Places to visit and stay: Munster: Clare and Kerry

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

Munster’s counties are Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.

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

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

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

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

Clare:

1. Barntick House, Clarecastle County Claresection 482

2. Bunratty Castle, County Clare

3. Craggaunowen Castle, Kilmurray, Sixmilebridge, County Clare

4. Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Clare

5. Kilrush House, County Clare‘lost’, Vandeleur Gardens open 

6. Knappogue or Knoppogue Castle, County Clare

7. Loughnane’s, Main Street, Feakle, County Claresection 482

8. Mount Ievers Court, Sixmilebridge, County Clare  

9. Newtown Castle, Newtown, Ballyvaughan, County Clare – section 482

10. O’Dea’s, or Dysert Castle, County Clare

Places to Stay, County Clare 

1. Ballinalacken Castle, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare – hotel €€

2. Ballyportry Castle, Corofin, County Clare € for 4-8 for one week

3. Castle Fergus House, or Ballyhannon, County Clarecoach house accommodation €€€ or € for 15 or castle €€ for 10

4.  Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clarehotel €€€

5. Falls Hotel (was Ennistymon House), Ennistymon, Co. Clare €€

6. Gregan’s Castle Hotel, County Clare €€€

7. Loop Head Lightkeeper’s Cottage, County Clare €€ for 2; € for 4-6

8. Loughnane’s, Main Street, Feakle, County Clare

9. Mount Callan House and Restaurant, Inagh, County Clare – B&B 

10. Mount Cashel Lodge, Kilmurry, Sixmilebridge, County Clare €

11. Newpark House, Ennis, County Clare

12. Sheedy’s Hotel and Restaurant, County Clare €€

13. Smithstown Castle (or Ballynagowan), County Clare € for 4-8 for one week

14. Spanish Point House, Spanish Point, County Clare €

15. Strasburgh Manor coach houses, Inch, Ennis, County Clare

Whole House Rental, County Clare

1. Inchiquin House, Corofin, County Clare – whole house rental € for 6-10

2. Mount Vernon lodge, County Clare – whole house accommodation € for 7-11 people

Kerry:

1. Ballyseede Castle, Tralee, Co. Kerry – section 482

2. Derrynane House, Caherdaniel, County KerryOPW

3. Derreen Gardens, Lauragh, Tuosist, Kenmare, Co. Kerry – section 482

4. Dhu Varren garden, Knockreigh, Milltown, Kerry, V93 VX27

5. Kells Bay House & Garden, Kells, Caherciveen, County Kerry 

6. Knockreer House and Gardens, County Kerry

7. Listowel Castle, County KerryOPW

8. Muckross House (or Muckruss),  Killarney, County Kerryopen to visitors 

9. Ross’s Castle, Killarney, County Kerry

10. Staigue Fort, County Kerry

11. Tarbert House, Tarbert, Co. Kerry – section 482

Places to Stay, County Kerry: 

1. Arbutus Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry €€

2. Ballyseede Castle/ Ballyseedy (Tralee Castle), Tralee, County Kerry hotel, €€

3. Cahernane (or Cahirnane) House, Killarney, County Kerry – hotel 

4. Carrig Country House, County Kerry €€€

5. Castlemorris House, Tralee, County Kerry

6. Castlewood House, Dingle, County Kerry €€

7. Dingle Benners Hotel, Dingle, County Kerry €€

8. Dromquinna Estate, County Kerry€€

9. Fahagh Court, Beaufort, County Kerry – now Killarney Country Club and accommodation €

10. Glanleam, Valentia Island, County Kerry – accommodation

11. Kells Bay House & Garden, Kells, Caherciveen, County Kerry € 

12. Killarney Park Hotel (formerly Kenmare House, formerly Killarney House), Killarney, Co Kerry €€€

13. Killeen House Hotel and Rozzers Restaurant, Aghadoe, Killarney, County Kerry 

14. Muxnaw Lodge, Kenmare, County Kerry € 

15. Parknasilla Resort and Spa, Kenmare, County Kerry 

16. Randles Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry €€ 

17. Sneem Hotel, Sneem, County Kerry 

Whole House Rental County Kerry:

1. Ballywilliam House, Kinsale, County Kerry – whole house rental, up to 16

2. Churchtown House, Killarney, County Kerry – whole house rental (sleeps 12)

3.  Coolclogher House, Killarney, County Kerry – whole house rental (up to 16 people)

Clare:

1. Barntick House, Clarecastle Co. Claresection 482

contact: Ciaran Murphy
Tel: 086-1701060
Open: May 1-31, Aug 1-31, 5pm-9pm
Fee: adult/student €5, child/OAP free, group discount available.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us:

Detached three-bay two-storey house, dated 1665, and renovated c. 1740. Hipped slate roof with red brick chimneystacks. Roughcast rendered walls with string course between ground and first floors and moulded eaves course. Timber sliding sash windows. Carved limestone door surround comprising shouldered surround with entablature above, approached by flight of limestone steps. Timber panelled double leaf doors. Retaining interior features. Attached single-bay single-storey outbuilding to right. Date plaque from house moved to outbuilding. Rendered gate piers to site with wrought-iron railings.

It was a barracks and one point, and is now a farm. An article in the Irish Times tells us that it was owned by the families of Hickman, Peacocke, Lyons and Murphy. [1]

2. Bunratty Castle, County Clare

maintained by Shannon Heritage

Bunratty Castle, County Clare, photograph by Chris Hill 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [2]

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

p. 49. “(O’Brien, Inchiquin, B/PB; and Thomond, E/DEP; Studdert/IFR; Russell/IFR; Vereker, Gort, VPB) One of the finest 15C castles in Ireland, standing by the side of a small tidal creek of the Shanon estuary; built ca 1425, perhaps by one of the McNamaras; then held by the O’Briens, who became Earls of Thomond, until 6th Earl [Barnabas O’Brien (d. 1657)] surrendered it to the Cromwellian forces during the Civil War. A tall, oblong building, it has a square tower at each corner; these are linked, on the north and south sides, by a broad arch just below the topmost storey. The entrance door leads into a large vaulted hall, or guard chamber, above which is the Great Hall, the banqueting hall and audience chamber of the Earls of Thomond, with its lofty timber roof. Whereas the body of the castle is only three storeys – there being another vaulted chamber below the guard chamber – the towers contain many storeys of small rooms, reached up newel stairs and by passages in the thickness of the walls. One of these rooms, opening off the Great Hall, is the chapel, which still has its original plasterwork ceiling of ca 1619, richly adorned with a pattern of vines and grapes. There are also fragment of early C17 plasterwork in some of the window recesses. After the departure of the O’Briens, a C17 brick house was built between the two north towers; Thomas Studdert [1696-1786], who bought Bunratty early in C18, took up residence here in 1720. Later, the Studderts built themselves “a spacious and handsome modern residence in the demesne: and the castle became a constabulary barracks, falling into disrepair so that, towards the end of C19, the ceiling of the Great Hall collapsed. Bunratty was eventually inherited by Lt-Com R.H. Russell, whose mother was a Studdert, and sold by him to 7th Viscount Gort [Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker (1888-1975)] 1956. With the help of Mr Percy Le Clerc and Mr John Hunt, Lord Gort carried out a most sympathetic restoration of the castle, which included removing C17 house, re-roofing the Great Hall in oak and adding battlements to the towers. The restored castle contains Lord Gort’s splendid collection of medieval and C16 furniture, tapestries and works of art, and is open to the public; “medieval banquets” being held here as a tourist attraction. Since the death of Lord Gort, Bunratty and its contents have been held in trust for the Nation.” [3]

Bunratty Castle, County Clare, Photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Bunratty Castle, County Clare, Photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Bunratty Co Clare National Library of Ireland stereo pairs collection STP_1858. (Dublin City Library and Archives) (see [8])
Bunratty Castle Co Clare National Library of Ireland Lawrence Collection taken between 1880 and 1914, L_CAB_00962 (Dublin City Library and Archives) (see [8])

3. Craggaunowen Castle, Kilmurray, Sixmilebridge, County Clare

Craggaunowen Pre-Historic Park, County Clare, photo by Stephen Power 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

– history park, maintained by Shannon Heritage, www.craggaunowen.ie

The Irish Homes and Garden website tells us:

“Early medieval 500AD-1500: The most common form of house style during this period was the ringfort –a circular area of earth surrounded by a bank and ditch. In some cases, stone was used in the defensive enclosure and these are known as cashels. Over 45,000 examples still remain today. Also dating from this period were crannogs (from the Irish crann – tree) – an artificial island built in the shallow areas of lakes with the houses surrounded by a timber palisade or fence. These can be spotted in the landscape as small tree covered islands close to the lake shore – both the ringforts and crannogs most commonly contained circular houses. A reconstruction of a crannog dwelling can be found at Craggaunowen, Co. Clare

This was also a time when Christianity was introduced to Ireland and whereas the early churches of the 6th and 7th centuries were of timber, evidence of stone churches appear from the late 8th century. These were simple rectangular buildings of about 5m long with a high steep pitched roof. The only doorway had a flat-topped lintelled opening. The early Irish monasteries of the 9th and 10th centuries, such as Clonmacnoise, had larger churches and monastic buildings also included the drystone beehive hut or clochan, as can be seen at Skellig Michael, and also the Round Tower, built between the 10th and 12th century, which consisted of a narrow tower up to 30m high tapering at the top with a conical roof.” [ https://www.irishhomesandgardens.ie/irish-architecture-history-part-1/ ]

The Craggaunowen website tells us: “Craggaunowen Castle - built by  John MacSioda MacNamara in 1550 a descendant of Sioda MacNamara who built Knappogue Castle in 1467. After the collapse of the Gaelic Order, in the 17th century, the castle was left roofless and uninhabitable. The Tower House remained a ruin until it and the estate of Cullane House across the road, were inherited in 1821 by ”Honest” Tom Steele, a confederate of Daniel O’Connell, Steele had the castle rebuilt as a summer house in the 1820s. He used it and the turret on the hill opposite for recreation. His initials can be seen on one of the quoin-stones to the right outside. “The Liberator”. By the time of the First Ordnance Survey, in the 1840s, the castle was “in ruins”. After Steele in 1848 the lands were divided, Cullane going to one branch of his family, Craggaunowen to another, his niece Maria Studdert. Eventually the castle and grounds were acquired by the “Irish Land Commission”. Much of the land was given over to forestry and the castle itself was allowed to fall into disrepair. In the mid-19th century, the castle, herd’s house and 96 acres were reported in the possession of a Reverend William Ashworth, who held them from a Caswell (a family from County Clare just north of Limerick). In 1906, a mansion house here was owned by Count James Considine (from a family based at Derk, County Limerick). Craggaunowen Castle was restored by John Hunt in the 1960s – he added an extension to the ground floor, which for a while housed part of his collection of antiquities. The collection now resides in the Hunt Museum in the city of Limerick.” [4]

4. Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Clare

Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, July 2021.

Maintained by Shannon Heritage.

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

p. 115. “(Martyn/LGI1912; Gogarty/IFR; Russell, Ampthill, B/PB) An old tower-house with a bawn and a smaller tower, on a creek of Galway Bay; which was for long roofless, though in other respects well maintained by the Martyn family, of Tulira, who owned it C18 and C19, and which was bought in the present century by Oliver St John Gogarty, the surgeon, writer and wit, to save it from threat of demolition. More recently, it was bought by the late Christabel, Lady Ampthill, and restored by her as her home; her architect, being Donal O’Neill Flanagan, who carried out a most successful and sympathetic restoration. The only addition to the castle was an unobtrusive two storey wing joining the main tower to the smaller one. The main tower has two large vaulted rooms, one above the other, in its two lower storeys, which keep their original fireplaces; these were made into the dining room and drawing room. “Medieval” banquets and entertainments are now held here.” 

Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, July 2021.
Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, July 2021.

5. Kilrush House, County ClareVandeleur Gardens

Vandeleur walled Garden, Kilrush, Co Clare, photo by Air Swing Media 2019 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

– ‘lost’, Vandeleur Gardens open 

www.vandeleurwalledgarden.ie 

Timothy William Ferrers writes about it on his website:

KILRUSH HOUSE, County Clare, was an early Georgian house of 1808. 

From 1881 until Kilrush House was burnt in 1897, Hector Stewart Vandeleur lived mainly in London and only spent short periods each year in Kilrush. Indeed during the years 1886-90, which coincided with the period of the greatest number of evictions from the Vandeleur estate, he does not appear to have visited Kilrush. 

In 1889, Hector bought Cahircon House and then it was only a matter of time before the Vandeleurs moved to Cahircon as, in 1896, they were organising shooting parties at Kilrush House and also at the Cahircon demesne.  

Hector Stewart Vandeleur was the last of the Vandeleurs to be buried at Kilrush in the family mausoleum. Cahircon House was sold in 1920, ending the Kilrush Vandeleurs’ direct association with County ClareHector Vandeleur had, by 1908, agreed to sell the Vandeleur estate to the tenants for approximately twenty years’ rent, and the majority of the estate was purchased by these tenants. 

THE VANDELEURS, as landlords, lost lands during the Land Acts and the family moved to Cahircon, near Kildysart. 
 
In 1897, Kilrush House was badly damaged by fire. 

During the Irish Land Commission of the 1920s, the Department of Forestry took over the estate, planted trees in the demesne and under their direction the remains of the house were removed in 1973, following an accident in the ruins.Today the top car park is laid over the site of the house. 

Vandeleur Walled Garden now forms a small part of the former Kilrush demesne. The Kilrush demesne was purchased by the Irish Department of Agriculture as trustee under the Irish Land Acts solely for the purpose of forestry. The Kilrush Committee for Urban Affairs purchased the Fair Green and Market House.” [5]

6. Knappogue or Knoppogue Castle, County Clare

Knappogue is maintained by Shannon Heritage.

Mount Ievers, photograph from National Inventory.
From Mark Bence-Jones, A Guide to Irish Country Houses.

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Knoppogue, or Knappogue, Castle in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 180. “(Butler, Dunboyne, B/PB) A large tower-house with a low C19 castellated range, possibly by James Pain, built onto it. Recently restored and now used for “medieval banquets” similar to those at Bunratty Castle, Co Clare.” 

7. Loughnane’s, Main Street, Feakle, Co. Clare – section 482

contact: Billy Loughnane
Tel: 086-2565012
www.clareecolodge.ie
Open: June 1-August 31, Wed-Sun, Aug 13-21, 2pm-6pm Fee: Free

The website tells us: “Clare Ecolodge at Loughnane’s, Feakle, in the heart of East Clare, is a unique family-run guest accommodation experience. We also offer group and self-catering accommodation as well as residential courses.
The buildings, which have been in the family for over 100 years, were renovated 10 years ago. Since then we have been welcoming guests from all over the world.

8. Mount Ievers Court, Sixmilebridge, County Clare  

mountieverscourt.ie

The website has a terrific history of the house. First, it tells us:

Mount Ievers Court is an 18th c. Irish Georgian country house nestled in the Co. Clare countryside just outside the town of Sixmilebridge.  The house was originally the site of a 16th c.  tower house called Ballyarilla Castle built by Lochlann McNamara.  The tower house was demolished in the early 18th c. to construct the present house, built between 1733-1737 by John & Isaac Rothery, for Col. Henry Ievers.

