Places to visit and stay in County Wicklow, Leinster

I have been dividing previous entries that were divided by Province into division by county as my entries were too long!

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

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

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Wicklow:

1. Altidore Castle, Kilpeddar, Greystones, Co. Wicklow – section 482

2. Avondale House, County Wicklow

3. Ballymurrin House, Kilbride, Wicklow, Co. Wicklow – section 482

4. Castle Howard, Avoca, Co. Wicklow – section 482

5. Charleville, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow – section 482

6. Corke Lodge, Co Wicklow – gardens open to visitors 

7. Dower House, Rossanagh, Ashford, Co Wicklow – gardens open by appointment 

8. Greenan More, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow – section 482

9. Huntingbrook, County Wicklow – gardens open to public 

10. Killruddery House & Gardens, Southern Cross Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow – section 482

11. Kiltimon House, Newcastle, Co. Wicklow – section 482

12. Kingston House, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow – section 482

13. Knockanree Garden, Avoca, Co Wicklow – section 482, garden only

14. 1 Martello Terrace, Strand Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow – section 482

15. Mount Usher Gardens, Ashford, Co. Wicklow – section 482, garden only

16. Powerscourt House & Gardens, Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow – section 482

17. Russborough, The Albert Beit Foundation, Blessington, Co. Wicklow – section 482

18. Tinode, Blessington, Co Wicklow – June Blake’s Garden, open from Springtime 2022 

Places to stay, County Wicklow:

1. Ballyknocken House, Ashford, County Wicklow

2. Ballymurrin House, Kilbride, Co Wicklow – 482 and Airbnb 

3. Bel Air Hotel (formerly Cronroe), Ashford, Co Wicklow

4. Brook Lodge and Macreddin Village, County Wicklow

5. Clone House, Count Wicklow

6. Croney Byrne, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow – courtyard accommodation

7. Druid’s Glen hotel and golf club (formerly Woodstock), Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow

8. June Blake’s Garden, Turkey House and Cow House, Tinode, Blessington, Co Wicklow – June Blake’s Garden 

9. Rathsallagh, Co Wicklow – accommodation €€

10. Summerhill House Hotel, County Wicklow €€

11. Tinakilly House, Rathnew, Co Wicklow – country house hotel

12. Tulfarris, Blessington, Co Wicklow - hotel 

13. Wicklow Head Lighthouse, Dunbur Head, County Wicklow € for 4

14. Gate Lodge, Woodenbridge, Avoca, County Wicklow €€

Place to visit in County Wicklow:

1. Altidore Castle, Kilpeddar, Greystones, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Altidore, County Wicklow, June 2019.

see my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/06/25/altidore-castle-kilpeddar-greystones-county-wicklow/
contact: Philip Emmet
Tel: 087-7601369
Open: Mar 10-29, May 1-31, June 1-3, 1pm-5pm, Aug 13-21, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult /OAP €5, child under 12 years free, child over 12 and student negotiable, group rates.

2. Avondale House, County Wicklow

Avondale, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2014, Courtesy Failte Ireland.

https://visitwicklow.ie/listing/avondale-house-forest-park/

Avondale House & Forest Park includes the Charles Stewart Parnell Museum. Over 500 acres of mature woodland with tree’s from all over the world including the tallest collection of Trees in Ireland. We have walking trails from an easy 1 hour walk to a tough 5 hour walks. Avondale House was built in 1779. In 1846 Charles Stewart Parnell was born in the house, one of Ireland’s greatest ever political leaders of modern Irish history. Today the house is a museum. Avondale is a beautiful Georgian House designed by James Wyatt and built in 1777 and completed in 1779 contains fine plasterwork by the Francini Brothers and many original pieces of furniture. The American Room is dedicated to Admiral Charles Stewart – Parnell’s American grandfather who manned the USS Constitution during the 1812 war.  In 1904 the state purchased the Avondale Estate to develop modern day forestry in Ireland. Today its still regarded as the historic home of Irish Forestry and silviculture.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his  A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 15. “A square house of 2 storeys over basement, built 1779 for Samuel Hayes, a noted amateur architect who possibly designed it himself. 5 bay entrance front, the 3 centre bays breaking forward under a pediment; small Doric porch with paired columns, Coade stone panels with swags and medallions between lower and upper windows. Garden front with central bow; the basement, which in the entrance front is concealed, is visible on this side with its windows have Gibbsian surrounds. Magnificent and lofty 2 storey hall with C18 Gothic plasterwork and gallery along inner wall. Bow room with beautiful Bossi chimneypiece. Dining room with elaborate neo-Classical plasterwork on walls and ceiling; the wall decorations incorporating oval mirrors and painted medallions. Passed to William Parnell-Hayes, brother of the 1st Baron Congleton, and grandfather of Charles Steward Parnell, who was born here and lived here all his life with his mother and elder brother. Now owned by the dept of Lands, Forestry Division, which maintains the splendid demesne as a forest park…The house has in recent years been restored by the Board of Works.” [1]

The National Inventory tells us that the house may have been designed by James Wyatt.

3. Ballymurrin House, Kilbride, Wicklow, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Ballymurrin, County Wicklow, July 2019.

see my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/27/ballymurrin-kilbride-county-wicklow/
contact: Philip Geoghegan
Tel: 086-1734560
www.ballymurrinquakerfarmstead.eu
Open: Jan 2-21, July 23-31, Aug 1-31, 2pm-6pm Fee: free

4. Castle Howard, Avoca, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Castle Howard, County Wicklow, September 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/13/castle-howard-avoca-county-wicklow/
contact: Ailish Macken
Tel: 01-6327664
Open: Jan 10-12, Feb 14-18, Mar 7-9, 21-23, June 21-25, 29-30, July 1-2, 11-16, 25- 28, Aug 13-21, Sept 5-10, 17, 20-24, Oct 3-5, 10-12, 9am-1pm

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

5. Charleville, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Charleville, County Wicklow, August 2020.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/18/charleville-county-wicklow/
contact: Tatiane Baquiega
Tel: 01-6624455
Open: Feb 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28, May 3-27, 30-31, June 1-3, 7, Aug 13-21, Mon-Fri, 1pm- 5pm, Sat & Sun, 9am-1pm

Fee: house €9, garden €6

6. Corke Lodge, Co Wicklow – gardens open to visitors 

Opening dates 2022: June 21-Sept 8th 2022, Tuesday to Saturdays and all of Heritage Week, August 13-21st, 9:00-13:00

Admission €8.

Open other times by appointment only.

No pets allowed.

The website tells us:

The house was built on and incorporates the remains of an older structure, visible on the 1750 maps of Dublin. Situated on the lands owned by Hannagh Tilson Magan it was commissioned by her or by her son William Henry Magan between 1815 and 1820.

William Magan is known to have employed the Architect William Farrell to design a country house, Clonearl, in Co. Offaly in 1815. This house was destroyed by fire in the 1840’s but it is clear from the surviving plans that the distinctive pillastered design is mirrored in both Killyon manor, Co. Meath another Magan/Loftus house and in Corke Lodge. Unusual fenestration and similar door treatments also link the two surviving properties. Close by the church at Crinken, endowed by Hannagh Magan was also designed by Farrell. So it would not be unreasonable to assume that Corke Lodge, which has all the hallmarks of an architectural ‘capriccio’ is by the same hand. The main façade and the two front reception rooms are in the classical style. The rooms at the back and above have gothic detailing.

The last Magan owner of this property as well as the other huge Magan/Tilson/Loftus estates was Augusta. Her eccentricities and reclusive life are said to have inspired Charles Dickens, who visited Dublin, in his creation of Miss Haversham, in the Great Expectations. 

The most striking feature of the house is the bold architectural treatment of the classical facade, a miniature of the two great houses mentioned above. By contrast, the back elevations are in a flat gothic stile reflecting the romantic nature of the planted ‘wilderness’. The interiors retain all their original features in terms of marble mantle pieces, pillared architraves and plasterwork. Although the house originally would not have been used for more than a few days a year by the Magans when bathing in the nearby sea or visiting the family tombs at Crinken, it has been continuously inhabited since its incorporation into the Woodbrook estate By Sir Stanley Cochrane in 1906. Sir Stanley, heir to a mineral water fortune, was an accomplished athlete and opera singer who created on his estate championship cricket pitches a golf course and the Laurel Park Opera House, precursor of Glyndebourne, and where Dame Nellie Melba sang.

The house as it presents itself today was restored and furnished in 1980 by architect Alfred Cochrane. It pioneered the current trends in historicist restoration of country houses and was featured in a number of local and international publications.

7. Dower House, Rossanagh, Ashford, Co Wicklow – gardens open by appointment 

https://www.dublingardengroup.com/the-dower-house/

Opening (if Covid allows) April 2nd  to July 1st, 2022.
By appointment only.

The gardens surrounding this late eighteenth century house (c.1790) were laid out towards the end of the nineteenth century with plantings of many fine specimens including Rhododendron arboreum,  Magnolia soulangeana ‘Alba’, and Camellia japonica. Also included are a number of specimen mature trees, including a fine Chilean myrtle, Luma apiculata, planted c. 1880. When the Butler family acquired the property, a white garden in a sheltered enclosure behind the house was added together with a wild meadow which reaches its peak in mid June.

The indefatigable Mrs Delany, eighteenth century social commentator, diarist, artist and friend of Dean Jonathan Swift commenting on Rossanagh demesne on which Dower House was built wrote: ‘It is a very pretty place… neatly kept’. As early as 1733, A.C. Forbes noted that the largest tree in Ireland, a Spanish chestnut flourished in the demesne. It was under this tree that Methodist preacher, the Reverend John Wesley preached during one of his many visits in June, 1789. Rossanagh holds links to many well known ‘personalities’ of the day including musician/composer, Thomas Moore, artists, George Romney, Maria Spilsbury-Taylor, politicians, Henry Grattan and William Pitt, the Younger together with Patrick Bronte, father of distinguished English novelists, Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Described as one of ‘Wicklow’s finest gardens’ (Jane Powers), the gardens are open each year in aid of The Wicklow Hospice.

8. Greenan More, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow – section 482

contact: Paul Arnold
Tel: 087-2563200
www.greenanmore.ie
Open: May 1-31, June 1-12, Aug 12-31, Sept 1-18, Wed- Sun, National Heritage Week Aug 13-21, 10am-3pm

9. Huntingbrook, County Wicklow – gardens open to public 

https://www.huntingbrookgardens.com

The Gardens open Wednesday 6th April until Saturday 24th September 2022

Hours
Wednesday – Saturday
11am–4pm

Designed to be a thoroughly immersive experience, the gardens are home to one of Ireland’s largest private collections of plants. A riot of colour, shape and texture, the gardens are always on the move with fresh surprises at every visit.” 

10. Killruddery House & Gardens, Southern Cross Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Killruddery, County Wicklow, April 2021.

contact: Anthony Ardee
Tel: 01-2863405
www.killruddery.com
Open: Apr 1-Oct 31, Tue-Suns and Bank Holidays. National Heritage Week 13-21, 9am-6pm,
Fee: adult €8.50, garden and house tour €15.50, OAP/student €7.50, garden and house tour €13, garden and house tour €13, child €3, 4-16 years, garden and house tour €5.50

11. Kiltimon House, Newcastle, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Kiltimon House, County Wicklow, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Michelle O’Connor
Tel: 087-2505205
Open: May 2-22, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-30, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €5

12. Kingston House, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow – section 482

contact: Liam Lynam
Tel: 087-2415795
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €3, OAP/student/child €2

13. Knockanree Garden, Avoca, Co Wicklow – section 482, garden only

contact: Peter Campion and Valerie O’Connor
Tel: 085-8782455
www.knockanreegardens.com
Open: May 20-21, 23-28, 30-31, June 1-4, 6-11, 13-18, 20-25, 27-30, July 1-3, Aug 13-21, Oct 1, 3-8, 10-14, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: adult €3, OAP/student €2

14. 1 Martello Terrace, Strand Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Martello Terrace, Bray, County Wicklow – photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Liz McManus
Tel: 087-2357369
Open: May, June, Sept, Oct, Mon & Thurs, July & Aug, Mon, Thurs, & Sun, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 1pm-5pm, Sunday, 9am-1pm

Fee: Free

This house forms part of one of Bray’s earliest, best preserved, and most distinctive seafront terraces; it is also of some historical value due to the fact that James Joyce lived in the property between 1887 and 1891. 

15. Mount Usher Gardens, Ashford, Co. Wicklow – section 482, garden only

Mount Usher, County Wicklow, June 2021.

See my entry

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/06/30/mount-usher-gardens-ashford-co-wicklow/
contact: Caitriona Mc Weeney
Tel: 01-2746900
www.mountushergardens.ie

www.avoca.com/en
Open: all year, Jan-Mar, Nov-Dec, 10am-6pm, Apr-Oct, 10am-6pm Fee: adult €9, student/OAP €8, child €5, no charge for wheelchair users

16. Powerscourt House & Gardens, Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Powerscourt House and Gardens, photograph by Chris Hill 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/26/powerscourt-house-gardens-enniskerry-county-wicklow/
contact: Sarah Slazenger
Tel: 01-2046000
www.powerscourt.ie
Open: all year, closed Christmas Day and St Stephens Day, 9.30am-5.30pm, ballroom and garden rooms Sun, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: Mar-Oct, adult €11.50, OAP €9, student €8.50, child €5, family ticket €26, Nov- Dec, adult €8.50, OAP €7.50, student €7, child €4, family €18

17. Russborough, The Albert Beit Foundation, Blessington, Co. Wicklow – section 482

Russborough House, County Wicklow, photography by Chris Hill 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [2]

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/08/russborough-house-blessington-county-wicklow/
contact: Eric Blachford
Tel: 045-865239
enc@russborough.ie
Open: Jan 1-Dec 24, 10am-5pm,
Fee: adult €12, OAP/student €8, child €6, parking €3 per car

http://www.russborough.ie

18. Tinode, Blessington, Co Wicklow – June Blake’s Garden, open from Springtime 2022 

http://www.juneblake.ie/cms/

The very best gardens intrigue and restore us, and so it is with June Blake’s garden which is a rare fusion of inspired design and painterly planting. Situated in the townland of Tinode in west Wicklow, and spread over three rural acres, it wraps itself around June’s home, a handsome Victorian farm-steward’s cottage surrounded by a huddle of austerely beautiful, granite-stone farm buildingsone of which -the Cow House- has recently been the subject of an award-winning, modern architectural conversion. In a previous life, Blake was a gifted jewellery maker. Those same carefully honed skills- a razor sharp eye and keen attention to detail, an artist’s deep appreciation of colour, texture and form, as well as the ability to take a raw, unpolished material and expertly craft it into something aesthetically deeply satisfying- still shine through brightly in her excitingly contemporary country garden. Within it are many different areas of interest. These include intricately planted borders of gem-like beauty, swathes of naturalistic, prairie-style planting, sculptural landforms, a flower meadow that comes to life in spring with sprinkles of crimson red Tulip ‘Red Shine’, generous stretches of woodland intersected by curving cobble paths and filled with choice shade-lovers, and a formal, rectangular pool whose silver sliver of water is a mirror to the cloud-streaked Wicklow sky. Each one is so thoughtfully, imaginatively and expertly executed that it would be enough by itself to bring joy to the heart of any gardener. But it is when they are combined together as a whole that they form what is, without doubt, a truly remarkable garden.” Fionnuala Fallon.

The house was designed by William Caldbeck in 1864. Tinode House was burned to the ground in 1922 by the IRA, and has since been partially rebuilt.

Places to stay, County Wicklow:

1. Ballyknocken House, Ashford, County Wicklow

www.ballyknocken.ie

The website tells us:

Ballyknocken House, Farm and Cookery SchoolScenically located on 280 acres only 47 km south of Dublin City Centre in County Wicklow, Ireland. Our charming 4* Victorian style farm guesthouse offers 7 guest bedrooms plus a 3-bedroom Milking Parlour apartment, surrounded by scented kitchen gardens, offering a farm to fork experience. Home to celebrity chef and award-winning food writer, Catherine Fulvio, we pride ourselves on continuing the family tradition of providing B&B accommodation for over fifty years here in County Wicklow.

We offer an intimate, cosy, warm and friendly experience not only for individual guests for Foodie Short Breaks and for visiting Wicklow but we also welcome private parties, whether it’s a corporate, friend and family gathering or hen party. Ballyknocken can be booked exclusively for accommodation, cookery events and onsite activities for your company day out or your celebration.

2. Ballymurrin House, Kilbride, Co Wicklow – 482 and Airbnb, see above 

3. Bel Air Hotel (formerly Cronroe), Ashford, Co Wicklow

www.belairhotelequestrian.com 

The website tells us:

Bel-Air is an old Manor House Hotel on 200 acres farm and parkland. The house and stable yard are in the middle of the estate, with the land surrounding it in all directions. There is wonderful parkland to the front of the house looking out to the coast, while the tillage land is behind the house. In the centre of the estate is old woodland, which has lovely jumping lanes. In the spring, bluebells and wild garlic bring colour and aroma to the tracks and trails. And the heady scent and sight of the vibrant yellow gorse makes your heart sing.

The stable yard is from ca 1750 and the current house was built in 1890. Both the house and the yard are listed for preservation and wherever you look you find evidence of the old days.

Even though we are less than an hour from Dublin, you feel like you are miles from anywhere and you also take a leap back in time. Bel-Air is not just a place – it’s a way of life!

