set in the midst of the ancient Slieve Bloom Mountains. The famous architect James Gandon, fresh from his work on the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, set to work on Emo Court in 1790. However, the building that stands now was not completed until some 70 years later [with work by Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and Arthur & John Williamson, from Dublin, and later, William Caldbeck].
The estate was home to the earls of Portarlington until the War of Independence forced them to abandon Ireland for good. The Jesuits moved in some years later  and, as the Novitiate of the Irish Province, the mansion played host to some 500 of the order’s trainees.
Major Cholmeley-Harrison took over Emo Court in the 1960s and fully restored it [to designs by Sir Albert Richardson]. He opened the beautiful gardens and parkland to the public before finally presenting the entire estate to the people of Ireland in 1994.
You can now enjoy a tour of the house before relaxing in its charming tearoom. The gardens are a model of neo-classical landscape design, with formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks just waiting to be explored.” 
Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the 1st Earl of Portarlington was interested in architecture and was instrumental in bringing James Gandon to Ireland, in order to build the new Custom House. The name Emo is an Italianised version of the original Irish name of the estate, Imoe. 
The Emo Court website tells us of the history:
“John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington [1744-1798] commissioned the building of Emo Court in 1790 although the house was not finally completed until 1870, eighty years later. Emo Court is one of only a few private country houses designed by the architect James Gandon. Others were Abbeyville, north Co. Dublin for Sir James Beresford [or is it John Beresford (1738-1805)? later famous for being the home of politician Charles Haughey] and Sandymount Park, Dublin for William Ashford. In addition, Gandon built himself a house at Canonbrook, Lucan, Co. Dublin.” 
Many of Gandon’s original drawings, plus those of his successors, are currently on display in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin.  The Emo Court website continues:
“James Gandon was born in London of Huguenot descent. He studied classics, mathematics and drawing, attending evening classes at Shipley’s Academy in London. At the age of fifteen, James was apprenticed to the architect Sir William Chambers and about eight years later, set up in business on his own. His first connection with Ireland was in 1769 when he won the second prize of £60 in a competition to design the Royal Exchange in Dublin, now the City Hall. He was invited to build in St Petersburg, Russia, by Princess Dashkov, and offered an official post with military rank. However, he chose instead to accept an offer from Sir John Beresford and John Dawson, Lord Carlow, later 1st Earl of Portarlington, to come to Dublin to build a new Custom House. This was begun in 1781. The following year, Gandon was commissioned to make extensions to the Parliament House, originally designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. Here he added a Corinthian portico as entrance to the Lords’ Chamber. After the Act of Union in 1801, the building became the Bank of Ireland. In 1785, Gandon was commissioned to design the new Four Courts. The third of his great Dublin buildings was the King’s Inns, begun in 1795. His few private houses were designed for patrons and friends.” [see 4]
The website continues: “In the early 18th century, Ephraim Dawson [1683-1746], a wealth banker, after whom Dawson Street in Dublin is named, purchased the land of the Emo Estate and other estates in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois). He married Anne Preston, heiress to the Emo Park Estate and fixed his residence in a house known as Dawson Court, which was in close proximity to the present Emo Court. His grandson, John Dawson, was created 1st Earl of Portarlington in 1785. Three years later, he married Lady Caroline Stuart, daughter of the [3rd] Earl of Bute, who was later Prime Minister of England. John Dawson commissioned Gandon to design Emo Court in 1790.“
“After Gandon died in 1823, to be buried in Drumcondra churchyard, the 2nd Earl of Portarlington, also John Dawson, engaged Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and A. & J. Williamson, Dublin architects, to finish the house. In the period, 1824-36, the dining room and garden front portico with giant Ionic columns were built, but on the death of the 2nd Earl in 1845, the house still remained unfinished. It was not until 1860 that the 3rd Earl, Henry Ruben John Dawson [or Dawson-Damer, the son of the 2nd Earl’s brother Henry Dawson-Damer, who had the name Damer added to his name after the family of his grandmother, Mary Damer, who married William Henry Dawson, 1st Viscount Carlow] commissioned William Caldbeck, a Dublin architect, and Thomas Connolly, his contractor, to finish the double height rotunda, drawing room and library.” [see 4] Caldbeck also added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.