Mount Ievers Court  has been home to the Ievers family for 281 years and since then generations of Ievers and their families have worked hard to maintain the house in order to ensure that the estate retains a viable place in the local community and Ireland’s heritage long into the future. Mount Ievers is currently owned by Breda Ievers née O’Halloran, a native of Sixmilebridge, and her son Norman. Norman is married to Karen, an American by birth, who has a keen interest in Irish history & the family archives.

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

p. 214. “(Ievers/IFR) The most perfect and also probably the earliest of the tall Irish houses; built ca. 1730-37 by Colonel Henry Ievers to the design of John Rothery, whose son, Isaac, completed the work after his death and who appears to have also been assisted by another member of the Rothery family, Jemmy. The house, which replaced an old castle, is thought to have been inspired by Chevening, in Kent – now the country house of the Prince of Wales – with which Ievers could have been familiar not only through the illustration in Vitruvius Britannicus, but also because he may have been connected with the family which owned Chevening in C17. Mount Ievers, however, differs from Chevening both in detail and proportions; and it is as Irish as Chevening is English. Its two three storey seven bay fronts – which are almost identical except that one is of faded pink brick with a high basement whereas the other is of silvery limestone ashlar with the basement hidden by a grass bank – have that dreamlike, melancholy air which all the best tall C18 Irish houses have. There is a nice balance between window and wall, and a subtle effect is produced by making each storey a few inches narrower than that below it. The high-pitched roof is on a bold cornice; there are quoins, string-courses and shouldered window surrounds; the doorcase on each front has an entablature on console brackets. The interior of the house is fairly simple. Some of the rooms have contemporary panelling; one of them has a delightful primitive overmantel painting showing the house as it was originally, with an elaborate formal layout which has largely disappeared. A staircase of fine joinery with alternate barley-sugar and fluted balusters leads up to a large bedroom landing, with a modillion cornice and a ceiling of geometrical panels. On the top foor is a long gallery, a feature which seems to hark back to the C17 or C16, for it is found in hardly any other C18 Irish country houses; the closest counterpart was the Long Room in Bowen’s Court, County Cork. The present owners, S.Ldr N.L. Ievers, has carried out much restoration work and various improvements, including the placement of original thick glazing bars in some of the windows which had been given thin late-Georgain astragals ca. 1850; and the making of two ponds on the site of those in C18 layout. He and Mrs Ievers have recently opened the home to paying guests in order to meet the cost of upkeep.” 

The website tells of the ancient origins of the family, and goes on to explain:

A parchment found in the sideboard at Mount Ievers in July 2012 maintains that Henry Ivers arrived in Ireland in 1640 from Yorkshire, where the family had been settled since arriving with William the Conqueror nearly six hundred years earlier. It also records that Henry settled in County Clare in 1643 when he was appointed Collector of Revenue for Clare and Galway.

9. Newtown Castle, Newtown, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare – section 482

Newtown Castle, photograph fron National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

contact: Mary Hawkes- Greene
Tel: 065-7077200
www.newtowncastle.com , 
Open: Jan 10-May 31, Mon-Fri, June 1-30 Mon-Sat, July 1-Aug 31 daily, Sept 1-Dec 16 Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm
Fee: Free.

The website tells us: “The historic Newtown Castle has occupied a prominent position in Ballyvaughan since the 16th century. Having lain derelict for many years, the castle’s restoration began in 1994, completed in time for the opening of the Burren College of Art in August of that year. 

Newtown Castle is once again a vibrant building in daily use, central to the artistic, cultural and educational life of the Burren. It is open free of charge to the public on week days. Newtown Castle is also available to hire for: wedding ceremonies, small private functions or company events.” 

10. O’Dea’s, or Dysert Castle, County Clare

– can visit http://www.dysertcastle.com/castle.htm

The Castle was built in 1480 by Diarmuid O’Dea, Lord of Cineal Fearmaic. The uppermost floors and staircase were badly damaged by the Cromwellians in 1651. Repaired and opened in 1986, the castle houses an extensive museum, an audio visual presentation and various exhibitions. 

Free car/coach parking and toilets 
Tea rooms and bookshop 
Chapel 
Modern History Room 1700AD – 2000AD 
Museum – Local artefacts 1000BC – 1700AD 
Audio – visual presentation – local archaeology 
Medieval masons and carpenters workshop 
Roof wall – walk to view surrounding monuments 

Places to Stay, County Clare 

1. Ballinalacken Castle, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare – hotel €€

Photograph from National Library of Ireland, constant commons, Flickr, Ballinalicken Castle, County Clare.

https://www.ballinalackencastle.com/ 

The website tells us that the property has been in the O’Callaghan family for three generations, and is now run by Declan and Cecilia O’Callaghan. The rooms look luxurious, some with four poster beds, and the hotel has a full restaurant.

The website tells us: “The original house was owned by the famous O’Brien clan – a royal and noble dynasty who were descendants of the High King of Ireland, Brian Ború. The house , castle and 100 acres of land was bought by Declan’s grandfather Daniel O’Callaghan, in 1938 and he and his wife Maisie opened it as a fine hotel. It was later passed to Daniel’s son Dennis and his wife Mary and then to his son, Declan. Declan and Cecilia have three children who also assist in the family business.

Standing tall on a limestone outcrop, our very own Castle, Ballinalacken Castle, is a two-stage tower house which was built in the 15th or early 16th century. It is thought the name comes from the Irish Baile na leachan (which means “town of the flagstones/tombstones/stones”).

10th Century: The original fortress is built by famous Irish clan, the O’Connors – rulers of West Corcomroe.

14th Century: The fortress itself is found and Lochlan MacCon O’Connor is in charge of its rebuilding.

1564: Control of West Corcomroe passes to Donal O’Brien of the O’Brien family.

1582: The lands are formally granted by deed to Turlough O’Brien of Ennistymon. After the Cromwellians triumphed in the area, five of Turlough’s castles are razed to the ground – but Ballinalacken is saved as it was not on the list of “overthrowing and demolishing castles in Connaught and Clare.”

1662: Daniel dies and grandson Donough is listed as rightful holder of the Castle.

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

p. 26. “(O’Brien/LGI1912) A single-storey house with a curved bow, close to an old keep on a rock. The seat of the O’Brien family, of which Lord Chief Justice Peter O’Brien, Lord O’Brien of Kilfenora (known irreverently as “Pether the Packer”) was a younger son.” 

2. Ballyportry Castle, Corofin, County Clare a tower house, € for 4-8 for one week

http://www.ballyportry.ie

Ballyportry, County Clare, photograph from National Inventory.

Rising bluntly out of the craggy landscape, Ballyportry is the finest example in Ireland of a complete medieval Gaelic Tower House. Built in the 15th century it has been beautifully restored with careful attention being paid to retaining all its original features and style, yet with the comforts of the 21st century.”

3. Castle Fergus House, or Ballyhannon, County Clarecoach house accommodation €€€ or € for 15 or castle €€ for 10 – the lodge is for sale so may not be available for rental

There is a private house, a tower house castle and coach house.

Castlefergus House, also known as Ballyhannon Castle: A Blood Smyth property from the late 18th century, sold by the Blood Smyth to the Bloods of Ballykilty in the early 20th century. This house was occupied by Daniel Powell in 1814 but the Blood Smyths were in residence in the 1830s and 1850s. They appear to have held the property from Ralph Westropp. The mansion house of Castlefergus was in the possession of Rev William Blood Smith in 1906.” [6]

The Lodge: https://www.castleferguslodge.com/ €€€ or € for 15

The lodge is for sale (July 2022) so I suspect it is no longer available for rental.

Castle Fergus Lodge, County Clare, photograph from myhome.ie

A 19th century coach house adjacent to Ballyhannon Fortress Castle. Take a step back in time, and enjoy the unique experience of this historic landmark, at our bed and breakfast. We are at the end of a private drive, so no one will be “passing by” to interfere with your peace and tranquility.” 

Castle Fergus Lodge and Ballyhannon Castle, photograph from myhome.ie
Castle Fergus Lodge and Ballyhannon Castle, photograph from myhome.ie

The Tower House: http://rentacastleinireland.com/history.html €€ for 10

The website tells us:

The castle of Ballyhannon, also known in later times as Castlefergus, most likely from its proximity to the River Fergus, is a late fifteenth century towerhouse of untypical internal design within the context of the Co. Clare group of towerhouses. The castle stands in the townland of Castlefergus close to Latoon Creek, which itself feeds into the River Fergus. Ballyhannon townlands (both north and south) lie to the north east of the castle. The older spelling, Ballyhannan, is retained in these townland names. The townland name can be translated as O’Hannan’s or O’Hannon’s home. Although there are many substantial families of Hannon in Munster and Connaught, the name seldom appears in the annals of medieval Ireland. 

The death in 1266 of Maelisa O’Hannen, prior of Roscommon, is one of the few such entries.In the census of 1659 the name was found in considerable numbers in the Barony of Bunratty. The prefix O, was dropped in the submergence of Gaelic Ireland and has not been resumed. Strictly speaking Hannon is the anglicised form of the Gaelic O’ hAnnáin, a name chiefly associated with Co. Limerick. It was common at the end of the sixteenth century in many parts of Connaught and Munster. The Hannons or Ó hAnnáin are a Dalcassian sept of noble Milesian ancestry whose members attained the status of knighthood, and whose patrimonial lands were in this area, south of Quin. Their name is still retained in the townlands of Ballyhannan north and Ballyhannan south. Although the Hannon name is remembered in the name of Ballyhannon Castle, their history is of an earlier period and no references to the family can be found in connection with the history of the castle itself. 

The castle was built about 1490 by Hugh, and possibly Síoda, sons of Donnchadh MacNamara. This period was described by the noted antiquarian, T.J.Westropp, as the “Golden Age of castle-building in Thomond”, because of the high standard of construction which had been achieved by the masons at this period. Although Ballyhannon Castle was the home of the MacNamaras for many centuries, there are some references to the O’Briens, on whose lands it stood, in relation to its history. For example in the year 1560, a grant was made by Queen Elizabeth I to Conor O’Brien, Earl of Thomond, of Ballyhannon Castle, and several other castles, previously held by Donnell O’Brien; “To hold in tail male, by service of one knight’s fee”, meaning that the property would pass onto his male heirs, subject to military service to the Queen. In the lists of the castles of the county for the years 1570 and 1574 Ballyhannon Castle was owned by Covea Riogh MacNamara, son of Mahon. Some transcriptions of these lists record the castle as being owned by William Neylon. This was due to an error in aligning the columns during the transcription of the original manuscript lists

Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.

A fireplace with the inscription “H.T.E. 1576” was recorded by Westropp & Twigge in the 1890’s, as being in the castle. This was one of the earliest dated fireplaces in the county, though it cannot now be located within the castle. In 1586 Queen Elizabeth I issued a pardon to Hugh, son of Covea MacNamara, of Ballyhannon Castle for being in rebellion. He had to provide sureties for his future good behaviour and answer at the local courts as requested. In the 1626 rental of the 5th Earl of Thomond, Henry O’Brien, Ballyhannon Castle was listed as being rented to one Robert Hawksworth, with one quarter of land for the sum of £4.00. It is likely that Hawksworth was one of the many English Protestant settlers brought into the county by the O’Briens and settled on the O’Brien properties in Thomond during this period. The settling of English Protestants on lands of the native Irish Catholics precipitated the 1641 rebellion and many records exist of the Irish despoiling the settlers and turning them out of their newly acquired lands and properties. The MacNamaras of Ballyhannon acted no differently than the other displaced Irish. John Smith of Latoon complained of his losses which, “amounted to £1,354, including his lease for life of Lattoon, and his outlay upon buildings and sea embankments.” He complained that Oliver Delahoyde of Fomerla Castle in Tulla, “with fifty men came, on the night of 15th January 1642, and stripped him of part of his goods. The work of spoilation was subsequently completed by the MacNamaras of Ballyhannon” among others. Most of the Irish landowners who took part in this rebellion were later stripped of their possessions. Among those noted as having forfeited their property after the rebellion was Mahone MacNamara of Ballyhannon. His property was disposed of to Pierce Creagh (a Protestant settler) and to the Earl of Thomond, Barnabas O’Brien, 6th Earl. After the rebellion, the Cromwellian campaign attempted to complete the subjugation of the native Irish, and many of their castles were dismantled by the Commonwealth forces to render them defenceless. Ballyhannon appears to have escaped this destruction and a sketch of the castle in 1675, which survives in the “Edenvale Survey”, shows it to have been roofed and in good condition. The castle appears to be surrounded by a bawn wall with a gate and loophole windows at this time. With the assention to the English throne of the Catholic King James II in 1685, the fate of the native Irish improved somewhat for a time. Ballyhannon Castle was one of the castles noted by Sir Daniel O’Brien, Viscount Clare, as being suitable for the imprisonment of Protestant settlers who were now being dispossessed. A letter written in 1689 describing the events of the time is worth recording. “Take every one of them that are young (Seir or Mr.), and let the common sort lie in the prison, and the rest strictly guarded, or rather put into some strong castle that has a geate to be locked on the outside like Ballyhannon”. Pierce Creagh who had received part of the MacNamara property at Ballyhannon after the rebellion was named as one of those to be imprisoned in the above letter from Sir Daniel O’Brien. The castle is also mentioned in 1690 when Thomas Hickman, who seemed to be living in fear during another upsurge in the conflict, asked Sir Donough O’Brien to collect some of his belongings from Ballyhannon Castle and to keep  other possessions of his in a safe place, as he expected the castle was soon to be garrisoned. The castle appears on Henry Pelham’s “Grand Jury” map of 1787 under the names Ballyhannon and Castlefergus, which is the first time Castlefergus appears as the name of the castle. Hely Dutton, writing in 1808, records the castle as: “Fergus – inhabited and lately white-washed! ”. There are also some references to the Blood family of Castlefergus, though these relate most likely to Castlefergus House which stood south west of the castle and is now demolished. Charlotte Blood, daughter of William Blood, who was murdered at his house at Applevale near Corofin, married her cousin Matthew Henry Blood, M.D. of Castlefergus in 1831. Westropp, writing in 1917 notes some curious traces of settlement in the fields at Castlefergus, most likely the remains of ringforts and other early Bronze Age habitation sites. Samuel Lewis, writing, in 1837, notes Castlefergus as: “The fine modern residence” of William Smith Blood Esq. He adds: “adjoining which are the remains of the ancient edifice”, telling us that by this date the castle was uninhabited, probably for the first time in 350 years. By 1858 the castle was ivy-covered and described as: “a fine old green-mantled tower” on the grounds of Castlefergus House. 

Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.

The American millionaire and oil heiress Elizabeth Phillips (of Phillips Petroleum) and her husband Henry D. Irwin, who chose to call it “Ballyhannan Castle”, (using the older townland spelling), restored the building to its former glory in 1970. It is currently rented out to top-of-the-market tourists as a unique ‘out-of-the-way’ destination. It was also home to rock stars, as well as several American and British film stars during film making in the region. 

Robert Twigge’s description of the castle in the early 1900’s is of interest and is appended here. “The castle stands on a low rock, scarped to the west and had no outworks, (the bawn noted in 1675 having been removed by this time). The very perfect tower, measuring 33’6” x 24’, is in excellent preservation, having been inhabited in the last century. The pointed south door is defended by a shot-hole on the left and a murder hole above. The stair mounts round the s.w. angle, and at the 14th step a long corridor with 2 lights in the w. wall is reached. At the n. end a spiral staircase of 72 steps leads to the top. At the 12th step from the corridor another passage through the n. wall is reached. 5 curved steps at the s. end of the w. corridor lead to a similar passage along the s. wall over the porch and lodge. There is a handsome trefoil headed window of 2 lights in the s.w. angle and a garderobe to the s.e. angle. Mounting the spiral stair still higher other corridors, over the lower ones, in the w. and s. sides, are reached. There are 4 main stories under the stone vault forming the roof. The basement story has very deep recesses under the corridor and the 2 on the n. side have a narrow chamfered screen between them. A fireplace bears the date 1576, but this was of course a later addition to the building”. 