4. Brook Lodge and Macreddin Village, County Wicklow

https://www.originalirishhotels.com/hotels/brooklodge-macreddin-village

The website tells us:

Relax and unwind at The Wells Spa, a designated ‘resort spa’. Dine at The Strawberry Tree, Ireland’s first certified Wild and Organic Restaurant, or La Taverna Armento, a Southern Italian style bistro. We also host Actons Country Pub, The Orchard Café, an Organic Bakery, a Smokehouse and a Wild Food Pantry and much more. Macreddin Golf Course designed by European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley is a short stroll from BrookLodge.

Macreddin Village has twice won AA Hotel of the Year, Ireland’s Culinary Hotel of the Year and Ireland’s Luxury Eco-Friendly Hotel. Other recent awards for The Strawberry Tree Restaurant include titles such as Best Restaurant and Best Organic Restaurant.

5. Clone House, Count Wicklow

https://clonehouse.com

The website tells us:

Clone House, first built around 1650, is surrounded by five acres of private land and gardens.

Based in the heart of vibrant and beautiful County Wicklow, just an hour south of Dublin, Clone House offers a unique holiday experience and quality accommodation for up to 26 guests.

We cater for events such as family reunions, corporate events, hens & stags and small weddings.

Clone House was originally built by the O’Byrne family in the 1650’s. Back then it was the Manor House on a large estate stretching across Moneyteigue, Clone and Coolahullen. The house’s history is as grand and interesting as its demeanor. Clone House provided refuge to the famous Billy Byrne of Ballymanus, was burnt down in the 1798 Rebellion, restored around 1805 and nowadays functions as a beautiful guesthouse.

6. Croney Byrne, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow – courtyard accommodation

https://croneybyrne.ie

The website tells us:

Wicklow is a great holiday destination and you will love staying in our luxurious Self Catering Holiday Homes in one of the most beautiful locations in Irelands Ancient East. Croneybyrne Courtyard is a family friendly destination where children love our park with playground and collecting their eggs for breakfast from our hens and geese. See our accommodation page for more details.
A mere 1 hour drive from Dublin city it is a great escape with many acres of wilderness on our doorstep including Clara Vale Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Reserve where you can spend hours exploring without seeing another soul or hearing the sound of modern distractions. There you will see Sika Deer as well as Badger, Fox, Rabbits and the occasional Hare, not to mention the myriad of Birds, including the spectacular Red Kite and Spotted Woodpecker.

There are forest and mountain walks, we are near the Avonmore Trails and within easy reach of the Wicklow Way and the beautiful Vartry Tracks and Trails. Or for the more adventurous, there are challenging Rock Climbing activities as well as hiking on the highest mountain in Wicklow Lugnaquilla or the many mountain tops in the area. If you are looking for a Walking Holiday in Wicklow see our Walking/Hiking pages for a list of our top walks in the area.

7. Druid’s Glen hotel and golf club (formerly Woodstock), Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow

https://www.druidsglenresort.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Woodstock, which has now been converted to Druid’s Glen hotel:

p. 287. “(Tottenham, sub Ely, M/PB) A three storey five bay block of ca 1770, with  single-storey five bay block added ca 1840 by Rt Rev Lord Robert [Ponsonby] Tottenham [1773-1850], Bishop of Clogher [son of Charles Tottenham Loftus 1st Marquess of Ely], who bought the property after 1827; it had previously been rented for a period by the Lord Lieutenant, Marquess Wellesley. The centre block has a one bay breakfront and a die which was probably added by Bishop Tottenham at the same time as the single-storey Ionic portico, which is by Sir Richard Morrison. Giant blind arches in end pavilions; balustraded parapets on wings. Garden front with curved bow in central breakfront; now asymmetrical because of projecting C19 wing on one side and other additions. Hall running through the full depth of the house, divided by a screen of columns from the staircase, which is of fine solid C18 joinery; rococo plasterwork in the manner of Robert West in panels on the walls above the staircase, and curving round the apse at the back of the hall in the bow of the garden front; similar plasterwork on the ceiling of the staircase and landing. Dining room with rococo plasterwork in centre of ceiling. Large and lofty drawing room in right hand wing with frieze and cornice of elaborate C19 plasterwork, rather in the manner of Sir Richard Morrison. Handsome C19 room with bold cornice and ceiling medallion in wing flanking garden front. Sold 1947, afterwards the home of Mr and Mrs G. Van den Bergh. It is now the home of Mr and Mrs William Forwood, who have carried out a most sympathetic restoration of the house, with the help of Mr Jeremy Benson.” 

The National Inventory tells us:

Detached five-bay three-storey over basement former country house, built in 1770, now in use as a hotel / country club. The original house was probably to designs by Robert West the eminent Irish stuccodore. Two-storey wing additions added in c.1830 to designs by Sir Richard Morrison. There are later additions to the rear elevation. The walls are finished in painted lined render. A short flight of stone steps rises to the front door; it has a four-pane fanlight and is flat-headed. This is set within a projecting portico with Ionic columns. Window openings are flat-headed and have moulded surrounds; those to the piano nobile also have blocking courses and projecting cornice. The hipped roof is finished with natural slate and cast-iron rainwater goods. Chimneystacks are rendered with plain caps and clay pots. Much of the late Georgian interior has been retained; this includes rococo plaster work to the hallway, the original stair and fireplaces to principal rooms. The building is set within a large demesne which is now in use as a golf course.” [3]

8. June Blake’s Garden, Turkey House and Cow House, Tinode, Blessington, Co Wicklow – June Blake’s Garden, see above 

http://www.juneblake.ie/cms/ 

9. Rathsallagh, County Wicklow – accommodation €€

Rathsallagh, photograph courtesy of Rathsallagh House.

www.rathsallagh.com

It was built around 1750 as stables and converted in 1798. The range consists of four wings based around a large courtyard with the main wing to the front (west) having two-storey projections to its north and south ends.

The website tells us: “Rathsallagh House has been owned and run by the O’Flynn family for over 30 years, it has a happy and relaxed atmosphere with log and turf fires in the bar and drawing rooms. The food at Rathsallagh is country house cooking at its best, Game in season and fresh fish are specialities. Breakfast in Rathsallagh is an experience in itself and has won the National Breakfast Awards a record four times.

Rathsallagh also has conference and meeting rooms, Spa room, billiard room, and tennis court and is surrounded by the magnificant Rathsallagh Golf Club.

Joanna and David at Rathsallagh, photograph courtesy of Rathsallagh House.
Rathsallagh House, County Wicklow, photograph courtesy of Rathsallagh House.
Rathsallagh, photograph courtesy of Rathsallagh House.
J Channing RS Rooms, Rathsallagh, photograph courtesy of Rathsallagh House.
Rathsallagh, photograph courtesy of Rathsallagh House.

10. Summerhill House Hotel, County Wicklow €€

https://summerhillhousehotel.com

The website tells us: “Summerhill House Hotel is where glamour and the countryside blend in one of Ireland’s prettiest villages. Our location in the cosy village of Enniskerry is a gloriously refreshing antidote to city living or stressful lives. Reconnect with family and friends and let the kids run free. Lose track of time as you breathe in clean air, stride for miles through nature walks on your doorstep, stargaze under big skies, and, most importantly – relax, with a dose of the finest Wicklow hospitality.

11. Tinakilly House, Rathnew, Co Wicklow – country house hotel

https://tinakilly.ie 

The website tells us:

Set in 14 acres of mature landscaped gardens overlooking the Irish Sea Tinakilly offers peace and tranquillity yet is only 45 minutes from Dublin. This stunning award winning Country House Hotel in Wicklow is steeped in history and oozes charm and sophistication.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 304. “A house of 1870 by James Franklin Fuller, built for Commander Robert Charles Halpin, RN, who commended the steamship Great Eastern when she laid the first Atlantic cable. In vaguely Queen Anne revival style; entrance front with two bay centre between three sided bows; pedimented porch. Roof on bracket cornice with central dormer. Side elevation with central three sided bow. Very impressive central hall, an early example of the hall-cum-living room which was to become an almost obligatory feature of late Victorian and Edwardian country houses; with an imperial staircase rising to a bridge gallery which continues around two of the walls. The ceiling is elaborately coved and coffered; the soffits of the stairs and gallery are richly ornamented with plasterwork. The fireplace is surmounted by a triple window, so that the flue appears to vanish; a conceit which, like the “living hall” itself, became increasingly popular towards the turn of the century. Halpin died 1894; his widow was living at Tinakilly 1912.” 

The website gives us the history:

Tinakilly House was constructed for Captain Robert Halpin, who was born in Wicklow Town and who succeeded in becoming Commander of The Great Eastern when it laid most of the world’s transoceanic telegraph cables.  The cable connecting Europe to America was laid in 1866 from Valentia Bay in Ireland to Hearts Content in Canada.  A section of this cable and a fine colour print of The Great Eastern can be seen today in Tinakilly Country House Hotel & Gardens.  Most of Captain Halpin’s memorabilia is in the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire.

Halpin is reputed to have been given an open cheque by the British Government to build his new mansion in gratitude for his contribution to improving world communications and thereby world trade.  He recruited the then very fashionable Irish architect, James Franklin Fuller, to design the house. The timber, which is so evident and gives such character, was selected in London by Halpin. The doors on the ground floor are of Burmese mahogany with many panels of different woods, the best of which are in “birds eye” maple. The architraves window shutters and stairs are in American pitch pine. Fireplaces were imported from Italy with the exception of the drawing room where a fine Georgian one graces the room.

In 1870 the land extended to 400 acres, two Head Gardener’s were employed, one for inside the walled garden to grow fruit and vegetables and the other to supervise the seven acres of pleasure gardens. There are fine stands of beech eucalyptus and evergreen oak while two giant sequoias (American Redwood) are at either end of the old tennis court. The site chosen for the house is on elevated ground two miles north of Wicklow Town, overlooking Broadlough Bird Sanctuary and the Irish Sea.

Halpin married the daughter of a wealthy Canadian whaling merchant. They had three daughters, the youngest of whom, Belle, lived in Tinakilly until the early 1950’s. Captain Halpin died at the young age of 58 from blood poisoning after cutting his toe.

In 1949 the house and lands were purchased by Augustus Cullen, a Wicklow solicitor. The Trustee’s sold on condition that Belle Halpin retain the house for her lifetime, which she did until 1952. Rumour has it that her ghost continued to occupy the house as well as Miss Halpin’s housekeeper – hence the Cullen’s never took occupation. During the last six years of Mr Cullen’s ownership, the house was only used in the summer when it was rented by a group of Jesuit priests for summer retreats.  Any ghosts quickly departed.

In 1959 the house and lands were sold to Mr Gunther Smith whose nephew, Mr Heinrich Rolfe, inherited the property in 1962.  His wife ran the house as a guesthouse while Mr Rolfe concentrated on farming.  A colourful Frenchman called Jean Claude Thibaud then rented the house and ran it as a “Restaurant Francais”.  A thatched cottage bar was constructed in the hall while stucco plaster on the dining room walls appeared to give an effect of “waves by the sea”.  One day Jean Claude discovered his kitchen chimney was blocked by the home of a family of building crows.  Not wishing to climb out onto the roof to discover which of the 36 chimney pots needed freeing, he took a sledgehammer to a top floor bedroom and through the flue of a fireplace allowing the smoke into the bedroom.  He then opened the window and closed the door.  A French solution to an Irish problem.

In 1978 an Irish couple, Dermot & Anne Garland, who had experience in running the Pembroke Restaurant in Dublin, swapped with the Thibauds and completed a purchase agreement for Tinakilly House. The Garland’s redecorated Tinakilly and ran a successful restaurant. Dermot tragically died leaving Anne to struggle on with their two young sons.

In 1982 Tinakilly sold to William & Bee Power, who decided to develop a full hotel putting bathrooms ensuite and installing a modern fully equipped kitchen. Redecorating and furnishing of the hotel was undertaken by William & Bee to ensure the homely Victorian character so evident to the visitor today. Great care has been taken in all reconstruction work to maintain the nautical theme.  Bedrooms were named after ships. 

In 1991 the Power’s constructed 15 suites all overlooking the Irish Sea and Broadlough Bird Sanctuary.  Sunrise is a spectacle to behold.  The Victorian Halpin Suite was developed to cater for conferences and weddings.

In 1997 the East wing was extended northwards with the addition of 24 suites and a lift, bringing the total compliment of bedrooms to 51. Also in that year, a new dining room, the Brunel, was built to the west of the house. All of this work has been architect controlled to ensure the true character of Tinakilly is maintained. In January 2000, Tinakilly was taken over by William & Bee’s son and daughter-in-law, Raymond & Josephine.

In 2013 Tinakilly House changed hands again, the owners are passionate about this grand country manor, adding refreshing touches through out the house but always in keeping with the character. The Great Hall is alive again with chatty conservations over afternoon tea, the Brunel restaurant and menus are refreshing, wedding guest fill the house with laughter and joy.  So check back with us to see the old and new meld to give this beautiful Victorian manor a new chapter in history.

12. Tulfarris, Blessington, Co Wicklow - hotel 

www.tulfarrishotel.com

The website tells us: “Tulfarris Hotel & Golf Resort is a luxury 4 star retreat situated in the garden of Ireland, County Wicklow. Perched on the banks of the Blessington Lakes against the backdrop of the Wicklow mountains, yet only 45 minutes drive from Dublin. Offering delicious food, relaxed bars and deluxe guest accommodation, the views are breathtaking and the golf course is immense. Step back in time as you enter the 18th century Manor House which stands imposingly at the heart of our 200 acre resort. Get married, get your colleagues together or get some rest and relaxation. Tulfarris Hotel in Wicklow is yours to enjoy.

The website tells us of the history of the house:

Tulfarris House derives its name from the land it is situated on. Tulfarris comes from the Gaelic ‘Tulach Fherghuis’ meaning Fergus’ Hill.   

From a document known as the Faints, which contains legal judgements from the Tudor period, it is clear that the lands known as Tulfarris were included with the manor of Rathmore, Co. Kildare. This estate was in the possession of Gerald Fitzgerald (Garret Oge), 9th Earl of Kildare. Until 1534, the Fitzgerald dynasty dominated both the lands and events that occurred in much of Ireland. The rebellion of Gerald’s son Thomas, popularly known as Silken Thomas, resulted in the confiscation of the entire estate by the crown. In 1541, the crown to Walter Troot, Vicar of Rathmore, leased the manors of Rathmore, including Tulfarris.

Shortly afterwards in 1545, the lands were granted in full to Sir John Travers, a knight from Monkstown, Co. Dublin. Sir John Travers had an heir by his first marriage, Henry. Henry married Gennet Preston [d.1599], daughter of the third Viscount of Gormanstown [Jenico Preston, d. 1560]. Henry however, died young leaving two daughters, Mary & Catherine. John Travers died in 1562 and the lands were inherited by Henry’s daughters, Mary & Catherine.

Mary married James Eustace, 3rd Viscount of Baltinglass. After James played a leading role in the Desmond Rebellion of 1579, The Baltinglass estate including Mary’s share of Rathmore, were confiscated by the crown. Mary managed to have her share of the estate returned to her in her husband’s lifetime.

Her sister Catherine married John Cheevers of Macetown, Co. Meath. Catherine’s share of the Rathmore Estate included Tulfarris and was inherited by Catherine’s son Henry. Henry in turn married Catherine Fitzwilliam and their son Walter inherited the title to Tulfarris. Inquisitions dated 24th September 1640, detail the size of the estate at the time of Henry Cheever’s death. According to this document, Tulfarris contained one ruined Castle, 20 messuages, 70 acres of land and a manor.

Tulfarris’ turbulent history continued and in a list of outlaws intended for the House of Lords and dated 1641-1647, five entries for Tulfarris were found. During that time, the crown again confiscated Tulfarris.

Tulfarris and other properties were granted to Colonel Randall Clayton on 15th October 1667, in trust for the officers of the Cromwellian soldiers of 1649. Tulfarris was subsequently granted to Captain John Hunt of the Cromwellian soldiers of 1649. His son, Vere Hunt, later sold the land to John Borrowes of Ardenode, Co. Kildare. In 1713, Robert Graydon of Russellstown held Tulfarris. The means of transfer of ownership between Borrowes and Graydon is uncertain, however, Borrowe’ss niece and granddaughter both married Graydons.

Much of the house’s more recent history is associated with the Hornridge family who held the land from the early eighteenth century until the 1950’s. James Hornridge came to Ireland from Gloucester with Cromwell’s parliamentary Army in 1659 and settled in Colemanna in Co. Carlow.

The Historical information regarding how the Hornridge’s came to own Tulfarris is unclear. His son Richard Hornridge married Hester Hogshaw of Burgage, Blessington Co. Wicklow in 1699. It is most likely that Tulfarris came into the Hornridge’s possession through this marriage.”

13. Wicklow Head Lighthouse, Dunbur Head, County Wicklow € for 4

https://www.irishlandmark.com/property/wicklow-head-lighthouse/

14. Gate Lodge, Woodenbridge, Avoca, County Wicklow €€

Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/32381149?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-07-10&check_out=2022-07-15&federated_search_id=c0dd098c-52b4-4f57-8873-90347b40e6c0&source_impression_id=p3_1652453929_%2FOAm61MZ%2FV9wewli

Beautifully restored small Castle situated in the Vale of Avoca, within walking distance of the Golf Club. Only 4km from Arklow Town and only 3km from the stunning Avoca Village. The Castle is ideal for those who are looking for a relaxing break to take in the beautiful scenery, walk ways, fishing and golfing.

