Places to visit and stay in Leinster: Longford, Louth and Meath

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

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

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

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

Whole house accommodation listings are for 10 or more people.

Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford, open by previous arrangement.

2. Maria Edgeworth Visitor Centre, Longford, County Longford.

3. Moorhill House, Castlenugent, Lisryan, Co. Longford – section 482

Places to stay, County Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford

2. Newcastle House Hotel, Ballymahon, County Longford.

3. Viewmount House, Longford

Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

2. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth 

3. Collon House, County Louth

4. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

5. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Places to stay, County Louth:

1. Ballymascanlon House, Louth  – hotel 

2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth [also Oriel Temple] – B&B, plus guided tours 

3. Ghan House, Co Louth – accommodation 

4.  Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, Co Louth – accommodation

Whole House Rental, County Louth:

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, €€€ for two, € for 6-12

2. Castle Bellingham, co. Louth 

Meath

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation and sometimes open for visits

2. Beau Parc House, Beau Parc, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

3. Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane, Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

4. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

5. Dunsany Castle, Dunsany, Co. Meath – section 482

6. Gravelmount House, Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

7. Hamwood House, Dunboyne, Co. Meath – section 482

8. Kilgar Gardens, Kilgar house, Gallow, Kilcock, Co Meath W23E7FK

9. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482

10. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

11. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

12. Oldbridge House, County Meath – Battle of the Boyne Museum – OPW

13. Slane Castle, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

14. St. Mary’s Abbey, High Street, Trim, Co. Meath – section 482

15. The Former Parochial House, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

16. Swainstown House, Kilmessan, Co. Meath – section 482

17. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

18. Trim Castle, County Meath – OPW

Places to stay, County Meath:

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation 

2. Bellinter House near Bective, County Meath – hotel and restaurant 

3. Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane, Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath

4. Clonleason Gate Lodge, Fordstown, County Meath: Hidden Ireland

5. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

6. Highfield House, Trim, County Meath

7. Johnstown Estate, Enfield, Co Meath – hotel

8. Killyon manor, County Meath, holiday cottages

9. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482

10. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

11. Rosnaree, Slane, Co Meath – accommodation 

12. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

13. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Whole house booking/wedding venues, County Meath

1. Boyne Hill estate, Navan, County Meath – whole house rental

2. Durhamstown Castle, Bohermeen, County Meath – whole house rental

3. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

4. Mill House, Slane

5. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford, open by previous arrangement:

https://castlecorhouse.com/

Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

I’ve been looking forward to staying in Castlecor house, after seeing a photograph of its incredible octagonal room.

Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The website tells us:

The construction of this magnificent residence, as it stands today, spanned 300 years, originally built in the mid 1700’s as a Hunting Lodge with additions in the 19th & 20th century. 

The website continues: “It was built by the Very Revd. Cutts Harman (1706 – 1784), son of the important Harman family of nearby Newcastle House [which offers accommodation]. He was Dean of Waterford cathedral from 1759 and was married to Bridget Gore (1723-1762) from Tashinny [Tennalick, now a ruin, which passed from the Sankey family to the Gore family by the marriage of Bridget’s mother Bridget Sankey to George Gore, son of Sir Arthur Gore, 1st Baronet of Newtown Gore, County Mayo] in c. 1740.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (www.buildingsofIreland.ie) gives the building an unusually long appraisal which explains the unusual building:

It was originally built as a symmetrical two-storey block on octagonal-plan with short (single-room) projecting wings to four sides (in cross pattern on alternating sides), and with tall round-headed window openings between to the remaining four walls. The single wide room to the octagon at first floor level has an extraordinary central chimneypiece (on square-plan) with marble fireplaces to its four faces; which are framed by Corinthian columns that support richly-detailed marble entablatures over. The marble fireplaces themselves are delicately detailed with egg-and-dart mouldings and are probably original. This room must rank as one of the most unusual and interesting rooms built anywhere in Ireland during the eighteenth-century.

Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “The single wide room to the octagon at first floor level has an extraordinary central chimneypiece (on square-plan) with marble fireplaces to its four faces; which are framed by Corinthian columns that support richly-detailed marble entablatures over. The marble fireplaces themselves are delicately detailed with egg-and-dart mouldings and are probably original.” [1]
Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “The walls of the octagonal room are decorated with Neo-Egyptian artwork.” [1]
Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The National Inventory continues: “The walls of the octagonal room are decorated with Neo-Egyptian artwork, which may have been inspired by illustrations in Owen Jones’ book ‘Decoration’, published in 1856. The inspiration for this distinctive octagonal block is not known. Some sources suggest an Italian inspiration, such as the pattern books of the noted architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475 – 1554) [Mark Bence-Jones suggests this [2]], or that it was based on the designs of the much larger hunting lodge (Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi) that was built for the Duke of Savoy, near Turin, between 1729 and c. 1731 (The later seems a highly fanciful idea but there are some similarities in plan, albeit on a much larger scale at Stupinigi); while Craig (1977, 15) suggests that the ‘inspiration is clearly the hunting lodge at Clemenswerth in Lower Saxony, Germany’, which was constructed between 1737 – 1747 to designs by Johann Conrad Schlaun for Prince Clemens August, a structure that Castlecor resembles in terms of scale and plan. However, it may be that the plan of this building was inspired by William Halfpenny (died 1755), an English Palladian architect who created a number of unexecuted designs for Waterford Church of Ireland cathedral and for an associated bishop’s palace from c. 1739. Interestingly, a number of these unexecuted plans for the bishop’s palace included a central octagonal block with projecting wings, while a number of the church plans included an unusual separate baptismal building attached to the nave, which is also on an octagonal-plan. The Very Revd. Cutts Harman may well have been aware of Halfpenny’s unexecuted designs, being Dean of the cathedral from 1759 and was probably associated with the diocese from an earlier date, and perhaps he used these as his inspiration for the designs of Castlecor. The central four-sided chimneypiece is reminiscent of the centerpiece of the Rotunda of Ranelagh Gardens, London, (built to designs by William Jones 1741 – 2; demolished c. 1803) albeit on a much reduced scale at Castlecor. The plan of Castlecor is also similar to a number of buildings (some not executed) in Scotland, including Hamilton Parish Church (built c. 1733 to designs by William Adam (1698 – 1748) and the designs for a small Neoclassical villa prepared by James Adam (1732 – 92), c. 1765, for Sir Thomas Kennedy. The exact construction date of Castlecor is not known, however the traditional building date is usual given as c. 1765. The architectural detailing to the interior of the original block, and perhaps the personal life of Very Revd. Cutts Harman (married in 1751 to a daughter of Lord Annaly of Tennalick 13402348; his duties at Waterford cathedral from 1759; Cutts Harmon leased out a number of plots of land in Longford from c. 1768) would suggest an earlier date of, perhaps, the 1740s. The architect is also unknown although it is possible that Harman designed the house himself (perhaps inspired by a pattern book or by Halfpenny’s unexecuted designs); while Craig (1977) suggest that the architect may have been Davis Ducart (Daviso de Arcort; died 1780/1), an Italian or French architect and engineer who worked extensively in Ireland (particularly the southern half of the island) during the 1760s and 1770s.” We saw Ducart’s work at Kilshannig in County Cork, another section 482 property, see my entry [3].

Castlecor House, County Longford, see the octagonal Great Hall in the centre of the house. photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1].
Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]
Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The website tells us:”The Rev. Cutts Harman who had Castlecor built died without issue, it was inherited by his niece’s son [or was it his sister Anne’s son? If so, it was her son Lawrence Harman Parsons (1749-1807); she married Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet of Birr Castle. Her son added Harman to his surname when he inherited Castlecor from his uncle], Laurence Harman- Harman, later Lord Oxmantown, and finally Earl of Rosse. Peyton Johnston, the Earl’s nephew, rented the house during this time. Captain Thomas Hussey, Royal Marines; purchased Castlecor in c.I820. There is very little documentary evidence relative to Captain Hussey’s occupancy. He resided there from 1832/3 to 1856 and was High Sheriff of Longford.

Mark Bence-Jones adds: “To make the house more habitable, a conventional two storey front was built onto it early in C19, either by Peyton Johnston, who rented the house after it had been inherited by the Earl of Rosse, or by Thomas Hussey, the subsequent tenant who bought the property ante 1825. This front joins two of the wings so that its ends and theirs form obtuse angles. In the space between it and the octagon is a top-lit stair. Early in the present century, a wider front of two storeys and three bays in C18 manner, with a tripartite pedimented doorway, was built onto the front of the early C19 front. Castlecor subsequently passed to a branch of the Bonds, and was eventually inherited by Mrs C. J. Clerk (nee Bond).”

Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The National Inventory continues to tell us the history of the house: “The building was extended c. 1850 (the house appears on its original plan on the Ordnance Survey first edition six-inch map 1838) by the construction of a two-storey block to the northeast corner of the house, between two of the wings of the original structure. The earlier wing to the west may have been extended at this time also. The lion’s head motifs to the rainwater goods throughout the building (built around and before c. 1850) are very similar to those found at the gate lodge serving Castlecor to the northwest, built c. 1855, suggesting that the house was altered at this time, possibly as part of wider program of works at the estate.”

The lion’s head motifs to the rainwater goods throughout the building: Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The National Inventory continues: “The projection to the south wing having the box bay window also looks of mid-to-late nineteenth century date and may also have been added at this time. The Castlecor estate was bought by the Hussey family during the late-eighteenth century following the death of Cutts Harman, and the first series of works may have been carried out when Capt. Thomas Hussey (1777 – 1866), High Sheriff of Longford from 1840 – 44, was in residence. However, the Castlecor estate was offered for sale by Commissioners of Incumbered Estates in 1855 when it was bought by a branch of the Bond family and, perhaps, the house was extended just after this date by the new owners. The Bonds were an important landed family in Longford at the time, and owned a number of estates to the centre of the county, to the north of Castlecor, and a branch also lived at adjacent Moygh/Moigh House (13402606) [still standing and in private hands] during the second half of the nineteenth century. Thomas Bond (1786 – 1869) [of Edgeworthstown] was probably the first Bond in residence at Castlecor. A John Bond, later of Castlecor, was High Sheriff of Longford in 1856. The last Bond owner/resident was probably a Mrs Clerk (nee Bond) [Emily Constance Smyth Bond] who was in residence in 1920. She married a Charles James Clerk (J.P. and High Sheriff of Longford in 1906) in 1901/2, and he was responsible for the three-bay two-storey block that now forms the main entrance, built c. 1913. This block was built to designs by A. G. C. Millar, an architect based on Kildare Street, Dublin. This block is built in a style that is reminiscent of a mid-eighteenth century house, having a central pedimented tripartite doorcase and a rigid symmetry to the front elevation. The house became a convent (Ladies of Mary) sometime after 1925 until c. 1980, and was later in use as a nursing home until c. 2007. This building, particularly the original block, is one of the more eccentric and interesting elements of the built heritage of Longford, and forms the centrepiece of a group of related structures.” [1]

The website tells us that the four wings adjoining the original octagonal hunting lodge align with the four cardinal compass points.

