contact: Rudolf Prosoroff Tel: 0043 676 5570097 Open: April 4-8, 19-28, May 2-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26, 30-31, June 1-2, 6-9, 13-16, 20- 23, 27-30, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €10, student /OAP/child €5
An article in the Irish Times by Gemma Tipton in March 2014 tells us that Ballindoolin near Edenderry is the old demesne of the Bor family. The Humphrey Bor family lived on the estate from 1620 untill the 1890s brought them financial difficulty and their land agent William Tyrell took over the demesne when they vacated it. The house was built in 1822.
When Robert Moloney inherited it in 1993, he and his wife Esther began a huge project of renovation and restoration, including reroofing, replumbing and rewiring.
Outside, with the help of Fáilte Ireland and some EU funds, the original large walled gardens were returned to their exact and former glory, as one of 26 chosen under the Great Gardens Restoration Scheme.
The house was again on the market in 2021. Gemma Tipton writes tells us a bit more about the house in the August article in the Irish Times: The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.
“Robert and Esther used documents and diaries to ensure the restoration, inside and out, was in-keeping, later donating 40 boxes of account books, ledgers and records to the archives at NUI Maynooth for safe-keeping.
These reveal a wealth of stories about the day-to-day running of the house, although it is just as easy to imagine them coming alive as you wander through the rooms. There is the wide, stone-flagged hallway, and the cosier, but still imposing back hall. The drawing room has its original wallpaper and chandelier; the marvellous fireplaces are intact. ”
Tipton tells us:
“Ballindoolin last sold in 2017, to an Austrian businessman, who fell in love with the house, its enviable position (less than an hour’s drive to Dublin city centre) and its stories. His plan was to lavish it with care and attention, and ultimately move over with his family. The first part worked out beautifully – Ballindoolin is in showpiece condition, but the family’s plans changed, and so it is now on the market.“
Open: Jan 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 21-30, 2pm-6pm. Fee: Free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.
The National Inventory describes it: “Detached four-bay two-storey house, built c.1750, with return and extension to rear and adjoining outbuildings to north. Set within own grounds…Modest in design, this fine house retains its original character with minimal intervention. The simple well proportioned façade is enhanced by the survival of its sash windows and door, while the finely executed door surround forms a subtle adornment. The outbuildings to rear, along with the iron-mongery to the front, complete this appealing domestic complex.” 
Open: May 17-Aug 31, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-2, 10am-2pm Fee: adult/OAP/student €20, child free
Our tour guide was young but thoroughly knowledgeable. He walked a group of us over to the castle, across the moat, which he told us had been created, along with the walls surrounding the castle demesne, and the stone stable buildings, which are now the reception courtyard, museum and cafe, in 1847 when the owners of Birr Castle provided employment to help to stave off the hunger of the famine.
I was intrigued to hear that the gates had been made by one of the residents of the castle, Lady Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse. She was an accomplished ironworker!! She brought a fortune with her to the castle when she married the Earl of Rosse, which enabled him to build his telescope. But more on that later.
More on Birr Castle soon!
The website tells us:
“In Anglo Norman Times, the Castle was built on the motte. The gate tower of this led into the castle bawn (courtyard) which is now the centre of the present building. The Central Gate Passage with its 12 foot walls can be seen in the lower floor of the present building.
The castle or fortress of Birr was re occupied by the O’Carroll’s who held it until the 1580s when it was sold to the Ormond Butlers. In 1620 the now ruined castle was granted to the Parsons family by James I. Rather than occupy the tower house of the O’Carrolls, the Parsons decided to turn the Norman Gate Tower into their ‘English House’. Building on either side and incorporating two Flanking Towers. Sir Laurence Parsons did a large amount of building and remodelling including the building of the two flanking towers, before his death in 1628. This is all accounted for in our archives.
The castle survived two sieges in the 17th century, leaving the family impoverished at the beginning of the 18th century. This led to little was done to the 17thcentury house. However, sometime between the end of that century and the beginning of the 19th century, the house which had always faced the town, was given a new gothic facade, which now faces the park. The ancient towers and walls, now the park side of the castle, were swept away, including the Black Tower (The Tower House) of the O’Carroll’s, which had stood on the motte. Around 1820 the octagonal Gothic Saloon overlooking the river was cleverly added into the space between the central block and the west flanking tower.
After a fire in the central block in 1836 the centre of the castle was rebuilt, with the ceilings heightened, a third story added and also the great dining room. In the middle of the 1840s a larger work force was employed during the famine times in Ireland. The old moat and the original Norman motte were flattened, and a new star-shaped moat was designed, with a keep gate. This was financed by Mary, Countess of Rosse. This period of remodelling was also overlapped with the construction of the Great Telescope, The Leviathan. Which was completed in 1845.
The final work on the castle was completed in the 1860s when a Square Tower at the back of the castle on the East side was added. This now contains nurseries on the top floor which have a great view over the town of Birr.”
The website also gives us a good history of the family:
“The Parsons family arrived at Birr in 1620. They acquired the ruined fortress of Birr. It had been an O’Carroll castle, but had for some twenty years belonged to the Ormond Butlers. Sir Laurence [1576-1628], one of four brothers living in Ireland at the beginning of end of the 16th century, had been working with his cousin Richard Boyle the great Earl of Cork,(to whom he was related through the Fenton family, in Youghal). Laurence died suddenly in 1628 and was succeeded by his second son, William, ably supported by his mother, Anne, née Malham, a Yorkshire woman related to the Tempest family.
Sir Laurence’s elder brother, also William, became Surveyor General of Ireland and founded the elder branch of the family, living in Bellamont, Dublin. This branch died out at the end of the 18th century.
The 17th century was a turbulent one for the Parsons family in Birr. The castle was involved in two sieges, the first in the 1640s where the family moved for a time to London, before returning at the end of the Cromwellian period. In 1690 the castle was besieged again, by Sarsfield [Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan].This time the Castle held out and Sarsfield moved on.
The 18th century was a quiet period for the family who were left with little money and returned to improving their estates at Birr and living off the land. Towards the end of the century Sir Laurence, [1758-1841] 5th baronet, became a politician and friend of Flood and Grattan. He was praised for his honesty. He opposed the Act of Union. He became 2nd Earl of Rosse in 1807 when he inherited the title from his Uncle [Lawrence Harman Parsons-Harman, 1st Earl of Rosse, who had inherited Newcastle, County Longford].”
The website history of the family continues:
“The 19th century saw the castle become a great centre of scientific research when William Parsons, 3rd Earl built the great telescope. (See astronomy).His wife, Mary, whose fortune helped him to build the telescope and make many improvements to the castle, was a pioneer photographer and took many photographs in the 1850s. Her dark room – a total time capsule which was preserved in the Castle – has now been exactly relocated in the Science Centre.
Their son the 4th Earl also continued astronomy at the castle and the great telescope was used up to the beginning of the 2nd world war. His son the 5th Earl was interested in agriculture and visited Denmark in search of more modern and successful methods. Sadly he died of wounds in the 1st world war.
His son, Michael the 6th Earl and his wife Anne created the garden for which Birr is now famous. (see the gardens and trees and plants) Anne, who was the sister of Oliver Messel the stage designer, brought many treasures to Birr from the Messel collection and with her skill in interior decoration and artist’s eye, transformed the castle, giving it the magical beauty that is now apparent to all. Michael was also much involved in the creation of the National Trust in England after the war.
Their son Brendan, the present Earl, spent his career in the United Nations Development Programme, living with his wife Alison and their family in many third world countries. He returned to Ireland on his father’s death in 1979. Brendan and Alison have also spent much time on the garden, especially collecting and planting rare trees. Their three children are all passionate about Birr and continue to add layers to the story for the future.
Patrick, Lord Oxmantown currently lives in London and is working on plans to bring large scale investment into Birr which will enable him and his family to move back to Ireland.
Alicia Clements managers the Birr Castle Estate and lives in the sibling house of Tullanisk.
Michael Parsons, works in London managing a portfolio of properties for the National Trust and is a board member to The Birr Scientific and Heritage Foundation.”
contact: Martin O’Rourke Tel: 086-2594914 Open: June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €2, student/child free, family €5
The National Inventory describes it: “Oval-shaped four-bay two-storey lock keeper’s house, built c.1800, with a projecting bow to the front and rear. Located at the 26th lock on the Grand Canal.”
5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 82. “(Bury/IFR) The finest and most spectacular early C19 castle in Ireland, Francis Johnston’s Gothic masterpiece, just as Townley Hall, Co Louth, is his Classical masterpiece. Built 1800-1812 for Charles William Bury, 1st Earl of Charleville, replacing a C17 house on a different site known as Redwood. A high square battlemented block with, at one corner, a heavily machicolated octagon tower, and at the other, a slender round tower rising to a height of 125 feet, which has been compared to a castellated lighthouse. From the centre of the block rises a tower-like lantern. The entrance door, and the window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch. The entire building is cut-stone, of beautiful quality. To the right of the entrance front, and giving picturesque variety to the composition, is a long, low range of battlemented offices, including a tower with pinnacles and a gateway. The garden front is flanked by square turrets. The interior is as dramatic and well-finished as the exterior. In the hall, with its plaster groined ceiling carried on graceful shafts, a straight flight of stairs rises between galleries to piano nobile level, where a great double door, carved in florid Decorated style, leads to a vast saloon or gallery running the whole length of the garden front. This is one of the most splendid Gothic Revival interiors in Ireland; it has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle; two lavishly carved fireplaces of grained wood, Gothic decoration in the frames of the windows opposite and Gothic bookcases and side-tables to match. The drawing room and dining room, on either side of the hall, are also of noble proportions, the dining room has a coffered ceiling and a fireplace which is a copy of the west door of Magdalen College chapel, Oxford. Staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls. Small octagonal library in octagon tower; charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star. Very heavily oak-wooded demesne, with grotto and serpentine walks; castellated entrance gateway. With the death of 5th Earl of Charleville 1875, the title became extinct; Charleville Forest passed to a sister of 4th Earl [Emily Alfreda Julia Bury, who married Kenneth Howard who added Bury to his surname], then to her son [Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury], and then to the grandson of another of 4th Earl’s sisters. After standing empty for many years, the castle has been let to Mr M.G. McMullen, who has restored it.” 
Sean O’Reilly tells us in rish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life: “Bury’s intention, as he wrote in his own unfinished account of the work, was to ‘exhibit specimens of Gothic architecture’ adapted to ‘chimneypieces, ceilings, windows, balustrades, etc.’ but without excluding ‘convenience and modern refinements in luxury.’ This recipe for the Georgian gothic villa had already been used at Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in London, and Bury’s cultivated lifestyle in England certainly would have made him aware of that house and its long line of descendants.” 
My camera battery died before I had time to take photographs when I visited so please excuse these blurry pictures taken on my old phone. For much better pictures and more information, see the website of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne, https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/10/14/charleville/
O’Reilly tells us: “Charleville Forest’s patron, Charles William Bury, from 1800 Viscount and from 1806 Earl of Charleville, was a man well versed in contemporary English taste and style. He inherited lands in Limerick, through his father’s maternal line, and in Offaly. His great wealth, lavish lifestyle and generous nature allowed him simultaneously to distribute largesse in Ireland, live grandly in London and travel widely on the continent…[p. 139] Charleville’s lack of success in his search for a sinecure proved ill for the future of the family fortunes for, continuing to live extravagantly above their means, they advanced speedily towards bankruptcy. On Charleville’s death in 1835, the estate was ‘embarrassed’ and by 1844, the Limerick estates had to be sold and the castle shut up, while his son and heir, ‘the greatest bore the world can produce’ according to one contemporary, retired to Berlin.“
O’Reilly continues to tell us of the history of ownership: “The 3rd Earl [Charles William George Bury (1822-1859)] returned to the house in 1851, but with a much reduced fortune; the property was then inherited by his grand-daughter Lady Emily Howard-Bury, after whose death in 1931 it remained unoccupied.”
“Clonony Castle, built in the 1490’s by the Coghlan Clan, was seized by Henry VIII during the war of dominion by England. He ceded it to Thomas Boleyn, making him the Earl of Ormond, his daughter, the ill-fated Ann, a countess and marriageable by a king. When Henry tired of Ann and the Boleyns fell from grace, two ladies, Mary and Elizabeth, were sent back to Clonony and remained for the rest of their lives. Their tombstone lays beneath a tree in the castle bawn.
Following the ladies demise, a merchant, Sir Matthew de Renzi, wrote to Queen Elizabeth of the great significance of the castle and begged to be awarded it. These DeRenzi letters have become very important as they tell us what life was like in the 16th Century in the midlands. Possessing a great facility for language, speaking and trading with many countries, he wrote the first English/Irish dictionary.
Today the castle has been sensitively restored to reflect the way of life through this historical period and now is open to the public casually from 12 to 5 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through summer and anytime by appointment on 0877614034. There is no fee, but donations toward the maintenance of the castle is greatly appreciated. In June, the castle will open on weekends for glamping (glamourous camping). Early booking is essential.”
The National Inventory tells us it is: “Detached five-bay three-storey over basement country house, built c.1730, with two-storey addition to north. Set within its own grounds….Corolanty House displays some of the characteristics of a typical eighteenth-century Irish country house, which include its form and scale, the finely tooled Gibbsian door surround and the curiously concealed tooled limestone architrave surrounds to the window openings. The symmetrical form of the house is maintained by the inclusion of blind windows to the rear elevation, but this is somewhat disrupted by the two-storey addition to the north-facing side elevation. The retention of many original features, including the staircase, decorative plasterwork to the ceilings of the principal rooms and the interior joinery, contribute to the character of the house and its architectural and artistic significance. The remains of Corolanty Castle to the yard contributes an archaeological interest.” 
contact: Tom & Mary Alexander Tel: 087-2342135 Open: Jan 3-28, Mon-Fri, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student/child/OAP €7
The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:
“Just east of the road between Birr and Roscrea, Gloster is County Offaly’s most important remaining eighteenth century house. The formal facade, overlooking the steeply terraced garden, is unusually long and low, and is very grand. Thirteen bays wide and two stories high, the house is constructed in blue-grey limestone with a wealth of early architectural details in warm contrasting sandstone. The interior is equally splendid, especially the two principal rooms; the richly decorated double-height entrance hall and the great barrel-vaulted hall, or landing, on the piano nobile.
The Lloyd’s ancestor came to Ireland from Denbighshire, to serve in the army of King Charles I, and he acquired the estate in 1639 through marriage with an heiress, Margaret Medhop. Presumably they and their descendants lived in an earlier dwelling, of which no trace remains, until the present house was completed sometime after 1720. The architectural historian Maurice Craig, who edited the book of Pearce’s drawings, observed that, “Gloster has features which can hardly derive from anyone other than Sir Edward Lovett Pearce” (c.1699-1733). Craig also believed that, while Pearce may well have provided a design for his cousin, Trevor Lloyd, he almost certainly left the execution to others since “for all its charm, it is provincial in almost every respect”.
The central breakfront is relatively plain, apart from the typically 1700s hooded door case with pilasters to either side, while two recessed bays at either end of the facade are treated as wings, with Pearcean blind niches in place of windows on the upper storeys. Meanwhile the three intervening bays to either side are further divided by vertically paired pilasters, Doric below the string course and Corintian above, and their positions are reflected in the cornice, the parapet and in the intervals of the balustrade.
Inside, the elaborate double-height entrance-hall has a series of bust-filled niches while there is very grand upper hall on the piano nobile. This is approached by twin staircases and overlooks the entrance-hall though a series of round-headed openings with a profusion of architectural detail.
Samuel Chearnley may have had a hand in designing the gardens, which contain a canal, a lime avenue and a pedimented arch, flanked by obelisks in the manner of Vanburgh, while a series of later terraces in front of the house descend to a small lake.
Gloster was sold in 1958 and became a convent and nursing home, with a new school complex built on the site of the former stables. The school closed shortly after 1990 and the house fell into considerable disrepair. Happily Tom and Mary Alexander purchased the house and have carried out a thorough and sympathetic restoration.
Famous visitors to Gloster include John Wesley, who preached here in 1749, while the famous Australian “diva” Dame Nellie Melba sang from the gallery in the upper hall early in the 20th century.” 
10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482
“Sean Ryan of Leap Castle, insisted that he doesn’t fabricate when telling the story of what he and his wife see and hear at their home. Where most would refer to these apparitions as ghosts, Sean prefers to call them spirits. He describes the regular visions as people with a haze around them. Sometimes there is a lot of activity; other times less so. The sounds they hear are footsteps, doors opening and closing and crowds talking. However, on occasions that he has gone in the direction of the noise, nothing is apparent there, with the location of the spirits always out of reach. There is spirit, though, a lady, who touches off people. A lot of guests to the castle have also felt her presence. The remarkable thing Sean told us was that this experience never seems to alarm his guests, rather they always remain very calm, something that surprises them! Sean doesn’t regard his home as haunted and, as far as he is concerned, the spirits he sees and hears have as much right to live there as he does. Sean is happy to continue to live alongside them as he has done since 1994, when restoration on the castle began.“
Built in the early 1500’s under the supervision of the powerful and warring O’Carroll clan, Leap Castle has been the centre of much bloodshed.
“The O’Carrolls were a fierce and brutal clan, continually struggling for power and supremacy. They were known to be particularly violent and cunning in the attempts for domination. John O’Carroll was thought to be the first Prince of Ely who lived at Leap Castle. It is very probable that it was he who was responsible for the construction of the earliest sections of Leap Castle. John O’Carroll died at Leap Castle, suffering from the plague. John O’Carroll was succeeded by his son named Mulrony O’Carroll. Mulrony O’Carroll was renowned for his strength, bravery and valour and was considered a great leader. The Great Mulrony as he was known died (most likely) at Leap in 1532 after a rulership of forty two years. Mulrony was succeeded by his son Fearganhainm.“
The website continues with the history of one brother after another killing each other for supremacy.
The website tells us:
“In 1629 John O’Carroll, nephew of Charles O’Carroll was given the official ownership of the Leap Estate. The year 1649 the property of Leap Castle was handed over to the first of the Darby line, Jonathon. He was a soldier of the Cromwellian forces and was handed the property and land in lieu of pay.
1664 saw the property handed back to John O’Carroll due to his continued loyalty to Charles the 1st. This arrangement was unfortunately reversed in 1667 due to the differing views of Charles the 2nd. The Leap Castle was once again back in the hands of the Darbys.“
“Jonathon Darby the 2nd, a Cromwellian soldier obtained Leap Castle in 1649. This was lieu of payment for his services. Jonathon and his wife Deborah had a son also named Jonathon.“
The estate was passed through a line of Jonathan Darbys.
“Jonathon Darby the 5th maintained the Leap Estate until his death in 1802. As Jonathon fathered no male children, Leap Castle was passed on to his younger brother Henry.
Henry d’Esterre Darby, born in 1750 climbed through the Naval ranks to become Admiral Sir Henry d’Esterre Darby in 1799. Henry died in 1823 bearing no children of his own. Upon Henry’s death, the Leap Castle estate was inherited by his brother John Darby.
John Darby married Anne Vaughan and died in 1834. He was succeeded by their sons William Henry, Christopher, George, Susan, Jonathon, Horatio d’Esterre, John Nelson and Sarah Darby.
William Henry Darby inherited Leap Castle died in 1880. His eldest son had died in 1872 aged 45 so the Leap Estate was passed on to his grandson Jonathon Charles Darby.
Jonathon married Mildred Dill aka Mildred Darby in 1889.“
“In the early hours of Sunday morning, 30 July 1922 a party of eleven raiders set fire to the Leap totally destroying the North and larger wing and its valuable contents. Giving evidence in the claims court Richard Dawkins said that on 30 July 1922, he was living in the Castle as caretaker with his wife and baby. They were the only persons in the castle that night. Richard Dawkins stated that at 2.20am there was a knock on the door. He opened the window, put out his head, and saw men outside who stated that they wanted a night’s lodging. They ordered him to open the door. He went down and opened the door and was subsequently held at gunpoint. The raiders then stated that they were going to burn the castle. Dawkins asked for time to get his wife and child out and was given twenty minutes to do so. The raiders then went into the castle and poured petrol over the rooms, and set them on fire. They kept the family outside from 2.30am to 5.00am. Each of the men had a tin of petrol, and all were armed. Some had trench coats and other had bandoleers over their civilian clothes. The men broke furniture before setting the castle on fire.…
In a newspaper report Jonathan Darby said that it looked as if there were explosives used in the destruction of the castle he had found some dynamite in the cellar where the raiders got so drunk they could not explode it. He said that it was the locals who burned the castle.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his 1988 book of Kinnitty Castle, formerly named Castle Bernard: p. 62. [Castle Bernard]: “[Bernard 1912; De la Poer Beresford, Decies] A Tudor-Revival castle of 1833 by James and George Pain [built for T. Bernard]. Impressive entrance front with gables, oriels and tracery windows and an octagonal corner tower with battlements and crockets; all in smooth ashlar. Subsequently the home of 6th Lord Decies [Arthur George Marcus Douglas De La Poer Beresford (1915-1992)], by whom it was sold ca. 1950. Now a forestry centre.”
