King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon F52 HM50

Open dates listed in 2023: April 8-9, 11-16, 18- 23, 25-30, May 2-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-28, 30-31, June 1-30,
July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 1-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19- 24, 26- 30

Tue-Sat, 11am-5pm, Sun-11am-4pm
Fee: adult €10, OAP/student /child €7, family 2 adults & 2 children €30


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It is hard to capture King House in a photograph.

Stephen and I visited King House during Heritage Week 2022. It is open to the public and is no longer a private home.

King House was built in 1720 for Henry King, 3rd Baronet. There was a house previously on the site built for his grandfather, Robert. It was used as a military barracks in later years. Now it is a museum that tells the story of the King family, the history of the military unit which occupied the building, and it also houses a collection of contemporary art, the Boyle Civic Art Collection and the McAleese Collection. You can take a “virtual tour” on their website.

John King arrived in Ireland from Staffordshire, England, in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Anthony Lawrence King-Harmon tells us in his book, The Kings of King House. His family originally came from Feathercock Hall in Yorkshire.

The land had been previously controlled by the MacDermott clan. A room in King House tells us a few stories about the MacDermott clan. They had a rare victory over Queen Elizabeth I’s forces in the pass in the Curlew Mountains, near Boyle.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

John King fought along with Sir Richard Bingham in Connaught during the Nine Years War. [1] In 1603 Robert’s father John King (1560-1636) was given, along with John Bingley, the lease of Boyle Abbey and its surrounding lands, in recognition for services rendered to the Crown. The Abbey had been used as a military barracks since the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.

Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.
Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.

He married Catherine Drury, grand-niece of Sir William Drury, Lord Deputy of Ireland. They were the parents of Edward King, who was memorialised in John Milton’s poem, Lycidas, after he drowned in the Irish Sea. The King’s townhouse is now the home of the Society of Irish Pipers, Na Píobairí Uilleann, 15 Henrietta Street. A ceiling in the house features a bust of Milton, commemorating his poem to Edward King.

King House, 2022.

The King House website tells us that John King’s main residence was in Dublin, in Baggotrath near what is now Baggot Street, but he built a “great castle” in 1607 in Boyle. By 1618 he had obtained an outright grant to the Abbey and and its 4127 acres. King-Harmon tells us that an “apocryphal” story claims that the title “Lay Abbot” gave the right to have more than one wife! He adds that this was not a privilege of which John King availed.

He was made “Muster General” of Ireland responsible for calling up personnel to assist with maintaining law and order in Ireland. At the time that he built his castle in Boyle, the population of Boyle was around 300, of whom thirty were English workmen or traders. Sir John was buried in Boyle Abbey.

As Muster Master, John King was in charge of weapons such as those above: a pike, musket, lance and sword.

Unfortunately we did not have time to visit Boyle Abbey this time, though we stopped to take a few photographs from the road – we will have to visit Boyle again.

King House, August 2022.

Sir John’s daughters married well – Mary married William Caulfeild, 2nd Baron Caulfeild of Charlemont, County Armagh, who became the Master-General of the Ordnance for Ireland. Her sister Dorothy married Arthur Moore, son of Garret, 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda.

John’s eldest son, Robert (d. 1657) was a supporter of Oliver Cromwell, and offered his services to the Parliamentarians. He fought in battles and has been credited with victory in the battle of Ballintubber. He was MP in the Cromwellian parliament in England, representing Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim. He lived mostly in his home in Baggotrath in Dublin but built a house on the site of the present King House in Boyle. He died the year before Cromwell died, and the Kings immediately switched sides to support King Charles II.

Robert King married twice (although not at the same time, so didn’t avail of the Lay Abbot’s rights!): first to Frances Folliott, daughter of Henry Folliott, 1st Lord Folliott, Baron of Ballyshannon (her sister married Richard Wingfield and was mother of 1st Viscount Powerscourt). Secondly, he married the widow of Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon, Sophia Zouche. Edward Cecil was the grandson of Queen Elizabeth I’s right hand man, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley.

Robert’s eldest son, John (1638-1676) first fought with the Cromwellians but then became a supporter of King Charles II. He married Catherine Fenton of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Her brothers predeceased her and she was heir to vast estates. John was created 1st Baron Kingston, of Kingston, County Dublin, in 1660, when he was also appointed as Privy Counsellor in Dublin.

Mitchelstown, County Cork, photograph courtesy of the National Library of Ireland. An older castle was demolished and it was rebuilt, as we see in this photograph, in the 1770s by Caroline Fitzgerald and her husband Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston.
Mitchelstown, County Cork, photograph courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

The land of Mitchelstown in County Cork passed into the hands of Maurice Fitzgibbon, the first White Knight, in the early part of the 14th century. The title of White Knight was an Anglo-Norman hereditary title in Ireland, one of three, the others being the Black Knight, or Knight of Glin, and Green Knight, or Knight of Kerry.

In 1608 Edmond Fitzgibbon the 9th White Knight died, as did his son Maurice, and it is said that they were poisoned. The inheritance of Mitchelstown passed to Edmond’s youngest granddaughter Margaret, who married Sir William Fenton. The castle then passed to Catherine Fenton, who brought the estate into the King family.

It was the descendants of John’s second son, Robert (abt. 1640-1707), who lived in County Roscommon, since descendants of the eldest son John 1st Baron Kingston lived in Mitchelstown Castle. John gave his younger brother Robert considerable lands in what was to become Rockingham, outside Boyle. John predeceased his brother Robert, dying in 1676, leaving two sons, who became 2nd and 3rd Barons Kingston.