In 2009, the current owners Loretta Grogan and Brian Ginty set about purchasing the house, with the aspiration to restore Castlecor House, its grounds, native woodland and walled garden with pond and orchard to its former glory, opening it to the public by appointment and also welcoming guests.

2. Maria Edgeworth Visitor Centre, Longford, County Longford.

https://www.discoverireland.ie/longford/the-maria-edgeworth-visitor-centre

Maria Edgeworth Visitors Centre, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, photo by Dympna Reilly 2020 ©Longford County Council, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [15])

The Maria Edgeworth Centre, in County Longford, is located in one of Ireland’s oldest school buildings that opened in 1841. Using a combination of audio, imagery and interactive displays, the centre tells the story of the Edgeworth family and the origins of the National School system. You will also learn about the role the family played in the educational, scientific, political and cultural life in Ireland. Maria Edgeworth was a notable pioneer of literature and education, a feminist and a social commentator of her time. Audios and displays are available in seven languages.”

3. Moorhill House, Castlenugent, Lisryan, Co. Longford – section 482

contact: Michael O’Donnell
Tel: 047-81952
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-29, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student/child €8

Moorhill House, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.[4]

The National Inventory describes it:

Detached three-bay two-storey over basement house on L-shaped plan, built c. 1815, having two-storey-storey return to rear (northwest) with pitched slate roof. Two-storey extension attached to the northwest end of rear return. Recently renovated. Possibly incorporating fabric of earlier building/structure. …This appealing and well-proportioned middle-sized house, of early nineteenth-century appearance, retains its early form, character and fabric. Its form is typical of houses of its type and date in rural Ireland, with a three-bay two-storey main elevation, hipped natural slate roof with a pair of centralised chimneystacks, and central round-headed door opening with fanlight. The influence of classicism can be seen in the tall ground floor window openings and the rigid symmetry to the front facade. The simple doorcase with the delicate petal fanlight over provides a central focus and enlivens the plain front elevation. The return to the rear has unusually thick walls and a relative dearth of openings, possibly indicating that it contains earlier fabric. This house forms an interesting group with the entrance gates to the southeast, the outbuildings (13401509) and walled garden to the rear, and the highly ornate railings to the southwest side featuring a sinuous vine leaf motif. The quality of these railings is such that their appearance is equally fine from both sides, the vine leaves being cast in three dimensions. They are notable examples of their type and date, and add substantial to the setting of this fine composition, which is an important element of the built heritage of the local area. Moorhill was the home of a R. (Robert or Richard) Blackall, Esq. in 1837 (Lewis). The Blackalls were an important family in the locality and built nearby Coolamber Manor c. 1837 [built for Major Samuel Wesley Blackhall (1809 – 1871)…to designs by the eminent architect John Hargrave (c. 1788 – 1833). Hargrave worked extensively in County Longford during the 1820s and was responsible for the designs for the governor’s house at Longford Town Jail in 1824; works at Ardagh House in 1826; the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Church of Ireland church at Newtown-Forbes; the remodelling of Castle Forbes, nearby Farragh/Farraghroe House (demolished); Doory Hall now ruinous; St. Paul’s Church of Ireland church, Ballinalee; and possibly for the designs of St. Catherine’s Church of Ireland church at nearby Killoe. …and [Coolamber Manor] may have replaced an earlier house associated with the Blackall family at Coolamber (a Robert Blackall (1764 – 1855), father of the above, lived in Longford in the late-eighteenth century)].

Moorhill House “was possibly the home of Robert Blackall, the father of Samuel Wensley, who was responsible for the construction of Coolamber Manor and later served as M.P. (1847 – 51) for the county before serving as Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1868 until his death in 1871. Moorhill may have been the residence of a Francis Taylor in 1894 (Slater’s Directory).”

Places to stay, County Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford – see above

https://castlecorhouse.com/

2. Newcastle House Hotel, Ballymahon, County Longford

https://www.newcastlehousehotel.ie

Newcastle House (now a hotel), County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

Newcastle House is a 300-year-old manor house, set on the banks of the River Inny near Ballymahon, in Co. Longford.

The website tells us; “Standing on 44 acres of mature parkland and surrounded by 900 acres of forest, Newcastle House is only one and half hour’s drive from Dublin, making it an excellent base to see, explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Ireland. So whether you are looking for a peaceful place to stay (to get away from it all) or perhaps need a location to hold an event, or that most important wedding, give us a call.”

The website previously included a brief history of the inhabitants of Newcastle:

Newcastle Wood was once part of Newcastle Demesne, an estate of some 11,000 hectares run by the King- Harman family in the 1800’s. The beautiful, historic nearby Newcastle House was where the King- Harmans lived and there are many features and place names in the woodland which refer back to that time.

We came across Lawrence Harman Parsons (1749-1807) who became the 1st Earl of Rosse, and who added Harman to his surname to become Lawrence Harman Parsons Harman, when he inherited Castlecor in County Longford. He married Jane King, daughter of Edward Thomas King, 1st Earl of Kingston, from Boyle, County Roscommon. They had a daughter, Frances Parsons-Harmon, who married Robert Edward King (1773-1854), 1st Viscount Lorton of Boyle, County Roscommon. Their second son, Lawrence Harman King assumed the additional name of Harman to become Lawrence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875). It was his family who lived at Newcastle Wood.

The old website continued: “The King- Harmans were generally regarded as good landlords by the local populace. They employed many local people in all sorts of trades. The last of the King- Harmans died in 1949. King- Harman sold lands to the Forestry Department in 1934 and over the following two years it was planted with a mixture of coniferous and broadleaf trees.

Newcastle House (now a hotel), County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

Then National Inventory describes the house:

Detached double-pile seven-bay three-storey over basement former country house, built c. 1730 and altered and extended at various dates throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, having curvilinear Dutch-type gable to the central bay and later gable-fronted single-bay single-storey entrance porch with matching curvilinear Dutch-type gable to the centre of the main block (southeast elevation), built c. 1820. Advanced three-bay single-storey over basement wing flanking main block to northeast, and advanced four-bay two-storey over basement wing flanking main block to southwest, both built c. 1785. Recessed single-bay single-storey over basement Tudor Gothic style addition attached to northeast elevation having gable-fronted rear elevation and chamfered corners at ground floor level having dressed ashlar limestone masonry , built c. 1850, and two-storey extension to southwest, built c. 1880. Possibly incorporating the fabric of earlier house(s) to site c. 1660. Later in use as a convent and now in use as a hotel…Round-headed door opening to front face of porch (southeast) having carved limestone surround with architrave, square-headed timber battened door with decorative cast-iron hinge motifs, wrought-iron overlight, and having moulded render label moulding over.Painted stuccoed ceilings and ceiling cornices, some with a neoclassical character, a number of early panelled timber doors and marble fireplaces survive to interior...” [5]

Newcastle House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Round-headed door opening to front face of porch (southeast) having carved limestone surround with architrave, square-headed timber battened door with decorative cast-iron hinge motifs, wrought-iron overlight, and having moulded render label moulding over.” The Inventory tells us that the carved coat of arms is probably of the King family. [5]
Newcastle House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Painted stuccoed ceilings and ceiling cornices, some with a neoclassical character.” [5]

Before belonging to the King-Harman family, Newcastle belonged to the Sheppard family. It came to the King-Harman family through the marriage of Frances Sheppard (d. 1766) daughter of Anthony Sheppard of Newcastle to Wentworth Harman (d. 1714) of Moyle, County Longford.

The National Inventory adds:

The lands and house at Newcastle were successively in the possession of the Chappoyne/Chappayne/Choppin, the Sheppard, the Harman and the King-Harman families. The earliest mention of the estate is references to an Anthony Chappoyne at Newcastle in 1660, although this may have been the site of an earlier ‘castle’ from as early as the fourteenth century (as the placename suggests). In 1680 a Robert Choppayne appears to have purchased/consolidated the lands of Newcastle from Gerald Fitzgerald, 17th Earl of Kildare. Dowdall (1682) describes the site as ‘..on the southside of the river is Newcastle, the antient Estate of the Earl of Kildare now the estate and habitation of Robert Choppin Esqr where he hath lately built a fair house and a wooden bridge over said river’. The estate passed into the ownership of Anthony Sheppard (born 1668 – 1738), heir (son?) of Robert Chappoyne, c. 1693, who served as High Sheriff of County Longford in 1698. His son, also Anthony, was M.P. for Longford in 1727. The estate later passed by marriage into the ownership into the Harman family at the very end of the seventeenth century. Robert Harman (1699 – 1765; M.P. for Longford c. 1760 -5) [son of Wentworth Harman and Frances Sheppard] was in possession of the estate of much of the middle of the eighteenth century and it is likely that he was responsible for much of the early work on the house. The Very Revd. Cutts Harman, who built the quirky hunting/fishing lodge at nearby Castlecor, inherited the house c. 1765 following the death of his brother Robert. The estate later passed into the ownership of Lawrence Parsons-Harman (1749 – 1807) in 1784 (M.P. for Longford 1776 – 1792; Baron Oxmantown in 1792; Viscount Oxmantown in 1795; Earl of Rosse 1806; sat was one of the original Irish Representative Peers in the British House of Lords) and he greatly increased the Newcastle estate, and by his death (1807) its size had doubled to approximately 31,000 acres in size. It is likely that he was responsible for the construction of the side wings to the main block and general improvements to the house from 1784. The estate passed into the ownership of his wife Jane, Countess of Rosse (who partially funded the construction of a number of Church of Ireland churches and funded a number of schools in County Longford during the first half of the nineteenth century), who left the estate to her grandson Laurence King-Harman (1816 – 1878) after falling out with her son. Laurence King-Harman has probably responsible for the vaguely Tudor Gothic extension to the northeast elevation. The brick chimneystacks also look of mid-nineteenth century date and may have been added around the same time this wing was constructed. The King family had extensive estates in Ireland during the nineteenth century, owning the magnificent Rockingham House (demolished) and King House [also a Section 482 property which I hope to visit later this year], Boyle, both in County Roscommon; as well as Mitchelstown Castle in County Cork, burnt in 1922 (memorial plaques and carved stone heads from Mitchelstown Castle were built into the northeast elevation of Newcastle House c. 1925, but have been removed and returned to Cork in recent years). The estate reached its largest extent in 1888, some 38,616 acres in size, when Wentworth Henry King-Harman was in residence. The estate was described in 1900 as ‘a master-piece of smooth and intricate organisation, with walled gardens and glasshouses, its diary, its laundry, its carpenters, masons and handymen of all estate crafts, the home farm, the gamekeepers and retrievers kennels, its saw-mill and paint shop and deer park for the provision of venison. The place is self supporting to a much greater degree than most country houses in England’. The estate went in to decline during the first decades of the twentieth century, and with dwindled in size to 800 acres by 1911. The house and estate remained in the ownership of the King-Harman family until c. 1951, when Capt. Robert Douglas King-Harman sold the house to an order of African Missionary nuns (house and contents sold for £11,000). It was later in use as a hotel from c. 1980.” [5]

3. Viewmount House, Longford

http://www.viewmounthouse.com

Viewmount House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [6]

The website tells us:

Discover this boutique gem, a secret tucked away in the heart of Ireland. This magnificent 17th century manor is complemented by its incredible countryside surroundings, and by the four acres of meticulously-maintained garden that surround it. Within the manor you’ll find a place of character, with open fires, beautiful furniture, fresh flowers and Irish literature. The manor retains its stately, historic charm, and blends it with thoughtful renovation that incorporates modern comfort.

