Fee: adult €15, child/OAP/student €5, family of 4, €25 with guide
The website tells us:
“Ballaghmore Castle was built in 1480 by the Gaelic Chieftain MacGiollaphadraig (now called Fitzpatrick), meaning son of the servant of Patrick. Lords of Upper Ossory. They defended North Munster, strategically placed as they were on the old Irish Road. A Sheela-na-Gig carved in stone is on the front facing wall, a pagan fertility symbol to ward off evil.
Ballaghmore was partially destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1647. It was restored in 1836 by a Mr. Ely who found a hoard of gold on the land. Ely was shot by an angry tenant and never lived in the castle. The castle was then used as a granary and afterwards fell into disuse, until the present owner Gráinne Ní Cormac, bought it in 1990 and restored it. Now furnished.
Gráinne (Grace) will delight you with stories of the history of the MacGiollaphadraigs (changed to Fitzpatrick by order of Henry 8th of England) which goes back to 500 B.C.“
2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois– open to public
The gardens at Ballintubbert have been described as ‘An enchanting work of art – intimate and extraordinarily peaceful”.
The historic gardens at Ballintubbert have been expanded with an Arts & Crafts influence to include an impressive variety of over 40 ‘garden rooms’ and pedimented yew cloisters within 14 acres.
Of particular note is the Sir Edwin Lutyens design water garden complimented by Gertrude Jekyll style planting schemes.
There are wild flower meadows and woodlands influenced by William Robinson’s approach to ‘wild gardening’ in contrast to the formal lime walks that flank a hundred meter canal in the more classical gardening tradition.
The gardens are open to view every Thursday from 10am to 5pm (April to September)
Very occasionally the gardens may be closed with a private event – please check our Facebook page for details
Admission €5 (children under 8 free) Guided tours available by appointment
Allow 2 hours and please feel welcome all day. Relax & savour what lies ahead – this is a rich experience of the senses
The website tells us that the gardens were started 300 years ago.
“After the Ashbrook Family left, the garden fell into a period of neglect until the Castle was opened as a hotel and restaurant in 2000 by the Stokes family. The gardens are a work in progress, years of renovations and restoration with the end nowhere in sight. In its present form Castle Durrow’s garden is a mature, charming and very beautiful garden. With 50 acres of lush lawns, colourful borders, green parkland, wild forest, meandering river and plentiful orchards. With each season, the gardens change and grow, giving each visit a unique feel.
Masses of bulbs in springtime, going up the tree lined avenue and in the walled garden.
A Haven for Connoisseurs and Amateurs, our Gardens are, like the Hotel they surround, divided into Rooms each with their own Identity, Feel and Character. At the Back of the House, Follow Your Nose and Walk up the Steps into our Courtyard room, filled with hundreds of fragrant David Austin Roses. From Here Step into the Walled Garden, where Some of the areas are Decorated Picturesque ,like the Orchard, Filled with Old Fruit Trees and Inhabited by Our Duck Family and the Chickens. Others areas are very grand, like our Sunken Garden with the canal and its Ornamental Pots and Statues.
Via the Main Corridor with its Majestic Blue and Pink Hued Borders, you step into the Foodie Room, our Kitchen Garden, it’s Produce handpicked daily by our Award Winning Head Chef, Graham Gallagher. Follow the meandering path by the recently Restored Ha-Ha flanked by spring, summer and autumn bulbs, towards the Victorian Grotto. The pleasure garden is where historically the gardeners would have planted the specimen trees. We have started to plant oak here again after many years.“
The website tells us: “Steeped in Irish history, the site of Ballyfin has been settled from ancient times and was ancestral home in succession to the O’Mores, the Crosbys, the Poles, the Wellesley-Poles (the family of the Duke of Wellington) and later the Cootes.”
The website continues:
“The Coote family was descended from Sir Charles Coote, an Elizabethan adventurer who came to Ireland in 1601. The Coote coat-of-arms is prominently displayed above the entrance to Ballyfin.
The house itself was built in the 1820s for another Sir Charles Coote to designs by the great Irish architects Sir Richard and William Morrison. The Cootes enjoyed the house for exactly one hundred years employing a large team of servants to preserve the life of refined leisure that is documented in Edwardian photographs showing tea on the terrace or skating in the walled garden. As the political situation changed with the dawning of the Irish Independence, the Cootes sold the estate to the Patrician Brothers who, for much of the twentieth century, ran a much-loved school at Ballyfin. After many years of restoration Ballyfin reopened its doors in May 2011.
The restoration project took nine years – significantly longer than it took to build the house in the first place. Every single aspect of the house from the roof down required remedial attention. Skilled craftsmen worked on the elaborate inlaid floors, repaired the gilding and the stucco work or treated the stone work of the house which was disintegrating. After this emergency work, a process of redecoration could begin with carefully selected paint finishes, papers and textiles bringing the interiors back to life. The house has been furnished with a collection of Irish art and antiques from around the world, fine Irish mahogany, French chandeliers and mirrors by Thomas Chippendale. The result was spectacular, and one of Ireland’s most endangered great houses emerged ready for the current century, a place of grandeur, yet warmth, providing the kind of welcome envisaged when the house was first built.”
Ballyfin was built between 1821 and 1826 by Sir Charles Coote, 9th Baronet of Castle Cuffe, Queens County, or County Laois (1794-1864). He was the son of Chidley Coote of Ash Hill, County Limerick, where Stephen and I stayed during Heritage Week in 2022 – another Section 482 property. The 8th Baronet Coote of Castle Cuffe, Charles Henry Coote, who was also the 7th Earl of Mountrath, had no legitimate children. The 8th and 9th Baronet Cootes seem to be rather distantly related.
Coote’s house replaced a long, plain house of 1778 which had been the seat of William Wellesley-Pole (1763-1835), afterwards 1st Baron Maryborough and 3rd Earl of Mornington, a brother of the Duke of Wellington. They had lived in Dangan Castle in County Westmeath. Coote, the Premier Baronet of Ireland, bought the estate from Wellesley-Pole ca 1812. William Wellesley-Pole was born William Wellesley and added the name Pole to his surname when he inherited from his cousin, William Pole (1713-1801), who owned Ballyfin. William Pole married Sarah Moore, daughter of Edward, 5th Earl of Drogheda. A bedroom in the hotel is named after Sarah. She dedicated much attention to the gardens at Ballyfin. She and William had no children, and so William Wellesley (Pole) inherited Ballyfin.
William Pole’s sister Sarah married Dudley Cosby (1662-1729) of Stradbally Hall also in County Laois.
William Wellesley-Pole’s father was Garret Wesley (1735-1781) who was created 1st Earl of Mornington. His father was Richard Wesley (c. 1758) who was born Richard Colley, who in 1728 inherited the estates of Dangan and Mornington, County Meath, on the death of his cousin, Garret Wesley. So there are many name changes in the family! Richard Colley’s sister Anne married William Pole (1680-abt. 1732) and they were the parents of William Pole who owned Ballyfin and who left it to his cousin William Wellesley-Pole.
Charles Coote 9th Baronet married Caroline Whaley, granddaughter of “Burn Chapel” Whaley (Richard Chapel Whaley) whom we came across when we visited the Museum of Literature of Ireland in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin.
Mark Bence-Jones tells us that Charles Coote seems to have (p. 21) “…employed an architect named Dominick Madden, who produced a design for a two storey house with a long library at one side running from front to back, and extending into a curved bow in the centre of the side elevation; a room very similar to the library at Emo Court, a few miles away.
When this end of the house – which also contained a top-lit rotunda, another feature doubtless inspired by Emo – had been built, Coote switched from Madden to Richard Morrison, who, assisted by his son William Vitruvius Morrison, completed the house according to a modified plan, but incorporating Madden’s library wing which forms the side elevation of Morrison’s house, just has it would have done of Madden’s; it is of one bay on either side of the central curved bow, which is fronted by a colonnade of giant Ionic columns.” 
Bence-Jones continues: “The side elevation is now prolonged by a gracefully curving glass and iron conservatory of ca 1850. The principal front is of thirteen bays with a giant pedimented Ionic portico, the two end bays on either side being stepped back.
The interior, almost entirely by the Morrisons, is of great magnificence and beautifully finished, with exciting spatial effects and a wealth of rich plasterwork, scagiola columns in Siena porphyry, green and black; and inlaid parquetry floors; originally the rooms contained a fine collection of pictures and sculpture and furniture said to have been made for George IV as Prince of Wales. A rather restrained entrance hall, with a coffered ceiling and a floor of mosaic brought from Rome, leads into the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end.” 
The upstairs top-lit saloon reminds me of that at Stradbally Hall. The first son of Charles Coote and Caroline Whaley died unmarried, the second son predeceased the first son, after marrying Margaret Mary Cosby of Stradbally. The third son, Algernon, became 11th Baron Coote and joined the clergy. He died in 1920 and afterwards the house was sold.
Bence-Jones continues: The saloon is flanked by the rotunda, which is surrounded by Ionic columns and has a coffered dome, and the staircase hall, which has pairs of engaged and recessed columns round its upper storey; the balustrade of the stairs and gallery being of brass uprights.“
Bence-Jones continues: “There is a splendid vista through the centre of the house, from the staircase hall to the library, which lies at right angles to this central axis, beyond the rotunda; it is divided by screens of Ionic columns. The drawing room has characteristic Morrison ceiling and gilt Louis XV decoration on the walls dating from 1840s and by a London decorator. Classical entrance gates with piers similar to those at Kilruddery, Co Wicklow and Fota, Co Cork; and a folly castle in the park. Ballyfin was sold by the Coote family 1920s and is now a college run by the Patrician brothers.”
The Ballyfin website tells us:
“At Ballyfin, stone walls enclose 614 acres of parkland, a lake and ancient woods, delightful garden buildings, follies and grottoes. The landscape, laid out in the mid-eighteenth century, is among the finest examples in Ireland of the natural style of gardening inspired by ‘Capability’ Brown.
There are many highlights that will keep garden lovers and outdoor enthusiasts exploring for days. These include the medieval-style tower, built as a folly in the 1860’s, the walled garden with its formal borders and kitchen gardens, the abundant wildlife to be seen on early morning walks and the restored Edwardian rock garden.”
p. 66. “(Flower, Ashbrook, V/PB) An early C18 house of an attractive pinkish stone, with a high-pitched roof and tall stacks’ built 1716-18 by Col William Flower [b. 1685], MP, afterwards 1st Lord Castle Durrow, who employed a builder named Benjamin Crawley or Crowley. Of two storeys – originally with a dormered attic in the roof – and nine bays; the front being divided into three groups of three bays by giant Doric pilasters and entablature with urns; now erected on the front of a C19 enclosed porch. Alterntive triangular and segmental pediments over ground floor windows. Originally the house was flanked by single-storey outbuildings with mullion-and-transom windows; but these have since been replaced by other outbuildings; while the front has been extended by the addition of two projecting bays at one side. The interior was originally panelled, the hall and dining room in oak; but the panelling now survived only in two rooms. Subsequent generations of the family, who from 1751 held the title of Viscount Ashbrook [Henry Flower (1712-1752)], adorned the house with C18 plasterwork and C19 stained glass; as well as building the impressive castellated entrance gate in the square of the little town of Durrow. Castle Durrow was sold by 9th Viscount Ashbrook 1922 and is now a convent school.In recent years, the attic dormers have been removed.”
The 4th Viscount, Henry Flower, married Deborah Susannah Freind. Their son the 5th Viscount, Henry, married Frances Robinson, daughter of John Robinson, who became 1st Baronet Robinson, of Rokeby Hall, Co. Louth, a section 482 property (see my entry). He was born John Freind, and changed his name to Robinson when he inherited Rokeby. The 6th and 7th Viscounts had no male heirs and the 8th Viscount, Colonel Robert Thomas Flower, was the son of the 5th Viscount. It was his son, the 9th Viscount, who sold Castle Durrow.
The website tells us:
“Colonel William Flower commenced with the construction of the Manor in 1712. The Flower family assumed residence of Castle Durrow in 1716 and continued to expand and improve their estate on various occasions during their 214 year reign. Past research indicates that the Ashbrook family were generally regarded as benevolent landlords and of course the largest employer of Durrow Village.
In 1922 the banks finally foreclosed and the Flower family were forced to relocate to Britain. The castle was sold to Mr Maher of Freshford, County Kilkenny who was primarily interested in the rich timber reserves of the Estate and sold of most of the beautiful old oak trees to Britain, by 1928 the old hard wood forests of Durrow were scarce.
The Land Commission divided up the arable portions of the property and the Forestry department took over many of the woods for further plantation. During this time the great manor house remained entirely empty. The Bank of Ireland acquired the town and consequently for the next 40 years house property in Durrow was purchased from that bank.
In 1929 with the Bishop’s approval the Parish of Durrow acquired the Estate for the purchase price of £1800 and Castle Durrow was transformed into a school, St. Fintan’s College and Convent. The establishing of a school at Castle Durrow was testimony to the fact that beautiful buildings of the past could be used in the modern world. The Presentation order ran the castle as a closed convent before they opened up the castle as a primary and secondary school which stayed open until 1987.
In the 90’s, Peter and Shelly Stokes purchased Castle Durrow and began the castle’s renovations. The works took over 3 years to complete. The renovations were a bigger job than originally was thought; the roof had to be completely replaced, new wiring and plumbing was put in through the whole castle. When the roof was renewed the original black oak beams were exposed and they are now a feature in the oriental rooms. Irish oak floors with underfloor heating were put in. New wooden sash windows were made for the castle to replace the old rotten ones. The stained glass windows, fire places and magnificent plastered ceilings were all restored. Furniture for the entire house was handpicked from Irish and European auction houses and many family heirlooms and antiques can be found dotted around the grounds. The Stokes family manage the daily running of the castle and they are an intricate part of the charming homely feel.“
4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois
“Coolanowle Country House is a multi award winning County House B&B offering an inviting and welcoming stay for all its guests. It also offers two tastefully restored self catering holiday cottages as well as a cosy log house self catering chalet. In total it can accommodate up to 38 guests.
Coolanowle is the perfect venue for small parties & events. Set on 3 acres of natural woodland with historic flax ponds, it’s the perfect place to experience country living. Famous for organic traditional food and personal attention to detail, a stay here at Coolanowle will rejuvinate, regenerate and revive!“
The website tells us: “Nestled in 18 acres of native woodland, just over an hour from Dublin, Roundwood House is a B&B and restaurant with six bedrooms in the Main House, four in the older restored Yellow House, two self-catering cottages, a wonderful library, a dog that gives walking tours, two little girls, some hens and ducks to greet you on arrival and a rooster named Brewster.”
The website tells us a little of the history of the house: “Built in 1731 for a prosperous Quaker family of cloth makers by the name of Sharp, it retains much of its charm and feel from its early days.
Most of its original features remain intact including chimney pieces of Black Kilkenny marble, carved timber architraves, sash windows and Rococo plasterwork.…The 1970s were a particularly colourful time in Roundwood’s history. Then, under the ownership of the Irish Georgian Society, Roundwood became a party house for a young, upper-class, bohemian set…Some individuals stand out during the 1970s in Roundwood, including Brian Molloy, who abandoned his law degree in favour of working on restoring houses with the Irish Georgian Society. Molloy brought the derelict Roundwood back to life and guests remember his hospitality, with candlelight, bouquets of wild flowers and “music floating out from somewhere”.…
Hannah’s parents, Frank and Rosemary Kennan, bought Roundwood in 1983, after it had been rescued by the Irish Georgian Society from the fate of demolition. A decade of restoration by the Society followed, after which Hannah’s parents opened their home to guests and lovingly ran it for 25 years.
Just over a decade ago, Hannah & Paddy took the reins. Paddy Flynn, a musician from Canada, met Hannah in Galway where she was studying Classical Civilization. They decided that a life as live-in hosts in a Georgin Country House was an appealing prospect and so left their city life behind to do just that. They and their two girls, Amélie and Lucie, look forward to welcoming you into their beautiful home.“
An added feature of Roundwood is a special library:
Frank’s Library is situated in the old Coach House on the grounds of Roundwood House. It is an English language library with approximately two thousand volumes.
The library is intended to facilitate a general understanding of the development of civilisation & to celebrate those individuals who successfully climbed onto the shoulders of millions to give us something new & beautiful; a poem, a philosophy, a scientific theory, a painting, a symphony, a new kind of politics or technology. The intention is to do this within the overall picture of our history from the beginning, with our darkest periods included.
Spread over two levels, with ample desks and armchairs in cosy corners, the library is couched in exposed brick, with beautiful brass lighting fixtures, a wrought-iron gallery and spiral staircase. Its book cases are packed wall to wall with everything from Fisk’s tome on the Middle East to an impressive fine art and limited edition facsimile copy of the Book of Kells.
The Library is open to guests staying in the house and the self-catering cottages. For anyone not booked to stay, but interested in visiting the library , please contact us in advance.“
Whole House Rental County Laois:
1. Ballintubbert House, County Laois – whole house and weddings
Ballintubbert is a five-bay two-storey over basement rectory, c. 1835. It was previously owned by actor John Hurt, and poet Cecil Day-Lewis.
The Manor House has five double bedrooms and the Garden Wing has four additional double bedrooms. A beautiful country style kitchen, two stunning living rooms and a dining room that sits twenty. The house has six bathrooms.
2. Inch House, County Laois – see above
3. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois– whole house accommodation
“We are delighted that you have found our beautifully restored 18th Century Georgian House, with a private courtyard and wooded garden, located on the Main Street of the picturesque Heritage Town of Abbeyleix.
Preston House is the perfect space to unite for family gatherings or private parties. Boasting the home from home comforts of a fully equipped country kitchen, a drawing room, a music parlour & two dining rooms, our six luxurious suites are individually decorated with a quirky mix of chic and antique furnishings, providing ample living space to comfortably accommodate 14 people.
Our country manor kitchen, with an Aga to boot, was originally designed to cater for up to 80 people but it’s perfect for large or small gatherings. The individual room mixes are the perfect setting for family dining, relaxing with friends or celebrations. The house as a whole can be transformed into an event or workshop space, a cultural gathering or wellness space.