The space
If you choose to book the Gatelodge, you and your guests will have full use of the Small Castle.

[1] 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.

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

[3] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16401304/druids-glen-golf-club-woodstock-demesne-co-wicklow

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

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

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.

Laois:

1. Emo Court, County Laois – house closed at present

2. Heywood Gardens, County Laois

Longford:

3. Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, County Longford

Louth:

4. Carlingford Castle, County Louth

5. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – closed at present

Meath:

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

Offaly:

11. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly

Westmeath:

12. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath

Wexford:

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

Wicklow:

17. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow – closed at present

18. Glendalough, County Wicklow

19. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow

Laois:

1. Emo Court, County Laois:

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

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

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/emo-court/:

Emo Court is a quintessential neo-classical mansion, set in the midst of the ancient Slieve Bloom Mountains. The famous architect James Gandon, fresh from his work on the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, set to work on Emo Court in 1790. However, the building that stands now was not completed until some 70 years later [with work by Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and Arthur & John Williamson, from Dublin, and later, William Caldbeck].

The estate was home to the earls of Portarlington until the War of Independence forced them to abandon Ireland for good. The Jesuits moved in some years later [1920] and, as the Novitiate of the Irish Province, the mansion played host to some 500 of the order’s trainees.

Major Cholmeley-Harrison took over Emo Court in the 1960s and fully restored it [to designs by Sir Albert Richardson]. He opened the beautiful gardens and parkland to the public before finally presenting the entire estate to the people of Ireland in 1994.

You can now enjoy a tour of the house before relaxing in its charming tearoom. The gardens are a model of neo-classical landscape design, with formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks just waiting to be explored.” [2]

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

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the 1st Earl of Portarlington was interested in architecture and was instrumental in bringing James Gandon to Ireland, in order to build the new Custom House. The name Emo is an Italianised version of the original Irish name of the estate, Imoe. [3]

The Emo Court website tells us of the history:

John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington [1744-1798] commissioned the building of Emo Court in 1790 although the house was not finally completed until 1870, eighty years later. Emo Court is one of only a few private country houses designed by the architect James Gandon. Others were Abbeyville, north Co. Dublin for Sir James Beresford [or is it John Beresford (1738-1805)? later famous for being the home of politician Charles Haughey] and Sandymount Park, Dublin for William Ashford. In addition, Gandon built himself a house at Canonbrook, Lucan, Co. Dublin.” [4]

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

James Gandon was born in London of Huguenot descent. He studied classics, mathematics and drawing, attending evening classes at Shipley’s Academy in London. At the age of fifteen, James was apprenticed to the architect Sir William Chambers and about eight years later, set up in business on his own. His first connection with Ireland was in 1769 when he won the second prize of £60 in a competition to design the Royal Exchange in Dublin, now the City Hall. He was invited to build in St Petersburg, Russia, by Princess Dashkov, and offered an official post with military rank. However, he chose instead to accept an offer from Sir John Beresford and John Dawson, Lord Carlow, later 1st Earl of Portarlington, to come to Dublin to build a new Custom House. This was begun in 1781. The following year, Gandon was commissioned to make extensions to the Parliament House, originally designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. Here he added a Corinthian portico as entrance to the Lords’ Chamber. After the Act of Union in 1801, the building became the Bank of Ireland. In 1785, Gandon was commissioned to design the new Four Courts. The third of his great Dublin buildings was the King’s Inns, begun in 1795. His few private houses were designed for patrons and friends.” [see 4]

The website continues: “In the early 18th century, Ephraim Dawson [1683-1746], a wealth banker, after whom Dawson Street in Dublin is named, purchased the land of the Emo Estate and other estates in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois). He married Anne Preston, heiress to the Emo Park Estate and fixed his residence in a house known as Dawson Court, which was in close proximity to the present Emo Court. His grandson, John Dawson, was created 1st Earl of Portarlington in 1785. Three years later, he married Lady Caroline Stuart, daughter of the [3rd] Earl of Bute, who was later Prime Minister of England. John Dawson commissioned Gandon to design Emo Court in 1790.

After Gandon died in 1823, to be buried in Drumcondra churchyard, the 2nd Earl of Portarlington, also John Dawson, engaged Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and A. & J. Williamson, Dublin architects, to finish the house. In the period, 1824-36, the dining room and garden front portico with giant Ionic columns were built, but on the death of the 2nd Earl in 1845, the house still remained unfinished. It was not until 1860 that the 3rd Earl, Henry Ruben John Dawson [or Dawson-Damer, the son of the 2nd Earl’s brother Henry Dawson-Damer, who had the name Damer added to his name after the family of his grandmother, Mary Damer, who married William Henry Dawson, 1st Viscount Carlow] commissioned William Caldbeck, a Dublin architect, and Thomas Connolly, his contractor, to finish the double height rotunda, drawing room and library.” [see 4] Caldbeck also added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.

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

Although it was not built during Gandon’s time, most of the house is as it was designed by Gandon, wiht some additions or changes. Mark Bence-Jones describes the house:

Of two storeys over a basement, the sides of the house being surmounted by attics so as to form end towers or pavilions on each of the two principal fronts. The entrance front has seven bay centre with a giant pedimented Ionic portico; the end pavilions being of a single storey, with a pedimented window in an arched recess, behind a blind attic with a panel containing a Coade stone relief of putti; on one side representing the Arts, on the other, a pastoral scene. The roof parapet in the centre, on either side of the portico, is balustraded. The side elevation, which is of three storeys including the attic, is of one bay on either side of a curved central bow.” [see 3]

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

Bence-Jones continues: “The house was not completed when the 1st Earl died on campaign during 1798 rebellion; 2nd Earl, who was very short of money, did not do any more to it until 1834-36, when he employed the fashionable English architect, Lewis Vulliamy; who completed the garden front, giving it its portico of four giant Ionic columns with a straight balustraded entablature, and also worked on the interior, being assisted by Dublin architects named Williamson. It was not until ca 1860, in the time of 3rd Earl – after the house had come near to being sold up by the Encumbered Estates Court – that the great rotunda, its copper dome rising from behind the garden front portico and also prominent on the entrance front, was completed; the architect this time being William Caldbeck, of Dublin, who completed the other unfinished parts of the house and added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.” [see 3]

Photograph from the National Library of Ireland, around 1900-1920, showing the garden front of the house. The 2nd Earl of Portarlington engaged Lewis Vulliamy (who designed the portico) and A. & J. Williamson, Dublin architects (who did the interior), to finish the house. In the period 1824-36 the dining room and garden front portico with giant Ionic columns were built, but on the death of the 2nd Earl in 1845, the house still remained unfinished. The rotunda was only finished in 1860.
The garden front of Emo with its pillared portico by Lewis Vulliamy.
Pillared portico by Lewis Vulliamy.
The garden front portico, probably part of the 1850s work by William Caldbeck, has portico and entablature of grey limestone and doorcase and window surrounds of yellow sandstone. This is set against a cement render. [see 1]
Under the portico in the garden facing facade is a Coade stone frieze of a Dionysian procession. [see 1]

The website continues: “Emo court remained the seat of the Earls of Portarlington until 1920, when the house and its vast demesne of over 4500 ha, (11,150 acres), was sold to the Irish Land Commission. After the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Emo Court was the largest enclosed estate in Ireland. The house remained empty until 1930 when 150 ha., including the garden, pleasure grounds, woodland and lake were sold to the Society of Jesus for a novitiate. The Jesuits made several structural changes to the building to suit their purposes, including the conversion of the rotunda and library as a chapel. The distinguished Jesuit photographer, Fr Frank Browne lived at Emo Court from 1930-57. [7] A notable novitiate was the Irish author, Benedict Kiely.

The Jesuits remained at Emo until 1969 and the property was eventually sold to Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison. He embarked upon a long and enlightened restoration, commissioning the London architectural firm of Sir Albert Richardson & Partners to effect the restoration.

In 1994, President Mary Robinson officially received Emo Court & Parklands from Major Cholmeley-Harrison on behalf of the Nation.” [see 4]

Unfortunately Emo Park house has been closed to the public for renovation for several years, and was closed on the day we visited in July 2021. I am looking forward to seeing the interior, which from photographs and descriptions I have seen, look spectacular. From the outside we gain little appreciation of the splendid copper dome.

In the meantime, you can read more about Emo and see photographs of its interiors on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne. [8]

There are beautiful grounds to explore, however, on a day out at Emo, including picturesquely placed sculptures, an arboretum, lake, and walled garden. Here is a link to a beautiful short film by poet Pat Boran, about the statues at Emo Park, County Laois. https://bit.ly/35uXPO1

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

2. Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, County Laois:

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

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

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/heywood-gardens/:

The entrancing eighteenth-century landscape at Heywood Gardens, near Ballinakill, County Laois, consists of gardens, lakes, woodland and some exciting architectural features. The park is set into a sweeping hillside. The vista to the south-east takes in seven counties.

The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the formal gardens [around 1906], which are the centrepiece of the property. It is likely that renowned designer Gertrude Jekyll landscaped them.

The gardens are composed of elements linked by a terrace that originally ran along the front of the house. (Sadly, the house is no more.) One of the site’s most unusual features is a sunken garden containing an elongated pool, at whose centre stands a grand fountain.

The Heywood experience starts beside the Gate Lodge. Information panels and signage will guide you around the magical Lutyens gardens and the surrounding romantic landscape.

The gardens at Heywood were created by Michael Frederick Trench (1746-1836), at his home, Heywood House, a house which was unfortunately burnt down in 1950 (my father as a young boy was at a musical concert nearby and saw the house burning!). Heywood House was built around 1789, and was captured before it burned down in photographs in Country Life, volume XLV in 1919. The article tells us that after Michael Frederick Trench built the house in the 1770s, he landscaped the area between his house and the village of Ballinakill, moving hills, digging lakes (he made three artificial lakes), planting trees and placing follies. The house was named after his mother-in-law, Mary Heywood (daughter of a Drogheda merchant). He was an amateur architect, and designed the parish church of Swords, as well as an addition to the Rotunda in Dublin. [9] The garden, set within a 250 acre demesne, is, Andrew Tierney claims, the best of its kind in Ireland: a blend of the Arcadian and the Picturesque, above which Edwin Lutyens later erected his walled terraces and enclosures. [10] One of the follies is a window from nearby Aghaboe Abbey (my grandfather had owned this property until the land was bought by compulsory purchase by the Land Commission in 1977).

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

Heywood House was inherited by the Domvile family in the mid 19th century (Michael Frederick’s daughter Helena married Comptom Pocklington Domvile, 1st Baronet Domvile, of Templeogue and Santry, Dublin), and later enlarged by Lt-Col William Hutchison-Poë, 1st Baronet Hutchison-Poë, in 1875, who had married Helena’s granddaughter Mary Adelaide Domvile. It was then bought by the Salesian Fathers in 1923. It was transferred to State ownership in November 1993 from the Salesian Fathers.

It was only in around 1906 that Lutyens added to the gardens. Sean O’Reilly describes his addition:

Lutyens worked on the gardens from about 1906. He complemented the strong architectural framework with an informal planting style, following the same combination of structure and nature developed at Lambay and made popular with his associate – and Country Life author – Gertrude Jekyll. Laying out the garden in a series of terraces and stepped passageways exploding east and west from the falling southern terraces of the house itself, the architect shaped these spaces with a bewildering variety of retaining walls – vertical and battered, stepped and sheer – screen walls – straight and curved, large and dwarf – columns, steps and architectural artifacts.” [11]

Tierney describes the garden: The gardens stretch from the principal gates for almost a kilometer and a half, incorporating a sequence of three adjoining lakes and a fourth, further east, and areas of rolling parkland skirted by woodlands. Trench named each part of his garden after Alpine scenery. Trench’s Gothic follies include the Abbeyleix gate, an arrangement of octagonal towers joined by a Tudor-arched gateway. The Trench coat of arms is visible to the right of the gateway arch. From this gate the winding drive opens to Trench’s valley. Nearby, marking a split in the road, is the Spire, a shaft raised in memory of Trench’s friend Andrew Caldwell. Further along is a sham castle. High up behind that isa bridge, and a ruin, on the other side, with the Aghaboe windows. Up the pathway is the Gothic Greenhouse, a brick construction with five lancets with hood mouldings. On the east side of the lake is a grotto or bath house. On the east side of the demesne is the Trench mausoleum. [see 10]

The Lutyens garden descends to a sunken garden, with terraced borders leading down to a pool surrounded by bronze tortoises perched on stone balls. On the east side of the pond Luytens created a Pavilion with Portland stone dressings, terracotta tiled roof and saucer-domed interior, containing two Corinthian capitals rescued by Trench from the Parliament House in Dublin, which he was involved in remodelling. The north wall had busts of philosphers in oval niches, now replaced by urns.

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

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

Longford:

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

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

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

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/corlea-trackway-visitor-centre/:

Hidden away in the boglands of Longford, not far from Kenagh village, is an inspiring relic of prehistory: a togher – an Iron Age road – built in 148 BC. Known locally as the Danes’ Road, it is the largest of its kind to have been uncovered in Europe. 

Historians agree that it was part of a routeway of great importance. It may have been a section of a ceremonial highway connecting the Hill of Uisneach, the ritual centre of Ireland, and the royal site of Rathcroghan.

The trackway was built from heavy planks of oak, which sank into the peat after a short time. This made it unusable, of course, but also ensured it remained perfectly preserved in the bog for the next two millennia.

Inside the interpretive centre, an 18-metre stretch of the ancient wooden structure is on permanent display in a hall specially designed to preserve it. Don’t miss this amazing remnant of our ancient past.

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

Louth:

4. Carlingford Castle, County Louth:

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

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/carlingford-castle/:

Carlingford lies in the shade of Slieve Foye, a mountain that in legend takes its form from the body of the sleeping giant Finn MacCumhaill. The castle dominates the town and overlooks the lough harbour. It was a vital point of defence for the area for centuries.

Carlingford Castle was built around 1190, most likely by the Norman baron Hugh de Lacy. By this time Hugh’s family had grown powerful enough to make King John of England uneasy. John forced them into rebellion and seized their property in 1210. He reputedly stayed in his new castle himself. It is still known as King John’s Castle.

The Jacobites fired on the castle in 1689; William of Orange is said to have accommodated his wounded soldiers there following the Battle of the Boyne.

Carlingford Lough Heritage Trust provides excellent guided tours of this historic Castle from March to October.

By 1778 the building was ruinous. The task of repair and preservation was begun by the Henry Paget the 1st Marquess of Anglesey in the later nineteenth century (he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1848, and as Master General of the Ordinance), and has been continued by the OPW. [13]

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

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

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

General enquiries: 041 982 6459, mellifontabbey@opw.ie. Mellifont means “fountain of honey.”

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/old-mellifont-abbey/:

Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. St Malachy of Armagh created it in 1142 with the help of a small number of monks sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux [and with the aid of Donough O’Carroll, King of Oriel – see 14]. The monks did not take well to Ireland and soon returned to France, but the abbey was completed anyway and duly consecrated with great pomp.

It has several extraordinary architectural features, the foremost of which is the two-storey octagonal lavabo [the monk’s washroom]

The monks at Mellifont hosted a critical synod in 1152. The abbey was central to the history of later centuries, too, even though it was in private hands by then. The Treaty of Mellifont, which ended the Nine Years War, was signed here in 1603, and William of Orange used the abbey as his headquarters during the momentous Battle of the Boyne.

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

The ruins contain the medieval gatehouse, parish church, chapter house and lavabo. The octagonal lavabo was designed as a freestanding structure of two storeys, with an octagonal cistern to supply the water located at the upper level over the wash room. Wash basins were arranged around a central pier, now gone, which supported the weight of the water above. [14] The entire monastery was surrounded by a defensive wall. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Mellifont was acquired in 1540 by William Brabazon (died 1552), Vice Treasurer of Ireland, and passed later to Edward Moore (Brabazon’s wife Elizabeth Clifford remarried three times after Brabazon’s death, and one of her husbands was Edward Moore), who established a fortified house within the ruins around 1560. His descendents (Viscounts of Drogheda) lived there until 1727 (until the time of Edward Moore, 5th Earl of Drogheda), after which the house, like the abbey, fell into disrepair.

Garret Moore, 1st Viscount of Drogheda, hosted the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603.

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

Meath:

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

Oldbridge House, County Meath, October 2019.

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

The Battle of the Boyne museum is housed in Oldbridge Hall, which is built on the site where the Battle of the Boyne took place.

From the website:

Oldbridge House was built in the 1740’s by either John Coddington or his nephew Dixie Coddington. [John Coddington purchased the land in 1724 from Henry Moore the 4th Earl of Drogheda.]

It is believed to have been designed by George Darley, a local mason architect who also designed the renovated Dunboyne Castle, Dowth House and The Tholsel in Drogheda, Co. Louth.

To the left of the house there is a cobble stone stable yard with fine cut stable block. This originally contained coach houses, stables, tack and feed rooms.

To the right of the house is a small enclosed courtyard which contains the former butler’s house which is not open to the public.” [15]

Oldbridge House was purchased by the state in 2000, and renovation began.