Here, you will unwind into the exceptionally relaxing atmosphere, a restful world where all you hear is peace, quiet and birdsong.

This house was advertised for sale in recent years. The National Inventory describes it:

Detached three-bay three-storey house, built c. 1750 and remodeled c. 1860, having single-bay single-storey porch with flat roof to the centre of the front elevation (north). Renovated c. 1994. Formerly in use as a Church of Ireland charter school (c. 1753 – 1826)…This elegant mid-sized Georgian house is a fine example of the language of classical architecture reduced to its essential elements. It retains its early character and form despite recent alterations….Set in extensive mature grounds, this fine structure is a worthy addition to the architectural heritage of County Longford….This house was the home of the Cuffe family during the first half of the eighteenth century. It was later inherited by Thomas Pakenham (later [1st] Baron Longford [of Pakenham Hall, or Tullynally, County Westmeath, another section 482 property, see my entry]) following his marriage to Elizabeth Cuffe (1714-94) in 1739 or 1740. It is possible that Viewmount House was constructed shortly after this date and it may have replaced an earlier Cuffe family house on or close to the present site. The house was never lived in by the Pakenham family but it was used by their agent to administer the Longford estate, c. 1860. It was apparently in use as a charter school from 1753 until 1826, originally founded under the patronage of Thomas Pakenham. There is a ‘charter school’ indicated here (or close to here) on the Taylor and Skinner map (from Maps of the Roads of Ireland) of the area, dated between 1777 – 1783. A ‘free charter school’ at Knockahaw, Longford Town, with 32 boys, is mentioned in an Irish Education Board Report, dated 1826 – 7 (Ir. Educ. Rept 2, 692 – 3).” [6]

Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

Barmeath, County Louth, October 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/23/barmeath-castle-dunleer-drogheda-county-louth/

contact: Bryan Bellew
Tel: 041-6851205
Open: May 1-31, June 1-10, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-10, 9am-1pm Fee: adult /OAP/student €5, child free

2. Bellingham Castle, co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits: open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26)

Castle Bellingham, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.[11]

https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

The website tells us:

At Bellingham Castle, the welcome is warm, the facilities luxurious and the memories, eternal. Nestled in the medieval village of Castlebellingham in County Louth along Ireland’s Ancient East, Bellingham Castle is an elegant and spacious 17th Century authentic Irish Castle available for exclusive hire, to allow you become King or Queen of your very own castle for a truly memorable experience. The Castle opens for overnight stays on select dates throughout the year, but is predominantly a venue for spectacular Weddings, conferences or events.

Set at the gateway to the Cooley mountains and on the banks of the glistening River Glyde, Bellingham Castle is the centrepiece of a 17-acre estate that includes a weir and man-made river island where you can create memories that last a lifetime. The opulent 17th Century Irish castle is bursting with rich history, splendour and old-world luxury.

Fully refurbished, yet retaining all of its character and charm, Bellingham Castle prides itself on elegance and sophistication, intimacy and cosiness, luxury and exclusivity – all just 50 minutes from both Dublin and Belfast.

We wanted to create something different at Bellingham Castle, an exquisite combination of a welcoming atmosphere and luxury castle experience. From dreamy and palatial bedrooms, to magnificent reception rooms and meticulously manicured gardens, we ensure each guest enjoys high-quality, bespoke service in an idyllic and inspirational location.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Bellingham (1988):

p. 62. “The original castle here, called Gernonstown, which was acquired by Henry Bellingham [1622-1676] mid C17, was burnt by King James’s soldiers before the battle of the Boyne, when its then owner, Colonel Thomas Bellingham, was fighting for King William. Col Bellingham built a new house 1690/1700 [the National Inventory says 1712] and named it Castle Bellingham; it had a high-pitched roof and is said to have resembled Beaulieu, in the same county. Mrs Delany described it (1745) as “one of the prettiest places I have seen in Ireland.” The house was remodelled in later C18, when a third storey was added, and again in early C19, when it ws given a battlemented parapet, some turrets and a few other mildly dedieval touches. The final result was not so much a castle as a castellated house, with plain Georgian sash windows. The nine bay entrance front, which appears to be only of two storeys owing to the higher ground on this side; the entrance, through a Gothic porch not centrally placed, is, in fact, on the first floor, where the principal rooms are situated. The oppostie front, which also just misses being symmetrical – with three bays on one side of a shallow, curving bow and two bays and a turret on the other – which also has a curved bow. Simple, pleasant rooms; a small staircase in a narrow hall at right angles to the entrance. Garden with terraces overlooking the river Glyde, formerly adorned with statues brought from Dubber Castle, the seat of another branch of the Bellinghams; vista to shrine of the Virgin Mary, ereced by Henry Bellingham, a convert to Catholicism during the later years of the Oxford Movement. Straight avenue aligned on the entrance front of the house, terminated at the opposite end by a castellated gatehouse facing the village green. Having been sold by the Bellinghams ca 1956, Castle Bellingham is now an hotel.” 

The website gives a further history of the castle:

Bellingham Castle served as one of the ancestral homes for the Bellingham family from the 17th Century until the 1950s. The original castle was built around 1660 by Sir Henry Bellingham, who was a cornet in the Army during the Civil War.

He purchased the lands of Gernonstowne, Co. Louth, from a fellow soldier who had been granted them in lieu of arrears of pay. The purchase was confirmed by King Charles II.

There is some variation on the spelling of Gernonstowne. On various maps and other documents, it is spelled Gernonstowne, Gernonstown, Gernon’s-Town, Gormanstown, Germanstown, Garlandstown and Garland.

Irish road signs show the English as Castlebellingham, while the Irish translation still refers to Baile an Ghearlanaigh – or Gernonstown. It was not called Castlebellingham for at least 40 years after the purchase. The name does not appear on any document before the year 1700. Around 1710, it began to appear in journals and other sources as Castlebellingham.

The castle was occupied by troops and burned down in the autumn of 1689 by King James II, in revenge for Colonel Thomas Bellingham [son of Henry? 1645-1721?] being a guide for William III, prior to the Battle of the Boyne. It is said that King William’s armies camped the night before the Battle of the Boyne in the grounds of the castle.

Thomas Bellingham had two sons. The estate passed to his grandson Alan Bellingham (1709-1796). It then passed to his son, another Alan (1740-1800). Alan’s brother William married  Hester Frances Cholmondeley, daughter of Rev. Hon. Robert Cholmondeley and was created 1st Baronet Bellingham, of Castle Bellingham, co. Louth. His nephew Alan (1776-1827), son of Alan, became 2nd Baronet Bellingham of Castle Bellingham, County Louth.

The website continues: “Over time, Castlebellingham became an important gathering point in the county. Fairs were held there every year and a church was constructed next door to the castle, along with a graveyard that houses the Bellingham family vault. The Bellinghams became one of the most powerful and influential families in the county; for over 100 years, a Bellingham held the seat in Parliament for County Louth.

Records also note Castlebellingham for having ‘the best malt liquor’ in Ireland. A brewery was built on site about 1770 and belonged to an O’Bryen Bellingham [a son of Alan Bellingham]. For a number of years, a brewery partnership ran their liquor business. The brewery is still there but now houses the ‘button factory’ or Smallwares Ltd. The brewery was the main supplier of drink to the Boer War troops.

A history of the parish, dated 1908, states that the impressive Calvary standing at the entrance to Bellingham Castle was erected by Sir Henry Bellingham as a monument to the memory of his first wife, Lady Constance.

A collection of inset religious panels can be seen on the upper facades of many of the village buildings. These are also a reflection of Sir Henry’s religious sentiments, and they are unique in Ireland. In addition to the many panels, there are biblical quotations cut into the stone window sills of some buildings. North of the castle is a carefully preserved group of ‘widows’ dwellings’, built from charitable motives by Sir Henry.

In 1905, Bellingham Castle was the venue for the romantic wedding celebrations of Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham, daughter of Sir Alan Bellingham [1846-1921], 4th Baronet ; to the 4th Marquis of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart.

The Marquis, who was one of the wealthiest men in the British Isles at the time, spared no expense and treated his bride and guests to a lavish celebration, including chartering the Princess Maud steamer to take their guests and the Isle of Bute pipe band across the Irish Sea to Bellingham Castle for the wedding. As the society event of the year, the wedding attracted worldwide media attention, from California to New Zealand.

Footage from the wedding celebrations still exists. This remarkable film is believed to be the one of the earliest wedding films in the world. Bellingham Castle is clearly depicted in the footage, together with scenes at nearby Kilsaran Church and the village of Annagassan, from where the wedding party and their guests arrived and departed by steamer.

Castlebellingham was the ancestral home of the Baronetcy until the late 1950s. The last Bellingham to live there was Brigadier General Sir Edward Bellingham, born in 1879, who was the last Lord Lieutenant and Guardian of the Rolls (Custos Rotulorum).

It was purchased by Dermot Meehan in 1958 from the Irish Land Commission for £3,065.00. Mr Meehan spent several years converting the house into a hotel. The Meehan family sold the hotel and 17 acres in 1967 for £30,636.61 to Mr John Keenan and under the Keenan family stewardship, the castle prospered over the following four decades.

In December 2012, the castle – including the 17 acres – was acquired by the Corscadden family. The family also own Ballyseede Castle in Tralee, Co. Kerry; Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, and Markree Castle, Co. Sligo.

The next chapter in the history of Bellingham Castle has begun, as an exclusive venue for private weddings, civil ceremonies, conferences, meetings and corporate events.

Bellingham Castle is a building of intrinsic historical and architectural interest and is open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26).

3. Collon House, County Louth

Collon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [7]

https://www.collonhouse.com

The website tells us:

Collon House, steeped in history, is full of character and charm; its gracious rooms are exquisitely furnished with period antiques and paintings, retaining the atmosphere of early Georgian living, making this a rare opportunity to experience less than one hour from Dublin City Centre, thirty minutes from Dublin Airport and just five miles from historic Slane.