With a beautiful courtyard for outdoor dining, historic curtledge and a wonderful tree lined garden Preston House is the perfect place for a family break, a celebration or a unique wedding setting.
The Lords Walk is just a short walk from Preston House, every day, there is an adventure waiting in Laois. With its mountains, canals, forest trails, rivers & lakes, Laois is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, Preston House and Abbeyleix is the perfect starting point to explore!
Each of the suites in Preston House has its own unique & fascinating story to tell. The Pembroke Suite was named after Pembroke Terrace, a group of four impressively designed houses built as part of a dowry by the 11th Earl of Pembroke & Montgomery when his daughter Emma married Thomas De Vesci the 3rd. At the turn of the century a constabulary barracks, an inspector’s house and the post office occupied Pembroke Terrace. The Preston Suite was named after a previous incarnation of this fine premises which was a post-primary school. Mr A. E. M. Charleton of Galway Grammar School was appointed Head Master in 1895. Two months later the school opened to both boarders and day pupils. It served as an excellent educational establishment until it closed in September 1966. The Heritage Suite was named after our local tourism and community centre Heritage house: It was a Boys National School until 1995, it now serves as heritage centre with a museum, meeting rooms and playground. It’s open to the public for guided tours, cultural events and exhibitions. Exhibits include ancient artifacts and recent traditional craft from Laois as well as artifacts from the Titanic Carpet factory here in Abbeyleix.
The Sexton Suite was named after Sexton House. On the retirement of the last sexton (an officer of a church), the house became somewhat derelict but as it forms a significant part of the town’s heritage its restoration was widely welcomed and it is now a notable stop on the Heritage Trails around the town. The Bramley Suite is named after Bramley’s premises on lower Main St dates back to the early 19th century. The first business was a saddlery and post office. Early in the 20th Century, the first automobile garage in Abbeyleix was opened at the rear of Bramley’s premises. The property beside Bramley’s was formerly the site of the Abbeyleix Carpet Factory, which closed in 1914. The De Vesci Suite is named after Abbeyleix House, home of the De Vesci family for over 300 years. It is a magnificent building built beside the Nore and situated in the rolling pastureland of the estate. It is now in private ownership. The estate is rich in history with the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey and the tomb of Malachy, King of Laois on its grounds.“
 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.
Open dates in 2023: May 1-31, Aug 12-20, Sept 1-15, Dec 1-20, 2pm-6pm Fee: Free
2. Burtown House and Garden, Athy, Co. Kildare R14 AE67– section 482
www.burtownhouse.ie Open dates in 2023: May 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, August 9-20, Sept 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27-30, Oct 4-7, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €15, OAP/student/child €8
Burtown House and Gardens, Athy, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2022, Courtesy Failte Ireland
The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:
“Ballytore, in County Kildare, was a stronghold of the Irish Quakers and the centre of a sizeable Quaker community. One of their members, Robert Power, built Burtown House as the hub of a two thousand acre farming enterprise in the 1720s. His Georgian villa, shown on early maps as “Power’s Grove,” was only one room deep so wings were added later in the century. These were subsequently removed, though their faint outlines can still be identified and Burtown was further extended in the early nineteenth century when a full height bow was added on the garden front.
The new extension provided a bow ended room on the garden front, a large bedroom above and a grand staircase, lit by a tall round-headed window. Pretty plasterwork in the manner of James Wyatt was also introduced at the time, most notably in an arched alcove in the bow-ended room, which is likely to have been the original dining room. The alcove is filled with a shallow fan, and delightfully cursive sprays of vine leaves, and is flanked by a pair of classical vases on pilasters of foliage with naive Corinthian capitals.
Burtown has never been sold in all its three hundred years. The house passed from the Power family to the Houghtons and thence to the Wakefields, who gave it a new roof with widely projecting eaves in the early nineteenth century. They also lengthened the sash windows, installed a new front door with a fanlight in a deep recess, and carried out a number of other alterations.
When Mr. Wakefield was killed playing cricket Burtown passed to his sister, who had married a fellow Quaker from County Tipperary, William Fennell. Their son, William James was a keen horseman but “was asked to leave the Quaker congregation because of his fondness for driving a carriage with two uniformed flunkeys on the back”.
Today Burtown is in the midst of two hundred acres of parkland, including ten acres of lush flower, vegetable and woodland gardens with many fine walks. The house has now been home to five generations of the Fennell family, and to the acclaimed botanical artist and illustrator, Wendy Walsh. Coincidentally, the leading Irish botanical artist of the early twentieth century, Lydia Shackleton, also came from the same small Quaker community.” 
“Donadea Forest Park includes Donadea Castle and estate, the former home of the Aylmer family up until 1935. There are many historical features including the remains of the castle and walled gardens, St. Peter’s church, an ice house and boat house. The Lime tree avenue planted in the 19th century formed the original entrance to the estate. Another feature of the park is the 9/11 Memorial, a scaled replica of the twin towers carved in limestone. The small lake is brimming with ducks, waterhens and has a beautiful display of water lilies in the summer. There is a café open throughout the year.“
In 1581 Gerald Aylmer, (1548-1634), Knight, of Donadea, son of George Aylmer, of Cloncurry, and grandson of Richard Aylmer, of Lyons, built a new tower in Donadea, not fully completed until 1624 and it is now the oldest part of the Castle. 
In 1626, he repaired the medieval Church in Donadea and built a new extension in which he established his family burial plot. In the extension he also constructed an Altar Tomb monument as a burial memorial for his family. Gerald was titled by the Crown and became the first Baronet of Donadea.
The Aylmers were connected with the various conflicts and rebellions over the next two centuries. During the wars of the 1640s, Sir Andrew, 2nd Baronet (c. 1610-c. 1671), supported the rebels and was imprisoned at the beginning of the war.
Although he was a brother-in-law of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, there were no favours granted to him. The Aylmers rebuilt the castle after it was burned by James Butler’s troops.
In 1689, after the battle of the Boyne, Lady Helen Aylmer, widow of the 3rd Baronet, (born Plunkett, daughter of Luke Plunkett 3rd Earl of Fingall) was in charge of the Castle. She was outlawed due to her support for James II, but she managed to hold on to the Castle and lands under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick.
In 1736, Sir Gerald, 5th Baronet, died leaving an only son FitzGerald who became the 6th Baronet.
He was only one year old when his father died and was subsequently raised by his mother (Ellice or Ellen, daughter of Gerald Aylmer, 2nd Baronet of Balrath, County Meath) and her relatives who were members of the established church. FitzGerald subsequently conformed to the established religion. In 1773, he built a new house in front of the Castle and incorporated the Tower in his new residence.
Gerald, 8th Baronet, held the lands of Donadea between 1816 and 1878 and he is accredited with most of the construction work that is visible in Donadea demesne today. He began his building program in the 1820s by re-routing the roads away from the Castle and the construction of a high wall enclosing the demesne. Gate lodges were then built at all the entrances.
He also built a new grand entrance known as the Lime Avenue.
In 1827 he completely remodelled the front of the Castle which gave it an attractive bow shaped appearance. It has been suggested that he employed the renowned architect Richard Morrison to design this new structure.
The older cabin-type dwellings close to the castle were demolished and new estate houses built at the Range. To the west of the Castle he built an eight acre area of gardens and paddocks, surrounded and sub-divided by walls. In the Castle yard he built dwellings for staff and elaborative farm buildings. He also constructed the artificial lake and the Ice House. Large areas of the demesne were planted and, by the time of his death, Donadea demesne was listed as one of the finest parkland settings in the county.
Outside the demesne he was involved in numerous construction projects including the famous ‘Aylmer Folly’, viz. the Tower on the summit of the hill of Allen. (see ) Sir Gerald’s grandson Justin, 10th Baronet, died unmarried in 1885. His sister Caroline inherited the castle and much of the demesne, while the baronetcy passed to a cousin. Caroline Maria Aylmer, who was the daughter of Sir Gerald George Aylmer, 9th Baronet, was the last Aylmer to live at Donadea. She died in 1935, leaving the estate to the Church of Ireland who, in turn, passed it bequeathed to the Irish state.
The castle remained unoccupied and its roof was removed in the late 1950s.
For more on the Aylmer family, see The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare by Turtle Bunbury & Art Kavanagh (published by Irish Family Names, 2004).
Open dates in 2023: Jan 3-16, July 29-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 4-9, Dec 4-9, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult €5, student/child/OAP €3, (Irish Georgian Society members free)
7. Griesemount House, Ballitore, Co KildareR14 WF64– section 482
www.griesemounthouse.ie Open dates in 2023: Feb 27-28, Mar 1-3, 6-10, April 17-21, 24-28, May 2-12, June 12-23, July 10- 21, Aug 12-20, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/student €5, child €3
The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:
“In 1685, the village of Ballitore on the river Griese in the southern corner of County Kildare became the first planned Quaker village in England and Ireland. The Shackleton family from Yorkshire settled here some decades later and besides establishing wool and corn mills, founded the famous village school in 1726. Thanks to an entry by Mary (née Shackleton) Leadbetter in her ‘Annals of Ballitore’, we know that the first stone of Griesemount House (also known as Ballitore Hill House) was laid on Midsummer Day in 1817. While the three-bay side elevation is symmetrical, the two-bay front façade with the front door under the left window is quite modest, as was often the case with Quaker houses. It was built by George Shackleton, who had grown up in Griesebank House beside the now-ruinous Ballitore Mills on the river just below. He married Hannah Fisher and they raised 13 children in the new house, including the noted botanical artist Lydia Shackleton, the first artist-in-residence at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin. One of her first recorded sketches is of the house. The family lived here until the early 20th century; the house then changed hands several times. It was briefly owned and restored by the mother of mezzosoprano Frederica von Stade, and has recently come into new ownership.” 
Open during Heritage Week. The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:
“The forebears of the Greenes of Millbrook House in the far south of County Kildare lived at Kilmanaghan Castle and Moorestown Castle [now a ruin] in County Tipperary. A great grandson of the family patriarch Captain Godfrey Greene moved up to settle near Carlow. William Nassau Greene (1714-1781) was a businessman and magistrate, and built a residence known as Kilkea Lodge (c. 1740) adjacent to the ancient Fitzgerald seat at Kilkea Castle, where his descendants are still resident. A younger son, John (1751-1819), who became High Sheriff of Kildare and Captain of the Castledermot Yeomanry, built a neighbouring house at Millbrook with the help of his father. It was completed in 1776 with its attendant mill and millrace off the River Griese, which had replaced an earlier mill in the nearby Kilkea Castle demesne. The house passed through generations of the family until finally the mill ceased operating under Thomas Greene (1843-1900), a poet and author who was made High Sheriff of Kildare in 1895. The house was left by inheritance to one of the cousins from Kilkea Lodge, father of the present owner. Throughout WWII, he had served as a frontline doctor in the 4th Indian Division in North Africa, Italy and Greece, and returned with his wife in 1950 to an utterly neglected house. Millbrook is still in the process of being restored to its former state.” 
Open dates in 2023: Jan 2-6, 9-13.16-20, 23-27, May 1-31, Aug 12-20, 8.30am-12.30pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3
16. Steam Museum Lodge Park Heritage Centre, Lodge Park, Straffan, Co. Kildare– section 482
www.steam-museum.com Open dates in 2023: Apr 2, 9-10, 16, 23, 30, 12 noon-4pm, May 1, 6-7, 14, 20-21, 27-28, June 2-5, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30, July 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, Aug 4-7, 11-20, 25-27, Sept 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30, 2pm-6pm, Oct 1, 8, 15, 22, 29-30, 12 noon- 4pm Fee: adult €7.50, steam up €10, OAP/child €5, engineering students free, concession garden only €5, family €20, 2 adults and 2 children
The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us about Lodge Park:
“Lodge Park, overlooking a fine stretch of the River Liffey, was built by Hugh Henry who had married his cousin, Lady Anne Leeson from Russborough [daughter of Joseph Leeson 1st Earl of Milltown]. Completed in about 1776, the centre block forms the core of an unusual composition with curved quadrants leading to a pair of two-storey wings, both attached to two further pavilions by curtain walls to form a unique elongated ensemble of five interconnected buildings, “perhaps the most extreme example of the Irish Palladian style.”
Henry’s father was the merchant banker Hugh Henry, who had purchased the entire Straffan estate with 7,000 acres. Lodge Park was long thought to be the last building by Nathaniel Clements, who died in 1777, but has now been attributed to John Ensor. The hipped roof is surrounded by a granite-topped parapet, and the walls are finished in rough cast, with ashlar block quoins and granite window surrounds with detailing. It is Ireland’s best exampe of concatenation, having curtain walls attached to the main house, leading to two pavilions, attached by two gateways to two further buildings. Hugh’s son Arthur built the Victorian walled garden, now beautifully restored and open to the public, as well as the fine gate lodge. The house was bought by the Guinness family in 1948.
The walled garden has been beautifully restored while a disused Victorian church has been re-erected in the grounds to house a magnificent Steam Museum with early inventor’s models, scientific engineering models and historic works of mechanical art. The Power Hall displays six huge stationary steam engines, which are run on special occasions.” https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Lodge%20Park
“Balyna House lies to the south of Moyvalley Bridge over the Grand Canal, about half way between Enfield and Kinnegad on the old Dublin — Galway road. The house lies in the centre of the estates 500 acres. Balyna Estate was granted in 1574 by Queen Elizabeth I to the O’Moore family because they had lost their land in Laois and were reinstated in Balyna.
Major Ambrose O’Ferrall married Letitia More in 1796. Their eldest son Richard More O’Ferrall was born in 1797. [ I don’t think this is correct. I believe that Letitia More married Richard O’Ferrall (1729-1790) and that their son was Ambrose More O’Ferrall who married Ann Baggot daughter of John Baggot of Castle Baggot, Rathcoole. Richard More O’Ferrall (1797-1880) was their son]. He is reputed for having been responsible for the erection of the Celtic cross which now stands to the rear of the house. It is said that this Cross, along with another was transported from Europe, the two being encased in wooden crates and towed behind the ship on a barge. Legend has it that one was lost at sea, but its twin survives to this day.
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 30. [More O’Ferrall] “The ancestral home of the O’More family, the land having been granted to them by Eliz I as a small compensation for their forfeited territories in Laois… A new house was built 1815, which was burnt 1878; this was replaced by the present house, built 1880s. It is slightly Italianate, with a Mansard roof carried on a bracket cornice; of 2 storeys with a dormered attic. Entrance front with two 3 sided bows and a single-storey Ionic portico, 5 by garden front with pediment, the windows on either side being larger than those in the centre. Imposing staircase with handrail of decorative ironwork; ceiling of staircase hall has modillion cornice. Chapel in garden. Sold 1960s, subsequently owned by Bewleys Oriental Cafe Ltd” 
The website continues: “The first real record of any house dates from 1815 when Ambrose built a large mansion. That Georgian house was burned down and replaced in the 1880’s by the present Italianate mansion.
The estate was a refuge for bishops and priests for centuries and Dr. Forstall, Bishop of Kildare, ordained priests here in the year 1678 — 1680. For this loyalty, the family was granted Papal permission to build a private Chapel on the estate (located to the rear of the house) and up to approximately 1914 Sunday Mass was offered. It was only used intermittently after that, with the last occasion being in the summer of 1959.
The estate remained in the More O’Ferrall family until May 1960 when it was sold to the Bewley family (of Café fame). The wonderful milk and cream in the Cafes came from the pedigree Jersey herd at Balyna. In 1984 the estate was sold to Justin Keating; it was sold again in 1990-1991 to George Grant. Moyvalley was developed into a Hotel & Golf Resort in 2007.
Balyna House consists of 10 luxurious ensuite bedrooms, 3 reception rooms to cater for up to 100 guests, Balyna Bar and Cellar Bar. The house is available exclusively for private events and weddings.
In 2014 the resort was purchased by the late Oliver Brady (well-known horse trainer from Co. Monaghan) with his business partner a well know entrepreneur Rita Shah owner of Shabra Recycling Plastic’s Group, Thai business woman Jane Tripipatkul and her son Mark McCarthy who are based in London.
It is likely that several Irish and European military campaigns were discussed and argued over at Balyna, as apart from the fierce-some O’More’s and the well documented Irish battles in which they took part, several later generations saw service in European armies. All three sons of Richard and Letitia O’Ferrall saw service abroad. The eldest, Ambrose, and his youngest brother, Charles, rose to the rank of Major in the Royal Sardinian Army, while the middle brother, James attained the rank of Major General in the Austrian Hohenzollern Army.“
Incidentally, there was a Bagot family of “Castle Baggot” in Rathcoole, and neither son had children so all the Bagot property, which included land around Smithfield in Dublin and extensive property in County Carlow, passed to the daughter, Ann, who married the above-mentioned Ambrose More O’Ferrall.
“As a digression, it is worth noting that Rory O’ More’s eldest daughter, Anne, married Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan and famous military leader. His father in law was the man behind the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
King James had adopted the policy of remodelling the Irish army so as to turn it from a Protestant-led force to a Roman Catholic led one, and Sarsfield, whose family were Roman Catholics, was selected to assist in this reorganisation. Colonel Sarsfield went to Ireland with Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell , who was appointed commander-in-chief by the king.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 31. “A tower-house with a long plain 2 storey wing attached. In 1814, the residence of Jos Atkinson, in 1837, of Capt Robinson.”
The website gives a timeline:
“1288: Nicholas Barby built the original Castle towards the end of the 13th Century on the land which was originally owned by the Great Norman family the Fitzgerald’s.
1310: The Castle was built as a fortress to protect the village and people of Barberstown from the attack of the rebellious Ui Faolain tribesmen who tried to burn the town (among others) in 1310. It has traditionally found itself in the middle of political struggle and local wars which generally resulted in change of ownership.