In Quin, County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland is one of the most renowned authentic medieval castles in Ireland to rent, whether as a self catering vacation rental, or in which to have your castle wedding or to mark one of life’s special occasions.  

Dating back to the late 15th century, in recent years it has proven to be the most popular choice of foreign and Irish tourists alike, for both catered events and self catering accommodation.  

Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.

Known locally as Castlefergus, in the Irish Governmental records it is registered as a National Monument and “Listed/Protected” structure, intended to protect its historic, architectural and aesthetic significance. It is indeed fortunate that we, the current owners, take great care of it and are in a position to allow it to continue to be among the few castles in Ireland to rent on an exclusive basis for the likes of weddings, honeymooners, family reunions or other milestone events, or just for those who wish to have the unique experience of having an entire real medieval Irish castle privately to themselves.”  

Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.
Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.
Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.

4. Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare – hotel €€€

www.dromoland.ie 

Dromoland Castle, County Clare, photo care of Dromoland Castle, for Tourism Ireland 2019, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

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

p. 109. “(O’Brien, Inchiquin, B/PB) Originally a large early C18 house with a pediment and a high pitched roof; built for Sir Edward O’Brien, 2nd Bt; possibly inspired by Thomas Burgh, MP, Engineer and Surveyor-General for Ireland. Elaborate formal garden. This house was demolished ca 1826 by Sir Edward O’Brien, 4th Bt (whose son succeeded his kinsman as 13th Lord Inchiquin and senior descendant of the O’Brien High Kings) and a wide-spreading and dramatic castle by James and George Richard Pain was built in its place. The castle is dominated by a tall round corner tower and a square tower, both of then heavily battlemented and machicolated; there are lesser towers and a turreted porch. The windows in the principal fronts are rectangular, with Gothic tracery. The interior plan is rather similar to that of Mitchelstown Castle, Co Cork, also by the Pains; a square entrance hall opens into a long single-storey inner hall like a gallery, with the staircase at its far end and the principal reception rooms on one side of it. But whereas Mitchelstown rooms had elaborate plaster Gothic vaulting, those at Dromoland had plain flat ceilings with simple Gothic or Tudor-Revival cornices. The dining room has a dado of Gothic panelling. The drawing room was formerly known as the Keightley Room, since it contained many of the magnificent C17 portraits which came to the O’Brien family through the marriage of Lucius O’Brien, MP, to Catherine Keightley, whose maternal grandfather was Edward Hyde, the great Earl of Clarendon. The other Keightley portraits hung in the long gallery, which runs from the head of the staircase, above the inner hall. Part of the C18 garden layout survives, including a gazebo and a Doric rotunda. In the walled garden in a C17 gateway brought from Lemeneagh Castle, which was the principal seat of this branch of the O’Briens until they abandoned it in favour of Dromoland. The Young Irelander leader, William Smith O’Brien, a brother of the 13th Lord Inchiquin, was born in Dromoland in C18 house. Dromolond castle is now a hotel, having been sold 1962 by 16yh Lord Inchiquin, who built himself a modern house in the grounds to the design of Mr Donal O’Neill Flanagan; it is in a pleasantly simple Georgian style.” 

5. Ennistymon House, Ennistymon, Co. Clare, now Falls Hotel €€

Falls Hotel, photograph for Failte Ireland, 2021. [see Ireland’s Content Pool]. (see [2])

www.fallshotel.ie 

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

p. 121. “(Macnamara/IFR) :A two storey seven bay gable-ended C18 house with a two bay return prolonged by a single-storey C19 wing ending in a gable. One bay pedimented breakfront with fanlighted tripartite doorway; lunette window in pediment. Some interior plasterwork, including a frieze incorporating an arm embowed brandishing a sword – the O’Brien crest – in the hall. Conservatory with art-nouveau metalwork; garden with flights of steps going down to the river. The home of Francis MacNamara, a well-known bohemian character who was the father-in-law of Dylan Thomas and who married, as his second wife, the sister of Augustus John’s Dorelia; he and John are the Two Flamboyant Fathers in the book of that name by his daughter, Nicolette Shephard.” 

6. Gregan’s Castle Hotel, County Clare €€€

WWW.GREGANS.IE

Gregan’s Castle hotel, County Clare, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory tells us Gregan’s Castle was built in 1750. It tells us Gregan’s Castle is a: “six-bay two-storey house, built c. 1750, with half-octagonal lower projection. Extended c. 1840, with single-bay two-storey gabled projecting bay and single-storey flat-roofed projecting bay to front. Seven-bay two-storey wing with single-storey canted bay windows to ground floor, added c. 1990, to accommodate use as hotel.”

The website tells us:

Welcome to Gregans Castle Hotel. Please take a look around our luxury, eco and gourmet retreat, nestled in the heart of the beautiful Burren on Ireland’s west coast. The house has been welcoming guests since the 1940s and our family have been running it since 1976. Our stunning 18th century manor house is set in its own established and lovingly-attended gardens on the Wild Atlantic Way, and has spectacular views that stretch across the Burren hills to Galway Bay.

Inside, you’ll find welcoming open fires, candlelight and striking decoration ranging from modern art, to antique furniture, to pretty garden flowers adorning the rooms. Gregans Castle has long been a source of inspiration for its visitors. 

Guests have included J.R.R Tolkien, who’s said to have been influenced by the Burren when writing The Lord of the Rings, as well as other revered artists and writers such as Seamus Heaney and Sean Scully.

And for the guests of today: with warm Irish hospitality, stylish accommodation, outstanding service and exceptional fine dining in our award-winning restaurant, we truly are a country house of the 21st century. You can do nothing or everything here. And whatever you choose, we’d like you to join us in celebrating all that is wondrous and beautiful in this truly exceptional place.

Simon Haden and Frederieke McMurray

7. Loop Head Lightkeeper’s Cottage, County Clare €€ for 2; € for 4-6

https://www.irishlandmark.com/properties/

Perched proudly on an enclosure at the tip of Loop Head stands the lighthouse station. Surrounded by birds and wild flowers, cliffs and Atlantic surf, Loop Head offers holiday accommodation with all of the spectacular appeal of the rugged west coast.

8. Loughnane’s, Main Street, Feakle, Co Claresee above

contact: Billy Loughnane
Tel: 086-2565012 www.clareecolodge.ie

9. Mount Callan House and Restaurant, Inagh, Co Clare – B&B 

https://www.mountcallanhouse.ie

Culleen, Kilmaley,
County Clare, V95 NV0T

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

p. 212. (Synge/IFR; Tottenham/IFR) A Victorian house of two storys over basement built 1873 by Lt Col G.C. Synge and his wife, Georgiana, who was also his first cousin, being the daughter of Lt-Col Charles Synge, the previous owner of the estate. The estate was afterwards inherited by Georgiana Synge’s nephew, Lt-Col F. St. L. Tottenham, who made a garden in which rhododendrons run riot and many rare and tender species flourish.” 

The website tells us:

Mount Callan House & Restaurant is situated in the beautiful surroundings of West Clare in the heart of Kilmaley village. We are a small, family-run restaurant, led by Chef Daniel Lynch, and guest house with a deep connection to our rural community.

The local landscape is our inspiration and our food is created using the very best seasonal ingredients from award-winning, local suppliers.

We encourage creativity, a good working environment and a community approach for the benefit of all.

10. Mount Cashel Lodge, Kilmurry, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare period self-catering accommodation €

https://www.mtcashel.com

and Stables https://hiddenireland.com/stay/self-catering-holiday-rentals/

The website describes it: “Enjoy luxury self-catering accommodation in these beautifully restored 18th Century lakeside lodges. Set in a 38 acre private landscaped estate with private Lake, riverside walk and Victorian cottage garden to explore. Lake boating, kayaking and fishing are available on site to complete this idyllic retreat.

11. Newpark House, Ennis, County Clare €

https://www.newparkhouse.com/rates/

The website tells us: “Newpark House was built around 1750, and since then it has been the property of three families: the Hickmans, the Mahons and the Barrons.

The Hickmans came into the possession of Cappahard Estate in 1733. On part of this estate, Gortlevane townland, Richard Hickman built a house and landscaped around it. Around this time he re-named the townland Newpark. Several of those trees from the planting of the new park still survive. 
On his marriage in 1768 his father transferred the property to Richard. He died in 1810 and this property transferred to his son Edward Shadwell Hickman. Edward was a Crown Solicitor in Dublin and put the property up for rent. 

The Mahons: Patrick Mahon, a member of the new up and coming Catholic gentry, took up this offer and moved his family into Newpark. The Mahon family were very involved in the campaign for equal rights for Catholics in Ireland. Patrick’s son, James Patrick commonly known as The O’Gorman Mahon, nominated Daniel O’Connell to contest the famous Clare Election of 1828. O’Connell’s victory in this election resulted in the granting of Catholic Emancipation in 1829. It is highly likely that Daniel O’Connell stayed at Newpark during his visits to Ennis at this time. O’Gorman Mahon (1802-1891) had a very colourful life which ranged from hunting bears in Finland with a Russian Tzar to becoming a Colonel and Aide-de-Camp to the President of Costa Rica. Back in Ireland he is said to have introduced Parnell to Kitty O’Shea. 

While the Mahon family were living here they totally remodled the house. They added on wings and castlated the house in the Gothic revival style which was fashionable in Ireland at that time. The architect responsible would seem to be either John Nash or one of his former apprentices, the Pain brothers, all three were working in the area at this time.

 Of special historical significance is a pair of crosses on the turrets of the house. These crosses have shamrocks on the ends and were put there to commerate Catholic Emancipation. The Mahon family purchased the estate outright in 1853 and held it until 1904. 

At times when Newpark was owned by the Hickmans and Mahons several other families and individuals lived there. The Ennis poet Thomas Dermody spent time here with his father before he set off from Newpark, in 1785, for Dublin, in search of fame and fortune. Thomas remarked on the comfort he felt at Newpark during his time there. Also to have lived at Newpark were Captain William Cole Hamilton, a Magistrate (1870-1876), William Robert Prickett (1883-1886) and Philip Anthony Dwyer (1888-1904), Captains in the local Clare Division of the British Army. 

The Barrons: In 1904 the property came into ownership of the present family, the Barrons. 
Timothy ‘Thady’ Barron was born on the side of the road, in 1847, during the famine. His father had lost his herdsman job, along with the herdsman’s cottage, due to a change of landlord. After a few tough years his father got another herdsmans job and Thady followed in his fathers footsteps. Thady moved in to Newpark in 1904 with his family and he lived he until his death in 1945. In the 1950s Thady’s son James ‘Amy’ bought the property from his sister Nance. In 1960 Amy’s son Earnan and his new wife Bernie moved into a barely habitable Newpark House. They set about slowly but surely bringing the house back to live. Luckily for them they got an opportunity to furnish the house with antiques, which were at that time considered second-hand furniture. Bernie opened up Newpark House as a B&B in 1966. Her son, Declan, is the present owner and we are looking forward to 50 years in business in 2016.”

12. Sheedy’s Hotel and Restaurant, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare €€

https://sheedys.com/

The website tells us: “The Burren is one of the most beautiful places to stay in Ireland.  Sheedy’s is the perfect spot to enjoy all that the Burren has to offer.

Owned and managed by the Sheedy family, we pride ourselves in offering a warm welcome, traditional hospitality and delicious cuisine.

There is a long tradition of hospitality at Sheedys since Alice Sheedy opened the doors of the house to guests in the 1930s.

13. Smithstown Castle (or Ballynagowan), County Claretower house € for 4-8 for one week

http://smithstowncastle.com 

From the website:

Only few castles in the West of Ireland have survived into our times. Ballynagowan (Smithstown) Castle has played an exciting role in the history of North Clare, taking its name from ‘beal-atha-an-ghobhan’, meaning the ‘mouth of the smith’s ford’. 

It was first mentioned in 1551 when the last King of Munster, Murrough O’Brien, (also known as the Tanist, was created 1st Earl of Thomond and 1st Baron of Inchiquin in 1543), willed the Castle of Ballynagowan to his son Teige before his death. 

Over the years it accommodated many famous characters of Irish history. Records show that in 1600 the legendary Irish rebel “Red” Hugh O’Donnell rested there with his men during his attack on North Clare, spreading ruin everywhere and seeking revenge on the Earl of Thomond for his being in alliance with the English. 

In 1649 Oliver Cromwell’s army came from England with death and destruction. The Castle was attacked with cannons when Cromwell’s General, Ludlow, swept into North Clare striking terror everywhere he went. 

In 1650 Conor O’Brien of Lemeneagh became heir of the castle. His death, however, came shortly afterwards in 1551, as he was fatally wounded in a skirmish with Cromwellian troops commanded by General Ludlow at Inchicronan. With him had fought his wife Maire Rua O’Brien (“The Red Mary”, named after her long red hair), one of the best known characters in Irish tradition. She had lived in the castle as a young woman and it is the ferocity and cruelty attributed to her, which has kept her name alive. Legends tell that to save her children’s heritage after Conor’s death she married several English generals, who were killed in mysterious ways one after the other- she supposedly ended her bloody carrier entombed in a hollow tree. 

During 1652 almost all inhabitable castles in Clare including Smithstown were occupied by Cromwellian garrisons, a time of terrible uncertainty as Clare was under military rule. 

Over the next decades Ballynagowan Castle was the seat of army generals, the High Sheriff of County Clare and Viscount Powerscourt, one of the most powerful aristocrats who had their main residence – a monumental neogothic palace – in Dublin.  

The castle was last inhabited mid 19th century and until its recent restauration served as beloved meeting point for couples -, songs and poems about it finding their way into the local pubs.

14. Spanish Point House, Spanish Point, County Clare

https://spanishpointhouse.ie

The is a Victorian house, originally called Sea View House.

The website tells us:

In 1884 the local Roman Catholic Bishop, James Ryan, expressed a wish to start a primary and secondary school in Miltown Malbay, a short distance from Spanish Point House, but his vision was unrealised for many years to come.

In 1903 the bishop’s estate donated £900 to the Mercy Sisters to establish a school, but things did not happen until 1928, when three houses owned by the Morony estate were offered for sale to the Mercy Sisters with the intention of establishing a school at Spanish Point. The Moronys were a family of local landlords who had owned a significant number of properties in the Spanish Point and Miltown Malbay area between 1750 and 1929, including Sea View House, Miltown House, and The Atlantic Hotel.

The Moronys were responsible for much of the development of the locality of Spanish Point, which began in 1712 when Thomas Morony took a lease of land, later purchased by his eldest son, Edmund, divided it into two farms and leased it to two local landlords for thirty-one years. Francis Gould Morony willed Sea View House, which he built in 1830, to his wife’s niece, Marianne Harriet Stoney, who married Captain Robert Ellis. The house was inherited by the Ellis family and one of their sons – Thomas Gould Ellis – became the son and heir.”

15. Strasburgh Manor coach houses, Inch, Ennis, County Clare

https://www.strasburghmanor.com/about-strasburgh-manor/

The website tells us:

The buildings that comprise the holiday homes were the coach houses attached to the House.