Robert held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Ballyshannon between 1661 and 1666. He built a sumptuous house at Rockingham in 1673, after he married Frances Gore, daughter of Lt.-Col. Henry Gore, around 1670. She had been previously married to Robert Choppyn of Newcastle, County Longford.

Robert was created 1st Baronet King, of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon [Ireland] on 27 September 1682. He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Roscommon between 1692 and 1699. He was also appointed Privy Counsellor in Ireland, and he held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Boyle between 1703 and 1707.

King House, 2022.
Inside King House today.

Robert’s brothers’ sons, the 2nd and 3rd Barons Kingston, still owned the property in Boyle. Robert King, 2nd Baron Kingston, and his uncle Robert 1st Baronet King of Boyle Abbey both supported William III, whereas most English families in Counties Sligo and Roscommon supported King James II. Both Robert Kings became heavily involved in military operations. Robert 1st Baronet King played a major role in the Battle of Aughrim. Anthony Lawrence King-Harman tells us that it was during this battle that Robert saved the life of the head of the MacDermot family, the original owner of Rockingham.

To add to complications of the time, Robert 1st Baronet of Boyle Abbey’s son John (1673-1720) supported King James II. He sat in King James’s parliament in Dublin. Fortunately he later escaped retribution from William III when William was made King, and his father must have forgiven him also as he was his father’s heir. John became 2nd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey.

The brother of Robert 2nd Baron Kingston, John (abt. 1664-1727/28), or Jack as he was known, eloped with a servant girl from King House named Peggy O’Cahan (or Kane). They moved to France and married, and he joined court of “The Pretender,” son of James II, also known as James III. Jack converted to Catholicism. His brother did not have children so Jack would have been his brother’s heir. However, due to his Catholicism, his family took legal action to disinherit him. Robert 2nd Baron Kingston instead changed his will so that his uncle Robert, 1st Baronet King of Boyle Abbey, would inherit the Mitchelstown estates and the estate in Boyle. Jack, however, disputed this. King-Harmon tells us in The Kings of King House that Jack, with the support of James II and Catholic circles in London, launched a legal action to show that the actions of his family were in contravention of the marriage settlements of his father, and before that of William Fenton, his mother’s father. He was successful and he obtained possession of Mitchelstown in 1699, but not the estate lands. Jack, who had become 3rd Baron Kingston after his brother’s death, also achieved a Royal pardon from William III for his previous support of King James II and his son.

Jack’s actions threatened the Baronets of Boyle Abbey and their ownership of Rockingham. However, they managed to hold on to their estate and the threat receded somewhat with the accession of William and Mary to the throne. Jack, with an eye to their future, raised his children as Protestants in Mitchelstown.

Robert 1st Baronet of Boyle Abbey’s daughter Mary married Chidley Coote of Cootehall, County Roscommon, son of Richard Coote 1st Lord Coote, Baron of Colloony, County Sligo. His son John, who became 2nd Baronet of Boyle Abbey upon his father’s death, married Elizabeth Sankey, but he had no children. Elizabeth went on to marry secondly, John Moore, 1st Baron Moore of Tullamore and thirdly, Brabazon Ponsonby, 1st Earl of Bessborough. Her mother, Eleanor Morgan, was from Cottlestown, County Sligo, a property added in 2022 to the Section 482 list, which we have yet to visit.

The 2nd Baronet moved from Rockingham back to the house in Boyle, which by this time may have been known as King House. He died in March 1720 and his brother Henry (1681-1739) became 3rd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey. It was Henry who built the King House that we see today. Rockingham burnt down, probably sometime shortly after the death of the 1st Baronet. King House in Boyle was destroyed by fire in 1720, so Henry immediately started to rebuild. King-Harman tells us he hired either Edward Lovett Pearce, or William Halfpenny, an assistant to Edward Lovett Pearce, as architect. The newer house may incorporate walls of the earlier house. A pleasure garden was created across the river, and it is now a public park. It contains a plinth that used to hold a statue of King William III but that statue disappeared!

Henry (1681-1739) 3rd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey, by Robert Hunter.
The museum in King House is less certain as to who designed it, suggesting it could have been Edward Lovett Pearce, Richard Cassel (or Castle), or William Halfpenny.

Mark Bence-Jones points out in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) that King House is not situated in a demesne but in the centre of a town. It is surrounded by thick walls. He describes it as a large “u” shaped mansion of two storeys over basement with a partly gabled attic. [2]

This overhead shot of King House is taken from the website. As you can see, it’s an unusual house.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
The entrance to King House, it is surrounded by these imposing walls.
The round-headed ground floor windows with keystones and blocking.
River-facing facade of King House, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [3]
Model of King House, which is inside the house: river facing facade.
King House, 2022.
River facade of King House during repair by Roscommon County Council. Work began in 1989 and took over four years, with renovation works designed and supervised by Dublin architects Shaffrey Associates.

The photograph from the National Inventory, above, shows the eleven bay garden front which faces the river, with its three bay pedimented breakfront and large central Venetian window in the upper storey.

The side facades have three Venetian windows, one on top of another, the top being within a gable.

King House, August 2022: side facade with three Venetian windows, the top one being within a gable.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

Bence-Jones points out that: “As at Ballyhaise, County Cavan and King’s Fort, County Meath, there is vaulting in other storeys than just the basement; in fact, all four storeys are vaulted over. This was, according to Rev Daniel Beaufort, a fire precaution, Sir Henry King having naturally been fire-conscious after the fire in the earlier house.

Two wings project from the main centre block of the house, and are each two bays wide. The centre block is three bays wide with a centre triangular gable. Bence-Jones describes the deep cornice over the wings, and the round-headed ground floor windows with keystones and blocking.