The website used to include a history, which told us:
“The present building was originally built by William O’Carroll on the site of the old Abbey in 1630. The English Forces, as part of the plantation of Offaly, or “Kings County” as it was renamed, confiscated this in 1641. In 1663 Colonel Thomas Winter was granted 2,624 acres by King Charles II for military services rendered. The Winter family sold the building in 1764 to the Bernards of County Carlow. This building was reconstructed as a castellated mansion in 1811 by the famous Pan Brothers at the commission of Lady Catherine Hutchinson, wife of Colonel Thomas Bernard. The building was burned in 1922 by Republican forces and rebuilt by means of a Government grant of £32,000 in 1927. The building became the property of Lord Decies in 1946. He in turn sold it and the estate to the Government of Ireland on 12th December 1951. The State used the castle as a Forestry Training centre from 1955 until it was purchased in 1994 and turned into a 37 bedroom luxurious hotel for all guests both locally and internationally to enjoy.“
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us about Ballycumber:
“Originally built as a castle in 1627 and remodelled at a later date, the regular from of this well proportioned house is enhanced by architectural detailing such as the finally executed doorcase and attractive, steeply-pitched hipped roof. The building retains many notable features and materials such as the timber sash windows with the date plaque, which adds historical interest to the site. The related outbuildings and walled garden create an interesting group of agricultural structures, while the folly and landscaped tree-lined river walk make a positive contribution to the setting of the house, reflecting the era of the large country estate.“
The Offaly history blog tells us more about the occupants of Ballycumber:
“Ballycumber House was bought by Francis Berry Homan Mulock in 1899 from the Armstrong family who had been in possession of the estate for successive generations. Originally built as a castle in 1627 by the Coghlan family, it was extensively remodelled by the Armstrongs in the eighteenth century into a detached five-bay two storey over basement country house, much as it is today.” 
I would love to stay at Ballycumber because the Bagot family of County Offaly intermarried with the Armstrong family who owned Ballycumber. I’m not sure if my own Baggot family is related to the Bagots of Offaly but there is a good possibility!
The website tells us: “Trace the footprints of the generations who shaped this place. From early settlements and warring chieftains to foreign invaders and local heroes. This site on the River Shannon is the centre of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Over the centuries it has been the nucleus of the Anglo-Norman settlement; a stronghold of the rival local families the Dillons and the O’Kelly’s; the seat of the Court of Claims; the residence of the President of Connaught and the Jacobite stronghold during the sieges of Athlone. After the Siege of Athlone it became incorporated into the new military barrack complex. It remained a stronghold of the garrison for almost three hundred years.
In 1922 when the Free State troops took over the Barracks from their British counterparts, they proudly flew the tricolour from a temporary flagpole much to the delight of the majority of townspeople.
In 1967 the Old Athlone Society established a museum in the castle with a range of exhibits relating to Athlone and its environs and also to folk-life in the district. Two years later when the military left the castle it was handed over to the Office of Public Works and the central keep became a National Monument.
In 1991 to mark the Tercentenary of the Siege of Athlone the castle became the foremost visitor attraction in Athlone. Athlone Town Council (then Athlone UDC) made a major investment in the castle creating a multi-faceted Visitor Centre as it approached its 800th Anniversary in 2010. A total of €4.3million euro was invested in the new facility by Fáilte Ireland and Athlone Town Council and was officially opened by the then Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring T.D. on Tuesday 26th February 2012.
Athlone Castle Visitor Centre is now a modern, engaging, fun and unique family attraction which harnesses most significant architectural features, such as the keep, to act as a dramatic backdrop to its diverse and fascinating story.
It houses eight individual exhibition spaces, each depicting a different aspect of life in Athlone, the Castle and the periods both before and after the famous Siege. Fun, hands-on interactives, touchable objects and educational narratives immerse visitors in the drama, tragedy and spectacle of Athlone’s diverse and fascinating story. 3D maps, audio-visual installations, illustrations and artefacts bring the stories and characters of Athlone to life and The Great Siege of Athlone is dramatically recreated in a 360-degree cinematic experience in the Keep of the castle.
As part of Westmeath County Council’s commemoration of Ireland’s world-renowned tenor, John Count McCormack, a new exhibition dedicated to the celebrated singer was opened at Athlone Castle in October 2014.“
Archiseek tells us about Athlone Castle: “Towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification here. This was superceeded by a stone structure built in 1210, on the orders of King John of England. The Castle was built by John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich. The 12-sided donjon dates from this time. The rest of the castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged upon. In the early 1800s, during the Napoleonic Wars, the castle was rebuilt as a fortification to protect the river crossing, taking the form we largely see today. The machicolations of the central keep are all nineteenth century. In the interior is an early nineteenth century two-storey barrack building. The modern ramp up to the castle has a line of pistol loops. The castle was taken over by the Irish Army in 1922 and continued as a military installation until it was transferred to the Office of Public Works in 1970.” 
2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Belvedere in his 1988 book:
p. 39. “(Rochfort, sub Belvedere, E/DEP Rochfort/LGI1912; Marlay/LGI1912; Howard-Bury, sub Suffolk and Berkshire, E/PB; and Bury/IFR) An exquisite villa of ca 1740 by Richard Castle, on the shores of Lough Ennell; built for Robert Rochfort, Lord Bellfield, afterwards 1st Earl of Belvedere, whose seat was at Gaulston, ca 5 miles away. Of two storeys over basement, with a long front and curved end bows – it may well be the earliest bow-ended house in Ireland – but little more than one room deep.”
Bence-Jones continues: “The front has a three bay recessed centre between projecting end bays, each of which originally had a Venetian window below a Diocletian window. Rusticated doorcase and rusticated window surrounds on either side of it; high roof parapet. The house contains only a few rooms, but they are of fine proportions and those on the ground floor have rococo plasterwork ceilings of the greatest delicacy and gaiety, with cherubs and other figures emerging from clouds, by the same artist as the ceilings formerly are Mespil House, Dublin, one of which is now in Aras.“
In Belvedere, dining was an opportunity to impress guests not only by the room bu tby the sumptuous meals, presented by immaculately dressed servants. The rococo ceiling of puffing cherubs and fruits and foliage is attributed to Barthelemji Cramillion, a French stuccodore.
Bence-Jones continues: “The staircase, wood and partly curving, is in proportion to the back of the house.“
Information boards tells us that the Drawing Room was the place for afternoon tea, after-dinner drinks, music and conversation. Belvedere’s last owners, Charles Howard-Bury and Rex Beaumont would have passed many happy hours relaxing and reminiscing about their wartime experiences and travels across the world, as well as planning trips to Tunisia and Jamaica.
Bence-Jones tells of the house’s occupants; “Soon after the house was finished, Lord Bellfield’s beautiful wife [Mary Molesworth, daughter of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth of Swords, Dublin] confessed to him that she had committed adultery with his brother; whereupon he incarcerated her at Gaulston, where she remained, forbidden to see anyone but servants, until his death nearly thirty years later; while he lived a bachelor’s life of great elegance and luxury at Belvedere. Another of his brothers lived close to Belvedere at Rochfort (afterwards Tudenham Park); having quarrelled with him too, Lord Belvedere, as he had now become, built the largest Gothic sham ruin in Ireland to blot out the view of his brother’s house; it is popularly known as the Jealous Wall. In C19, the Diocletian windows in the front of the house were replaced with rectangular triple windows; and the slope from the front of the house down to the lough was elaborately terraced. Belvedere passed by inheritance to the Marlay family and then to late Lt-Col C.K. Howard-Bury, leader of the 1921 Mount Everest Expedition; who bequeathed it to Mr Rex Beaumont.” (see )
The jealous wall is rather disappointingly attached to the visitor centre of Belvedere at the entrance to the park.
Robert Rochfort managed to have children despite his antipathy toward his wife. George Rochfort (1738-1814), 2nd Earl of Belvedere inherited Belvedere and other estates when his father died in 1774. He also inherited debts, and sold Gaulston House, the house where his mother had been imprisoned by his father. Unfortunately Gaulston House was destroyed by fire in 1920. George Rochfort built an extension onto the rear of Belvedere but spent most of his time in his townhouse, Belvedere House in Great Denmark Street, Dublin.
The 2nd Earl of Belvedere had no children. His wife inherited his Dublin property but his sister Jane inherited Belvedere. Jane married Brinsley Butler, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough. She inherited Belvedere when she was 77 years old! She had married a second time and the income from the estate allowed herself and her second husband to live in fine style in Florence. The male line of the Earls of Lanesborough died out after two more generations. Jane’s son Robert Henry Butler (1759-1806) 3rd Earl of Lanesborough married Elizabeth La Touche, daughter of David La Touche and Elizabeth Marlay, whom we came across when we visited Harristown, County Kildare (see my entry) and Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, Dublin. The estate passed down to their son, Brinsley Butler, 4th Earl of Lanesborough. The estate then passed through the female line. The 3rd Earl’s sister Catherine married George Marlay (1748-1829), the brother of Elizabeth who married David La Touche.
Catherine and George Marlay had a son, George, who married Catherine Tisdall, and the estate passed to his son, Charles Brinsley Marlay (1831-1912). He was only sixteen when he inherited Belvedere from his cousin the Earl of Lanesborough. It was Charles Brisley Marlay who built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later. He spent many hours planning the 60 metre long rockery to the side of the terraces, and also built the walled garden. He was known as “the Darling Landlord” due to his kindness to tenants, and for bringing happiness and wealth back to Belvedere. He was cultured and amassed an important art collection, as well as improving the estate.
The inheritance of Belvedere continues to be even more complicated. It passed via Catherine Tisdall’s family. Her mother Catherine Dawson had married twice. Catherine’s second husband was Charles William Bury (1764-1835), the 1st Earl of Charleville. We came across him earlier, as an owner of Charleville Forest, in Tullamore, County Offaly. Belvedere passed to his descendent, Lt. Col Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1963). The 3rd Earl of Charleville, Charles William George Bury (1822-1859) had several children but the house passed to the fourth child as all others had died before Charles Brinsley Marley died. It was therefore the son of Emily Alfreda Julia Bury (1856-1931) who inherited Belvedere. She married Kenneth Howard, who added Bury to his surname. Their son was Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury.
Charles Howard-Bury left Belvedere to his friend, Rex Beaumont. Eventally financial difficulties caused Mr Beaumont to sell the property, and it was acquired by Westmeath County Council. Two years previously, in 1980, Mr Beaumont sold the contents of the house – I wonder where those things ended up?
The estate is a wonderful amenity for County Westmeath, with large parklands to explore with several follies, as well as the walled garden.
3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482
contact: Liam O’Flanagan Tel: 044-9661226 Open: Mar 16-22, Apr 15-18, May 1-4, June 1-7, July 14-24, Aug 1-7, 13-22, Sept 1- 7, Oct 28-31, 2pm-6pm
“The family run Annebrook House Hotel Mullingar opened its doors February 2007. Originally an Old Georgian residence for the local county surgeon, Dr O’Connell, the historic Annebrook House Hotel was purchased by the Dunne family in 2005. With his experience in hospitality and construction Berty Dunne set about creating a hotel as unique as the man who owns it. The Annebrook’s central location, its diverse range of accommodation from 2 bedroomed family suites to executive doubles has made it a very popular location for those coming to experience all that the midlands has to offer.
Situated in the heart of Mullingar overlooking 10 acres of parkland, the Award Winning 4 star Annebrook House Hotel presents a modern day styling coupled with 17th century heritage. As a family run hotel the Annebrook prides itself on quality and high standards of customer service, working as part of one team to ensure all guests of their best and personal attention at all times. Annebrook House Hotel is steeped in history and enjoys the enviable advantage of being one of the most centrally located hotels in Mullingar town. This unique venue mixes old world charm with modern comfort and has established itself as one of Westmeath’s top wedding venues and was recently voted Best Wedding Venue Ireland by Irish Wedding Diary Magazine. With accommodation ranging from executive hotel rooms, family suites, luxurious champagne suites and apartments, the Annebrook has much to offer those visiting Mullingar. Offering a range of dining options from Berty’s Bar to fine dining in the award winning Old House Restaurant. The four star Annebrook House Hotel offers an excellent service to both its corporate & leisure guests. The hotel is accessible by car just 50 mins from Dublin and is only 10 minutes from the local Train Station.“
2.Lough Bawn House, Colllinstown, Co Westmeath – B&B accommodation €€
“A classic Georgian house in a unique setting. Lough Bawn house sits high above Lough Bane with amazing sweeping views. Nestled in a 50 acre parkland at the end of a long drive, Lough Bawn House is a haven of peace and tranquillity.
The house and estate has been in the same family since it was built in 1820 by George Battesby, the current occupier, Verity’s, Great Great Great Grandfather. The house is being lovingly restored by Verity, having returned from England to live in the family home. Verity ran her own catering and events company in Gloucestershire for over 20 years. Her passion for cooking & entertaining shines through. Guests enjoy an extensive and varied breakfast with much of the ingredients being grown or reared by Verity herself, and delicious dinners are on offer. Breakfast is eaten in the large newly restored dining room, with wonderful views over the lough and of the parading peacocks on the rolling lawns.
Both of the large, en-suite rooms have fine views down the length of Lough Bane and over the wooded hills while the single room and the twin/double room have sweeping views of the surrounding parklands. Guests are warmly welcomed and encouraged to relax in the homely drawing room in front of a roaring fire or to explore one of the many local historical sites, gardens, walks or cultural entertainments on offer.
Several areas of the estate have been classified as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC‘s) due to the incredibly varied and rare flora. Wild flowers can be found in abundance and a charming fern walk has been the created amongst the woodland near the house.“
3. Mornington House, County Westmeath – B&B accommodation
“Mornington House, a historic Irish Country Manor offering luxury country house accommodation located in the heart of the Co. Westmeath countryside, just 60 miles from Ireland’s capital city of Dublin. Tranquility and warm hospitality are the essence of Mornington, home to the O’Hara’s since 1858.
Mornington House is hidden away in the midst of a charming and dramatic landscape with rolling hills, green pasture, forests with ancient, heavy timber and sparkling lakes, deep in an unexplored corner of County Westmeath. Nearby are ancient churches, castles and abbeys, and delightful small villages to explore, away from all hustle and bustle of 21st century life, yet just 60 miles from Dublin.
There has been a house at Mornington since the early 17th century but this was considerably enlarged in 1896 by Warwick’s grandparents. It is now a gracious family home with a reputation for delicious breakfasts which are prepared in the fine tradition of the Irish Country House and really set you up for the day ahead.
A special place to stay for a romantic or relaxing break Mornington House’s location in the centre of Ireland just an hour’s drive from Dublin and Dublin Airport makes it ideal for either a midweek or weekend country break. Guests can walk to the lake or wander round the grounds. Excellent golf, fishing, walking and riding can be arranged. The Hill of Uisneach, the Neolithic passage tombs at Loughcrew and Newgrange and the early Christian sites at Fore and Clonmacnoise are all within easy reach, as are the gardens at Belvedere, Tullynally and Loughcrew.“
“Bishopstown House is a three-storey Georgian house built in the early 1800s by the Casey family. After he passed away, the original owner, Mr. J Casey left Bishopstown to his two daughters, who then sold the house to Mr Richard Cleary in 1895.
Mr Richard Cleary, formally from the famed lakeside Cleaboy Stud near Mullingar, planned and erected Bishopstown House and Stud. In his younger days he rode horses at Kilbeggan, Ballinarobe, Claremorris and other Irish meetings with varying degrees of success, but as a trainer he knew no bounds. In his later years he devoted his time to breeding and training, and in time he became one of Ireland’s most famous trainers, breeding some excellent horses, including the winner of the 1916 Irish Grand National, Mr James Kiernan’s All Sorts!
Other famous horses from the Bishopstown stud include Shaun Spada and Serent Murphy who both won the Aintree Grand National in England. Another horse called Dunadry won the Lancashire Steeple Chase. Other stallion winners include Sylvio III, Lustrea and Irish Battle who frequently had their names in the limelight throughout Irish and English racecourses.
After being left fall into a dilapidated state, the stud farm and house was purchased by Paddy and Claire Dunning, the owners of the award-winning Grouse Lodge Recording Studios and Coolatore House and members of the Georgian society. It was restored to its former glory in 2009 and is now available for rent.“
2. Middleton Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath – available to rent http://mph.ie
Middleton Park House featured in The Great House Revival on RTE, with presenter (and architect) Hugh Wallace. The website tells us:
“Carolyn and Michael McDonnell, together with Carolyn’s brother Henry, joined together to purchase this expansive property in Castletown Geoghegan. Built during the famine, the property was last in use as a hotel but it had deteriorated at a surprisingly fast rate over its three unoccupied years.
Designed by renowned architect George Papworth, featuring a Turner-designed conservatory, Middleton Park House stands at a palatial 35,000sq. ft. and is steeped in history. Its sheer scale makes it an ambitious restoration.
The trio’s aim is to create a family home, first and foremost, which can host Henry’s children at the weekends and extended family all year-round. Due to its recent commercial use, the three will need to figure out how to change industrial-style aspects to make it a welcoming home that is economical to run.
Henry will be putting his skills as a contractor and a qualified chippy to use, and Michael will be wearing his qualified engineer’s hat to figure out an effective heating system. Carolyn will be using her love of interiors to work out the aesthetic of the house, and how to furnish a property the size of 35 semi-detached houses in Dublin.“
The trio have now made the house available for accommodation and as a wedding venue.
 Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 136. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998.
The province of Ulster contains counties Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone. They won’t all fit in one entry so today we look at Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal and Down.
Places in purple are on the Revenue Section 482 list.
For places to stay I’ve made a rough estimate for prices at time of publication: € = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing; €€ – up to approx €250 per night for two; €€€ – over €250 per night for two.
1 Ardress House, County Armagh
2. The Argory, County Armagh
3. Brownlow House, County Armagh
4. Derrymore House, Bessbrook, County Armagh – National Trust
Kevin V. Mulligan writes in The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster (p. 83)  that Ardress is the best preserved example of a gentleman’s farmhouse in South Ulster, due to its ownership by the National Trust. The discovernorthernireland website tells us:
“Ardress is nestled in the apple orchards of County Armagh and offers afternoons of fun and relaxation for everyone. Built in the 17th century as a farmhouse, Ardress was remodelled in Georgian times and has a character and charm all of its own.
• Elegant Neo-classical drawing-room with plasterwork by the Dublin plasterer Michael Stapleton • Attractive garden with scenic woodland and riverside walks • Home to an important collection of farm machinery and tools • Rich apple orchards • On display is the 1799 table made for the speaker of the Irish Parliament upon which King George V signed the Constitution of Northern Ireland on 22nd June 1921
Visitor Facilities: Historic house, Farm yard, Garden, Shop, Guided tours, Suitable for picnics, Programme of events.”
Mulligan writes that it is a mid-Georgian house with a two storey facade of seven bays, with a small Tuscan portico in the centre, and it was later enlarged to nine bays by the addition of a slightly lower quoined wings. It began as a smaller five bay house with basement, and Mulligan tells us that it was probably built for Thomas Clarke.
The National Trust website tells us: “Clarke and Ensor families who lived at Ardress from the late 1600s to the mid 20th-century. See how the originally modest farmhouse was enlarged and re-modelled over the years. Some of the furnishings are original while others have made their way back here. Highlights include the drawing room, dining room and a fine collection of paintings on loan from Stuart Hall in County Tyrone.
Past our brand new visitor reception area you’ll find the traditional, cobbled farmyard. Pop into the different outbuildings such as the smithy, byre and threshing barn to get a flavour of old-time rural life. The whole family will love meeting the friendly chickens, goats and donkey, and there’s also a children’s play area.
Bring your walking boots and set off on the Lady’s Mile (really three-quarters-of-a-mile, if you’re counting). This circular, woodland path is a real highlight of any visit, especially in spring when it’s full of wildflowers. There are some great views back to the house and look out for Frizzel’s Cottage, an 18th-century mud-walled house which is now fully refurbished.
Ardress sits in the heart of Armagh’s rich apple-growing country. Visit in May to see the orchards burst into vibrant whites and pinks, truly a memorable sight. During Apple Blossom Sundays (12 and 19 May), there will be orchard tours, local cider, local honey, music, country crafts and family fun. Be sure to come back in October for the Apple Press Days, when you can pick your own apples. Kids can also press their own apple juice.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 11. “(Ensor/LG1894) A two storey five bay gable-ended house of ca. 1664 with two slight projections at the back; enlarged and modernized ca. 1770 by the Dublin architect, George Ensor – brother of better-known architect, John Ensor – for his own use. Ensor added a wing at one end of the front, and to balance it he built a screen wall with dummy windows at the other end. These additions were designed to give the effect of a centre block two bays longer than what the front was originally, with two storey one bay wings having Wyatt windows in both storeys. To complete the effect, he raised the façade to conceal the old high-pitched roof; decorating the parapet with curved upstands and a central urn; the parapet of the wings curving downwards on either side to frame other urns. Ensor also added a pedimented Tuscan porch and he altered the garden front, flanking it with curved sweeps. Much of the interior of the hosue was allowed to keep its simple, intimate scale; the oak staircase dates from before Ensor’s time. But he enlarged the drawing room, and decorated the walls and ceiling with Adamesque plasterwork and plaques of such elegance and quality that the work is generally assumed to have been carried out by the leading Irish artist in this style of work, Michael Stapleton. Ardress now belongs to the Northern Ireland National Trust and is open to the public.” 
“The Argory was built in the 1820s and its hillside location has wonderful views over the gardens and 320 acre wooded estate bordering the River Blackwater. This former home of the MacGeough–Bond family has a splendid stable yard with horse carriages, harness room, acetylene gas plant and laundry. Take a stroll around the delightful gardens or for the more energetic along the woodland and riverside way-marked trails.
Fascinating courtyard displays Garden, woodland and riverside walks with wonderful sweeping views Snowdrop walks and superb spring bulbs Adventure playground and environmental sculpture trail Enjoy afternoon tea and award winning scones in Lady Ada’s tea room
The National Trust website tells us: “The Argory is the home of Mr Bond, the last of four generations of the MacGeough Bond family. Designed by brothers Arthur and John Williamson of Dublin (who also did work for Emo Court in County Laois), the house was built by Mr Bond’s great-grandfather, Walter. The Argory was gifted to the National Trust in 1979. Designed in approximately 1819, started in 1820 and finished about 1824, The Argory came into existence due to a quirky stipulation in a will. Created with Caledon stone in coursed ashlar blocks with Navan limestone window sills, quoins and foundations, the interior of this understated and intimate house remains unchanged since 1900.