Oldbridge House is a three storey house with a plain ashlar frontage of seven bays, with the centre three widely spaced and set somewhat advanced from the rest of the facade. Quadrant walls link the house to its park, with rusticated doors. The house is of two dates. Originally, in around 1750 it was a three bay, three storey block with low single-storey wings, and in around 1832, two floors were added to each wing, said to be by Frederick Darley. Similarity to nearby Dowth Hall suggests the involvement of the earlier and related George Darley in the original design. [16] It has a centrally located tripartite doorcase with pilasters surmounted by a closed pediment, which holds a canonball from the fields of the Battle of the Boyne. It has a string course between ground and first floors and sill course to first floor, and three central windows on first floor with stone architraves. [17]

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

An ancestor of Stephen’s, Elizabeth Coddington (1774-1857), grew up in Oldbridge House! She married Edward Winder (1775-1829). The son of John Coddington who purchased the land predeceased his father so John’s nephew, Dixie (1725-1794), son of his brother Nicholas, inherited. Dixie in turn had no sons, so the estate passed to his brother Henry. Dixie is also associated with Tankardstown House, a section 482 property. Henry Coddington (1734-1816) was father to Stephen’s ancestor Elizabeth. Henry was a barrister, and served as MP for Dunleer, County Louth, and he married Elizabeth Blacker from Ratheskar, County Louth.

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

The Battle of the Boyne was just one of several battles that took place in Ireland when the rule of King James II was challenged by his son-in-law, a Dutch Protestant Prince, William of Orange. James II was Catholic, and he attempted to introduce freedom of religion, but this threatened families who had made gains under the reformed Protestant church. When James’s wife gave birth to a male heir in 1688, many feared a permanent return to Catholic monarchy and government. In November 1688, seven English lords invited William of Orange to challenge the monarchy of James II. William landed in England at the head of an army and King James feld to France and then to Ireland. William followed him over to Ireland in June 1690.

On 1 July 1690 (Old Style), King William III clashed with his father-in-law, King James II, on the River Boyne at Oldbridge, County Meath. 

Both kings commanded their armies in person. There were 36,000 men on the Williamite side and 25,000 on the Jacobite side. It was the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield. English, Scottish, Dutch, Danes and Huguenots (French Protestants) made up William’s army (Williamites), while James’ men (Jacobites) were mainly Irish Catholics, reinforced by 6,500 French troops sent by King Louis XIV. At stake were the British throne, French Dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland.

William’s camp was on the north side of the river. James’s was on the south side with the two armies facing each other. William’s battle plan was to trap the Jacobite army in a pincer movement. He sent 10,000 men towards Slane which drew the bulk of the Jacobities upstream in response. With 1,300 Jacobites posted in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. All the fighting took place on the south side of the river, as the vastly outnumbered Jacobites defended their position against the advancing Williamites. William himself crossed at Drybridge with 3,500 mounted troops.

The pincer movement failed. King James’s army retreated across the River Nanny at Duleek and regrouped west of the Shannon to carry on the war.

Approximately 1,500 soldiers were killed at the Boyne.” [15]

After winning the battle, William gained control of Dublin and the east of Ireland. However, the war continued until the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691, which led to the surrender at Limerick the following autumn. The surrender terms promised limited guarantees to Irish Catholics and allowed the soldiers to return home or to go to France. The Irish Parliament however then enacted the Penal Laws, which ran contrary to the treaty of Limerick and which William first resisted, as he had no wish to offend his European Catholic allies.

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

The gardens of Oldbridge House have been resotred, with an unusual sunken octagonal garden, peach house, orchard and herbaceous borders, with a tearoom in the old stable block. Throughout the year outdoor theatre, workshops and events such a cavalry displays and musket demonstrations help to recreate a sense of what it might have been like on that day in July 1690.

Oldbridge, County Meath, October 2019.

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

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

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

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/loughcrew-cairns/:

The Loughcrew cairns, also known as the Hills of the Witch, are a group of Neolithic passage tombs near Oldcastle in County Meath. Spread over four undulating peaks, the tombs are of great antiquity, dating to 3000 BC. 

Cairn T is one of the largest tombs in the complex. Inside it lies a cruciform chamber, a corbelled roof and some of the most beautiful examples of Neolithic art in Ireland. The cairn is aligned to sunrise at the spring and autumn equinoxes and at these times people gather there to greet the first rays of the sun.

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

8. Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Newgrange and Knowth, County Meath.

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

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

From the website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/bru-na-boinne-visitor-centre-newgrange-and-knowth/:

The World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne is Ireland’s richest archaeological landscape and is situated within a bend in the River Boyne. Brú na Bóinne is famous for the spectacular prehistoric passage tombs of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth which were built circa 3200BC. These ceremonial structures are among the most important Neolithic sites in the world and contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe.

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

37. Hill of Tara, Navan, County Meath:

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

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

From the OPW website:

The Hill of Tara has been important since the late Stone Age, when a passage tomb was built there. However, the site became truly significant in the Iron Age (600 BC to 400 AD) and into the Early Christian Period when it rose to supreme prominence – as the seat of the high kings of Ireland. All old Irish roads lead to this critical site.

St Patrick himself went there in the fifth century. As Christianity achieved dominance over the following centuries, Tara’s importance became symbolic. Its halls and palaces have now disappeared and only earthworks remain. 

There are still remarkable sights to be seen, however. Just one example is the Lia Fáil – the great coronation stone and one of the four legendary treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann – which stands proudly on the monument known as An Forradh.

Guided tours of the site will help you understand the regal history of this exceptional place and imagine its former splendour.

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

9. Trim Castle, County Meath:

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

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

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/trim-castle/:

Few places in Ireland contain more medieval buildings than the heritage town of Trim. Trim Castle is foremost among those buildings.

In fact, the castle is the largest Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland. Hugh de Lacy and his successors took 30 years to build it.

The central fortification is a monumental three-storey keep. This massive 20-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was all but impregnable in its day. It was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and water-filled moat.

Modern walkways now allow you to look down over the interior of the keep – a chance to appreciate the sheer size and thickness of the mighty castle walls.

The castle is often called King John’s Castle although when he visited the town he preferred to stay in his tent on the other side of the river. Richard II visited Trim in 1399 and left Prince Hal later Henry V as a prisoner in the castle.” I never knew we had such a link to King Henry V and Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV!

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

Patrick Comerford gives an excellent history of Trim Castle in his blog. [18] The castle stands within a three acre bailey, surrounded by a defensive perimeter wall. The curtain wall of the castle is fortified by a series of semicircular open-back towers. There were two entrances to Trim Castle, one, beside the car park, is flanked by a gatehouse, and the second is a barbican gate and tower. [19]

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!

Trim Castle, May 2022.
The view of Trim Castle from St. Mary’s Abbey, over the Boyne River, May 2022.
Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Trim Castle, Co. Meath, 1938, photograph from National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.
The entrance to Trim Castle, May 2022.
The information board tells us that the Trim Gate was built around 1180, on the site of an earlier timber gatehouse. A forward tower or pier would have received a bridge over the moat. The gatehouse was rebuilt early in the 13th century when the passageway was vaulted. The vaulted floor housed the lifting mechanism for the portcullis and above this were the porters’ lodgings. The chambers to the north side of the passage were added to provide guard accommodation with a prison below.
The other side of the gate through which we entered.
The Keep, Trim Castle, May 2022.
Inside the walls of Trim Castle, with a view of St. Mary’s Abbey house and the remaining tower of St. Mary’s Abbey.

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 Keep, Trim Castle, May 2022.
The area that was the Great Hall, Trim Castle, May 2022.

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.

I’m not sure what this is, at Trim Castle.
See the “scratches” or marks on the ceiling of this vaulted space – we see similar marks in the basement of St. Mary’s Abbey house.
I think this is the River Gate, at Trim Castle.
The information board tells us that the River Gate allowed for the delivery os stores from boats on the river. The gate was made in the curtain wall to the east of the Great Hall. Short stretches of canal allowed boats to bring supplies to teh castle to avoid the many weirs and protruding rocks on the river. A section of the canal was cut below the riverside curtain wall. Inside the River Gate, a passage was cut through the bedrock to the door of the cellar of the Great Hall. Boats could be moored in the wide harbour with its pier and stairway to the apartments in the Solar.
The Barbican Gate, Trim Castle.
Inside the Barbican Gate, Trim Castle.

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.

Offaly:

10. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly:

Clonmacnoise, May 2018.

General information: 090 9674195, clonmacnoise@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/clonmacnoise/:

St Ciarán founded his monastery on the banks of the River Shannon in the 6th Century. The monastery flourished and became a great seat of learning, a University of its time with students from all over Europe.

The ruins include a Cathedral, two round Towers, three high crosses, nine Churches and over 700 Early Christian graveslabs.

The original high crosses, including the magnificent 10th century Cross of the Scriptures area on display in a purpose built visitor centre adjacent the monastic enclosure.

An audiovisual presentation will give you an insight into the history of this hallowed space.

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

Westmeath:

11. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath:

Fore Abbey, County Westmeath, August 2021.

“Fore” comes from the Irish “fobhar” meaning well or spring.

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/fore-abbey/:

In a tranquil valley in the village of Fore, about a 30-minute drive from Mullingar in County Westmeath, you can visit the spot where St Feichin founded a Christian monastery in the seventh century AD.

It is believed that, before Feichin’s death, 300 monks lived in the community. Among the remains on the site is a church built around AD 900. There are also the 18 Fore crosses, which are spread out over 10 kilometres on roadways and in fields.

Seven particular features of the site – the so-called ‘Seven Wonders of Fore’ – have acquired legendary status. They include: the monastery built on a bog; the mill without a race (the saint is said to have thrust his crozier into the ground and caused water to flow); and the lintel stone raised by St Feichin’s prayers.

St Feichin’s Way, a looped walk around the site, provides an excellent base from which to explore these fabled places.

The Benedictine Priory was founded around 1180 by Hugh de Lacy, the first Viceroy of Ireland. Before this there was a monastery in Fore, founded by Feichin in the seventh century. The Benedictines had a link with France and its first monks came from France. The Priory sufffered plundering attacks so needed defensive towers and fortification. It was built around a Cloister or courtyard.

The cloister is remarkably well-preserved.

The “columbarium” mentioned in the diagram is a house for keeping pigeons – we saw one previously at Moone Abbey tower, and there is one at Fore.

The Columbarium or Pigeon house at Fore.

The monastery founded at Fore in the seventh century by St Feichin, a Sligo-born holy man who travelled widely in Ireland, was large and prosperous but was superceded by Fore Abbey, the nearby Benedictive abbey founded by the Norman deLacys. The remaining building of St Feichins is the church, which was built in the tenth century. A new chancel was added around 1200, and the arch leading to this was re-erected in 1934. The east window was inserted in the 15th century.

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

The Anchorite’s Cell is a small tower with attached chapel. The tower had two storeys and on the top floor lived a number of Anchorites, or hermits. The chapel has a vault below, the crypt of the Nugent family of nearby Castle Delvin and Clonyn Castle, Earls of Westmeath. Delvin, or Castletown-Delvin, was granted by Hugh de Lacy to his son-in-law Gilbert de Nugent. The 1st Earl of Westmeath was Richard Nugent (1583-1642). His father was Christopher Nugent, 5th Baron Delvin.

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

County Wexford:

12. Ballyhack Castle, Arthurstown, County Wexford

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

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

from the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/ballyhack-castle/:

Ballyhack Castle commands an imperious position on a steep-sided valley overlooking Waterford Estuary. It is thought that the Knights Hospitallers of St John, one of the two mighty military orders founded at the time of the Crusades, built this sturdy tower house around 1450.

The tower is five stories tall and the walls survive complete to the wall walk. Built into the north-east wall of the second floor is a small chapel complete with a piscina, aumbry and altar. The entrance to the castle is protected externally by a machicolation and internally by a murder hole – that is, an opening through which defenders could throw rocks or pour boiling water, hot sand or boiling oil, on anyone foolish enough to attack.

Currently on display at Ballyhack Castle are assorted items of replica armour relating to the Crusades and the Normans –  guaranteed to ignite the imagination!

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

13. Ferns Castle, County Wexford:

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

General information: 053 9366411, fernscastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/ferns-castle/:

Before the coming of the Normans, Ferns was the political base of Diarmait Mac Murchada, king of Leinster. William, Earl Marshall built the castle around 1200. Since then it has had many owners, of diverse political and military colours.

Originally, the castle formed a square, with large corner towers. Only half of the castle now stands, although what remains is most impressive. The most complete tower contains a beautiful circular chapel, several original fireplaces and a vaulted basement. There is a magnificent view from the top.

There is an extraordinary artefact to be seen in the visitor centre. The Ferns Tapestry showcases the pre-Norman history of the town via the thousand-year-old art of crewel wool embroidery. Stitched by members of the local community, the 15-metre-long tapestry comprises 25 panels of remarkable accomplishment and beauty.

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

14. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford:

General Information: 046 9423490, jfkarboretum@opw.ie

When John F. Kennedy died, a number of Irish-American societies expressed the wish to establish a tribute to him in Ireland. The Irish government suggested a national arboretum, and secured 192 acres surrounding Ballysop House, just six kilometres from the Kennedy ancestral home at Dunganstown, County Wexford. The arborterum is planted in two interwoven botanical circuits: one of broadleaves and the other of conifers. The Arboretum was formally opened on 29th May 1968.

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/the-john-f-kennedy-arboretum/:

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:

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

General information: 051 562650, tinternabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/tintern-abbey/:

This Cistercian monastery was founded c. 1200 by William, Earl Marshal on lands held through his marriage to the Irish heiress, Isabella de Clare [daughter of Strongbow]. This abbey, founded as a daughter-house of Tintern Major in Wales is often referred to as Tintern de Voto.

The nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister still stand. In the 16th century the old abbey was granted to the Colclough family [Anthony Colclough (d. 1584) was a soldier and the land was granted to him after the dissolution of the monasteries] and soon after the church was partly converted into living quarters and further adapted over the centuries. The Colcloughs occupied the abbey from the sixteenth century until the mid-twentieth.”

The Colclough (pronounced Coakley) family lived there until 1958, when it was presented to the state by Lucy Biddulph-Colclough. Anthony’s son Thomas married Martha Loftus, daughter of Adam Loftus, Lord Archbishop of Dublin, who built Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin. Their son Adam Colclough became 1st Baronet of Tintern Abbey, County Wexford. The 3rd Baronet had no heir so the title expired and the lands passed to his sister Margaret. She married firstly, in 1673, Robert Leigh, of Rosegarland, who thereupon assumed the surname of Colclough; and secondly, in 1696, John Pigott, of Kilfinney, County Limerick, who also assumed the surname of Colclough. She was succeeded by a relative, Caesar Colclough (1696-1766), eldest son of Dudley Colclough, of Duffrey Hall. The property passed through generations until it was donated to the state.

The website continues: “Conservation works have included special measures to protect the local bat colonies. The abbey is set in a special area of conservation and is surrounded by woodland within which are walking trails. Not to be missed is the restored Colclough Walled Garden situated within the old estate.

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

Following the donation of Tintern Abbey to the Irish State in 1959 the walled garden was abandoned to nature and became overgrown.  The gradual restoration of the walled garden by a team of volunteers began in 2010 and the 1830s layout shown on the Ordnance Survey was reinstated. The restored garden, which opened to the public in 2012, is divided into two sections: the Ornamental Garden and the Kitchen Garden. 

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

Wicklow:

16. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow:

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/dwyer-mcallister-cottage/:

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:

Glendalough, County Wicklow, July 2017.

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

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/glendalough-visitor-centre/:

In a stunning glaciated valley in County Wicklow, in the sixth century, one of Ireland’s most revered saints founded a monastery. The foundation of St Kevin at Glendalough became one of the most famous religious centres in Europe.

The remains of this ‘Monastic City’, which are dotted across the glen, include a superb round tower, numerous medieval stone churches and some decorated crosses. Of particular note is St Kevin’s Bed, a small man-made cave in the cliff face above the Upper Lake. It is said that St Kevin lived and prayed there, but it may actually be a prehistoric burial place that far predates him.

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

18. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow:

General Information: 0404 48844, botanicgardens@opw.ie

Kilmacurragh House was home to seven generations of the Acton family. It was built in 1697 by Thomas Acton, whose father came to Ireland as part of Oliver Cromwell’s army, for which he was granted the lands surrounding the ruined abbey of St. Mochorog. The five bay Queen Anne house is thought to be the work of Sir William Robinson, who is better known today for his work at Marsh’s Library in Dublin, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin Castle and Charles Fort, Kinsale, County Kerry. [20]

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

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/national-botanic-gardens-kilmacurragh/:

There was a monastery at Kilmacurragh, in this tranquil corner of County Wicklow, in the seventh century, and a religious foundation remained right up until the dissolution of the monasteries. After Cromwell invaded the land passed to the Acton family.

By the time the estate came to Thomas Acton in 1854, an unprecedented period of botanical and geographical exploration was afoot. In collaboration with the curators of the National Botanic Gardens, Acton built a new and pioneering garden.

In 1996, a 21-hectare portion of the old demesne officially became part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. The following ten years were spent giving the estate’s rare and beautiful plants a new lease of life.