King House, 2022.
The front of King House before repair.

On the front facade Bence-Jones describes a “plain massive doorway.” I find the entire centre front surprisingly plain with few windows, except the large arched ones either side of the doorway and the fanlight over the door, and two dormer windows in the roofline. Inside the museum, in a description of the building it is suggested that the front facade was not completed.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

The National Inventory adds that there is “a seven-bay three-storey extension to south-west with pitched slated roof with piecrust cornice and red brick chimneystacks. Single-storey roughcast-rendered outbuildings to front. Site bounded by rubble stone wall with carved stone gate piers and cast-iron gates.

The second side facade, with its Venetian windows one on top of another and gable windows in the roof.
Single-storey roughcast-rendered outbuildings to front.
The side facade and basement.

Inside the front door is a long and narrow hall or gallery with lovely flagstone floor, which is original to the house. You can see also the vaulted ceiling, and wood panelling on the walls.

The long gallery front hall, which has the Venetian windows of the side facades of the house at either end.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
Fireplace in front hall. There are two in this hall, one is of Kilkenny marble and the other is a replica.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

Sir Henry King, 3rd Baronet of Boyle Abbey, served as MP for either Boyle or County Roscommon for thirty three years. He married Isabella Wingfield, daughter of Edward Wingfield of Powerscourt, County Wicklow (her brother was the 1st Viscount of Powerscourt). Henry died in 1739 and was succeeded by his son Robert (1724-1755), 4th Baronet of Boyle Abbey. Robert became MP for Boyle also and was created Baron Kingsborough in 1748. It was he who bought the house in Henrietta Street in Dublin. He became Grand Master of the Freemasons in Ireland. He died unmarried. On his death, the Barony of Kingsborough became extinct.

Robert (1724-1755), 4th Baronet of Boyle Abbey, by Robert Hunter.
Frances King, by Robert Hunter. The portrait is in King House. Thus could be a portrait of Robert’s sister Frances (1726-1812) who married Hans Widman Wood of Rossmead, County Westmeath.

On his death the entailed parts of the estate went to his younger brother Edward (1726-1797), who became 5th Baronet of Boyle Abbey. He was also a Grand Master for the Freemasons and MP for County Roscommon, and Privy Counsellor in Ireland. He inherited King House and large parts of the Sligo and Roscommon estates. However, a later will of his brother was found after his brother’s death, and all the unentailed land was left to their younger brother Henry. Henry did not marry but the dispute over inheritance led to lawsuits and caused family rifts, King-Harmon’s book The Kings of King House tells us.

Edward King (1726-1797), 5th Baronet of Boyle Abbey and eventually, 1st Earl of Kingston.

Edward the 5th Baronet married Jane Caulfeild, daughter of Thomas Caulfeild of Donamon Castle, County Roscommon (still standing, it now belongs to the Divine Word Missionaries). Edward was ambitious and when his cousin James King 4th Baron Kingston died in 1761 with no sons, he applied for a peerage and was granted it, becoming the 1st Baron Kingston of the second creation. He built a second mansion in Rockingham, which he called Kingston Hall.

He arranged with 4th Baron Kingston that his son would marry the heir to Mitchelstown, Caroline Fitzgerald. The 4th Baron Kingston’s son William predeceased him in 1755, dying childless. The 4th Baron’s daughter Margaret married Richard Fitzgerald, son of the 19th Earl of Kildare. Their only child was a daughter, Caroline (1754-1823). By marrying into the family of the Barons of Kingston, Mitchelstown came into the family of the Baronets of Boyle Abbey. Caroline and Edward’s son Robert were to marry when just 15 and 16 years old.

King House, 2022.

Meanwhile Edward, after intense lobbying, had become Viscount Kingsborough in 1767 and Earl of Kingston in 1768.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

Edward, now Earl of Kingston, and his family moved into Kingston Hall in 1771, and King House was kept as a second residence, but following a fire in 1778, Edward decided to dispose of it. It was bought by the British army in 1795, and became the depot of the Connaught Rangers until taken over by the Irish army in 1922. It was abandoned and in ruins by 1987 when bought by Roscommon County Council, and it was restored and opened to the public in 1995.

King House, 2022.
Information in King House about Boyle in the 1700s.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

Edward Earl of Kingston’s daughter Jane married Laurence Harman Parsons (1749-1807), son of Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet, who was later created 1st Earl of Rosse, and Anne Harman.

The 1st Earl of Kingston’s daughter Francis married Thomas Tenison, and their son Lt.-Col Edward King-Tenison lived in Kilronan Castle in County Roscommon and his wife, Lady Louisa Mary Anne Anson, was the origin of the use of the word “loo” for toilet! (according to The Peerage website). I’m not sure why! (Kilronan Castle is now also a hotel,

His daughter Eleanor died unmarried in 1822.

Henry’s daughter Eleanor, who never married, and James Stewart, a grandson of Henry.
Eleanor King, died 1822, unmarried, painting by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.
King House, 2022.

Edward’s heir, Robert (1754-1799) became the 2nd Earl of Kingston and married his cousin Caroline Fitzgerald of Mitchelstown when he was just 15. They had nine children but later separated. When young, they lived in London, and toured the world, until they took up residence at Mitchelstown Castle. Mary Wollstonecraft, who later died after giving birth to Mary Shelley née Godwin who wrote Frankenstein, was tutor to the 2nd Earl of Kingston’s children. Mary Wollstonecraft later became a writer, intellecutal and radical, spending time in Paris during the French Revolution, and wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, as well as several novels. She remained friendly with King’s daughters, who imbibed Mary’s feminism. Caroline, unhappy in her life with Robert, moved to England, and Robert took a lover, Elinor Hallenan, who bore him two more children.