Retaining Ownership: Some of its previous owners have gone to extreme lengths to retain ownership. Just how far some went is illustrated by the story of the body that is said to be interred in the tower of the Castle Keep (the original part of the Castle). His fate can be explained by reading the lease on the Castle at the time in which was written that the lease would expire when he was buried underground (ie. his death). The ending of a lease normally resulted in an increase in rent so after the man’s death he was buried in the tower above the earth which ensured the family continued to hold the lease to the Castle!
The walls of the Castle Keep walls slope inwards so as to prevent an enemy getting out of range by closing up to the building. Ironically however the rooms on the upper floors of the Castle are larger than those on the ground level as their walls are somewhat thinner.
Penal Times: The neighbouring village of Straffan is named after St. Straffan, one of the early sixth century missionaries. Its close linkages with the local town and people were proven when an underground tunnel from the Church in Straffan to the Castle was found in 1996 during renovations. A ‘Priest’s Hole’ can be also found in the Castle which was originally made to protect the priests of the town during Penal Times.
1630: William Sutton of one of the most important families in the area owned the property. The population of Barberstown at the time was 36!
1689: Lord Kingston [I’m not sure who they mean here – Robert King (d. 1693) was the 2nd Baron of Kingston at the time] had his ownership confiscated by Earl of Tyrconnell after the accession to power of James 11 of England. It was around this time that it fell into the less glamorous hands of the Commissioners of the Revenue who let it out to a Roger Kelly for £102 annual rent in the late 1600s.
1703: It was purchased by Bartholomew Van Homreigh in 1703 for £1,033 the sixth owner in six years. At the time the property was 335 acres. Van Homreigh had been mayor of Dublin in 1697 and his greatest ‘claim to fame’ lies in the fact that he was the father of Vanessa of whom Swift wrote so passionately about. He sold it to the Henrys who were prone to excessive spending at the time….
1830: The Henry’s had no option but to sell it to Mr. Hugh Barton [1766-1854] who completed the last wing of the house in the 1830s which added to the present day unique architectural status of Barberstown. He is also famed for constructing Straffan House known today at the K-Club.
1900: As the property became too expensive to retain as a residence, the Huddlestons who owned Barberstown Castle in the 1900s sold it to Mrs. Norah Devlin who converted it into a hotel in 1971. Barberstown was one of the first great Irish country houses to display its splendour to the outside world when it opened as a hotel in 1971. It has maintained the elegance of design over the centuries by sympathetically blending its Victorian and Elizabethan extensions with the original Castle Keep.
1979: The acclaimed Musician, Singer, Songwriter & Record Producer Mr. Eric Clapton CBE purchased the property in 1979 and lived in the property until 1987. Music sessions took place in the Green Room and original Castle Keep during the time Eric lived here with many famous Rockstars from all over the world coming here to stay.
1987 to Present Day: Upon purchasing Barberstown Castle from Eric Clapton in 1987, this beautiful historic house has since been transformed from a 10-bedroom property with three bathrooms to a 55-bedroom Failte Ireland approved 4 Star Hotel. They are a proud member of Ireland’s Blue Book of properties and Historic Hotels of Europe.
Since 1288 Barberstown has had 37 owners all of whom had the foresight to protect its heritage and character. Look out for the names of all the owners of Barberstown Castle painted on the bedroom doors of the hotel!”
3. Batty Langley Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare€€
One of the entrances to the Castletown demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley (1696-1751) 1741. Batty Langley was an English garden designer who produced a number of engraved “Gothick” designs for garden buildings and seats. He was named “Batty” after his father’s patron, David Batty. He also published a wide range of architectural books.
The website tells us that the name ‘Carton’ comes from the old Irish name ‘Baile an Cairthe’ or Land of the Pillar Stone.
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Carton (1988):
p. 60. “(Talbot de Malahide, B/PB; Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB; Nall-Cain, sub Brocket, P/BP) The lands of Carton always belonged to the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, whose chief castle was nearby, at Maynooth; in C17, however, they were leased to a junior branch of the Talbots of Malahide, who built the original house there.”
The Carton website tells us that the lands of Carton first came into the ownership of the FitzGerald family shortly after Maurice FitzGerald (d. 1176) played an active role in the capture of Dublin by the Normans in 1170 and was rewarded by being appointed Lord of Maynooth, an area covering townlands which include what is now Carton. The website goes on to tell us:
“His son became Baron Offaly in 1205 [Gerald FitzMaurice FitzGerald, d. 1203] and his descendant John FitzGerald [5th Baron Offaly, d. 1316], became Earl of Kildare in 1315. Under the eighth earl, [Gerald FitzGerald (1455-1513)] the FitzGerald family reached pre-eminence as the virtual rulers of Ireland between 1477 and 1513.
However, the eighth earl’s grandson, the eloquently titled Silken Thomas [the 10th Earl of Kildare] was executed in 1537, with his five uncles, for leading an uprising against the English. Although the FitzGeralds subsequently regained their land and titles, they did not regain their position at the English Court until the 18th century when Robert, the 19th Earl of Kildare, became a noted statesman.“
It surprises me that after Silken Thomas’s rebellion that his brother was restored to the title and became the 11th Earl on 23 February 1568/69, restored by Act of Parliament, about thirty years after his brother was executed.
It was William Talbot, Recorder of the city of Dublin, who leased the lands from Gerald FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Kildare (1547-1612). William Talbot was created 1st Baronet Talbot, of Carton, Co. Kildare on 4 February 1622/23. He was MP for Kildare in 1613-1615. He built a house at Carton. His son Richard was created 1st Duke of Tyrconnell in 1689 by King James II, after he had been James’s Groom of the Bedchamber. He fought in the Battle of the Boyne and was loyal to the Stuarts, so was stripped of his honours when William of Orange (William III) came to power.
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “After the attainder of Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnell, James II’s Lord Deputy of Ireland, Carton was forfeited to the crown and sold 1703 to Major-Gen Richard Ingoldsby, Master-General of the Ordnance and a Lord Justice of Ireland; who added a two storey nine bay pedimented front to the old house, with wings joined to the main block by curved sweeps, in the Palladian manner. In 1739 Thomas Ingoldsby sold the reversion of the lease back to 19th Earl of Kildare [Robert FitzGerald (1675-1744)], who decided to make Carton his principal seat and employed Richard Castle to enlarge and improve the house.“
Richard Ingoldsby (c.1664/5–1712) was the son of George, who came to Ireland with the Cromwellian army in 1651 and became a prominent landowner in Limerick. Richard fought in the Williamite army. The Dictionary of Irish Biography tells us that Richard Ingoldsby purchased Carton House and demesne in Co. Kildare for £1,800 in 1703 from the Talbot family. He also owned a town house in Mary St., Dublin. He married Frances, daughter of Col. James Naper of Co. Meath; they had at least one son, Henry Ingoldsby (d. 1731). Henry lived the high life in London and Carton had to be sold to pay his debts in 1738, and he sold it back to Robert Fitzgerald the 19th Earl of Kildare.
Robert FitzGerald the 19th Earl of Kildare married Mary O’Brien, daughter of William, 3rd Earl of Inchiquin.
Bence-Jones continues: “Castle’s rebuilding obliterated all traces of the earlier house, except for a cornice on what is now the entrance front and the unusually thick interior walls. He added a storey, and lengthened the house by adding a projecting bay at either end; he also refaced it. He gave the entrance front a pediment, like its predecessor; but the general effect of the three storey 11 bay front, which has a Venetian window in the middle storey of each of its end bays, is one of massive plainness. As before, the house was joined to flanking office wings; but instead of simple curved sweeps, there were now curved colonnades.”
The Archiseek website tells us:
“In 1739, the 19th Earl of Kildare employed Richard Castle to build the existing house replacing an earlier building. Castle (originally Cassels) was responsible for many of the great Irish houses, including Summerhill, Westport, Powerscourt House and in 1745, Leinster House, which he also built for the FitzGeralds.“
There is a projecting bay on either side of the garden front facade with a Venetian window in the middle storey of either projecting bay. According to Mark Bence-Jones, these were designed by Richard Castle. The flanking wings were joined initially by curved colonnades, later replaced by straight connecting links.
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The work was completed after the death of 19th Earl for his son [James (1722-1773)], 20th Earl, who later became 1st Duke of Leinster and was the husband of the beautiful Emily, Duchess of Leinster [Emily Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond] and the father of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the United Irish Leader.”
They certainly were a rebellious family! It is said that this saved the house from being burnt by Irish rebels in 1920s, as a portrait of Edward Fitzgerald the United Irishman was shown to the would-be arsonists. Emily Lennox’s sister, Louisa, married Thomas Conolly and lived across the parkland in Castletown House. Stella Tillyard writes of the life and times of the sisters, Emily and Louisa and it was made into a mini series for the BBC, entitled “The Aristocrats” which was filmed on site at Carton House. I’d love to read the book and see the movie! She also wrote about Edward FitzGerald.
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “3rd Duke, Lord Edward’s nephew, [Augustus Frederick Fitzgerald (1791-1874)] employed Sir Richard Morrison to enlarge and remodel the house ca 1815, having sold Leinster House in Dublin. Morrison replaced the curved colonnades with straight connecting links containing additional rooms behind colonnades of coupled Doric columns, so as to form a longer enfilade along what was now the garden front; for he moved the entrance to the other front [the north side], which is also of 11 bays with projecting end bays, but has no pediment. The former music room on this side of the house became the hall; it is unassuming for the hall of so important a house, with plain Doric columns at each end. On one side is a staircase hall by Morrison, again very unassuming; indeed, with the exception of the great dining room, Morrison’s interiors at Carton lack his customary neo-Classical opulence.”
Archiseek continues: “Carton remained in the control of the FitzGeralds until the early 1920s when the 7th Duke sold the estate and house to pay off gambling debts of £67,500. In 2000, Carton was redeveloped as a “premier golf resort and hotel”. A hotel was added to the main house, and the estate’s eighteenth-century grounds and landscaping were converted into two golf courses.” 
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “Beyond the staircase, on the ground floor, is the Chinese bedroom, where Queen Victoria slept when she stayed here; it remains as it was when decorated 1759, with Chinese paper and a Chinese Chippendale giltwood overmantel. The other surviving mid-C18 interior is the saloon, originally the dining room, in the garden front, dating from 1739 and one of the most beautiful rooms in Ireland. It rises through two storeys and has a deeply coved ceiling of Baroque plasterwork by the Francini brothers representing “the Courtship of the Gods”; the plasterwork, like the decoration on the walls, being picked out in gilt. At one end of the room is an organ installed 1857, its elaborate Baroque case designed by Lord Gerald Fitzgerald [1821-1886], a son of the 3rd Duke.“
“The door at this end of the saloon leads, by way of an anteroom, to Morrison’s great dining room, which has a screen of Corinthian columns at each end and a barrel-vaulted ceiling covered in interlocking circles of oak leaves and vine leaves.
“The demesne of Carton is a great C18 landscape park, largely created by 1st Duke and Emily Duchess; “Capability” Brown was consulted, but professed himself too busy to come to Ireland. By means of a series of dams, a stream has been widened into a lake and a broad serpentine river; there is a bridge by Thomas Ivory, built 1763, an ornamental dairy of ca 1770 and a shell house. Various improvements were carried out to the gardens toward the end of C19 by Hermione, wife of 5th Duke, who was as famous a beauty in her day as Emily Duchess was in hers; she was also the last Duchess of Leinster to reign at Carton, for her eldest son, 6th Duke, died young and unmarried, and her youngest son, 7th Duke, was unable to live here having, as a young man, signed away his expectations to the “50 Shilling Tailor” Sir Henry Mallaby-Deeley, in return for ready money and an annuity. As a result of this unhappy transaction, Carton had eventually to be sold. It was bought 1949 by 2nd Lord Brocket, and afterwards became the home of his younger son, Hon David Nall-Cain, who opened it to the public. It was sold once again in 1977.”
6. Castletown Gate Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare€ for 3
“The Village at Lyons, County Kildare is often described as a restoration but to be frank it is more a recreation. By the time the late Tony Ryan bought the estate in 1996, the buildings beside the Grand Canal, which had once included a forge, mill and dwelling houses, were in a state of almost total ruin. Therefore the work undertaken here in the years prior to his death in 2007 involved a great deal of architectural salvage, much of it brought from France, although some Irish elements were incorporated such as a mid-19th century conservatory designed by Richard Turner, originally constructed for Ballynegall, County Westmeath. Today the place primarily operates as a wedding venue, providing an alluring stage set for photographs but bearing little resemblance to what originally stood here.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Lyons:
p. 196. “(Alymer/IFR; Lawless, Cloncurry, B/PB1929; Winn, sub St. Oswalds, B/PB) Originally the seat of the Aylmer family. Sold 1796 by Michael Aylmer to Nicholas Lawless,the 1st Lord Cloncurry, son of a wealthy blanket manufacturer, who had a new house built in 1797, to the design of an architect named Grace.
Three storey block with a curved bow on either side of its entrance front, joined to two-storey wings by curved sweeps. About 1801, shortly after his release from the Tower of London, where he had been imprisoned for two years on account of his advanced political views and friendship wiht some of the United Irishmen, the 2nd Lord Cloncurry hired Richard Morrison to undertake improvements and alterations to his father’s house, work continuing till 1805.
During this period, Lord Cloncurry was in Italy, collecting antiques and modern sculpture for the house; he also acquired three antique columns of red Egyptian granite from the Golden House of Nero, afterwards at the Palazzo Farnese, which were used as three of the four columns in a single-storey portico at Lyons, with a triangular pediment surmounted by a free-standing coat-of-arms.The other notable alteration made to the exterior of the house at this time was the substitution of straight colonnades for the curved sweeps linking the main block to the winds, a change similar to that which Morrison made a few years later at Carton. Also the main block and wings were faced with rusticated ashlar up to the height of one storey on the entrnace front. The hall was given a frieze of ox-skulls and tripods based on the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome, doorcases with fluted entablatures and overdoor panels with classical reliefs; a pair of free-standing antique marble Corinthian columns were set against one wall, and vaarous items from Lord Cloncurry’s collection fo sculpture disposed around the other walls. The walls of the dining room and music rom were painted with Irish waterfalls – and other enchanting decoration by Gaspare Gabrielli, an artist brought by Lord Cloncurry from Rome. The bow-ended dining room was also decorated with a wall painting, of Dublin Bay; and was adorned with reliefs of the story of Daedalus.”
Bence-Jones continues: “The seven-bay garden front was left fairly plain, but before it a vast formal garden was laid out, with abundant statuary and urns and an antique column supporting a statue of Venus half way along the broad central walk leading from the house to what is the largest artificial lake in Ireland. Beyond the lake rises the wooded Hill of Lyons.
The Grand Canal passes along one side of the demesne, and there is a handsome Georgian range of buildings beside it which would have been Lord Cloncurry’s private canal station. A daughter of 3rd Lord Cloncurry was Emily Lawless, the poet, a prominent figure in the Irish Revival of the early yars of the present century. Her niece, Hon Kathleen Lawless, bequeathed the Lyons estate to a cousin, Mr G M V Winn, who sold it about 1962 to University College, Dublin, which has erected a handsome pedimented arch from Browne’s Hill, Co Carlow at one of the entrances to the demesne.”
Art Kavanagh’s book on the Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, volume 1, tells us more about the Aylmers of Balrath. During the reign of Henry VI, Richard Aylmer of Lyons was a Keeper of the Peace for both Dublin and Kildare. He was in charge of protecting the settler community from attack by the neighbouring O’Toole and O’Byrne septs. The family rose to become one of the most prominent families in Meath and Kildare and key figures in the Dublin administration. Before the end of the 16th century they had established two independent branches at Donadea in Kildare and Dollardstown in County Meath.
The first Aylmer of real significance, Art Kavanagh tells us, was John Aylmer (c. 1359 – c. 1415) who married Helen Tyrell of Lyons, an heiress, at the end of the 14th century, and so the family acquired Lyons. [p. 1, Kavanagh, published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005]
9. The K Club, Straffan House, County Kildare
The Straffan estate formed part of the original land grant bestowed upon Maurice Fitzgerald by Strongbow for his role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169. In 1679, the property was purchased by Richard Talbot, the Duke of Tyrconnell who commanded the Jacobite army in Ireland during the war between James II and William of Orange. Tyrconnell’s estates were forfeited to the crown in the wake of the Williamite victory. In about 1710, the property was purchased by Hugh Henry, a prosperous merchant banker, who also owned Lodge Park. He married Anne Leeson, a sister of Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown. Straffan passed to their son, Joseph, who travelled in Europe and collected art. In April 1764 he married Lady Catherine Rawdon, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Moira.
Their son John Joseph (1777-1846) married Lady Emily Fitzgerald, the 23-year-old daughter of the 2nd Duke of Leinster. He was an extravagant spender and had to sell Straffan in 1831.
Hugh Barton (1766-1854) acquired Straffan House from the Henry family in 1831 and his descendents remained there until the 1960s. The Barton family were part of the Barton & Guestier winemakers. Hugh soon commissioned Dublin architect, Frederick Darley, to build a new house, based on Madame Dubarry’s great Château at Louveciennes to the west of Paris.  The house passed through many hands subsequently.