Collon House is a perfect location from which to enjoy the wonderful treasures of the Boyne Valley. Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) prehistoric megalithic sites, The Battle of the Boyne visitors centre at Oldbridge, Slane Castle, Old Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice High Crosses are all less than twenty minutes drive from Collon House.

The Historic Houses of Ireland (HHI) website tells us:

Anthony Foster [1705-1778], Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, purchased the Collon estate in 1740 and chose to build in the centre of the County Louth village, now a market town on the road from Dublin to Derry. His early Georgian house was extended in the 1770s to form a substantial L-shaped dwelling, set back from the street at the central crossroads. The original dwelling is long and low but the later building is taller and more generous in scale with more elaborate interiors and a “handsome half-turn stair” that gives access to the upper floors.” [8]

Anthony Foster married Elizabeth Burgh of Bert House (now called de Burgh Manor, available as a whole house rental, see my entry www.irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/), County Kildare.

The HHI website continues: 

Anthony’s son John [1740-1828] was elected to the family borough of Dunleer and became the member for Louth in 1768 at the age of twenty-one. Considered ‘the best informed man in the house’ he was briefly Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer before his election as Speaker of the Irish Commons. He held office from 1785 until 1800, when Parliament was dissolved for ever under the Act of Union, a measure which Foster had strenuously opposed. As Speaker he pronounced the final words at the closing session, choosing to retain his official mace ‘for future contingencies’. Mr. Speaker Foster was returned to Westminster after the Union and was finally rewarded with a UK peerage in 1821 (his wife had previously been granted two Irish titles) after an illustrious political career that spanned more than sixty years. 

In ‘A Tour of Ireland published in 1780, the agronomist Arthur Young mentions Foster whose improvements on the Collon estate “were of a magnitude that I have never heard of before.” These included Oriel Temple, an elaborate and chastely classical lakeside folly, which was subsequently enlarged to form the principal family seat. Foster’s son Thomas married an heiress, Harriet Skeffington, and the family moved to Antrim Castle when she succeeded as Viscountess Massereene.”

For more about the Foster family see my Cabra Castle entry, www.irishhistorichouses.com/2021/03/28/cabra-castle-kingscourt-county-cavan/ 

The HHI website continues: “Collon House has been altered over the intervening years but the building retains many fine Georgian interiors, now greatly enhanced by sympathetic restoration, fine furniture, glass, porcelain, pictures and objects. Their rich decoration makes a striking contrast with the plain exterior.

The gardens have also been restored with inspired and authentic planting. The entrance overlooks a sunken garden with an intricate box parterre, while the herbaceous border in the ornamental garden leads to a classical summer house in the Grecian style.” [8]

Collon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [7]

The National Inventory tells us it is a: “Corner-sited attached five-bay three-storey house, built c. 1770. Rectangular-plan, extended by two-bays into two-storey terrace to east, three-bay two-storey wing to north, extended former mews buildings surrounding courtyard to north, single-storey flat-roofed entrance porch to west elevation…This imposing house, the principal home of the Foster family, at the heart of Collon, has historical associations with John Foster, the last man to speak in the Irish House of Commons. It contains many details of interest, such as stone window dressings. Its prominence at the heart of the village is of intrinsic importance to the architectural heritage of Collon.”

4. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

Killineer, Drogheda, County Louth, June 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/08/10/killineer-house-county-louth/
contact: Charles & Eithne Carroll
Tel: 086-2323783
www.killineerhouse.ie
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-15, June 1-10, Aug 10-24, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult/OAP/child/student, house: €4, garden €6

5. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Rokeby, County Louth, September 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/17/rokeby-hall-grangebellew-county-louth/
contact: Jean Young
Tel: 086-8644228
www.rokeby.ie
Open: May 1-31, Mon-Sat, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-30, Mon-Sat, 10am-2pm Fee: adult/OAP €7, child/student €5

Places to stay, County Louth:

1. Ballymascanlon House, Louth  – hotel

 https://www.ballymascanlon.com

Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [9]

The website tells us: “The Ballymascanlon House is set on 130 acres of beautiful parkland, this impressive Victorian House forms the heart of this Hotel. It is one of the most remarkable historical estates in Ireland dating back to 833 A.D. Steeped in history, Ballymascanlon estate is located in Ireland’s North East on the Cooley Peninsula in close proximity to the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains. Less than 1 hour from Dublin and Belfast, and 20 minutes from the medieval town of Carlingford. We are delighted to welcome you to our beautiful luxurious venue, ideal for both Business and Leisure.”

Ballymascanlon House is a multiple-bay two-storey over basement with attic Tudor-Revival house, built in 1863 for James Wolfe McNeill, incorporating fabric of earlier building, with gables, mullioned windows, hood-mouldings and a recessed doorway.

2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth – see above

3. Ghan House, Co Louth

 https://www.ghanhouse.com

The National Inventory tells us: “Built in 1727 by William Stannus, this building, with its unadorned façade and finely-balanced elegant classical proportions, is a handsome representative of architectural developments during the Georgian era. It retains a large amount of original and early fabric, including handsome boundary walls, corner tower and carriage arch.”

4.  Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, Co Louth

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/11738928?source_impression_id=p3_1574613728_Shdh4WSLqYmh5i8M

Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, County Louth, March 2022.

The airbnb entry describes the little castle:

Hatch’s Castle has many beautiful features including the Dome Hall,  the original spiral staircase, and a wonderfully restored drawing room on the first floor, where you can sit down and relax. 
We’re situated in the lovely town Ardee, which is surrounded by many historic places such as the Jumping Church and Newgrange. There are few restaurants around Ardee and several shops.
 

Walking inside Hatch’s castle on the Main Street of Ardee is a feeling of space and tranquility. From that moment you know you have entered a castle that is waiting to be explored.  There are four floors, each boasting character and an ambiance of true charm and comfort.  Ground floor entrance hall with dome ceiling is also used as a dining room. The 1st floor has the drawing room with an open fire. Here you can help yourself to a drink, relax, read and unwind. Breakfast can be served here in the large window over looking the Main Street. The 2nd and 3rd floor have a bedroom and private bathroom each.  

It is possible to see Ardee and its surrounding countryside from the roof.  There is a cobble stone yard to sit in and a walled garden to enjoy during the summer months. 

The entire castle is here for you to explore and enjoy. There is a front door entering the castle from the main street.

The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster (1993) has an entry for Hatch’s Castle:

p. 117. “Rectangular four storey tower house with rounded corners and a façade only one window wide. C15 or C16 and for centuries a property of the Hatch family. Two semicircular turrets project at rear. The castle is sandwiched between ordinary two and three-storey houses on the main street. In 1837 it was described by Lewis as ‘recently fitted up as a dwelling by Wm Hatch,’ which probably accounts for the new battlements, windows and hoodmouldings. Quaint interior, with timber panelling in the barrel-vaulted hall and a carpeted turret stair.” [10]

Whole House Rental, County Louth:

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, see above, €€€ for two, € for 6-12

2. Bellingham Castle, co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits 

Castle Bellingham, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.[11]

https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

See above

Meath

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation and sometimes open for visits

www.balrathcourtyard.com

The house is open to the public from January 9th – February 3rd and from May 1st – June 9th, daily from 9.00am – 1.00pm.

Fee: Adult €8
OAPs / Students / Children €4

The website tells us:

Balrath House & Courtyard, County Meath is a superb Georgian family home built in c. 1760 – the traditional architecture of which echoes a sense of the past. Yet nothing can prepare you for the beautiful and inviting warmth of the interior design...

The house is set in 1.5 acres of stunning & elegant gardens in a mature setting surrounded by 20.5 acres on the River Nanny which will assure you both privacy and tranquility...

The current owners Ray and Frances O’Brien have renovated the old out houses which were used at one time for milking cows, shoeing horses, housing animals and coaches to cosy, bright self catering cottages...

The cottages are located beside the classical style Georgian house that was built for the Walsh family. The Walsh’s wealth was created from their milling business,  and historical records show that in 1654 there were over 100 corn mills in County Meath. The substantial remains of one such corn mill are situated in the lower garden where it is still possible to see the site of the former mill wheel and mill race.

There is a strong history associated with the house and many of the original features still remain, for example the original Lock and key and the Adam plasterwork.

The estate is an ideal location for walking and offers splendid views of the “forty shades of green” which Ireland is famous for.”

Art Kavanagh tells us about the Aylmer family who lived in Balrath, in his book The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, volume 1 (published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005). Gerald Aylmer (c. 1485-1560) of Balrath was Chief Justice of Ireland. As a leading figure in the Dublin administration he co-orchestrated the military campaign that defeated Silken Thomas, and he escorted Silken Thomas and his five uncles to London when they were captured.

He assisted Lord Deputy Leonard Grey in his campaign against the O’Neills of Ulster and was rewarded with the manor and lordship of Dollardstown in County Meath. His elder brother Richard Aylmer of Lyons, County Kildare, received the manor house at Donadea. [p. 3, Kavanagh].

The Aylmers of Balrath descended from Nicholas Aylmer (1541- c. 1608). He married Margaret Plunkett, third daughter and co-heir of Christopher Plunkett 7th Lord Killeen and by this marriage, Balrath came into the ownership of the Aylmer family.

Christopher Aylmer (1615-1671) signed a document swearing loyalty to the King, repudiating the power of the Pope over the king, asking, however, for repeal of the laws against Catholics. He was made a Baronet shortly afterwards. His son Gerald, 2nd Baronet, a staunch Catholic, joined the Jacobite forces. He was imprisoned and his brother Matthew, a Protestant, petitioned to be granted his land. Matthew was later created Lord Aylmer, Baron of Balrath.

Gerald had some of his estates returned to him. He was succeeded by his son John, 3rd Baronet, who was succeeded by his brother the 4th Baronet. The 5th Baronet died unmarried and Balrath was divided between his sisters: Mabel, who married James Strong and received Balrath as part of their settlement; Margaret who married twice, to Robert Luttrell a Dublin merchant then to Robert Netterville fo Cruicerath; and Catherine who married John Malpas but had no family. [p. 10, Kavanagh].

2. Beau Parc House, Beau Parc, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Emer Mooney
Tel: 041-9824163, 087-2329149
Open: Mar 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 10am-2 pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €8

More soon!

3. Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane, Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Alan Haugh
Tel: 041-9884444
www.boynehouseslane.ie
Open: all year, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: Free

The website tells us: “Boyne House Slane is a former rectory dating from 1807, magnificently renewed, whilst retaining much of its original features to offer luxury accommodation comprising 10 guest bedrooms offering exceptional levels of comfort and style, the perfect retreat for the visitor after exploring 5,000 years of history and culture in the area.