Although it was not built during Gandon’s time, most of the house is as it was designed by Gandon, wiht some additions or changes. Mark Bence-Jones describes the house:
“Of two storeys over a basement, the sides of the house being surmounted by attics so as to form end towers or pavilions on each of the two principal fronts. The entrance front has seven bay centre with a giant pedimented Ionic portico; the end pavilions being of a single storey, with a pedimented window in an arched recess, behind a blind attic with a panel containing a Coade stone relief of putti; on one side representing the Arts, on the other, a pastoral scene. The roof parapet in the centre, on either side of the portico, is balustraded. The side elevation, which is of three storeys including the attic, is of one bay on either side of a curved central bow.” [see 3]
Bence-Jones continues: “The house was not completed when the 1st Earl died on campaign during 1798 rebellion; 2nd Earl, who was very short of money, did not do any more to it until 1834-36, when he employed the fashionable English architect, Lewis Vulliamy; who completed the garden front, giving it its portico of four giant Ionic columns with a straight balustraded entablature, and also worked on the interior, being assisted by Dublin architects named Williamson. It was not until ca 1860, in the time of 3rd Earl – after the house had come near to being sold up by the Encumbered Estates Court – that the great rotunda, its copper dome rising from behind the garden front portico and also prominent on the entrance front, was completed; the architect this time being William Caldbeck, of Dublin, who completed the other unfinished parts of the house and added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.” [see 3]
The website continues: “Emo court remained the seat of the Earls of Portarlington until 1920, when the house and its vast demesne of over 4500 ha, (11,150 acres), was sold to the Irish Land Commission. After the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Emo Court was the largest enclosed estate in Ireland. The house remained empty until 1930 when 150 ha., including the garden, pleasure grounds, woodland and lake were sold to the Society of Jesus for a novitiate. The Jesuits made several structural changes to the building to suit their purposes, including the conversion of the rotunda and library as a chapel. The distinguished Jesuit photographer, Fr Frank Browne lived at Emo Court from 1930-57.  A notable novitiate was the Irish author, Benedict Kiely.
The Jesuits remained at Emo until 1969 and the property was eventually sold to Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison. He embarked upon a long and enlightened restoration, commissioning the London architectural firm of Sir Albert Richardson & Partners to effect the restoration.
In 1994, President Mary Robinson officially received Emo Court & Parklands from Major Cholmeley-Harrison on behalf of the Nation.” [see 4]
Unfortunately Emo Park house has been closed to the public for renovation for several years, and was closed on the day we visited in July 2021. I am looking forward to seeing the interior, which from photographs and descriptions I have seen, look spectacular. From the outside we gain little appreciation of the splendid copper dome.
In the meantime, you can read more about Emo and see photographs of its interiors on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne. 
There are beautiful grounds to explore, however, on a day out at Emo, including picturesquely placed sculptures, an arboretum, lake, and walled garden. Here is a link to a beautiful short film by poet Pat Boran, about the statues at Emo Park, County Laois. https://bit.ly/35uXPO1
“The entrancing eighteenth-century landscape at Heywood Gardens, near Ballinakill, County Laois, consists of gardens, lakes, woodland and some exciting architectural features. The park is set into a sweeping hillside. The vista to the south-east takes in seven counties.
The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the formal gardens [around 1906], which are the centrepiece of the property. It is likely that renowned designer Gertrude Jekyll landscaped them.
The gardens are composed of elements linked by a terrace that originally ran along the front of the house. (Sadly, the house is no more.) One of the site’s most unusual features is a sunken garden containing an elongated pool, at whose centre stands a grand fountain.
The Heywood experience starts beside the Gate Lodge. Information panels and signage will guide you around the magical Lutyens gardens and the surrounding romantic landscape.“
The gardens at Heywood were created by Michael Frederick Trench (1746-1836), at his home, Heywood House, a house which was unfortunately burnt down in 1950 (my father as a young boy was at a musical concert nearby and saw the house burning!). Heywood House was built around 1789, and was captured before it burned down in photographs in Country Life, volume XLV in 1919. The article tells us that after Michael Frederick Trench built the house in the 1770s, he landscaped the area between his house and the village of Ballinakill, moving hills, digging lakes (he made three artificial lakes), planting trees and placing follies. The house was named after his mother-in-law, Mary Heywood (daughter of a Drogheda merchant). He was an amateur architect, and designed the parish church of Swords, as well as an addition to the Rotunda in Dublin.  The garden, set within a 250 acre demesne, is, Andrew Tierney claims, the best of its kind in Ireland: a blend of the Arcadian and the Picturesque, above which Edwin Lutyens later erected his walled terraces and enclosures.  One of the follies is a window from nearby Aghaboe Abbey (my grandfather had owned this property until the land was bought by compulsory purchase by the Land Commission in 1977).