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Straffan House (1988):
p. 266. “(Barton/IFR) An imposing C19 house in a style combining Italianate and French chateau. Main block of two storeys with an attic of pedimented dormers in a mansard roof; seven bay entrance front, the centre bay breking forward and having a tripartite window above a single-storey balustraded Corinthian portico. Entablatures on console brackets over ground-floor windows; triangular pediments over windows above and segmental pediment of central window. Decorated band between storeys; balustraded roof parapet; chimneystacks with recessed panels and tooth decoration. The main block prolonged at one side by a lower two storey wing, from which rises a tall and slender campanile tower, with two tiers of open belvederes. Formal garden with elaborate Victorian fountain. Capt F.B. Barton sold Straffan ca 1949 to John Ellis. It was subsequently the home of Kevin McClory, the film producer, and later owned by Mr Patrick Gallagher, who restored the main block to its original size.”
p. 167. “(Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB) A medieval castle of the FitzGeralds, Earls of Kildare, especially associated with C16 11th Earl of Kildare, the most famous “wizard Earl.” [Gerald (1525-1585)] After Carton became the family seat in C18, it was leased to a succession of tenants; one of them being the Dublin silk merchant, Thomas Reynolds, friend of Lord Edward Fitzgerald through whom he became a United Irishman, only to turn informer when he realised the full aims of the movement. His role as informer did not prevent the unhappy Reynolds from having the castle, which he had only recently done up in fine style, sacked by the military; who tored up the floorboards and tore down the panelling on the pretext of searching for arms. Subsequent tenants caused yet more damage and there was a serious fire 1849; after which the third Duke of Leinster resumed possession of the castle and restored and enlarged it as a dower-house for his family. The work was sympathetically done, so that the tall grey castle keeps its air of medieval strength with its bartizans and its massively battered stone walls; though its battlements and its rather too regularly placed trefoil headed windows are obviously C19. AT one side of the caslte a long, low, gabled office range was added, in a restrained Tudor Revival style. The interior is entirely of 1849, for the lofty top storey, where the principal rooms were originally situated, was divided to provide a storey extra. The ceilings are mostly beamed, with corbels bearing the Leinster saltire. In 1880s the beautiful Hermione, Duchess of Leinster (then Marchioness of Kildare) lived here with her amiable but not very inspiring husband [Gerald the 5th Duke of Leinster]; finding the life not much to her taste, she composed the couplet “Kilkea Castle and Lord Kildare/are more than any woman can bear.” After the sale of Carton 1949, Kilkea became the seat of the 8th and Present Duke of Leinster (then Marquess of Kildare), but it was sold ca 1960 and is now an hotel.”
11. Leixlip Manor hotel (formerly Liffey Valley House hotel, formerlySt. Catherine’s Park), Leixlip, Co Kildare
The house that stood before the current Manor House was taller and was tenanted by the Earl of Lanesborough. Then in 1792, it was occupied by David La Touche, of the Huguenot banking family. It shortly thereafter burned to the ground and in around 1798 a new house, also called St Catherine’s Park, was built in the same townland to the design of Francis Johnston; it is now Leixlip Manor Hotel & Gardens.
12. Martinstown House, Kilcullen, Co Kildare – accommodation
featured in Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitzGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008.
p. 232. “Martinstown House is one of the finest cottage ornee style buildings in Ireland today. Originally part of the huge estates of the Dukes of Leinster, this fine house was commissioned by Robert Burrowes [d. 1850, son of Kildare Dixon Borrowes, 5th Baronet] and completed by the Burrowes family between 1832 and 1840, when decorative effects such as thatched roofs, undressed stonework and verandahs made of free growing branches were being incorporated into rural Irish dwellings. While experts feel the house was built in 1833, it may have been started years earlier, with many of the outbuildings including stables and also the walled gardens dating to some time between 1815 and 1820.” The book’s authors add that Decimus Burton was involved in the creation of this house.
“Beautiful self catering, Georgian Manor centrally located in the hearth of Kildare in a very private setting. De Burgh Manor comprises of 15 bedrooms all ensuite. The ground floor consists of a double reception room, drawing room, dining room, bar, library , breakfast room and kitchen. Situated on c. 6 acres of grounds overlooking the River Barrow.“
The website also tells us about the history:
“De Burgh Manor was built circa 1709 [the National Inventory says it was built around 1780] by Thomas Burgh [1670-1730] of Oldtown [built ca 1709 by Thomas Burgh (1670-1730), MP, Engineer and Surveyor-General for Ireland, to his own design. The centre block was burned 1950s. A house has now been made out of one of the wings. He also designed Kildrought house, a Section 482 property] for his brother William Burgh later known as Captain William De Burgh and who became Comptroller and Auditor General for Ireland. Thomas Burgh was Barracks Overseer for Ireland from 1701 and was also responsible for [building] – the Library at Trinity College Dublin, Collins Barracks Dublin – now a museum – and Dr Steeven Hospital Dublin.
William De Burgh was born in 1667 and had a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Elisabeth. Thomas, born in 1696, eventually became a Member of Parliament for Lanesboro, Co. Longford. Freeman of Athy Borough and Sovereign of Athy, in 1755 he married Lady Ann Downes, daughter of the Bishop of Cork & Ross. Her mother was a sister to Robert Earl of Kildare. Her brother, Robert Downes, was the last MP for Kildare in 1749 and was Sovereign of Athy.
Thomas had two sons, William and Ulysses [Ulysses was actually the grandson of Thomas, son of another Thomas]. William born in 1741 went on to represent Athy as an MP in Parliament between 1768 and 1776. A monument to his memory by Sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott, a statue of faith, which depicts him with a book in one hand and a scroll in the other and stands in York Minster. He wrote two books on religion and faith.
Ulysses, born in 1788succeeded to the title of Lord Downes [2nd Baron Downes of Aghanville] on the death of his cousin William Downes who was made Lord Chief Justice in 1803 and created Lord Downes on his retirement in 1822. It was Ulysses De Burgh who presented the Town Hall Clock to Athy in 1846 and it was he who had the wings added to Bert House. [Mark Bence-Jones writes of Bert: “enlarged early in C19 by the addition of two storey Classical overlapping wings, of the same height as the centre block; which is of three storeys over basement with two seven bay fronts.”]
Ulysses’ daughter Charlotte was the last of the De Burgh’s to call Bert House home with her husband Lt. General James Colbourne [2nd Baron Seaton of Seaton, co. Devon]. Charlotte and James came to Bert House in 1863 as Lord and Lady Seaton after the death of Lord Downes. It was sold by them in 1909 to Lady Geoghegan who then sold it onto her cousin, Major Quirke.“
2. Firmount, Clane, County Kildare – whole house or weddings
“Firmount House is a unique and stunning venue just outside Clane in County Kildare, only 40minutes from Dublin city centre. Lovingly restored by the owners, the house is known for flexibility and creativity and is now open for weddings, private parties, film shoots, yoga retreats and corporate events. Enjoy visiting the Firmount website and see for yourself the lifelong journey these restoration warriors have taken to provide you with the perfect location in a wonderful, natural setting.
This fabulous house consists of a sitting room, breakfast room and dining room downstairs reached from a large hallway, alongside a commercial kitchen and butlers pantry. The first floor consists of seven large and sumptuous bedrooms – five doubles and two twin rooms with plenty of room for two travel cots which are also provided. There are also six bathrooms. Heated by oil fired radiators, there are also two stoves in the main entertaining space.
“Firmount House has a colourful history dating from the 13th century when there was reputed to be a fortified house on the current site. The Down Survey of 1655 seems to show a house on the land (then known as Keapock). In the 18th century the house was owned by the Warburtons and sat on extensive grounds. The story of the current house really begins in 1878 when Hugh Henry Snr having married his cousin Emily Henry (of Lodge Park, site of the current K-club) bought Firmount house and renovated it extensively. It seems he took what was a Georgian house, wrapped it in concrete (one of the first houses of it’s kind) and added a Victorian wing to the South.
The estate consisted of 409 acres at that point. Hugh Henry’s son, imaginatively named Hugh Jr, inherited the house in 1888 and lived there until 1917. It is rumoured that his wife, Eileen, had nightmares of the house going down in flames – although given it was made of concrete, we think she would have been ok. The house became a WWI hospital in 1917 and 390 soldiers were treated there until 1919, with no deaths registered – thank goodness for that. However the next decades were not so lucky for the house. In 1929 the house was bought by Kildare County Council and turned into a TB sanatorium. It ran as such until 1961. There are local stories of movies being run in the ballroom for patients with the now Mayor of Clane, at the projector. And of patients sitting on the elevated banks at the very front of the house on the roadside, watching life on the road go by but being unable to participate. 1964 brought the purchase of the house by the Department of Defence who ran it as a Control Centre for Nuclear Tracking and named it Section Seven Regional Control.
Here things get really interesting as the basement of the house was intended to house senior officials, media and communications personel in the event of nuclear fall out. It is rumoured the Taoiseach (Irish prime-minister) was supposed to have a bunker on site and the house can still be found on Russian nuclear maps! This picture shows one of the several signs found in the house. The downside of government and county council ownership is that many original period features were lost through ignorance, neglect and the reinforcement of windows, floors, porticos and doors with concrete.
The current “madthings” bought the house in 2012 with the aim of slowly bringing Firmount house back to life, window by window and floor by floor aswell as bringing Firmount forward into a gathering place with a welcome for all.“
3. Griesemount House, County Kildare, whole house rentals– see above
 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.
orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.
green: gardens to visit
Today we start with places to see in Ulster. I am publishing this list first because in my researches, I have so often met with families and properties in Northern Ireland which I had not been including in my listings. I can’t wait to start exploring Northern Ireland as well as continuing my visits to Section 482 properties.
The province of Ulster contains counties Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone.
For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:
€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);
Help me to fund the maintenance and update of this website. It is created purely out of love for the subject and I receive no payment so any donation is appreciated!
1. Antrim Castle gardens and Clotworthy House, County Antrim – estate and gardens open to the public, the Castle was destroyed by fire. The stable block, built in the 1840s and now known as Clotworthy House, is used as an arts centre.
“Antrim Castle Gardens are an absolute historical gem. You will find nothing like these 400 year old gardens anywhere else in Northern Ireland. A £6m restoration project, which received generous support from Heritage Lottery Fund, has now preserved this historic site for generations to come.
Walk into the past as you stroll around this magnificent setting, visiting beautiful features such as the Large Parterre, Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pond.
Within the heart of the Gardens is a unique visitor experience, the refurbished Clotworthy House. Visit the Garden Heritage Exhibition where you can read about the history of the Gardens and the story of the Massereene family. It provides a fantastic opportunity to come and learn about garden history how the lives of the key family members intertwine with the development of Antrim town and the surrounding areas.
The light filled Oriel Gallery plays host to a range of stunning exhibitions throughout the year.
Be sure to visit and sample the many culinary delights in the Garden Coffee Shop with its delicious treat menu which has something to suit everyone. Your visit won’t be complete without a visit to the Visitor Shop where there is a unique range of goods with a distinct garden focus. With Christmas just around the corner, the shop offers some interesting and quaint gift ideas so why not drop in and pick something up for a friend, a loved one or even to spoil yourself.
With a year round programme of events and activities including talks, walks, interactive workshops, performances and exhibitions, the Gardens are just waiting to be explored.“
“Antrim Castle Gardens is a 17th century Anglo Dutch water garden, one of only three in the British Isles. In a beautiful riverside location close to Antrim town centre they are perfect for a stroll, a coffee or the opportunity to experience a variety of exhibitions, courses and classes.
Developed around Antrim Castle, built by Sir Hugh Clotworthy and his son, Sir John Clotworthy, between 1610 and 1662, they are a complex living museum containing over four centuries of culture and heritage that tell the stories of the people who created, lived and worked here.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Antrim Castle in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses
“(Skeffington, Massereene and Ferrard, V/PB) A castle by the side of the Sixmilewater, just above where it flows into Lough Neagh, built originally 1613 by the important English settler, Sir Hugh Clotworthy, and enlarged 1662 by his son, 1st Viscount Massereene [John Clotworthy (1614-1665)]. The castle was rebuilt 1813 as a solid three storey Georgian-Gothic castellated mansion, designed by John Bowden, of Dublin, faced in Roman cement of a pleasant orange colour; the original Carolean doorway of the castle, a tremendous affair of Ionic pilasters, heraldry, festoons and a head of Charles I, being re-erected as the central feature of the entrance front, below a battlemented pediment. Apart from this, and tower-like projections at the corners, with slender round angle turrets and shallow pyramidal roofs, the elevations were plain; the entrance front being of four bays between the projections, and the long adjoining front of 11 bays. Mullioned oriels and a tall octagonal turret of ashlar were added to the long front in 1887, when the castle was further enlarged. Remarkable C17 formal garden, unique in Ulster, its only surviving counterpart being at Killruddery, Co Wicklow. Long canal, bordered with tall hedges, and other canal at right angles to it, making a “T” shape; old trees, dark masses of yew and walls of rose-coloured brick. Mount, with spiral path, originally the motte of a Norman castle. Imposing Jacobean revival outbuildings of course rubble basalt with sandstone dressings; built ca. 1840. Entrance gateway to the demesne with octagonal turrets. Antrim Castle was burnt 1922.” 
The 1st Viscount Massereene married Margaret Jones, daughter of Roger Jones, 1st Viscount Ranelagh. Their daughter Margaret married and her husband gained the title through her, to become John Skeffington, 2nd Viscount Massereene. The 4th Viscount, whose first name was Clotworthy, which became a family name, married Lady Catherine Chichester, eldest daughter of Arthur, 4th Earl of Donegall. Their son Clotworthy became 1st Earl of Massereene.
The 4th Earl died in 1816, and the earldom expired; but the viscountcy of Massereene and barony of Loughneagh devolved upon his only daughter and sole heiress, Harriet Skeffington, 9th Viscountess of Massereene (1789-1843) . She married, in 1810, Thomas Henry Foster, 2nd Viscount Ferrard. It was for Harriet and Thomas that the castle was rebuilt in 1813. Algernon William John Clotworthy Whyte-Melville Skeffington, 12th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard, DSO, was the last of the Skeffingtons to live at Antrim Castle. Lord and Lady Massereene and their family were hosting a grand ball in Antrim Castle when it was burnt by an IRA gang on the 28th October, 1922. Following the fire, Lord Massereene went to live in the nearby dower house, Skeffington Lodge (which subsequently became the Deer Park Hotel, but is no longer a hotel). Further losses of family treasures – this time by sale, not by fire – now followed.
After the Second World War, Skeffington Lodge was abandoned; the Antrim Castle stable block was converted for use as a family residence, and was re-named Clotworthy House. Clotworthy was acquired by Antrim Borough Council, and was converted for use as an Arts Centre in 1992.
Timothy William Ferrers tells us that a fine stone bridge, the Deer Park Bridge, spans the river at a shallow point and formed a link between the demesne and the rest of the estate. He continues:
“The Anglo-Norman motte adjacent to the house was made into a garden feature, with a yew-lined spiral walk leading to the top, from which views of the grounds, the town of Antrim and the river could (and can still) be enjoyed.
The castle and the motte were enclosed within a bawn and protected by artillery bastions, which were utilized for gardens from the 18th century.
The formal canals, linked by a small cascade and lined with clipped lime and hornbeam hedges, are the main attraction. The main gate lodge from the town, the Barbican Gate, was possibly built in 1818 to the designs of John Bowden and has been separated from the site by the intrusion of the road. An underpass now connects the lodge entrance to the grounds.” (see )
Also Featured in Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters. David Hicks. The Collins Press, Cork, 2014.
“Belfast Castle estate is situated on the lower slopes of Cave Hill Country Park in north Belfast. It contains both parkland and mature mixed woodland and offers superb views of the city from a variety of vantage points. The estate is home to many different species of wildlife, including long-eared owls, sparrowhawks and Belfast’s rarest plant, the town hall clock.
More information about the estate is available from Cave Hill Visitor Centre, located in Belfast Castle. You can call the centre directly on 028 9077 6925. Park features include Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, Cave Hill Visitor Centre, landscaped gardens, a Millennium herb garden, ecotrails and orienteering routes. We also offer refreshments (in Belfast Castle), scenic views, full car parking facilities and a wide variety of wildlife.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“(Chichester, Donegall, M/PB; Ashley-Cooper, Shaftsbury, E/PB) The original Belfast Castle was a tall, square semi-fortified house with many gables, built at the beginning of C17 by the Lord Deputy Sir Arthur Chichester, uncle of the 1st Earl of Donegall. It stood surrounded by formal gardens and orchards going down to a branch of the River Lagan, and was the seat of the Donegalls until 1708 when it was destroyed by a fire “caused through the carelessness of a female servant,” three of six daughters of 3rd Earl perishing in the blaze. The castle was not rebuilt and the ruin was subsequently demolished; its site and that of its gardens is now occupied by Castle Place and the adjoining streets, in what is now the centre of the city. For much of C18, the Donegalls lived in England; later, they lived at Ormeau, just outside Belfast to the south-east. 3rd Marquess of Donegall [George Hamilton Chichester (1797-1883)] found Ormeau inconvenient; and so, towards the end of 1860s, he and his son-in-law and daughter, afterwards 8th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury, built a large Scottish-Baronial castle at the opposite side of the city, in a fine position on the lower slopes of Cave Hill, overlooking the Lough; it was named Belfast Castle, after Sir Arthur Chichester’s vanished house. The architects of the new Belfast Castle were Sir Charles Lanyon and William Henry Lynn; stylistically, it would seem to be very much Lynn’s work; but it may also perhaps have been influenced by a design by William Burn, having a plan almost exactly similar to those of several of Burns’s Scottish-Baronial castles. Tall square tower, of six storeys, in the manner of Balmoral. Projecting pillared porch in “Jacobethan” style, with strapwork on columns. On the garden front, a fantastic snaking Elizabethan staircase of stone leading down to the terrace from the piano nobile was added 1894. Entrance hall in base of tower; larger hall opening at one end into staircase well with massive oak stair; arcaded first floor gallery. Now well maintained by the City of Belfast as a setting for functions.” 
The Castle passed from the 3rd Marquess of Donegall to his daughter Harriet Chichester and her husband Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1831-1886), who became the 8th Earl of Shaftsbury. Their son the 9th Earl of Shaftsbury served as Lord Mayor in 1907 and Chancellor of Queen’s University the following year. The family presented the castle and estate to the City of Belfast in 1934.
Timothy William Ferres tells us that from the end of the 2nd World War until the 1970s the castle became a popular venue for wedding receptions, dances and afternoon teas. In 1978, Belfast City Council instituted a major refurbishment programme that was to continue over a period of ten years at a cost of over two million pounds.
The architect this time was the Hewitt and Haslam Partnership. The building was officially re-opened to the public on 11 November 1988. [see 2]
“Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough.
Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland.
For more than 800 years, Carrickfergus Castle has been an imposing monument on the Northern Ireland landscape whether approached by land, sea or air. The castle now houses historical displays as well as cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
A visit will give you the opportunity to see how the Great Hall at the top of the Great Tower has been transformed by the new roof which has greatly improved the visitor’s experience.“
The Department for Communities website has more information about Carrickfergus Castle. It tells us:
“Begun by John de Courcy soon after his 1177 invasion of Ulster. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland.