Discreetly tucked away behind the centrally located Village Garden and recreation area, ‘Boyne House Slane’ is set in its own grounds, comprising a small patch of woodland with well-aged Copperbeech, Poplar and Chestnut trees.

Originally named Cillghrian Glebe, the property was built in 1807 as a rectory or Glebe. The name Cillghrian, sometimes anglicised as Killrian, derives from the words ‘cill’ for church and ‘grian’ which translated as ‘land’ giving the house the simple name ‘church land’. The house retains many of its original features complete with excellent joinery, plasterwork and chimneypieces.”

4. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

Dardistown Castle, County Meath, July 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/dardistown-castle-county-meath/
contact: Lizanne Allen
Tel: 086 -2774271
www.dardistowncastle.ie
Open: Jan 8-31, July 1-23, closed Sundays, August 8-28, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €3

5. Dunsany Castle, Dunsany, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Randall Plunkett
Tel: 046-9025169
www.dunsany.com
Open: June 24-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-22, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €25, OAP/student/12-18 years €15, child under 12 years free, National Heritage Week €10, under12 years free

Dunsany Castle, County Meath, June 2019.
Dunsany Castle by Alexander Campbell ‘Monkey’ Morgan National Library of Ireland.

6. Gravelmount House, Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Brian McKenna
Tel: 087-2520523
Open: Jan 2-15, May 10-30, Aug 13-22, Sept 1-15, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

7. Hamwood House, Dunboyne, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Charles Hamilton
Tel: 086-3722701
www.hamwood.ie
Open: Apr 1-Sept 25, Fri-Sun, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 10am-7pm Fee: adult €10, child under 12 free

Hamwood House, County Meath, photograph from Country Life.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

Hamwood is a smaller Palladian house of the 1770s, near the town of Dunboyne on the borders of Meath and Kildare, with a central block joined to little octagonal ‘pepper-pot’ wings by elegantly curved sweeps. Unusually, the left hand wing contains the main entrance, since it is said that the house was so cold when built that the family decided to move the hall door as far from the main rooms as possible. The resulting effect is interesting, since the principal facade lacks a central feature and looks more like a garden front. Internally this has allowed the creatiion of a double drawing room that runs along the entire length of the facade, an unusual feature in a house of this size.” [12]

The Hamwood website tells us:

Hamwood House sits surrounded by wooded gardens in unspoilt countryside between Dunboyne and Maynooth in Kildare, and is unique in having been occupied by the same family since it was built almost 250 years ago. Hamwood so called due to its creators Charles Hamilton I *[1738-1818] (see below) and his wife Elizabeth Chetwood [from Woodbrook, County Laois] amalgamating their last names, not on account of its wooded surroundings. On arrival at this area at the time one would have been both in awe of the far reaching views towards the Dublin mountains and the ferocious winds which battered this high point in the landscape, being 300 feet above sea level. There was good reason for choosing such a site however, in that the land was amongst the best in Ireland but also it fell naturally from where the house stood allowing good natural drainage. Most importantly too the House was built on rock, the best of foundations. 

While works were progressing on the house the family occupied Courthill -an attractive Georgian  house in Dunboyne . Mr Hamilton became the agent serving the then Duke of Leinster at Carton estate , a role that passed from father to son through all generations up til Charles VI in the 1960’s , although the Estate had already been sold. The relationship between the Hamilton family and the Leinsters was a special one and they took an active interest in the development of Hamwood , donating such features as the pair of granite steps to the front of the house ,  thinnings to form the woodlands and various shrubs and ornamental trees. For such an exposed site it was crucial to protect the house from the strong winds which explains the heavily wooded surroundings. Charles I formed the front door and hallway to where now is the back door. His son added the two Palladian wings and the front entrance placed at the end of the west wing at his wife’s insistence that the draughts were kept well away from the main living areas. 

Many new additions and developments were carried out by different generations including the walled garden and pine walk where visitors can see an abundance of well established shrubs , plants and ornamental trees amongst the relics of former days when there were several men working the gardens.” 

The website has a terrific description of the family who lived in Hamwood and still occupy it today, so I will quote verbatim!

Hugh Hamilton 1572-1655 
The Hamiltons had been established in Scotland for some 300 years before arriving in Ireland. Our Scottish ancestor Sir James Hamilton of Evendale had 4 sons, the youngest of whom Hugh emigrated to Ireland as part of the colonisation known as the Ulster plantation. In 1616 Hugh became ‘denizen’ of Ireland (an Irish citizen). He settled at Lisbane near Bangor in Co.Down. 
He died aged 83 and is buried in the churchyard at Bangor. 

Alexander George Hamilton 1640-1676 
Son of Hugh, settled at Killyleagh, Co Down. Married Jean Hamilton. 
Their daughter Jane married William Sloane brother of Sir Hans Sloane whose Collections formed the British Museum. 

Hugh Hamilton 1664-1728 
Son of Alexander. Married Mary Ross of Rostrevor, an heiress. They lived in Ballybrenagh, Co Down. 
He had 3 daughters and 2 sons, George and Alexander. 

Alexander Hamilton 1690-1768 
Settled at Knock Co Dublin and married Isabella Maxwell of Finnebrogue. Became M.P. for Killyleagh from 1730-1761. Became wealthy owning town lands worth £50,000. 

Of his children his eldest son Hugh became Dean of Armagh then Bishop of Ossory. 
George became M.P. for Belfast 1769-1776, settled at Hampton Hall, Balbriggan, and built the fishing village into a flourishing town with cotton mills, and a trading port which he had built as well as a lighthouse. The firm Smyth and Co traded for 200 years and Queen Victoria was a client. George was made a Baron in the Court of Exchequer Belfast. 
Anne, one of the daughters married Colonel Henry Caldwell, who fought in Canada under General Wolfe and they settled near Quebec. As Wolfe’s ADC he was sent to England to announce news of the victory over the French at Quebec, where Wolfe died in battle. 

Charles Hamilton I   1738-1818 | Builder of Hamwood 

Youngest son of Alexander. Educated at Blackrock College and then at a new school at Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan founded by Lord Bath. 
He married Elizabeth Chetwood and they had 15 children, though some died young. According to her daughter in law, Elizabeth “never consulted a physician except in childbirth and still lived till she was 79.” 
Charles started working life as apprentice to a wine merchant by the name of Mr Crummie of Port Stuart mainly trading in claret. He subsequently started his own store and moved to Mount Venus near Marlay to be nearer Dublin. While here he became a member of the notorious Hellfire Club becoming the toastmaster. The gavel he used is still at Hamwood. While at Mount Venus he met Miss Chetwood who he subsequently married and they called the house they were to build by taking the first and last syllables of their names – Ham wood. Charles’ brother Robert married the other Miss Chetwood [Hester]. 

Charles was left a townland in the North of Ireland which he sold for £7,000 and bought land from a Mr James Hamilton of Ballymacoll where he built Hamwood house. Ballymacoll, between Maynooth and Dunboyne right on the Kildare border with Meath, had a reputation from the 1950’s as one of the best stud farms in the world breeding such majestic horses as Arkle who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times in succession 1964-1966, and countless Classic winners including the Derby. 

Before moving in to Hamwood Charles I rented a house in Dunboyne – Courthill – so he could oversee the building works, until the house was completed in 1777. 
When he and his family moved to Hamwood he decided to pursue a different way of life and took on Agencies, firstly for the Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Lansdowne. In 1798 came the Rebellion following the American and French revolutions and it was dangerous times for those who owned landed estates. Charles was taken down to Dunboyne with others including the Agent to the Duke of Leinster to face the rebel firing squad. Happily thanks to the intervention of a respected local man O’Reilly, whose family still practice as blacksmiths in the area, asked that Mr Hamilton be spared as “he was more useful (to them) alive than dead.” It was said that this was probably in recognition of his moral, learned and industrious character. 

The position of agent to the Duke of Leinster now being vacant, Charles asked the then Duke if he might consider him as his Agent and this was granted. The creation and running of Carton, the seat of the Leinster family, thereby began its long history. The position of Agent to the Leinster Estate stayed with the Hamiltons passing from father to son for 150 years right until the last heir died and the Estate was finally acquired by Lord Brocket in the 1950’s. 

Charles II 1772-1857 

Educated at Blackrock College and then at a new school at Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan founded by Lord Bath. He was a classics scholar and completed his education at Trinity College Dublin before being called to the Bar in 1792. He spent some years in London while practicing as a lawyer before returning to Ireland. In 1801 he married Caroline Tighe of Rosanna Co Wicklow, and in 1802 their son Charles William was born. 

Charles 11 and Caroline set about making major improvements to Hamwood, extending the existing house and adding the wings, and also the interior adding ornate furniture wall coverings etc. Much of the furniture was procured for the house, some of it specially designed and fitted. 

He was responsible for laying the foundations of the Gardens. 

Charles William III 1802-1880 
He married Letitia Charlotte Armstrong in 1841. 
He had a keen interest in Agriculture and was deeply involved in the Royal Dublin Society. He was particularly concerned about the state of Agriculture in the country prior to the Famine of 1845 and he urged the Repeal MP William Smith O’Brien to set up agricultural societies and colleges throughout Ireland to instruct farmers in modern methods. He corresponded frequently with Prime Minister William Gladstone about the terrible conditions caused by the potato blight and deplored the lack of assistance given. Although the effects were not nearly so bad in Leinster, soup kitchens were available to those who needed it, one being at Hamwood. 
One of Charles William’s passions was painting and he toured extensively, visiting Scotland and France, where he was arrested by the French whilst painting a warship in Antibes harbour. Presumably he convinced them he was simply an artist and no spy and was released! 
At Hamwood he planted the Pine Walk ca 1860, at a time when trees were becoming available from across the globe particularly from North America and the Himalayas. A Monterey Pine still stands among various Cedars, Sequoia and large Pines lining this Walk. 

Charles Robert IV 1846-1913 
Married Louise Brooke in 1874 who had 10 children, of whom 2 boys died in infancy, one being the first born and heir. The two chestnut trees in the Lawn field were planted in their memory. There were 6 daughters among whom were the exceptional artists Letitia and Eva, and of the boys Gerald Charles the future heir, and Freddie . 
Charles Robert was educated at home by a governess and at the age of 17 he went to Trinity to study law. He was a member of the Kildare Street Club and was passionate about the garden at Hamwood, where he transformed the Walled Garden, and in order to create an impact he employed a head gardener from Kew Gardens in London. He gained a great deal of help from his large family particularly Connie (Constance) who took up landscaping professionally. 
Charles Robert travelled with his wife to the continent frequently and at times further afield to visit relations in Canada near Montreal. 