On 18 May 1798 Robert 2nd Earl of Kingston was tried by his peers in the Irish House of Lords for the murder of Colonel Henry Gerald Fitzgerald, who had seduced the Earl’s daughter. He was acquitted as no witnesses came forward – a benefit of being in the House of Lords was that one was not tried in a general court, but tried in a court consisting of the other members of the House of Lords.

Colonel Henry Gerald Fitzgerald was the illegitimate son of Caroline’s half-brother. Her father had remarried after her mother died. Caroline raised Henry Gerald along with her own family. Caroline brought her daughter Mary with her when she separated her husband and moved to England. It was Mary who was seduced by her cousin, despite him having a wife. As Mary Wollstonecraft later had lovers, perhaps young Mary King was influenced by her governess’s romantic nature. Colonel Fitzgerald regularly visited Caroline and Mary in their new home in London. One day, Mary disappeared, and was found installed in a lodging house, regularly visited by her lover, Colonel Fitzgerald. King-Harman tells the story in The Kings of King House. Her father shot and killed Colonel Fitzgerald.

Another daughter, Margaret, married Stephen Moore, 2nd Earl Mountcashell. Also influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft’s radicalism, she supported the United Irishmen and Anthony Lawrence King-Harman writes that she may have been with Edward Fitzgerald when he was mortally wounded in Dublin. She left her husband for George Tighe (1776-1837) of Rossana, County Wicklow, an Irishman living in Rome, and became close friends with Wollstonecraft’s daughter Mary Shelley. She wrote children’s books and treatises on pre- and post-natal care.

Dining room, King House.

Robert’s son George (1770-1839) became the 3rd Earl of Kingston upon his father’s death in 1797. Robert left the Boyle properties to his second son, Robert Edward (1773-1854), who later became Viscount Lorton, the name chosen from a local place-name.

Brothers George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton, and Admiral James William King, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.
This large portrait in the dining room is General Robert King (1773-1854), 1st Viscount Lorton, who was the son of Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston.

Robert Edward King (1773-1854) inherited Kingston Hall at Rockingham. He joined the military and distinguished himself in the Caribbean. When he inherited in 1797, he returned to Ireland and joined the Roscommon Militia and worked his way up to become a General. With Rockingham, however, came debt. In 1799 he married his first cousin, Frances Parsons Harman, daughter of his aunt Jane who had married Lawrence Parsons Harman (1749-1807), who owned the Newcastle Estate in County Longford. Robert worked hard to reduce the debt, and was a tough landlord, evicting many tenants.

In the centre, Frances née Parsons Harman (1775-1841) who married Robert Edward King (1773-1854). She is flanked by their daughter Jane King, who married Anthony Lefroy, and Frances King, who married Right Reverend Charles Leslie of Corravahan.

Robert Edward was created Baron Erris of Boyle, County Roscommon in 1800 and in 1806, Viscount Lorton of Boyle, County Roscommon. His support of the Act of Union in 1800 would have helped in his rise within the Peerage.

Viscount Lorton decided to build a new house on the Rockingham estate, which is a few kilometers from Boyle. Robert O’Byrne tells us that the previous house, Kingston Hall, remained in use and became known as the Steward’s House. [4] The new house was designed by John Nash and was ready by 1810. Lorton also modernised the estate. Landscaper Humphrey Repton helped with the design of the outbuildings, gate houses and demesne. The house no longer exists, and the demesne is now part of Lough Key Park. An impressive gate lodge remains, and a chapel built by Lord Lorton in 1833 on the site of a 17th century church also built by the Kings. An icehouse, gazebo called the Temple and a tunnel which ran from the mansion to the lake and was used by tradesmen is open for visitors.

Rockingham House.
Model of Rockingham House created by Leaving Certificate students of Ballinamore Vocational School Fergal Conefrey, Conor Lee and Declan Sammon with construction teacher Mr. Tommy Flynn.
The interior of Rockingham.
The interior of Rockingham.
Looking out from Rockingham.

It was a time of trouble with tenants, as outlined in The Kings of King House. Robert evicted Catholic tenants due to uprisings. In famine years, however, he lowered rents and provided work.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

Viscount Lorton’s daughters married well. Jane married Anthony Lefroy of Carriglass Manor, County Longford. Jane Austen had been in love with his father, Thomas Lefroy, and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice may have been based upon him. Caroline married Robert Gore-Booth, 4th Baronet, of Lissadell, County Sligo (another section 482 property). Frances married Right Reverend Charles Leslie, who we came across when we visited Corravahan, another Section 482 property, in County Cavan.

Viscount Lorton’s heir was Robert (1804-1869). He had an unhappy marriage, and his wife, Anne Gore-Booth, daughter of Robert Newcomen Gore-Booth, 3rd Baronet of Lissadell, had an affair which produced a son. Robert and his father sought to make sure that this son would not inherit the King estates.

The Kings of Rockingham were a “cadet branch” of the family of the Kings of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Viscount Lorton’s older brother inherited the Mitchelstown estate and the title of 3rd Earl of Kingston. Let’s make a diversion and look at what was happening at the Mitchelstown estate.

After her husband Robert 2nd Earl of Kingston’s death, Mitchelstown remained in the hands of Caroline (née Fitzgerald), and she returned to run the estate for a further twenty-five years. She kept her son George at arm’s length, King-Harman tells us.

George King (177901839), later 3rd Earl of Kingston, painting by Romney.