Kilmacurragh is now part of the National Botanic Gardens, providing a complementary collection of plants to its parent garden at Glasnevin. Arrive in spring to witness the transformation of the walks, as fallen rhododendron blossoms form a stunning magenta carpet.

and

The Gardens lies within an estate developed extensively during the nineteeth century by Thomas Acton in conjunction with David Moore and his son Sir Frederick Moore, Curators of the National Botanic Gardens at that time. It was a period of great botanical and geographical explorations with numerous plant species from around the world being introduced to Ireland for the first time. The different soil and climatic conditions at Kilmacurragh resulted in many of these specimens succeeding there while struggling or failing at Glasnevin. Kilmacurragh is particularly famous for its conifer and rhododendron collections.” [21]

Thomas Acton’s son William married Jane Parsons of Birr Castle. Their son Thomas Acton inherited, then his son Lt Col William and then his son Thomas (1826-1908). Along with his sister Janet, he had a passion for collecting plants. They travelled to the Americas and Asia in search of plants, and established one of the finest arboreta in Ireland, and formed a friendship with David Moore, curator of the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Thomas died unmarried in 1908 and Kilmacurragh was inhierted by his nephew, Captain Charles Annesley Acton, who had been born in Peshawar. However, he was killed fighting in World War I as was his brother Reginald. Thus in eight years, three consecutive owners of Kilmacurragh had died, inflicting death duties amounting to 120% of the value of the property. The Actons were forced to sell the estate. The house fell into ruin and the arboretum became overgrown. The state acquired Kilmacurragh in 1996 and have restored the arboretum, making it part of the National Botanic Gardens.

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

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

[3] p. 119. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and see also my entry on Killineer, County Louth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

I love starting a new year. The new listing for Section 482 properties won’t be published until February or March, so at the moment we will have to rely on 2021 listings (January listings below).

I had an amazing 2021 and visited lots of properties! As well as those I’ve written about so far, I am hoping to hear back for approval for a few more write-ups. Last year Stephen and I visited thirteen section 482 properties, thirteen OPW properties, and some other properties maintained by various groups.

The Section 482 properties we visited were Mount Usher gardens and Killruddery in County Wicklow; Killineer House and gardens in County Louth; Salthill Gardens in County Donegal; Stradbally Hall in County Laois; Enniscoe in County Mayo; Tullynally in County Westmeath; Kilfane Glen and Waterfall in County Kilkenny; Killedmond Rectory in County Carlow; Coopershill, Newpark and Markree Castle in County Sligo and Wilton Castle in County Wexford.

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

The OPW properties we visited were Dublin Castle, the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, National Botanic Gardens, Rathfarnham Castle, St. Stephen’s Green, Iveagh Gardens, Phoenix Park and Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin; Emo Court, County Laois; Portumna Castle, County Galway; Fore Abbey in County Westmeath; Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim; and Ballymote Castle, County Sligo.

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

We also visited Duckett’s Grove, maintained by Carlow County Council; Woodstock Gardens and Arbortetum maintained by Kilkenny County Council; Johnstown Castle, County Wexford maintained by the Irish Heritage Trust (which also maintains Strokestown Park, which we have yet to visit – hopefully this year! it’s a Section 482 property – and Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens, which we visited in 2020); Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, which is maintained by Shannon Heritage, as well as Newbridge House, which we also visited in 2021. Shannon Heritage also maintains Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle and Cragganowen Castle in County Clare, King John’s Castle in Limerick, which we visited in 2019, Malahide Castle in Dublin which I visited in 2018, GPO museum, and the Casino model railway museum. We also visited Belvedere House, Gardens and Park – I’m not sure who maintains it (can’t see it on the website).

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the listings for January 2021:

Cavan

Cabra Castle (Hotel)

Kingscourt, Co. Cavan

Howard Corscadden.

Tel: 042-9667030

www.cabracastle.com

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

Fee: Free

Cabra Castle, County Cavan.

Corravahan House & Gardens

Corravahan, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan

Ian Elliott

Tel: 087-9772224

www.corravahan.com

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, Mar 1-2, 8-9, May 4- 5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31, June 1-4, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-2, 9am-1pm, Sundays 2pm- 6pm
Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €5 

Corravahan, County Cavan.

Clare

Newtown Castle

Newtown, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Mary Hawkes- Greene

Tel: 065-7077200

www.newtowncastle.com , www.burrencollege.ie

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

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

Cork

Blarney Castle & Rock Close

Blarney, Co. Cork

C. Colthurst

Tel: 021-4385252

www.blarneycastle.ie

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

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

Brideweir House

Conna, Co. Cork

Ronan Fox

Tel: 087-0523256

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

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

Woodford Bourne Warehouse

Sheares Street, Cork

Edward Nicholson

Tel: 021-4273000

www.woodfordbournewarehouse.com

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

Fee: Free

Donegal

Portnason House 

Portnason, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal
Madge Sharkey
Tel: 086-3846843
Open dates in 2021: Jan 18-22, 25-29, Feb 1-5, 8-12, Aug 14-30, Sept 1-17, 20-23, 27-28, Nov 15- 19, 22-26, Dec 1-3 6-10, 13-14, 9am-1pm 

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €5 

Dublin City

Bewley’s 

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

Peter O’ Callaghan

Tel 087-7179367

www.bewleys.com

Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Day, 

11am-7pm Fee: Free 

Hibernian/National Irish Bank

23-27 College Green, Dublin 2

Dan O’Sullivan 

Tel: 01-6755100

www.clarendonproperties.ie

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

Fee: Free 

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre

59 South William Street, Dublin 2

Mary Larkin

Tel: 01-6717000

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

Fee: Free

Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin City.

10 South Frederick Street

Dublin 2

Joe Hogan

Tel: 087-2430334

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

Fee: Free 

County Dublin 

“Geragh” 

Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin

Gráinne Casey

Tel: 01-2804884

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

Meander

Westminister Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18,

Ruth O’Herlihy, 

Tel: 087-2163623

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

Fee: adult €5, OAP/child/student €2 

Tibradden House

Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Selina Guinness

Tel: 01-4957483

www.selinaguinness.com

Open dates in 2021: Jan 14-17, 23-24, 28-29, Feb 4-7, 11-12, 19-21, 26-28, May 3-13,16, 18-20, 23-27, June 2-4, 8-10, 14-16, 19-20, Aug 14-22, weekdays 2.30pm-6.30pm, weekends 10.30am-2.30pm
Fee: adult/OAP €8 student €5, child free, Members of An Taisce the The Irish Georgian Society (with membership card) €5 

Galway 

Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden 

Craughwell, Co. Galway
Margarita and Michael Donoghue
Tel: 087-9069191
www.woodvillewalledgarden.com
Open dates in 2021: Jan 29-31, Feb 1-28, Apr 1-13, 11am- 4.30pm, June 1, 6-8, 13-15, 21-22, 27- 29, July 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 1-2, 6-8, 13-22, 27-29, Sept 4-5, 11am-5pm Fee: adult/OAP €6, child €3, student, €5, family €20, guided tours €10 

Kerry

Derreen Gardens

Lauragh, Tuosist, Kenmare, Co. Kerry

John Daly

Tel: 087-1325665

www.derreengarden.com 

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

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

Kildare

Farmersvale House

Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare

Patricia Orr

Tel: 086-2552661

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

Harristown House

Brannockstown, Co. Kildare

Hubert Beaumont
Tel: 087-2588775

www.harristownhouse.ie

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

Fee: adult/OAP/student €10, child €5 

Harristown House, County Kildare.

Kildrought House

Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare

June Stuart

Tel: 01-6271206, 087-6168651

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

Moyglare Glebe

Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

Joan Hayden

Tel: 01-8722238

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

Kilkenny

Kilkenny Design Centre

Castle Yard, Kilkenny

Joseph O’ Keeffe, Tel: 064-6623331

www.kilkennydesign.com

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

Fee: Free

Laois

Ballaghmore Castle

Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois

Grace Pym

Tel: 0505-21453

www.castleballaghmore.com

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

Leitrim

Manorhamilton Castle (Ruin)

Castle St, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim

Anthony Daly

Tel: 086-2502593

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

Limerick

Ash Hill 

Kilmallock, Co. Limerick

Simon and Nicole Johnson 

Tel: 063-98035

www.ashhill.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

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

Glebe House

Bruff, Co. Limerick

Colm McCarthy

Tel: 087-6487556

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

Fee: Free 

Mayo

Brookhill House

Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo

Patricia and John Noone

Tel: 094-9371348

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

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

Meath

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

Slane, Co. Meath

Alan Haugh

Tel: 041-9884444

www.boynehouseslane.ie

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

Dardistown Castle

Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath

Lizanne Allen

Tel: 086 -2774271

www.dardistowncastle.ie

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

Dardistown Castle, County Meath.

Gravelmount House 

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

Moyglare House

Moyglare, Co. Meath

Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare

Angela Alexander

Tel: 086-0537291

www.moyglarehouse.ie

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

St. Mary’s Abbey

High Street, Trim, Co. Meath

Peter Higgins 

Tel: 087-2057176

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

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child €2 

Tankardstown House 

Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath

Tadhg Carolan, Tel: 087-7512871

www.tankardstown.ie

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

Fee: Free

Tankardstown, County Meath.

Monaghan

Castle Leslie

Glaslough, Co. Monaghan

Samantha Leslie 

Tel: 047-88091

www.castleleslie.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

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

Castle Leslie, County Monaghan.

Offaly

Ballybrittan Castle

Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

Rosemarie

Tel: 087-2469802 

Open dates in 2021: Jan 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 23-24, 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, Mar 6-7,13- 14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, June 12-13,19-20, 26-27, July 3-4,10- 11,17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 14-22, Sept 4-14, 2pm-6pm. 

Fee: free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p. 

Corolanty House

Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly

Siobhan Webb

Tel: 086-1209984

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

Fee: Free

Crotty Church

Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Brendan Garry

Tel: 086-8236452

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

Fee: Free

High Street House

High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

George Ross

Tel: 086-3832992

www.no6highstreet.com

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

Springfield House 

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

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

Roscommon

Strokestown Park House

Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon

Ciarán

Tel: 01-8748030

www.strokestownpark.ie

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

Tipperary

Beechwood House

Ballbrunoge, Cullen, Co. Tipperary

Maura & Patrick McCormack

Tel: 083-1486736

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

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

Waterford 

The Presentation Convent 

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

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

Wexford

Clougheast Cottage

Carne, Co. Wexford

Jacinta Denieffe

Tel: 086-1234322

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

Wilton Castle

Bree, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

Sean Windsor

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Tel: 053-9247738 

www.wiltoncastleireland.com   

Open dates in 2021: all year

Wilton Castle, County Wexford.

Wicklow

Castle Howard

Avoca, Co. Wicklow

Mark Sinnott

Tel: 087-2987601

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

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

Castle Howard, County Wicklow.

Mount Usher Gardens

Ashford, Co. Wicklow

Caitriona Mc Weeney

Tel: 0404-49672

www.mountushergardens.ie

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

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

Powerscourt House & Gardens

Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Sarah Slazenger

Tel: 01-2046000

www.powerscourt.ie

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

Powerscourt, County Wicklow.

Mount Usher Gardens, Ashford, Co. Wicklow

contact: Caitriona Mc Weeney
Tel: 01-2746900
www.mountushergardens.ie

www.avoca.com/en
Open in 2022: all year, Jan-Mar, Nov-Dec, 10am-6pm, Apr-Oct, 10am-6pm Fee: adult €9, student/OAP €8, child €5, no charge for wheelchair users

From Website: Address: Ashford, Co. Wicklow, A67 VW22
Tel:
+353 (0)404 49672

E-mail: 
mountusher-gardens@avoca.com

Admission:
Adults €8, Senior Citizens €7, Students €7,
Children 4 – 16 €4, under 4yrs FREE.
Groups (15 or more): Adults €7, Senior Citizens €6, Mixed Group €6.50
Guided Tours: €60.00 (Advance booking required). A Guided Tour takes approximately 90 minutes.

Facilities:
Avoca Cafe, Food Hall, Shopping Courtyard, Toilets, Parking, Wheelchair access (limited). No dogs and no picnics.

Guided Tours:
€60.00 (Advance booking required).

Before we were allowed to visit Section 482 houses, due to Covid 19 restrictions, we were allowed to visit gardens. Accompanied by our friends Owenroe, Deirdre, Dario and Niamh, Stephen and I headed to Wicklow one sunny Sunday in May. We had wonderful weather for the day, as you can see from my photographs. Before entering the gardens, there are some shops and a cafe.

Mount Usher is open all year to visitors. There is a house, but that is not part of the Section 482 listing, unfortunately! It looks idyllic, set in its lush gardens. Mark Bence-Jones calls it a “simple double bow-fronted house,” [1] and the National Inventory tells us it was built in 1922, and that there is a long two-storey house built in the 1990s to the rear of the house. [2] The gardens cover 23 acres, along the Vartry River.

One enters through the gift shop, a branch of Avoca. Inside, there is a small museum which tells the story of the gardens and its creators. Everything looked so beautiful that we could not resist picking up a hand cream for Stephen’s mother.

The area was named after the Ussher family. John Ussher (1646-1745) is mentioned in The Peerage website as living in Mount Ussher, County Wicklow. His father William Ussher is listed as living in Portrane, Dublin and “Castle of Grange, County Wicklow.” John’s son Christopher, born around 1690, was Secretary of the Linen Board – the later occupants of Mount Ussher, or Mount Usher, as it is now spelled, the Walpoles, were also in the Linen trade. Christopher Ussher inherited land in Galway which he passed to his heirs, and in Ussher Memoirs, compiled by Reverend William Ball Wright in 1889, there is no further mention of Mount Ussher. [3]

The museum tells us that Edward Walpole (1798-1878), a successful Dublin businessman, enjoyed walking in Wicklow, and he stayed in a hotel on weekends to indulge his passion. The Walpole family was involved in linen manufacturing. Thomas Simmons started a linen business in Bride Street in Dublin in 1766, and through mergers and a marriage it grew into Walpole Brothers Limited by 1866. Coincidentally, in 1816 the business moved to Suffolk Street in Dublin and occupied what is now Avoca Shop and Cafe on that street.

Mount Usher had originally been a “tuck mill” where local people brought their home spun and woven cloth to be finished. This may be how Edward Walpole came across this location. He took over the lease of Mount Usher in 1868 and began to develop his garden, with the help of his sons. Seven years later, in 1875, he transferred the land to his sons: Thomas, George, William White and Edward. William White and George also continued in the Linen business, and developed their shop into a Gentlemen’s Outfitters. Their younger brother Edward joined the business and expanded to London.

The Walpoles were Quakers. They came originally from the settlement in Mountrath, County Laois – the National Library of Ireland contains documents relating to the Walpoles and their business [4]. The Quakers in Ireland website tells us why Quakers were successful in business:

Why were Friends successful in this way? Modern business has become so competitive, and the profit motive so pervasive, that it is hard to imagine the strong influence their religious convictions exerted on them. They simply believed it was right to offer a good product for a fixed, and reasonable, price. They believed in honesty and integrity in all their dealings. A simple life-style, and not over-extending themselves financially, allowed them to build up their resources. Strict rules governing business methods for members meant that they were increasingly trusted with money, and some became bankers. Various laws, including those related to swearing oaths, prevented Friends from attending university and joining the professions for a couple of centuries, so they put their energies into business instead. Friends were good employers, and this led to a loyal workforce.

Also, and importantly, the structure of The Society of Friends from its earliest days, with a system of representatives from Meetings regularly visiting other Meetings, often in other parts of the country, created a network of relationships between like minded individuals and families. It was natural, therefore, that they would hear about, support, participate in and emulate each other’s ventures. [5]

The brothers acquired more land to add to their garden, and Thomas, an engineer, added weirs and bridges. Edward and George were influenced by William Robinson, who has been called “the father of English gardening.”

From “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.

William Robinson (1838-1935) was born in Ireland. His first job was in Curraghmore, County Waterford. He progressed to become the foreman gardener in Ballykilcavan, County Laois, employed by Sir Hunt Johnson-Walsh. In 1862 Robinson found employment at the Royal Botanic Society’s garden at Regent’s Park in England. He resigned four years later in order to further his knowledge of gardening, and to write. He travelled in France and later more widely in Europe and the United States, and published books on horticulture. His most important work is The English Flower Garden (1883). [6] The Robinsonian style of gardening is to work with nature, as opposed to imposing order.

Information board from “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.
William Robinson, from “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.
From “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.
From “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.
From “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.

Walks and woods were added to the property as more land was acquired. The family also owned a house called Windsor Lodge in Monkstown in Dublin. Mount Usher passed to Edward Horace Walpole, the son of Edward Walpole (1837-1917) and Elizabeth Harvey Pim [perhaps his parents were fans of the writer, Horace, or Horatio, Walpole (1717-1797), who most famously wrote the Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto and who also embraced the Gothic style in his home, Strawberry Hill in southwest London – or perhaps they were related]. For over fifty years, Edward Horace enlarged and improved the garden, with the help of his head gardener, Charles Fox. Rare varieties of plants from China, Japan, the Himalayas, Chile, New Zealand and North America were added.

Edward Horace Walpole married Alice Dorothy Scanlan from Nottingham in 1912 in the Friends Meeting House (Quaker) in Nottingham. [7] His son Robert Basil Walpole sold Mount Usher.

In 1980 Madelaine Jay purchased the property, and she continued the garden following organic methods. The garden now covers twenty acres and has over 5000 plant species. It is now leased to Avoca.

Former gate lodge, now in use as a house, built in about 1905.

What a great discovery it is to find this amazing garden! I can’t wait to return.

In the meantime, we have been able to begin to visit houses again listed for the Revenue 482. We visited another Quaker home, that of the Fennells of Burtown, County Kildare. More on that soon!