Gerald Francis Charles V 1877-1961 
Educated at Haileybury and Downton Agricultural College. Became Land Agent to Estates in Gloucestershire , including Dodington Estate (now owned by the inventor James Dyson) before returning to Hamwood upon his father’s death. Became Justice of the Peace (J.P.). Married Violet Travers Hamilton daughter of Robert Craigie Hamilton (of the Hawkesbury Hamiltons) and Charlotte Lewis also from Canada. Both Violet and Francis Charles descended from the same great-great-grandfather so were distant cousins. Violet came to England to visit and ‘do the season’ as it was known. Francis Charles was ‘directed’ by his father to look after his Canadian cousin during the Cheltenham festival which he probably thought was a bit of a chore … until he met her. After that he managed to find plenty of time to accompany her to the various social events of the Summer. Eventually Violet returned to Canada and subsequently travelled to India but after some persistence Francis Charles persuaded her to return to Cheltenham and in 1911 they were married. They had three children, Esme a wonderful writer of children’s books who had the artist Lionel Edwards to illustrate them, and Betty who was an exceptional horsewoman and BHS qualified, and Charles the heir. 
Tragically Violet died prematurely in 1947. A few years later Francis Charles married Rosamund Bauer who built up Hamwood’s dairy herd and helped see the estate through some difficult times during post war depression. Francis Charles took on the Agencies of the Leinster Estate whose seat was Carton located only a few miles away near Maynooth. 
Francis Charles died in 1961 and left the estate to his son Charles. 

Charles Robert Francis VI 1918-2005 
Educated at Twyford prep school and Stowe, subsequently Sandhurst Military Academy. Shortly after, war broke out and he served in the Indian Cavalry primarily with Probyns Horse. For most part he was based near Gilgit in Kashmir keeping control of the tribal factions over an area the size of Wales. He relished the life there where he partook in the local sport, pig-sticking, bear hunting, fishing and game hunting, and particularly polo. He later played at Phoenix Park, Dublin and captained Ireland. 

He remained in India until 1947 and was asked to take on the role of Political Agent to assist in the transition of Partition, but this coincided with news that his mother was dying and he returned to Ireland just in time to be at her side. 

He managed farms and estates in England before returning to Ireland in the mid 50’s when he met Anne Spicer from Carnew, Co. Wicklow but originally from Wiltshire, and they married in 1958. The Major as he was known, carried on the Agency work which included Slane and Clonbrock in Galway, before taking over Hamwood in 1961. They had two children Annabelle and Charles VII both born on the same day but one year apart. 

Many exceptional women have passed through Hamwood’s doors. The following are but a few and some may be omitted through lack of information. 

Caroline Hamilton (1777-1861), née Tighe, married Charles II and was responsible for decorating and furnishing the house in the style of the time. She came from a fine house in Wicklow, called Rossanagh.  Her grandparents were Sir William and Lady Elizabeth Fownes, owners of Woodstock, from where Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, the Ladies of Llangollen, made their escape to a life together in North Wales, causing a certain amount of uproar at the time. Woodstock was burnt to the ground in July 1922 by the IRA. 

Caroline spent much of her younger years in London and took lessons in art from the notable printmaker and portrait painter John Spilsbury (1737-1812) who had taught at Harrow where her brother was at school, and later Maria Spilsbury  (1776-1820), his daughter. She became a skilled artist, especially in creating pen and ink drawings of Irish society of the day, using a satirist angle on  such subjects as religion, education and the ruling classes.  

After rearing and educating her six children, Caroline dedicated her time to the improvement and development of Hamwood House and its gardens, her art and, in particular, her writing. Her Memoirs are one of the most significant records of Irish life of the time, and in addition, she became heir to the diaries of the Ladies of Llangollen, which are now in the collection of the Hamwood papers held in the National Library, Dublin. Caroline’s cousin, Mary Tighe (1772-1810), was an accomplished poet best known for her poem, Psyche. Her artistic talent and to some extent, that of her husband, Charles III, passed down to her great-grandchildren, Eva and Letitia. 

Eva Henrietta Hamilton (1876-1960) was born and reared at Hamwood, as was her sister, Letitia. One of five sisters and two brothers, only one sister, Lily, got married, with Eva and Letitia becoming established artists. Both fought for recognition in a society where art was considered as a male preserve and women artists were not treated as equals. Eva was an exceptional portrait artist having studied under Sir William Orpen ( 1878-1931) at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (DMSA) which she entered in 1907 at the age of 31 and later, under Henry Tonks, at the Slade in London. Many of her portraits were commissioned by members of her extended family and their social circle. Normally painted against a simple background, Eva’s skill was in reading the character of her sitters and transferring that on to her canvas. With the coming of independence in Ireland in 1922, the market for these type of portraits was much reduced and Eva switched her attention to landscapes which although not particularly innovative in their production were attractive and well observed.  

Eva was the first of the sisters to exhibit her work, showing a portrait and a figure subject in 1898 at the annual exhibition of the Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI). Watercolours were then seen as an acceptable medium for women artists. Her works were shown in London, Paris and Brussels as well as the Irish International Exhibition in Dublin in 1907. She first exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Dublin in 1904 where she continued to exhibit until 1945. 

With the death of their mother in 1922, Eva assumed much of the housekeeping role and had less time to devote to her painting. The sisters lived together for most of their lives, in their later years in a series of large rented houses. Among these was Fonthill in Palmerstown, now the offices of the Ballymore construction company. In 1946, they made their final move to Woodville in Lucan, an eighteenth century house designed by the architect, Richard Castle (1690-1751). Fondly known as ‘the Aunts’ nest’ they continued to give memorable parties in their rather eccentric lifestyles. A tree with many sweeping branches stood in the garden from where old umbrellas hung, and in a rather artistic way resembled a tree with huge drooping fruit! 

Eva did produce some stunning works, one of which, The Piper, featuring the village of Dunboyne c. 1911, was chosen by the then Taoiseach, John Bruton, for his Christmas card to send to dignitaries around the world. She would have been delighted! Another of her works, “Ceilidh at Dunboyne’, dating from c. 1910, was included in the  A Time and Place. Two Centuries of Irish Social Life exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland in 2006. 

Letitia Marion Hamilton (1878-1964) was a talented and prolific landscape artist who, like her sister, studied under Open in the DMSA. Compared to Eva, she remained less influenced by him and more by the works of European artists that she saw during her time abroad.  An inveterate traveller, she made trips to France, Belgium and Holland before the war in Europe curtailed these visits. During WWI she volunteered as a nurse but, in reality, seemed to spend most of the time rolling bandages in the Irish War Hospital Supply Depot which was located in Moore Abbey, Monastervin which had been converted into a recuperation centre for wounded soldiers. The family lived in one of the estate houses in the town where Letitia painted scenes of the town square, nearby Portarlington and the area of bog in between.  

With the cessation of hostilities, Letitia’s travels recommenced with trips abroad, often accompanied by Eva, and during the 1920s, she travelled widely in France, Italy and Yugoslavia. She visited Venice for the first time in the autumn of 1923 and during the 1930s made regular visits to the city and northern Italian lakes. Fascinated by the interplay of light on the buildings and water, this area was to provide the subject matter for numerous paintings. Many of these featured the Venetian canals with their bridges, lined by closely packed buildings. Using a brightly coloured palette to create atmosphere, these were amongst the most original and successful canvases she produced.  

Frustratingly, it is difficult to date her work exactly as she left her pictures undated and returned to the same subject matter on a number of occasions, often using the same title.  Letitia signed her early paintings ‘MH’ (she was known as May by her family), reverting to the more familiar ‘LMH’ from about 1920 onwards.  

With the onset of war again in Europe in 1939, Letitia switched her attention to her home country and produced a large body of work depicting the local landscapes and seascapes. Frequent visits to Roundstone and Glengarriff gave rise to a series of paintings of the area. More muted in tone, these often featured the rugged landscape and big skies of the locality. With an increasing use of impasto (layering of paint on the canvas), colour was applied in a broad sweep using a palette knife.  

With horses central to the Hamilton family way of life, it was inevitable that equestrian scenes would form an important part of Letitia’ work. Scenes of riders and packs of hounds from the local hunts were prominent as were depictions of local fairs and race meetings. It was for one of these that Letitia won the bronze medal in the paintings section in the Sport in Art competition of the XIVth. Olympiad (Olympics) in 1948 in London. It featured an image of the pre-race parade of horses at the Meath point-to-point meeting. In fact, she became the last person to win such an award as Art was subsequently excluded from Olympic ‘sports’. (The current whereabouts of the painting, medal and diploma are unknown). 

Letitia was a serial exhibitor – no sooner was one exhibition completed, then she was out painting for the next one. She was a founding member of the Society of Dublin Painters in 1920, along with Jack Butler Yeats, Paul Henry and Mary Swanzy. This provided a forum for the exhibition of more impressionist and avant-garde works away from the more conservative environment of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). She remained a member throughout its existence; Eva became President in 1948. She did also become a member of the RHA, one of its earliest female members, becoming an Associate Member in 1934 and full member in 1944. Only missing two years, 1927 and 1931, Letitia exhibited in the annual exhibition in the RHA every year from 1909 to 1964. Her crowning glory was a series of exhibitions in the Dawson Gallery in Dublin from 1958 to 1963. The last one was held the year before her death – these sell-out shows confirmed her popularity with the buying public. Recently, her painting of A Fair Day, Clifden was included in the ‘Birth of Modernism in Irish Art’ exhibition in Dublin Castle.  

During her final years, Letitia’s sight began to fail and she developed a slight tremor in her hand. Nevertheless, she continued to paint, concentrating on smaller canvases, often studies of beach scenes in Dublin and equestrian scenes of hunting and polo which she finished rapidly but still managed to retain a sense of movement and life. Following a fall in Woodville, she died in the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin on 9 August 1964, aged 86. 

There has been a debate as to which of the sisters was the better artist but their differences in style and technique makes this difficult to assess. Letitia produced a significant body of work with her characteristic layering of paint on the canvas making it readily identifiable. Much of Eva’s early work was portraiture, a genre in which she excelled but this was an arena that Letitia seldom ventured in to. What is certain was they both blazed a trail for women artists in Ireland at a time when it was dominated by their male counterparts such as Sean Keating, Paul Henry and Jack Yeats. Eva and Letitia’s images of pre-war Europe and scenes from Irish towns and villages preserve a way of life that has now vanished for ever.

8. Kilgar Gardens, Kilgar house, Gallow, Kilcock, Co Meath W23E7FK

www.kilgargardens.com

The website tells us: “A stunning series of gardens set over 3 acres just outside Kilcock, Co. Meath. Kilgar Gardens & Tea Rooms is open May to September for visitors and group tours.”

9. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482

Killeen Mill, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Dermot Kealy
Tel: 086-2619979
(Tourists Accommodation Facility) Open: April 1- Sept 30

10. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

Ruins of Loughcrew House, 22nd May 2010.