The house was largely closed up at the end of the Second World War, with Mr Bond, the last owner, moving into the North Wing. What you see today is a result of four generations of collecting, treasured by Mr Bond, displayed as he remembers it from his childhood.”
Of The Argory, Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 12. “(MacGeough Bond/IFR) Built ca. 1820 by Walter MacGeough (who subsequently assumed the surname of Bond), to the design of two architects, named A. and J. Williamson, one or both of whom worked in the office of Francis Johnston. A house with imposing and restrained Classical elevations, very much in the Johnston manner, of two storeys, and faced with ashlar. Main block has seven bay front, the centre bay breaking forward under a shallow pediment with acroteria; Wyatt window in centre above porch with Doric columns at corners. Unusual fenestration: the middle window in both storeys either side of the centre being taller than those to the left and right of it. Front prolonged by wing of same height as main block, but set back from it; of three bays, ending with a wide three-sided bow which has a chimneystack in its centre. Three bay end to main block; other front of main block also of seven bays, with a porch; prolonged by service wing flush with main block. Dining room has plain cornice with mutules; unusual elliptical overdoors with shells and fruit in plasterwork. Very extensive office ranges and courtyards at one corner of house; building with a pediment on each side and a clock tower with cupola; range with polygonal end pavilions; imposing archway. The interior is noted for a remarkable organ and for the modern art collection of the late owner. Now maintained by the National Trust.” 
“Brownlow House or Lurgan Castle, so named presumably after the Rt. Hon. Charles Brownlow, who built it in 1833, was created Baron Lurgan in 1839, was owned by the Brownlow family until the turn of the century. Changing fortunes resulted in property being sold to the Lurgan Real Property Company Ltd. and subsequently the House and surrounding grounds were purchased on behalf of Lurgan Loyal Orange District Lodge. The legal document of conveyance is dated 11 July 1904. In appreciation of the effort of the late Sir William Allen, KBE, DSO, DL, MP in obtaining the House, an illuminated address was presented to him by District Lodge and now hangs in the Dining Room beside the portrait of Sir William painted by Frank McKelvey. He together with Messrs. Hugh Hayes, John Mehaffey, George Lunn Jun. and James Malcolm Jun. were the first Trustees.
Browlow House, built in an age of grandeur and cultured tastes, is an imposing building. It has retained much of the atmosphere of bygone days and one can readily pause and still imagine what life was like when it was occupied as a dwelling.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Brownlow House (1988):
p. 49. (Brownlow, Lurgan, B/PB) A large Elizabethan-revival house by William Playfair, of Edinburgh, built from 1836 onwards for Charles Brownlow, 1st Lord Lurgan, whose son, 2nd Baron, owned the famous greyhound Master McGrath, and whose brother-in-law, Maxwell Close, built Drumbanagher, also to the design of Playfair. Of honey coloured stone, with a romantic silhouette; many gables with tall finials; many tall chimneypots; oriels crowned with strapwork and a tower with a lantern and dome. The walls of three principal reception rooms are decorated with panels painted to resemble verd-antique; while the ceilings are grained to represent various woods. The grand staircase has brushwork decoration in the ceiling panesl, and the windows are filled with heraldic stained glass. Sold 1903 to the Orange Order, its present owners, by whom it is used for seasonal functions. Its grounds have become a public park.”
4. Derrymore House, Bessbrook, County Armagh – National Trust, open to public.
The National Trust website tells us that Derrymore House is a late 18th-century thatched house in gentrified vernacular style.
“The name Derrymore is derived from ‘doire’, the Irish for an oak grove and ‘mór’, meaning large. Derrymore was the home of Isaac Corry (1753-1813), MP for Newry from 1776. He commissioned John Sutherland (1745-1826), the leading landscape gardener of the day, to carry out improvements to the land. Sutherland enhanced the existing woodland by planting thousands more trees. Oak, chestnut, pine and beech trees now dominate the woodlands, which contain some very fine mature specimens. The picturesque thatched house was built for Corry, in the style of a ‘cottage orné’, which gives it a rather romantic feel. It is surprisingly large inside with reception and bedrooms on the ground floor, and service rooms in the basement.
Isaac Corry was Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer in 1800, when the Act of Union with Britain was passed. It followed a time of extreme political unrest. The Act removed parliamentary control from Dublin to London, a highly contentious move. Many who supported the union were seen as betraying Ireland in the interests of economics and trade, while others saw it as an economic and political necessity. As MP for Newry and supporter of the linen industry, Corry was keen to ensure solid trade links. The Act was also meant to deliver Catholic Emancipation, but to the dismay of many, including Corry, this part of the Act was not ratified.
Corry sold Derrymore in 1810 and retired to his Dublin house, where he died in 1813. After passing through several hands, Derrymore was bought by John Grubb Richardson (1815-1890), owner of the Bessbrook linen works and village and a member of the Society of Friends.
By the mid-19th century the linen industry had become a major part of the Ulster economy. Industrialisation brought in ever more sophisticated engineering. The Craigmore Viaduct, visible from Derrymore demesne, opened in 1852, creating a major transport link between Dublin and Belfast. The linen business at Bessbrook grew from a small mill, with weaving carried out on looms in people’s own cottages (piece work), into an impressive series of flax, spinning and weaving mills, spear-heading new developments in damask weaving, and established a world-wide reputation for Richardson Linens.
John G. Richardson invested heavily in Bessbrook, creating a model village around the large mill, run on Quaker principles of mutual respect between managers and workers. Good housing, religious tolerance, playing fields and schools helped create a thriving and settled community. No public house ensured that there was no need for a police station, nor for a pawnshop.
John G. Richardson let Derrymore house to tenants and built The Woodhouse for his own family in the northern part of the demesne. He created informal gardens through the rocky woodland, making use of the granite rock from local quarries, enhanced the walled garden and built entrance lodges.
In 1940, soldiers of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry arrived in Bessbrook as a defence against German invasion of Northern Ireland from across the Irish border. In 1943, the troops were replaced by the US Army Quartermaster Depot Q111-D until August 1944.
After the war, John S.W. Richardson, a descendant of John G Richardson, offered Derrymore House to the National Trust. In the 1970s the “Troubles” impacted Bessbrook and Derrymore. The mill was turned into a major base for the British Army and was known as the busiest military heliport in Europe. Corry’s association with the Act of Union led to bombs being planted at Derrymore house on several occasions between 1972 and 1979; one firebomb damaged the house. The caretaker, Mr Edmund Baillie and his two sisters lived in the house and luckily were unhurt, but their safety and the survival of the house were largely due to Mr Baillie’s personal courage in moving some of the bombs away from the building. The Trust was forced to close the house and remove the contents for safe keeping; it opened again in the late 1980s. In 1985 John Richardson generously bequeathed the rest of Derrymore demesne to the National Trust, including The Woodhouse, walled garden and various lodges.
The National Trust has worked with a number of partners to enhance access to Derrymore Demesne with a focus on local visitors, providing better footpaths, parking, toilet facilities and a children’s play area to ensure that everyone can enjoy the beauty of Derrymore in harmony with nature and wildlife and its historic past.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes:
p. 102. “(Corry/LG1886) A single-storey thatched cottage ornee of Palladian form, consisting of a bow-fronted centre block and two flanking wings, joined to the main block by diminutive canted links. The central blow of the main block is three sided, and glazed down to the ground, with mullions and astragals; it is flanked by two quatrefoil windows, under hood mouldings. There is also a mullioned window in each wing. Built ante 1787 by Isaac Corry, MP for Newry and last Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer. The Act of Union is said to have been drafted in the fine drawing room here. Now owned by the Northern Ireland National Trust and open to the public.“
Milford House was the one of its age. The most technologically advanced house in 19th century Ireland – the first in Ireland to be lit with hydro electricity. The creation of Robert Garmany McCrum, self made industrialist, benefactor and inventor who revolutionized the linen industry. His son William invented the penalty kick rule in football (which makes Milford world famous!) and his daughter Harriette was a founding member of the women’s suffragette movement in Ireland. By 1880 Milford House had six bathrooms each with a Jacuzzi and Turkish bath and a waterfall in the dining room. From 1936 to 1965 it was home to the Manor House School.
Today Milford House is one of the top ten listed buildings at most serious risk in Northern Ireland.
p. 206. “A two storey vaguely Italianate C19 house. Camber-headed windows; three sided bow; pedimented three bay projection. Elaborate range of glasshouses running out at right angles from the middle of the front. The seat of the McCrums, of the firm of McCrum, Watson & Mercer, damask manufacturers, of Belfast.”
“Crannagael House, owned and occupied by Jane and John Nicholson, is nestled in the heart of the County Armagh countryside and is approximately 3 miles from M1 junction 13 and 5 miles from Portadown on the B28, Moy – Portadown Road.
It is a grade 2 listed Georgian house and is still owned by the same family that built it in the mid 18th century. It is surrounded by gardens, parkland and mature woodland, and the accommodation overlooks an apple orchard – a delight when the blossom is out in May!
Nicholsons have lived at Crannagael House since 1760. Subsequent generations were involved in the linen industry and then in 1884 one Henry Joseph Nicholson, the current owner’s great grandfather, imported the first 60 Bramley Seedling trees to Armagh from Southwell in Nottinghamshire, and the rest as they say is history!
The self contained apartment on the East wing comprises several bedrooms, bathroom and downstairs shower with wc (both with wonderful views of the orchard!)and a fully fitted kitchen, dining area and lounge.”
From the website: “Welcome to Newforge House, a historic family-run country house offering warm hospitality, luxurious rooms and delicious local seasonal food in tranquil surroundings. Set on the edge of the small village of Magheralin, Newforge is an oasis of calm and the perfect location for your romantic break or a special occasion with friends and family. Our central location, only 30-minute drive from Belfast, makes Newforge an ideal base for touring Northern Ireland.”
Canoes and kayaks are available for hire from Cavan Canoe Centre, which also offers guided boat trips around the lake and out to the castle. 
On the Discover Belturbet website, we are told the history of Clough Oughter:
“Clough is the Gaelic word for stone, so literally this is Castle of Stone. The island was made by man, and the castle which sits upon it was also made by man and one can only speculate as to what a marvellous feat of engineering it took to accomplish such a build.
The castle would have been part of the historical kingdom of Breifne, and specifically a part of East Breifne, (Roughly speaking the same borders as modern day Cavan). It is likely that the Crannog itself came sometime before the castle, and in the latter part of the 12th century, it was under the control of the O’Rourke clan, but with the invasion of the Anglo Normans, the crannog came to be controlled by the Anglo-Norman William Gorm De Lacy. No concrete dates exist for the construction of the castle, but architectural elements from the lower two storeys suggest it was begun during the early 13th century.
In 1233, the O’Reilly clan gained possession of the castle. They seem to have retained the castle for centuries throughout ongoing conflicts with the O’Rourkes, and indeed with members of their own clan. Philip O’Reilly was imprisoned here in the 1360’s with “no allowance save a sheaf of oats for day and night and a cup of water, so that he was compelled to drink his own urine”.
After the Ulster Plantation, the castle was given to servitor Hugh Culme. Philip O’Reilly who was a Cavan MP and leader of the rebel forces during the Rebellion of 1641 seized control of the castle and kept it as an island fortress for the next decade. During this period it was mainly used as a prison. Its most notable prisoner would have been the Anglican Bishop of Kilmore, William Bedell, who was held here and is said to have died because of the harsh winter conditions in the prison.
Clough Oughter castle became the last remaining stronghold for the rebels during the Cromwell era, but sometime in March of 1653 the castle fell to Cromwells canons. The castle walls were breached by the canon and the castle was never rebuilt after this point.
Visitors will be astounded to note the thickness of the walls which can now be seen because of the canon bombardment. The island and the castle have received considerable refurbishments since 1987, making it safe to visit, and well worth the visit.” 
4. Corravahan House & Gardens, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan – section 482
Cloverhill House is now a ruin. Mark Bence-Jones tells us the house was built 1799-1804 for James Saunderson [1763-1842] to the design of Francis Johnston. Robert O’Byrne adds that it was in fact extended in 1799, but built originally in 1758 [thus was built for James’s father Alexander, who married Lucy Madden of the Hilton Park House Madden family, another Section 482 property. A date stone gives us the date of 1758].  Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the house passed by inheritance to the Purdons, and was sold by Major J.N. Purdon ca 1958. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us that the Sanderson family were instrumental in the development of Cloverhill village with the building of the Church of Ireland church and estate workers’ houses.
The house is featured in Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Mansions of Ireland, Collins Press, Cork, 2010.
The house passed down through the Sanderson family until James Sanderson (1763-1842), and then passed down through the female line since the son, also named James, had no heirs. It passed first to Mary Anne, who was unmarried, and then to her sister’s son, Samuel Sanderson Winter (1834-1912), whose parents were Lucy Sanderson and Samuel Winter (1796-1867) of Agher, County Meath. Samuel Sanderson Winter married Ann, daughter of John Armytage Nicholson of Balrath Bury, County Meath (we came across this family as Enniscoe in County Mayo was inherited by Jack Nicholson, of the Balrath Bury family). Samuel Sanderson Winter’s son died young so Cloverhill passed to the son of his sister, Elizabeth Ann Winter, who married George Nugent Purdon (1819-1910). This is how the house passed to the Purdon family.
The house passed to their son, John James Purdon, who died childless so it passed to his nephew, John Nugent Purdon, son of Charles Sanderson Purdon. John Nugent Purdon sold Cloverhill demesne ca 1958 to Mr Thomas Mee. 
3. Farnham House, Farnham Estate, Cavan – Farnham Estate hotel €€
Mark Bence-Jones writes about Lismore House in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 186. “(Nesbitt, sub Burrowes/LGI1912; Burrowes;IFR; Lucas-Clements/IFR) A house of probably ca. 1730 and very likely by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The main block was of two storeys over a high basement, with a pediment breakfront centre and a widely spaced Venetian window in both storeys. There were two bays either side of the centre. Overlapping “tower” wings of one storey over basement and one bay. Detached two storey six bay office wings, joined to house by screen walls. These wings have gable-ends with curvilinear gables facing the sides of the house; the outermost bay of each, in the front elevation is also gabled; the gables here are probably originally curvilinear also, though they are now straight. Round headed windows in lower storey and basement of house and in lower storey of office wings.The house had a solid roof parapet with urns and oculi in the upper storey of the office wings. Originally the seat of the Nesbitts, passed to the Burrowes through the marriage of Mary Nesbitt to James Burrowes in 1854; Lismore passed to the Lucas-Clements family through the marriage of Miss Rosamund Burrowes to the late Major Shuckburgh Lucas-Clements in 1922.
Having stood empty for many years, the house fell into ruin and was demolished ca 1952, with the exception of the “tower” wings. The office wings are now used as farm buildings, and the family now live in the former agent’s house, an early house with a Victorian wing and other additions.”
“Built around 1619 by Sir Baptist Jones, Bellaghy Bawn is a fortified house and bawn (the defensive wall surrounding an Irish tower house). What exists today is a mix of various building styles from different periods with the main house lived in until 1987.” Open on Sundays.
“Hezlett’s picturesque thatched cottage exterior hides a fascinating early timber frame dating from 1690, making it one of the oldest vernacular domestic buildings in Northern Ireland. The story of the house is told through the experiences of the people who lived there.“
The house at Liffock became home to the Hezletts in 1766 and stayed within the family for the next 200 years until the National Trust acquired it in 1976. The National Trust website tells us:
“Isaac Hezlett (1720-1790) was the first Hezlett to live in the cottage at Liffock. He acquired the dwelling and some land in 1766. At this point in his life he was married to his second wife Esther and had two sons; Samuel from his first marriage with Margaret Kerr and Jack, half-brother to Samuel.When Samuel’s father died, he inherited the farm at the age of 37 and about five years later he married Esther Steel. She was 22 years his junior and they had eight children.Samuel was intimidated by local insurgents to join the United Irishmen; his half-brother Jack was an ardent supporter. He was threatened to be hanged from the Spanish chestnut tree in his own garden.By 1798 the rebellion was at its height and the two brothers were on opposite sides of the war. 30,000 lives were lost when the rebels were finally defeated. Jack escaped to the recently created United States of America while Samuel remained with his family in their home at Liffock until he died in 1821.
Samuel’s eldest son Isaac (1796-1883) married Jane Swan (1805-1896) in 1823. He built a two-storey extension to form a new self-contained unit for his mother and sisters. This extension could be regarded as forerunner of what we call today a ‘granny-flat’. Isaac also increased the acreage farmed at Liffock.Hugh (1825-1906), Samuel and Jane’s eldest son, increased the acreage of the farm once more. By putting his education to good use he made the farm more productive; more cash crops were grown and the herds of dairy cattle and sheep were increased. The outputs from the farm which generated income included the cash crops of flax, barley, potatoes, oats and turnips, in addition to wool, milk, calves, pigs and eggs. Hugh also oversaw an extensive re-modelling of the farmyard and outbuildings.In 1881 the Gladstone Land Act paved the way for further Acts which enabled tenant farmers to buy the land they had hitherto rented. So by the early 20th century the Hezletts were not tenant farmers but owner-occupiers.
In 1976, with funds provided by Ulster Land fund and the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society the National Trust acquired the house from the third Hugh Hezlett (1911-1988).”
“Downhill Demesne delves into a life and landscape steeped in history and nature. There’s much to explore as you enter this enchanting estate. Wander around the 18th-century demesne and discover dovecotes and gardens as you stumble upon a spectacular temple.”
The National Trust website tells us:
“2018 marked the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Frederick Augustus Hervey in the Diocese of Derry. He was consecrated as Bishop in St Columb’s Cathedral in March 1768. Frederick was a man of many parts as well as being a cleric he was a scientist with a deep interest in volcanology; he was a collector of art; he travelled extensively and spoke German, French and Italian fluently; he took a keen interest in Irish politics and music; he was a powerful proponent of religious equality; and he was a builder of churches, bridges and roads.
He is remembered by us for his association with the Giant’s Causeway and the creation of the Downhill Demesne. A keen volcanologist, Frederick ‘discovered’ the Giant’s Causeway in the sense that he publicised what was then an isolated, seldom-visited spot and was the first to study it in a wider scientific context and pass on his findings to his learned friends throughout Europe. He also created Downhill House and the Mussenden Temple, Northern Ireland’s most iconic building, as his country retreat.
The Earl Bishop is largely regarded as being his own architect at Downhill but it was the Cork born Michael Shanahan who drew up most of the building plans and was, for most of the time, his buildings works superintendent. The mason James McBlain executed all the decorative carving and much of the subsequent building for the Earl. Italian stuccadores were also employed, chief among whom was Placido Columbani.
Downhill is characterised by a three storey front, facing south and with two long wings at the back of this. Originally these wings terminated in domes topped with ornamental chimney-pots. The wings were continued in ranges of outbuildings, forming inner and outer yards, and ending towards the sea in two immense curving bastions of basalt.
The main house block was faced with freestone from Dungiven quarries, about 30 miles away. The basement is rusticated and the storeys above decorated with pairs of Corinthian pilasters, topped by Vitruvian scroll course, a cornice and parapet.
Sadly the interior of the house shows little of its original character. The house was almost entirely gutted by a fire which broke out on a Sunday in May 1851. The library was completely destroyed and more than 20 pieces of sculpture had been ruined. Most of the paintings were rescued, but a Raphael, The Boar Hunt, was reported destroyed.
In his later years, the Earl Bishop spent very little time in Ireland. His Irish estates were administered by a distant cousin, Henry Hervey Aston Bruce, who succeeded him following his death in 1803.
In 1804 Henry Hervey Aston Bruce was created a baronet and Downhill remained with the Bruce family until at least 1948, though the family rarely lived there after around 1920.
The only other occupation of the house came about during WWII when the site was requisitioned by the RAF. The house was subsequently dismantled after the war and its roof removed in 1950.”
“Springhill has a beguiling spirit that captures the heart of every visitor. Described as ‘one of the prettiest houses in Ulster’, its welcoming charm reveals a family home with portraits, furniture and decorative arts that bring to life the many generations of Lenox-Conynghams who lived here from 1680. The old laundry houses one of Springhill’s most popular attractions, the Costume Collection with some exceptionally fine 18th to 20th century pieces.
New Visitor Reception offering a retail and grab and go catering offer. Celebrated collection of costumes, from the 18th century to 1970s. Visit our second-hand bookshop and pick up a bargain.
Walks: Beautiful walled gardens and way marked paths through the parkland. Children’s adventure trail play park and natural play area. A variety of events throughout the year. There are three walks available: Beech Walk, Snowdrop Walk, Sawpit Hill Walk.“
Visitor Facilities: Historic house, garden, shop, refreshments, guided tours. Suitable for picnics and country walks. Programme of events available. House: admission by guided tour (last admission 1 hour before closing). Open Bank Holiday Mondays and all other public holidays in Northern Ireland. Closed 25 and 26 December. Visitor Centre has café and shop. See Information tab for full Opening Times and Prices. Access for visitors with disability and facilities for families. Dogs welcome on leads in grounds/garden only. Available for functions.