Its long history includes sieges by King John in 1210 and Edward Bruce in 1315, its capture by Schomberg for William III in 1689, and capture by the French under Thurot in 1760. The castle was used by the army until 1928, and in the 1939 to 1945 war it housed air-raid shelters.“
John de Courcy (1177-1204) came to Ireland in the time of King Henry II, and Henry gave him land in Ulster. De Courcy fought the inhabitants of Downpatrick for his land and set up a castle there for himself. King Henry II was so pleased with him he created him Earl of Ulster and Lord of Connacht and in 1185 appointed him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. [see Patrick Weston Joyce, The Wonders of Ireland, 1911, on https://www.libraryireland.com/Wonders/Sir-John-De-Courcy-1.php ]
“With evidence of settlement from the first millennium, the present castle ruins date mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. It was inhabited by both the feuding McQuillan and MacDonnell clans. Historical and archaeological exhibits are on display for public viewing.
Opening Hours: Please check before visiting as public access may be restricted.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“(McDonnell, Antrim, E/PB) The ancestral stronghold of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, dramatically situated at the end of a rocky promontory jutting out into the sea off the north Antrim coat. The castle, which was built at various periods from C14 to C17, eventually consisted of several round towers and a gatehouse with rather Scottish bartizans, joined by a curtain wall, with domestic buildings inside this enclosure. The latter included a mid-C16 loggia with sandstone columns, and a two storey Elizabethan or Jacobean house, with three large oriels. These two buildings were first of two courtyards into which the castle enclosure was divided; the other and lower yard containing offices and servants’ quarters. There were also buildings on the mainland, erected early C17. In 1639, part of the curtain wall of the castle collapsed into the sea, together with some of the servants’ quarters and a number of servants. After the Civil Wars, the castle was abandoned by the family in favour of Glenarm Castle, it is now a romantic ruin.” 
5. Galgorm Castle – now part of a golf club, County Antrim
The website tells us: “Galgorm Castle is an historic estate dating back to Jacobean times but has evolved into one of Northern Ireland’s most vibrant destinations with diverse business, golf and recreational activities housed there. The focal point is the 17th century Jacobean castle dating back to 1607, which has been restored and along with the immaculate walled gardens is part of the Ivory Pavilion wedding and events company. The castle is also a historical reminder of the important role the Galgorm Estate played as part of Northern Ireland’s history. Away from the championship golf course there is plenty of opportunity to try the game for the first time at the Fun Golf Area with a six-hole short course and Himalayas Putting Green. The Galgorm Fairy Trail is another family option which runs out of Arthur’s Cottage at the Fun Golf Area.And if looking for great food and drink, a meal at the Castle Kitchen + Bar at the Galgorm Castle clubhouse is a must. Members and non-members are welcome.”
The website contains a history of the Castle:
“Galgorm Castle is one of the finest examples of Jacobean architecture in Ireland. In May 1607, King James I granted the Ballymena Estate to Rory Og MacQuillan, a mighty warrior, famous for stating “No Captain of this race ever died in his bed,” (which thankfully means Galgorm Castle has one less ghost.). His Castle overlooks and dominates the 10th green and a network of souterrains at the fifth and eighth greens.
Sir Faithful Fortescue (b. 1585) was the nephew Arthur Chichester. This name may have come from his habit of being particularly sharp in his dealings as he tricked Rory Og McQuillan out of estates and started to build Galgorm Castle in 1618. He might better have been known as Sir Faithless Fortescue as during the Civil War, in the heat of the battle of Edghhill, he changed sides from the Parliamentarians to the Cavaliers, but forgot to instruct his men to remove the orange sashes of the Parliamentarians so seventeen of them were slain by the Cavaliers as the enemy.
Always known for turning a quick buck Sir Faithless sold the estate to the infamous Dr Alexander Colville [(c.1597-c.1679. He was a clergyman who became a wealthy landlord so it may have been malicious gossip that led to rumours)] who, as legend has it was an alchemist, reputed to have sold his soul to the devil for gold and knowledge. The stories of the good doctor are well documented and his portrait is not allowed to ever leave the castle or disaster will fall. His footsteps beat out a steady tattoo through the night as he does his rounds. Other nights, a ghostly light flickers around the park as he searches for his treasure, lost for over 300 years.
The Youngs – rich linen merchants, bought the Estate in 1850 and their cousin Sir Roger Casement lived here for six years while he was at Ballymena Academy.
The Duke of Wurtenburg made his headquarters at Galgorm following the Battle of the Boyne. The renowned Irish scholar Rose Young was born at Galgorm in 1865.
During the 1980’s, Christopher Brooke and his family inherited Galgorm Castle Estate and began developing his vision to turn Galgorm Castle into the one of Northern Ireland’s premier destinations, securing the Estate’s long-term future.”
6. Glenarm Castle, County Antrim– private, can book a tour
The website tells us that Glenarm Castle is one of few country estates that remains privately owned but open to the public. It is steeped in a wealth of history, culture and heritage and attracts over 100,000 visitors annually from all over the world.
“Visitors can enjoy enchanted walks through the Walled Garden and Castle Trail, indulge in an amazing lunch in the Tea Room, purchase some local produce or official merchandise, or browse through a wide range of ladies & gents fashions and accessories and a selection of beautiful gifts, souvenirs and crafts in the Byre Shop and Shambles Workshop – with many ranges exclusive to Glenarm Castle.“
“Glenarm Castle is the ancestral home of the McDonnell family, Earls of Antrim. The castle is first and foremost the private family home of Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and their family but they are delighted to welcome visitors to Glenarm Castle for guided tours on selected dates throughout the year.
Delve deep into the history of Glenarm Castle brought to life by the family butler and house staff within the walls of the drawing room, the dining room, the ‘Blue Room’ and the Castle’s striking hall.
Finish the day with the glorious sight of the historic Walled Garden, which dates back to the 17th century.“
Dates are limited and booking in advance is required.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 135. “(McDonnell, Antrim, E/PB) Originally a castle built 1603 by Sir Randal MacDonnell [1610-1682], afterwards 1st Earl of Antrim, as a hunting lodge or secondary residence; became the principal seat of the family after Dunluce Castle was abandoned.
The mansion house was rebuilt ca 1750 as a 3-storey double gable-ended block, joined by curving colonnades to two storey pavilions with high roofs and cupolas. [This would have been during the life of the 5th Earl of Antrim, Alexander MacDonnell (1713-1775)].
The main block had a pedimented breakfront with three windows in the top storey, a Venetian window below and a tripartite doorway below again, flanked on either side by a Venetian window in each of the two lower storeys and a triple window above. The pavilions were of three bays. Ca. 1825, the heiress of the McDonnells, Anne, Countess of Antrim in her own right, and her second husband [Edmund Phelps], who had assumed the surname of McDonnell, commissioned William Vitruvius Morrison to throw a Tudor cloak over Glenarm. He did very much the same as he had done at Borris, Co Carlow and Kilcoleman Abbey, Co Kerry; adding four slender corner turrets to C18 block, crowned with cupolas and gilded vanes; he also gave the house a Tudor-Revival façade with stepped gables, finials, pointed and mullioned windows and heraldic achievements, as well as a suitably Tudor porch. The other fronts were also given pointed windows and the colonnades and pavilions were swept away, a two storey Tudor-Revival service wing being added in their stead.
The interior remained Classical; the hall being divided by an arcade with fluted Corinthian columns; the dining room having a cornice of plasterwork in the keyhole pattern. In 1929, the Castle was more or less gutted by fire; in the subsequent rebuilding, to the designs of Imrie & Angell, of London, the pointed and mullioned windows were replaced with rectangular Georgian sashes. Apart from the octagon bedroom, which keeps its original plasterwork ceiling with doves, the interior now dates from the post-fire rebuilding; some of the rooms have ceilings painted by the present Countess of Antrim [Elizabeth Hannah Sacher]. The service wing was reconstructed after another fire 1967, the architect being Mr Donal Insall. In 1825, at the same time as the castle was made Tudor, the entrance to the demesne from the town of Glenarm was transformed into one of the most romantic pieces of C19 medievalism in Ireland, probably also by Morrison. A tall, embattled gate tower, known as the Barbican, stands at the far end of the bridge across the river, flanked by battlemented walls rising from the river bed.”
Randall William MacDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim and later 1st (and last) Marquess of Antrim (1749-1792), married Letitia Morres, daughter of Hervey Morres 1st Viscount Mountmorres of Kilkenny. They had no sons. His eldest daughter Anne Catherine became Countess of Antrim in her own right. When she died her sister Charlotte became Countess of Antrim. Her sons became the 4th and 5th Earls of Antrim. The descendants still live in the castle.
See also the blog of Timothy William Ferres. [see 2]
7. Lissanoure Castle, County Antrim– private, wedding venue
George MacCartney, 1st and last Earl Macartney, lived at Lissanoure Castle, and is an ancestor of my husband, Stephen! His mother was a Winder.
The website tells us: “Lissanoure Castle is an award-winning venue situated on a privately owned estate. The beautiful natural landscape provides the perfect backdrop for those all important photos and memories that last a lifetime. The 18th century Coach House and the Castle Barn have been converted into spectacular venues, with a fully licensed bar.“
“Lissanoure Castle is on an island site in the heart of a privately owned estate of Peter and Emily Mackie. It was the original seat of Lord Macartney, the first British Ambassador to China.” Earl Macartney brought his cousin (1st cousin, once removed) Edward Winder with him to China, and Edward kept a diary, which is in the National Library of Ireland’s manuscript room.
The website for Lissanoure tells us: “There has been a settlement at Lissanoure since Celtic times because of its naturally defensive position. In the middle of the lake there is a crannóg (an artificial island normally dating from the Iron Age and used for defence).
The earliest record of a castle situated at Lissanoure dates from 1300. There is some confusion about who built it, some records naming Sir Philip Savage and other records showing Richard Óg de Burgh, second Earl of Ulster (also known as The Red Earl).
The estate passed to the O’Hara family of Crebilly in the early part of the fourteenth century. There are maps dated 1610 and published by John Speede, showing the castle (called Castle Balan) sited on the north shore of the lake.
The estate was sold in 1733 to George Macartney, a member of the Irish Parliament, for over fifty-four years.
It passed in due course to his only grandson, George (born 1737) later Envoy Extraordinary to Catherine the Great, Chief Secretary for Ireland, President of Fort St. George, Madras, Ambassador to China, Govenor of the Cape of Good Hope, Earl in the Irish Peerage and Baron in the British Peerage.
The estate remained with the Macartney family until the beginning of the last century when it was acquired by the Mackie family.
Today, it is still a traditional family estate with farming and forestry and it is owned and managed by Peter and Emily Mackie. They have continued the restoration work, started by his parents, of the castle and the gardens.“
Earl Macartney did not have children. The website tells us that The Lissanoure and Dervock estates were left to Macartney’s wife who had a life-interest. The heir was his sister’s daughter, Elizabeth Belaguier, who married the Rev. Dr Travers Hume, a Church of Ireland clergyman. However she never inherited the estates as she died before the Countess of Macartney, so Elizabeth’s eldest son, George Hume, inherited the Lissanoure and Dervock estates, with one of the conditions being that he assumed the surname Macartney.
George Hume Macartney had expressed dissatisfaction with the existing castle as it was often in need of repair, for it suffered from damp, and the family had to move out for periods. He decided to rebuild much of it whilst, at the same time rebuilding an “elegant cottage in the later English style” near the edge of the lake. He changed the Gothic mansion to a Georgian styled mansion extending the living quarters for the house into where the stables and coach houses were in the court yard. He then built on a semi-circular yard of grand dimensions for the stables and coach houses with an impressive Tudor revival archway and clock tower entrance.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
“Following Lord Macartney’s death in 1806, Lissanoure was inherited by his great-nephew, George Hume, who assumed the surname of Macartney; and who began rebuilding the house from 1829 onwards, pulling down the old castle, which stood at one corner of it; putting up a Tudor archway leading into the courtyard, surmounted by an octagonal battlemented belfry and spire, very much in the manner of William Vitruvius Morrison.
Not until 1847 did he tackle the front of the house, having in the meantime built himself ”an elegant cottage in the later English style, richly embellished” by the side of the lake. In that same year, after the front wall has been taken down, with a view to rebuilding it, there was an explosion which killed Mrs Macartney and presumably also damaged the structure of the house; for all work on it ceased and it was allowed to fall into ruin. The “elegant cottage” continued to serve as the family residence and it was later rebuilt in a more rustic style, with dormer gables and elaborate bargeboards; and an office wing a the back almost twice as large as the house itself.” 
The website tells us that George Hume Macartney died and the Lissanoure and Dervock estates were inherited in 1869 by his eldest son, George Travers Macartney, a former Captain in the 15th King’s Hussars. “He was well regarded by all his tenants and workers, so it came as a tremendous shock when he died of a sudden heart attack on the 29th August 1874 attack aged 44 leaving a wife and four small children. The people of Dervock erected a fountain to him beside the bridge in the centre of the village in his memory and many tributes were paid to him.
Carthanach George Macartney, aged 5 years, inherited the estates. He was officially landlord of Lissanoure and Dervock for a total of 62 years, a record among Irish gentry.
His mother and cousins took charge in the early years but when Carthanach came to power he proved himself kind and generous.
He saw the break-up of the estate under the Land Acts,which started in 1881, under which his tenantry eventually became owner-occupiers and he was left only with the lands immediately around his home, which he farmed. In 1936 his son George Travers Lucy Macartney aged 40 years became his successor... In 1943 The Mackie family of James Mackie & Sons of Belfast, once the world’s largest producers of textile machinery and major contributors to the war effort with the production of Bofors gun shells and the fuselage for Stirling bombers, buy the estate from the Macartney family.”
8. Malone House, Belfast, County Antrim– wedding and conference venue
“Located on the site of a 17th century fort, Malone House was built in the 1820s for William Wallace Legge, a rich Belfast merchant who had inherited the surrounding land. A keen landscaper, he designed and planted most of the estate’s grounds, which remain relatively unchanged today.
When Legge died, ownership of Malone House passed to the Harberton family, who lived on the premises from 1868 to 1920. The building’s last owner was William Barnett, who presented Malone House to the city of Belfast in 1946.
Following its presentation to the city, Malone House was leased to the National Trust in the early 1970s. After it was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1976, the building was repaired by the council and reopened in June 1983.
Since then, it has become a major venue for weddings, conferences, social functions and other events, while the surrounding grounds are popular with walkers and cyclists.”
9. Wilmont House (park only), Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Rose Gardens.
“The beautiful Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park comprises rolling meadows, woodland, riverside fields and formal gardens. The City of Belfast International Rose Garden has made the park world famous, and contains over 20,000 blooms in the summer, divided into trial and display beds, an historical section, and a heritage garden that displays the best of the roses from local breeders. Each season thousands of visitors enjoy the rose gardens and associated events during Rose Week.
Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park also contains International Camellia Trials, a walled garden, a Japanese-style garden with water features for quiet contemplation, a very popular childrens’ playground, an orienteering course and many walks.”
Mark Bence-Jones describes Wilmont House: p. 285. “(Reade/LGI1958) A plain two storey Victorian house, built 1859. Three bay front, with balustraded porch; lower wing, ending with wing as high as main block. Adjoining front with central curved bown and one bay on either side. Camber-headed windows in upper storey of main block. Eaved roof on bracket cornice.”
Timothy William Ferres tells us:
“The original house, which stood on the site of the present-day barbecue area, dated back to 1740 and was replaced by the present red-bricked house in 1859.
This house was designed by Thomas Jackson (1807-90), one of Belfast`s most notable Victorian architects.
Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon purchased Wilmont demesne in 1919.
Sir Thomas died at Harrowgate in 1950. Lady Dixon, who was appointed DBE after the 1st World War in recognition of her service to HM Forces, died in 1964. A year before her death, in 1963, Wilmont demesne was officially handed over to Belfast Corporation. The house, according to her wishes, was shortly afterwards opened as a home for the elderly; while the grounds, at her behest, were opened to the public.
The present park, named after its benefactors, consists of 134 acres and has been the venue for the City of Belfast International Rose Trials since 1964.” (see )
Places to stay. Count Antrim:
1. Ballyealy Cottage, Castle Shane Estate, County Antrim€€ for two, € for 3-5
The website tells us: “Located close to the shores of Lough Neagh, Ballealy Cottage is a nature lover’s paradise. With a wonderful wildlife garden and surroundings to explore this property is ideal for people who want to escape from the hustle and bustle life. With zero light pollution Ballealy Cottage is perfect for star gazing and watching the resident bat colony returning to roost in the evenings.”
“Ballygally Castle, affectionately dubbed “the jewel in the Hastings Crown”, was purchased by the Hastings Hotels Group in 1966 and over the years various extensions and renovations have transformed it to the charming hotel it is today. It received official four star status from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in 2007 and in 2014 the hotel underwent a further major refurbishment and extension project, with the addition of ten new Coastal Deluxe bedrooms, a new larger Reception area and the stunning new Kintyre Ballroom. All developments at the Castle have been very carefully undertaken so as not to distract from the history of the original building, as the hotel’s distinctive character comes from the fact that it dates back to 1625. The Ballygally Castle is unique in that it is the only 17th Century building in Northern Ireland still being used as a residence today!
Built in 1625 by James Shaw and his wife Isabella Brisbane. Shaw, a native of Greenock, Scotland, came to Ireland in 1606 to seek his fortune. In 1613, he received a sub-grant of land from the Earl of Antrim. It was on this land that the castle was built. [James Shaw, a Scot, built the castle in Scottish style with a steep roof, high walls, corner turrets and dormer windows. Its walls are five feet thick and studded with ‘loopholes’, narrow vertical slits through which muskets could be fired.]
The castle came under attack during the 1641 rising, when the Gaelic Irish rose against the English and Scots settlers. Although a nearby Irish garrison controlled the countryside around and tried to force their way in, the inhabitants held out.