Heywood House was inherited by the Domvile family in the mid 19th century (Michael Frederick’s daughter Helena married Comptom Pocklington Domvile, 1st Baronet Domvile, of Templeogue and Santry, Dublin), and later enlarged by Lt-Col William Hutchison-Poë, 1st Baronet Hutchison-Poë, in 1875, who had married Helena’s granddaughter Mary Adelaide Domvile. It was then bought by the Salesian Fathers in 1923. It was transferred to State ownership in November 1993 from the Salesian Fathers.
It was only in around 1906 that Lutyens added to the gardens. Sean O’Reilly describes his addition:
“Lutyens worked on the gardens from about 1906. He complemented the strong architectural framework with an informal planting style, following the same combination of structure and nature developed at Lambay and made popular with his associate – and Country Life author – Gertrude Jekyll. Laying out the garden in a series of terraces and stepped passageways exploding east and west from the falling southern terraces of the house itself, the architect shaped these spaces with a bewildering variety of retaining walls – vertical and battered, stepped and sheer – screen walls – straight and curved, large and dwarf – columns, steps and architectural artifacts.” 
Tierney describes the garden: The gardens stretch from the principal gates for almost a kilometer and a half, incorporating a sequence of three adjoining lakes and a fourth, further east, and areas of rolling parkland skirted by woodlands. Trench named each part of his garden after Alpine scenery. Trench’s Gothic follies include the Abbeyleix gate, an arrangement of octagonal towers joined by a Tudor-arched gateway. The Trench coat of arms is visible to the right of the gateway arch. From this gate the winding drive opens to Trench’s valley. Nearby, marking a split in the road, is the Spire, a shaft raised in memory of Trench’s friend Andrew Caldwell. Further along is a sham castle. High up behind that isa bridge, and a ruin, on the other side, with the Aghaboe windows. Up the pathway is the Gothic Greenhouse, a brick construction with five lancets with hood mouldings. On the east side of the lake is a grotto or bath house. On the east side of the demesne is the Trench mausoleum. [see 10]
The Lutyens garden descends to a sunken garden, with terraced borders leading down to a pool surrounded by bronze tortoises perched on stone balls. On the east side of the pond Luytens created a Pavilion with Portland stone dressings, terracotta tiled roof and saucer-domed interior, containing two Corinthian capitals rescued by Trench from the Parliament House in Dublin, which he was involved in remodelling. The north wall had busts of philosphers in oval niches, now replaced by urns.
For more on the gardens, see the blog of the Irish Aesthete, Robert O’Byrne. 
3.Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Kenagh, County Longford:
“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.“
“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. 
5. Old Mellifont Abbey, Tullyallen, Drogheda, County Louth:
General enquiries: 041 982 6459, firstname.lastname@example.org. Mellifont means “fountain of honey.”
“Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. St Malachy of Armagh created it in 1142 with the help of a small number of monks sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux [and with the aid of Donough O’Carroll, King of Oriel – see 14]. The monks did not take well to Ireland and soon returned to France, but the abbey was completed anyway and duly consecrated with great pomp.
It has several extraordinary architectural features, the foremost of which is the two-storey octagonal lavabo [the monk’s washroom].
The monks at Mellifont hosted a critical synod in 1152. The abbey was central to the history of later centuries, too, even though it was in private hands by then. The Treaty of Mellifont, which ended the Nine Years War, was signed here in 1603, and William of Orange used the abbey as his headquarters during the momentous Battle of the Boyne.“
The ruins contain the medieval gatehouse, parish church, chapter house and lavabo. The octagonal lavabo was designed as a freestanding structure of two storeys, with an octagonal cistern to supply the water located at the upper level over the wash room. Wash basins were arranged around a central pier, now gone, which supported the weight of the water above.  The entire monastery was surrounded by a defensive wall. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Mellifont was acquired in 1540 by William Brabazon (died 1552), Vice Treasurer of Ireland, and passed later to Edward Moore (Brabazon’s wife Elizabeth Clifford remarried three times after Brabazon’s death, and one of her husbands was Edward Moore), who established a fortified house within the ruins around 1560. His descendents (Viscounts of Drogheda) lived there until 1727 (until the time of Edward Moore, 5th Earl of Drogheda), after which the house, like the abbey, fell into disrepair.
Garret Moore, 1st Viscount of Drogheda, hosted the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603.
6. Battle of the Boyne site and visitor centre, Oldbridge House, County Meath.
General Enquiries: 041 980 9950, email@example.com
The Battle of the Boyne museum is housed in Oldbridge Hall, which is built on the site where the Battle of the Boyne took place.