Once occupied by James Burke, who was killed in the French Revolution in 1790, the House was named after the French town of Strasbourg.

It figured prominently in Irish history up to its demise in 1921, when it was burned down during the Irish War of Independence.

Families associated with it included: Burke, Daxon, Stacpoole, Huxley, Mahon, Talbot, Taylor, Scott & McGann (ref: ‘Houses of Clare’ by Hugh Weir, published by Ballinakella Press, Whitegate, Co. Clare).

Whole House Rental, County Clare

1. Inchiquin House, Corofin, County Clare – whole house rental, €€€ for 2, € for 6-10

https://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/cottages-and-houses/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApL2QBhC8ARIsAGMm-KFInICcRSxwLSiDxfFNk5WFytNcVrLvOQYhzJbIBes4V-M65iXz0gYaAln_EALw_wcB

The website tells us “Inchiquin House is an elegant period home in County Clare, romantically tucked away in the west of Ireland not far from the Wild Atlantic Way. It is the perfect base from which to explore the unique Burren landscape, historic sites, and the region’s many leisure activities.

2. Mount Vernon lodge, Co Clare – whole house accommodation € for 7-11 people 

https://www.mountvernon.ie

Mount Vernon is a lovely Georgian Villa built in 1788 on the Burren coastline of County Clare with fine views over Galway Bay and the surrounding area. 

Built in 1788 for Colonel William Persse on his return from the American War of Independence, Mount Vernon was named to celebrate his friendship with George Washington. The three remaining cypress trees in the walled garden are thought to have been a gift from the President. 
 
During the nineteenth century Mount Vernon was the summer home of Lady Augusta Gregory of Coole, an accomplished playwright and folklorist and a pivotal figure in the Irish Cultural Renaissance. It was her collaboration with W.B.Yeats and Edward Martyn that created the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1904. Lady Gregory entertained many of the luminaries of the Irish Literary Revival at Mount Vernon including W.B.Yeats, AE (George Russell), O’Casey, Synge and George Bernard Shaw. 
 
In 1907 Lady Gregory gave the house to her son Robert Gregory as a wedding present and it was from here that he produced many of his fine paintings of the Burren landscape. He later joined the Royal Flying Corps and was shot down by ‘friendly fire’ in 1918, an event commemorated by W.B.Yeats in his famous poem, An Irish Airman Foresees his Death. 
 
A feature from this period are the unusual fireplaces designed and built by his close friend the pre-Raphaelite painter Augustus John.

Kerry:

1. Ballyseede Castle, Tralee, Co. Kerry – section 482 €€

contact: Marnie Corscadden
Tel: 066-7125799
www.ballyseedecastle.com
Open: Mar 1-Dec 21, 28-31.
Fee: Free

The website tells us:

Take a step back in time with a hotel steeped in history that offers luxurious surroundings within 30 acres of private gardens and woodland.

The Doric columns that lead to an elegant oak staircase in the lobby are indicative of the grand decoration throughout the hotel. Impressive drawing rooms with ornate cornices, adorned with marble fireplaces provide an ideal setting for afternoon tea or morning coffee.

Elegant accommodation, fine dining with traditional Irish cuisine, rooms that tell a story and the picturesque natural setting, will all comprise to make your stay at Ballyseede Castle an unforgettable one.”

Ballyseede Castle, County Kerry, photograph by Keith Robinson, flickr creative commons.

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

p. 28. “(Blennerhassett/IFR; Blennerhassett, Bt/PB) A large three storey block of ca 1760 with two curved bows on the entrance front and another bow on the side, given a battlemented parapet, hood mouldings and other mildly baronial touches late C19 by James Franklin Fuller. At one side of the front is a long and low castellated service wing, with round and square turrets, the other side of which has a sham wall, consisting of a long range of false windows. This Gothic work dates from 1816 and may well be by Sir Richard Morrison. Rather narrow bifurcating staircase rising behind a screen of Doric columns at one end of the hall. Bequeathed 1965 by Miss Hilda Blennerhassett to her kinsman Sir Adrian Blennerhassett, 7th Bt, who sold it 1867. Now an hotel.” 

2. Derrynane House, Caherdaniel, KerryOPW

Derrynane House, County Kerry, photograph by George Munday, 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

See my OPW write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/19/office-of-public-works-properties-munster/

Daniel O’Connell, who lived at Derrynane.

3. Derreen Gardens, Lauragh, Tuosist, Kenmare, Co. Kerrysection 482

John Daly
Tel: 087-1325665
https://www.derreengarden.com/
Open: all year, 10am-6pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €8, child €3, family ticket (2 adults and all children and 2 maps) €20

The website tells us: “A beautiful 19th century woodland garden with paths winding through rare tropical plants and opening onto sea views.

Set on a peninsula at the head of Kilmackillogue Harbour and surrounded by the Caha Mountains, the garden at Derreen covers 60 acres.

A network of winding paths passes through a mature woodland garden laid out 150 years ago with subtropical plants from around the world and incomparable views of the sea and mountains.

4. Dhu Varren garden, Knockreigh, Milltown, Kerry, V93 VX27

www.dhuvarrengarden.com 

The website tells us:

Dhu Varren Garden, owned by Mark and Laura Collins, began its development in 2001. Since then it has grown to contain one of the largest and most diverse plant collections of any private garden in Ireland. This continues to grow as new and exciting plants are sourced from around the world. It has been described by visitors as ‘Kerry’s Botanical Garden’.

5. Kells Bay House & Garden, Kells, Caherciveen, Co Kerry 

contact: Billy Alexander
Tel: 066-9477975 

www.kellsbay.ie 

Kells Bay House and Gardens, Co Kerry. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [2])

Open: Feb-Dec 9.30am-dusk
Fee: adult €8.50, child €6, family €26 (2 adults + 3 children under 17 years) 

The website tells us: “Kells Bay Gardens is one of Europe’s premier horticultural experiences, containing a renowned collection of Tree-ferns and other exotic plants growing in its unique microclimate created by the Gulf Stream. It is the home of ‘The SkyWalk’ Ireland’s longest rope-bridge.

6. Knockreer House and Gardens, County Kerry

https://www.discoverireland.ie/kerry/knockreer-house-and-gardens

The website tells us:

Found in County Kerry’s Killarney National Park, Knockreer House and Gardens are within walking distance of Killarney Town. The area includes a circular walk with excellent views of the Lower Lake.

The Knockreer section of Killarney National Park is within walking distance of Killarney Town, County Kerry. This area was formerly part of the Kenmare Estate, which was laid out by Valentine Brown, the third Viscount of Kenmare. Deenagh Lodge Tearoom dates back to 1834 and was the gate lodge of the Kenmare Estate. The tearoom is a popular haunt with locals and visitors after a stroll in the park. It is located just inside Kings Bridge across from St Mary’s Cathedral.

Knockreer House, a short walk up the hill, is the Killarney National Park Education Centre and is built on the site of the original Killarney House, which was destroyed by fire in 1913. The circular walk is signposted and offers excellent views of the Lower Lake. On the circular walk there is a pathway off to the right that leads up to the viewing point on top of the hill, which provides a wonderful panorama of the surrounding countryside.

7. Listowel Castle, County Kerry – OPW

See my OPW write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/19/office-of-public-works-properties-munster/

8. Muckross House (or Muckruss),  Killarney, County Kerry

Muckross House Killarney Co. Kerry, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

www.muckross-house.ie 

This nineteenth century Victorian mansion is set against the stunning beauty of Killarney National Park. The house stands close to the shores of Muckross Lake, one of Killarney’s three lakes, famed world wide for their splendour and beauty. As a focal point within Killarney National Park, Muckross House is the ideal base from which to explore this landscape. 

Muckross House was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colourist Mary Balfour Herbert. This was actually the fourth house that successive generations of the Herbert family had occupied at Muckross over a period of almost two hundred years. William Burn, the well-known Scottish architect, was responsible for its design. Building commenced in 1839 and was completed in 1843. 

Originally it was intended that Muckross House should be a larger, more ornate, structure. The plans for a bigger servants’ wing, stable block, orangery and summer-house, are believed to have been altered at Mary’s request. Today the principal rooms are furnished in period style and portray the elegant lifestyle of the nineteenth century landowning class. In the basement, one can imagine the busy bustle of the servants as they went about their daily chores. 

During the 1850s, the Herberts undertook extensive garden works in preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861. Later, the Bourn Vincent family continued this gardening tradition. They purchased the estate from Lord and Lady Ardilaun early in the twentieth century. It was at this time that the Sunken Garden, Rock Garden and the Stream Garden were developed.

Muckross House, County Kerry, October 2012.
Muckross House 1970, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archive. (see [8])
Muckross House Killarney Co. Kerry, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Muckross House Killarney Co. Kerry, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Muckross House Killarney Co. Kerry, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Muckross House Killarney Co. Kerry, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

9. Ross’s Castle, Killarney, County Kerry

See my OPW write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/19/office-of-public-works-properties-munster/

10. Staigue Fort, County Kerry

Staigue Fort, County Kerry, October 2012.

The following website gives us information about this ancient impressive fort: https://voicesfromthedawn.com/staigue-fort/

It tells us:

Constructed entirely without mortar, Staigue cashel encloses an area of 27.4 m (90 ft) in diameter, with walls as tall as 5.5 m (18 ft) and a sturdy 4 m (13 ft) in thickness. It has one double-linteled entrance, a passageway 1.8 m (6 ft) long. In the virtual-reality environment (above) click the hotspots to proceed to the fort’s interior. It is similar in construction to the Grianan of Aileach in Co. Donegal, and was possibly constructed in the same period of the Early Medieval period (approximately fifth to eleventh century CE). The fort is surrounded by a large bank and ditch, most evident on its northern side. This may have been a part of Staigue’s defenses, or it may be a prehistoric feature that pre-dates the construction of the stone fort.

Staigue Fort, October 2012

The website continues: “In 1897 T.J. Westropp reported that the local peasantry called the building Staig an air, which he translated as “Windy House, or “Temple of the Father,” or “The Staired Place of Slaughter.” These different translations may inspire distinctly different conjectures about the builders of Staigue. It has been described as both a temple or an observatory, and has been attributed to many different cultures in the past, such as Druids, Phoenicians, Cyclopeans, and Danes. But it was, of course, built by the “Kerrymen of old.”

Staigue Fort, October 2012

The sign at the site explains that Staigue “was the home of the chieftain’s family, guards and servants, and would have been full of houses, out-buildings, and possibly tents or other temporary structures.” The illustration from this sign is in the gallery below. Cashels, of which Staigue is an impressive and probably high-status example, were enclosed and defendable farmsteads of the Irish Early Medieval period. They housed an extended family and, in high-status examples, their retinue. However archaeologist Peter Harbison was unable to explain why the ancient architects would have created so many (10) sets of X-shaped stairs climbing up the inner face of the wall to its ramparts.

11. Tarbert House, Tarbert, Co. Kerry – section 482

contact: Ursula Leslie
Tel: 068-36198, 087-2917301
Open: May, June July, Aug, 2pm-4pm
Fee: adult/OAP €5, student €2, child free

Tarbert House, County Kerry, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Tarbert House, near the town of that name in County Kerry, stands in wooded parkland beside the River Shannon, a few miles downstream from Glin and just across the county bounds. The plain, square, seven-bay seat of James Leslie, erstwhile Bishop of Limerick, was built precisely in the middle of his diocese for convenience, and dates from the 1750s. The house, which is still owned by the bishop’s descendants, was given an additional storey in the mid-19th century but retains its mid-Georgian character and plan, with robust joinery and chimneypieces, and a fine collection of family portraits, furniture, papers and objects.” [9]

Places to Stay, County Kerry: 

1. Arbutus Hotel, Killarney, Co Kerry €€

https://www.arbutuskillarney.com/ 

The website tells us: “If you are seeking an utterly unique experience, genuine Irish hospitality and a hotel with character, the Arbutus Hotel is for you. Established in 1926 by our grandparents, we continue our proud family tradition of extending the warmest of welcomes to the Arbutus Hotel and Killarney. We are perfectly situated amongst the shops, pubs and restaurants of Killarney town centre, minutes’ walk from the train station. Parking is available in the adjacent carpark.

Every landscape produces and inspires characters whose stature seems to mirror the landscape itself. Tim Buckley was such a character, raised on the borders County Cork and the ‘Kingdom’ of Kerry. Today, Tim is remembered as the founder of the Arbutus, the unique and historic Killarney hotel. Even a glimpse of the path he travelled before establishing the Arbutus will help to explain why it remains a distinct and remarkable place.

Tim’s parents both survived the horrors of the potato famine to raise a family of two girls and five boys, including Tim who was born in 1885, at Toorbona in County Cork, close to the Kerry border. As a child he was bright, observant and active. Attending the local fairs with his father, he saw the wealthy farmers and the poorer farmers, he noticed the business people with their property, confidence and social standing. This made a formidable impression on him and it was from the fairfield in Killarney that he first noticed what was then Russell’s Hotel. He vowed that one day it would be his, hankering for it from the fair or eyeing it across the road from Casey’s Corner. The hotel became his mission and his vision. At the age of 24, with little hope of raising the necessary money at home, he set off for New York where many had gone before him. What made him different was he didn’t bring dreams with him, he brought a vision. He remained in New York for more than fifteen years. Like many Irish people, he had relatives who had gone before him. In New York, he went to stay with his aunt, who consoled his mother by writing: “he is going to a foreign country but going to his own family, always remember that.” Driven by his vision, Tim worked hard at a number of jobs including on the railways, in a bakery, as a hackney driver and in a hotel. America could be a lonely place for homesick immigrants and Tim was no exception. He never forgot the feeling of being away from home, a feeling he found perfectly expressed in the poem “The Dawn on the Hills of Ireland”, which became his party piece:

“For thirty years ‘asthore macree’, Those hills I now feast my eyes on
Ne’er met my vision, save at night,
In memory’s dim horizon,

Even so, ’twas grand and fair they seemed
In the landscape spread before me,
But dreams are dreams, and I would awake
To find American skies still o’er me.”

He knew all eight verses off by heart and would recite them at gatherings for the rest of his life. As well as building up capital, he spent those years developing his vision of what he would do when he bought the Russell Hotel. The time came in 1924 when, unlike today, very few Irish emigrants returned and many never saw their families again. True to his rare strength of character, Tim did return to Kerry. Not only that, but he had arranged a match for himself, corresponding with a Kerry matchmaker from New York. Julia Daly was born on April 10th 1898, the second of two daughters. Her older sister was to inherit the farm, leaving a good marriage her best option for a secure future. Julia was made of strong stuff and was ready for the challenge of marrying the aspiring hotelier. In the year before his return, she had attended Ramsgrange Cookery School in Wexford, getting the necessary skills for hotel catering.