George did not inherit Mitchelstown until he was 53 years old. He was godson of King George III and was a friend of the Prince Regent who later became King George IV. He had several illegitimate children with a lover when he was in his twenties, with whom he lived in the Bahamas. He went on to marry Helena Moore, daughter of Stephen, 1st Earl of Mountcashell, County Tipperary. Before his father died, he was titled Viscount Kingsborough between 1797 and 1799, and he held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Roscommon between 1797 and 1799. He became Colonel of the local Militia, the Mitchelstown Light Dragoons, part of the North Cork Militia.

When his father died, he succeeded as the 3rd Baron Kingston of Rockingham, Co. Roscommon, the 3rd Viscount Kingston of Kingsborough, Co. Sligo, 3rd Earl of Kingston, and 7th Baronet King, of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon.

George 3rd Earl of Kingston’s eldest son, Edward, predeceased him. Edward, who was Viscount Kingsborough, became interested in Mexico while in Oxford and devoted his life and finances to the production of a monumental work, The Antiquities of Mexico. He fell into debt, partly because his father did not allow him enough to run Mitchelstown, and was imprisoned in Ireland, where he developed typhus and died in 1837. In his lifetime he presented a number of antiquities to Trinity College Dublin.

It was therefore George’s second son, Robert Henry (1796-1857) who became 4th Earl of Kingston in 1839. By 1844 the Mitchelstown estate had been taken over by the Encumbered Estaes Court. Outstanding debts went back to James 4th Baron, King-Harman tells us. Despite this, Robert Henry’s life continued at Mitchelstown in rather high style, also despite the famine. Sadly, parts of the estate were sold off bit by bit and eventually Robert Henry had a mental breakdown and ended up in an asylum in England. [for more about the 4th Earl of Kingston see the Irish Aesthete’s blog. [5]

His younger brother James became the 5th Earl of Kingston, but died two years later without issue, and with him the Barony of Kingston of Mitchelstown became extinct. He married Anna Brinkley from Parstonstown (Birr), who was thirty years his junior, and King-Harman tells us that she “was destined to play a major role in the affairs of Castle [of Mitchelstown] right through to the present century.” They had no children, so the estate would have gone to the Viscounts Lorton of Boyle.

James King (1800-1869), 5th Earl of Kingston, who married Anna Brinkley.
Anna, wife of the 5th Earl of Kingston, who lived in Mitchelstown.

Robert, who was to become 2nd Viscount Lorton, and his wife Anne née Gore-Booth, had a son, Robert (1831-1871), and a daughter, Frances. Anne then had a son, Henry Ernest, with her lover, Vicomte Ernest Satgé St Jean. 1st Viscount Lorton tried to take action to ensure that Henry Ernest would not inherit.

In order to avoid Henry Ernest from inheriting Mitchelstown, they had to break the entail on Mitchelstown and James the 5th Earl of Kingston promised money from the Mitchelstown estate to the 3rd Viscount Lorton, for signing away the entail. Instead, Mitchelstown was left to his wife. The money promised to 3rd Viscount Lorton formed a debt, falling to Anna Brinkley, which gave her much difficulty later.

Before continuing, I must mention the youngest son of 1st Viscount Lorton, Laurence Harman King (1816-1875). He married Mary Cecilia Johnstone of Alva, Scotland. His father drew up a settlement which in the event that the 2nd Viscount’s legitimate son did not have an heir, Rockingham would go to his younger son, Laurence Harman, who in 1838 had legally changed his name to Laurence Harman King-Harman.

Laurence Harman King-Harman also inherited the estate of Newcastle in County Longford. He was chosen for the inheritance in preference to his dissipated brother. Lawrence’s mother, recall, was Frances Parsons, daughter of Laurence Harman Parsons and and Jane King (daughter of 1st Earl of Kingston). Laurence Harman Parsons’s father was Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet of Birr Castle, County Offaly, and his mother was Anne Harman, whose family owned Newcastle, County Longford.

The property of Newcastle had belonged to the Chappoyne family. A daughter of that family married Anthony Sheppard, and the property passed into the ownership of the Sheppard family. It then passed via a daughter, Frances Sheppard, who married Wentworth Harman (c. 1635-1714). On Frances’s death in 1766 the property passed to her son Reverend Cutts Harman (1706-1784), Dean of Waterford. He had no children, so he left the property to his nephew, Laurence Parsons, who had married Jane King. In return, Laurence Parsons added the name Harman to his surname in 1792 to become Laurence Harman Parsons-Harman.

Laurence Harman Parsons was created 1st Baron Oxmantown, Co. Wexford in 1792, and 1st Earl of Rosse in 1806.

Laurence and Jane had a daughter, Frances, and no son. Frances married Robert Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton in 1799. Laurence left all of his property to his wife Jane, which included Newcastle and two houses in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Upon the birth of Frances and Robert Edward’s second son, whom they named Laurence Harman King, Lady Rosse decided to leave Newcastle to him. In 1838 when Lady Rosse died, just a year after Laurence Harman King’s marriage, he inherited Newcastle. At that time he also added Harman to his surname to become Laurence Harman King-Harman. [6]

One can now stay in Newcastle House, see

Irish Army Artillery Dress Uniform c.1935: This uniform would have been worn by a Lieutenant Colonel. A military uniform would consist of the following: shako, tunic, slacks, black patent boots and spurs, white doe-skin gloves, cape, sword-belt complete with two scabbard slings and dress sword, sword knot and sword belt.
Dining room of King House.
The Honourable Laurence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875).
Laurence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875). The information tells us that he was the second son of Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton. He inherited the Newcastle estate in County Longford in 1838 from his grandmother the Countess of Rosse, and lived there until his death. He succeeded to the Rockingham estate after the death of his brother Robert, 6th Earl of Kingston, in 1869.
Mary Cecilia, 6th daughter of Thomas Reymond Johnstone of Alva, Scotland. Married in May 1837 Laurence Harman King-Harman, 2nd son of Robert Edward 1st Viscount Lorton. She lived at Newcastle until her husband’s death in 1875 and then in London when she died in 1904.