Mark Bence-Jones writes about Springhill House in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 263. “(Lenox-Conyngham/IFR) A low, white-washed, high roofed house with a sense of great age and peace; its nucleus late C17, built ca 1680 by “Good Will” Conyngham, who afterwards played a leading part in the defence of Derry during the Siege. Altered and enlarged at various times; the defensive enclosure or bawn with which it was originally surrounded was taken down, and two single storey free-standing office wings of stone with curvilinear end-gables were built early C18 flaking the entrance front, forming a deep forecourt. Col William Conyngham, MP, added two single-storey wings to the house ca 1765, which was when the entrance front assumed its present appearance: of seven bays, the windows on either side of the centre being narrower than the rest, and with a three sided bow in each of the wings. In the high roof, a single central dormer lighting the attic. The hall has C18 panelling; behind the hall is an early C18 staircase of oak and yew with alternate straight and spiral twisted balusters. The Gun Room has bolection moulded oak panelling which could be late C17 or early C18, though it cannot have been put into this room until much later, for there are remains of C18 wallpaper behind it. The large and lofty drawing room in the right-hand wing is a great contrast after the small, low-ceilinged rooms in the centre of the house; it has a modillion cornice and a handsome black marble chimneypiece. Though essentially a Georgian room, it has been given a Victorian character with a grey and green wallpaper of Victorian pattern. Next to the drawing room, in the garden front, is the dining room, added ca 1850 by William Lenox-Conygham; a large simple room of Georgian character, with a red flock paper and a chimneypiece of yellow marble brought from Herculaneum by the Earl of Bristol Bishop of Derry and presented by him to the family. The garden front, which is irregular, going in and out, facing along an old beech venue to a ruined tower which may originally have been a windmill. Transferred to the Northern Ireland Trust by W.L Lenox-Conygham, HML, shortly before his death in 1957. Springhill is featured in his mother, Mina’s book An Old Ulster Home and is open to the public.”
William Conyngham married Ann Upton, daughter of Arthur Upton of Castle Upton, County Antrim (this still exists and is privately owned), MP for County Antrim. Springhill passed to their daughter Anne who married David Butle, a merchant. Their son George took the name Conyngham and inherited Springhill. Although he had sons, Springhill passed through the line of his daughter, Ann (1724-1777) who married Clotworthy Lenox (1707-1785). Their son took the name George Lenox-Conyngham (1752-1816) when he inherited. George married twice: first to Jane Hamilton, and their son William Lenox-Conyngham (1792-1858) added the dining room to Springhill. George married secondly Olivia Irvine of Castle Irvine (also called Necarne; the park around Necarne Castle can freely be visited during daytime. The ruin of the castle itself is boarded up, so its interior can not be visited), County Fermanagh. One of their descendants was Jack Nicholson who inherited Enniscoe in County Mayo.
Springhill passed then from William Lenox-Conyngham (1792-1858) and his wife Charlotte Mesolina Staples of Lissan, County Tyrone, to their son William Fitzwilliam Lenox-Conyngham, and it was his grandson William Lowry Lenox-Conyngham who left it to the Northern Ireland Trust.
Places to stay, County Derry
1. Ardtara Country House and restaurant, County Derry
“Dating back to 1830, this sympathetically restored Georgian property offers a tranquil rural setting midway between Portstewart and Portrush. Whilst retaining many of the original features and charm, the open plan extension has been adapted to suit modern living. The accommodation comprises three main reception areas, a Magnificent Family Kitchen /Living and Dining area, a cosy and tastefully decorated Snug with open fire, access to south facing Orangery and large secluded cottage gardens. Upstairs are four well proportioned bedrooms sleeping up to eight guests and a spacious first floor balcony with sea views. Minimum 3 night stay.“
Nestled in beautiful parkland where you will find our grand Georgian Mansion House which is perfect for weddings, family get togethers, corporate events and much more.
Mark Bence-Jones writes about Drenagh House (formerly Fruit Hill) in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 107. “(McCausland/IFR) The earliest major country house by Charles Lanyon, built ca 1837 for Marcus McCausland, replacing an early C18 house on a different site. Of significance in the history of C19 Irish domestic architecture in that it is a competent late-Georgian design by an architect whose buildings in the following decade are definitely Victorian. Two storey; o an attractive pinkish sandstone ashlar. Five bay entrance front with the centre bay recessed and a single-storey Ionic portico in which the outer columns aer coupled. Adjoining front of six bays with two bay pedimented breakfront; the duality of the elevation being emphasised rather than resolved by the presence of three giant pilasters, supporting the pediment. Rear elevation of one bay between two three sided bows, with fanlighted tripartite garden door. Lower service wing at side. Balustraded parapet round roof and on portico. Single-storey top-lit central hall with screen of fluted Corinthian columns; graceful double staircase with elegant cast iron balusters rising from behind one of these screens. Rich plasterwork ceilings in hall, over staircase and in drawing room; simpler ceilings in morning room and dining room. At the head of the stairs, a bedroom corridor with a ceiling of plaster vaulting and shallow domes goes round the central court or well, the lower part of which is roofed over to form the hall. Very large and extensive outbuildings. Vista through gap in trees opposite entrance front of house to idyllic landscape far below, the ground falling steeply on this side; straight flight of steps on the axis of this vista leading down to bastion terrace with urns. Chinese garden with circular “moon gate,” laid out by Lady Margaret McCausland 1960s. Gate lodge by Lanyon with pedimented Ionic portico.”
1. Cavanacor House, Ballindrait, Lifford, Co. Donegal – section 482 contact: Joanna O’Kane Tel: 074-9141143, 085-8165428 www.cavanacorgallery.ie Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 14-22, 1pm-5pm
You can take a virtual tour online on the website.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 139. “(Adair/LG1863) A Victorian Baronial castle of rough-hewn granite at the end of a wooded promontory jutting out into Lough Veagh, surrounded by the bare and desolate hills of a deer-forest, so large as to seem like a world apart. Built 1870 [the website tells us 1857-9] by J.G. [John George] Adair, of Bellegrove, Co Leix, whose wife was a rich American heiress [Cornelia Wadsworth]; designed by his cousin, J.T. Trench. The castle consists of a frowning keep with Irish battlements, flanked by a lower round tower and other buildings; the effect being one of feudal strength. The entrance is by way of a walled courtyard. Glenveagh has always had an American connection; after the death of Mrs Adair, it was bought by the distinguished American archaeologist, Prof Kingsley Porter; then, in 1938, it was bought by its late owner, Mr Henry McIlhenny, of Philadelphia. Mr McIlhenny, whose hospitality was legendary, decorated and furnished the interior of the castle in a way that combined the best of the Victorian age with Georgian elegance and modern luxury; and which contrasted splendidly with the rugged medievalism of the exterior and the wildness of the surrounding glen. He also made what is now one of the great gardens of the British Isles. There are terraces with busts and statues, there is a formal pool by the side of the lough, an Italian garden, a walled garden containing a Gothic orangery designed by M. Philippe Jullian; while the hillside above the castle is planted with a wonderful variety of rare and exotic trees and shrubs.”
The website tells us:
“The estate of Glenveagh was created in 1857-9 by the purchase of several smaller holdings by John George Adair, a wealthy land speculator from Co. Laois. John Adair was to later incur infamy throughout Donegal and Ireland by ruthlessly evicting some 244 tenants in the Derryveagh Evictions.
After marrying his American born wife Cornelia, Adair began the construction of Glenveagh Castle in 1867, which was completed by 1873. Adair however was never to fulfil his dream of creating a hunting estate in the highlands of Donegal and died suddenly in 1885 on return from a business trip to America.
After her husband’s death Cornelia took over the running of the estate and introduced deer stalking in the 1890’s. She continually sought to improve the castle’s comforts and the beauty of its grounds, carrying out major improvements to the estate and laying out the gardens. Over the next 30 years she was to become a much noted society hostess and continued to summer at the castle until 1916.
Following the death of Mrs Adair in London in 1921, Glenveagh fell much into decline and was occupied by both the Anti-treaty and Free State Army forces during the Irish civil war.
Glenveagh’s next owner was not to be until 1929 when purchased by Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter of Harvard University who came to Ireland to study Irish archaeology and culture. The Kingsley Porters mainly entertained Irish literary and artistic figures including close friend AE Russell whose paintings still hang in the library of the castle. Their stay was to be short however as Arthur Kingsley Porter mysteriously disappeared from Inishbofin Island in 1933 while visiting the island.
The last private owner was Mr Henry McIlhenny of Philadelphia who bought the estate in 1937. Henry McIlhenny was an Irish American whose Grandfather John McIlhenny grew up in Milford a few miles north of Glenveagh. After buying the estate Mr McIlhenny devoted much time to restoring the castle and developing its gardens.
Eventually Henry McIlhenny began to find travelling to and from Ireland too demanding and the upkeep of the estate was also becoming a strain. In 1975 he agreed the sale of the estate to the Office of Public Works allowing for the creation of a National Park. In 1983 he bestowed the castle to the nation along with its gardens and much of the contents.
Glenveagh National Park opened to the public in 1984 while the castle opened in 1986. Today as under private ownership Glenveagh continues to attract and inspire visitors from all over the world.”
The website tells us about the gardens:
“The two major elements of the Garden, the Pleasure Gardens and the Walled Garden were constructed in the late 1880’s. The original Victorian Garden layout remains intact. It was for Mrs. Cornelia Adair that the gardens were constructed. Mrs. Adair had a Gardener’s House constructed at the top of the Walled Garden and employed a Kew trained gardener to lay out the gardens. Some of the planting in the Pleasure Grounds such as the purple maples and the shelter belt of Scots pine trees were planted at this time.
In 1929 Lucy and Arthur Kingsley-Porter became the new owners. They were also keen gardeners and Mrs Porter introduced the dahlia seed from which was grown the unique cultivar known as Dahlia ‘Matt Armour’ to Glenveagh.
The last private owner, Henry P McIlhenny began to develop the gardens in the late 1940’s with the assistance of Jim Russell of Sunningdale Nurseries and Lanning Roper his Harvard classmate, both well-known garden design consultants. From the late 1950’s through to the early 1980’s the design and layout of the garden was developed and refined to include the Gothic Orangery, the Italian Terrace, the Tuscan Garden, an ornamental Jardin Potager and the development of the plant collection.
Glenveagh is well known today for its rich collection of trees and shrubs specialising in southern hemisphere species and a diverse Rhododendron collection. Displays of Rhododendrons are at their best from late March to the end of May. A large collection of old narcissi varieties from Donegal gardens fills the walled garden in March and April. Displays of colour in the Walled Garden are at their best through the summer months. Fine specimens of the white flowered Eucryphia adorn the gardens in late summer. Dramatic autumn colour follows in October.“
6. Oakfield Park Garden, Oakfield Demesne, Raphoe, Co. Donegal – section 482, garden only contact: David Fisher Tel: 074-9173068 www.oakfieldpark.com Open: Apr 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30, May 1-2, 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, 12 noon-6pm, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm, Sept 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29-30, 12 noon-6pm, Dec 1-5, 8-12, 15-23, Dec 1-17, weekdays, 4pm-10pm, weekends, 12noon-10pm, Dec 18-23, 12 noon-10pm
Fee: adult €9, child €6, family and annual passes available
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 70. “(Campbell-Grove/IFR) A two storey Georgian house, repaired and modernized by Thomas Brooke (nee Grove) ca. 1825. Tripartite pedimented doorcase, with Doric columns and pilasters. Attractive early C19 conservatory of glass and wood flanking entrance front.”
The website tells us:
“Castle Grove Country House Hotel is one of the few remaining family run private estates in the North West of Ireland. Located six miles north of Letterkenny, it provides the perfect base to explore the beautiful scenery of Donegal and the Wild Atlantic way.
This near-original Georgian house was built in 1695 and is situated at the end of a mile-long avenue on the shores of Lough Swilly. The 250 acre grounds are made up of farmland and extensive gardens that were designed by Capability Brown.
The Grove family estate dates to 1656 when William Grove resided at Castle Shanaghan, approximately 1 mile from the current location. During the ‘Siege of Derry’, James II lauded William Grove for his military knowledge, which led to the family house being burnt down after the siege.
After the ‘Siege of Derry’ in 1690, Castle Grove House was built in 1695 nearer Lough Swilly and was later added to between 1750 and 1780.
The ownership of Castle Grove throughout the years is as significant as the history of the house. It remained in the Grove family until 1970 when the last of the family died.
The Grove/Boyton family played a pivotal role in the election of Daniel O’Connell to Parliament in 1828. Another famous son who left Castle Grove to achieve greatness was General Richard Montgomery who left the British Army in 1772 and emigrated to America where he later led the cavalry in the Battle of Quebec where he was slain in 1775. His bravery was later honoured by having his remains interred at St. Pauls cathedral in New York City.
In 1970 Castle Grove passed to a relative who used it as a private home until 1989 when it was sold to the current owners, The Sweeney’s.“
“Cavangarden House, a spacious Georgian period residence offering B&B accommodation dates back to 1750 when it was built by the Atkinson family and it still retains the character of that by-gone age, with antique furniture, majestic gardens and a private tree-lined entrance.
Located in the tranquil Donegal countryside the house is now owned by the Mc Caffrey family and is surrounded by a working farm of 380 acres.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 81. “Atkinson/LFI1958) A two storey gable ended house built 1781 by John Atkinson. Entrance front of one bay on either side of a central bow, to which an enclosed pillared porch was later added. Attic lit by windows in gable-ends; gable-ends truncated, making the roof partly hipped.”
“The history of Dunmore starts with the Ulster plantations. Dunmore is situated just outside Carrigans, near Derry. It overlooks the Foyle and is just down the road from the castle of Mongavlin, where Red Hugh O’Donnell was born. After the flight of the Earls in 1607, when the O’Neills and the O’Donnells fled, the estates of these great Gaelic lords were confiscated and distributed among planters. Carrigans was a planter town. And it was the Scottish Stewarts and Cunninghams who settled in the area.
The Harveys of Malin Head, who had been merchants in Bristol, originally owned Dunmore. Their daughter, Elizabeth, married William McClintock, apparently in 1685.
A gatepost shows four key dates associated with Dunmore:
1678 dh (David Harvey)
1709 wm (William McClintock)
1742 jm (John McClintock).
Mark Bence-Jones describes Dunmore House in Burke’s Guide to Country Houses 1978 as “A gable ended mid C18 house which Dr Craig considers may be by Michael Priestly. 2 storey with an attic lit by windows in the gable ends, 5 bay front with central venetian window above tripartite doorway later obscured by a porch. Lower 2 storey wing added later. Staircase extending into central projection at the back of house.”
The siege of Derry is a key event in the history of the area. The army of King James may have burnt the original house as it retreated.
In 1709 the McClintocks demolished the ruins of Dunmore although the cellars remained and thus predate the existing house. The house as we know it was built in 1742.
Robert McClintock, 1804 -1859, built the walls of the walled garden in the early 19th century. Certainly there was work on the walls as famine relief. There is a plague on the wall of the garden with the date of 1845.
The oldest known picture of Carrigans village shows a mill. The mill was apparently built on the ruins of Carrigans castle.
Dame Agatha Christie,1890-1976, apparently visited Dunmore and enjoyed its gardens on a few occasions as a guest of the McClintocks of Dunmore, to whom she was related through marriage. She enjoyed her picnics in Co. Donegal.
In the 20th century Robert McClintock lived at Dunmore. He was a keen and talented engineer. He built a series of interconnected ponds and a collection of sundials, scattered through the walled gardens. He also invented the Bangalore torpedo while in the British Indian Army unit, the Madras Sappers and Miners, at Bangalore, India, in 1912. They were a means of exploding booby traps and barricades left over from the Boer and Russo-Japanese Wars and were used at the Battle of the Somme.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 116. “(McClintock/IFR) Gable-ended mid-C18 house which Dr Craig considers may be by Michael Priestley. Two storey, with an attic lit by windows in the gable ends; five bay front, with Venetian windows above tripartite doorway, later obscured by a porch. Lower two storey wing added later. Staircase extending into central projection at back of house.”
Formerly a rectory. The National Inventory tells us:
“This fine and well-maintained late nineteenth-century\late Victorian former Church of Ireland rectory retains its early form and character, and is one of the most attractive examples of its type and date in County Donegal. Its complex and eclectic form with advanced bays, canted bays, gablets, gable-fronted bays, half-dormers, irregular fenestration pattern, and a variety of differently-shaped window openings helps to create a varied composition of some picturesque appeal. The deliberate asymmetry to the main elevations is a characteristic feature of many late Victorian and Edwardian middle class domestic houses and structures found throughout Ireland. Its visual appeal and integrity is enhanced by the retention of all its salient fabric including natural slate roof, a variety of timber sliding sash windows, and timber panelled door. Although probably originally rendered (rubble stone masonry), the contrast between the pale dimension stone and the extensive red sandstone and red brick trim adds textural interest to this unusual house on the outskirts of Ramelton. Interest is added at roofscape level by the tall, well-detailed red brick chimneystacks, the terracotta ridge tiles and finial, and the detailing to the gable-fronted bay and half-dormers….It appears to have been built by 1894 (Slater’s Directory) when a Revd. H.F. McDonald was the rector.“
6. Lough Eske Castle, near Donegal, Co Donegal – 5 * hotel
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 192. “(Brooke, sub Brookeborough, V/PB; White/LGI1912) A Tudor-Baronial castle of 1866 by FitzGibbon Louch, built for the Donegal branch of the Brookes whose progenitor built Donegal Castle. Of ashlar; two storeys built over high basement, wiht four storey square tower at one end. Imposing Gothic porch betwen two oriels; battmlemented parapet with two curvilinear blind gables. Tower with machicolations, crow-step battlements and curved corbelled oriels. Lower two storey battlemented range with corner turret at other end of front. Sold 1894, after the death of thomas Brooke, to Major-Gen H.G. White. Largely gutted by fire 1939; but one wing remains intact and is still occupied.”
The National Inventory tells us that Lough Eske is:
“Detached multiple-bay two- and three-storey over basement castellated country house/castle on complex irregular plan, built between 1859 – 61 and extended in 1914, having central three-bay two-storey block with central projecting single-bay single-storey castellated entrance porch with castellated corner turrets; single-bay two-storey over basement castellated canted-bay window openings to either side of porch; recessed single-bay four-storey over basement castellated tower (on square-plan) attached to the north-east side of central block having base batter, castellated bartizan to the north-east corner and with single-bay castellated bowed oriel windows to the front face (south-east) at first floor over basement level, and at ground floor level to the north-east face; recessed three-bay two-storey castellated ballroom block attached to the north-east side of the tower (built 1914) having single-bay single-storey castellated canted bay window at ground floor level to the north-east side elevation; and having two-bay two-storey castellated block/wing attached to the south-west side of the central block having full-height castellated tower (on octagonal-plan) with battered base attached to the south-west corner.
Castle destroyed by fire in 1939 and unoccupied and derelict until c. 2007. Now rebuilt (2007) and in use as a hotel with multiple modern extensions to the rear (north-west) and to the south-west elevation.…
Ashlar sandstone construction to porch with carved ashlar sandstone panel over doorway having three carved armorial crests/coats-of-arms in bas relief; recessed trefoil-headed panels to ashlar corner turrets of porch, carved ashlar sandstone pilasters to side elevations of porch (north-west and south-east). Mainly paired square-headed window openings having chamfered ashlar sandstone surrounds, chamfered ashlar sandstone mullions and transoms, chamfered ashlar sills, and with replacement metal-framed windows. Five-light window openings to canted bays, three-light window openings to bowed oriel windows. Ashlar hoodmouldings over window openings to recessed blocks/wings and to tower; paired Tudor-arched window openings to recessed block to the south-west at first floor level. Tudor-arched doorway to the front face of porch (south-east) having staged ashlar sandstone surround with engaged colonnettes to reveals’ having carved capitals over with foliate motifs and moulded plinth blocks to base, cut stone step, hoodmoulding over, and with replacement timber double-doors; flight of cut stone steps to interior of porch.
Set back from road in extensive mature wooded and landscaped grounds to the south-west corner of Lough Eske, and to the north-east of Donegal Town. Mature parkland to the south and wooded grounds to the west and the south-west. Modern gravel forecourt to the south-east. Associated outbuildings to the rear (see 40909413), walled garden to the north-east (see 40909414), gate lodges to the east (see 40909417) and to the south/south-west (see 40909410), memorial cross to the east (see 40909416), and two-storey building to the north (see 40909414). Rubble stone boundary wall to estate, now largely ruinous. Remains of earlier castle in grounds to the east (RMP DG094-005006-).
This rambling Elizabethan-style or Tudor Revival house, with its dramatic roofline of Tudoresque chimneystacks, turrets, curvilinear gables, machicolations and crenellated parapets, is one of the more important elements of the built heritage of County Donegal. It is well-built using local ashlar sandstone masonry and it is extensively detailed with carved and cut sandstone of the highest quality (the sandstone is apparently from Monaghan’s Quarry near Frosses, and was transported to the site along a road specifically constructed for the task). The central three-storey block with the entrance porch flanked by canted-bay windows is symmetrical, but the other elevations of the main block, the tower, and the ancillary wings are irregular, which creates an interesting and complex plan with contrasting elevations and perspectives.
Lough Eske Castle is a notable example of the nineteenth century penchant for dramatic architecture, and is built in a highly effective revivalist fifteenth/sixteenth/early seventeenth-century architectural idiom that compliments the spectacular site and perhaps references the history of the surrounding area (the history of the Brooke family who arrived as part of the Plantation at the start of the seventeenth century and of Donegal Castle in particular). Lough Eske Castle was originally built to designs by Fitzgibbon Louch (1826 – 1911) for Thomas Brooke. The main contractor involved was Albert Williams, and the clerk of works was a Michael Stedman. The present edifice replaced earlier houses on the same site, which where built in 1621 and 1751. It is possible that the building retains fabric from the earlier 1751 house as the south-east part of the house occupies much the same footprint as the earlier building (Ordnance Survey first edition six-inch map of 1836). The 1621 house was probably built for the Knox family, who owned the Lough Eske Castle until 1717 when it passed, through marriage, into the ownership of the Brooke family. The finely carved coat-of-arms/family crest over the main doorway is of the Brooke family. The present building was extended to the north-east in 1914 with the construction of a ballroom wing for the then owner of the castle, Major Henry White (died 1936). Major General Henry George White (1835 – 1906), father of the aforementioned, bought the castle from Colonel De Vere Brooke in 1894 and he is buried in a plot to the east of the house with an elaborate Celtic high cross-style gravemarker (see 40909416). The estate later passed into the ownership of the Knee family who ran a hotel here from 1930 until 1939. The castle was largely burnt-out during a disastrous fire in 1939, and remained derelict until c. 2007 when it was renovated and extended to form a hotel. The façade was re-created in these works using the original designs. This fine edifice forms the centrepiece of an extensive collection of related structures along with the outbuildings to the rear (see 40909413), the walled garden to the north-east (see 40909414), gate lodges to the east (see 40909417) and to the south/south-west (see 40909410), memorial cross to the east (see 40909416), and a two-storey building to the north (see 40909414), and represents an important element of the built heritage and history of the local area.”