[1] Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16402510/mountusher-house-mountusher-ashford-co-wicklow

[3] https://archive.org/stream/usshermemoirsorg00wrig/usshermemoirsorg00wrig_djvu.txt

[4] http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000834470 and http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000829943

[5] https://quakers-in-ireland.ie/history/quaker-businesses/

[6] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[7] https://www.youwho.ie/walpole.html 

Ballymurrin, Kilbride, County Wicklow

contact: Philip Geoghegan
Tel: 086-1734560
www.ballymurrinquakerfarmstead.eu
Open in 2022: Jan 2-21, July 23-31, Aug 1-31, 2pm-6pm

Fee: free

Philip coming out to greet us.

Stephen and I drove to Ballymurrin House on Saturday 27th July 2019. We were looking forward to it as we had seen the house on “Home of the Year” on RTE, and I particularly love its style, and we knew it was originally a Quaker farmhouse. Stephen is a Quaker so it is special for him, to see part of the history of Quakers in Ireland. I emailed Philip beforehand, to let him know that we were coming. I knew that the current owners are not Quakers, but the website describes the Quaker history of the house.

Philip was friendly and delighted to welcome a Quaker. The house was built in around 1668, and was formerly a pair of houses, according to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1] On the Ballymurrin website, the part of the building with the pink painted exterior is identified as the farmhouse, and the white end is the coach house and forge. The pink part of the house was originally two dwellings: a five bay main house, and a dower house of two bays. We did not get to see inside the Dower House, which is now called Box Tree Cottage in honour of a tree in its garden, but you can see pictures on the Ballymurrin website. The buildings form a U shape around a yard, although the buildings to the right hand side when facing the house have not yet been renovated, although they have been stabilised. These would have been the stables. On the left hand side of the U is what was formerly the milking parlour. [2]

The former milking parlour. We did not get to visit inside as it was being used for guests, as it is converted for self-catering.

At the time of the English Civil War (1642–1651), many “dissenting” Christian groups formed, including the Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, as it is also known. The founder of the Quakers, George Fox (1624-1691), was dissatisfied with the teachings of the Church of England and of the other nonconformist, or dissenting, groups. He sought a more pure faith. Wikipedia tells us that in 1652 Fox had a vision on Pendle Hill in Lancashire, England, in which he believed that “the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered,” and after this, Fox travelled around England, the Netherlands and Barbados preaching and teaching with the aim of converting new adherents to his faith. He found many other “seekers” who also felt the churches had become bogged down with traditions, rituals and power politics, and together they tried to live out the Christian message more simply. [3] and [4]

The Quakers spread to Ireland very early after George Fox started the Society in England in 1652: the first recorded Friends Meetings for Worship in Ireland were held in 1654 at the home of William Edmundson in Lurgan, Co. Armagh [4]. As Ballymurrin Farmstead was built from around 1668, some of the first Quakers in Ireland settled in this area in Wicklow. Turtle Bunbury writes that William Edmundson served in Cromwell’s army during the Civil War (and thus fought against those loyal to King Charles I) and settled in Ireland in 1652, and that by 1656 Quaker ideals were making a negative impact on the morale of the Cromwellian army – so much so that Cromwell purged the army of Quakers. This would explain why Quakers settled so early in Ireland – they had been in Cromwell’s army in Ireland. [5] It may seem odd that Quakers were in the army, but it was only during Charles II’s reign that they embraced pacifism.

The Quakers chose a beautiful area to settle in Wicklow, with a view of rolling hills. The house itself is tucked into a hillside so that the hill behind shelters the house.

A Quaker settlement was also established in the late 17th century in Ballitore, County Kildare, by two Quakers, John Bancroft and Abel Strette, who began farming in the area, and Ballitore is still known as the Quaker Village. A Quaker School was founded in Ballitore by Abraham Shackleton (1697–1771) in 1726. Stephen and I visited Ballitore the following month, in August 2019.

Before we began our tour, Philip brought us through the house to the kitchen for a refreshment as it was a particularly hot day. We drank water with fresh mint and sat at the big kitchen table, joining his wife Delphine.

Philip and Delphine are both architects. I love their style, which respects the history and original architecture of the home. The house preserves the traditional cottage air with its thick limewashed stone walls, window alcoves, and exposed wooden beams and lintels. I love the old farmhouse doors. Philip led us into the house via a room which has display boards explaining the history of the house and the Quakers, which we had time to study later. Philip and Delphine purchased the property over twenty-five years ago and have done much renovation work. Philip explained that the setting, with its square courtyard, reminded him of the type of farm houses which he loved in Jersey, the Channel Island, where he had previously worked.

In this explanation board, created by Philip Geoghegan, you can see the farmhouse, with the three-sided courtyard, in the aerial photograph. The third side, the stables, have not been converted.

To begin the tour, Philip brought us out first to see the remains of a cottage out behind the house, built in the 1600’s.

The cottage has been stabilised, but not roofed. The walls were fixed painstakingly to maintain their integrity and heritage. Originally covered in ivy, this was cleared and the floor also levelled.

See the wooden lintel over the door.

Ballymurrin, or “Ballymooranbeg” (Ballymurrin Lower) is identified on the Down Survey Map, made by Sir William Petty for Oliver Cromwell in 1654, and it listed as belonging to Sir William Parsons, who lived in Milltown, Rathnew. [6] William Parsons, the 1st Baronet of Bellamont, was a Lord Justice of Ireland and served as Surveyor General of Ireland. In this position he was able to discern faulty titles for land and appropriate this land for himself. [7] There were Quaker families in Dunganstown and Kilmacow, County Wicklow.

Information panel in the cottage, created by Philip Geoghegan.

Philip has done much research to establish who lived in Ballymurrin. In this 1760 map pictured above, Ballymurrin is identified, and a Quaker Burial place in Kilbride. There is also a Quaker meeting house in Ballykean. Quakers do not have church “services” or masses, they have “meetings,” which are mostly silent.

The Eves family from Leicestershire settled on land also owned by William Parsons. In 1667 Anne Eves married Ambrose Judd, who had moved from Suffolk in England to Ireland in 1651, and their first child, Robert, was born in Ballymurrin in 1668. This couple built up Ballymurrin and had a large family. In 1687 their first child, Robert, died and was buried in the “Friends burying place” just a small walk from the farmhouse, a graveyard that is still there today.

In the marriage register pictured below, of 1680, a Mark Eves (related to Anne) signs as a witness, along with William Bate of Ballymurrin. William Bate, Philip has determined, was born in Stepney St Dunstans East End of London in 1635. He was a carpenter, and he and his wife Anne and five children lived in Ballymurrin for ten years. He probably built most of the buildings at Ballymurrin. He was put in Wicklow Gaol, at the Black Castle, along with twelve other Quakers, for attending a meeting in 1671. The Quakers left England hoping to escape persecution but they were still persecuted in Ireland, for dissenting from the official Church.

Due to persecutions and after his imprisonment, in 1681 William and Mary Bate[s] and their children left Wicklow and helped to set up a township in Newton Creek, West Jersey, in land set aside for Irish Quakers by William Penn, who had that year founded Pennsylvania. William Bates became a senior administrator in the West Jersey government and was buried in 1700 in the Newton Quaker Burial Ground.

Based on the registered births, Philip has calculated that there were about 150 Quakers in County Wicklow between 1661 and 1700. A Meeting House was established in Wicklow Town for monthly meetings at Thomas Trafford’s house in 1669. In details published on Ballymurrin’s website, we see that Thomas Trafford was committed to prison in 1680 for opening his shop (a drapers) on Christmas day! Many Quakers do not celebrate Christmas, since it is every day that Jesus is in their heart.

Inside I was delighted to see the original animal trough inside the cottage:

Animal trough: the Quakers would have kept cows, sheep and pigs, hens, ducks and geese. They grew barley, wheat, oats and vegetables and fruit.

If you look closely you can see a division in the floor. This would have been a wall, dividing the living quarters from the animal quarters. You can see the original door lintel. The fourth wall has been levelled, as you can see in the next picture, from the back of the cottage:

We were curious about the round column at one end of the cottage, while the other is a square column. Philip doesn’t know why there is the rounded column or what it signifies, but it is very impressive, considering it stands there since the 1600s! There are similar rounded gate posts by the stables.

Stephen and Philip speculate on the rounded column to the left, in the barbeque area next to the old cottage.

Next we headed back to the house, and entered the door leading into the forge. You can see the fireplace, with some equipment, in the background, and I took a picture looking upward into the fireplace.

The beehive chimney in the Forge sits on a tree trunk built into stone walls and is a timber frame filled with woven hazel twigs and covered with clay and cow dung inside and plaster outside. It is, Philip points out, a remarkable structure from the 17th century and, even more remarkable, remains intact.

There are more information boards which Philip has made.

Ambrose was “convinced of the blessed truth” in 1672, i.e. became a Quaker.  “Convincement” is when a person realizes that he or she wants to join the Quakers (“Convincement” and officially becoming a Quaker don’t necessarily happen at the same time. Nowadays a person attends Quaker meetings for years before applying for membership). The next information board tells us that Ambrose Judd had to pay for his Quaker faith, with hay and barley, wheat and oats. These were “forcibly recovered,” taken as tithes to be paid to the established church, the Church of Ireland. Catholics also had to pay these tithes. Quakers refused to pay the tithes, so a “tithemonger” took the goods, and refusing to pay tithes would be a reason that Quakers were put in gaol.

In 1689 King James II granted toleration to the Quakers, which means that they no longer had to pay the tithes to the Church of England/Ireland.

Here is another part of the forge:

In the Timeline for Ballymurrin which Philip compiled, we can see that in 1754, Susanna Ashton, born Eves, a widow, marries Joseph Pim from Nurney, County Kildare, who moves to Ballymurrin. He dies in 1764 and is buried in Ballymurrin Burial Ground. His son may have built nearby Woodville House, in Kilbride, County Wicklow (built around 1780). [8]

Above the exhibition room is a loft, which still has its original roofing timbers. The forge below would have kept the bedrooms above warm.

In 1855 Ballymurrin Upper, 163 acres was sold by Joseph Pim through the Emcumbered Estates Court. The Encumbered Estates Act was passed in 1849 to facilitate the sale of Irish estates whose owners could not meet their financial obligations due to losses during the Famine. Ballymurrin Lower was sold in 1874 or 1891, this time by Lydia Pim, through the Landed Estates Court, which had taken over from the Encumbered Estates Court. Ballymurrin and Woodville were bought by the Catholic Byrne family: Edward, Bernard and Mary, according to Philip’s research.

According to Philip’s records, Mary Byrne dies in 1926 and after this, the O’Sullivans live in Ballymurrin. Alterations were made to the house, dated 1927 and 1935.

In 1990, David and Mary Strawbridge moved in to the house and initiated restoration of the main house. In 1994, Delphine and Philip Geoghegan purchased and extended restoration of the house over a twenty year period. In 1995, they re-roofed the agricultural building on the left of the main house, which incorporated a dwelling, two buildings for agriculture, a forge and a cart shed with loft above. This part of the house now includes the exhibition space, a studio and bedrooms upstairs.

We moved on into the next room then, which would have been the living area of the original house.

The living area of the original house.

This contains another huge fireplace. This is called an “inglenook” fireplace. It had been boarded up for perhaps two hundred years!

Next to this is the kitchen, which would have been a later addition to the Quaker house. Its size indicates a good standard of living. The beams of the ceiling are original but the secondary joists were replaced in 1927. The stairs appear to be a later addition as the beam supporting the ceiling joists was cut to make head room for ascending the stairs. Originally the upper level was probably accessed by a steep ladder. You can see a huge oak beam spanning across the kitchen fireplace, which is original.

Kitchen, with yet another huge fireplace, with the airbnb guest inside!

Inside the fireplace is a special feature which Philip and Delphine discovered during their renovations, unique as far as they know to this house for this time period: a bread oven.

The bread oven. I love its wooden door, which you can see at the right hand side of the photograph.
The stone floor of the fireplace is from a local quarry, and has fossils of wormy creatures.

In the last room of the tour, now the family sitting room, there is a wonderful old original cupboard, which contains more Quaker history, which Philip calls the “Minutes cupboard,” as it may have held the minutes of meetings. This cupboard is original to the house, as are the window shutters and doors.

A facsimile of the the front page of a book, History Rise and Progress of the People called Quakers in Ireland, from the year 1653 to 1700.

Before the visitors arrived, Stephen was able to have detailed discussion with Philip about the Quakers, and Philip showed us documents he had transcribed which Stephen admired, especially because he himself has been attempting to copy old documents, and has found them sometimes impossible to decipher. He asked if he could send a copy of a document to Philip to see if he is able to help in deciphering! Since our visit, Philip has indeed aided Stephen in his transcription. Philip prepared the information boards for a 350 year celebration of the Quakers which took place in the farmhouse. He has also prepared a booklet for visiting schoolchildren.

Another event the Geoghagans hosted, which you can see on the website, was a visit by the Bates family of America, descendants of the Quaker Bates who moved to Pennsylvania.

We were delighted not only to see the beautiful house, but to meet this wonderful couple!

After we left the house we visited the nearby Quaker graveyard.

Although about 140 people are buried in this Quaker burial ground, there are only four headstones. This is because in 1671 the Quakers stopped using headstones, perhaps they did not like the overly ornate headstones becoming popular at the time, as these did not convey their belief about the equality of all people. However, by 1850 this restraint was dropped, and the four headstones memorialise members of the Pim family. The Pim family transferred ownership of the Burial ground to the Quakers in 1812.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16403107/ballymurrin-house-ballymurrin-lower-kilbride-co-wicklow

[2] https://www.ballymurrinquakerfarmstead.eu/index.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers

[4] https://quakers-in-ireland.ie/history/background/

[5] p. 75. Bunbury, Turtle and Art Kavanagh. The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare. Published by Irish Family Names, 11 Emerald Cottages, Grand Canal St, Dublin 4 and Market Square, Bunclody, Co Wexford, Ireland. 2004.

[6] Information taken from information boards created by Philip Geoghegan:

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_William_Parsons,_1st_Baronet_of_Bellamont

Nora Robertson writes about him in her book, The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland. published by Allen Figgis & Co. Ltd., Dublin, 1960.

[8] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16403106/woodville-house-ballymurrin-lower-kilbride-co-wicklow

[9] I examined the census to see if I can work out more about who lived in Ballymurrin farm, but it is confusing as I don’t know what other habitations exist in the area of “Ballymurrin Lower” and “Ballymurrin Upper” and the numbering system seems to change from 1901 to 1911, as well, perhaps, as the specification between which habitations are “upper” and which “lower,” unless the families moved about quite a bit, which is possible. I don’t know whether all the habitations listed are actually part of the current Ballymurrin farmstead. I have made charts but it is all guesswork.

Philip Geoghegan mentions Mary, Bernard and Edward Byrne purchasing Ballymurrin, but looking at the census, ownership appears to be more complicated.

The 1911 census has a Mary Byrne as head of household, single and Catholic, in house “1.2” in Ballymurrin Lower. The 1901 census has Bernard Byrne and his sister Mary in house 6 in Ballymurrin lower, along with servants who include Laurence Farrell and two youger Farrells who are probably his sons, as well as Peter Penrose, Julia Bull and Patrick Murry. It looks like the numbering system changed from 1901 to 1911 as I doubt the occupants moved between the dwellings.

In 1911 in house 1.1 there is Mary Farrell, head of household, and her sons John, Laurence and James, and daughter Mary – all also Catholic. These are probably the Farrells listed as servants to the Byrnes in 1901.

It looks like a nice little community, with tailor, postmen, shoemaker and dressmaker along with farmers and agricultural labourers, although they may be on the edge of poverty with the dwelling places only classed as type 0, with perishable materials in 1901, but nearly all of the habitations are improved by 1911. Furthermore, by 1911 all but one of the homes are owned by their inhabitants. The families are extended and many are related by marriage. The main families in 1901 are Byrne, Farrell, Arthur, Smyth (or Smith), Douglas, Meade, Redmond (Byrne daughter married a Redmond), Carly (or Carty). Additionally, owners include Colonel Ellis and Mary Cullen. In 1911 the main familes are Byrne, Farrell, Arthur, Smith, Douglas, Meade (daughter married a Farrell), Murray, Lawless and Doyle, as well as owners Michael Kavanagh and Mrs Stampher. All of the inhabitants are Catholic.

Castle Howard, Avoca, County Wicklow

contact: Ailish Macken
Tel: 01-6327664
Open in 2022: Jan 10-12, Feb 14-18, Mar 7-9, 21-23, June 21-25, 29-30, July 1-2, 11-16, 25- 28, Aug 13-21, Sept 5-10, 17, 20-24, Oct 3-5, 10-12, 9am-1pm

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

photograph taken from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1].

Wicklow is full of stunning gems of houses, unfortunately nearly all are private [2]. We are lucky to be able to visit Castle Howard as it is on the revenue 482 list. Stephen and I went to Castle Howard on Saturday September 14th 2019. Don’t be confused with the Castle Howard in the UK, setting for the original filmed version of Brideshead Revisited (the one with Jeremy Irons, not the excellent more recent version starring Ben Whishaw).

I rang the house beforehand and made a time for our visit in order to have a tour. We had a lovely drive out to Wicklow, and rang when we reached the gates. Someone drove up in a tractor to open them for us.

We drove past a lovely gate lodge, and through some gorgeous scenery.

Old gateway at Castle Howard, Avoca, 1945. Photograph courtesy of Dublin City Library Archives.