They did not all survive. John Jamieson sent his two sons and daughter out to fetch corn. One son was hung by rebels and his daughter taken prisoner.
In 1680 the castle was actually captured by the ‘Tories’ of Londonderry – dispossessed Irish chieftains who had lost everything following the 1641 rising. However, with a bounty on their heads, they did not stay long and soon returned to the then plentiful woods.
The original castle served as a place of refuge for the Protestants during the Civil Wars. During that time, it was handed down from fathers to sons and in 1799 it was passed to William Shaw, the last squire of Ballygally. In the early 1800s the Shaw family lost their wealth and the estate was sold to the Agnew family for £15,400.
For several years it was used as a coastguard station, before the Reverend Classon Porter and his family took residence. It was then taken over by the Moore family. They then sold it to textile millionaire Mr. Cyril Lord in the early 1950s, who refurbished it as a hotel.
After centuries of private ownership, Ballygally Castle was turned into the elegant Candlelight Inn in the 1950s by ‘Carpet King’ Cyril Lord, who became famous from the TV ads for his carpet company. Its candelabra brand was designed around distinctive light fittings, some of which can still be seen in the 1625 Room.
Sir Billy Hastings bought Ballygally Castle in 1966. Beautifully refurbished, the hotel has preserved the castle’s unique character and many of its features.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 22. “A unique example of a C17 Plantation Castle surviving intact, inhabited and unchanged, except from the insertion of sash windows. Built 1625 by James Shaw. With its high roof, its two pepperpot bartizans, and its two curvilinear dormer-gables, which do not quite match, it looks for all the world like a little C16 or early C17 tower-house in Scotland. In 1814, the residence of Rev. Thomas Alexander. Now an hotel.”
See also the blog of Timothy William Ferres. [see 2]
Mark Bence-Jones writes in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 24. “(Traill/IFR) A C18 house originally belonging to Archibald Stewart of Ballintoy; bought by the Traill family 1789, two storey over basement; three bay front. The front was subsequently given Wyatt windows; battlemented segmental flanking walls with niches were built 1815; and a wing was added, also in early C19. At some other date, the Tuscan doorcase was moved from the centre to the front to the righ-hand bay, thereby spoiling the symmetry. Plasterwork in hall which may be contemporary with the original building of the house; plasterwork festoons, flowers and foliage elsewhere, probably later.”
See also the blog of Timothy William Ferres. [see 2]
4. Drum Gate Lodge, Ballylough House, Bushmills, County Antrim€€
The blog of Timothy William Ferres tells us that there are two gate lodges to Ballylough House: the unusual circular West Lodge of ca 1800, now known as The Drum; and the East Lodge of ca 1840, which is still occupied and has its own charming cottage garden. The West Lodge, now known as The Drum, was built at the end of a long avenue of beech trees at the western edge of the Ballylough Estate in 1800 by Archdeacon Traill, two years after he bought the estate. [see 2]
5. Blackhead Cutter Lighthouse keeper’s house, Whitehead, County Antrim €€ for two, € for 4/5
“Located at the heart of County Antrim, our location is easily accessed from anywhere in Northern Ireland, and further afield with Belfast International Airport only a short 10-minute drive away.
If the walls within our iconic venue could speak, they will tell many stories of times gone by, dating back to the 1600’s when it housed the High Kings of Ireland, to its days as a Paper Mill and a Linen Mill before it took form as a hotel.
It’s time for you to experience the history that flows through this iconic venue, rich with traditional features still on show, complimented now by its modern and contemporary décor.“
8. Barbican, Glenarm Castle, County Antrim– €€ see also Glenarm Castle, above
Timothy William Ferres tells us: “The Barbican gate lodge is built into the estate wall at the end of an old stone bridge spanning the river Glenarm. It was commissioned in 1823 by Edmund Phelps, the second husband of Anne Catherine, Countess of Antrim suo jure, who inherited the estate when her father, the 6th Earl, died without male issue.
The architect William Vitruvius Morrison built it using local, coursed, rubble basalt and red ashlar sandstone dressings. This gate lodge has a narrow turret staircase which leads onto a roof terrace overlooking the surrounding countryside.” [see 2]
“KILMORE HOUSE, Glenariff, County Antrim, comprises a large two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block with earlier Georgian wings to its southern elevation.The house was constructed in stages, and parts of the building may date from as early as the 18th century. The current façade of the house, however, was built in 1907-8.
The first recorded occupant of the site was Coll McDonnell, a gentleman who leased 10 acres of land in Kilmore from his kinsman, Lord Antrim, and established a dwelling there in 1706. The site passed to Coll’s son Alexander in 1742; and then to his grandson, John, in 1803 before being occupied by his great-grandson Randal in 1815.
The McDonnells initially resided in an early-Georgian house which had been constructed in the townland ca 1706.
The two-storey, four-bay farmhouse (at the south side of the two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block) had been constructed by 1832.
A thatched building (which predated the rest of the farmhouse) was presumably the McDonnell family’s previous dwelling on the site, however it cannot be confirmed with certainty whether any trace of this structure survives at the site.
The farmhouse at Kilmore was originally known as Ballinlig.
By the mid-19th century Ballinlig had passed to Randal McDonnell’s eldest son Alexander; following whose decease, in 1862, Ballinlig was occupied by his younger brother, Colonel John McDonnell, who remained at the site until his own death in 1905.
McDonnell’s residence became known as “Kilmore House” by at least the turn of the 20th century. Following the death of Colonel McDonnell in 1905, Kilmore House passed to his nephew, Captain William Alexander Silvertop.
The Silvertop family extended the house in 1907-8. The Edwardian extension was designed by Nicholas Fitzsimmons (1869-c1940), a Belfast-based architect who entered into partnership with Robert Graeme Watt and Frederick Tulloch in 1909. Fitzsimons’s original plans show that the extension consisted of the two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block to the north side of the Georgian farmhouse.
The plans of Kilmore House record that the interior floor-plan of the original farmhouse was altered to incorporate the kitchen, dining-room, a study and private chapel; whilst the new block consisted of a drawing-room and billiards-room (at ground floor), bedrooms and bathrooms (at first floor) and servants quarters (in the attic storey).
Captain Silvertop served in France during the 1st World War, but following his death, in 1917, the house was sold and passed out of the McDonnell family. Kilmore House had lain vacant from 1910 until 1919, when it was purchased by Joseph Maguire, a senator in the Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont.
The De La Salle Order purchased Kilmore in 1958, when it was occupied by the Most Rev Dr D Mageean, RC Bishop of Down and Connor (1882-1962).The Bishop resided at Kilmore House until ca 1960, when the building was converted into a holiday home for visitors to the North Coast, administered by the Trustees of Kilmore Holiday House.
Kilmore House was listed in 1980 and is now a country house hotel. Today the house is set in thirteen acres. It has fourteen bedrooms. A stained-glass window at the landing still has the McDonnell and Silvertop armorial bearings.” (see )
10. Kiln Wing, Old Corn Mill, Bushmills, County Antrim€€
The website tells us that Larchfield extends to 600 acres and includes peaceful forest and woodland alongside picturesque river banks. Steeped in history, Larchfield’s heritage dates back to the 1600’s with many remarkable ups and downs throughout its 350-year history.
“Larchfield’s story starts back in 1660 when the land (at that time, about 1500 acres) was bought from the O’Neills. It wasn’t until 1750 that the original part of the current house was built on the site of an old farm house. It was built by the Mussendens, who were merchants bankers in Belfast. We have an interesting connection with Mussenden Temple in County Londonderry which was built by the Earl Bishop (a cousin) in memory of Mrs. Mussenden from Larchfield who died at the age of 22, sadly before Mussenden Temple was finished.
In 1845, the house was redesigned by Charles Lanyon, one of Belfast’s most prominent and influential architects of the Victoria Era and famous for designing Queens University and the Custom House in Belfast among many others. We know that Lanyon changed the front of the house to face south, with new driveways.
Then in 1868/9, William Mussenden sold the house to Ogilvie B Graham, 1st of a family of hereditary directors of the York Street Flax Spinning Company. The valuation of the house was about £100 at the time and as well as adding an extra storey to the main house, Graham added the gate lodge.
In 1873 the Victorian wing of the house was added, followed by the Fish Pond Lake in 1896. Our Fish Pond Lake, accessed exclusively by only the bride and groom when we host a wedding, is referenced both in maps from 1896 and also in Gerard Brennan’s book, A Life of One’s Own. In this book he also refers to Larchfield as the pink house. Gerard Brennan was the grandson of the Ogilvie Grahams.
Moving to more recent times, in 1968, Mr. Leslie Mackie, father of current owner Gavin Mackie, bought the estate at auction from Col Ogilvy Graham (approx. 300 acres). Some of the best parkland trees had to be bought back from a timber merchant as they had been sold prior to auction!
The current owners (Gavin and Sarah Mackie) were married themselves at Larchfield in 2007, and moved back to take on the estate from Gavin’s parents. The estate was opened up for weddings and events around this time and in 2010, as part of its renovation, the Stables was re-built and re-roofed for hire for ceremonies and smaller functions downstairs.
In 2012, Rose Cottage was the first of the onsite accommodation to be restored, leading to the development of accommodation for up to 37 guests. Late 2019 saw the completion of the redevelopment of an 1800s railway style building facing the Larchfield Estate cottages. Harkening back to its history as a piggery, The Old Piggery was officially launched in 2020 as a new offering for experiences, dining, special celebrations and corporate retreats. This project was kindly supported by the Rural Development Programme.“
“The Merchant Hotel has long been admired for its distinctive architectural style, both in its former life as the headquarters of the Ulster Bank and now, in its current incarnation as a five-star luxury hotel.
This formidable sandstone structure was purpose built as the headquarters of the Ulster Bank. The site was originally acquired in 1836. However, the decision to build was not taken until 1857. Bank Directors Robert Grimshaw and James Heron visited Glasgow and Edinburgh to glean as much information as possible on the best banking buildings. It was their wish that the building should appear elegant, substantial and prosperous.
The location was deemed suitable as it was in the heart of Belfast’s mercantile and commercial centre. In fact, Waring Street derives its name from a successful local merchant William Waring.
For the creation of the Ulster Bank headquarters, the directors felt the work should be undertaken by an innovative architect. Over sixty proposals were submitted to the bank’s committee and £100 was offered for the best design. In the end the design of a talented Glaswegian by the name of James Hamilton was selected. The building work was undertaken by Messer’s D and J Fulton, while the spectacularly ornate plasterwork in the main banking hall was carried out by Belfast man George Crowe.
The exterior of the building is Italianate in style. Sculptures depicting Commerce, Justice and Britannia, look down benignly from the apex of the magnificent façade. Under the grand central dome of the main banking hall (now The Great Room Restaurant), fruit and foliage designs surround the walls in a magnificent frieze. Four Corinthian columns frame the room and feature plump putti (cherub-like figures) depicting science, painting, scripture and music.
Generosity of proportions and an ornate but not ostentatious style throughout the building has ensured that it is one of the most renowned and best loved buildings in Belfast. When the designs were first shown at the 1858 London Architectural Exhibition, the literary magazine Athenaeum described them as “very commendable, earnest, massive, rich and suitable”. Writing more than a century later, founding member of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society C.E.B. Brett said the building offered “every inducement to linger and ponder on wealth and its advantages”.
The Ulster Bank headquarters were transformed into the five-star Merchant Hotel in 2006. The original Grade A listed building was then greatly enhanced in the summer of 2010 by the addition of a £16.5 million extension featuring a wealth of new facilities for guests.
Thanks to local historian Raymond O’Regan for some of the historical information referenced in this section.“
15. Old Bushmills Barn, 15 Priestlands Road, Antrim€€€ for two; € for four
The history of the barn fascinates everyone. Tradition and innovation melts into these stunning grounds. Bushmills is a town with a rich history boasting the oldest distillery in the world, originating in 1608.
Bushmills grows and The Old Rectory & its Barns are built.
The 1821 listing’s text changed to: In 1821 for a cost of £1200 (£960,000 in today’s money) the still existing church, Dunluce Parish was built. Four years later in 1825 the Rectory and the Barns were extended, a big step in the history of Bushmills, serving as a home to the church’s ministers for the next 150 years.
In 1821 for a cost of £1200 (£960,000 in today’s money) the still existing church, Dunluce Parish was built. Four years later in 1825 the Rectory and the Barns was erected, starting its journey in the history of Bushmills, serving as a home to the church’s ministers for the next 150 years.
The Reverent James Morewood was the first occupant.
During these periods of ownership, the Barns are used for servants quarters and stables for horses.
In 1960 flooding happened and the house and barns were abandoned and a new modern house was built for the minister at that time and future ministers to come.
Young business owners Robert Mckeag and Louise Mckeag purchase the house from the church and the original restoration of this Georgian Manor begins.
The original restoration of the now Old Rectory is completed. With the Barns now having a tin roof.
The Old Rectory hosts the VIP guests and commentators of the American news channel NBC news for the 148th British Open, Royal Portrush.
After studying International Hospitality and Tourism Management and working at The Gleneagles Hotel, Robert and Louise’s son Jasper dreams up the perfect accommodation for exploring the booming tourism spot – The North Coast of Northern Ireland.”
“Step through the bold red stable door of this cottage to discover the quirky internal layout. Take in the sea views from the bedroom or head outside to feel the sand between your toes on the wide sandy beach. Families, history enthusiasts and walkers will love the secluded location.
Sitting in the heart of the Antrim coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you may recognise the dramatic landscape surrounding the cottage from the Game of Thrones series. Inside, the layout downstairs is definitely unusual, but you’ll find a living room with woodburner, separate dining room, bathroom and hallway (not necessarily in that order, but that’s part of the fun). Upstairs there’s three bedrooms; a double, a twin and a single. Make the most of sunny seaside days and nights in the enclosed grassy gardens front and back, where the picnic table provides a great spot for an al-fresco family meal.
With its secluded setting just north of the village of Cushendun, Strand House is ideal for escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The village (which is now cared for by the National Trust) was built in the Cornish style in 1912 by Baron Cushendun in attempt to please his Cornish-born wife. The sheltered bay is also where you’ll find amenities like the pub, tearoom and shops. Or stay closer to home and relax on the beautiful sandy beach that curves right past the cottage. If you’re a nature lover, there are red squirrels to seek out in the forest at nearby Glenmona House.“
18. Tullymurry House, Banbridge, County Antrim, whole house rental:€€€ for two; € for 3-8
The website tells us: “This fabulous period home is a historic Irish country farm house. Set on wonderful gardens including an orchard, Tullymurry House is an ideal base for golf, fishing, hiking, walking, beach, and other outdoor pursuits.“
“Whitepark House is situated on the North Antrim coast road above the prettiest beach in Northern Ireland, Whitepark Bay.
The Giants Causeway is 4 miles west of us and Ballintoy harbour and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is 2 miles east.
We like to think that Whitepark House is one of the most interesting and atmospheric houses on the North coast , it was here in 1730 and has been added to over the centuries.
In the winter of 2006 we decided we felt confident enough to re-invest in the house and did a major renovation………re-wiring the house, new plumbing, heating, bathrooms and even a new roof…… we added a big conservatory for guests breakfast in the summer and some extra space for ourselves.
Hopefully we’ll never have to see another builder in our lifetime.
We now have 3 double bedrooms, some overlook the garden, some look towards the sea, all have large bathrooms containing power showers and separate baths. The rooms are individual in style thanks to Siobhan’s curtain making skills, one has a brass four poster bed, the others are brass or leather.”
“The stunning Magheramorne Estate, conveniently located just 23 miles from Belfast, is one of the most exclusive venues available for private hire in Northern Ireland. From weddings, family parties, corporate meetings and events to occasion meals, this coastal estate offers a variety of unique indoor and outdoor spaces to fulfil your dreams.
Built as a grand family home around 1880, the house has recently enjoyed sympathetic and elegant restoration in keeping with its Grade B1 listed status.
The Allen family have made significant investments to ensure the house meets modern expectations while carefully retaining the welcoming warmth of genuine domestic comfort.
Designed circa 1878 by Samuel P Close, it was built by James Henry for Sir James Hogg to mark his rise to the peerage of Baron Magheramorne in 1880. It replaced Ballylig House, an earlier and more modest residence originally constructed in 1817.
Magheramorne House was then occupied by the Baron’s family until 1904 when Colonel James McCalmont took up residence.
The estate changed hands again in 1932 as Major Harold Robinson, (of Robinson and Cleaver’s department store fame), transformed the house and grounds.
He further extended and developed the impressive gardens by planting many of the 150 different species of woodland trees present at the estate to this day.
These grounds are today maintained in their impressively manicured state by a skilled full-time gardener.
Magheramorne House’s architectural and historical significance is reflected in its Grade B1 listed status. While the accommodation has been modernised since its original construction, many notable period features, both internally and externally, have been retained.
The magnificent gardens extend over 40 acres and are a particular feature of the estate.
They include formal landscaped gardens and an exceptional array of specimen trees that impressively enhance the naturalistic planting.
Also tucked away in the private estate are two dramatic glens, a waterfall, ornamental walks, streams, ponds, feature bridges and a wide array of flora, fauna and indigenous wildlife to discover.
A new chapter in the history of Magheramorne Estate was opened in 2020 following its purchase by the Allen family who are very well respected in the food and hospitality sector.
They are currently investing all their time and energy into giving Magheramorne Estate a whole new lease of life with a sympathetic restoration and innovative plans for staging future events.“
 p. 6. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 36, Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 116. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 188, Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 198. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
Just to finish up my entries about Office of Public Works properties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.
1. Altamont Gardens
2. Castletown House, County Kildare
3. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare
1. Altamont House and Gardens, Bunclody Road, Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow:
“A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.
For example, there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air.
With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.” 
From Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018:
“Altamont House was constructed in the 1720s, incorporating parts of an earlier structure said to have been a medieval nunnery. In the 1850s, a lake was excavated in the grounds of the house, but it was when the Lecky-Watsons, a local Quaker family, acquired Altamont in 1924 that the gardens truly came into their own.