“The original house was built in typical Georgian style around 1760s and was part of the Knox family estates. Bishop Knox of Derry and Raphoe built the house as a bathing place when he left the priory in Rathmullan to move to Prehen in Derry. Later in the 18oo’s it became the country residence of the Batt family who were linen brokers and founders of the Belfast bank, now the Northern and Northern Irish Bank. The Batt family townhouse in Belfast is now Purdysburn Hospital.
Thomas Batt’s substantial renovations in 1870 doubled the house in size. The three bay windows were added and the grounds extensively planted. The Batt family resided here until the 1940’s. After the war the Holiday Fellowship used the house as a centre for walking holidays until the train service to Buncrana ceased.
Bob and Robin Wheeler bought the house in 1961. After lovingly transforming the dormitories back into the original bedrooms, they opened the house in 1962 as a 22 bedroom hotel. The original pavilion dining room designed by the late Dr Liam Mc Cormick was built in 1969 with a swimming pool and a new bedroom wing added in the 1990’s. In 2004, the new regency bedroom wing opened along with The Gallery Room and the Cook & Gardener restaurant was renovated and redesigned.
Mark and Mary are now the second generation to run the house and take pride in keeping as many original features whilst adding in modern comforts for their guests.“
The website tells us of the history of Rockhill House:
“Rockhill House can trace its roots to the 17th Century plantation of Ulster. Seat of the Chambers family for 172 years, the property was acquired in 1832 by the aristocratic ornithologist, John Vandeleur Stewart. Stewart engaged famed Dublin architect, John Hargrave, to design a radical extension and remodelling of the house, and the new owner carried out comprehensive draining, planting and cultivation of the lands to create the lush, Georgian idyll that remained in his family until the 1936 break-up of the Estate and sale of the property and 100 acres to the Commissioner of Public Works.
A headquarters of the Irish Defence Forces through to early 2009, the Army’s exit began a period of vacancy that allowed Rockhill House to slip into disrepair and decay. The Estate, too, was a shadow of what it was during its days of care and plenty under the Stewarts.
When today’s owners, the Molloy family, got the keys in 2014, a vast task met them. When they first stepped into the house, it was possible to stand in the basement and see the roof, three storeys above!
This began a three-year labour of love for the Molloys, whose sensitive restoration, while being true to Rockhill’s rich past, now takes it into a great new heyday. Once again, the great halls and galleries of the Big House are filled with light and the colours and textures of its Georgian tastemakers.
Original features – from cornices, ceiling roses, and spiral staircases to picture rails, ironwork and fireplaces – have been salvaged where possible, and historically replicated wherever the original has been lost to time. The Estate is springing back to life, with verdant gardens adorned with Temple and fountain; and lost woodland walks uncovered for new exploration.”
“St Columbs House B&B is a beautifully restored 6 bedroom period house located on the Wild Atlantic Way in the historic seaside town of Buncrana on the Inishowen peninsula. It has a Catholic Church across the road and on its doorstep is a variety of bustling restaurants, bars and a variety of shopping, all just a short walk away.“
12. St John’s Point Lighthouse cottage, Dunkineely, County Donegal
“Steeped in history, the house was originally built in 1789 by Dr Knox of Lifford. The house and grounds have now been beautifully restored by the present owner and offer luxury accommodation as well as a unique, private location for a variety of functions including weddings and corporate events.
Drumhalla House offers superior 5 star accommodation and is a much sought after and unique wedding venue.
Panoramic views over Lough Swilly and the renowned Kinnegar beach provide the perfect backdrop for your wedding day. The beautifully maintained grounds and lawns at Drumhalla House make it perfect for your guests to enjoy and explore.
Allow our Country Manor House, complete with 5 star accommodation at Drumhalla to transform your wedding ideas into the fairytale you always dreamed of.
All of our bedrooms are individual and unique and everything one would expect in a much loved Manor House. The rooms are very comfortable and traditional in style and filled with carefully chosen furnishings. They are located on the 1st floor of the house and provide varied views over the gardens and beach.“
2. Termon House, Dungloe, County Donegal, whole house rental:
“The castle is named after its late 16th-century owners, the Audleys, an Anglo-Norman family who held land in the area in the 13th century, It was sold, with the surrounding estate, to the Ward family in 1646 and used in 1738 as an eye-catching focus of the long vista along Castle Ward’s artificial lake, Temple Water.
The site comprises of a number of paths to allow you to get to the Castle.“
“This impressive building was built for the Hon Robert Edward Ward and his family in 1852. It is presently the headquarters of Ards and North Down Borough Council who use the mansions spectacular grand salon as the council chamber. The building is situated in the grounds of Castle Park alongside North Down Museum and is just a short walk from Bangor Castle Walled Garden.
CS Lewis visited North Down on many occasions throughout his life and regularly returned to the area. He enjoyed the beautiful view over Belfast Lough from the grounds of Bangor Castle. As Lewis himself once said “Heaven is Oxford lifted and placed in the middle of County Down”.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 30. “(Ward, sub Bangor, V/PB; Bingham, Clanmorris, B/PB) An Elizabethan-Revival and Baronial mansion by William Burn, built 1847 for Robert Ward, a descendant of 1st Viscount Bangor. Mullioned windows; oriels created with strapwork; rather steep gables with finials. At one end, a battlemented tower with a pyramidal-roofed clock turret. Partly curved quoins, very characteristic of Burn. Inherited by Robert Ward’s daughter and heiress, Matilda Catherine, wife of 5th Lord Clanmorris. Featured in Peers and Plebs by Madeleine Bingham. Now owned by the town of Bangor.”
“The current Castle Ward is a particularly unusual building, famed for having been built with two completely different architectural styles, both inside and out.
One half is built in the classical Palladian style, with the other half which faces out across Strangford lough built in the more elaborate Gothick* style.
The story told for the reason behind this unusual decorative scheme is that the original builder of the house, Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount Bangor, did not agree with his wife Lady Anne on the décor. Bernard was more classical in taste with Lady Anne prefering the fashionable Gothick style, leading them to split the house down the middle. This story is compounded by the fact that they separated not long after the house was finished with Anne leaving Castle Ward for good. This hint of scandal has carried this story through the years, but let us consider instead that Anne and Bernard set out to build the house exactly as it is – not a marriage of compromise, but a triumph of collaboration.
When Bernard and Lady Anne inherited the estate in 1759 they set about building themselves a fine new house, one which would be symbolic of their union and exist as a statement of the Ward family’s bold and forward-thinking place in the world. Castle Ward was completed in 1766 and by 1781 they had been created Viscount and Viscountess Bangor in the Peerage of Ireland.
Lady Anne’s grandfather was the nephew of the Duchess of York – wife of King James II, and a first cousin of Queen Anne. This royal ancestry shows itself in the choice of the Gothick style. The ceiling in the Morning Room is copied from the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey where Anne’s maternal family were permitted to be buried due to their royal blood. Rather than the house becoming known as an architectural monstrosity, the couple aimed for it to be a masterpiece, striving against convention and rooting the Ward family as bold, modern thinkers with an impressive past.
The unusal combination of styles has long been a point of joy or novelty for guests, having a ‘marmite’ appeal. On a visit to Castle Ward, writer and poet John Betjeman referred to the ceiling in the Boudoir as “like sitting under a cow’s udder”, and the comment has stuck. Others comment on the otherworldly feeling created in the exotic grandeur of the Gothick side.
Please check the homepage for opening times of the mansion house before planning your visit, as they may change seasonally. There is no need to book your visit in advance.“
The website also tells us more about owner Anne Ward:
“Castle Ward – the story of a warring couple, divided in opinion and styles leading to a house with two sides. Perhaps the story is a little more complicated – here we delve deeper into the background of Lady Anne Bligh, co-architect of Castle Ward.
Given that Lady Anne Ward was co-creator of the dichotomous style of Castle Ward, it is surprising how few of her possessions or papers are left in the collection. Hers’ remains a hidden history. Having left Castle Ward and her husband Bernard in 1770 shortly after the completion of the house, she has become a symbol of mystery and speculation, made notorious and unusual because of her independence of mind and spirit.
The public expression of her personal tastes in the Gothick style at Castle Ward, clashed dramatically with her husband’s preferred classical style, and this has resulted in the condemnation of Lady Ann as unusual. History has found it difficult to understand the architectural choice that was reached by Lady Anne and Bernard, seeming as a legacy to their failed marriage. Whilst Bernard is remembered as the maker of the classical side of the house, symbolically representing reason, balance and order, Lady Anne in contrast represents an ‘otherness’ which she expressed in Gothick architecture – seemingly conveying her fantastical, whimsical and unconventional personality.
The Royal blood from her maternal grandparents gave Lady Anne the hauteur and confidence to do as she pleased. Her grandfather, the Earl of Clarendon was the nephew of the Duchess of York, wife of James II, and a first cousin of Queen Anne. Queen Anne was her mother Theodosia’s Godmother, and as such Theodosia was allowed to marry in Westminster Abbey. This was something Lady Ann was keen to highlight in her choice of architecture at Castle Ward, even copying the plasterwork from the Henry VII Chapel and recreating it in the Morning Room as a reminder of her royal connections.
The Earl of Clarendon also prompted perception of the family as “eccentric” by accounts of them acting out their role as Colonial Governor of New York dressed in articles of women’s clothing which challenged social boundaries of the period. Historians have been unable to confirm the accuracy of these accounts nor the motivations behind the Earl’s alleged presentation of gender non-conformity. Whatever the accuracy or reason, contemporaries condemned the Earl and considered it to be a sign of ‘great insanity’, however the Earl remained protected and often handsomely rewarded by their cousin Queen Anne. This connection provided crucial protection from critics.
Elizabeth Hastings, Countess of Moira who knew the family decribed them as having ‘an hereditary malady’. Members were noted as experiencing varied mental health issues. Lady Anne was accused of having ‘a shade of derangement in her intellects’. Her brother, Lord Darnley, was convinced he was a teapot and was reluctant to engage in sexual activity lest ‘his spout would come off in the night’; Lady Anne’s son Nicholas was declared ‘a lunatic’ in 1785 but details about this are scant.
Lady Anne’s relationship with a woman, prior to her two marriages, has also been the source of popular speculation and of academic debate. At 21, Lady Anne embarked on a six year relationship with Letitia Bushe, a woman considered much inferior in status and wealth, but much more experienced in the world with a great intellect and close friend of Mrs Delany. From the surviving correspondence of Letitia Bushe, it is clear that she was besotted with Lady Anne who was some fifteen years her junior, writing in 1740:
‘This Day twelvemonth was the Day I first stay’d with you, the night of which you may remember pass’d very oddly. I cannot forget how I pity’d you and how by that soft road you led me on to love you… that first Sunday at Bray, when you were dressing and I lay down on your Bed – ‘twas then I took first a notion to you’.
Academic research has suggested that this instance of same-sex love and desire provided Lady Anne with ‘an alternative outlet for emotional needs and energies, free of the complex web of economic and social considerations that surrounded relations between men and women of the propertied classes’ at this time.
Sadly none of Lady Anne’s correspondence to Letitia Bushe survives – in true Lady Anne style she remains an enigma, true to herself regardless of tastes or conventions, and a symbol of ‘the three-dimensional complexity of human life’.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p.78. Castleward: “Ward, Bangor, V/PB) A grandmid-C18 house of three storeys over basement and seven bays; built 1760/73 by Bernard Ward (afterwards 1st Viscount Bangor), and his wife, Lady Anne, daughter of 1st Earl of Darnley, to replace an earlier house. Probably by an English architect; and faced in Bath stone, brought over from Bristol in Mr Ward’s own ships. It seems that the Wards could not agree on the style of their new house; he wanted it to be Classical; but she was of what Mrs Delany called “whimsical” taste and favoured the fashionable new Strawberry Hill Gothic. The result was a compromise. The entrance front was made Classical, with central feature of a pediment and four engaged Ionic columns rising through the two upper storeys, the bottom storey being rusticated and treated as a basement. The garden front, facing over Strangford Lough, was made Gothic, with a battlemented parapet, pinnacles in the centre, and pointed windows in all its three storeys and seven bays – lancet in the central breakfront, ogee on the other side. All the windows have delightful Strawberry Hill Gothic astragals. This front of Castleward, and Moore Abbey, Co Kildare, are the only two surviving examples of mid-C18 Gothic in major Irish country houses which are not old castles remodelled. The interior of Castleward is remarkable in that the rooms on the Classical side of the house are Classical and those on the Gothic side Gothic; thus the hall – now the music room – has a Doric frieze and a screen of Doric columns; whereas the saloon has a ceiling of fretting and quatrefoils, pointed doors and a Gothic chimneypiece. The dining room, with its grained plaster panelling, is Classical and the sitting room is Gothic with spectacular plaster fan vaulting. Mr Ward, however, managed to be one up on his wife in that the staircase, which is in the middle of the house, is Classical; lit by a Vvenetian window in one of the end bows. If we believe Lady Anne, this was not the only time when he got his own way at her expense, for, having left him, as it turned out, for good, she wrote accusing him of bullying her. In C19, a porch was added to one of the end bows of the house, making a new entrance under the staircase; so that the hall became the music room. In the grounds there is a four storey tower-house, built at the end of C16 by Nicholas Ward; also a temple modelled on Palladio’s Redentore, dating from ante 1755; it stands on a hill, overlooking an early C18 artificial lake, or canal. On the death of 6th Viscount, 1950, Castleward was handed over in part payment of death duties to the Northern Ireland Government, who gave it, with an endowment, to the National Trust. The house and garden are now open to the public, and the Trust has set up various projects in different parts of the estate.”
“Hillsborough Castle has been a grand family home and is now the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and a royal residence. Members of the Royal Family stay at Hillsborough when visiting Northern Ireland.
Viewed by some as a politically neutral venue, Hillsborough has played an important role in the Peace Process in Northern Ireland since the 1980s.
In 2014, Historic Royal Palaces took over the running of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens and began an ambitious project to restore the house and gardens to its former glory.
Hillsborough, originally the settlement of Cromlyn (meaning Crooked Glen) in mid-Down, became part of the Hill family estates in the early 1600s. Moyses Hill, the landless second son of an English West Country family, joined the army to seek his fortune in Ireland, where he supported the Earl of Essex, a military leader sent by Elizabeth I.
At this time, the land was still in the hands of Irish chiefs of the Magennis family. But the defeat of Irish chieftain Hugh O’Neill in 1603 opened the way for men such as Moyses Hill to establish themselves as landowners in Ireland. The Hills bought some 5,000 acres of land, then gradually added to this over the next 20 years until the whole area around the present Hillsborough had passed from the Magennises to the Hills.
Successive generations of this ambitious family began to rise, politically and socially, in Ireland. Within 50 years they were one of the most prominent landowning families in the area; their estates stretched for over 130 miles from Larne, north of Belfast to Dun Laoghaire, south of Dublin, around 115, 000 acres in total.
Wills Hill was the first Marquess of Downshire and his diplomatic skills as a courtier cemented the family’s position in society.
From 1768-72 he held the post of Secretary of State for the Colonies. He had grown very powerful in government and served the royal family, for which he was awarded his title in 1789.
Wills Hill famously hosted American founding father Benjamin Franklin, but contrary to popular myth, when they met at Hillsborough in 1771, the two men got along well together.
Wills Hill built not only this house but also the Courthouse in The Square. He also built the terraces around The Square and other buildings in the town.
Hillsborough is unusual for an Irish Big House as it is not a country house around which a town grew; rather it was built as a townhouse, forming one side of a neat Georgian square.
The road to Moira once passed directly below the windows, and opposite the house were a variety of shops, houses and the Quaker Meeting House.
The 3rd and 4th Marquesses, also commissioned a lot of work on the house, giving it the outward appearance it has today.
When the house was being altered in the 1840s, the family decided to expand the gardens and so rebuilt the road, houses and Quaker Meeting House all further away. The old road was absorbed into the landscaping of the gardens, and the south side of the house was opened out to allow views of the ‘picturesque’ gardens.
Successive generations of the Hill family enjoyed the house as a family home, renovating and redecorating in the latest styles and improving the gardens.
However, by the end of the 19th century they were spending more time on their estate in England, at Easthampstead Park in Berkshire or their seaside home at Murlough House in County Down. The sixth Marquess’ uncle and guardian, Lord Arthur Hill remained at Hillsborough Castle to look after his nephew’s estate. The family first rented out Hillsborough in 1909, then sold it completely in 1925.
It was bought by the British government, for around £24,000 (equivalent to £1.3m today) to be the residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland.
Following Partition in 1921, Governors were appointed to represent the monarch in Northern Ireland, replacing the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland who had previously lived at Dublin Castle. The house became known as Government House, remaining the official residence of the Governors for over 50 years.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 152. “(Hill, Downshire, M/PB; Dixon, Glentoran, B/PB) A large, rambling, two storey late-Georgian mansion of a warm, golden-orange ashlar; its elevations rather long for their height. It appears to incorporate a much smaller house of ca 1760, but was mostly built later in C18, to the design of R.F. Brettingham, by Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire, a prominent member of Lord North’s Cabinet at the time of the American War. The work was not completed until 1797, four years after 1st Marquess’s death. In 1830s and 1840s, the house was enlarged and remodelled, to the design of Thomas Duff, of Newry, and William Sands. The pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns in the middle of the long seventeen bay garden front – originally the entrance front – which is the principal exterior feature, dates from this period; as does the present appearance of the pedimented front adjoining to the left, with its asymmetrical projecting ends; as well as the treatment of the elevations of the two ranges at right angles to each other which form two sides of the entrance forecourt; one of them having a rather shallow single-storey portico of four pairs of coupled Ionic columns. The forecourt, with its magnificent mid-C18 wrought iron gates and railings, brought here 1936 from Rich Hill, Co Armagh, is on one side of the main square of the charming little town of Hillsborough, which is reminiscent of the Schlossplatz in a small German capital. Although the house backs onto a sizeable demesne, with a lake, the park is on the opposite side of the town. Its chief feature is Hillsborough Fort, a star-shaped fort built by Col Arthur Hill ca 1650. The gatehouse of the fort was rebuilt most delightfully in the Gothic taste ca 1758, perhaps to the design of Sanderson Miller himself. Hillsborough Castle became the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland 1925, and consequently became known as Government House; from then, until 1973, when the post of Governor was abolished, it was occupied by successive Governors (all PB); namely, 3rd Duke of Abercorn, 4th Earl Granville, 2nd Lord Wakehurst, Lord Erskine of Rerrick, and Lord Grey of Naunton; during this period, the house was frequently visited by members of the British Royal Family. In 1934 the house was seriously damaged by fire, and in the subsequent rebuilding the principal rooms were done up in a more palatial style, with elaborate plasterwork. The future of the house is now uncertain.”
“For the first time in its history, this mystical and enchanting estate, set in magnificent natural surroundings, is open to visit.
Nestled in the picturesque County Down countryside, Montalto is a privately-owned demesne steeped in history dating back to the 1600s. It is famously the site of ‘The Battle of Ballynahinch’ which took place during the Irish rebellion in 1798. It is also home to an exotic plant collection initially created by ‘The Father of Irish Gardening’, Sir Arthur Rawdon.
Montalto Estate aims to reconnect visitors with nature through access to a range of captivating gardens and beautiful walks and trails. The visitor experience includes: public access to the estate’s beautiful gardens along with unique and surprising garden features; historic walks and trails; and an exciting play area where children can explore, learn and wonder at their natural surroundings. A purpose built centre, designed in keeping with the look and feel of the estate, includes a welcome area featuring interpretation of the estate’s history; a stylish café offering flavoursome and beautifully presented food; and a shop that offers a mix of estate produce, local craft products and many other unique and exceptionally designed items.
The beautiful gardens include an Alpine Garden, a Winter Garden, a Cutting Garden, a Walled Garden, a Formal Garden and the Orchard situated within a wildflower meadow. Both the Winter Garden and Alpine Garden will always be accessible whilst the other gardens will be accessible whenever possible as they are working gardens. Four champion trees are located around the lake and the pinetum and over the past three years over 30,000 trees have been planted here.
Active families will enjoy the Woodland Trail and low wood. The impressive purpose built tree house, which was handcrafted onsite, features rope bridges, monkey bars and treetop views kids of all ages will enjoy. Mini explorers can enjoy the smaller tree house and natural play area. Everything within this area has been designed to fuel the imagination through exploration and discovery.
For tranquil and picturesque walks you can enjoy the stunning views of The Lake Walk and The Garden Walk. Catch a glimpse of some of the wonderful wildlife that calls Montalto Estate their home or simply take in the beautiful seasonal displays and reconnect with nature.”
“Montalto, nestled beautifully in the heart of the picturesque Co. Down countryside, is a privately-owned demesne which dates back to the early 1600s.
In pre-plantation times the estate was originally owned by Patrick McCartan. However, due to his involvement in the 1641 Rebellion, his Ballynahinch lands were confiscated, and in 1657 the townland was purchased by Sir George Rawdon [and Patrick McCartan was executed]. Circa 1765, his descendant Sir John Rawdon – First Earl of Moira – built a mansion property on the estate: this is the house that we now know as Montalto House.