From the website:
“Oldbridge House was built in the 1740’s by either John Coddington or his nephew Dixie Coddington. [John Coddington purchased the land in 1724 from Henry Moore the 4th Earl of Drogheda.]
It is believed to have been designed by George Darley, a local mason architect who also designed the renovated Dunboyne Castle, Dowth House and The Tholsel in Drogheda, Co. Louth.
To the left of the house there is a cobble stone stable yard with fine cut stable block. This originally contained coach houses, stables, tack and feed rooms.
To the right of the house is a small enclosed courtyard which contains the former butler’s house which is not open to the public.” 
Oldbridge House was purchased by the state in 2000, and renovation began.
Oldbridge House is a three storey house with a plain ashlar frontage of seven bays, with the centre three widely spaced and set somewhat advanced from the rest of the facade. Quadrant walls link the house to its park, with rusticated doors. The house is of two dates. Originally, in around 1750 it was a three bay, three storey block with low single-storey wings, and in around 1832, two floors were added to each wing, said to be by Frederick Darley. Similarity to nearby Dowth Hall suggests the involvement of the earlier and related George Darley in the original design.  It has a centrally located tripartite doorcase with pilasters surmounted by a closed pediment, which holds a canonball from the fields of the Battle of the Boyne. It has a string course between ground and first floors and sill course to first floor, and three central windows on first floor with stone architraves. 
An ancestor of Stephen’s, Elizabeth Coddington (1774-1857), grew up in Oldbridge House! She married Edward Winder (1775-1829). The son of John Coddington who purchased the land predeceased his father so John’s nephew, Dixie (1725-1794), son of his brother Nicholas, inherited. Dixie in turn had no sons, so the estate passed to his brother Henry. Dixie is also associated with Tankardstown House, a section 482 property. Henry Coddington (1734-1816) was father to Stephen’s ancestor Elizabeth. Henry was a barrister, and served as MP for Dunleer, County Louth, and he married Elizabeth Blacker from Ratheskar, County Louth.
The Battle of the Boyne was just one of several battles that took place in Ireland when the rule of King James II was challenged by his son-in-law, a Dutch Protestant Prince, William of Orange. James II was Catholic, and he attempted to introduce freedom of religion, but this threatened families who had made gains under the reformed Protestant church. When James’s wife gave birth to a male heir in 1688, many feared a permanent return to Catholic monarchy and government. In November 1688, seven English lords invited William of Orange to challenge the monarchy of James II. William landed in England at the head of an army and King James feld to France and then to Ireland. William followed him over to Ireland in June 1690.
“On 1 July 1690 (Old Style), King William III clashed with his father-in-law, King James II, on the River Boyne at Oldbridge, County Meath.
Both kings commanded their armies in person. There were 36,000 men on the Williamite side and 25,000 on the Jacobite side. It was the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield. English, Scottish, Dutch, Danes and Huguenots (French Protestants) made up William’s army (Williamites), while James’ men (Jacobites) were mainly Irish Catholics, reinforced by 6,500 French troops sent by King Louis XIV. At stake were the British throne, French Dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland.
William’s camp was on the north side of the river. James’s was on the south side with the two armies facing each other. William’s battle plan was to trap the Jacobite army in a pincer movement. He sent 10,000 men towards Slane which drew the bulk of the Jacobities upstream in response. With 1,300 Jacobites posted in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. All the fighting took place on the south side of the river, as the vastly outnumbered Jacobites defended their position against the advancing Williamites. William himself crossed at Drybridge with 3,500 mounted troops.
The pincer movement failed. King James’s army retreated across the River Nanny at Duleek and regrouped west of the Shannon to carry on the war.
Approximately 1,500 soldiers were killed at the Boyne.” 
After winning the battle, William gained control of Dublin and the east of Ireland. However, the war continued until the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691, which led to the surrender at Limerick the following autumn. The surrender terms promised limited guarantees to Irish Catholics and allowed the soldiers to return home or to go to France. The Irish Parliament however then enacted the Penal Laws, which ran contrary to the treaty of Limerick and which William first resisted, as he had no wish to offend his European Catholic allies.
The gardens of Oldbridge House have been resotred, with an unusual sunken octagonal garden, peach house, orchard and herbaceous borders, with a tearoom in the old stable block. Throughout the year outdoor theatre, workshops and events such a cavalry displays and musket demonstrations help to recreate a sense of what it might have been like on that day in July 1690.