Feilding Lecky-Watson had worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he nurtured his love of exotic plants, and of rhododendrons in particular. Back in Ireland, he became an expert in the species, cultivating plants for the botanical gardnes at Glasnevin, Kew and Edinburgh. So passionate was he about these plants that when his wife, Isobel, gave birth to a daughter in 1922, she was named Corona, after his favourite variety of rhododendron.” 
Around the lake are mature conifers that were planted in the 1800s, including a giant Wellingtonia which commemorates the Battle of Waterloo.  Corona continued in her father’s footsteps, planing rhododendrons, magnolia and Japanese maples. Another feature is the “100 steps” hand-cut in granite, leading down to the River Slaney. There are red squirrels, otters in the lake and river, and peacocks. Before her death, Corona handed Altamont over to the Irish state to ensure its preservation.
2.Castletown House and Parklands, Celbridge, County Kildare.
“Castletown is set amongst beautiful eighteenth-century parklands on the banks of the Liffey in Celbridge, County Kildare.
The house was built around 1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, to designs by several renowned architects. It was intended to reflect Conolly’s power and to serve as a venue for political entertaining on a grand scale. At the time Castletown was built, commentators expected it to be ‘the epitome of the Kingdom, and all the rarities she can afford’.
The estate flourished under William Conolly’s great-nephew Thomas and his wife, Lady Louisa, who devoted much of her life to improving her home.
Today, Castletown is home to a significant collection of paintings, furnishings and objets d’art. Highlights include three eighteenth-century Murano-glass chandeliers and the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in the country.
It is still the most splendid Palladian-style country house in Ireland.“
The Conolly familysold Castletown in 1965. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. In 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres, to be the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. It is now maintained by the Office of Public Works and the Castletown Trust.
William Conolly (1662-1729) rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.
William Conolly had property on Capel Street in Dublin, before moving to Celbridge. Conolly’s house was on the corner of Capel Street and Little Britain Street and was demolished around 1770.  The Kildare Local History webpage gives us an excellent description of William Conolly’s rise to wealth:
“In November 1688, William Conolly was one of the Protestants who fled Dublin to join the Williamites in Chester alongside his late Celbridge neighbour Bartholomew Van Homrigh.
On the victory of William III, he acquired a central role dealing in estates forfeited by supporters of James II, commencing his rise to fortune with the forfeited estates of the McDonnells of Antrim.
In 1691 he purchased Rodanstown outside Kilcock, which became his country residence until he purchased Castletown in 1709.
A dowry of £2,300 came his way in 1694 when he married Katherine Conyngham, daughter of Albert Conyngham, a Williamite General who had been killed in the war at Collooney in 1691.
He was appointed Collector and Receiver of Revenue for the towns of Derry and Coleraine on May 2nd 1698.
Conolly was the largest purchaser of forfeited estates in the period 1699–1703, acquiring also 20,000 acres spread over five counties at a cost of just £7,000.” 
He rose to become Speaker of the House of Commons in the Irish Parliament. William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle in County Meath (see my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/slane-castle-county-meath/). As well as earning money himself, his wife brought a large dowry.
William Conolly purchased land in County Kildare which had been owned by Thomas Dongan (1634-1715), 2nd Earl of Limerick, in 1709. Dongan’s estate had been confiscated as he was a Jacobite supporter of James II (he became first governor of the Duke of York’s province of New York! The Earldom ended at his death). Dongan’s mother was the daughter of William Talbot, 1st Baronet of Carton (see my entry about Carton, County Kildare, under Places to stay in County Kildare https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/).
The Archiseek website tells us about the design of Castletown House:
“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” 
Mark Bence-Jones describes Castletown in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses. The centre block is of three storeys over basement, and has two almost identical thirteen bay fronts “reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty and serenity.”  The centre block is made of Edenderry limestone, and is topped by cornice and balustrade. On the ground floor the windows have frieze, cornice and lugged architrave, and on the first floor, alternating triangular and segmental pediments.
Pearce added the curved Ionic colonnades and two two-storey seven bay wings. He also designed the impressive two-storey entrance hall inside.
William died in 1729 aged just 67, so he had only a few years to enjoy his house. His wife Katherine lived on in the house another twenty-three years until her death at the age of 90 in 1752. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754), son of William’s brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James married Lady Anne Wentworth, the daughter of the Earl of Strafford. Her father, Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford is not the more famous Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford who was executed (of whom there is at least one portrait in Castletown) but a later one, of the second creation. William James died just two years after Katherine Conolly, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).
Thomas married Louisa Lennox in 1758, one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster). At Carton, Louisa was exposed to the fashionable ideas of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping.  Louisa loved Castletown and continually planned improvements, planting trees, designing the lake and building bridges.
Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” (see )
Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 6]
The polished limestone floor with its chequered design and the Kilkenny marble fireplace reflect William Conolly’s desire to build the house solely of native Irish materials. Unfortunately when we visited in October 2022, the hall was half hidden with a large two storey curtain, as the windows are all being repaired. As we can see in the photograph, the room has an Ionic colonnade to the rear, and a gallery at first floor level, and the stair hall is through an archway in the east wall.
From the entrance hall, one enters the magnificent Stair Hall. The Castletown website describes the stair hall:
“The Portland stone staircase at Castletown is one of the largest cantilevered staircases in Ireland. It was built in 1759 under the direction of the master builder Simon Vierpyl (c.1725–1811). Prior to this the space was a shell, although a plan attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce suggests that a circular staircase was previously intended.
The solid brass balustrade was installed by Anthony King, later Lord Mayor of Dublin. He signed and dated three of the banisters, ‘A. King Dublin 1760’. The opulent rococo plasterwork was created by the Swiss-Italian stuccadore Filippo Lafranchini, who, with his older brother Paolo, had worked at Carton and Leinster House for Lady Lousia’s brother-in-law, the first Duke of Leinster, as well as at Russborough in Co. Wicklow. Shells, cornucopias, dragons and masks feature in the light-hearted decoration which represents the final development of the Lafranchini style. Family portraits are also included with Tom Conolly at the foot of the stairs and Louisa above to his right. The four seasons are represented on the piers and on either side of the arched screen.“
Mark Bence-Jones continues:
In the following year, Tom Conolly and Lady Louisa employed the Francini to decorate the walls of thestaircase hall with rococo stuccowork; and in 1760 the grand staircase itself – of cantilevered stone, with a noble balustrade of brass columns – was installed; the work beign carried out by Simon Vierpyl, a protégé of Sir William Chambers. The principal reception rooms, which form an enfilade along the garden front and were mostly decorated at this time, are believed to be by Chambers himself; they have ceilings of geometrical plasterwork, very characteristic of him. Also in this style is the dining room, to the left of the entrance hall. It was here that, according to the story, Tom Conolly found himself giving supper to the Devil, whom he had met out hunting and invited back, believing him to be merely a dark stranger; but had realised the truth when his guest’s boots were removed, revealing him to have unusually hairy feet. He therefore sent for the priest, who threw his breviary at the unwelcome guest, which missed him and cracked a mirror. This, however, was enough to scare the Devil, who vanished through the hearthstone. Whatever the truth of this story, the hearthstone in the dining room is shattered, and one of the mirrors is cracked.“
The Dining Room, description from Archiseek:
“This room dates from the 1760s redecoration of Castletown undertaken by Lady Louisa Conolly and reflects the mid-eighteenth century fashion for separate dining rooms. Originally, there were two smaller panelled rooms here. It was reconstructed to designs by Sir William Chambers, with a compartmentalised ceiling similar to one by Inigo Jones in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The chimney-piece and door cases are in the manner of Chambers. Of the four doors, two are false.
Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms. The three elaborate pier glasses are original to the Dining Room. The frames are carved fruiting vines, symbols of Bacchus and festivity. These are probably the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809) who, with the firm of Thomas Jackson of Essex Bridge, Dublin, was paid large sums for carving and gilding throughout the house.“
Between the front of the house, with its Entrance Hall, Stair Hall and Dining Room is a corridor, or rather, two corridors, one to the west and one to the east of the Entrance Hall. This corridor is on every storey, including the basement. To the rear (north) of the house on the ground floor is an enfilade of rooms: the Brown Study to the west end, next to another staircase, then the Red Drawing Room, the Green Drawing Room, the Print Room, the State Bedroom, and then small rooms called the Healy Room and the Map Room.
The corridors now hold paintings and art works, and one has a cabinet of Meissen porcelain.
Next to the Dining Room at the front of the house is the Butler’s Pantry, which contains photographs of the servants of Castletown, and a portrait of a housekeeper, Mrs Parnel Moore (1649–1761). It’s unusual to have a portrait of a housekeeper but perhaps someone painted her because she was a beloved member of the household, as she lived to be at least 112 years! This is a very old portrait dating back to the 1700s.
The Castletown website tells us about the Butler’s Pantry: “The Butler’s Pantry dates from the 1760s and connected the newly created Dining Room with the kitchens in the West Wing. Food was carried in from the kitchens through the colonnade passageway and then reheated in the pantry before being served. The great kitchens were on the ground floor of the west wing, with servants’ quarters upstairs. Upwards of 80 servants would have been employed in the house and kitchens in the late eighteenth century under the direction of the Butler and the Housekeeper.”
The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:
“It is one of a series of State Rooms that form an enfilade and were used on important occasions in the eighteenth century. This room was redesigned in the mid 1760s in the manner of Sir William Chambers. The chimney-piece, ceiling and pier glasses are typical of his designs.
The walls are covered in red damask which is probably French and dates from the 1820s. Lady Shelburne recorded in her journal seeing a four coloured damask, predominently red, in this room. The Aubusson carpet dates from about 1850 and may have been made for the room. Much of the furniture has always been in the house and Lady Louisa Conolly paid 11/2 guineas for each of the Chinese Chippendale armchairs which she considered very expensive. The chairs and settee were made in Dublin and they are displayed in a formal arrangement against the walls as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The bureau was made for Lady Louisa in the 1760s.“
The neoclassical ceiling, which replaced the vaulted original, is based on published designs by the Italian Renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio, and is modelled after one in Leinster House (belonging to Lady Louisa’s sister’s husband the Earl of Kildare). The white Carrara chimney-piece came to the house in 1768.
The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:
“The Conollys formally received important visitors to the house in the Green Drawing Room which was the saloon or principal reception room. The room was redecorated in the 1760s and like the other state rooms reflects the neo-classical taste of the architect Sir William Chambers. The Greek key decoration on the ceiling is repeated on the pier glasses and the chimney-piece. Originally these were pier tables with a Greek key frieze and copies of these may be made in the future. The chimney-piece is similar to one designed by Chambers for Lord Charlemont’s Casino at Marino.”
The Castletown website tells us: “The Green Drawing Room was the main reception room or saloon on the ground floor. Visitors could enter from the Entrance Hall or the garden front. Like the other state rooms it was extensively remodelled between 1764 and 1768. The influence of the published designs of Serlio and the leading British architect Isaac Ware can be seen in the neo-classical ceiling, door cases and chimney-piece...The walls were first lined with a pale green silk damask in the 1760s. Fragments of this silk, which was replaced by a dark green mid-nineteenth century silk, survived and the present silk was woven as a direct colour match in 1985 by Prelle et Cie in Lyon, France.”
The Brown Study is at one end of this enfilade of rooms. The website describes it:
“The Brown Study with its wood-panelled walls, tall oak doors, corner chimney-piece, built-in desk and vaulted ceiling is decorated as it was in the 1720s when the house was first built. This room was used as a bedroom in the late nineteenth century and then as a breakfast parlour in the early twentieth century.
Between the windows is a piece of the ‘Volunteer fabric’. Printed on a mixture of linen and cotton in Harpur’s Mills in nearby Leixlip, it depicts the review of the Leinster Volunteers in the Phoenix Park in 1782. Thomas Conolly was active in the Volunteer leadership in both Counties Derry and Kildare. The Volunteers were a local militia force established during the American War of Independence to defend Ireland from possible French invasion while the regular troops were in America. They were later linked to the Patriot party in the Irish House of Commons led by Henry Grattan and to their campaigns for political reform.“
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca. 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776.“
The website tells us about the Print Room, completed in 1769: “More than any other room in Castletown, the Print Room bears the imprint of Lady Louisa, who assiduously collected, cut out, and arranged individual prints, frames and decorations. The prints were glued on panels of off-white painted paper which was later attached to the walls on battens covered with cloth. Lady Louisa thus created an intimate, highly individual room which has survived changing tastes and fashions and is now the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in Ireland.”
Print rooms were fashionable in the 18th century – ladies would collect their favourite prints and paste the walls with them. Prints featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline.
The room was later used as a billiards room, and this helped inadvertedly to save the prints, as our guide told us, as the smoke from their pipes helped to protect against silverfish insects which eat wallpaper.
Next to the Print Room is the State Bedroom. The website tells us:
“In the 1720s, when the house was first laid out, this room, along with the rooms either side, probably formed William Conolly’s bedroom suite. It was intended that he would receive guests in the morning while sitting up in bed or being dressed in the manner of the French court at Versailles. In the nineteenth century, the room was converted into a library and the mock leather Victorian wall paper dates from this time. Sadly, the Castletown library was dispersed in the 1960s and today the furniture reflects the room’s original use.“
Next to the State Bedroom is The Healy Room: “This room originally served as a dressing room or closet attached to the adjoining State Bedroom. It was used as a small sitting room and later became Major Edward Conolly’s bedroom in the mid-twentieth century, as it was one of the few rooms that could be kept warm in winter. It is now known as the Healy room after the pictures of the Castletown horses by the Irish artist Robert Healy (d.1771).”
Upstairs has more bedrooms, and the beautiful Long Gallery. A corridor overlooks the Great Hall.
To one side of the Stair Hall upstairs is Lady Kildare’s Room, named after Lady Louisa’s sister Emily, Countess of Kildare and later Duchess of Leinster, who had raised Louisa and the two younger sisters Sarah and Cecilia at nearby Carton House after their parents’ death. Currently being renovated, in the past the room housed the Berkeley Costume Collection. Made in France, Italy, and England, the dresses on display consist of rich embroidered bodices and full skirts made from silk and gold thread.
Across the upstairs East Corridor from Lady Kildare’s room is the Blue Bedroom. The website tells us that the Blue Bedroom provides a fine example of an early Victorian bedroom. Like the Boudoir, it forms part of an apartment with two adjoining dressing rooms, one of which was upgraded into a bathroom with sink and bathtub. The principal bedrooms, used by the family and honoured guests, were on this floor. Bedrooms on the second floor were also used for guests and for children, while the servants slept in the basement. This room has a lovely pink canopied bed, but we did not see the room when we visited in 2022.
At the front of the house on the other side of the Great Hall upstairs are the Boudoir, and Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, and across the West Corridor upstairs, the Pastel Room. The website tells us:
“The Boudoir and the adjoining two rooms formed Lady Louisa’s personal apartment. The Boudoir served as a private sitting room for Louisa and subsequent ladies of the house. The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner. The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery. Amongst the items inside the built-in glass cabinet are pieces of glass and china featuring the Conolly crest.
In the adjoining room, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room.“
Across the West Corridor upstairs is the Pastel Room. The Corridor has more portraits.
The Pastel Room, the website tells us, was originally an anteroom to the adjoining Long Gallery. It was used as a school room in the nineteenth century and is now known as the Pastel Room because of the fine collection of pastel portraits. The smaller pastels surrounding the fireplace include a pair of portraits of Thomas and Louisa Conolly by the leading Irish pastel artist of the eighteenth century, Hugh Douglas Hamilton.
From the Pastel Room, we enter the Long Gallery. The website tells us about this room:
“Originally laid out as a picture gallery with portraits of William Conolly’s patrons on display, its function and layout changed under Lady Louisa. In 1760, she had the original doorways to the upper east and west corridors removed, replacing them with the central doorway above the Entrance Hall. The new doorcases as well as new fireplaces at either end were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. The Pompeian style decoration on the walls dates from the 1770s and was inspired by Montfaucon’s publications on the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and by Raphael’s designs for the Vatican. The murals were the work of an English artist and engraver Charles Ruben Riley (1752–98). The Long Gallery became a space for informal entertaining and was full of life and activity as the following excerpt from one of Louisa’s letters suggests: “Our gallery was in great vogue, and really is a charming room for there is such a variety of occupations in it, that people cannot be formal in it. Lord Harcourt was writing, some of us played at whist, others at billiards, Mrs Gardiner at the harpsichord, others at chess, others at reading and supper at one end. I have seldom seen twenty people in a room so easily disposed of.”
The Long Gallery, description from Archiseek:
“…measuring almost 80 by 23 feet, with its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s. Originally there were four doors in the room and the walls were panelled in stucco similar to the entrance Hall. In 1776 the plaster panels and swags were removed but traces of them were found behind the painted canvas panels when they were taken down for cleaning during recent conservation work.”
Archiseek continues: “In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland).
Archiseek tells us: “The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter.
The three glass chandeliers were made for the room in Venice and the four large sheets of mirrored glass came from France. In the 1770s the Long Gallery was used as a living room and was filled with exquisite furniture. Originally in the room, there were a pair of side tables attributed to John Linnell, with marble tops attributed to Bossi, a pair of commodes by Pierre Langlois, that were purchased in London for Lady Louisa by Lady Caroline Fox and a pair of bookcases at either end of the room.
In 1989 major conservation work was carried out on the Long Gallery. The wall paintings that had been flaking for many years were conserved. The original eighteenth-century gilding has been cleaned and the chandeliers restored. The project was funded by the American Ireland Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and by private donations.“
Mark Bence-Jones tells us: “The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers.“
The Obelisk, or Conolly Folly, was reputedly built to give employment during an episode of famine. It was restored by the Irish Georgian Society in 1960.
As Bence-Jones tells us, Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly, to become Pakenham Conolly. Thomas and Louisa had no children, and Thomas’s sister Harriet married John Staples, and their daughter was Louisa Staples. Louisa married Thomas Pakenham (1757-1836). It was their son, Edward Michael (1786-1849) who inherited Castletown.