Sir John’s ancestor, Sir Arthur Rawdon – The Father of Irish Gardening – had earlier amassed a large collection of exotic foreign plants at Moira Castle. Many of Sir Arthur’s plants were transferred to Montalto when his grandson Sir John moved onto the estate.
During the Battle of Ballynahinch (part of the 1798 Rebellion), rebels occupying Montalto House are attacked by the militia. The mansion sustains some fire and artillery damage. Francis Rawdon-Hastings – 2nd Earl of Moira and Montalto resident – is a respected British military officer during the American War of Independence. He is a close friend of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. For ten years he is Governor General of India, carrying huge military and political responsibilities. He sells the Montalto Estate soon after the 1798 Rebellion and later becomes 1st Marquess of Hastings in 1816.
In 1803 David Ker of Portavo purchased the estate. In 1910 Richard – the last of the Kers to reside at Montalto – is finally forced to sell the estate.In 1912 Arthur, 5th Earl of Clanwilliam, purchases Montalto for £20,000.
The Earl fights in the Boer War (where he is badly wounded), and with the Guards in France in WW1. His wife Lady Muriel cares for wounded Allied officers during their convalescence at Montalto.
In 1979 the house is purchased by the Hogg Corry Partnership. In 1988 Corry withdraws. In 1995 it is purchased by the Wilson family. Working with local architects Hobart and Heron, as well as John O’Connell – a leading conservation architect from Dublin, specialising in Georgian architecture – they set about a programme of works to restore the house, grounds, and outbuildings to their former glory.
The estate has been almost exclusively, a family home since Lord Moira built the first house here. Nowadays Montalto offers visitors the use of 400 acres of rolling Irish countryside, which includes wonderful trails and gardens and a chance to explore this historic demesne and reconnect with nature.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 209. “(Rawdon, Moira, E/DEP; Ker/IFR; Meade, Clanwilliam, E/PB) A large and dignified three storey house of late-Georgian aspet; which, in fact, was built mid-C18 as a two storey house by Sir John Rawdon, 1st Earl of Moira, who probably brought the stuccodore who was working for him at Moira House in Dublin to execute the plasterwork here; for the ceiling which survives in the room known as the Lady’s Sitting Room is pre-1765 and of the very highest quality, closely resembling the work of Robert West; with birds, grapes, roses and arabesques in high relief. There is also a triple niche of plasterwork at one end of the room; though the central relief of a fox riding in a curricle drawn by a cock is much less sophisticated than the rest of the plasterwork and was probably done by a local man. 2nd Earl, afterwards 1st Marquess of Hastings, who distinguished himself as a soldier in the American War of Independence, and was subsequently Governor-General of India, sold Montalto 1802 to David Ker, who enlarged the windows of the house, in accordance with the prevailing fashion. In 1837, D.G. Ker enlarged the house by carrying out what one would imagine to be a most difficult, not to say hazardous operation; he excavated the rock under the house and round the foundations, thus forming a new lower ground floor; the structure being supported by numerous arches and pillars. It was more than just digging out a basement, as has been done at one or two other houses in Ulster; for the new ground floor is much higher than any basement would be; the operation made the house fully three storeyed. Entrance front of two bays on either side of a central three sided bow; the front also having end bows. Shallow Doric porch at foot of centre bow. Ground floor windows round-headed; those above rectangular, with plain entablatures over the windows of the original ground floor, now the piano nobile. Parapeted roof. The right hand side of the house is of ten bays, plus the end bow of the front; with a pilastered triple window immediately to the right of the bow in the piano nobile, balanced by another at the far end of the elevation. The left-hand side of the house is only of three bays and the bow, with a single triple window’ the elevation being prolonged by a two storey wing with round-headed windows. Various additions were built at the back of the house and at the sides during the course of C19; a ballroom being added by D.S. Ker, grandson of the David Ker who bought the estate. In 1837 ground floor there is an imposing entrance hall, with eight paired Doric columns, flanked by a library and a dining room. A double staircase leads up to the piano nobile, where there is a long gallery running the full width of the house, which may have been the original entrance hall. Also on the piano nobile is the sitting room with the splendid C18 plasterwork. Montalto was bought ca 1910 by 5th Earl of Clanwilliam, whose bridge refused to live at Gill Hall, the family seat a few miles to the west, because of the ghosts there. In 1952, the ballroom and a service wing at the back were demolished.”
“The Stewarts came from Scotland to Donegal as part of the Jacobean Plantation of Ulster. Alexander Stewart and his wife, Mary Cowan, bought a large area of land in County Down in 1744, part of which became Mount Stewart demesne. Mary had inherited a fortune from her brother, Robert Cowan, who was in the East India Company, and was Governor of Bombay.
A modest house on the shore of Strangford Lough was extended in the 1780s into a long low 2-storey house by Alexander’s son, Robert. Robert also built a walled garden and farm buildings further inland, and commissioned James ‘Athenian’ Stuart to design the Temple of the Winds, one of the finest small neo-classical buildings in Ireland. Through his political connections and marriage, Robert rose through the political ranks, becoming earl and subsequently marquess of Londonderry.
It was Robert’s son, best known as Viscount Castlereagh, who chose the architect George Dance to design a new wing for Mount Stewart which included a series of fine reception rooms. The west wing was built around 1804–6.
Castlereagh is best known in Ireland for his involvement in the repression of the 1798 Rebellion and as one of the architects of the Anglo-Irish Union of 1800, for which he was vilified by many. He was however regarded as a consummate statesman and astute negotiator.
From 1802 to 1822 he was based in London as Secretary of State for War and Foreign Secretary during the wars with America and France under Napoleon. He was one of the chief negotiators at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) and his greatest legacy was steering the Congress towards a more equitable balance of power. The Congress was the first multinational European congress; many issues were discussed including the abolition of slavery. Castlereagh became a staunch supporter of abolition, as the trade was ‘repugnant to the principles of humanity and universal morality’.
The Peterloo Massacre of 1819 earned him more criticism, for although he was not personally responsible and was appalled by the outcome, as Home Secretary he had to justify the yeomanry’s actions. In 1822 he suffered a breakdown and took his own life, just a year after becoming the 2nd marquess of Londonderry.
Castlereagh’s half-brother, Charles Stewart fought in the Peninsula War under Wellington and became British ambassador at Berlin and then Vienna during the Congress. In 1819 he married the wealthy Frances Anne Vane Tempest who had inherited coal mines and a grand estate in County Durham. They travelled widely and rebuilt Wynyard, County Durham and Londonderry House in London. Charles also extended Mount Stewart in the 1840s. His grandson, the 6th Marquess, was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the 1880s. The 6th Marquess was strongly opposed to Home Rule for Ireland; he and his wife were instigators and signatories of the Ulster Covenant in 1912.
Charles’s great-grandson, Charles 7th Marquess, served in the First World War, during which his wife Edith founded the Women’s Legion. At the end of the war, Edith began to create the gardens at Mount Stewart and redecorated and furnished the house, processes she thoroughly enjoyed and continued until her death in 1959. Charles served in the new Northern Irish government following the partition of Ireland in 1921. He later became Secretary of State for Air during the early 1930s. The horrors of the First World War and the rise of Communism meant many were anxious to avoid another European war. For Charles, this meant holding a series of meetings with the Nazi leadership, but his actions and intentions were misunderstood and his career and reputation were fatally damaged.
These historic, sometimes seismic, events are woven into Mount Stewart and there are many objects, books and paintings in the house that connect us to the people who experienced, influenced and formed them.”
You can see pictures and read more about the treasures in the house on the website.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 216. “Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Londonderry, M/PB) A long two storey Classical house of 1820s, one end of which is, in fact, a house built 1803-06 by 1st Marquess of Londonderry (father of the stateman, Castlereagh) to the design of George Dance. The seven bay front of 1803-06 house survives as the end elevation of the present house; unchanged, except that its centre bay now breaks forward under a shallow pediment, similar to those on either side of the present entrance front, which are very much of 1820s. The three rooms at this end of the house keep their original ceilings of delicate plasterwork; the centre one, which was formerly the entrance hall, has a ceiling with pendentives, making it an octagon. Behind this former entrance hall is an imperial staircase with a balustrade of elegant ironwork, lit by a dome; this too, is part of the earlier house. 3rd Marquess, Castlereagh’s younger half-brother, who was far richer than either his father or his brother had ever been, having married the wealthy Durham heiress, Frances Anne Vane Tempest, enlarged the house to its present form ca 1825-28, his architect being William Vitruvius Morrison. A new block was built onto what had been the back of the original house, as wide as the original house was long and long enough to make, with the end of the original house, a new entrance front of 11 bays, with a pedimented porte-cochere of four giant Ionic columns as its main central feature; the three outer bays on either side being treated as pavilions, each with a one bay pedimented breakfront similar to that which was put onto the front of the original house. The outer bays have a balustraded roof parapet, which is carried round the end of the house and along the new garden front. The latter is as long as the entrance front, and has a boldly projecting centre with a pediment and a single-storey portico of coupled Ionic columns; and a curved bow at either end. The principal interior feature of the newer building is a vast central hall, consisting of an octagon, top-lit through a balustraded gallery from a dome filled with stained glass, with rectangular extensions so as to form a room much longer than it is wide; with screens of couple painted marble Ionci columns between the octagon and the extensions. Morrison’s reception rooms are spacious and simple; the drawing room has a screen of Ionic colmns at either end. The interior of the house was done up post WWI by 7th Marquess, Secretary of State for Air in 1930s; the central room in the garden front being panelled as a smoking and living room. The 7th Marquess and his wife (the well-known political hostess and friend of Ramsay MacDonald) also laid out an elaborate garden, going down the hillside from the garden front of the house towards Strangford Lough. As well as this noteaable C20 garden. Mount Stewart boasts of one of the finest C18 garden buildings in Irelnad, the Temple of the Winds, an octagonal banqueting house built 1780 to the design of “Athenian” Stuart, who based it on the Tower of the Winds in Athens. It has a porch on two of its faces, each with two columns of the same modified Corinthian order as that of the columns of the Tower of the Winds. Mount Stewart was given to the Norhtern Ireland National Trust by Lady Mairi Bury, daughter of 7th Marquess, ca 1977, and is now open to the public. The Temple of the Winds was given 1962 to the Trust, which has since restored it; the garden was given to the Trust in 1955.”
8. Newry and Mourne Museum, Bagenal’s Castle, County Down
“Bagenal’s Castle is a sixteenth century fortified house and adjoining nineteenth century warehouse. It houses Newry and Mourne Museum and Newry Visitor Information Centre.
During restoration work on the Castle many original features were uncovered including fireplaces, windows, doorways, gun loops and a bread oven. These have been interpreted for the visitor and drawings were commissioned to illustrate how the various living quarters of the castle would have functioned in the sixteenth century. Highlights include a restored Banqueting Room which is used throughout the year for seasonal and family events.
The Museum’s diverse collections include material relating to prehistory, Newry’s Cistercian foundations, Ulster’s Gaelic order and the relationship with the English Crown; the building of a merchant town and the first summit level canal in the British Isles. You can also discover the history of the ‘Gap of the North’, the historic mountain pass between Ulster and Leinster located to the south of Newry. One of the key main exhibitions, ‘A Border Town’s Experience of the 20th Century’, examines local attitudes to major political and economic events of the 20th century. There are also permanent exhibitions on farming, fishing and folklore in the Mournes and South Armagh.”
“Portaferry Castle is a 16th-century tower-house, built by the Savage family and prominently located on the slope overlooking Portaferry harbour within sight of Strangford and Audley’s Castles across the water. Simpler than the earlier ‘gatehouse’ tower house, it is square in plan with one projecting tower to the south where a turret rises an extra storey and contains the entrance and stair from ground floor to first floor.
There are three storeys and an attic, and like early tower-houses it has spiral stairs. However, like some later tower houses it lacks a stone vault as all floors were originally made of wood.
***THE CASTLE IS CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR REPAIRS AND WILL NOT OPEN THIS YEAR”
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 232. “(Nugent, sub Douglas-Nugent/IFR) A dignified house of 1821, by William Farrell, who apparently worked on a plan produced by Charles Lilley 1790, the three storey centre of the house being very possibly a three storey block of 1770s. The centre of the entrance front is of five bays, with a central Wyatt window in each of two upper storeys; and a porch with paired Ionic columns and Ionic end piers. On either side of the centre there is a wide, three-sided bow, ofonly two storeys but as high as the rest of the front. Ionic columns in hall and some good plasterwork. The house stands in beautiful parkland overlooking the entrance to Strangford Lough.”
and Florida Manor Gambles Patch, Hollow View and Meadow Green.
The website tells us: “Dating back to 1676, Florida Manor, an original Irish Georgian Estate has undergone sympathetic refurbishment. Within the estates original stone perimeter wall lies 200 acres of extensive landscaped grasslands, private lakes, walkways and bridal paths.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 297. “(Gordon/IFR) A C18 house consisting of a three storey principal block with a recessed centre, linked to lower wings by curved sweeps with balustrades and pilasters. Projecting enclosed porch, also balustraded and with Ionic columns. quoins. Originally the seat of the Crawfords; passed by marriage to the Gordons C18. The house became ruinous in the present century but has been restored as two dwellings.”
“A tower with pepper-pot bartizans rising from a hill at the southern end of the demesne, completed 1862 to a design by William Burn. It was built in honour of his mother, Helen, Lady Dufferin, one of three beautiful and lively sisters who were the granddaughters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan; in a room near the top of the tower, lined with delicate Gothic woodwork, the walls are adorned with poems on bronze tablets expressing the love between mother and son; including a poem written specially for Lord Dufferin by Tennyson:
The website tells us: “Kiltariff Hall is a Victorian Country House on the outskirts of the small market town of Rathfriland. Built by our great-grandfather William Fegan in 1888, the house is set at the end of a short drive and is surrounded by mature oak, sycamore and pine trees. It is run myself, Catherine and my sister Shelagh who grew up in Kiltariff when it was a working farm. We are both passionate and knowledgeable about the Mourne area and believe that providing good locally produced food is key to ensuring guests enjoy their stay.“
“Narrow Water Castle is the private home of the Hall family who have lived at Narrow Water since 1670, originally in the Old Narrow Water Keep situated on the shoreline of Carlingford Lough which is now a national monument.
As a private home the castle is not open for public admission. It does however occasionally open its doors for weddings and exclusive events.
In 1816 construction began on the new Castle by Thomas Duff, a well-known Newry architect who also designed the Cathedrals in Newry, Armagh and Dundalk. The Elizabethan revival style castle is made from local granite and built next to the existing house, Mount Hall (1680). It was completed in 1836.
The self catering apartments are located in the original hub of the castle (Mount Hall), dating back to 1680. Mount Hall joins the Elizabethan revival part of the castle to the courtyard.“
The website tells us: “Slieve Donard was originally built by the Belfast and County Down Railway as an ‘end of the line’ luxury holiday destination. Construction started in 1896 and was completed and officially opened on 24th June 1898 at the cost of £44,000. It was one of the most majestic hotels of its time and was almost self-sufficient with its own bakery, vegetable gardens, pigs, laundry and innovatively a power plant, which also provided electricity for the railway station.
Slieve Donard typified the idea of Victorian grandeur and luxury with its Drawing Room, Grand Coffee Room, Reading and Writing Room, Smoking Room, Billiard Room and Hairdressing Rooms—you can’t help but conjure up scenes of great style and decadence. ‘One could even partake of seawater baths, douche, spray, needle and Turkish baths all provided by an electric pump straight from the sea.
In 2021, Adventurous Journeys (AJ) Capital Partners acquired Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, which will become the first Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts property in Northern Ireland and the fourth hotel in the collection.“
8. St John’s Point Lighthouse Sloop, Killough, County Down
“Tyrella House is a luxury B&B and wedding venue located in the heart of picturesque County Down, with its necklace of pretty fishing villages. A fine 18th century house surrounded by glorious wooded parkland with its own private beach just a short walk from the house, Tyrella offers a tranquil and relaxing getaway.
Tyrella House has been owned by the Corbett family for over 60 years, and was bought by John Corbett after the Second World War to train race horses.
His son, David Corbett began running B&B in the 1990s, which continues to this day. In 2020, the day to day running of the B&B was taken over by his son, John and his wife Hannah.“
“This fabulous period home is a historic Irish country farm house. Set on wonderful gardens including an orchard, Tullymurry House is an ideal base for golf, fishing, hiking, walking, beach, and other outdoor pursuits.“
 Mulligan, Kevin V. The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster, Armagh, Cavan and Monaghan. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2013.
 p. 11. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 12, 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.
Just to finish up my entries about Office of Public Works properties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.
1. Altamont Gardens
22. Castletown House, County Kildare
23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare
24. Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny
25. Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny
26. Kells Priory, County Kilkenny
27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny
28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny
1. Altamont House and Gardens, Bunclody Road, Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow:
General information: (059) 915 9444
From the OPW website:
“A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.
For example, there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air.
With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.” 
From Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018:
“Altamont House was constructed in the 1720s, incorporating parts of an earlier structure said to have been a medieval nunnery. In the 1850s, a lake was excavated in the grounds of the house, but it was when the Lecky-Watsons, a local Quaker family, acquired Altamont in 1924 that the gardens truly came into their own.
Feilding Lecky-Watson had worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he nurtured his love of exotic plants, and of rhododendrons in particular. Back in Ireland, he became an expert in the species, cultivating plants for the botanical gardnes at Glasnevin, Kew and Edinburgh. So passionate was he about these plants that when his wife, Isobel, gave birth to a daughter in 1922, she was named Corona, after his favourite variety of rhododendron.” 
Around the lake are mature conifers that were planted in the 1800s, including a giant Wellingtonia which commemorates the Battle of Waterloo.  Corona continued in her father’s footsteps, planing rhododendrons, magnolia and Japanese maples. Another feature is the “100 steps” hand-cut in granite, leading down to the River Slaney. There are red squirrels, otters in the lake and river, and peacocks. Before her death, Corona handed Altamont over to the Irish state to ensure its preservation.
22. Castletown House and Parklands, Celbridge, County Kildare.
General Information: email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“Castletown is set amongst beautiful eighteenth-century parklands on the banks of the Liffey in Celbridge, County Kildare.
The house was built around 1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, to designs by several renowned architects. It was intended to reflect Conolly’s power and to serve as a venue for political entertaining on a grand scale. At the time Castletown was built, commentators expected it to be ‘the epitome of the Kingdom, and all the rarities she can afford’.
The estate flourished under William Conolly’s great-nephew Thomas and his wife, Lady Louisa, who devoted much of her life to improving her home.
Today, Castletown is home to a significant collection of paintings, furnishings and objets d’art. Highlights include three eighteenth-century Murano-glass chandeliers and the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in the country.
It is still the most splendid Palladian-style country house in Ireland.“
William Conolly rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.
The Archiseek website tells us:
“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” 
Mark Bence-Jones tells us in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“The centre block, of three storeys over a basement, has two more or less identical thirteen bay fronts reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty and serenity. The centre block is joined by curved Ionic colonnades to two storey seven bay wings; the wings and colonnades having been designed by Pearce, who also designed the impressive two storey entrance hall, which has a gallery supported by Ionic columns. Apart from the hall, the long gallery upstairs and some rooms with simple wainscot, the interior of Castletown was still unfinished at the time of Speaker Conolly’s death, and remained so until after his great-nephew, the popular Irish patriot Tom Conolly, married Lady Louisa Lennox (daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond and sister of Emily, Duchess of Leinster) 1758.” 
William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754) via his brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James died just two years after Katherine nee Conyngham, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).
Thomas’s wife, Lady Louisa Lennox, was one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster) where she was exposed to the fashionable idea of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. 
Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” 
Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 4]
Mark Bence-Jones continues:
In the following year, Tom Conolly and Lady Louisa employed the Francini to decorate the walls of thestaircase hall with rococo stuccowork; and in 1760 the grand staircase itself – of cantilevered stone, with a noble balustrade of brass columns – was installed; the work beign carried out by Simon Vierpyl, a protégé of Sir William Chambers. The principal reception rooms, which form an enfilade along the garden front and were mostly decorated at this time, are believed to be by Chambers himself; they have ceilings of geometrical plasterwork, very characteristic of him. Also in this style is the dining room, to the left of the entrance hall. It was here that, according to the story, Tom Conolly found himself giving supper to the Devil, whom he had met out hunting and invited back, believing him to be merely a dark stranger; but had realised the truth when his guest’s boots were removed, revealing him to have unusually hairy feet. He therefore sent for the priest, who threw his breviary at the unwelcome guest, which missed him and cracked a mirror. This, however, was enough to scare the Devil, who vanished through the hearthstone. Whatever the truth of this story, the hearthstone in the dining room is shattered, and one of the mirrors is cracked. The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776. The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers. Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly. It eventually passed to 6th and present Lord Carew [William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994)], whose mother was a Conolly of the Pakenham line. He sold it 1965; the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. Then, in 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres as the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. The house is open to the public.”
The Dining Room, description from Archiseek:
“This room dates from the 1760s redecoration of Castletown undertaken by Lady Louisa Conolly and reflects the mid-eighteenth century fashion for separate dining rooms. Originally, there were two smaller panelled rooms here. It was reconstructed to designs by Sir William Chambers, with a compartmentalised ceiling similar to one by Inigo Jones in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The chimney-piece and door cases are in the manner of Chambers. Of the four doors, two are false.
Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms. The three elaborate pier glasses are original to the Dining Room. The frames are carved fruiting vines, symbols of Bacchus and festivity. These are probably the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809) who, with the firm of Thomas Jackson of Essex Bridge, Dublin, was paid large sums for carving and gilding throughout the house.“
The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:
“It is one of a series of State Rooms that form an enfilade and were used on important occasions in the eighteenth century. This room was redesigned in the mid 1760s in the manner of Sir William Chambers. The chimney-piece, ceiling and pier glasses are typical of his designs.