Contact: Emily Naper
Tel: 049-8541356
(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

www.loughcrew.com

Garden: all year, 11am-5pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP €6, student €5, child €3.50, group concessions

The website tells us:

Loughcrew is an estate made up of 200 acres of picturesque rolling parkland complete with a stunning house and gardens. It provides the perfect family friendly day out as there is something to suit all ages and interests.

The House and Gardens within at Loughcrew Estate date back to the 17th century – making it a landscape of historical and religious significance. Here, you’ll find a medieval motte and St. Oliver Plunkett’s family church among other old buildings. You’ll also find lime and yew avenues, extensive lawns and terraces, a water garden and a magnificent herbaceous border.There is a Fairy Trail for children and a coffee shop too!”

11. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

Moyglare House, County Meath, June 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/02/15/moyglare-house-county-meath/
Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare
contact: Angela Alexander
Tel: 086-0537291
www.moyglarehouse.ie
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, May 1-21, 23-27, 30-31, June 1-2, Aug 12- 21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student/child

12. Oldbridge House, County Meath – Battle of the Boyne Museum – OPW

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

13. Slane Castle, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Slane Castle, County Meath, April 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/slane-castle-county-meath/
contact: Jemma Smith
Tel: 041-9884477
www.slanecastle.ie
Open: Jan 16, 23, 30Feb 6, 13, 20, 27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, April 2-3, 9- 10, 16-18, 23-24, 30, May 1-2, 6-8, 13-15, 20-23, June 3, 6, 10, 17, 24, July 1, 7-8, 14-15, 22, 28, 31, Aug 1, 4-5, 11-21, 25-26, 28, Sept 4,18, 25, Jan- Apr, and June 10am-4pm, May, Fri-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12 noon 4pm, July, Thurs-Sat, 10am- 4pm, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm, Aug, Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm, Sept, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm

Fee: adult €14, OAP/student €12.50, child €7.50, concession family ticket (2 adults and 2 children €39, additional adults €1, additional children €6

14. St. Mary’s Abbey, High Street, Trim, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Peter Higgins
Tel: 087-2057176
Open: Jan 24-28, 31, Feb 1-4, 28, Mar 1-4, 7-11, May 7-22, June 27-30, July 1, 4-8, Aug 13-22, Sept 27-30, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child €2

St. Mary’s Abbey, County Meath, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

15. The Former Parochial House, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Alan Haugh
Tel: 087-2566998
www.parochialhouseslane.ie
Open: May 1-Sept 30, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: adult 5, child/OAP/student €3

The website tells us:

‘Parochial House’, The Square, Slane, Co. Meath is one of the 4 landmark buildings within the centre of the historic village of Slane known as the Square although formed in actuality of an Octagon. This central ‘Square’ is formed of four symmetrically placed houses set a 45 degrees to the main crossing.

A dwelling house of three bays and three storeys, it was constructed c. 1768, and was the second of the four houses to be built to form the ‘Square’. In the Buildings of Ireland – North Leinster by Christine Casey and Alistair Rowan it is noted that the plot on the north east corner was granted to one Henry Fischer with the stipulation:

‘House to be built within 5 years, same plan as new inn opposite recently built, also the other houses same plan as laid down for building in the said town of Slane.’

The determination was evident from the beginning that this set-piece of rural town planning would be of the same uniformity and quality as its more urban equivalents. The house essentially retains its original features with excellent joinery, plasterwork, and some original chimneypieces extant.

Parochial House is a three bay three storey over basement stone dwelling with hipped roof and gable chimneystacks. Stonework is coursed and squared limestone rubble with cut limestone dressings to openings. The entrance doorway is variously described as a’block and start’ doorway or more commonly a Gibbsian style doorway after James Gibbs. The door is raised on limestone stones with the exposed portion of the basement acting as a plinth. Remaining facades are rendered.

The proportion of window to wall favours the masonry lending the houses a certain austerity. As a formal composition the grandeur of the Square has rarely been equalled in rural Ireland. Nineteenth-century enclosing walls were added to better define the private and public realms in the Square. The principal entrance door is a nine-panelled door although the present unpainted finish seems too modern.

To the rear, the elevation is rendered in a medium aggregate dash, likely of modern installation. Window dressings are set recessed behind the plain of the render and are tooled and hammered with a simple keystone. Cills are quite slight in proportion in comparison with the cills used on the front elevation. The roof is finished in natural slate and the stacks appear to have been rebuilt from centre upwards in red machine made brick.

16. Swainstown House, Kilmessan, Co. Meath – section 482

Swainstown House, County Meath, August 2019

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/10/swainstown-house-kilmessan-county-meath/
contact: Caroline Preston
Tel: 086-2577939
Open: Mar 7-8, 10-11, April 4-5, 7-8, May 2-8, June 6-12, July 4-10, Aug 13-21, Sept 5-16, Oct 3-4, 6-7, Nov 7-8, 10-11, Dec 5-6, 8-9, 11am-3pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child free

17. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Tankardstown House, County Meath, August 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/11/tankardstown-estate-demesne-rathkenny-slane-co-meath/
contact: Brian Conroy
Tel: 087-2888925
www.tankardstown.ie
Open: all year including National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: Free

18. Trim Castle, County Meath – OPW

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

Places to stay, County Meath:

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation  www.balrathcourtyard.com – see above

The website tells us:

You will find an oasis of rural luxury set in the Boyne Valley- the most historically rich area of Ireland’s Ancient East – offering the seclusion of a Georgian courtyard – yet only 20 minutes from Dublin Airport and 10 minutes from Newgrange.

The house is set in 1.5 acres of stunning & elegant gardens in a mature setting surrounded by 20.5 acres on the River Nanny which will assure you both privacy and tranquility.

The self-catering accommodation in the courtyard is of 4 Star Fáilte Ireland approved standard.

The current owners Ray and Frances O’Brien have renovated the old out houses which were used at one time for milking cows, shoeing horses, housing animals and coaches to cosy, bright self catering cottages.

There are eight cottages to choose from each offering something unique, decorated to modern living while still maintaining features of its past.

The cottages are located beside the classical style Georgian house that was built for the Walsh family. The Walsh’s wealth was created from their milling business,  and historical records show that in 1654 there were over 100 corn mills in County Meath. The substantial remains of one such corn mill are situated in the lower garden where it is still possible to see the site of the former mill wheel and mill race.

There is a strong history associated with the house and many of the original features still remain, for example the original Lock and key and the Adam plasterwork.

The house is open to the public from January 9th – February 3rd and from May 1st – June 9th, daily from 9.00am – 1.00pm.

Fee: Adult €8
OAPs / Students / Children €4

The estate is an ideal location for walking and offers splendid views of the “forty shades of green” which Ireland is famous for.”

2. Bellinter House near Bective, County Meath – hotel and restaurant www.bellinterhouse.com

Bellinter House, photograph for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [15]

The website tells us:

A magnificent 18th century Georgian house, located in the heart of the Boyne Valley, less than 5 minutes of the M3 and under 30 minutes from Dublin City centre and Dublin airport.

A property designed originally by Richard Castles for John Preston [1700-1755], this house was once used as a country retreat for the Preston Family, to abscond from the city for the summer months.

Following over 270 years of beautiful history the purpose of Bellinter House remains the same, a retreat from ones daily life.

On arriving, you will find yourself succumb to the peacefulness and serenity that is Bellinter House.

The National Inventory tells us about Bellinter House:

Designed by the renowned architect Richard Castle in 1751. Bellinter is a classic mid eighteenth-century Palladian house with its two-storey central block, linked to two-storey wings by single-storey arcades, creating a forecourt in front of the house. This creates a building of pleasant symmetry and scale which is of immediate architectural importance. The building is graded in scale from ground to roofline. It gets progressively lighter from semi-basement utilising block and start windows on ground floor to lighter architraves on first floor to cornice. The house forms an interesting group with the surviving related outbuildings and entrance gates.” [13]

Art Kavanagh tells us in his The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, Volume 1 (published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005) that John Joseph Preston (1815-1892) had only a daughter, and he leased Bellinter House to his friend Gustavus Villiers Briscoe. When John Joseph Preston died he willed his estate to Gustavus.

Much of the land was dispersed with the Land Acts, but Bellinter passed to Gustavus’s son Cecil Henry Briscoe. His son George sold house and lands to the Holdsworth family, who later sold the land to the Land Commission. The house was acquired by the Sisters of Sion in 1966, who sold it in 2003.

[See Robert O’Byrne’s recent post, https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/05/21/crazy-wonderful/ for more pictures of Bellinter.]

3. Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane, Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath – see above

contact: Alan Haugh
Tel: 041-9884444
www.boynehouseslane.ie

4. Clonleason Gate Lodge, Fordstown, County Meath: Hidden Ireland www.clonleason.com

Our 18th century riverside cottage has been converted into an elegant one bedroom hideaway for a couple. Set in blissful surroundings of gardens and fields at the entrance to a small Georgian house, the cottage is surrounded by ancient oak trees, beech and roses. It offers peace and tranquillity just one hour from Dublin.

A feature of the cottage is the comfy light filled sitting room with high ceiling, windows on three sides, an open fire, bundles of books and original art. The Trimblestown river, once famous for its excellent trout, runs along the bottom of its secret rose garden. Garden and nature lovers might enjoy wandering through our extensive and richly planted gardens where many unusual shrubs and trees are thriving and where cyclamen and snowdrops are massed under trees. The Girley Loop Bog walk is just a mile down the road.

The bedroom is luxurious and the kitchen and bathroom are well appointed. There is excellent electric heating throughout.

5. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482, see above

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/dardistown-castle-county-meath/
contact: Lizanne Allen
Tel: 086 -2774271
www.dardistowncastle.ie
Open: Jan 8-31, July 1-23, closed Sundays, August 8-28, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €3

6. Highfield House, Trim, County Meath

https://highfieldguesthouse.com

The website tells us:

Highfield House is an elegant, 18th century residence run by Edward and Geraldine Duignan and situated in the beautiful heritage town of Trim. Known as the birthplace of Ireland’s Ancient East, Trim is renowned as one of Ireland’s most beautiful towns. The award winning accommodation boasts magnificent views of Trim Castle, The Yellow Steeple, and the River Boyne. 

Guests can book Highfield House for their overnight stay while visiting the area, or book the entire property as a self catering option in Meath.

The house was built in the early 1800’s and was opened as a stately maternity hospital in 1834 and remained so up to the year 1983, making it 175 years old. A host of original, antique interior features still remain. Spend the morning sipping coffee on our patio, relax with a book in our drawing room or wile away the afternoon people watching from our garden across the river.”

7. Johnstown Estate, Enfield, Co Meath – hotel

 https://thejohnstownestate.com

The website tells us:

The original manor – or The Johnstown House as it was known – is as storied as many other large country house in Ireland.  Luckily, the house itself has stood the test of time and is the beating heart of the hotel and all its facilities which together form The Johnstown Estate. 