Let us go back, however, to his brother Robert, who was upon his father’s death to become 2nd Viscount Lorton. The reason that 1st Viscount Lorton was worried about the second, illegitimate grandson inheriting, is that the first grandson, Robert Edward, had suffered a serious illness and had only one child, a daughter.

The 1st Viscount Lorton died in 1854 and was buried in the family vault in Boyle Abbey.

Obituary for 1st Viscount Lorton.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

The 1st Viscount Lorton’s son Robert had been a long time waiting to come into his inheritance and had meanwhile spent his time dissipating the family’s money and by the time of his marriage, according to The Kings of King House, had a reputation for drinking too much alcohol. In the same year that she was proven to have an affair, Robert became semi-paralysed, perhaps after severe attack of delirium tremens from his drinking.

Robert and his wife Anne moved to Frankfurt in 1840 and his health improved somewhat. However it was here that his wife met Vicomte Ernest de Satgé St Jean. He too was married. He and Anne accumulated debts at the gaming tables which Robert had to pay, and when his wife left him, Ernest de Satgé St Jean moved into the home of the Kings in Frankfurt!

When 1st Viscount Lorton heard of the shenanigans, he sent an old friend to bring his son and his son’s wife back to Ireland. He did not succeed, and the story of Robert’s wife’s debts reminds me of “Buck” Whaley’s, with the Vicomte entering in convoluted schemes in order to try to gain money to pay off his debts, as described in The Kings of King House.

When the 1st then 2nd Viscounts Lorton died, the 2nd Viscount’s legitimate son Robert Edward (1731-1771) came into ownership of Rockingham, and became 3rd Viscount Lorton and 7th Earl of Kingston. He died two years later, after felling large quantities of timber at Rockingham to pay off his debts.

In the meantime, the younger son, Henry Ernest Newcomen King (named Ernest after his birth father) had not been legally recognised as illegitimate. Therefore when his brother died, he became 8th Earl of Kingston, although he did not inherit as much land as he could have, since the entail on Mitchelstown had been broken, and his uncle Laurence Harman inherited Newcastle and Rockingham. He joined the Connaught Rangers, which were housed in the old King home, and he gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and was a representative Irish peer in the House of Lords. He married Florence, daughter and co-heir of Colonel Edward King-Tenison of Kilronan Castle in County Roscommon. He changed his name to surname King-Tenison in 1883. He held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of County Roscommon between 1888 and 1896.

The Coronation Robe and Crown in the dining room of King House belong to his son the 9th Earl of Kingston’s wife, Ethel Lisette, made to be worn at the coronation of King Edward VIII in 1936, which did not happen since he abdicated the throne.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

On the death of the 7th Earl of Kingston, the 1st Viscount Lorton’s youngest son, Harman King-Harman, inherited Rockingham and the Boyle estates as life tenant. He remained living in Newcastle, County Longford. He had six sons and his eldest Edward King-Harman (1838-1888) would inherit Rockingham and Newcastle.

King House, 2022.
This painting just identifies the sitted as Mrs King-Harman. She is probably Laurence Harman King-Harman’s wife Mary Cecilia née Johnstone, in later life.
Vanity Fair entry and picture, about Edward Robert King-Harman (1838-1888), son of Laurence Harman King-Harman. He inherited Newcastle in County Longford and Rockingham in Roscommon.

To continue with the story of Mitchelstown, in 1873 Anna née Brinkley, wife of James 5th Earl of Kingston, remarried, to William Webber. King-Harman writes that Webber allowed his relationship to the tenants to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the old debts were paid off by selling off tenanted lands under the Wyndham Land Acts. Anna, the Countess of Kingston, expressed a wish that upon her husband’s death, Mitchelstown should revert to the King family, in the person of Lt Colonel Alec King-Harman of Newcastle, great grandson of the 1st Lord Lorton. However, the castle was burnt by the IRA during the Civil War in 1922, and Alec sold off the estate.

The 2nd Earl of Kingston laid out much of the town of Mitchelstown. King Square includes Georgian houses of Kingston College and its Protestant chapel and family vault built by James, 4th Baron Kingston, and the square also includes the building where James founded the first Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Ireland. The 3rd Earl erected a drinking fountain in the square. The inn at Kilworth where Colonel Fitzgerald was shot is now a private residence. [The Kings of King House]

Edward Robert King-Harman (1838-1888), son of Laurence Harman King-Harman, inherited Newcastle in County Longford and Rockingham in Roscommon. He joined the military and fought in the siege of Dehli during the Indian Mutiny, then returned to Ireland in 1859 and became Honorary Colonel of the 5th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers whose depot was now in King House. He developed an interest in politics and the cause of Home Rule and was returned to the House of Commons in Ireland as a Conservative Home Ruler for County Sligo. He moved from Newcastle into Rockingham. He managed to leave Rockingham to his daughter, Fay, although her brothers contested this. She managed to keep Rockingham, however, along with her husband, Dr. Thomas Stafford, who was a Catholic. Fay’s son took the name Edward Stafford King-Harman.