The bridge and archway used to be topped with a lion.

Ivy covered arch at Castle Howard County Wicklow, Stereo Pairs Photograph Collection National Library of Ireland Ref/ STP_2925 Date/ between ca. 1860-1883.
The property has a small lake and boathouse.
There’s a bronze deer standing under the tree.

We crossed a small stone bridge to reach the castle. This bridge used to be topped by a lion, the symbol of the Howard family. Unfortunately the lion stands no longer.

One cannot see the whole house as one drives up, and it becomes even more impressive as it is when one walks around it

We parked, and knocked on the front door, which was picturesque in its Gothic pointed arched stone setting, with roses growing over the top of the door. The medieval-style studded door with ancient looking pull handle and Georgian door knocker is in the castellated two storey wing.

Studded door with “reeded” or fluted stone surrounds, which has a matching fanlight above.
“ogee” shaped doorway and window over door. The other windows are “flat headed” with gothic traceries and “drip moulding” (see [1] and [3]).
I also loved the boot scraper, with ends like turreted castles.

The house was built around the fabric of an earlier house in 1811 for Lieutenant Colonel Robert Howard to the design of Richard Morrison. It is designed to combine two archaic styles: a castle and an abbey [4]. The section in the photographs above is the abbey-like section of the house: Bence-Jones describes it as a two-storey wing ending in a gable with pinnacles and a Perpendicular window. A gable is a peaked end wall, often triangular, at the end of a double pitched roof, or sometimes just refers to an end wall.

When you walk back and around the house, the “castle” part of the house is revealed.

The “castle” side of the house has two turreted towers, and two bows. There is a conservatory at the south-east side. The building is finished with render with stone dressing.

conservatory on the south-east side of the house.

There were visitors leaving as we were coming, so the tour guide was kept busy! Mark Sinnott is not the owner, but works on the estate. The estate has an Equestrian centre and the house occasionally hosts shooting, and our tour guide helps with that. He has been working there for eighteen years, so knows the house and estate intimately.

The house is currently owned by Ivor Fitzpatrick, a prominent Dublin solicitor and property developer, and his wife, Susan Stapleton.

The earlier house on the site was called Cronebane Lodge, and belonged to the director of the Avoca Copper Mines. [5] The mines had their own coinage: one can find halfpenny coins stating “payable at Cronebeg Lodge or in Dublin” for sale on the internet! The coins picture St. Patrick in his Bishop’s Mitre on one side and a shield on the other. The Associated Irish Mine Company was founded in 1787 by Abraham Mills, William Roe, Thomas Weaver, Thomas Smith, Charles Caldwell and Brabazon Noble and its head office at 184, Great Britain Street, Dublin. It existed until 1798. [6]

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Howard purchased the house in 1811 and had it extended and Gothicized by Richard Morrison.

Richard Morrison (b. 1767) studied under William Gandon. He became an architect and often collaborated with his son, William Vitruvius Morrison.

Among Richard Morrison’s public works were alterations to the cathedral at Cashel, the court-house and gaol at Galway, court-houses in Carlow, Clonmel, Roscommon, Wexford and elsewhere, and St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. He built or altered very many mansions of the nobility and gentry in Ireland, and was knighted by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1841. [7]

He and his son also designed renovations for Killruddery House, near Bray in County Wicklow, which is another section 482 house; Ballyfin House in County Laois (now a five star hotel); and Fota, in County Cork, which Stephen and I visited this year (October 2020). Richard Morrison also designed Knockdrin Castle, just north of Mullingar in County Westmeath, and the Gothic fantasy 1819 remodeling of Shelton Abbey, Arklow, County Wicklow. [8]

Shelton Abbey in County Wicklow, remodelled by Richard Morrison in 1819. Photo from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. It is now an open prison, sold by the 8th Earl of Wicklow, William Howard, to the Irish state in 1951.
Shelton Abbey, photograph courtesy of National Library of Ireland NLI Ref: EAS_3838 Eason Photographic Collection Date: c.1900-1939.

Shelton Abbey was owned for nearly three hundred years by the Howard family, the Earls of Wicklow, into which Robert Howard was born. The Lieutenant Colonel was the youngest son of the 3rd Earl of Wicklow, William Forward Howard (he took the surname Forward when he inherited his mother’s family estates in Donegal). There is a wonderful pyramid mausoleum of the Howard family in Old Kilbride Cemetery in Arklow, County Wicklow, built in 1785.

A mausoleum erected by Ralph Howard (1726-86), first Viscount Wicklow of Shelton Abbey, attributed to Simon Vierpyl (c.1725-1810) of Dublin and London. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

In the front hall, our guide Mark told us the history of the house. He explained that the front hall had been renovated by previous owners and the ceiling lowered so it is less impressive than the original entry hall would have been.

There is a beautiful curved brass-banistered spiral stairway, which is pictured in a book of photographs (simply called Photographs) by Paddy Rossmore, edited by the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne, published this year by Lilliput Press and reviewed in January in the Irish Times. [9]

photograph by Paddy Rossmore from Photographs, taken from Irish Times article. “In 1811 Col Robert Howard purchased a house then called Cronebane Lodge, romantically perched above the Meeting of the Waters, a spot made famous thanks to a poem written by Thomas Moore four years before. Its location, combined with the desire to build a residence evoking an ancient past, encouraged Col Howard to commission a design from architect Richard Morrison that would appear part-castle and part-abbey. The interiors owe much to the English Perpendicular style, not least the splendid staircase. Lit by a large arched Gothic window, the cantilevered Portland stone steps with brass banisters spiral up to the first floor below a plasterwork ceiling replete with coats of arms featuring families associated with the Howards. Although no longer with descendants of the original owners, Castle Howard remains in private hands and in excellent condition.” [9] The “English Perpendicular” style is, according to wikipedia, a style of Gothic architecture developed in England in the 14th to 17th century.

The library has terrific plasterwork on the ceiling, especially in the round towers – very intricate work. The round towers form little rooms off the main room. We only saw one storey so didn’t get to see the tower room sections on the upper floors. Impressive antlers adorned one wall, of the Giant Irish Elk. Most antlers found in Ireland are about 11,000 years old! These “elk” were not unique to Ireland; they lived across Eurasia all the way into China. The most recent remains discovered date back 7,700 years, and were found in Siberia. They are called “Irish” as they are most commonly found in Ireland, preserved in bogs. They are not near relations of “elk” found today, such as moose, and are more properly called deer. Irish Elk are the largest species of deer that ever lived. The antlers in Castle Howard were attached to a skull. Not all sets of antlers found are attached to a skull, as Giant Elk, just like deer today, shed their horns regularly, and regrew them during mating season. [10]

As the Lieutenant Colonel and his wife Letitia Deborah Brooke had no children, the house passed to a nephew, Richard Brooke, the son of Letitia Deborah’s brother, Henry Brooke, who was created the 1st Baronet Brooke of Colebrook, County Fermanagh, in 1822. Richard took the surname Howard-Brooke in 1835. His son and heir was also a Lieutenant Colonel, Robert Howard-Brooke (1840-1902). He had no children and I don’t know who lived in the house after him.

In the records of children in Duchas.ie [11], Winnie Doyle writes in 1928 that there is an underground tunnel from the kitchen to the garden. She also writes that a Mr.Lefroy lived in Castle Howard after Colonel Brooks Howard and after someone named Miss Johnson, and later, a Darcy Sloane. Lt.-Col. Robert Howard-Brooke, heir to aforementioned Richard Howard-Brooke married Florence Elizabeth Johnston of Kinlough House, Co Leitrim, so Miss Johnston may have been a sister of hers. A Sophia Johnston is listed in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, but as just a “visitor.”

Perhaps these are the tunnels that Winnie was writing about, leading from the basement of the house.

Scouring the internet I found in County Offaly archives that Langlois Massy Lefroy and his wife Sheelah, who was a Trench of the family who lived in Loughton, the subject of last week’s blog, purchased Castle Howard! Langlois Massy Lefroy purchased Castle Howard in 1924, the Loughton archives tells us, when he was “flush with the capital which his wife’s marriage settlement brought him.” He sold it in 1954 when he inherited Carriglas Manor (he was a descendent of Tom Lefroy, a suitor of Jane Austen, who lived in Carriglas Manor, County Longford). When he died his wife Sheelagh moved back to Loughton to live with her unmarried sister Thora. [12].

The gardens too are impressive. They slope down on one side to the river.

A straight path leads through formal gardens including a maze and an orchard, alongside a tall wall which appeared to lead into woodland and to a walled garden – it was rainy so we didn’t explore as much as I might have liked. At the end of this path are stables and outbuildings. To one side of the path is a clock tower folly and a bricked terraced area and small temple area with a water fountain – it is extremely romantic. The house itself backs onto a large tree filled lawn.

The clock tower garden folly.

A wall extends from the folly tower, to frame a courtyard on the far side of the wall from the house. On the house side of the wall is a picturesque pond area.

The picturesque pond on the house-side of the wall.

The tower folly:

Inside the folly. Unfortunately we could not go up the stairs!

The picture below is the courtyard on the further side of the wall, away from the house:

The barbeque style courtyard opens onto a shooting, or archery, stretch of lawn:

Beyond the folly is the path alongside the formal gardens and orchard.

A small temple like structure, topped by a pair of fantastical dragons.

Below, is the inside of what I am calling the temple:

There is also a Laburnum grove, which would be magnificent when in flower. There is a painting in the house of the grove in full bloom.

Around the stables and outbuildings at the end of the path we found some lovely statues!

And there is an interesting stone face on the stable building:

heading back to the house.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16403502/castle-howard-castlehoward-county-wicklow

[2] I would like to share with you some examples of the houses in Wicklow listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. There are so many lovely ones I have written a separate entry! https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/12/historic-houses-in-county-wicklow-listed-in-the-national-inventory-of-architectural-heritage/

[3] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/18/architectural-definitions/

[4] Mark Bence-Jones A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[5]
http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_howard_wicklow.html

[6] https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces141563.html

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Morrison_(architect)

[8] See the Dictionary of Irish Architects for more of Richard Morrison’s work.

https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/3600/MORRISON-RICHARD(SIR)#tab_works

[9] https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/portraits-of-the-irish-big-house-from-castle-howard-to-luttrellstown-1.4140611

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_elk

[11] https://www.duchas.ie/en/src?q=castle+howard

[12] https://www.offalyarchives.com/index.php/wicklow

Historic houses in County Wicklow listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

I would like to share with you some examples of the houses in Wicklow listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (photographs are all taken from the National Inventory):

i. Avondale, open to the public. Built in 1779, designs may have been by James Wyatt. It was the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Nationalist leader in Ireland.

ii. Avonmore

Avonmore House, built around 1830.

iii. Ballyarthur

Ballyarthur, built in 1680.

iv. Ballycurry

Ballycurry House, built in 1807 to designs by Francis Johnston.

v. Ballykeane

Ballykeane, built around 1780.

vi. Ballymoney

Ballymoney, built around 1800.

vii. Ballynure House

Ballynure House, built around 1800.

viii. Baltiboys

Baltiboys, built around 1840.

ix. Carnew Castle

Carnew Castle, built in the late sixteenth century, re-roofed and remodernised ca. 1817 by 4th Earl Fitzwilliam whose Irish seat, Coolattin, is nearby.

x. Castle Kevin

Castle Kevin, built in 1813.

xi. Clonmannon House (Old)

Clonmannon House (Old), built around 1700.

xii. Cronroe, now Bel Air Hotel

https://www.belairhotelequestrian.com/hotel/

Cronroe, now Bel Air Hotel, built in 1890.

xiii. Donard House

Donard House, built in 1813-14 to the designs of William Vierpyl.

xiv. Fortgranite

Fortgranite, built around 1730.

xv. Glanmore Castle

Glanmore Castle, built around 1804, to designs by Francis Johnston.

xvi. Glenart Castle, was a hotel, now private again, built around 1820.

xvii. Grangecon Parks

Grangecon Parks, built around 1820.

xviii. Hollybrook House

Hollybrook House, built in 1835 incorporating an earlier house, to designs by William Vitruvius Morrison.

xix. Humewood Castle

Humewood Castle, built 1867-70 to designs by William White.

xx. Mount John

Mount John, built around 1800.

xxi. Rathsallagh, now a hotel

https://www.rathsallagh.com/

Rathsallagh, built as stables around 1750, converted to a house in 1798.

xxii. Rosanna House

Rosanna House, built around 1720.

xxiii. Roundwood

Roundwood, built around 1800, remodelled later in the nineteenth century.

xxiv. Slaney Park House

Slaney Park House, built around 1810, reduced by one storey after a fire in 1946.

xxv. Tinakilly House, now a small hotel

Tinakilly House (now a hotel), built around 1876 to designs by James Franklin Fuller.

xxvi. Tinode House (you can visit June Blake’s garden www.juneblake.ie )

Tinode, built in 1864 to designs by W.F. Caldbeck, partly demolished in a fire in 1922 and restored in 1973.

xxvii. Tulfarris – now a hotel https://www.tulfarrishotel.com/

Tulfarris – now a hotel, built in 1760, porch from around 1860.

xxviii. Woodbrook, now a golf course

Woodbrook, now a golf course, built around 1840.

xxix. Woodstock House, now Druid’s Glen Golf Course and hotel

Druid’s Glen hotel, formerly called Woodstock, built around 1770.

Russborough House, Blessington, County Wicklow

The Albert Beit Foundation, Blessington, Co. Wicklow

contact: Eric Blachford
Tel: 045-865239

enc@russborough.ie

Open in 2022: Jan 1-Dec 24, 10am-5pm,
Fee: adult €12, OAP/student €8, child €6, parking €3 per car

Russborough House, Photograph taken in June 2012 on a visit with my friends Tara and Jeremy and their daughters.
Photo by Jeremy Hylton.

In his A Guide to Irish Country Houses, Mark Bence-Jones calls Russborough House “arguably the most beautiful house in Ireland.” [1] We are lucky that Russborough House is open to the public, thanks to the Beit Foundation. Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit left the property to the state in 1978, to be cared for by a Trust established for the purpose. The Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne tells us about the Beits: “The couple had no immediate connection with Ireland, although Lady Beit’s maternal grandmother had been raised in this country and being a Mitford, she was first cousin of the Hon Desmond Guinness’s mother.” [2]

Russborough House was built for Joseph Leeson in 1741 when he inherited a fortune from his father and purchased land owned by John Graydon, and it was designed by Richard Castle.

Joseph Leeson (1701-1783), painted by Anthony Lee. Portrait from the National Gallery of Ireland. Later he was created 1st Earl of Milltown.
Joseph Leeson later 1st Earl of Milltown, by Pompeo Batona, 1744. While building Russborough House he made the first of two trips to Italy to broaden his education and to acquire art. Batoni depicted him wearing a fur hat and fur-lined surcoat, in front of a cascading curtain and column base.

Leeson went to great expense creating the grounds for the building of his house: “Leeson’s development of the garden terraces was extravagant. The house gained its fine prominence from sitting on an embankment created by the opening of the lakes and ponds, all reputedly costing some £30,000.” [3]

photograph by Jeremy Hylton.

We came across Richard Castle (c.1690-1751) (or Cassels, as his name is sometimes spelled) in Powerscourt in County Wicklow. The Dictionary of Irish Architects tells us that, oddly, he was born David Riccardo, and it is not known when or why he changed his name. [4]

Castle originally trained as an engineer. He worked in London, where he was influenced by Lord Burlington. Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork, is credited with bringing the Palladian style of architecture to Britain and Ireland, after Grand Tours to Europe. [5] Palladian architecture is a style derived from the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). Palladio’s work was strongly based on the symmetry, perspective, and values of the formal classical temple architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Castle came to the attention of Sir Gustavus Hume of County Fermanagh, who invited Castle to Ireland in 1728 to build him a home on the shores of Lough Erne, Castle Hume, which unfortunately no longer exists. [6] Castle was an contemporary of Edward Lovett Pearce, and early in his career in Dublin worked with him on the Houses of Parliament in Dublin. Both Lovett Pearce and Castle favoured the Palladian style, and when Lovett Pearce died at the tragically young age of 34, in 1733, Castle took over all of Lovett Pearce’s commissions.

The Dictionary of Irish Architects gives us a flavour of what Castle was like as a person:

According to the short biography in Anthologia Hibernica for October 1793, Castle was a man of integrity, of amiable though somewhat eccentric manners, kept poor by his improvidence and long afflicted by gout resulting from intemperance and late hours. The same source states that he often pulled down those of his works which were not to his liking, ‘and whenever he came to inspect them … required the attendance of all the artificers who followed him in a long train’.