Built in 1761, The Johnstown House (as it was then known) was the country residence of Colonel Francis Forde [1717-1769], his wife Margaret [Bowerbank] and their five daughters. Colonel Forde was the 7th son of Matthew Forde, MP, of Coolgraney, Seaforde County Down, and the family seat is still in existence in the pretty village of Seaforde, hosting Seaforde Gardens.

The Colonel had recently returned from a very successful military career in India and was retiring to become a country gentleman.  Enfield – or Innfield as it was then known –  satisfied his desire to return to County Meath where his Norman-Irish ascendants (the de la Forde family) had settled in Fordestown (now Fordstown), Meath, in the 13th century. Enfield was also close to Carton House in Maynooth, the home of the Duke of Leinster – at the time the most powerful landowner in Ireland.

After 8 years completing the house and demesne and establishing income from his estates, Colonel Forde left for a further military appointment in India. His boat, The Aurora, touched the Cape of Good Hope off Southern Africa on December 27th, 1769 and neither he, nor the boat, were heard from again.

Thereafter the house was owned by a variety of people including a Dublin merchant, several gentlemen farmers, a Knight, another military man, an MP and a Governor of the Bank of Ireland.  In 1927 the Prendergast family bought the house and Rose Prendergast, after whom ‘The Rose’ private dining room is named, became mistress of Johnstown House for over fifty years.

The house was restored to its previous glory in the early years of the new millennium and a new resort hotel developed around it to become The Johnstown House Hotel.  In 2015, under new ownership, the hotel was extensively refurbished, expanded and rebranded to become The Johnstown Estate.

8. Killyon Manor, County Meath, holiday cottages and weddings

https://www.killyonmanor.com/

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

The Loftus family were resident on the Killyon Manor estate at the far western edge of County Meath from the 16th century, possibly in a tower house within the house that ‘Loftus the Magnificent’ built in the mid-18th century. Rather unusually the house remains one room deep, although a ballroom was added at the rear sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century; there is also a perpendicular wing – the oldest part of the Georgian building. The façade was redone c. 1800 and a small Ionic portico added as well as long flanking screen walls with blind arches. It passed to the Magan family in the 1850s when William Henry Magan of Clonearl in County Offaly married the heiress Elizabeth Georgina Loftus. Their combined fortunes included 20,000 acres in Westmeath, Offaly and Shankill, Co. Dublin in addition to a house on St Stephen’s Green, where their daughter Augusta, jilted as an unsuitable match, is said to have left her wedding breakfast uncleared for 30 years (and as such was possibly the inspiration for Miss Haversham in Great Expectations). Over her lifetime, she became a hoarder and by the time of her death had filled the ballroom to waist-height with her impulsive, largely unopened purchases. A protracted decade-long legal battle over Augusta’s bizarre will ultimately led to the loss of much of the fortune. It was sold out of the family in the 1960s by Brigadier Bill Magan, who in retirement published a well-regarded memoir called ‘Umma-More’, which tells the story of the various houses owned by the family. Currently owned by the Purcell family, the estate, on a tributary of the River Boyne, is being rewilded and has become an important biodiversity zone.” [14]

9. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482, see above

contact: Dermot Kealy
Tel: 086-2619979
(Tourists Accommodation Facility) Open: April 1- Sept 30

10. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482, see above

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/02/15/moyglare-house-county-meath/
Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare
contact: Angela Alexander
Tel: 086-0537291
www.moyglarehouse.ie
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, May 1-21, 23-27, 30-31, June 1-2, Aug 12- 21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student/child

11. Rosnaree, Slane, Co Meath – accommodation

https://www.facebook.com/theRossnaree/ 

The website tells us: “This stylish historic country house in Slane, County Meath, offers boutique bed and breakfast with magnificent views across the Boyne Valley and the megalithic passage tomb of Newgrange.

Rossnaree (or “headland of the Kings”) is a privately owned historic country estate in Slane, County Meath, located only 40 minutes from Dublin and less than an hour from Belfast.

An impressive driveway sweeps to the front of Rossnaree house, standing on top of a hill with unrivalled views across the River Boyne to Ireland’s famous prehistoric monuments, Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.

Rossnaree has been transformed into a boutique bed and breakfast, offering four luxury rooms for guests and also an original venue for special events and artistic workshops.

12. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

https://www.ross-castle.com

See my County Cavan entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/03/county-cavan-historic-houses-to-see-and-stay/

13. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Tankardstown, County Meath, August 2019.

www.tankardstown.ie
See my entry above.

Whole house booking/wedding venues, County Meath

1. Boyne Hill estate, Navan, County Meath – whole house rental

https://www.boynehillhouse.ie

Set in 38 acres of pretty gardens and parklands and just 35 minutes from Dublin, this stunning country house estate becomes your very own private residence for your special day.

2. Durhamstown Castle, Bohermeen, County Meath – whole house rental https://durhamstowncastle.com

Durhamstown Castle is 600 years old inhabited continuously since 1420. Its surrounded by meadows, dotted with mature trees. We take enormous pleasure in offering you our home and hospitality.

The website tells us that in 1590:

The Bishop of Meath, Thomas Jones [1550-1619], who resided in next door Ardbraccan, at this time, owned Durhamstown Castle & we know from the records, that he left it to his son, Lord Ranelagh, Sir Roger Jones; who was Lord President of Connaught. Thomas Jones was witness & reporter to the Crown on negotiations between the Crown Forces & the O’Neills. He was known to be close to Robert Devereux, The Earl of Essex – Queen Elizabeth’s lover. (Later, executed for mounting a rebellion against Her.) Letters are written – copies of which are in the National Library – from Devereux to the Queen both from Ardbraccan & Durhamstown (“the Castle nearby”).

Roger Jones, 1st Viscount Ranelagh (before 1589 – 1643) was a member of the Peerage of Ireland and lord president of Connaught. He was Chief Leader of the Army and Forces of Connaught during the early years of the Irish Confederate Wars. In addition to Viscount Ranelagh, he held the title Baron Jones of Navan.

Jones was the only son of Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Thomas Jones, and his wife Margaret Purdon. He was knighted at Drogheda on 24 March 1607. In 1609, he married Frances Moore, the daughter of Sir Garret Moore, eventual 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda. Jones was a member of the Parliament of Ireland for Trim, County Meath from 1613 to 1615. In 1620, he was named to the privy council of Ireland. He was the Chief Leader of the Army and Forces of Connaught and was Vice President of Connaught from 1626.

In 1608 his father became involved in a bitter feud with Lord Howth, in which Roger also became embroiled. His reference to Howth as a brave man among cowards was enough to provoke his opponent, a notoriously quarrelsome man to violence. In the spring of 1609, Jones, Howth and their followers engaged in a violent fracas at a tennis court in Thomas Street, Dublin, and a Mr. Barnewall was killed. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, an enemy of Howth, had him arrested immediately, though he was never brought to trial.

On 25 August 1628, Jones was created Baron Jones of Navan and 1st Viscount Ranelagh by King Charles I. He was made Lord President of Connaught on 11 September 1630 to serve alongside Charles Wilmot, 1st Viscount Wilmot.

Jones was killed in battle against Confederate forces under the leadership of Owen Roe O’Neill in 1643.

An Uncle, Colonel Michael Jones, was the military Governor of Dublin at the time and supported Cromwell’s landing at Ringsend, after the Battle of Rathmines. Troops assembled at Durhamstown to fight on Cromwell’s side. When they marched on Drogheda they laid the place waste & murdered all before them. They brought the severed heads of the Royalist Commanders to Dublin. The Jones’ generally seem to have been a bloodthirsty lot; & were known to be unrelenting in their enforcement of the new Credo. Michael Jones even had his own nephew executed. Roger Jones’ son, Arthur was also embroiled in huge controversy when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was supposed to have diverted all the taxes to pay for the King’s Mistresses!

[From 1750] From this time onwards we think the Thompsons lived here. One of the Thompsons was said to have died from septicaemia as a result of an apoplectic rage caused by his Irish labourers refusing to knock down the Church of Durhamstown. He is alleged to have grabbed the shovel & attempted the work himself ; only for the shovel to bounce back & bury itself in his leg, or in some recordings it hacked off his leg; which subsequently became septic & “he died miserably from his wounds” But the stones & spire were taken to build Ardbraccan Church.

In 1840 “One of the Thompsons married a Roberts from Oatlands just at the back of Durhamstown, & they lived here up until 1910. A couple of years ago Janice Roberts, from America, called to the House but we were out!! Luckily Ella, a neighbour realised the importance of it & arranged for her & her husband to call back. We had a fascinating afternoon going through old photographs & records & tramping quietly round the nearby graveyards with them, filling in the blanks. She promised us a photograph of an oil painting of the Castle intact. Her grandfather lived in Durhamstown & later he sold it, taking some of the furniture & artefacts to his house in Dalkey, called Hendre.

In 1996 Sue (Sweetman) & Dave Prickett buy Durhamstown Castle. “And we have been working on it ever since! We have re-roofed the entire Castle & the majority of the Buildings in the Yard. It was in a ruinous state when we bought it.

3. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

Contact: Emily Naper
Tel: 049-8541356
(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

www.loughcrew.com

4. Mill House, Slane:

https://www.themillhouse.ie

The Mill House, Slane, March 2022.

The website tells us:

Built in 1766, The Millhouse and The Old Mill Slane, the weir and the millrace were once considered the largest and finest complex of its kind in Ireland. Originally a corn mill powered by two large water wheels, the harvest was hoisted into the upper floor granaries before being dried, sifted and ground.

Over time, the Old Mill became a specialised manufacturer of textiles turning raw cotton into luxury bed linen. Times have changed but this past remains part of our history, acknowledged and conserved.

​In 2006, The Millhouse was creatively rejuvenated, transformed into a hotel and wedding venue of unique character – a nod to the early 1900’s when it briefly served as a hotel-stop for passengers on pleasure steamer boats.”

5. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

https://www.ross-castle.com

See my County Cavan entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/03/county-cavan-historic-houses-to-see-and-stay/

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13402608/castlecor-house-castlecore-longford

[2] p. 66. 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.

[3] www.irishhistorichouses.com/2020/12/10/kilshannig-house-rathcormac-county-cork/

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13401508/moorhill-house-castlenugent-longford

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13402709/newcastle-house-newcastle-newcastle-demesne-longford

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13007038/viewmount-house-knockahaw-longford

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13828001/collon-house-drogheda-street-ardee-street-collon-collon-louth

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

[9] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13900756/ballymascanlon-house-ballymascanlan-ballymascanlon-louth

[10] p. 117, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[11] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13826003/bellingham-castle-castlebellingham-castlebellingham-castlebellingham-louth

[12] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Hamwood

[13] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14403107/bellinter-house-ballinter-meath

[14] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Killyon%20Manor%20

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