The walls are covered in red damask which is probably French and dates from the 1820s. Lady Shelburne recorded in her journal seeing a four coloured damask, predominently red, in this room. The Aubusson carpet dates from about 1850 and may have been made for the room. Much of the furniture has always been in the house and Lady Louisa Conolly paid 11/2 guineas for each of the Chinese Chippendale armchairs which she considered very expensive. The chairs and settee were made in Dublin and they are displayed in a formal arrangement against the walls as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The bureau was made for Lady Louisa in the 1760s.“
The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:
“The Conollys formally received important visitors to the house in the Green Drawing Room which was the saloon or principal reception room. The room was redecorated in the 1760s and like the other state rooms reflects the neo-classical taste of the architect Sir William Chambers. The Greek key decoration on the ceiling is repeated on the pier glasses and the chimney-piece. Originally these were pier tables with a Greek key frieze and copies of these may be made in the future. The chimney-piece is similar to one designed by Chambers for Lord Charlemont’s Casino at Marino.”
The Long Gallery, description from Archiseek:
“measuring almost 80 by 23 feet, with its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s. Originally there were four doors in the room and the walls were panelled in stucco similar to the entrance Hall. In 1776 the plaster panels and swags were removed but traces of them were found behind the painted canvas panels when they were taken down for cleaning during recent conservation work.
In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland). The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter.
The three glass chandeliers were made for the room in Venice and the four large sheets of mirrored glass came from France. In the 1770s the Long Gallery was used as a living room and was filled with exquisite furniture. Originally in the room, there were a pair of side tables attributed to John Linnell, with marble tops attributed to Bossi, a pair of commodes by Pierre Langlois, that were purchased in London for Lady Louisa by Lady Caroline Fox and a pair of bookcases at either end of the room.
In 1989 major conservation work was carried out on the Long Gallery. The wall paintings that had been flaking for many years were conserved. The original eighteenth-century gilding has been cleaned and the chandeliers restored. The project was funded by the American Ireland Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and by private donations.“
Print rooms were fashionable in the 18th century – ladies would collect their favourite prints and paste the walls with them – and Lady Louisa’s remains the only intact 18th century print room in Ireland. Those featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline. [see 6]
From the website: “The Boudoir and the adjoining two rooms formed Lady Louisa’s personal apartment. The Boudoir served as a private sitting room for Louisa and subsequent ladies of the house. The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner. The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery. Amongst the items inside the built-in glass cabinet are pieces of glass and china featuring the Conolly crest.
In the adjoining room, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room.“
23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare:
General information: 01 628 6744, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“This majestic stone castle was founded in the early thirteenth century. It became the seat of power for the FitzGeralds, the earls of Kildare, as they emerged as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Garret Mór, known as the Great Earl of Kildare, governed Ireland in the name of the king from 1487 to 1513.
Maynooth Castle was one of the largest and richest Geraldine dwellings. The original keep, begun around 1200, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Inside, the great hall was a nerve centre of political power and culture.
Only 30 kilometres from Dublin, Maynooth Castle occupies a deceptively secluded spot in the centre of the town, with well-kept grounds and plenty of greenery. There is a captivating exhibition in the keep on the history of the castle and the family.“
24. Dunmore Cave, Mothel, Ballyfoyle, Castlecomer Road, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 776 7726, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“Dunmore Cave, not far from Kilkenny town, is a series of limestone chambers formed over millions of years. It contains some of the most impressive calcite formations found in any Irish underground structure.
The cave has been known for many centuries and is first mentioned in the ninth-century Triads of Ireland, where it is referred to as one of the ‘darkest places in Ireland’. The most gruesome reference, however, comes from the Annals of the Four Masters, which tells how the Viking leader Guthfrith of Ivar massacred a thousand people there in AD 928. Archaeological investigation has not reliably confirmed that such a massacre took place, but finds within the cave – including human remains – do indicate Viking activity.
Dunmore is now a show cave, with guided tours that will take you deep into the earth – and even deeper into the past.“
25. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.
General information: 056 772 4623, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“Founded in the 12th century, Jerpoint Abbey is one of the best examples of a medieval Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. The architectural styles within the church, constructed in the late twelfth century, reflect the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The tower and cloister date to the fifteenth century.
Jerpoint is renowned for its detailed stone sculptures found throughout the monastery. Dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries these include mensa tombs from the O’Tunney school, an exquisite incised depiction of two 13th century knights, the decorated cloister arcades along with other effigies and memorials.
Children can explore the abbey with a treasure hunt available in the nearby visitor centre. Search the abbey to discover saints, patrons, knights, exotic animals and mythological creatures.
A small but informative visitor centre houses an excellent exhibition.“
26. Kells Priory, Kells, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 772 4623, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“Kells Priory owes its foundation to the Anglo-Norman consolidation of Leinster. Founded by Geoffrey FitzRobert, a household knight and trusted companion of William Marshal the priory was one element of Geoffrey’s establishment of the medieval town of Kells.
Although founded in c. 1193 extensive remains exist today which include a nave, chancel, lady chapel, cloister and associated builds plus the remains of the priory’s infirmary, workshop, kitchen, bread oven and mill. The existence of the medieval defences, surrounding the entire precinct, underline the military aspect of the site and inspired the priory’s local name, the ‘Seven Castles of Kells’.“
27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 770 4100, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“Built in the twelfth century, Kilkenny Castle was the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. Under the powerful Butler family, Kilkenny grew into a thriving and vibrant city. Its lively atmosphere can still be felt today.
The castle, set in extensive parkland, was remodelled in Victorian times. It was formally taken over by the Irish State in 1969 and since then has undergone ambitious restoration works. It now welcomes thousands of visitors a year.“
Kilkenny Castle has been standing for over eight hundred years, dominating Kilkenny City and the South East of Ireland. Originally built in the 13th century by William Marshall, 4th Earl of Pembroke, as a symbol of Norman control, Kilkenny Castle came to symbolise the fortunes of the powerful Butlers of Ormonde for over six hundred years. 
1n 1967 James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde sold the Castle to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. Two years later it went into state ownership.
William Marshall (about 1146-1219) was married to the daughter of “Strongbow” Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. With the marriage, he gained land and eventually, the title, Earl of Pembroke. The daughter of Strongbow, Isabel, inherited the title of 4th Countess of Pembroke “suo jure” i.e. herself (her brother, who died a minor, was the 3rd Earl). Hence William Marshall became the 4th Earl through his wife, but then then was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke himself ten years after their marriage. They seem to have settled in Ireland and created place for themselves, beginning with setting up the town of New Ross and then restoring Kilkenny town and castle – a castle had pre-dated them, according to the Kilkenny Castle website. It tells us that the present-day castle is based on the stone fortress that Marshall designed, comprising an irregular rectangular fortress with a drum-shaped tower at each corner. Three of these towers survive to this day.
By 1200, Kilkenny was the capital of Norman Leinster and New Ross was its principal port. The Marshalls also founded the Cistercian abbeys at Tintern in County Wexford and Duiske in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, as well as the castles at Ferns and Enniscorthy. He died and was buried in England. 
In 1317, the de Clare family sold the Kilkenny castle to Hugh Despenser. The Despensers were absentee landlords. In 1391 the Despensers sold the castle to James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, 9th Chief Butler of Ireland (1360–1405). The first Butler to come to Ireland was Theobald Walter Le Botiller or Butler, 1st Baron Butler, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland (1165–1206). He was called “Le Botiller” because he received the monopoly of the taxes on wines being imported into Ireland (which The Peerage website tells us was eventually purchased back by the Crown from the Marquess of Ormonde for £216,000 in 1811.)
The Butlers were an important family in Ireland. They fought for the king in France and Scotland, and held positions of power, including Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the monarch’s representative in Ireland.
The castle now forms a “u” shape, because in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion, the fourth wall fell. After the Restoration of 1660, there was a major rebuilding of the old castle. In 1826, another remodelling of the castle began. In 1935, the Butler family held a great auction, selling all of the castle’s furnishings.
Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond (d. 1515) lacked a male heir, and on his death, the Earldom was contested between Sir Piers Butler and his grandchildren led by Sir Thomas Boleyn. Thomas was favoured by King Henry VIII when Henry married his daughter Anne Boleyn. Piers Butler (1467-1539) was a descendant of the 3rd Earl of Ormond. Piers relinquished the claim to the title Earl of Ormond to Boleyn and was created Earl of Ossory by Henry VIII. The lands of the 7th Earl were divided between both parties. After a rapid escalation of disputes with rural Fitzgeralds and Boleyns, Piers regained his position and was recognised Earl of Ormond in February 1538.
The Crown hoped Piers would improve the Crown’s grip over southern Ireland. Piers the 8th Earl of Ormond gained much from Crown, including suppressed monasteries. He married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of the 8th Earl of Kildare, in marriage arranged for the purpose of ending the long-standing rivalry between the two families. They lived in Kilkenny Castle and greatly improved it. Margaret urged Piers to bring over skilled weavers from Flanders and she helped establish industries for the production of carpets, tapestries and cloth. Margaret and her husband commissioned significant additions to the castles of Granagh and Ormond. They also rebuilt Gowran Castle, which had been originally constructed in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.
The 10th Earl of Ormond, “Black Tom,” had no direct heir so the Earldom passed to his nephew, Walter, a son of Sir John Butler of Kilcash. Unlike his uncle, who had been raised at Court and thus reared a Protestant, Walter the 11th Earl of Ormond was a Catholic. See my entry about the Ormond Castle at Carrick-on-Suir for more on “Black Tom.”
Walter Butler’s claim to the family estates was blocked by James I. The latter orchestrated the marriage of Black Tom’s daughter and heiress Elizabeth to a Scottish favourite Richard Preston. This gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond, and awarded his wife most of the Ormond estate, thus depriving Walter of his inheritance. Walter refused to submit and was imprisoned for eight years in the Fleet, London. He was released 1625. Thomas’s nine-year-old son, James, became the heir to the titles. Plans were made for a marriage between James and Elizabeth, only daughter of the Prestons, to resolve the inheritance issue.
James Butler (1610-88) 1st Duke of Ormond, 12th Earl of Ormond was the eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and his wife Elizabeth Poyntz. Following his father’s death in 1619, 9-year-old James became direct heir to the Ormond titles. He was made a royal ward and was educated at Lambeth Palace under the tutelage of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1629 he married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates, as she was the sole heiress of her mother Elizabeth, daughter of the 10th Earl of Ormond, who had married Theobald Butler, 1st Viscount Tulleophelim, and secondly, Elizabeth’s father Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond.
James succeeded to the Ormond titles in 1633 on the death of his grandfather, Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond.
The website tells us: “A staunch royalist, Ormond was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland in 1641. He served his first term of three as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1648 to 1650. Following the defeat of the royalists in Ireland, Ormond went to exile and spent most of the years 1649 to 1660 abroad, moving about Europe with the exiled court of Charles II. After the restoration of the monarchy in England, Ormond was rewarded with a dukedom and several high offices by a grateful king. Though he enjoyed the king’s favour, Ormond had enemies at court and as a result of the machinations of the Cabal, which included powerful figures such as the Earl of Shaftesbury, he was dismissed from his post as Lord Lieutenant in 1669. When he was raised to a dukedom in the English peerage in 1682, Ormond left Ireland to reside in England. During his last term as Lord Lieutenant (1677-85), he played a major role in the planning and founding of the Royal Hospital for old soldiers at Kilmainham, near Dublin. The last decade of his life was marked by tragedy: all three of his sons and his wife died during that time. He died at his residence at Kingston Lacy in Dorset was buried in Westminster Abbey.“
The 1st Duke of Ormond had three sons: Thomas (1634-1680), 6th Earl of Ossory; Richard (1639-1686), 1st and last Earl of Arran; and John (1634-1677), 1st and last Earl of Gowran. He had two daughters, Elizabeth (1640-1665) and Mary (1646-1710). Mary married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire.
During the 1st Duke of Ormond’s tenure the castle underwent improvements. Mark Bence-Jones describes:
“The Great Duke transformed the castle from a medieval fortress into a pleasant country house, rather like the chateau or schloss of contemporary European princeling; with high-pitched roofs and cupolas surmounted by vanes and gilded ducal coronets on the old round towers. Outworks gave place to gardens with terraces, a “waterhouse” a fountain probably carved by William de Keyser, and statues copied from those in Charles II’s Privy Gardens. The Duchess seems to have been the prime mover in the work, in which William (afterwards Sir William) Robinson, Surveyor-General and architect of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, was probably involved; supervising the contruction of the Presence Chamber 1679. Robinson is also believed to have designed the magnificent entrance gateway of Portland and Caen stone with a pediment, Corinthian pilasters and swags which the second Duke erected on the street front of the castle ca 1709. Not much else was done to the castle in C18, for the Ormondes suffered a period of eclipse following the attainder and exile of the 2nd Duke, who became a Jacobite after the accession of George I.” 
Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory, was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was also Lord Butler of Moore Park and Lord Deputy of Ireland, and was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, he was the second but eldest surviving son of the Duke of Ormonde. His childhood was spent at Kilkenny until he went with his father and brother Richard to England in 1647. They then went to France, where he was educated at Caen and Paris at Monsieur de Camps’ Academy. In Holland he married Amelia of Nassau, daughter of Lodewyk van Nassau, Heer van Beverweerd, a natural son of Prince Maurice of Nassau. Ossory was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.
Ossory enjoyed the favour and support of both King Charles II and his queen. Because of his wife’s Dutch connections he was frequently sent on royal missions to that country. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend, who referred to him as ‘a good natured, generous and perfectly obliging friend’. He died suddenly in 1680, possibly from food poisoning, at Arlington House in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey
James Butler (1665-1745) 2nd Duke of Ormonde, 13th Earl of Ormonde, was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and his wife Amelia van Beverweerd. Following his father’s death in 1680, James became the heir to his grandfather, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, whom he succeeded in 1688.
Following his involvement in a Jacobite rising, he was impeached and a year later a Bill of Attainder was passed against him. His English and Scottish honours and his English estates were seized. Ormonde fled to France. He lived out his life in exile, and died at Avignon in France and was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.
Charles Butler (1671-1758), 2nd Earl of Arran, de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde, de jure 14th Earl of Ormonde was born on 4th September 1671, the youngest son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and Amelia of Nassau and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Arran was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates.
A younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond was Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary. His son was Walter Butler of Garyricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are the sons of Walter Butler: Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).
Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738), son of Walter Butler of Garryricken and Lady Mary Plunket, inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler, youngest brother of James, 1st Duke of Ormond. A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, he married Margaret Bourke, widow of Viscount Iveagh and daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde. They had three sons: Richard (d.1711), Walter who died in Paris and John Butler of Kilcash, who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as de jure 15th Earl in 1758 on the death of his cousin Amelia, sister of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde. The couple also had five daughters: one, Honora married Valentine Brown, Lord Kenmare.
A son of Thomas became the 15th Earl of Ormond, John Butler (d. 1766), because the 14th Earl (the 2nd Earl of Arran) had no children.
The title then passed to a cousin of the 15th Earl, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He was the only son and heir of John Butler of Garryricken and Frances, daughter of George Butler of Ballyragget. He inherited the Ormonde titles in 1766 which he did not assume but took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, who remained a Roman Catholic, exercised no political role but undertook the restoration of the Castle and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre, and the Dower House, today Butler House.
Walter the 16th Earl of Ormonde carried out various repairs, decorating some of the rooms with simple late C18 plasterwork.
He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary, and of Susanna, daughter of Richard Talbot of Malahide Castle. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved into the Dower House, today Butler House, across the road from the Castle.
Their son John (1740-1795) became known as “Jack of the Castle” and was the 17th Earl. Jack’s sister Susannah married Thomas Kavanagh of Borris House in County Carlow (see my entry about Borris House). Jack married Anne Wandesford, pictured below.
Their son Walter (1770-1820) became the 18th Earl and 1st Marquess of Ormonde. He had no sons so his brother James Wandesford Butler (1777-1838) inherited the title and was recreated at 1st Marquess of Ormonde and became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was created Marquess of Ormonde in 1825 and officiated as Chief Butler of Ireland at the Coronation of George IV. He married Grace Louisa Staples in 1807, they had ten children.
James Wandesford Butler the 1st Marquess undertook more renovations. Mark Bence-Jones describes:
“Ca. 1826, the Kilkenny architect, William Robertson, when walking in the castle courtyard with the Lady Ormonde of the day, noticed that a main wall was out of true and consequently unsafe. One suspects it may have been wishful thinking on his part, for it landed him the commission to rebuild the castle, which he did so thoroughly that virtually nothing remains from before his time except for the three old towers, the outer walls and – fortunately – the 2nd Duke’s gateway. Apart from the latter, the exterior of the castle became uncompromisingly C19 feudal; all the 1st Duke’s charming features being swept away. Robertson also replaced one of two missing sides of the courtyard with a new wing containing an immense picture gallery; the original gallery, on the top floor of the principal range, having been divided into bedrooms. Robertson left the interior of the castle extremely dull, with plain or monotonously ribbed ceilings and unvarying Louis Quinze style chimneypieces.” [see 11]
The 1st Marquess died in Dublin in 1838 and was succeeded by his eldest son John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland (see his portrait below).
John the 2nd Marquess travelled extensively. His journals (now in National Library of Ireland) record his many journeys across Europe to Italy and Sicily. He published an account of his travels, Autumn in Sicily, and he also wrote an account of the life of St. Canice. He married Frances Jane Paget in 1843. He continued the work of rebuilding Kilkenny castle that was started by his father. His journals show him to have a deep interest in art, and there are careful descriptions of several of the great galleries in Italy to be found in his writing. Although he continued to write in his journals during the years 1847 to 1850, no mention of the Irish famine is made. He died while bathing in the sea near Loftus hall on Hook Head, Co. Wexford. A marble tomb was erected in his memory in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.
The second eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, Anne Wandesford Butler married in 1838, the Right Honourable John Wynne of Hazelwood, Co. Sligo, which is now a distillery.
Another daughter, Louisa Grace Butler (1868-1896), the third eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, married Thomas Fortescue of Ravensdale, Co. Louth, 1st Baron Clermont in 1840.
The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess. His brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943), 4th Marquess, 22nd Earl of Ormonde, was the brother and heir to James Edward Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde. He was educated at Harrow and joined the army becoming a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards. He was state steward to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1887 he married Ellen Stager, daughter of American General Anson Stager.
As I mentioned earlier, it was James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, youngest son of James Arthur, 4th Marquess of Ormonde, who in 1967 sold the Castle.
From the website: “Today the first floor space is occuppied by three rooms: Anteroom, Library and Drawing Room, as it was in the 19th century. The processional lay out of the rooms, each opening into the next is characteristic of the Baroque style of the 17th century and was know as an ‘ enfilade’ suite of rooms. Baroque protocol dictated that visitors of lower rank than their host would be escorted by servants down the enfilade to the nearest room that their status allowed. In the 16th and 17th century the State Rooms were situated on this floor. 17th century history records that it was in these state apartments that James Butler 1st Duke of Ormonde received the Papal Nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini during the Irish Confederate Wars of that century. An Anteroom was a small room used as a waiting room, that leads into a larger and more important room. The Anteroom and the room below, today the Serving Room, were constructed in the area where an earlier stone staircase was situated.” The anteroom features a reproduction poplin wallpaper and bronze figurines in niches.
The anteroom leads to the library. “The interior decoration is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th century. Thanks to a salvaged fabric remnant found behind a skirting board, it was possible to commission the French silk poplin on the walls in its original pattern and colour from the firm of Prelle in Lyons in France. The claret silk damask curtains are also based on the originals were made in Ireland. One of the nine massive curtain pelmets is original and an Irish firm of Master Gilders faithfully reproduced matching gilt reproductions. The bookcases were also reproduced based on one original bookcase acquired by the OPW in the 1980s, this original with its 19th century glass stands in the right end corner of the library. The matching pair of pier mirrors over the mantelpieces was conserved and re gilded.”
“The magnificent Picture Gallery is situated in the east wing of Kilkenny Castle.This stunning space dates from the 19th century and was built primarily to house the Butler Family’s fine collection of paintings.“
From the website: “The Picture Gallery was built during the early nineteenth century building programme carried out by the architect William Robertson. It was constructed on earlier foundations. Robertston’s Picture Gallery, in keeping with his work on the rest of the castle, was in a Castellated Baronial style. Initially the gallery was built with a flat roof that had begun to cause problems shortly after its completion. The distinguished architectural firm of Deane and Woodward was called in during the 1860s to make changes to the overall design of the Picture Gallery block, and other corrections to Robertson’s work. These changes included the insertions of four oriels in the west wall and the blocking up of the eight windows, while another oriel added to the east wall…. The entire ceiling was hand painted by John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902), then Professor of Fine Arts at Newman College, Dublin, using a combination of motifs ranging from the quasi-medieval to the pre-Raphaelite, with interlace, gilded animal and bird heads on the cross beam.“
“The Marble Fireplace is made of Carrara marble and was designed by J. H. Pollen also in a quasi-medieval style. It was supplied by the firm of Ballyntyne of Dorset Street, Dublin. Foliage carving attributed to Charles Harrison covers the chimneypiece and a frieze beneath is decorated with seven panels, showing the family coat of arms and significant episodes from the family’s long history. Starting on the left, the first panel shows the buying the castle by the first Earl of Ormond in 1391 from the Despenser family – money changing hands is shown. The second panel depicts Theobald Fitzwalter acting as Chief Butler to the newly crowned King of England highlighting their ancient royal privilege and upon which their surname of Butler is based. On the third panel, you see King Richard the Second acting as godfather for one of the infants of the Butler family in 1391. The centrepiece is the family crest which can also be seen over the arch and gateway, with the family motto “comme je trouve”- “as I find”, as well as the heraldic shield guarded, the falcon, the griffin (a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) and the ducal coronet. In the fifth panel, the 1st Duke of Ormond can be seen entering the Irish House of Lords still bearing his sword. Indeed, he refused to hand his weapon over as were the protocols in case it was used inside during an argument; this became known as The Act of Defiance. The sixth panel next to this symbolizes the charity of the Butler family showing Lady Ormonde giving alms to the poor. Finally, the sixth and last panel portrays the First Duke of Ormond’s triumphant return to Dublin from exile on the Restoration of Charles the Second in 1662, when he also established the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and founded the Phoenix Park.”
Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the interior was largely redecorated and wood-carvings in the manner of Grinling Gibbons were introduced into some of the family rooms in the South Tower after the castle suffered damage 1922 during the Civil War, when, having been occupied by one side, it was attacked and captured by the other; the Earl of Ossory (afterwards 9th Marquess) and his wife being in residence at the time. In 1935 the Ormondes ceased to live in the castle, which for the next thirty years stood empty and deteriorating. It is now a wonderful place to visit, and has fifty acres of rolling parkland, a terraced rose garden, playground, tearoom and man-made lake, for visitors to enjoy.
28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 772 6894, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“This church was built in the late thirteenth century as a collegiate church and was served by a college – clerics who lived in a community but did not submit to the rule of a monastery.
The church was patronised by the Butler family and many early family members are commemorated here with elaborate medieval tombs. The impressive ruins were decorated by the Gowran Master whose stone carvings are immortalised in the poetry of Nobel Laureate Séamus Heaney.
The once medieval church was later partly reconstructed in the early 19th century and functioned as a Church of Ireland church until the 1970’s when it was gifted to the State as a National Monument. Today the restored part of the church preserves a collection of monuments dating from the 5th to the 20th centuries.“
 p. 75. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 129. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitgGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008.
 p. 167. 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.
“Áras an Uachtaráin started life as a modest brick house, built in 1751 for the Phoenix Park chief ranger. It was later an occasional residence for the lords lieutenant. During that period it evolved into a sizeable and elegant mansion.
It has been claimed that Irish architect James Hoban used the garden front portico as the model for the façade of the White House.
After independence, the governors general occupied the building. The first president of the Republic of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, took up residence here in 1938. It has been home to every president since then.” 
The park chief ranger was Nathaniel Clements(1705-1777), who was also an architect, and it was he who built the original house. Phoenix Park was originally formed as a royal hunting Park in the 1660s, created by James Butler the Duke of Ormond. A large herd of fallow deer still remain to this day. Since it was a deer park it needed a park ranger. Clements was also an MP in the Irish Parliament. He accumulated much property including Abbotstown in Dublin, and estates in Leitrim and Cavan. In Dublin, he developed property including part of Henrietta Street, where he lived in number 7 from 1734 to 1757. Another house he designed, which is sometimes on the Section 482 list, is Beauparc in County Meath, and another Section 482 property, Lodge Park in County Kildare. I hope to visit both this year! Desmond Fitzgerald also attributed Colganstown to him, though this is not certain, a house we visited in 2019. 
The administration of the British Lord Lieutenant bought the house from Nathaniel Clements’ son Robert 1st Earl of Leitrim, and it was used as his summer residence in the 1780s, and later became the Viceregal Lodge. See my footnotes for some portraits of Vicereines and Viceroys who may have lived in the Aras.
The East Wing was added in 1849 for a visit of Queen Victoria. George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon would have been Viceroy at that time (1800-1870). The Queen planted a Wellingtonia Gigantea tree which is still standing (others have planted trees also, including Queen Alexandria and Barak Obama, Charles de Gaulle, John F. Kennedy, Pope John Paul II and King Juan Carlos of Spain).
The office of Lord Lieutenant was abolished in 1922 when the Irish Free State came into being. From 1922 until 1932 it was the residence of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State. In 1937 when the office of President of Ireland was established, the house became the house of the president.
Mark Bence-Jones tells us that after being bought by the government, the house was altered and enlarged at various times, notably by Michael Stapleton – who was an architect as well as noted stuccadore – Robert Woodgate and Francis Johnston. An extra storey was added to the wings and in 1815 Johnston extended the garden front by 5 bays projecting forwards, and in the centre of this front he added the pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns which is the house’s most familiar feature. The Entrance Hall dates from 1751 and features a magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling with plaster busts in the ceiling coffers. The State Reception Room (formerly the ballroom) features a plaster cast of a Lafranchini panel in the ceiling. The Francini Corridor leads from the Entrance Hall past the State Reception Room. One side of the corridor is lined with bronze busts of Irish Presidents mounted on marble columns and the other side features stucco panels showing classical figures. A new part of the West Wing was added for the visit of George V in 1911. The formal gardens were established by Decimus Burton in the 1840s.
We attended a few of President Higgins’s summer parties at the Aras. These are open to the public, by booking tickets.
During the incumbency of President Sean T. O’Kelly, a wonderful mid-C18 plasterwork ceiling representing Jupiter and the Four Elements, with figures half covered in clouds, was brought from Mespil House, Dublin, which was then being demolished, and installed in the President’s Reception Room, one of the two smaller rooms in the garden front of the original house. The Mespil House ceiling was brought here at the instigation of Dr. C.P. Curran, who was also instrumental in having casts made of the plasterwork by the Francini at Riverstown House, Co. Cork, which then seemed in danger; and which have been installed in the ballroom and in the adjoining corridor.
2. Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin 7:
General enquiries: (01) 821 3021, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“The military cemetery at Arbour Hill is the last resting place of 14 of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising. It is therefore a place of pilgrimage for students and aficionados of this tempestuous moment in Irish history.
There is an adjoining church, the chapel for Arbour Hill Prison. At the rear of the church lies the old cemetery, containing fascinating memorials to British military personnel.
The clear focus of Arbour Hill, however, is the legend of the rising. Among those buried here are Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Major John MacBride. Their bodies were put into an unmarked pit and covered with quicklime, but their grave has now been saved from obscurity with an impressive memorial inscribed in English and Irish.
Arbour Hill Cemetery is at the rear of the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, where you can currently find a large display of 1916-related material.“
3. Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park, Dublin:
Ashtown Castle is in the Phoenix Park. From the OPW website:
“Ashtown Castle is a tower house that probably dates from the seventeenth century, but may be as early as the fifteenth.
For years it was completely hidden within the walls of a Georgian mansion once occupied by the under-secretary for Ireland. When that house was demolished in the late 1980s, the castle was rediscovered. It has since been fully restored and now welcomes visitors.”
The National Inventory tells us:
“The castle was dated to the early seventeenth century on the basis of surviving fragments of a roof truss found in the wall during the restoration project in the early 1990s. There is in the stonework some suggestion of a further wing to the north, but no archaeological evidence was found, leaving this section unresolved. The builder is unknown, but in 1641 the estate was in the ownership of John Connell, a distant ancestor of Daniel O’Connell. Curiously the Civil Survey, 1654, lists him as a Protestant. Stone from a quarry at Pelletstown owned by Connell was used in the building of the original wall of the Park. The castle and its lands were purchased for the crown by the Duke of Ormonde in 1663 and it became the official residence of the second Keeper of the Park, Sir William Flower, who assigned it to a subordinate. The building was extended to become the Under Secretary’s residence in the late eighteenth century. After Independence it served as the residence of the Papal Nuncio. The later extension was demolished in the 1980s and the site was briefly considered for an official Taoiseach’s residence, the brief requiring the restoration of the castle. Although heavily restored, it is a rare surviving example of a fortified tower house close to the capital city.“
The land at Ashtown was granted to the Hospital of St. John the Baptist in the 12th century by Hugh Tyrrell, 1st Baron of Castleknock. Restoration of the castle began in 1989.
4. The Casino at Marino, Cherrymount Crescent, Malahide Road, Marino, Dublin 3
General enquiries (01) 833 1618, email@example.com
From the website:
“The Casino is a remarkable building, both in terms of structure and history. Sir William Chambers designed it as a pleasure-house for James Caulfeild, first earl of Charlemont, beside his residence in what was then the countryside. It is a gem of eighteenth-century neo-classical architecture. In fact, it is one of the finest buildings of that style in Europe.
The term ‘casino’ in this case means ‘little house’, and from the outside it gives an impression of compactness. However, it contains 16 rooms, each of which is finely decorated and endlessly rich in subtle and rare design. The Zodiac Room, for example, has a domed ceiling which represents the sky with astrological symbols modelled around its base.“
The Casino website tells us that the plan of the Casino is in the shape of a Greek cross, and it is only fifty feet square. There are three floors containing sixteen rooms. Although small, they are entirely habitable, with service rooms in the basement, reception rooms on the main floor, and sleeping quarters on the upper floor. There is, however, no evidence of any long term occupation of the building. The exterior of the building is that of a one-room Greek temple, so the complexity of the interior was achieved by remarkable architectural design. This includes faux windows, gib doors, hollow columns, and disguised chimneys. Only half of the great front door actually swings open to admit entrance.
Very little is known about how the inside of the building originally looked. There are brief descriptions surviving in Charlemont’s own correspondence or in that of visitors, or rare mentions in sales catalogues. The exterior of the building is heavily decorated. Four statues adorn the attic storey; Bacchus, Ceres, Venus, and Apollo declare the abundance and love of good living that inspired the creation of the Casino. Around the chimney-urns curve mermaids and mermen. The ‘ceilings’ of the outside porches are densely carved to create a stucco effect. Four large Egyptian-style lions guard the corners.  Service tunnels underground surround the building, lit from above by grilles.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“… in the form of a Roman Doric temple, … built over the years 1758-76. It is one of the most exquisite miniature C18 buildings in Europe; within an exterior that appears to be sculptured rather than built are a number of little rooms, each of them perfectly proportioned and finished; with plasterwork ceilings, doorcases and inlaid floors. Sir Sacheverell Sitwell compares them to the little rooms in the Petit Trianon, and indeed the Casino shows considerable French influence, both inside and out. Among those who worked on the Casino was Simon Vierpyl, the sculptor and builder from Rome, and Joseph Wilton, the sculptor. The house [Marino] has long been demolished, but the Casino is maintained as a National Monument and has been restored by Mr Austin Dunphy of O’Neill Flanagan and Partners, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works.” 
The website of the Casino educates us about the family who owned the Casino. James Caulfeild succeeded to the titles 8th Lord Caulfeild, Baron of Charlemont and 4th Viscount Charlemont on the death of his father in 1734. It was not until 1763 that he was created 1st Earl of Charlemont, as recognition for keeping the peace in the Armagh/ Tyrone area. He was well-known for his love of the arts, and spent a record nine years on Grand Tour through Europe, Turkey, and Egypt. With the help of his stepfather, Thomas Adderley, he established himself at Marino on his return to Ireland in 1755. Here he began the improvements to his Marino estate, one of which was the celebrated Casino.
He was a leader in many different areas of eighteenth-century Irish society. Instrumental in setting up the Royal Irish Academy, he was also its first President. He was a member of the Royal Dublin Society, and a supporter of Grattan’s parliament. He was also a founding member of the Irish Volunteers (formed to protect Ireland from invasion while British troops served in the American Revolutionary War). His contribution to Irish culture was significant and lasting. 
The website tells us that while James was on his Grand Tour in Rome, he had become acquainted with those he would eventually hire to create his estate at Marino. This included William Chambers, Simon Vierpyl, Johann Heinrich Müntz, and Giovanni Battista Cipriani. Charlemont’s heavy involvement in the composition of the buildings at Marino, as well as his house in Rutland Square, is clear from the correspondence that has survived. In many ways, what he created at Marino was a living testament to the different cultures and styles he had experienced while travelling, and his buildings there were fitting exhibition spaces to the huge number of souvenirs and collectable items he brought home.
The website also tells us more about William Chambers:
“Born in Sweden to a Scottish father in 1723, he spent the first few years of his working life travelling to and from China as an agent of the Swedish East India Company. At the age of twenty-six, he began training as an architect in Paris, later living in Rome, where he was a member of Charlemont’s circle. He moved to London to establish his practice in the same year that Charlemont returned to Dublin (1755). He achieved great success in England, with much employment from King George III and his mother, the Dowager Princess Augusta. His Treatise on Civil Architecture, published in 1759, was a huge influence on Palladian neoclassicism in Britain. The Casino appeared in this Treatise as a plate illustration (image below). Chambers would go on to count James Gandon as one of his students.
As well as the Casino at Marino, Chambers completed designs for Charlemont House and Trinity College, and for modifications to Rathfarnham Castle, Castletown House, and Leinster House, among others. He never, however, visited Ireland in person. His projects with Charlemont were discussed at great length, over two decades, in numerous letters; many of these can be read today in the Royal Irish Academy. One of his original drawings for the Casino is on display in the building.”
It was London-born Simon Vierpyl who oversaw the building work. The website tells us:
“He was an accomplished sculptor and builder, who was living in Rome at the same time as Charlemont and Chambers. Impressed with his work on a commission of terracotta copies of statues and busts (now in the Royal Irish Academy), Charlemont invited him to come to Ireland. Vierpyl arrived in 1756, and supervised work on the Casino, something he was complimented for in Chambers’ Treatise. He stayed in Ireland for the rest of his life, working as a builder or developer on many central Dublin sites. He married twice, and died in Athy, Co. Kildare in 1810 at the age of around eighty-five.”
The website also tells us about Giovanni Battista Cipriani, an Italian painter:
“He was another member of Charlemont’s circle in the early 1750s in Rome; in 1755, he also left the city, and travelled in England in the company of Joseph Wilton. Wilton was a sculptor whose work is represented at the Casino in the four lions which guard it. Cipriani’s contribution was the design of the four attic statues, and the dragon gates that formed the entrance to the estate. Copies of his original sketches for the four statues, as well as a revised sketch of Venus, can be seen on display in the State Bedroom today. The gods represented (Ceres, Bacchus, Venus, and Apollo) were chosen by Charlemont and Chambers, designed by Cipriani, and then sculpted by either Wilton or Vierpyl on site.”
In 1876, The 2nd Lady Charlemont (Anne Bermingham) died, after which the 3rd Earl [James Molyneux Caulfeild, son of Henry Caulfeild, and therefore grandson to the 1st Earl. He inherited the title from his uncle, Francis] sold the estate lands [James lived at Roxborough Castle in Northern Ireland]. It was bought on behalf of Cardinal Cullen, who kept thirty acres for an orphanage (the O’Brien Institute), and gave the remaining land (over 300 acres) to the Christian Brothers.
5. Custom House, Dublin:
General enquiries: 086 606 2729, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the website:
“This architectural icon stands on the Liffey quays, which were once Ireland’s major trade route to the wider world. The architect James Gandon completed the building, a masterpiece of European neoclassicism, in 1791. Admire the decorative detail of Edward Smyth’s beautifully executed stonework carvings on the exterior and the famous carved keystones depicting the terrible heads of the river gods. There are 14 of these – one for every major river of Ireland.
The Custom House witnessed not only the development of a great city, but also some of the most turbulent milestones in its history. The building was destroyed by burning in 1921 and later restored to its former splendour.
The stories of the building, burning and restoration of Dublin’s Custom House are now brought to life in a new and fascinating exhibition, revealing a rich, many-layered story that spans over 200 years.“
A previous Custom House was located further up the river at Essex Quay, built in 1707. By 1780 it was judged to be unsafe and a new building was required. The Right Honourable John Beresford (1738-1805) determined position for the new Custom House (against much objection as its position affected property prices – raising prices in the area and lowering the value of properties nearer the previous Custom House). Beresford sought to move the city centre eastwards from the Capel Street-Parliament Street axis towards College Green. The new Custom House was built on land reclaimed from the estuary of the Liffey.
James Gandon was an English-born architect who settled in Dublin in 1781 and was responsible for three major public buildings there – the Custom House, the Four Courts, and the King’s Inns – as well as for Carlisle Bridge and for extensions to the Parliament House. He also designed Emo in County Laois for John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington (formerly 2nd Viscount Carlow). He was apprenticed to William Chambers, who designed on the Casino at Marino.
The Custom House has four different but consistent facades, linked by corner pavilions. The south facade is of Portland stone, the others of mountain granite. The exterior is adorned with sculptures by Thomas Banks, Agnostino Carlini and Edward Smyth. Smyth carved the series of sculpted keystones symbolising the rivers of Ireland: the Bann, Barrow, Blackwater, Boyne, Erne, Foyle, Lagan, Lee, Liffey, Nore, Shannon, Slaney and Suir. On the north face are personifications of the four continents of world trade: Africa, America, Asia and Europe. 
During the Irish Civil War, the buildings was engulfed in flames and the interior destroyed. The dome was rebuilt with Ardbraccan limestone instead of Portland stone.
6. Dublin Castle, Dame Street, Dublin:
General Enquiries: 01 645 8813, email@example.com
From the website:
“Just a short walk from Trinity College, on the way to Christchurch, Dublin Castle is well situated for visiting on foot. The history of this city-centre site stretches back to the Viking Age and the castle itself was built in the thirteenth century.
The building served as a military fortress, a prison, a treasury and courts of law. For 700 years, from 1204 until independence, it was the seat of English (and then British) rule in Ireland.
Rebuilt as the castle we now know in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Dublin Castle is now a government complex and an arena of state ceremony.
The state apartments, undercroft, chapel royal, heritage centre and restaurant are now open to visitors.”
What is called “Dublin Castle” is a jumble of buildings from different periods and of different styles. The castle was founded in 1204 by order of King John who wanted a fortress constructed for the administration of the city. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the castle contained law courts, meeting of Parliament, the residence of the Viceroy and a council chamber, as well as a chapel.
The oldest parts remaining are the medieval Record Tower from the thirteenth century and the tenth century stone bank visible in the Castle’s underground excavation.
The first Lord Deputy (also called Lord Lieutenant or Viceroy) to make his residence here was Sir Henry Sidney (1529-1586) in 1565. He was brought up at the Royal Court as a companion to Prince Edward, afterwards King Edward VI. He served under both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I. He spent much of his time in Ireland expanding English administration over Ireland, which had reduced before his time to the Pale and a few outlying areas.
In 1684 a fire in the Viceregal quarters destroyed part of the building. The Viceroy at the time would have been James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond. He moved temporarily to the new building of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. New designs by the Surveyor General Sir William Robinson were constructed by October 1688, who also designed the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. He designed the State Apartments, originally to be living accommodation for the Lord Lieutenant (later known as the Viceroy), the representative for the British monarch in Ireland.  Balls and other events were held for fashionable society in the Castle. The State Apartments are now used for State occasions such as the Inauguration of the President. The Castle was formally handed over to General Michael Collins on 16th January 1922, and the Centenary of this event was commemorated in January 2022.
The Bedford Tower was constructed around 1750 along with its flanking gateways to the city. The clock tower is named after the 4th Duke of Bedford John Russell who was Lord Lieutenant at the time.
The Chapel Royal, renamed the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in 1943, was designed by Francis Johnston in 1807. It is built on the site of an earlier church which was built around 1700. The exterior is decorated with over 100 carved stone heads by Edward Smyth, who did the river heads on Dublin’s Custom House, and by his son John. They are carved in Tullamore limestone, and represent a variety of kings, queens, archbishops and ‘grotesques’. A carving of Queen Elizabeth I is on the north façade and Saint Peter and Jonathan Swift above the main entrance. The interior of the chapel has plasterwork by George Stapleton and wood carving by Richard Stewart. What looks like carved stone is actually limestone ashlar facing on a structure of timber, covered in painted plaster. Plasterwork fan vaulting, inspired by Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey, is by George Stapleton (1777-1841) while a host of modelled plasterwork heads are by the Smyths, likely the work of John (the younger) after the death of his father in 1812.  The Arms of all the Viceroys from 1172-1922 are on display.
The Viceroy at the time of Francis Johnston’s work on the chapel would have been Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond.
The State Apartments consist of a series of ornate decorated rooms, stretching along the first floor of the southern range of the upper yard.
The State Corridor on the first floor of the State Apartments is by Edward Lovett Pearce in 1758.
The Drawing room was largely destroyed in a fire in 1941, and was reconstructed in 1968 in 18th century style. It is heavily mirrored with five large Waterford crystal chandeliers.
The Throne Room, originally known as Battleaxe Hall, has a throne created for the visit of King George IV in 1821. The walls are decorated with roundels painted by Gaetano Gandolfi, depicting Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus. The Throne Room was created by George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, the viceroy of the day.
Next to the Throne Room is the Portrait Gallery, where formal banquets took place at the time of the Viceroys.
There are many other important rooms, including the Wedgwood Room, an oval room decorated in Wedgwood Blue with details in white, which was used as a Billiards Room in the 19th century. It dates from 1777.
Beyond the Wedgwood Room is the Gothic Room, and then St. Patrick’s Hall. It has two galleries, one at each end, initially intended as one for musicians and one for spectators. There are hanging banners of the arms of the members of the Order of St Patrick, the Irish version of the Knight of the Garter: they first met here in 1783. The room is in a gold and white colour scheme with Corinthian columns. The painted ceiling, commissioned and paid for by the viceroy George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham in 1788, is by Vincenzo Valdre (c. 1742-1814), an Italian who was brought to Ireland by his patron the Marquess of Buckingham. In the central panel, George III is between Hibernia and Brittania, with Liberty and Justice. Other panels depict St. Patrick, and Henry II receiving the surrender of Irish chieftains.
The hall was built originally as a ballroom in the 1740s but was damaged by an explosion in 1764, remodelled in 1769, and redecorated in the 1780s in honour of the Order of St Patrick.