Tim and Julia were married on the 31st of January 1925, in her home townland of Ballydaly, Co. Cork. His savings, combined with her dowry, enabled them to buy Russell’s Hotel, which had been running since 1880. Their new endeavor would utilise their combined wealth of talents to realise his vision for a new generation of hotel. A new vision required a new name. Tim and Julia settled on the name Arbutus, after the tree. The Arbutus, or Strawberry Tree, is the only tree native to Ireland but not to Britain, and grows only in Cork, Sligo and, most famously, Kerry. ‘Arbutus’, therefore, represents what is special and unique about the region. But Tim was as pragmatic as he was romantic. He also settled on the name ‘Arbutus’ because, beginning with ‘A’, it would appear earlier in tourist brochures and pamphlets, not to mention listings for the telephone, which was just making its presence felt. Though Kerry had been an important tourist destination for wealthy travelers since the 1750s, Tim created the Arbutus as a destination in itself, a place of distinction to which travelers would return and recommend to others. In a practice that would later become a norm among quality hotels around the world, he arranged for guests to be picked up at Cobh. Two uniformed Arbutus drivers drove guests back in Tim’s pristine Buick and Dodge limousines imported specially form the USA. On their arrival at the Arbutus guests would be met by a welcome which combined local charm and international standards of hospitality. Tim Buckley saw the Arbutus as much more than a building, he saw the hotel holistically, as a place where the hospitality experience merged seamlessly with location, structure and detail. He commissioned the interior design himself, overseeing everything down to the smallest detail. Much of the work was undertaken by Dan Connor, trained by a master carpenter from the famous German village of Oberammergau, who had been brought back to Ireland by Lord Kenmare. To this day, Tim’s collection of specially commissioned ‘Celtic Deco’ furniture, fittings and tableware can be seen throughout the Arbutus – probably the only collection of its kind. Known affectionately as ‘The Boss’, Tim Buckley was admired and respected in Killarney, both as a businessman and a family man.

Tim Buckley and Julia Daly established the Arbutus Hotel Killarney in 1926. Their style of hospitality merged seamlessly with location, structure and detail to create something special for their guests.

Their son Pat and his wife Norrie Comer, took over in 1960, modernising the hotel whilst maintaining the spirit created by his parents.

Grandson Seán, his wife Carol Dempsey and their 3 children, Emer, Roisin and Ronan continue the promise made over 85 years ago and have maintained the warmth and friendliness that sets the Arbutus apart.

The Arbutus Killarney, there ever…

2. Ballyseede Castle/ Ballyseedy (Tralee Castle), Tralee, county Kerryhotel, see above €€

3. Cahernane (or Cahirnane) House, Killarney, Co Kerry – hotel

 https://www.cahernane.com

Cahernane House, County Kerry, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, which tells us it is a seven-bay two-storey over part-raised basement Ruskinesque Gothic Revival style country house with dormer attic, dated 1877, possibly incorporating fabric of earlier house. Designed by James Franklin Fuller.

The website tells us:

Beautifully situated on a private estate on the edge of Killarney National Park, our luxury four-star hotel is located just twenty minutes’ walk from Killarney town centre. The entrance to the hotel is framed by a tunnel of greenery which unfurls to reveal the beauty of this imposing manor house, constructed in 1877 and formerly home to the Herbert Family.

Cahernane House Hotel exudes a sense of relaxation and peacefulness where you can retreat from the hectic pace of life into a cocoon of calmness and serenity. The only sounds you may hear are the lambs bleating or the birds singing.

Cahernane House was built as the family residence of Henry Herbert in 1877 at a cost of £5,992. The work was carried out by Collen Brothers Contractors. The original plans by architect James Franklin Fuller, whose portfolio included Ballyseedy Castle, Dromquinna Manor and the Parknasilla Hotel, was for a mansion three times the present size.

4. Carrig Country House, County Kerry €€€

https://carrighouse.com

The website tells us: “If you are looking for the perfect hideaway which offers peace, tranquility, plus a wonderful restaurant on the lake, Carrig House on the Ring of Kerry and Wild Atlantic Way is the place for you. The beautifully appointed bedrooms, drawing rooms and The Lakeside Restaurant, overlooking Caragh Lake and surrounded by Kerry’s Reeks District mountains, rivers and lakes create the perfect getaway.

Carrig House was built originally circa 1850 as a hunting lodge, it was part of the Blennerhassett Estate. It has been mainly owned and used by British Aristocracy who came here to hunt and fish during the different seasons.

The house was purchased by Senator Arthur Rose Vincent in the early 20th. Century. Vincent moved here after he and his wealthy Californian father in law Mr. Bowers Bourne gave Muckross House & Estate in Killarney to the Irish Government for a wonderful National Park.

Bourne had originally purchased Muckross House from the Guinness family and gave it to his daughter Maud as a present on her marriage to Arthur Rose Vincent. However, Maud died at a young age prompting Bourne and Vincent to donate the estate to the Irish State.

Vincent remarried a French lady and lived at Carrig for about 6 years, they then moved to the France. The country house history doesn’t end there, Carrig has had many other illustrious owners, such as Lady Cuffe , Sir Aubrey Metcalfe, who retired as the British Viceroy in India and Lord Brocket Snr, whose main residence was Brocket Hall in England.

Frank & Mary Slattery, the current owners purchased the house in 1996. They are the first Irish owners of Carrig since it was originally built and have renovated and meticulously restored the Victorian residence to its former glory.

For over two decades Frank & Mary have operated a very successful Country House & Restaurant and have won many rewards for their hospitality and their Lakeside Restaurant. They are members of Ireland’s prestigious Blue Book.

Carrig House has 17 bedrooms, each individually decorated in period style with antique furniture. Each room enjoys spectacular views of Caragh Lake and the surrounding mountains. All rooms are en suite with bath and shower. Those who like to indulge can enjoy the sumptuous comfort of the Presidential Suite with its own separate panoramic sitting room, male and female dressing rooms and bathroom with Jacuzzi bath.

The restaurant is wonderfully situated overlooking the lake. The atmosphere is friendly, warm and one of total relaxation. The menu covers a wide range of the freshest Irish cuisine.

Irish trout and salmon from the lake and succulent Kerry lamb feature alongside organic vegetables. Interesting selections of old and new world wines are offered to compliment dinner whilst aperitifs and after-dinner drinks are served in the airy drawing room beside open peat fires.

Within the house, chess, cards and board games are available in the games room.

5. Castlemorris House, Tralee, County Kerry

Castlemorris House, Tralee, County Kerry, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.bandbireland.com/accommodation/28161/castlemorris-house

Castlemorris is now a bed and breakfast. The National Inventory tells us it is a detached five-bay three-storey over basement house, built c. 1830, with single- and two-storey extensions to rear. Formerly residence of army officer in neighbouring barracks.

6. Castlewood House, Dingle, County Kerry €€

https://www.castlewooddingle.com/about-castlewood/about-us/

The website tells us:

Since Brian and Helen opened their Boutique style property in 2005, the name of Castlewood House has become synonomous with style and sophistication.

We have created an oasis of calm within a few minute’s walk to the Marina area of Dingle town. Every effort has been made to ensure that our guests get the very best Dingle has to offer and the house is designed to make utmost advantage of the fabulous views of Dingle Bay. All areas of the house are elegant and sophisticated with an eclectic mix of old and new. Timeless antique pieces and a stunning art collection make Castlewood House a feast for the senses.

Our elegant drawing room overlooks Dingle Bay where you can sit and relax and just watch the world go by. The room has an elegant marble fireplace and comfy sofa’s that are just waiting for you to sink into! Enjoy a glass of wine or Afternoon Tea by the fire. Your every need is anticipated and you can enjoy complimentary tea/coffee along with our homemade cakes and biscuits which are available throughout the day for you to enjoy. The room has a library of books, travel guides, style magazines, board games and jigsaws for your enjoyment. Our honesty bar is also stocked and you can settle up for your drinks on your departure.

7. Dingle Benners Hotel, Dingle, Co Kerry €€

https://www.dinglebenners.com/ 

The website tells us:

Dingle Benners Hotel is an intimate boutique hotel in the heart of Dingle town. With a long standing history of warm welcomes and award winning food, while staying with us you can explore the town at your own pace. 

Centered around 52 guest rooms, including Classic, Superior and our Four Poster Guest Rooms we offer you a calming haven to celebrate that special occasion, or simply to get away from it all. 

Food is at the heart of what we offer here at Dingle Benners Hotel and past awards include the Gorgina Campbell award for Irish Breakfast of the year. 

If you are seeking the very best of location to experience all the magic that Dingle has to offer, Dingle Benners Hotel is the perfect choice.

8. Dromquinna Estate, Co Kerry €€

 https://www.dromquinnamanor.com

Drumquinna Manor, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, which tells us that the house is an eleven-bay two-storey Jacobean Revival style country house with dormer attic, built c. 1890, designed by James Franklin Fuller.

It was constructed for Sir John Columb around 1889-90. The website tells us:

There are many elements to Dromquinna Manor. Firstly it is a stunning waterside estate unlike anything else. Set on 40 acres of parkland planted in the 1800s, the Estate offers an abundance of activities and facilities.

The Manor, dating from the 1890s, is dedicated to catering for Weddings and events. The Oak Room is the heart of the Manor and is classical in every sense. Stylish beyond words with views of Kenmare Bay celebrations here are truly memorable. The Drawing Rooms and Terrace all make for a very special and memorable occassion for all. It is a real family and friends party as opposed to a hotel ballroom function.

9. Killarney Country Club cottage (formerly Fahagh Court) Beaufort, Co Kerry – € 

Mark Bence-Jones tells us about the main house (1988): p. 122. (Morrogh-Bernard/IFR) An irregular two storey house with a shallow battlemented bow and a rusticated doorcase of sandstone on its front, and a gable at the back. Now an hotel.

https://www.hogansirishcottages.com/cottage/County-Cork-Killarney/Killarney-Country-Club-Cottage-924208.html

or on airbnb https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/18733691?source_impression_id=p3_1652716587_lWafOPgeB9uWaPDl

The website tells us:

A fantastic mid-terrace property in the grounds of Killarney Country Club just outside Faha near Beaufort in County Kerry, eight miles from Killarney.

Stone built but with a modern feel and fantastic mountain views, this is an excellent base for a family or friends to come to County Kerry and do some sightseeing.

There are two bedrooms upstairs, a double and a twin, along with a shower room, while on the ground floor there is an open plan living area with kitchen, dining area and living area, keeping everyone together while breakfast is being rustled up ahead of a day of exploring.

French doors in the living area take you out to the rear garden, with spectacular views of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, home to Carrauntoohil, the highest peak in Ireland.

With a bar on site there will be no arguments about who the designated driver will be.

With great scenery in the surrounding area, be sure to do a bit of sightseeing while out for a walk or a cycle in the fresh Irish air.

Only a short drive down the road, Beaufort will tend to your basic needs while Killarney is only eight miles away, where you can sample a range of shops, restaurants and pubs with some good local Irish music being played.

10. Glanleam, Valentia Island, Co Kerry

 https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/glanleam-house/

Glanleam, County Kerry, photograph from National Inventory.

The website tells us:

Glanleam was built as a linen mill in 1775 and later converted into a house by the Knight of Kerry, who planted the magnificent sub-tropical gardens. In 1975 Meta Kreissig bought the estate which had declined for 50 years. She rescued the house, restored and enlarged the garden and, with her daughter Jessica, made it a delightful place to stay, with a mixture of antique and contemporary furniture and an extensive library. The setting looking out over the harbour is magical. There are green fields, a beach and a lighthouse, and Valentia Island is connected to the Kerry mainland by a car ferry and a bridge.

Glanleam was converted into a country house by the 19th Knight of Kerry (1808-1889). His father had developed the famous Valentia slate quarry (the slates were especially in demand for billiard tables, then very much in vogue). The Knight, an enthusiastic botanist, recognised the unique potential of the island’s microclimate for sub-tropical plants and laid out a fifty acre garden, using species just introduced from South America. His efforts won him great acclaim at the time and today his gardens have matured into dense woodlands.

Together Meta Kreissig and her daughter Jessica have refurbished the house, furnishing it with an amalgam of antique and modern pieces, and opened it to guests. There is an extensive library, several of the rooms have their original Valentia slate chimneypieces, and the bedrooms have luxurious Bonasck designer bathrooms. The gardens have also benefited from their attention. One recent visitor described the ‘radial planting of vegetables’ in the centre of the walled kitchen garden as ‘a jewel’.

11. Kells Bay House & Garden, Kells, Caherciveen, Co Kerry € see above

https://www.kellsbay.ie/accommodation/

12. Killarney Park Hotel (formerly Kenmare House, formerly Killarney House, Killarney, Co Kerry €€€

 https://www.killarneyparkhotel.ie/

The Killarney Park is one of the finest five-star hotels that Ireland has to offer. The hotel is on the doorstep of Killarney’s town centre and is situated adjacent to the 25,000 acre Killarney National Park.  One of the last few Family Owned and run five-star hotels in Ireland, The Killarney Park is set on its own mature grounds and guests can enjoy the privacy of dining in the secluded garden space. The Killarney Park by name is a hotel, but what sets it aside as one of the best, is the amazing team that strives daily, to deliver an unparalleled guest experience.

13. Killeen House Hotel and Rozzers Restaurant, Aghadoe, Killarney, Co Kerry 

https://www.killeenhousehotel.com

The website tells us:

Within a 10 minute drive of Killarney town, we are perfectly located to explore all that the Kingdom of Kerry has to offer. Sightseeing, walking, hiking, golfing, fishing… it is all on your doorstep when you are staying with us. We are located in the townland of Aghadoe, but we prefer to call it “the Place God made when He was in good humour”.

Killeen House Hotel & Rozzers Restaurant was opened by Michael and Geraldine in 1992. While Michael has retired in recent years, Geraldine is still very much the Lady of the House with her daughter Michelle at her side.

14. Muxnaw Lodge, Kenmare, Co Kerry €

https://www.muxnawlodgekenmare.com/

The website tells us that Muxnaw Lodge in Kenmare is an attractive Victorian house, with spectacular views of the Kenmare River and Suspension Bridge.

Muxnaw Lodge features in Jane O’Hea O’Keeffe’s Voices from the Great Houses: Cork and Kerry. Mercier Press, Cork, 2013:

p. 242. “John Desmond Calverley Oulton (konwn as Desmond), who was born at Clontarf Castle in 1921, is the son of John George Oulton and Sybil Mona Calverley. He has long and loving memories of his childhood home at Clontarf Castle, where he played with his siblings in truly magical surroundings…”

p. 245. “During his childhood days, Desmond and his family would travel to Kerry each summer to stay at Muxnaw Lodge at Kenmare, which had been owned for generations by his mother’s people, the Calverleys. A lovely gabled building, the Lodge was built in 1801 as a hunting and fishing lodge by the Calverley family. It is situated on a spectacular site overlooking the Kenmare River and is now run as an up-market guesthouse. 

The name Muxnaw comes from the Irish Mucsnamh (the swimming place of the pigs). Joyce’s Irish Place Names gives this explanation: 

The natural explanation seems to be that wild pigs were formerly in the habit of crossing… at this narrow point. The Kenmare River narrowed at this point by a spit of land projecting from the northern shore, and here in past ages, wild pigs used to swim across so frequently, and in such numbers, that the place was called Muscnamh or Mucksna.” 

p. 245. “Desmond explains the complexities of his family history: “Colonel Vernon, owner of Clontarf Castle, had several daughters and a son. One daughter, Edith Vernon, married Walter Calverley who owned Muxnaw Lodge. They had two children, my mother, Sybil Mona Calverley, and Walter Calverley. Walter was killed during the first world war, and following the death of Walter Calverley Sr, Muxnaw Lodge went to his brother, Charles, who left it to his niece, my mother.” “

15. Parknasilla Resort and Spa, Kenmare, Co Kerry 

Parknasilla, photograph from National Inventory.

https://parknasillaresort.com

Archiseek tells us that Derryquin Castle was: “Designed by James Franklin Fuller, built for the Bland family. The main block was of three storeys, with a four-storey octagonal tower running through its centre. The entrance door was at one end, flanked by a two-storey, part-curved wing. There were rectangular, pointed and camber-headed windows; battlements, and machiolations. It was burnt in 1922, and the ruins demolished in 1969. It was located in the grounds of what is now the Parknasilla Hotel. 