Castle began work on Powerscourt House in County Wicklow in 1730, finishing in 1741. He also began work on Westport House in County Mayo in 1730. He worked on Carton House, in County Kildare, which is now an upmarket hotel, from 1739-1744. In Dublin City he built Tyrone House (which now houses the Department of Education) for Marcus Beresford, Earl of Tyrone (we came across him at Curraghmore in County Waterford) [7]. He designed and built the hunting lodge called Belvedere in County Westmeath around 1740, and began to work on Russborough House around 1742. He was still working on Russborough House when he died suddenly, while at Carton House, in 1751, while writing a letter to a carpenter employed at Leinster House (begun in 1745 for James FitzGerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare, the house was at initially called Kildare House, and now houses the government in Dublin). Desmond FitzGerald, the Knight of Glin, wrote about Richard Castle and his work, and attributes another section 482 property to him which I have yet to visit, Strokestown House in County Roscommon. FitzGerald attributes many more buildings to Castle. [8]

Joseph Leeson (1711-1783) was the grandson of Hugh Leeson, who came to Ireland from England as a military officer in 1680, and settled in Dublin as a successful brewer. Hugh married Rebecca, daughter of Dublin Alderman Richard Tighe. Joseph inherited the brewing fortune from his father, another Joseph, who had married the daughter, Alice, of a Dublin Alderman and Sheriff, Andrew Brice. Young Joseph Leeson entered politics and from 1743 sat in the House of Commons. By this time, he had already married, been widowed by his first wife, Cecelia Leigh, remarried, to Anne Preston (daughter of Nathaniel Preston, ancestor of the owners of a house we have visited, Swainstown in County Meath – which was built later than the start date of Russborough, in 1750, and which Richard Castle may also have designed), and inherited his fortune from his brewer father, and started building Russborough House. He was raised to the peerage first as Baron Russborough in 1756, and as Earl of Milltown in 1763.

Cecilia Leeson (born Leigh) (d.1737) Date 1735-1737 by Anthony Lee, Irish, fl.1724-1767. First wife of Joseph Leeson. Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.
photo taken by Jeremy Hylton, showing the extent of the centre block with the curving Doric colonnades and two-storey seven bay wings. Beyond the wings on either side of the central block, one can see the arches with cupolas. The full stretch contains kitchen and stable wings.

The entrance front of Russborough stretches for over 700 feet, reputedly the longest house in Ireland, consisting of a seven bay centre block of two storeys over a basement, joined by curving Doric colonnades to wings of two storeys and seven bays which are themselves linked to further outbuildings by walls with rusticated arches surmounted by cupolas. In this structure, Russborough is rather like Powerscourt nearby in Wicklow, and like Powerscourt, it is approached from the side.

Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing wing to the right of the house.
photograph taken in May 2018 – the weather makes a different to the look of the house! The roofline is topped with urns on the parapet.
The lions at the foot of the entrance steps carry the heraldic shield of the Milltowns, which must have been put in place after 1763 when Joseph Leeson was promoted to be Earl of Milltown. Photo by Jeremy Hylton.

The residential part of the house is quite small, and is entirely housed in the central block. Of seven bays across, it houses three rooms along its front. It is made of local granite from Golden Hill quarry rather than the more expensive Portland stone often imported from Britain. In Sean O’Reilly’s discussion of the house in his Irish Houses and Gardens (from Country Life), he explains the styles used on the facade of the house:

the different functions of the building’s elements are appropriately distinguished though Castle’s frank, if unsubtle, use of the orders: Corinthian for the residence, Doric for the colonnades, Ionic for the advancing wings, and a robust astylar threatment for the ranges beyond.” [9]

the “rusticated” arch that gives entrance to a courtyard, and is topped by a cupola. Rustication – the use of stone blocks with recessed joints and often with rough or specially treated faces; a treatment generally confined to the basement or lower part of a building [10].

The main central block has a pediment on four Corinthian columns, with swags between the capitals of the columns. Above the entrance door is a semi-circular fanlight window.

Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, of pediment on four Corinthian columns.
photograph by Jeremy Hylton of central block.
Wing in foreground, with Ionic pilasters, and urns on the parapet.
photograph by Jeremy Hylton, wing on left.

The wings have a central breakfront of three bays with Ionic pilasters. Within the colonnades are niches with Classical statues.

colonnade with niches containing Classical statues, photograph by Jeremy Hylton.

The garden front of the centre block has a few urns on the parapet, and a pair of Corinthian columns with an entablature framing a window-style door in the lower storey which opens onto broad balustraded stone steps down to the garden.

Inside, we see Castle’s difference from Edward Lovett Pearce, in his fondness for the Baroque, which is described in wikipedia:

“The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria, southern Germany and Russia…excess of ornamentation…The classical repertoire is crowded, dense, overlapping, loaded, in order to provoke shock effects.”

The Baroque effect is most obvious in the wonderful plasterwork. The plasterwork may be by the Francini brothers – it is not definite who carried it out but the Francini brothers certainly seem to have had a hand in some of the beautiful stucco work.

entrance hall of Russborough House.
entrance hall of Russborough House with chimneypiece is of black Kilkenny marble, above it hangs a striking painting by Oudry of Indian Blackbuck with Pointers and Still Life, dated 1745

In his book, Big Irish Houses, Terence Reeves-Smyth describes the entrance hall:

Ascending the broad flight of granite steps guarded by a pair of carved lions, the visitor enters the front hall – a well-proportioned room with a floor of polished oak and an ornate but severe compartmental ceiling with Doric frieze quite similar to the one Castle deigned for Leinster House. The monumental chimneypiece is of black Kilkenny marble, much favoured by Castle for entrance halls, while above it hangs a striking painting by Oudry of Indian Blackbuck with Pointers and Still Life, dated 1745.” [11]

The principal reception rooms lead from one to the other around the central block: the saloon, drawing-room, dining-room, tapestry room and the grand staircase. They retain their original doorcases with carved architraves of West Indian mahogany, marble chimneypieces and floors of inlaid parquetry.

The house took ten years to complete, and development of the house followed Leeson’s trips to Europe, where he bought items to populate his house. In 1744 and in 1751 he travelled to Rome and purchased extensive Roman materials, as well as many artworks. He had his portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni, and was aided in his purchases by dealers including an Irishman named Robert Wood. A book details his collection, as well as later owners of Russborough, Russborough: A Great Irish House, its Families and Collections by William Laffan and Kevin V Mulligan.

Richard Castle died while the house was still being built, and the work was taken over by his associate, Francis Bindon.

The Saloon, Russborough House 2018, Rubens painting over fireplace, large picture on back wall is Cain and Abel.

The Saloon occupies the three central bays of the north front of the house. It has a coved ceiling with rococo plasterwork incorporating flowers, garlands, swags and putti bearing emblems of the Seasons and the Elements, which on stylistic grounds can be attributed to the Francini brothers of Italy. [Rococo is the asymmetrical freely-modelled style of decoration originating in France and popular in Ireland from about 1750 to 1775. Craig, Maurice and Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities. Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970].  Terence Reeves-Smyth describes the room:

The walls are covered with a crimson cut Genoese velvet dating from around 1840 – an ideal background for paintings which include many pictures from the Beit collection. The room also has Louis XVI furniture in Gobelins tapestry signed by Pluvinet, a pair of Japanese lacquer cabinets from Harewood House and a chimney-piece identical to one at Uppark in Sussex, which must be the work of Thomas Carter (the younger) of London.

“A striking feature of the room is the inlaid sprung mahogany floor with a central star in satinwood. This was covered with a green baize drugget when the house was occupied by rebels during the 1798 rebellion. The potential of the drugget for making four fine flags was considered but rejected, lest “their brogues might ruin his Lordship’s floor.” The rebels, in fact, did virtually no damage to the house during their stay, although the government forces who occupied the building afterwards were considerably less sympathetic. It is said that the troops only left in 1801 after a furious Lord Milltown challenged Lord Tyrawley to a duel “with blunderbusses and slugs in a sawpit.” [11]

Next to the Saloon is the music room with another wonderful rococo ceiling, and then the library, which was formerly the dining room, both have ceilings probably by the Francini brothers. There aren’t records to tell us who created the stucco work of the house, and stylistically different parts of the house have been done by different hands.

Russborough House 2018, the music room. The last portrait to the right on the wall is Lord Conolly of Castletown House. The Russborough House website tells us: “When the Beits’ art collection was stolen, Sir Alfred had many copies of the paintings made. This room showcases the replicas of the oil paintings that were infamously stolen in the 1970s and 1980s. The originals of these paintings were gifted to the National Gallery of Ireland in the 1980s for safekeeping, where they can now be seen.
Visitors can learn more about the robberies at Russborough and how most of the paintings were recovered. The exhibition also includes Sir Alfred in an interview with broadcasting legend Gay Byrne, talking about the pictures and furniture contained in the house.
the ebullient rococo ceiling in the Music Room, probably the work of the Francini brothers.
The Library, Russborough House 2018
Russborough House 2018 Lady Beit’s grandmother, Mabell, Countess of Airlie, by John Lavery.

Reeves-Smyth writes that:

The coffered and richly decorated barrel-vaulted ceiling of the tapestry room, to the south of the music room, is by a less experienced artist, though the room is no less impressive than the others and contains an English state bed made in London in 1795 and two Soho tapestries of Moghul subjects by Vanderbank.

The Tapestry Room, Russborough House 2018
The Tapestry Room, Russborough House 2018

The Russborough website states:

Infused with a restless energy the plasterwork of the adjacent drawing-room spills onto the walls, where fantastic plaster frames surround the four oval marine scenes by Vernet representing morning, noon, evening and night. Although part of the patrimony of the house, these pictures were sold in 1926 and only after a determined search were recovered 43 years later by Sir Alfred Beit. [12]

Stucco specially designed to frame the oval Joseph Vernet paintings. Carrera marble fireplace.
The Drawing Room, 2018, small painting next to the fireplace of the Beits by Derek Hill
unusual timepiece clock from time of Louis XVIth

Reeves-Smyth continues his evocative description:

Beyond lies the boudoir, a charming little panelled apartment with a Bossi chimney-piece dating around 1780. From here visitors pass into the tapestry-hung corridor leading to the pavilion, formerly the bachelor’s quarters. The dining-room, formerly the library, on the opposite side of the hall has a monumental Irish chimney-piece of mottled grey Sicilian marble. The walls are ornamented both by paintings from the Beit collection and two magnificent Louis XIV tapestries.” [11]

The dining room, with a monumental Irish chimneypiece of mottle grey Sicilian marble. The walls are ornamented with two magnificent Louis XIV tapestries.

Reeves-Smyth goes on to say that “No one who visits Russborough is likely to forget the staircase with its extraordinary riot of exuberant plasterwork; there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the British Isles.

In later years the decorator Mr. Sibthorpe is reported to have remarked that it represented “the ravings of a maniac,” adding that he was “afraid the madman was Irish.”

Nobody knows who did the wonderful stuccowork in the staircase hall. The stairs are of mahogany.

Sean O’Reilly tells us that the Knight of Glin pointed out that Castle “cribbed the idea of the balustraded upper landing lit by a lantern window at Russborough from Pearce’s superb Palladian villa of Bellamont Forest, Co Cavan, built circa 1730 for his uncle Lord Justice Coote (and recently immaculately restored by the designer John Coote from Australia)”. Sadly since this was written, John Coote has died. I did not take a photograph of the upper landing, but you can see it on the Russborough website or better yet, during a visit to the house. The rooms off the this top-lit lobby would have been the bedrooms.

Joseph the 1st Earl of Milltown died in 1783, and his bachelor son Joseph succeeded to the peerages and to Russborough. The first Earl’s third wife and widow, Elizabeth French, lived on to a very great age until 1842.

Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown with his Third Wife Elizabeth, their Daughter Cecilia and his Grandson Joseph, later 3rd Earl of Milltown Date c.1772 after Pompeo Batoni. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
Joseph Leeson, later 2nd Earl of Milltown (1730-1801) Date 1751 by Pompeo Batoni, Italian, 1708-1787, photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.

When the 2nd Earl of Milltown died in 1801, his brother Brice succeeded to Russborough and to the title to become the 3rd Earl of Milltown. The 1st Earl’s children married very well: Mary, his daughter by his first wife Cecelia Leigh married John Bourke, the 2nd Earl of Mayo; his daughter Frances Arabella by his third wife married Marcus de la Poer Beresford, son of John the 1st Marquess of Waterford (of Curraghmore House, which we visited, another section 482 property); his daughter Cecelia married Colonel David la Touche, son of David La Touche of Marley Park in Dublin.

Russborough remained in the possession of the Earls of Milltown until after the 6th Earl’s decease – the 5th, 6th and 7th Earls of Milltown were all sons of the 4th Earl of Milltown. The 6th Earl’s widow, the former Lady Geraldine Stanhope, lived on at Russborough until 1914. The family collection of pictures in the house was given by Lady Geraldine to the National Gallery of Ireland, in 1902 (the Milltown wing was thus created in the National Gallery). [13] On the death of Lady Milltown in 1914, it passed to a nephew, Sir Edmund Turton (the son of the 4th Earl’s daughter Cecelia), who rarely stayed there, as he lived in Yorkshire and was an MP in the British Parliament. After Turton’s death in 1928, his widow sold the house to Captain Denis Bowes Daly (of the Dalys of Dunsandle, County Galway – now a ruin) in 1931.

Alfred Beit, heir to a fortune made in gold and diamond mining by his uncle in South Africa, saw Russborough in an article in Country Life in 1837.  He was so impressed that he had the dining room chimneypiece copied for a chimney in his library in his home in Kensington Palace Gardens in London. [see 13] In 1952 he bought Russborough from Captain Daly to house his art collection and in 1976 established the Alfred Beit Foundation to manage the property. The foundation opened the historic mansion and its collections to the Irish public in 1978.

Sir Alfred died in 1994 but Lady Beit remained in residence until her death in 2005. [14] The Beits donated their art collection the National Gallery of Ireland in 1986, and a wing was dedicated to the Beits.

Russborough House is now a destination for all the family. Inside, rooms have been filled with information about the Beits, their life and times. They entertained many famous friends, travelled the world, and collected music, photographs and films, all now on display.

various visitors and friends of the Beits.

The Russborough website tells us: “In 1939 Sir Alfred joined the Royal Air Force. In this room, extracts can be heard from some of the many romantic letters that Sir Alfred Beit wrote to his wife during the Second World War.”

Russborough House 2018

“The exhibition includes a short film that starts in 2D and then moves to the third dimension. We display 3D images taken by Sir Alfred on his world travels in the 1920s and 1930s.

“This private auditorium is arguably one of the most interesting rooms in the house, and was created by Sir Alfred himself when he bought Russborough so that he could share his adventures with friends and enjoy movies on the silver screen. 

“Visitors can also sit and watch fascinating footage from around the world in the glamorous 1920s at the touch of a button.”

Outside near the former riding arena, hedges have been shaped into a maze.

photo by Jeremy Hylton, 2012.
photo by Jeremy Hylton, 2012, the former riding arena.
woods at Russborough House 2018
woods at Russborough House 2018
“Thank you for visiting Russborough House. ” Classical gate at the eastern entrance to Russborough, built in 1745 to designs by Richard Castle.

[1] Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[2] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/05/11/of-russborough-and-its-predicament/

[3] p. 85. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998.

[4] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/347/CASTLE,+RICHARD

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Boyle,_3rd_Earl_of_Burlington

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Cassels

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/50010221/tyrone-house-department-of-education-marlborough-street-dublin-1-dublin-city

[8] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/347/CASTLE,+RICHARD#tab_works

[9] p. 85. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998.

[10] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/18/architectural-definitions/

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

[12] http://www.russborough.ie/

Note that the website has changed since I first wrote the blog and some quotations from the website are no longer on the site.

[13] p. 147. Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh and Christopher Simon Sykes. Great Houses of Ireland. Laurence King Publishing, 1999.

[14] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Wicklow%20Landowners?updated-max=2018-01-05T08:13:00Z&max-results=20&start=8&by-date=false

Charleville, County Wicklow

contact: Tatiane Baquiega
Tel: 01-6624455
Open in 2022: Feb 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28, May 3-27, 30-31, June 1-3, 7, Aug 13-21, Mon-Fri, 1pm- 5pm, Sat & Sun, 9am-1pm

Fee: house €9, garden €6

This was the least personal of our tours to date, when we went on Saturday May 18th 2019, as there was no sign of the owners, the Rohan family, living in the grand reception rooms, although apparently it is their family home. Ken and Brenda Rohan purchased the house in 1981. A visit to a house that is no longer owned by descendents of the early occupiers resonates less history, although in this case one must admit the current owners are probably no less invested than if their ancestors had occupied it for centuries, as they have maintained it to a high standard, and have carried out sensitive restoration to both house and garden. Dublin architect John O’Connell oversaw work on the interiors.

We are told in Great Irish Houses that the demesne is intact, with the original estate walls and entrance gates surviving. [1]

DSC_0654
Charleville, made of Wicklow granite, faced in ashlar. According to wikipedia, ashlar is “finely dressed stone, either an individual stone that was worked until squared or the structure built from it. Ashlar is the finest stone masonry unit, generally rectangular cuboid, mentioned by Vitruvius as opus isodomum, or less frequently trapezoidal.” A stone string-course divides upper from lower windows.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage website tells us that Charleville is a detached nine bay two storey Palladian style mansion, built in 1797 to designs by Whitmore Davis, an architect originally from County Antrim, who was then based in Dublin [2]. He also built another Section 482 house, Harristown House in County Kildare [3]. The house has a three-storey pedimented breakfront, the pediment is carried on four Ionic columns at the second and third storey level of the house, the ground floor level of the breakfront being “rusticated” as if it were a basement. [4] The windows on the ground floor level in the breakfront are arched. The Buildings of Ireland website claims that the breakfront facade is inspired by Lucan House in County Dublin, which is indeed very similar. Lucan House was designed by its owner, Agmondisham Vesey, consulting with architect William Chambers, a British architect who also designed the wonderful Casino at Marino in Dublin, as well as Charlemont House in Dublin (now the Hugh Lane Municipal Art Gallery) and the Examination Hall and Chapel in Trinity College Dublin.