The house then passed to his son, another Thomas Conolly (1823-1876). He was an adventourous character who travelled widely and kept a diary. Stephen and I recently attended a viewing of portraits of Thomas and his wife Sarah Eliza, which are to be sold by Bonhams. His diary of his trip to the United States during the time of the Civil War is being published.
Sarah Eliza was the daughter of a prosperous Celbridge paper mill owner, Joseph Shaw. Her substantial dowry helped to fund her husband’s adventurous lifestyle! A photograph album which belonged to her brother Henry Shaw, of a visit to Castletown, was rescued from the rubble of his home in London when it was destroyed by a German bomb in 1944. Sadly, he died in the bombing. The photograph album is on display in Castletown.
Sarah Eliza and Thomas had four children. Thomas, born in 1870, died in the Boer War in 1900. William died at the age of 22. Edward Michael (Ted), born in 1874, lived until his death in Castletown, in 1956. Their daughter Catherine married Gerald Shapland Carew, 5th Baron Carew, the grandson of Robert Carew, 1st Baron Carew of Castleboro House, County Wexford (today an impressive ruin), and son of Shapland Francis Carew and his wife Hester Georgiana Browne, daughter of Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo.
Catherine’s son, William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994), 6th Baron Carew, inherited Casteltown, and added Conolly to his surname.
3.Maynooth Castle, County Kildare:
General information: 01 628 6744, email@example.com
“This majestic stone castle was founded in the early thirteenth century. It became the seat of power for the FitzGeralds, the earls of Kildare, as they emerged as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Garret Mór, known as the Great Earl of Kildare, governed Ireland in the name of the king from 1487 to 1513.
Maynooth Castle was one of the largest and richest Geraldine dwellings. The original keep, begun around 1200, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Inside, the great hall was a nerve centre of political power and culture.
Only 30 kilometres from Dublin, Maynooth Castle occupies a deceptively secluded spot in the centre of the town, with well-kept grounds and plenty of greenery. There is a captivating exhibition in the keep on the history of the castle and the family.“
 p. 8, Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.
 p. xiii, Jennings, Marie-Louise and Gabrielle M. Ashford (eds.), The Letters of Katherine Conolly, 1707-1747. Irish Manuscripts Commission 2018. The editors reference TCD, MS 3974/121-125; Capel Street and environs, draft architectural conservation area (Dublin City Council) and Olwyn James, Capel Street, a study of the past, a vision of the future (Dublin, 2001), pp. 9, 13, 15-17.
 p. 75. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 129. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitzGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008.
This is due to be open soon by the OPW. It does not have a website yet. In December 2015 Annes Grove House and Garden were donated to the state by the Annesley family.
“Nestled into an eighteenth century ornamental glen, adjacent to the River Awbeg, the demesne of Annes Grove in north County Cork is the setting for the most exquisite Robinsonian-style gardens in Ireland….
The Gardens at Annes Grove were largely the creation of Richard Grove Annesley in the first half of the twentieth century.” 
The estate was previously known as Ballyhimmock, and it was acquired by William Grove around 1626.
In 1792 it was inherited by Arthur Grove Annesley (1774-1849) from an aunt by marriage, heiress to the Grove family, after which it was renamed by merging the two family names.  Arthur Grove Annesley’s uncle Francis Charles Annesley, 1st Earl Annesley of Castlewellan, County Down, married Mary Grove who inherited the estate from her father.
At the centre of the garden is a restored Gothic style summerhouse. The main house is of Queen Anne design, from the 18th century. Pergolas, a lily pond, Victorian stone fernery, a woodland walk and river garden, a rockery and wild water garden create an atmospheric setting.
“Barryscourt Castle was the seat of the great Anglo-Norman Barry family and is one of the finest examples of a restored Irish Tower House. Dating from between 1392 and 1420, the Castle has an outer bawn wall and largely intact corner towers. The ground floor of the Tower House contains a dungeon into which prisoners were dropped via the ‘drop-hole’ located on the second floor.
The Barrys supported the Fitzgeralds of Desmond during the Irish rebellions of the late sixteenth century. To prevent it being captured by Sir Walter Raleigh and his army, the Barrys [David Barry, 5th Viscount Barry (1550-1617)] partially destroyed the Castle.
During the Irish Confederate War of the seventeenth century Barryscourt Castle was once again successfully attacked. Cannon balls lodged in the wall above the Castle entrance bear witness to this conflict. The last head of the Barry family was Lord David Barry.
Barryscourt Castle has been extensively restored. The Main Hall and Great Hall have been completed and fittings and furnishings reinstated. Within the Castle grounds, the herb and knot garden and the charming orchard have been restored to their original sixteenth century design.“
After David Barry’s death in 1617 the family made Castlelyons their principal seat (now a ruin). The castle was restored by the OPW and the Barryscourt Trust between 1987-1993, with reproduction furniture made by Victor Chinnery. 
An article in the Irish Examiner by Padraig Hoare published 22nd May 2021 tells us that the site is closed and will be for some time:
“A reopening date must be established for one of East Cork’s most historic landmarks after languishing in the midst of safety works for five years.
That is according to Cork East TD Séan Sherlock, who said Barryscourt Castle in Carrigtwohill has to be a priority for the Government body in charge of the facility, the Office of Public Works (OPW).
History enthusiasts and families alike were disappointed in the summer of 2020, when it emerged that Barryscourt Castle would remain closed for another 18 months.
The latest update from the OPW given in response to a parliamentary question from Mr Sherlock suggests it may be even longer than the date anticipated a year ago.
The Department of Public Expenditure said restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic “has disrupted the good progress” of works being done to make the facility safe.
“It is not possible at this time to give a precise date for reopening to the public,” the department said.“
3. Charles Fort, Summer Cove, Kinsale, County Cork:
General Enquiries: 021 477 2263, firstname.lastname@example.org
“As one of the country’s largest military installations, Charles Fort has been part of some of the most momentous events of Irish history. During the Williamite Wars, for example, it withstood a 13-day siege before it fell. Later, in the Civil War of the early 1920s, anti-Treaty forces on the retreat burned it out.
Charles Fort is a massive star-shaped structure of the late seventeenth century, well preserved despite its history. William Robinson, architect of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin, is credited with designing it. Its dimensions are awe-inspiring – some of the outer defences are 16 metres high.
The view from the ramparts looking out over Kinsale Harbour is spectacular.“
4. Desmond Castle (also known as the French Prison), Kinsale, County Cork:
General Enquiries: 021 477 4855, email@example.com
“Desmond Castle in Kinsale dates from around 1500. It is a classic urban tower house, consisting of a three-storey keep with storehouses to the rear.
Maurice Bacach Fitzgerald, the earl of Desmond, originally built the castle as the customs house for the town. [I think this must be the 9th Earl of Desmond – JWB] It served as a prison in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Because it usually held French inmates, as well as Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutch and Americans, it became known locally as the French Prison and carries that name to this day. The building was co-opted as an ordnance store during the momentous Battle of Kinsale (1601) and served as a workhouse during the Great Famine.
Desmond Castle certainly had a colourful history and this continued into the twentieth century. In the early 1900s it was used as a venue to host local Gaelic League meetings. Finally, in the 1930s, a thriving undertaking business operated from within the National Monument.“
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us:
“Freestanding three-bay three-storey tower house, commenced c.1500, abutting earthen terrace to rear. Attached cell blocks and exercise yards to rear (north-west) and platform to side (north-east). Historically used as magazine (1600-1601), as prison for foreign prisoners (1601-1790) and as borough jail (1791-1846). Restored in 1938 currently in use as museum.“
5. Doneraile Court, County Cork:
General enquiries: 046 942 3175, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Doneraile Court towers majestically over the glorious Doneraile Park, a 160-hectare landscaped parkland and wildlife estate.
The house was built by the St Leger family around 1645 on the site of a ruined castle. By the time it was refurbished in the mid-eighteenth century it had become an outstanding example of Georgian architecture. Its associations range from links to the famous St Leger Stakes in horse racing and literature, with famous Irish writers such as Elizabeth Bowen. [A horse race took place in 1742 in which Edmund Burke and Cornelius O’Callaghan met a bet as to whose horse could cover the distance fastest between the church steeples of Buttevant and Doneraile. This gave rise to the term “steeplechasing.”]
Thirteen generations of the St Leger family lived at Doneraile over three centuries. The family had some extraordinary members. For example, Elizabeth St Leger made history when she became the first woman Freemason in the world in 1712.”
Elizabeth (1695-1772) was the daughter of Arthur, 1st Viscount Doneraile. He was an active Freemason and sometimes hosted lodge meetings at his home. The story has it that Elizabeth fell asleep in the library, and woke to hear a secret Masonic ceremony taking place. When the Freemasons discovered that she had heard their secret, she had to be sworn in as a member in order to protect their privacy! She remained a member, as can be seen wearing Masonic symbols in portraits. She married Colonel Richard Aldworth, High Sheriff of County Cork.
“The fine parklands are designed in the naturalistic style of the famous Capability Brown. They include many beautiful water features, plus a parterre walled garden and gardeners’ cottages. There are numerous pathways and graded walks. Lucky visitors might just spot some of the red deer, fallow deer, sika deer and Kerry cattle that live on the estate.” 
The house remained in the hands of the St. Leger family until 1969. Following decades of care by the Irish Georgian Society, it passed to the OPW in 1994.
From the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage:
“Detached three-storey over half basement country house, built c. 1730, containing fabric of earlier house, built c. 1645. Possibly also incorporating fabric of medieval castle. Extended 1805, conservatory added 1825, extended 1869, and also incorporating other nineteenth-century additions.”
The 1730s work on the house was carried out for Arthur St. Leger, 2nd Viscount Doneraile (1694-1734). Mark Bence-Jones suggests that it was the work of architect Isaac Rothery, but Frank Keohane suggests it could have been Benjamin Crawley.  The bow-ended block on the left of the garden front was added 1756-58, payment was made for this to architect Thomas Roberts.
National Inventory Appraisal: “The artist who created the ornate plaster work to the interior is unknown, but was clearly highly skilled. Doneraile Park is associated with Edmund Spenser the poet, who refers to the River Awbeg which flows through the park as the ‘gentle mulla’. The lands were bought by William St Ledger from the Spensers [William St. Leger (1586-1642), Privy Counsellor, Lord President of Munster, 1627, MP for Cork County, 1634, who was appointed, in that year, Sergeant-Major-General in the Army, employed to fight against the rebels in Ireland – JWB].
The timber panelled room to the interior is original to the earliest incarnation of the house. It is thought that it was here that Elizabeth St Ledger [1695-1772] was initiated as one of only three female members of freemasons in history after eavesdropping on a meeting. Added to this association with important historical characters, Doneraile Court represents more than three hundred years of construction and alteration, with different architectural features representing each phase.”
The bow ends on the front facade were built when improvements were made by the Hayes St. Leger 2nd Viscount of the second creation (1755-1819), between 1804-1808. At this time a new kitchen was added to the back of the house along with a now-lost Gothic conservatory.
The Hall was remodelled in the 1820s, when it was extended into the new porch. It has a screen of paired Ionic pillars, a frieze decorated with rosettes and an acanthus ceiling rose.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“…On the other side of the house, a wing containing a new dining room was added 1869 by 4th Viscount Doneraile of the later creation. At the back of the hall is an oval late-Georgian staircase hall in which a staircase with slender wooden balusters rises gracefully to the top of the house beneath of ceiling of Adamesque plasterwork. To the right of the staircase hall is one of the rooms of the original house, with a corner fireplace and fielded panelling; it was possibly in here that, ca 1713, Elizabeth St Leger was initiated as one of the only three women Freemasons in history, after she had been caught spying on a Lodge meeting held by her father. Behind this room was the vast and splendid dining room of 1869 which formerly had an immense mahogany sideboard in a mirrored alcove confronting a full-length portrait of the 4th Viscount with his favourite hunter. He was one of the greatest Victorian hunting men; ironically, he died of rabies through being bitten by a pet fox. The three drawing rooms on the other side of the house are early C19 in character and probably date from the reconstruction after the fire; they have simple but elegant friezes, overdoors with volutes and windows going right down to the floor. The long connection of the St Legers with Doneraile ended when Mary, Viscountess Doneraile died 1975. The garden, which boasts of a Lime Walk and a long “fishpond” or canal surviving from the original C18 layout, is now maintained by the Dept of Lands; as is the park, in which there is still a herd of red deer. The house, after standing empty for several years and becoming almost derelict, is in the process of being restored by the Irish Georgian Society, with a view to finding someone who would be willing to take it on. The 1869 dining room wing has been demolished.” 
From the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Floating elliptical winder staircase with curved newel post and turned timber banisters. Timber treads with carved timber panels to side. Decorative render roses under stair. Ornate Adam-style ceiling with central ceiling rose and decorative fluted surround to stair ceiling.”
6. Fota Arboretum and Gardens, Carrigtwohill, County Cork
“Fota House was designed by 19th century architects Richard and William Morrison. From the beautifully proportioned rooms with exquisite plasterwork, to the preserved service wing and kitchens, Fota House offers visitors an intimate look at how life was lived in the past, for the cooks, butlers, footmen and maids who supported the lavish lifestyle of the gentry. Our painting collection is considered to be one of the finest collections of landscape painting outside the National Gallery of Ireland and includes works by William Ashford PRHA, Robert Carver, Jonathan Fisher and Thomas Roberts.” 
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“(Smith-Barry (now Villiers)/IFR) After Barry’s Court had been abandoned by the Barrymores, a hunting box was built on the nearby Fota Island, in Cork Harbour, by Hon John Smith-Barry [1725-1784], a younger son of 4th Earl of Barrymore, to whom Fota and some of the other Barrymore estates were given 1714. This house, of three storeys and seven bays, was greatly enlarged ca 1820 by John Smith-Barry [d.1837, grandson of his earlier namesake] to the design of Sir Richard Morrison, so that it became a wide-spreading Regency mansion of stucco with stone dressings. The original house, given a single-storey Doric portico with fluted columns and acroteria beneath a pedimented Wyatt window, remained the centre of the composition; flanked by two storey projecting wings with pedimented ends on the entrance front and curved bows on the garden front. A long two storey service range was added at one side. In 1856, a billiard room wing, in the same style as the Morrison wings but of one storey only, was added on the entrance front, projecting from the end of the service range. The space between this and the main building was filled in ca 1900 by Arthur Smith-Barry, 1st (and last) Lord Barrymore of a new creation [(1843-1925), grandson of John Smith-Barry], with a single-storey range containing a long gallery.” 
Frank Keohane tells us that the later John Smith-Barry settled here after his marriage to Eliza Courtenay of Ballyedmond, Midleton, County Cork. He was illegitimate, so perhaps he built the home to establish his reputation.  Smith-Barry hired John and William Vitruvius Morrison to enlarge the hunting lodge which had been built by his grandfather. He also built sea walls around the island and re-routed the public road to form a deer park and carriage drives around the shore.
Bence-Jones continues:“The exterior simplicity of Fota is a foil to the splendours within; for the interior has that richness which Sir Richard Morrison and his son, William Vitruvius, were so well able to create. The hall, which runs the entire length of the front of the original house, is divided by screens of paired Ionic columns with yellow scagliola.” The long gallery was designed by William H. Hill.
To the right of the long hall are the Drawing Room and Library. The Drawing Room is entered via a small ante-room.
The Drawing Room Ceiling has deep borders with floral wreaths containing doves, alternating with lozenges of bay leaf containing Apollonian trophies of musical and hunting instruments. The drawing room and ante-room ceilings were added to in the 1890s with stencilwork and gilding by Sibthorpe & Son of Dublin.
To the left of the hall is the Dining Room. It has a screen of grey scagliola Corinthian columns at the sideboard end, and rich plasterwork with a ceiling border of vines on a trellis ground and a frieze of bucrania draped with garlands.
“Also on display in the main reception rooms is a fine collection of art work described as the most significant of its type outside the National Gallery of Ireland. Masterpieces of the eighteenth-century Irish Landscape School include works by William Ashford (1746-1824); George Barret (1730-84); Robert Carver (c.1730-91); and Thomas Roberts (1748-78). Nineteenth-century art is represented by Daniel Maclise (1806-70); Erskine Nicol (1825-1904); and James Arthur O’Connor (1792-1841). An entire room is dedicated to Irish watercolours and features the work of Mildred Anne Butler (1858-1941); Hugh Douglas Hamilton (c.1740-1808); and George Petrie (1790-1866).” 
At the back of the house is the study, which extends into one of the bows. It has a simple frieze of wreaths.
Bence-Jones continues: “A doorway opposite the entrance door leads into the staircase hall, which is of modest size, being the staircase hall of the original house; but it has been greatly enriched with plasterwork. The ceiling is domed, with wreaths on the pendentives and eagles in the lunettes; there is a frieze of wreaths and at the head of the stairs two fluted Tower of Winds columns frame an enchanting vista to a second and smaller staircase, leading up to the top storey.” The stairs are of cantilevered Portland stone, with brass balusters and a mahogany handrail.
At the top of the stairs is a small recess, leading up to the secondary stair, with a pair of shell-headed niches, a Greek-key border and a pair of Tower of the Winds columns. A cross-corridor gives access to the bedrooms, the differing levels resulting in various little lobbies and landings.
The principal bedroom suite is placed over the Dining Room and communicates directly with nurseries in the service wing. The suite contains a boudoir with barrel-vaulted ceiling and a half-dome decorated with doves trailing garlands. Plaster drapery fills the lunette to the vault with a little top-lit skylight at the apex of the dome with amber and blue coloured glazing.
Fota passed to John Smith-Barry’s great-granddaughter Mrs Dorothy Bell (1894-1975), the last of the clan to live on the Barry estates. It was sold to University College Cork and in 1983, Richard Wood took a lease of the house and restored it with John O’Connell as architect, to display his collection of Irish art to the public. It was then sold and the pictures removed, and in 1991 the house and arboretum passed to the Fota Trust and in 1999 extensive conservation work was carried out under the direction of John Cahill of the Office of Public Works.