Fuller was related to the Bland family – his mother Frances was the third daughter of Francis Christopher Bland of Derryquin. Fuller also designed the Parknasilla Hotel in 1897.

The website tells us:

Parknasilla Hotel, nestled in the shadows of the Kerry mountains amidst islands, inlets and hidden beaches.

Come stay with us and feel the restorative power of nature and marvel in the splendour of the seascape and landscape that surrounds you here.

The word  Parknasilla ,(means the field of Sallys) [perhaps “salix” meaning Willow], for so many is evocative of so many things, tucked away in the corner of a subtropical paradise on the Kenmare river , it’s a place of beauty, of rare plants, islands linked by timber bridges and coral inlets.

Where the sea, the light and clouds  put on a continual show to delight the senses. A place where people come as guests and leave as friends, with its tradition of hospitality stretching back over 125 years. It has hosted royalty, dignitaries, family gatherings and romantic get aways.

It has provided people with that peaceful haven for them to recalibrate and recharge their batteries but it has also been that place of quite inspiration for writers and artist from George Bernard Shaw to Ceclia Ahern .

With its winding walks, this 200 acre estate walled gardens, golf course, island dotted bay and spa coupled with a world class resort with a 4 star hotel houses and apartments  it provides one with that perfect retreat to suit all tastes.

It is a place of many layers constantly evolving, seen through the prism of history it’s a place where people create their own be it in the friends formed or memories laid down to last a life time, a place to return to again.”

The website tells us about the history of Parknasilla:

The origins of the rise of the Great Southern Hotels and Parknasilla arised from the middle of the 19th century. Despite the ravages of the famine, Ireland was seen as an exotic tourism destination and this was particularly true after Queen Victoria’s trip to Ireland and Kerry in 1861, that saw an explosion of tourism from overseas. Railway lines were developed in the mid 1850’s from Dubin to remote towns of Killarney, Dingle, Galway and Sligo and later new lines were developed from Killarney for instance to Kenmare.

In the South of Ireland, the most import railway was the Great Southern and Western Dublin-Cork Link that opened in 1849. Excursions were promoted and resort hotels that were built were to supplied with customers by new railway line. New doors opened for Parknasilla around the start of the 1890’s, when in 1893 Kenmare became the terminuis of the branch line. Subsequently two years earlier, the Derryquin Estate was in 1891 by the Bland family in various lots. Bishop Graves of Limerick who had leased the part of the property for a long period off the Blands, purchased in one lot, and only a short time after sold the property to the Great Southern Hotel Group.

On the 1st of May 1895, The Southern Hotel Parknasilla opened, the name Parknasilla which means “The field of the willows” began to appear on the maps. It was also refered to as the “Bishops House Hotel, Parknasilla”.The story of the construction of architecture is also an interesting one. Eminent architect James Franklin Fuller was chosen by the Great South and Western Railway, prior 1895. Fuller himself left an incredible legacy behind, he was responsible for the designs of some of Ireland’s most iconic buildings such as Kylemore Abbey, Ashford Castle, Kenmare Park (formely the Great Southern Kenmare) and Farmleigh House.

Born in 1835 in Kerry, he was the only son of Thomas Harnett Fuller of Glashnacree by his first wife, Frances Diana, a daugther of the Francis Christopher Bland of Parknasilla dn Derryquin Castle. The Blands were indeed synomous with Parknasilla for over two centuries, and new chapter for Parknasilla future now had an incredible link with its past.

The hotel originally started out in what was known as “The Bishops House”, however a better position was chosen in 1897 for a new purpose buillt hotel. The new Parknasilla Hotel faced down the Kenmare Bay an offered its guests uparelled views of the Atantic Ocean. The facilties of the new hotel included Turkish Hot and Cold Seawater Baths, reading and games rooms and bathrooms on every floor. This decision came after unprecedented demand that well exceed supply.

The website also tells us about the early owners of the property:

The Blands of Derryquin Castle Demense were a Yorkshire family, the first of whom Rev. James Bland came to Ireland in 1692 and from 1693 was vicar of Killarney. His son Nathaniel, a judge and vicar general of Ardfert and Aghadoe obtained a grant of land in 1732 which would later become the Derryquin Estate. Derryquin Castle was the third house of the Blands on this land but it is not known when it was first constructed, its earliest written mention being in 1837, however it was indicated some decades earlier by Nimmo in his 1812 map.

The estate is said to have reached its zenith under the guidance of James Franklin Bland (1799-1863). His nephew the well known architect James Franklin Fuller described the castle estate in his
autobiography as a largely self-supporting community busy with sawmill, carpenter’s shop, forge as well as farming and gardening. A fish pond existed on the water’s edge just below the castle, alternatively described as being self-replenishing with the tide or restocked from a trawler.

The castle itself consisted of a three-storey main block with a four-storey octagonal tower rising through the centre and a two storey partly curved wing branching off in a western direction. Major renovations were carried out and a significant additional wing running southwest, overlooking the coastline was added sometime between 1895 and 1904.

James Franklin Bland’s death in 1863 the estate passed to his son Francis Christopher, the estate slipped into decline during the time that he was absent while travelling and preaching on Christian ministry, this being during the years of land agitation in Ireland. Part of the estate was sold in the landed estates court in 1873 but ultimately the decline continued with the remainder being sold in 1891.

It was bought in 1891 for £30,000 by Colonel Charles Wallace Warden. He had retired in 1895 as Colonel of the Middlesex Regiment (previously known as the 57th) He had seen action in the Zulu War of 1879 and on his death on 9th March 1953 in his 98th year was its oldest survivor. He also fought with the Imperial Yeomanry in the Boer War. As landlord of Derryquin he was highly unpopular with tenants and neighbours alike, his behaviour regularly mentioned in Parliament. After the burning of Derryquin Castle he retired to Buckland-tout-Saints in Devon and acquired an estate there with his payment from the burning of Derryquin.

However in 2014 Derryquin castle rose again out of the ashes to feature in a novel by Christopher Bland chairman of the BBC who having discovered a photo of his ancestors decided to write the novel Ashes in the Wind it interweaves the destinies of two families: the Anglo-Irish Burkes and the Catholic Irish Sullivans, beginning in 1919 with a shocking murder and the burning of the Burkes’ ancestral castle in Kerry. Childhood friends John Burke and Tomas Sullivan will find themselves on opposite sides of an armed struggle that engulfs Ireland. Only 60 years later will the triumphant and redemptive finale of this enthralling story be played out.

16. Randles Hotel, Killarney, Co Kerry €€

https://www.randleshotel.com

The Randles Hotel Killarney offers 4 Star accommodation in Killarney and is ideally located, just five minutes’ walk from Killarney Town Centre. This unique Kerry Hotel has been welcoming guests since 1906. Famous for its Irish hospitality, guests will enjoy the comfort and elegance of an era long since passed complemented by the most modern of facilities.

17. Sneem Hotel, Sneem, Co Kerry 

https://www.sneemhotel.com/

The website tells us: “Welcome to the 4 Star Sneem Hotel in Co. Kerry, Winner of the Travellers’ Choice Award. Sneem Hotel is nestled in Goldens Cove on the famous Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way. This quiet and unspoilt location will take your breath away and make you feel right at home from the moment you arrive at this beautiful hotel. Big things are important to us at Sneem Hotel, like a spacious, comfortable luxury accommodation in Kerry you can call your own, or our self catering Kerry holiday apartments offering the practicalities of home with the luxury of a 4 Star Hotel, wide-open skies, and the endless seashores of Kenmare Bay.

Whole House Rental County Kerry:

1. Ballywilliam House, Kinsale, County Kerry – whole house rental, up to 16

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/45838390?guests=1&adults=1&s=67&unique_share_id=db6b1a4c-0b7e-47c0-8005-a126984fd520&source_impression_id=p3_1662206216_56bfjuaKrGTdi%2Buf

8 bedrooms. Minimum 14 nights stay.

2. Churchtown House, Killarney, County Kerry (sleeps 12)

www.churchtownhousekerry.com

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 83. “(Magill/IFR) A three storey 5 bay C18 house. Doorcase with entablature on console brackets flanked by narrow windows. Fine gate piers with pineapples.” 

The Hidden Ireland website tells us: “

“Churchtown Estate incorporates both Churchtown House and Beaufort Golf Club. The centre piece is the Georgian Churchtown House built in 1740 by Sir Rowland Blennerhassett. In 1860 James MacGillycuddy Magill bought the estate and turned it into one of the largest dairy farms of its time in the south west region.

James’s grandson and great grandson’s closed the farm in the early nineties and with the help of golf architect Arthur Spring, developed Beaufort Golf Course which was officially opened in 1995. The golf course went through further development in 2007 when it was re-designed by Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie Ebert – Leading International Golf Architects.

Churchtown House mixes traditional elegance with country house charm and modern facilities. 2 large elegant reception rooms, roaring fires and quiet reading rooms add to the atmosphere. There is also a home entertainment room and games room in the basement of the house for guests to enjoy.

The House comfortably sleeps 12 in 6 spacious bedrooms, with a selection of King or twin rooms, with 2 additional ‘pull out’ beds if needed to accommodate 14 guests. All bedrooms have private bathrooms with modern facilities. The kitchen is fully equipped with an Aga and halogen hob, modern appliances and beautiful breakfast table looking out onto the courtyard and Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohil.

The ruins of 15th century Castle Corr standing on the 15th green was designed as a square tower house. Castle Corr (Castle of the round hill) was built circa 1480 by the MacGillycuddy’s, a branch of the O’Sullivan Mór Clan. Fearing that it would have been taken by the English forces Donagh MacGillycuddy burnt the castle in 1641 but restored it in 1660. Donagh went on to become High Sheriff of Kerry in 1687.

The castle was abandoned by Donagh’s son Denis in 1696 when he married into the Blennerhassett family in nearby Killorglin Castle. The stone of Castle Corr was taken to build the Georgian manor Churchtown House.

3. Coolclogher House, Killarney, County Kerry – whole house rental accommodation, up to 16 people https://coolclogherhouse.com/

Coolclogher House, County Kerry, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Coolclogher House built in 1746 is a historic manor house set on a 68 acre walled estate near Killarney on the Ring of Kerry. The house has been restored to an exceptional standard by Mary and Maurice Harnett and has spacious reception rooms, a large conservatory containing a 170 year-old specimen camellia and seven large luxurious bedrooms, each with their own bathroom and with magnificent views over the gardens and pasture to the dramatic mountains of the Killarney National Park.

This is an excellent base for exploring this ruggedly beautiful county and Coolclogher House specialises in vacation rental for groups of up to 16 people. It is right on the Ring of Kerry and Ross Castle and Killarney town are within walking distance while the Gap of Dunloe and Muckross House are in easy reach. It is the ideal special holiday destination for extended family groups, golfing groups or celebrating that special occasion.

The famous Lakes of Killarney, the Killarney National Park, Muckross House and Abbey and Ross Castle are all within easy reach. Killarney is an ideal starting point on the famous Ring of Kerry, going by way of Kenmare, Parknasilla and Waterville, and returning via Cahirciveen, Glenbeigh and Killorglin, but there are also wonderful drives through Beaufort and the Gap of Dunloe, along Caragh Lake to Glencar or, for the more ambitious, a day trip to the Dingle Peninsula or the wonderful Ring of Beara. There are world famous golf courses at Waterville, Tralee and Ballybunion while boat trips on the famous Lakes of Killarney, fishing and horse riding can all be arranged.

Situated 5 minutes from the historic town of Killarney, which boasts a number of excellent dining options and a wide variety of entertainment, this mansion house is the perfect base for a longer stay and a wonderful location for a family reunion or for celebrating a special occasion.

[1]

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/open-season-grand-irish-homes-that-welcome-visitors-and-get-a-tax-break-1.3855641

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

[3] p. 49. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[4] https://www.geni.com/projects/Historic-Buildings-of-County-Clare/29203

[5] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com

[6] https://www.geni.com/projects/Historic-Buildings-of-County-Clare/29203

[7] https://www.ireland.com/what-is-available/attractions-built-heritage/historic-houses-and-castles/destinations/republic-of-ireland/clare/newquay/all/1-89785/

[8] https://repository.dri.ie/catalog?f%5Broot_collection_id_ssi%5D%5B%5D=pk02rr951&mode=objects&search_field=all_fields&view=grid

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

Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny

Just to finish up my entries about Office of Public Works properties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

Carlow:

1. Altamont Gardens

[Dublin 2-21]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House, County Kildare

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny – site currently closed

25. Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

26. Kells Priory, County Kilkenny

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny – site currently closed

Carlow:

1. Altamont House and Gardens, Bunclody Road, Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow:

Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [1]

General information: (059) 915 9444

altamontgardens@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.

For example, there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air.

With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.” [2]

Altamont, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

From Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018:

Altamont House was constructed in the 1720s, incorporating parts of an earlier structure said to have been a medieval nunnery. In the 1850s, a lake was excavated in the grounds of the house, but it was when the Lecky-Watsons, a local Quaker family, acquired Altamont in 1924 that the gardens truly came into their own.

Feilding Lecky-Watson had worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he nurtured his love of exotic plants, and of rhododendrons in particular. Back in Ireland, he became an expert in the species, cultivating plants for the botanical gardnes at Glasnevin, Kew and Edinburgh. So passionate was he about these plants that when his wife, Isobel, gave birth to a daughter in 1922, she was named Corona, after his favourite variety of rhododendron.” [3]

Altamont House and Gardens lake, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Around the lake are mature conifers that were planted in the 1800s, including a giant Wellingtonia which commemorates the Battle of Waterloo. [3] Corona continued in her father’s footsteps, planing rhododendrons, magnolia and Japanese maples. Another feature is the “100 steps” hand-cut in granite, leading down to the River Slaney. There are red squirrels, otters in the lake and river, and peacocks. Before her death, Corona handed Altamont over to the Irish state to ensure its preservation.

The Temple, Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House and Parklands, Celbridge, County Kildare.

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photo by Mark Wesley 2016, Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General Information: castletown@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Castletown is set amongst beautiful eighteenth-century parklands on the banks of the Liffey in Celbridge, County Kildare.

The house was built around 1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, to designs by several renowned architects. It was intended to reflect Conolly’s power and to serve as a venue for political entertaining on a grand scale. At the time Castletown was built, commentators expected it to be ‘the epitome of the Kingdom, and all the rarities she can afford’.

The estate flourished under William Conolly’s great-nephew Thomas and his wife, Lady Louisa, who devoted much of her life to improving her home.

Today, Castletown is home to a significant collection of paintings, furnishings and objets d’art. Highlights include three eighteenth-century Murano-glass chandeliers and the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in the country.

It is still the most splendid Palladian-style country house in Ireland.

This photo was taken probably by Robert French, chief photographer of William Lawrence Photographic Studios of Dublin, National Library of Ireland flickr constant commons.

William Conolly rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.