7.Loughcrew Cairns, Corstown, Oldcastle, County Meath:
general enquiries: 087 052 4975, firstname.lastname@example.org
“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.“
8. Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Newgrange and Knowth, County Meath.
General Information: 041 988 0300, email@example.com
“The World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne is Ireland’s richest archaeological landscape and is situated within a bend in the River Boyne. Brú na Bóinne is famous for the spectacular prehistoric passage tombs of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth which were built circa 3200BC. These ceremonial structures are among the most important Neolithic sites in the world and contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe.“
37.Hill of Tara, Navan, County Meath:
General information: 046 902 5903, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“The Hill of Tara has been important since the late Stone Age, when a passage tomb was built there. However, the site became truly significant in the Iron Age (600 BC to 400 AD) and into the Early Christian Period when it rose to supreme prominence – as the seat of the high kings of Ireland. All old Irish roads lead to this critical site.
St Patrick himself went there in the fifth century. As Christianity achieved dominance over the following centuries, Tara’s importance became symbolic. Its halls and palaces have now disappeared and only earthworks remain.
There are still remarkable sights to be seen, however. Just one example is the Lia Fáil – the great coronation stone and one of the four legendary treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann – which stands proudly on the monument known as An Forradh.
Guided tours of the site will help you understand the regal history of this exceptional place and imagine its former splendour.“
9.Trim Castle, County Meath:
General information: 046 943 8619, email@example.com
“Few places in Ireland contain more medieval buildings than the heritage town of Trim. Trim Castle is foremost among those buildings.
In fact, the castle is the largest Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland. Hugh de Lacy and his successors took 30 years to build it.
The central fortification is a monumental three-storey keep. This massive 20-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was all but impregnable in its day. It was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and water-filled moat.
Modern walkways now allow you to look down over the interior of the keep – a chance to appreciate the sheer size and thickness of the mighty castle walls.
The castle is often called King John’s Castle although when he visited the town he preferred to stay in his tent on the other side of the river. Richard II visited Trim in 1399 and left Prince Hal later Henry V as a prisoner in the castle.” I never knew we had such a link to King Henry V and Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV!
Patrick Comerford gives an excellent history of Trim Castle in his blog.  The castle stands within a three acre bailey, surrounded by a defensive perimeter wall. The curtain wall of the castle is fortified by a series of semicircular open-back towers. There were two entrances to Trim Castle, one, beside the car park, is flanked by a gatehouse, and the second is a barbican gate and tower. 
We visited in May 2022, after visiting St. Mary’s Abbey (also called Talbot’s Castle) – more on that soon. We were late entering so the entry to inside the castle was closed, unfortunately – we shall have to visit again!
The information board tells us that in 1182 when Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath, he occupied this site bounded by the River Boyne to the north and marshy ground to the south. By 1175 his original wooden fortification had been replaced by this unusual keep, later surrounded by curtain walls with a simple gate to the north and a bridge across the moat. The south curtain wall with its D shaped buildings was completed by 1200, when new siege tactics forced a change in the design of castles. Later, the forebuildings and plinth were built, protecting the entrance and base of the keep.
Sometime before 1180, Hugh de Lacy replaced the timber palisade fence enclosing the keep with a stone enclosure. The fore-court enclosed stables and stores and protected the stairway and door to the keep. The new entrance was on the north side of the enclosure and had a drawbridge over the deepened ditch.
With the development of the curtain walls, the inner enclosure became obsolete.
The ditch was filled and three defensive towers – two survive – were built on its site. The drawbridge was replaced by a stone causeway leading to an arched gate and entrance stairway. A reception hall was built to accommodate visitors before they entered the Keep.
As the town and approach roads developed, the barbican gate provided a new entrance from the south. After the siege of 1224, the north curtain walls, towers and Trim gate required major repairs. During a period of prosperity in the second half of the 13th century, the great hall and solar were constructed on the site of the north curtain wall and tower. Trim and its abbeys and the Cathedral and borough of Newtown developed in the security of the castle.
The Boyne was used for transport of goods to the river gate. Stores, workshops and kitchens were built in the castle yard.
Though the castle buildings were often adapted to suit changing military and domestic needs, much of the fabric of Trim Castle has remained unchanged since the height of Anglo-Norman power in Ireland.