Meanwhile Edward’s younger brother Wentworth (1840-1919) inherited Newcastle from his brother. He joined the military in Britain. When he inherited, he immersed himself in running Newcastle. It was his son Alec who inherited Mitchelstown. Alec also joined the military. He left Newcastle to a cousin Douglas King-Harman, and by that time the estate was reduced to just 50 acres, and he sold it in 1951. Before leaving Newcastle, Douglas set aside most of the family records and took them to England with him and published a book in 1959, Kings Earls of Kingston.

Edward Stafford King-Harman died in WWI. His father was raised to the British peerage as 1st Baronet Stafford in 1914. Edward married Olive Pakenham Mahon from Strokestown in Roscommon – I will be writing about it soon as it is also a Section 482 property.

King House, 2022.

It was his second son, Cecil Stafford King-Harman, who inherited Rockingham and became 2nd Baronet Stafford. Having taken a degree in Agriculture in New Zealand, Cecil was able to bring the estate back into good working order. Unfortunately, Rockingham was destroyed by fire in 1957 and although most of the furniture and pictures were saved, Cecil decided to sell. The house was demolished, and half the estate became Lough Key Forest Park. On Cecil’s death the baronetcy became extinct.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
Part of a set of china rescued from the fire in 1957.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
This room in King House describes the fire at Rockingham. Over the fireplace is a picture of Lady Eleanor King, and one of her nephews, brothers George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton, and Admiral James William King.

In an upper storey of the King House there is a step-by-step description of the 1989-94 renovation of the house.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
Inside the attic of King House.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
Vaulted ceiling of the attic.
Display of builders’ paraphernalia in the attic.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

King House is used to host art exhibitions, as well as weddings and events.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
The Main Salon on the first floor. This room was used for formal dining and entertaining. It contains two fireplaces and decorative cornicing.

When used as a Barracks, the military erected a mezzanine level in the Main Salon. After Independence, in the 1940s the Irish army used the room for dances every Wednesday.

Henry King b. 1733 by Hunter. He was a son of Henry King who built King House.

King House is now home to the Connaught Rangers museum as well as the Boyle Civic Art Collection, and the house also plays host to musical, dramatic and cultural events. 

The displays about the Connaught Rangers are very moving, and remind of us that horrors of war.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
Connaught Rangers dress helmet (1878-1922). Regimental buttons on uniforms had a harp and crown surrounded by a shamrock leaf, and on the collar was a brass Indian elephant.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

The barracks in King House served as a recruitment centre. We can see some of the posters that encouraged Irish men to join the British Army during the wars.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

As home to the Connaught Rangers, Robert O’Byrne tells us that the house was able to accommodate 12 officers and 260 non-commissioned officers and private foot soldiers, as well as a 30-bed hospital and stabling for horses. [7]

During the War of Independence, the Barracks was strongly garrisoned and the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tans were stationed outside the barracks near the main gate. Many arrests of Irishmen fighting for Independence were made, and prisoners were held in the barracks. Two prisoners managed to escape, James Molloy and Michael Dockery.

Prison cell in the basement of King House.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
A drawing depicting the escape from King House.

Sadly, reflecting the turbulent times in Ireland, Michael Dockery was later killed by anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War that took place after Ireland gained Independence (the Civil War occurred because many did not agree with the Treaty signed to give Ireland independence since the British kept six counties in Ulster, leading to the division of the island of Ireland). When the new Republic of Ireland continued to use King House as a barracks it was called Dockery Barracks after Michael Dockery.

A couple of rooms in King House now contain the gifts which were given to President Mary McAleese, which is a lovely collection of the crafts of various nations.

King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.
King House, 2022.

Based in the courtyard, Úna Bhán Tourism Co-operative runs a traditional craft shop showcasing locally produced crafts as well as operating an accommodation booking service and at weekends there is a farmers market in the courtyard.

[1] Connolly, Paul. The Landed Estates of County Roscommon. Published by Paul Connolly, 2018.

[2] 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.






Places to Visit and Stay in Ulster: County Antrim

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

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

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

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);

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page:

Antrim – listings, and see descriptions below:

1. Antrim Castle and Clotworthy House, County Antrim

2. Belfast Castle estate , County Antrim

3. Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim

4. Dunluce Castle (ruin), County Antrim

5. Galgorm Castle, County Antrim – now part of a golf club.

6. Glenarm Castle, County Antrimprivate, can book a tour

7. Lissanoure Castle, County Antrimprivate, wedding venue

8. Malone House, Belfast, County Antrimwedding and conference venue

9. Wilmont House (park only), Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Rose Gardens.

Places to stay. Count Antrim: 

1. Ballyealy Cottage, Castle Shane Estate, County Antrim €€ for two, € for 3-5

2. Ballygally Castle, Larne, County Antrim €

3. Ballylough House, County Antrim €€

4. Drum Gate Lodge, Ballylough House, Bushmills, County Antrim €€

5. Blackhead Cutter Lighthouse keeper’s house, Whitehead, County Antrim €€ for two, € for 4/5

6. Culloden Estate and Spa, Bangor Road, Holywood, Belfast, BT18 0EX €€€

7. Dunadry Hotel, County Antrim €€

8. Barbican, Glenarm Castle, County Antrim €€

9. Kilmore House, County Antrim

10. Kiln Wing, Old Corn Mill, Bushmills, County Antrim €€

11. Larchfield Estate, Lisburn, Co Antrim, BT27 6XJ, Northern Ireland

12. Lissanoure Estate cottages: all currently let

13. Magherintemple Gate Lodge, Ballycastle, County Antrim €€ for 2; € for 3/4

14. Merchant Hotel, Belfast €€€

15. Old Bushmills Barn, 15 Priestlands Road, Antrim €€€ for two; € for four

16. Portbradden Cottage, Bushmills, County Antrim

17. Strand House, Ballymena, County Antrim

18. Tullymurry House, Banbridge, County Antrim, whole house rental: €€€ for two; € for 3-8

19. Whitepark House, 150 Whitepark Road, Ballintoy, County Antrim, BT54 6NH €€

Weddings/whole house rental:

1. Magheramorne, County Antrim.


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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.