The Archiseek website tells us:

“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” [4]

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photograph from macmillan media for Tourism Ireland 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

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

The centre block, of three storeys over a basement, has two more or less identical thirteen bay fronts reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty  and serenity. The centre block is joined by curved Ionic colonnades to two storey seven bay wings; the wings and colonnades having been designed by Pearce, who also designed the impressive two storey entrance hall, which has a gallery supported by Ionic columns. Apart from the hall, the long gallery upstairs and some rooms with simple wainscot, the interior of Castletown was still unfinished at the time of Speaker Conolly’s death, and remained so until after his great-nephew, the popular Irish patriot Tom Conolly, married Lady Louisa Lennox (daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond and sister of Emily, Duchess of Leinster) 1758.” [5]

William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754) via his brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James died just two years after Katherine nee Conyngham, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).

Thomas Conolly (1738-1803) by Anton Raphael Mengs, painted 1758. The German painter Mengs captured Conolly as a 19 year old on his Grand Tour. He is shown posting in front of a Roman sarcophagus, the “Relief of the Muses,” now in the Louvre. He is wearing a rich satin suit with gilt braid, portraying a young cultured aristocrat. In reality he displayed little interest in ancient civilisation, and brought back no souvenirs from Rome save for this portrait. Portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Thomas’s wife, Lady Louisa Lennox, was one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster) where she was exposed to the fashionable idea of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. [6]

Carton House, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” [4]

Interior view of Castletown. Country Life 27/07/2016 
Image Number: 5499871  
Photographer: Will Pryce. In the niches are a pair of marble busts of the Earl and Countess of Dartrey by Lawrence McDonald carved in Rome in 1839. They came from Dartrey in County Monaghan which has been demolished (bequeathed to the Irish Georgian Society by Lady Edith Windham of Dartrey). The eighteenth-century organ was originally in the chapel of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin (restored by the Cleveland Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society). 

Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 4]

The staircase at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873959  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Country Life Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E.Henson.

 
Castletown House, June 2015. ‘The Boar Hunt’ by Paul de Vos (1596-1678) is framed by Lafranchini plasterwork.

Mark Bence-Jones continues:

In the following year, Tom Conolly and Lady Louisa employed the Francini to decorate the walls of the staircase hall with rococo stuccowork; and in 1760 the grand staircase itself – of cantilevered stone, with a noble balustrade of brass columns – was installed; the work beign carried out by Simon Vierpyl, a protégé of Sir William Chambers. The principal reception rooms, which form an enfilade along the garden front and were mostly decorated at this time, are believed to be by Chambers himself; they have ceilings of geometrical plasterwork, very characteristic of him. Also in this style is the dining room, to the left of the entrance hall. It was here that, according to the story, Tom Conolly found himself giving supper to the Devil, whom he had met out hunting and invited back, believing him to be merely a dark stranger; but had realised the truth when his guest’s boots were removed, revealing him to have unusually hairy feet. He therefore sent for the priest, who threw his breviary at the unwelcome guest, which missed him and cracked a mirror. This, however, was enough to scare the Devil, who vanished through the hearthstone. Whatever the truth of this story, the hearthstone in the dining room is shattered, and one of the mirrors is cracked. The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776. The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers. Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly. It eventually passed to 6th and present Lord Carew [William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994)], whose mother was a Conolly of the Pakenham line. He sold it 1965; the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. Then, in 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres as the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. The house is open to the public.” 

Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015. In the stair hall, in the rococo plasterwork, Tom and Louisa Conolly are represented in plaster, along with shells, masks and flowers. 
Castletown House, June 2015.
My Dad Desmond and Stephen in the Dining Room of Castletown House, June 2015. The portrait, on the west wall, is of William Conolly in his robes as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons by Stephen Catterson Smith the elder (1806-1872) (donated by Mr and Mrs Galen Weston). This posthumous portrait was based on Jervas’s portrait of the Speaker in the Green Drawing Room. Note the vase on the side table, one of a pair of large Meissen gilt and white two-handled campana vases with everted rims and entwined scrolling serpent and acanthus handles. This pair of vases is reputed to have been given to Thomas Conolly (1823–1876) as a gift by the future French Emperor, Napoleon III.
The portrait over the fireplace in the dining room is a half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. 

The Dining Room, description from Archiseek:

This room dates from the 1760s redecoration of Castletown undertaken by Lady Louisa Conolly and reflects the mid-eighteenth century fashion for separate dining rooms. Originally, there were two smaller panelled rooms here. It was reconstructed to designs by Sir William Chambers, with a compartmentalised ceiling similar to one by Inigo Jones in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The chimney-piece and door cases are in the manner of Chambers. Of the four doors, two are false. 

Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms. The three elaborate pier glasses are original to the Dining Room. The frames are carved fruiting vines, symbols of Bacchus and festivity. These are probably the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809) who, with the firm of Thomas Jackson of Essex Bridge, Dublin, was paid large sums for carving and gilding throughout the house.

Cranfield Mirror, the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809).
Castletown House, June 2015.

The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

It is one of a series of State Rooms that form an enfilade and were used on important occasions in the eighteenth century. This room was redesigned in the mid 1760s in the manner of Sir William Chambers. The chimney-piece, ceiling and pier glasses are typical of his designs. 

The walls are covered in red damask which is probably French and dates from the 1820s. Lady Shelburne recorded in her journal seeing a four coloured damask, predominently red, in this room. The Aubusson carpet dates from about 1850 and may have been made for the room. Much of the furniture has always been in the house and Lady Louisa Conolly paid 11/2 guineas for each of the Chinese Chippendale armchairs which she considered very expensive. The chairs and settee were made in Dublin and they are displayed in a formal arrangement against the walls as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The bureau was made for Lady Louisa in the 1760s.

Castletown House, June 2015. A Chinese gilt and polychrome lacquer cabinet on Irish stand, with a pair of doors later painted with vignettes of romantic landscapes and birds on floral sprays. The landscapes on this lacquered cabinet are said to have been painted by Katherine Conolly as a gift for her great-niece, Molly Burton, in about 1725. Katherine, who had no children herself, looked after Molly after her father died. [7]
Chinese Chippendale sofas, Irish, c.1770.
The Green Drawing Room, Castletown House, June 2015. Portrait of the woman and child is Mrs Katherine Conolly with Miss Molly Burton, by Charles Jervas. The man on the other side of the door is Speaker William Conolly.

The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

The Conollys formally received important visitors to the house in the Green Drawing Room which was the saloon or principal reception room. The room was redecorated in the 1760s and like the other state rooms reflects the neo-classical taste of the architect Sir William Chambers. The Greek key decoration on the ceiling is repeated on the pier glasses and the chimney-piece. Originally these were pier tables with a Greek key frieze and copies of these may be made in the future. The chimney-piece is similar to one designed by Chambers for Lord Charlemont’s Casino at Marino.”

Upstairs, The Long Gallery, Castletown House, June 2015.

The Long Gallery, description from Archiseek:

measuring almost 80 by 23 feet, with its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s. Originally there were four doors in the room and the walls were panelled in stucco similar to the entrance Hall. In 1776 the plaster panels and swags were removed but traces of them were found behind the painted canvas panels when they were taken down for cleaning during recent conservation work. 

In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland). The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

The three glass chandeliers were made for the room in Venice and the four large sheets of mirrored glass came from France. In the 1770s the Long Gallery was used as a living room and was filled with exquisite furniture. Originally in the room, there were a pair of side tables attributed to John Linnell, with marble tops attributed to Bossi, a pair of commodes by Pierre Langlois, that were purchased in London for Lady Louisa by Lady Caroline Fox and a pair of bookcases at either end of the room. 

In 1989 major conservation work was carried out on the Long Gallery. The wall paintings that had been flaking for many years were conserved. The original eighteenth-century gilding has been cleaned and the chandeliers restored. The project was funded by the American Ireland Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and by private donations.

The gallery at Castletown House, as decorated for Lady Louisa Conolly circa 1790. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873951  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017. A set of three 18th-century Venetian coloured and plain glass 24-light chandeliers, decorated with flower heads and moulded finials. These three Murano glass chandeliers are unique in Ireland and rare even in Italy. It is believed that Lady Louisa ordered them from Venice between 1775 and 1778 for the redecorated Long Gallery. The chandeliers were wired for electricity in the mid-1990s; they were cleaned and restored by a Venetian firm of historic glass-makers in 2009. [see 7]
The Print Room, Castletown House, June 2015.

Print rooms were fashionable in the 18th century – ladies would collect their favourite prints and paste the walls with them – and Lady Louisa’s remains the only intact 18th century print room in Ireland. Those featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline. [see 6]

The State Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015. In the 1720s, when the house was first laid out, this room, along with the rooms either side, probably formed William Conolly’s bedroom suite. It was intended that he would receive guests in the morning while sitting up in bed or being dressed in the manner of the French court at Versailles. In the nineteenth century, the room was converted into a library and the mock leather Victorian wall paper dates from this time. Sadly, the Castletown library was dispersed in the 1960s and today the furniture reflects the room’s original use.
The library at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873961  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
The Blue Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
The Boudoir, Castletown House, July 2017.

From the website: “The Boudoir and the adjoining two rooms formed Lady Louisa’s personal apartment. The Boudoir served as a private sitting room for Louisa and subsequent ladies of the house. The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner. The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery. Amongst the items inside the built-in glass cabinet are pieces of glass and china featuring the Conolly crest.

In the adjoining room, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room.

Castletown House, July 2017.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017.
Lady Kildare’s Room is named after Lady Louisa’s sister Emily, Countess of Kildare and later Duchess of Leinster, who had raised Louisa and the two younger sisters Sarah and Cecilia at nearby Carton House after their parents’ death. She bore her husband, James FitzGerald, nineteen children, but when her younger sister Louisa suffered a miscarriage that put an end to her hopes of ever having children, Emily came to stay with her in Castletown until she had recovered.
As members of the aristocracy in eighteenth-century Ireland, Louisa and Emily garnered much attention. Emily described herself and her sister as ‘women of fashion’, a term that emphasised not only their social position, but their knowledge and love of fashion. This room now displays five remarkable eighteenth-century gowns worn for formal ceremonies from the Berkeley Costume Collection. Made in France, Italy, and England, the dresses on display consist of rich embroidered bodices and full skirts made from silk and gold thread.
Statue taken from the grave of Speaker William Conolly, of him reclining next to his wife.
Statue of Lady Catherine Conolly, from the grave (see above), by Thomas Carter.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.
When we went to find the Wonderful Barn, we discovered there is not just one but in fact three Wonderful Barns!
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The smaller Wonderful Barn.

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare:

Maynooth Castle, photograph by Gail Connaughton 2020, for Faitle Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General information: 01 628 6744, maynoothcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This majestic stone castle was founded in the early thirteenth century. It became the seat of power for the FitzGeralds, the earls of Kildare, as they emerged as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Garret Mór, known as the Great Earl of Kildare, governed Ireland in the name of the king from 1487 to 1513.

Maynooth Castle was one of the largest and richest Geraldine dwellings. The original keep, begun around 1200, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Inside, the great hall was a nerve centre of political power and culture.

Only 30 kilometres from Dublin, Maynooth Castle occupies a deceptively secluded spot in the centre of the town, with well-kept grounds and plenty of greenery. There is a captivating exhibition in the keep on the history of the castle and the family.

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, Mothel, Ballyfoyle, Castlecomer Road, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 776 7726, dunmorecaves@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Dunmore Cave, not far from Kilkenny town, is a series of limestone chambers formed over millions of years. It contains some of the most impressive calcite formations found in any Irish underground structure.

The cave has been known for many centuries and is first mentioned in the ninth-century Triads of Ireland, where it is referred to as one of the ‘darkest places in Ireland’. The most gruesome reference, however, comes from the Annals of the Four Masters, which tells how the Viking leader Guthfrith of Ivar massacred a thousand people there in AD 928. Archaeological investigation has not reliably confirmed that such a massacre took place, but finds within the cave – including human remains – do indicate Viking activity.

Dunmore is now a show cave, with guided tours that will take you deep into the earth – and even deeper into the past.

25. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

Jerpoint Abbey, May 2016.

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Founded in the 12th century, Jerpoint Abbey is one of the best examples of a medieval Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. The architectural styles within the church, constructed in the late twelfth century, reflect the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The tower and cloister date to the fifteenth century.

Jerpoint is renowned for its detailed stone sculptures found throughout the monastery. Dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries these include mensa tombs from the O’Tunney school, an exquisite incised depiction of two 13th century knights, the decorated cloister arcades along with other effigies and memorials. 

Children can explore the abbey with a treasure hunt available in the nearby visitor centre. Search the abbey to discover saints, patrons, knights, exotic animals and mythological creatures.

A small but informative visitor centre houses an excellent exhibition.

26. Kells Priory, Kells, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Kells Priory owes its foundation to the Anglo-Norman consolidation of Leinster. Founded by Geoffrey FitzRobert, a household knight and trusted companion of William Marshal the priory was one element of Geoffrey’s establishment of the medieval town of Kells. 

Although founded in c. 1193 extensive remains exist today which include a nave, chancel, lady chapel, cloister and associated builds plus the remains of the priory’s infirmary, workshop, kitchen, bread oven and mill. The existence of the medieval defences, surrounding the entire precinct, underline the military aspect of the site and inspired the priory’s local name, the ‘Seven Castles of Kells’.

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny:

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by macmillan media 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. It sits on the banks of the River Nore. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National Inventory describes: Random rubble stone walls with sections of limestone ashlar construction (including to breakfront having full-height Corinthian pilasters flanking round-headed recessed niches with sills, moulded surrounds having keystones, decorative frieze having swags, moulded course, modillion cornice, and blocking course with moulded surround to pediment having modillions), and limestone ashlar dressings including battlemented parapets (some having inscribed details) on corbel tables. The classical frontispiece was designed for James Butler, Second Duke of Ormonde possibly to designs prepared by Sir William Robinson. 

General information: 056 770 4100, kilkennycastleinfo@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Built in the twelfth century, Kilkenny Castle was the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. Under the powerful Butler family, Kilkenny grew into a thriving and vibrant city. Its lively atmosphere can still be felt today.

The castle, set in extensive parkland, was remodelled in Victorian times. It was formally taken over by the Irish State in 1969 and since then has undergone ambitious restoration works. It now welcomes thousands of visitors a year.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kilkenny Castle has been standing for over eight hundred years, dominating Kilkenny City and the South East of Ireland. Originally built in the 13th century by William Marshall, 4th Earl of Pembroke, as a symbol of Norman control, Kilkenny Castle came to symbolise the fortunes of the powerful Butlers of Ormonde for over six hundred years. [8]

1n 1967 James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde sold the Castle to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. Two years later it went into state ownership.

William Marshall (about 1146-1219) was married to the daughter of “Strongbow” Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. With the marriage, he gained land and eventually, the title, Earl of Pembroke. The daughter of Strongbow, Isabel, inherited the title of 4th Countess of Pembroke “suo jure” i.e. herself (her brother, who died a minor, was the 3rd Earl). Hence William Marshall became the 4th Earl through his wife, but then then was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke himself ten years after their marriage. They seem to have settled in Ireland and created place for themselves, beginning with setting up the town of New Ross and then restoring Kilkenny town and castle – a castle had pre-dated them, according to the Kilkenny Castle website. It tells us that the present-day castle is based on the stone fortress that Marshall designed, comprising an irregular rectangular fortress with a drum-shaped tower at each corner. Three of these towers survive to this day.