The information board tells us that courts, parliaments, feasts and all issues relating to the management of the Lordship were discussed at meetings in the Great Hall. After 1250, the great public rooms in the Keep were considered unsuitable for such gatherings, so this hall was built, lit by large windows with a view of the harbour and the Abbey of St. Mary’s across the river. The hall had a high seat at the west end, with kitchens and undercroft cellars to the east. Ornate oak columns rising from stone bases supported the great span of the roof.
The hall was heated from a central hearth and vented by a lantern-like louvre in the roof.
Early in the 13th century the weirs were completed on the Boyne, allowing the moat to be flooded, and the Leper River was channelled along the south curtain wall. A new gate was constructed guarding the southern approaches to the castle. This gatehouse, of a rare design, was built as a single cylindrical tower with a “barbican,” defences of a forward tower adn bridge. An elaborate system of lifting bridges, gates and overhead traps gave the garrison great control over those entering the castle. The arrangement of plunging loops demonstrates the builders’ knowledge of the military requirements of defending archers.
By the middle of the 13th century, the design of castle gates was further developed and a twin tower gatehouse with a passage between the two towers became standard.
10. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly:
General information: 090 9674195, firstname.lastname@example.org
“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.“
11. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath:
“Fore” comes from the Irish “fobhar” meaning well or spring.
“In a tranquil valley in the village of Fore, about a 30-minute drive from Mullingar in County Westmeath, you can visit the spot where St Feichin founded a Christian monastery in the seventh century AD.
It is believed that, before Feichin’s death, 300 monks lived in the community. Among the remains on the site is a church built around AD 900. There are also the 18 Fore crosses, which are spread out over 10 kilometres on roadways and in fields.
Seven particular features of the site – the so-called ‘Seven Wonders of Fore’ – have acquired legendary status. They include: the monastery built on a bog; the mill without a race (the saint is said to have thrust his crozier into the ground and caused water to flow); and the lintel stone raised by St Feichin’s prayers.
St Feichin’s Way, a looped walk around the site, provides an excellent base from which to explore these fabled places.“
The Benedictine Priory was founded around 1180 by Hugh de Lacy, the first Viceroy of Ireland. Before this there was a monastery in Fore, founded by Feichin in the seventh century. The Benedictines had a link with France and its first monks came from France. The Priory sufffered plundering attacks so needed defensive towers and fortification. It was built around a Cloister or courtyard.
The “columbarium” mentioned in the diagram is a house for keeping pigeons – we saw one previously at Moone Abbey tower, and there is one at Fore.
The monastery founded at Fore in the seventh century by St Feichin, a Sligo-born holy man who travelled widely in Ireland, was large and prosperous but was superceded by Fore Abbey, the nearby Benedictive abbey founded by the Norman deLacys. The remaining building of St Feichins is the church, which was built in the tenth century. A new chancel was added around 1200, and the arch leading to this was re-erected in 1934. The east window was inserted in the 15th century.
The Anchorite’s Cell is a small tower with attached chapel. The tower had two storeys and on the top floor lived a number of Anchorites, or hermits. The chapel has a vault below, the crypt of the Nugent family of nearby Castle Delvin and Clonyn Castle, Earls of Westmeath. Delvin, or Castletown-Delvin, was granted by Hugh de Lacy to his son-in-law Gilbert de Nugent. The 1st Earl of Westmeath was Richard Nugent (1583-1642). His father was Christopher Nugent, 5th Baron Delvin.
12.Ballyhack Castle, Arthurstown, County Wexford
General enquiries: 051 398 468, email@example.com
“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!“
13. Ferns Castle, County Wexford:
General information: 053 9366411, firstname.lastname@example.org
“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.“
14.John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford:
General Information: 046 9423490, email@example.com
When John F. Kennedy died, a number of Irish-American societies expressed the wish to establish a tribute to him in Ireland. The Irish government suggested a national arboretum, and secured 192 acres surrounding Ballysop House, just six kilometres from the Kennedy ancestral home at Dunganstown, County Wexford. The arborterum is planted in two interwoven botanical circuits: one of broadleaves and the other of conifers. The Arboretum was formally opened on 29th May 1968.
“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.
15.Tintern Abbey, County Wexford:
General information: 051 562650, firstname.lastname@example.org
“This Cistercian monastery was founded c. 1200 by William, Earl Marshal on lands held through his marriage to the Irish heiress, Isabella de Clare [daughter of Strongbow]. This abbey, founded as a daughter-house of Tintern Major in Wales is often referred to as Tintern de Voto.
The nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister still stand. In the 16th century the old abbey was granted to the Colclough family [Anthony Colclough (d. 1584) was a soldier and the land was granted to him after the dissolution of the monasteries] and soon after the church was partly converted into living quarters and further adapted over the centuries. The Colcloughs occupied the abbey from the sixteenth century until the mid-twentieth.”
The Colclough (pronounced Coakley) family lived there until 1958, when it was presented to the state by Lucy Biddulph-Colclough. Anthony’s son Thomas married Martha Loftus, daughter of Adam Loftus, Lord Archbishop of Dublin, who built Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin. Their son Adam Colclough became 1st Baronet of Tintern Abbey, County Wexford. The 3rd Baronet had no heir so the title expired and the lands passed to his sister Margaret. She married firstly, in 1673, Robert Leigh, of Rosegarland, who thereupon assumed the surname of Colclough; and secondly, in 1696, John Pigott, of Kilfinney, County Limerick, who also assumed the surname of Colclough. She was succeeded by a relative, Caesar Colclough (1696-1766), eldest son of Dudley Colclough, of Duffrey Hall. The property passed through generations until it was donated to the state.
The website continues: “Conservation works have included special measures to protect the local bat colonies. The abbey is set in a special area of conservation and is surrounded by woodland within which are walking trails. Not to be missed is the restored Colclough Walled Garden situated within the old estate.“
Following the donation of Tintern Abbey to the Irish State in 1959 the walled garden was abandoned to nature and became overgrown. The gradual restoration of the walled garden by a team of volunteers began in 2010 and the 1830s layout shown on the Ordnance Survey was reinstated. The restored garden, which opened to the public in 2012, is divided into two sections: the Ornamental Garden and the Kitchen Garden.
“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.“
17.Glendalough, County Wicklow:
General information: 0404 45352, email@example.com
“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.“
18. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow:
General Information: 0404 48844, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kilmacurragh House was home to seven generations of the Acton family. It was built in 1697 by Thomas Acton, whose father came to Ireland as part of Oliver Cromwell’s army, for which he was granted the lands surrounding the ruined abbey of St. Mochorog. The five bay Queen Anne house is thought to be the work of Sir William Robinson, who is better known today for his work at Marsh’s Library in Dublin, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin Castle and Charles Fort, Kinsale, County Kerry. 
“There was a monastery at Kilmacurragh, in this tranquil corner of County Wicklow, in the seventh century, and a religious foundation remained right up until the dissolution of the monasteries. After Cromwell invaded the land passed to the Acton family.
By the time the estate came to Thomas Acton in 1854, an unprecedented period of botanical and geographical exploration was afoot. In collaboration with the curators of the National Botanic Gardens, Acton built a new and pioneering garden.
In 1996, a 21-hectare portion of the old demesne officially became part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. The following ten years were spent giving the estate’s rare and beautiful plants a new lease of life.
Kilmacurragh is now part of the National Botanic Gardens, providing a complementary collection of plants to its parent garden at Glasnevin. Arrive in spring to witness the transformation of the walks, as fallen rhododendron blossoms form a stunning magenta carpet.“
“The Gardens lies within an estate developed extensively during the nineteeth century by Thomas Acton in conjunction with David Moore and his son Sir Frederick Moore, Curators of the National Botanic Gardens at that time. It was a period of great botanical and geographical explorations with numerous plant species from around the world being introduced to Ireland for the first time. The different soil and climatic conditions at Kilmacurragh resulted in many of these specimens succeeding there while struggling or failing at Glasnevin. Kilmacurragh is particularly famous for its conifer and rhododendron collections.” 
Thomas Acton’s son William married Jane Parsons of Birr Castle. Their son Thomas Acton inherited, then his son Lt Col William and then his son Thomas (1826-1908). Along with his sister Janet, he had a passion for collecting plants. They travelled to the Americas and Asia in search of plants, and established one of the finest arboreta in Ireland, and formed a friendship with David Moore, curator of the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Thomas died unmarried in 1908 and Kilmacurragh was inhierted by his nephew, Captain Charles Annesley Acton, who had been born in Peshawar. However, he was killed fighting in World War I as was his brother Reginald. Thus in eight years, three consecutive owners of Kilmacurragh had died, inflicting death duties amounting to 120% of the value of the property. The Actons were forced to sell the estate. The house fell into ruin and the arboretum became overgrown. The state acquired Kilmacurragh in 1996 and have restored the arboretum, making it part of the National Botanic Gardens.
 p. 336. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.
 p. 119. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.
I love starting a new year. The new listing for Section 482 properties won’t be published until February or March, so at the moment we will have to rely on 2021 listings (January listings below).