1 Jan 2022 – 31 Dec 2022
Monday09:30 – 17:00
Tuesday09:30 – 21:30
Wednesday09:30 – 17:00
Thursday09:30 – 21:30
Friday09:30 – 17:00
Saturday – Sunday10:00 – 17:00

* Closed 1 January, 12 July, 25 & 26 December.

This website tells us:

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.

See also which tells us that:

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.” [1]

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) [2]. 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 [2])

Also Featured in Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters. David Hicks. The Collins Press, Cork, 2014.  

2. Belfast Castle estate , County Antrim

The website tells us:

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.

Belfast Castle ca. 1900-1939, Eason photographic collection National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.
Belfast Castle and Gardens, photograph by Aidan Monaghan 2015 for Tourism Ireland [3]

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.” [4]

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]

3. Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim

Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim, 2014 photography by Arthur Ward for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

The website tells us

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.

Carrickfergus Castle, County Antrim, 2014 photography by Arthur Ward for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

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 ]

4. Dunluce Castle (ruin), County Antrim

Dunluce Castle Co Antrim by Robert French, Lawrence Collection National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.
Dunluce Castle by Matthew Woodhouse 2015 for Tourism Ireland [see 3]

The website tells us:

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]

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

Glenarm Castle & Garden, photo by Donal Maloney 2021 for Tourism Ireland [see 3]

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.  

Glenarm Castle, by Donal Maloney 2021, for Tourism Ireland. [see 3]

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.

Glenarm Castle, photograph by Donal Malony 2021 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3]).

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.

Edward Winder (1775-1829) who went with his cousin George Macartney to China and wrote diaries on the trip, which are in the National Library of Ireland.

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.” [6]

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

The discover Northern Ireland website tells us:

Malone House, located in Barnett Demesne in south Belfast, is an late Georgian mansion which dates from the 1820s.

Today, it is a popular venue for conferences, functions and weddings and is licensed to hold marriage and civil partnership ceremonies, subject to the availability of a Registrar.

It offers a wide range of facilities, including:
• Function rooms
• Conference rooms
• Malone Room for coffee, lunches and afternoon teas
• Higgin Gallery

Malone House 2014, unknown photographer for Tourism Ireland [see 3]

The website tells us:

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.

Wilmont House, Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, 2015, by Brian Morrison for Tourism Ireland, see [3]

The website for the park tells us

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 [2])

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.”

2. Ballygally Castle, Larne, County Antrim €

Ballygally Castle, County Antrim, photograph by Brian Morrison 2017 for Tourism Ireland [see 3]

The website tells us:

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]

3. Ballylough House, County Antrim

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

3 houses:

6. Culloden Estate and Spa, Bangor Road, Holywood, Belfast, BT18 0EX €€€

Culloden Estate and Spa, courtesy of Hastings Hotels, 2017, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3]).

The website tells us Colloden was originally built as an official palace for the Bishops of Down. The Culloden Estate and Spa stands in twelve acres of secluded gardens and woodland.

7. Dunadry Hotel, County Antrim €€

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]

9. Kilmore House, County Antrim

Timothy William Ferres tells us:

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 [2])

10. Kiln Wing, Old Corn Mill, Bushmills, County Antrim €€

11. Larchfield Estate, Lisburn, Co Antrim, BT27 6XJ, Northern Ireland

House Tour with a guided Nature walk. Fly Fishing course also available. Accomodation and Clamping also on site. Larchfield Estate walk, Lisburn, @ChristopherHeaney Courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland 2022

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.

12. Lissanoure Estate cottages: see above, and

All currently let.

13. Magherintemple Gate Lodge, Ballycastle, County Antrim €€ for 2; € for 3/4

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

(Casement/IFR) A house of ca. 1875, in Scottish baronial style. The seat of the Casement family, of which Sir Roger Casement was a cadet.” [7]

Timothy William Ferres adds that an earlier quite modest house called Churchfield was described in 1835 as being a plain two storey dwelling, the property of the Casement family from 1790. 
It was considerably enlarged in 1874-75 for John Casement, adding an austere Scottish-baronial block in Ballyvoy stone with gate lodge in matching style. 

14. Merchant Hotel, Belfast €€€

The Merchant Hotel – Front Entrance, Courtesy of Merchant Hotel, Belfast 2017, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3]).

The website tells us:

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.

Merchant Hotel, 2014, photograph by James Fennell, for Tourism Northern Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3])
Inside the Merchant Hotel, 2014, photograph by James Fennell, for Tourism Northern Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3])
Inside the Merchant Hotel, photograph by James Fennell, 2014, for Tourism Northern Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3])
Inside the Merchant Hotel, photograph by James Fennell, 2014, for Tourism Northern Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3])

15. Old Bushmills Barn, 15 Priestlands Road, Antrim €€€ for two; € for four

The website tells us:


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.”

16. Portbradden Cottage, Bushmills, County Antrim

Three bedrooms, minimum three night stay.

17. Strand House, Ballymena, County Antrim

The website describes it:

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.

19. Whitepark House, 150 Whitepark Road, Ballintoy, County Antrim, BT54 6NH €€

From the website:

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.”

Weddings/whole house rental:

1. Magheramorne, County Antrim

The website tells us:

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.

[1] 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.



[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] 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.