I had an amazing 2021 and visited lots of properties! As well as those I’ve written about so far, I am hoping to hear back for approval for a few more write-ups. Last year Stephen and I visited thirteen section 482 properties, thirteen OPW properties, and some other properties maintained by various groups.
The Section 482 properties we visited were Mount Usher gardens and Killruddery in County Wicklow; Killineer House and gardens in County Louth; Salthill Gardens in County Donegal; Stradbally Hall in County Laois; Enniscoe in County Mayo; Tullynally in County Westmeath; Kilfane Glen and Waterfall in County Kilkenny; Killedmond Rectory in County Carlow; Coopershill, Newpark and Markree Castle in County Sligo and Wilton Castle in County Wexford.
The OPW properties we visited were Dublin Castle, the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, National Botanic Gardens, Rathfarnham Castle, St. Stephen’s Green, Iveagh Gardens, Phoenix Park and Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin; Emo Court, County Laois; Portumna Castle, County Galway; Fore Abbey in County Westmeath; Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim; and Ballymote Castle, County Sligo.
We also visited Duckett’s Grove, maintained by Carlow County Council; Woodstock Gardens and Arbortetum maintained by Kilkenny County Council; Johnstown Castle, County Wexford maintained by the Irish Heritage Trust (which also maintains Strokestown Park, which we have yet to visit – hopefully this year! it’s a Section 482 property – and Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens, which we visited in 2020); Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, which is maintained by Shannon Heritage, as well as Newbridge House, which we also visited in 2021. Shannon Heritage also maintains Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle and Cragganowen Castle in County Clare, King John’s Castle in Limerick, which we visited in 2019, Malahide Castle in Dublin which I visited in 2018, GPO museum, and the Casino model railway museum. We also visited Belvedere House, Gardens and Park – I’m not sure who maintains it (can’t see it on the website).
We were able to visit two historic properties when we went to view auction sales at Townley Hall, County Louth and Howth Castle, Dublin.
Finally some private Big Houses that we visited, staying in airbnbs, were Annaghmore in County Sligo and Cregg Castle in Galway.
Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, Mar 1-2, 8-9, May 4- 5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31, June 1-4, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-2, 9am-1pm, Sundays 2pm- 6pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €5
Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 1pm-11pm
Portnason, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal Madge Sharkey Tel: 086-3846843 Open dates in 2021: Jan 18-22, 25-29, Feb 1-5, 8-12, Aug 14-30, Sept 1-17, 20-23, 27-28, Nov 15- 19, 22-26, Dec 1-3 6-10, 13-14, 9am-1pm
Open dates in 2021: Jan 14-17, 23-24, 28-29, Feb 4-7, 11-12, 19-21, 26-28, May 3-13,16, 18-20, 23-27, June 2-4, 8-10, 14-16, 19-20, Aug 14-22, weekdays 2.30pm-6.30pm, weekends 10.30am-2.30pm Fee: adult/OAP €8 student €5, child free, Members of An Taisce the The Irish Georgian Society (with membership card) €5
Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden
Craughwell, Co. Galway Margarita and Michael Donoghue Tel: 087-9069191 www.woodvillewalledgarden.com Open dates in 2021: Jan 29-31, Feb 1-28, Apr 1-13, 11am- 4.30pm, June 1, 6-8, 13-15, 21-22, 27- 29, July 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 1-2, 6-8, 13-22, 27-29, Sept 4-5, 11am-5pm Fee: adult/OAP €6, child €3, student, €5, family €20, guided tours €10
Open dates in 2021: all year, National Heritage Week, events August 14-22 Fee: Free
Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: Jan 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 23-24, 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, Mar 6-7,13- 14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, June 12-13,19-20, 26-27, July 3-4,10- 11,17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 14-22, Sept 4-14, 2pm-6pm.
Fee: free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.
Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm
Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly
Open dates in 2021: All year, except Dec 25, 9am-5pm
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 . 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.   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. 
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.
Thomas, Lord Longford (1713-1766) Date c.1756 Credit Line: Presented, Mrs R. Montagu, 1956, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.”  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]
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.“
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.” 
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!
Goodbye Tullynally! I hope to get back for the house tour sometime, usually open during Heritage Week!
 Reeves-Smyth, Terence. Big Irish Houses. Appletree Press Ltd, The Old Potato Station, 14 Howard Street South, Belfast BT7 1AP. 2009
 p. 525. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.
 p. 135. Great Houses of Ireland. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd and Christopher Simon Sykes. Laurence King Publishing, London, 1999.