By 1200, Kilkenny was the capital of Norman Leinster and New Ross was its principal port. The Marshalls also founded the Cistercian abbeys at Tintern in County Wexford and Duiske in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, as well as the castles at Ferns and Enniscorthy. He died and was buried in England. [9]

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

In 1317, the de Clare family sold the Kilkenny castle to Hugh Despenser. The Despensers were absentee landlords. In 1391 the Despensers sold the castle to James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, 9th Chief Butler of Ireland (1360–1405). The first Butler to come to Ireland was Theobald Walter Le Botiller or Butler, 1st Baron Butler, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland (1165–1206). He was called “Le Botiller” because he received the monopoly of the taxes on wines being imported into Ireland (which The Peerage website tells us was eventually purchased back by the Crown from the Marquess of Ormonde for £216,000 in 1811.)

The Butlers were an important family in Ireland. They fought for the king in France and Scotland, and held positions of power, including Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the monarch’s representative in Ireland.

The castle now forms a “u” shape, because in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion, the fourth wall fell.[10] After the Restoration of 1660, there was a major rebuilding of the old castle. In 1826, another remodelling of the castle began. In 1935, the Butler family held a great auction, selling all of the castle’s furnishings.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National inventory describes the newer wing: Renovated, 1858-62, with eight-bay two-storey range to north-east reconstructed having canted oriel windows to first floor, and pair of single-bay single-stage corner turrets on octagonal plans
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by me in May 2018.

Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond (d. 1515) lacked a male heir, and on his death, the Earldom was contested between Sir Piers Butler and his grandchildren led by Sir Thomas Boleyn. Thomas was favoured by King Henry VIII when Henry married his daughter Anne Boleyn. Piers Butler (1467-1539) was a descendant of the 3rd Earl of Ormond. Piers relinquished the claim to the title Earl of Ormond to Boleyn and was created Earl of Ossory by Henry VIII. The lands of the 7th Earl were divided between both parties. After a rapid escalation of disputes with rural Fitzgeralds and Boleyns, Piers regained his position and was recognised Earl of Ormond in February 1538.

The Crown hoped Piers would improve the Crown’s grip over southern Ireland. Piers the 8th Earl of Ormond gained much from Crown, including suppressed monasteries. He married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of the 8th Earl of Kildare, in marriage arranged for the purpose of ending the long-standing rivalry between the two families. They lived in Kilkenny Castle and greatly improved it. Margaret urged Piers to bring over skilled weavers from Flanders and she helped establish industries for the production of carpets, tapestries and cloth. Margaret and her husband commissioned significant additions to the castles of Granagh and Ormond. They also rebuilt Gowran Castle, which had been originally constructed in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Roselinde Bon 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Mark Wesley 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Finn Richards, 2015 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

The 10th Earl of Ormond, “Black Tom,” had no direct heir so the Earldom passed to his nephew, Walter, a son of Sir John Butler of Kilcash. Unlike his uncle, who had been raised at Court and thus reared a Protestant, Walter the 11th Earl of Ormond was a Catholic. See my entry about the Ormond Castle at Carrick-on-Suir for more on “Black Tom.”

Walter Butler’s claim to the family estates was blocked by James I. The latter orchestrated the marriage of Black Tom’s daughter and heiress Elizabeth to a Scottish favourite Richard Preston. This gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond, and awarded his wife most of the Ormond estate, thus depriving Walter of his inheritance. Walter refused to submit and was imprisoned for eight years in the Fleet, London. He was released 1625. Thomas’s nine-year-old son, James, became the heir to the titles. Plans were made for a marriage between James and Elizabeth, only daughter of the Prestons, to resolve the inheritance issue.

James Butler (1610-88) 1st Duke of Ormond, 12th Earl of Ormond was the eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and his wife Elizabeth Poyntz. Following his father’s death in 1619, 9-year-old James became direct heir to the Ormond titles. He was made a royal ward and was educated at Lambeth Palace under the tutelage of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1629 he married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates, as she was the sole heiress of her mother Elizabeth, daughter of the 10th Earl of Ormond, who had married Theobald Butler, 1st Viscount Tulleophelim, and secondly, Elizabeth’s father Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond.  

James succeeded to the Ormond titles in 1633 on the death of his grandfather, Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond.

The website tells us: “A staunch royalist, Ormond was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland in 1641.  He served his first term of three as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1648 to 1650.  Following the defeat of the royalists in Ireland, Ormond went to exile and spent most of the years 1649 to 1660 abroad, moving about Europe with the exiled court of Charles II.  After the restoration of the monarchy in England, Ormond was rewarded with a dukedom and several high offices by a grateful king.  Though he enjoyed the king’s favour, Ormond had enemies at court and as a result of the machinations of the Cabal, which included powerful figures such as the Earl of Shaftesbury, he was dismissed from his post as Lord Lieutenant in 1669.  When he was raised to a dukedom in the English peerage in 1682, Ormond left Ireland to reside in England. During his last term as Lord Lieutenant (1677-85), he played a major role in the planning and founding of the Royal Hospital for old soldiers at Kilmainham, near Dublin.  The last decade of his life was marked by tragedy: all three of his sons and his wife died during that time. He died at his residence at Kingston Lacy in Dorset was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond, Viceroy 1703-1707 and 1710-1713. Artist: Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680). He is wearing robes of the Order of the Garter, Ormond holds the wand of office of Lord Steward of the Household in his right hand.

The 1st Duke of Ormond had three sons: Thomas (1634-1680), 6th Earl of Ossory; Richard (1639-1686), 1st and last Earl of Arran; and John (1634-1677), 1st and last Earl of Gowran. He had two daughters, Elizabeth (1640-1665) and Mary (1646-1710). Mary married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire.

During the 1st Duke of Ormond’s tenure the castle underwent improvements. Mark Bence-Jones describes:

The Great Duke transformed the castle from a medieval fortress into a pleasant country house, rather like the chateau or schloss of contemporary European princeling; with high-pitched roofs and cupolas surmounted by vanes and gilded ducal coronets on the old round towers. Outworks gave place to gardens with terraces, a “waterhouse” a fountain probably carved by William de Keyser, and statues copied from those in Charles II’s Privy Gardens. The Duchess seems to have been the prime mover in the work, in which William (afterwards Sir William) Robinson, Surveyor-General and architect of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, was probably involved; supervising the contruction of the Presence Chamber 1679. Robinson is also believed to have designed the magnificent entrance gateway of Portland and Caen stone with a pediment, Corinthian pilasters and swags which the second Duke erected on the street front of the castle ca 1709. Not much else was done to the castle in C18, for the Ormondes suffered a period of eclipse following the attainder and exile of the 2nd Duke, who became a Jacobite after the accession of George I.” [11]

James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond painted by John Michael Wright (1617-1694), and in centre, Elizabeth Poyntz (1588-1673), mother of the 1st Duke of Ormond, painted by John Michael Wright, and Elizabeth Preston (1615-1684), wife of the 1st Duke of Ormond, with her son Thomas, who became the 6th Earl of Ossory.

Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory, was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was also Lord Butler of Moore Park and Lord Deputy of Ireland, and was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, he was the second but eldest surviving son of the Duke of Ormonde. His childhood was spent at Kilkenny until he went with his father and brother Richard to England in 1647. They then went to France, where he was educated at Caen and Paris at Monsieur de Camps’ Academy. In Holland he married Amelia of Nassau, daughter of Lodewyk van Nassau, Heer van Beverweerd, a natural son of Prince Maurice of Nassau. Ossory was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.

Ossory enjoyed the favour and support of both King Charles II and his queen. Because of his wife’s Dutch connections he was frequently sent on royal missions to that country. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend, who referred to him as ‘a good natured, generous and perfectly obliging friend’. He died suddenly in 1680, possibly from food poisoning, at Arlington House in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey

James Butler 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665-1745), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory. First married Anne Hyde and then Mary Somerset; below, Mary Somerset (1665-1733), daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. In middle, Thomas Butler (1634-1680), Earl of Ossory, Lord Butler of Moore Park, Lord Deputyof Ireland. Second son of the Duke and Duchess of Ormond and father of 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Mary Somerset’s father top right, Henry Somerset (1629-1700), 1st Duke of Beaufort, 3rd Marquess of Worcester; below Anne Hyde (1669-1685), the 2nd Duke’s first wife, daughter of Lawrence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester, artist: William Wissing (1656-87).

James Butler (1665-1745) 2nd Duke of Ormonde, 13th Earl of Ormonde, was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and his wife Amelia van Beverweerd. Following his father’s death in 1680, James became the heir to his grandfather, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, whom he succeeded in 1688.

Following his involvement in a Jacobite rising, he was impeached and a year later a Bill of Attainder was passed against him. His English and Scottish honours and his English estates were seized. Ormonde fled to France. He lived out his life in exile, and died at Avignon in France and was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.

Christopher Butler (d. 1758?), Catholic archbishop of Cashel and Emly, son of Walter Butler of Garyricken and brother of Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash, portrait by James Latham (1696-1747); Charles Butler (1671-1758) 2nd Earl of Arran, youngest son of Thomas Butler Earl of Ossory and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde; Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738) by James Latham. He was the son of Walter Butler and Garyricken and Mary Plunket. He inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard, youngest brother of the Duke of Ormond. His wife was Margaret Burke. Portrait attributed to Hans Hysing (1678-1753).

Charles Butler (1671-1758), 2nd Earl of Arran, de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde, de jure 14th Earl of Ormonde was born on 4th September 1671, the youngest son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and Amelia of Nassau and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Arran was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates.

A younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond was Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary. His son was Walter Butler of Garyricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are the sons of Walter Butler: Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).

Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738), son of Walter Butler of Garryricken and Lady Mary Plunket, inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler, youngest brother of James, 1st Duke of Ormond.  A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, he married Margaret Bourke, widow of Viscount Iveagh and daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde. They had three sons: Richard (d.1711), Walter who died in Paris and John Butler of Kilcash, who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as de jure 15th Earl in 1758 on the death of his cousin Amelia, sister of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde. The couple also had five daughters: one, Honora married Valentine Brown, Lord Kenmare.

A son of Thomas became the 15th Earl of Ormond, John Butler (d. 1766), because the 14th Earl (the 2nd Earl of Arran) had no children.

The title then passed to a cousin of the 15th Earl, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He was the only son and heir of John Butler of Garryricken and Frances, daughter of George Butler of Ballyragget. He inherited the Ormonde titles in 1766 which he did not assume but took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, who remained a Roman Catholic, exercised no political role but undertook the restoration of the Castle and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre, and the Dower House, today Butler House.

Walter the 16th Earl of Ormonde carried out various repairs, decorating some of the rooms with simple late C18 plasterwork.

He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary, and of Susanna, daughter of Richard Talbot of Malahide Castle. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved  into the Dower House, today Butler House, across the road from the Castle.

Their son John (1740-1795) became known as “Jack of the Castle” and was the 17th Earl. Jack’s sister Susannah married Thomas Kavanagh of Borris House in County Carlow (see my entry about Borris House). Jack married Anne Wandesford, pictured below.

John Wandesford (1725-1784), Earl of Wandesford, father of Anne; below, Susan Frances Elizabeth (Anne) Wandesford (1754-1830), Countess of Ormonde, wife of 17th Earl of Ormonde and mother of 18th Earl, Artist: Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1739-1808); Landscape with Waterfall from the Italian school of 18th century and below, Before the Hunt. To right, Gilbert Clarke (d. 1725), by Sir Godffrey Kneller (1646-1723) and below, possibly Susanna nee Boun, wife of Gilbert Clarke.

Their son Walter (1770-1820) became the 18th Earl and 1st Marquess of Ormonde. He had no sons so his brother James Wandesford Butler (1777-1838) inherited the title and was recreated at 1st Marquess of Ormonde and became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was created Marquess of Ormonde in 1825 and officiated as Chief Butler of Ireland at the Coronation of George IV. He married Grace Louisa Staples in 1807, they had ten children.

James Wandesford Butler the 1st Marquess undertook more renovations. Mark Bence-Jones describes:

Ca. 1826, the Kilkenny architect, William Robertson, when walking in the castle courtyard with the Lady Ormonde of the day, noticed that a main wall was out of true and consequently unsafe. One suspects it may have been wishful thinking on his part, for it landed him the commission to rebuild the castle, which he did so thoroughly that virtually nothing remains from before his time except for the three old towers, the outer walls and – fortunately – the 2nd Duke’s gateway. Apart from the latter, the exterior of the castle became uncompromisingly C19 feudal; all the 1st Duke’s charming features being swept away. Robertson also replaced one of two missing sides of the courtyard with a new wing containing an immense picture gallery; the original gallery, on the top floor of the principal range, having been divided into bedrooms. Robertson left the interior of the castle extremely dull, with plain or monotonously ribbed ceilings and unvarying Louis Quinze style chimneypieces.” [see 11]

The 1st Marquess died in Dublin in 1838 and was succeeded by his eldest son John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland (see his portrait below).

John the 2nd Marquess travelled extensively. His journals (now in National Library of Ireland) record his many journeys across  Europe to Italy and Sicily. He published an account of his travels, Autumn in Sicily, and he also wrote an account of the life of St. Canice. He married Frances Jane Paget in 1843. He continued the work of rebuilding Kilkenny castle that was started by his father. His journals show him to have a deep interest in art, and there are careful descriptions of several of the great galleries in Italy to be found in his writing. Although he continued to write in his journals during the years 1847 to 1850, no mention of the Irish famine is made. He died while bathing in the sea near Loftus hall on Hook Head, Co. Wexford. A marble tomb was erected in his memory in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.

The second eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, Anne Wandesford Butler married in 1838, the Right Honourable John Wynne of Hazelwood, Co. Sligo, which is now a distillery.

Another daughter, Louisa Grace Butler (1868-1896), the third eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, married Thomas Fortescue of Ravensdale, Co. Louth,  1st Baron Clermont in 1840.

The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess. His brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943), 4th Marquess, 22nd Earl of Ormonde, was the brother and heir to James Edward Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde. He was educated at Harrow and joined the army becoming a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards. He was state steward to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1887 he married Ellen Stager, daughter of American General Anson Stager.

As I mentioned earlier, it was James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, youngest son of James Arthur, 4th Marquess of Ormonde, who in 1967 sold the Castle.

John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess of the 3rd creation, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland. He died while bathing; Frances Jane Paget in middle (1817-1903), with her son James, Earl of Ossory. She was the daughter of General E. Paget and niece of Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquis of Anglesey, and wife of 2nd Marquess of Ormonde. Following the death of her husband, she managed the Ormonde estates and continued the rebuilding of Kilkenny Castle.  On top of the three,  over her father and uncle, is France Jane Paget again, with her dog. Below is her father General the Honourable Edward Paget (1775-1849), soldier and Governor of Ceylon. He was second in command under the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wards. He lost his right arm in Spain. Below him is Field Marshall Henry William Paget (1768-1854), 1st Marquis of Anglesey, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, brother of Edward, above.

You can take an online tour of the castle on the website https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

Tapestry Room, in the North Tower. There are two tapestries from the “Decius” suite in the Tapestry room: The obsequies of Decius Mus. The Story of ‘Decius Mus’ is a heroic tale of a Roman Consul who foretold his own death at the Battle of Veseris (Vesuvius) in the Latin War (340BC). The tapestries are attributed to the workshop of Jan Raes, after designs by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The ‘Decius’ suite had been in the ownership of the Ormonde family for over 300 years and was displayed in several of their residences before being acquired by OPW for display in Kilkenny Castle. Tapestries were an important feature of the interior decoration of large houses in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and helped provide interior interest, warmth, and colour. You can read more about these tapestries on the Kilkenny Castle website.
Tapestry Room, in the North Tower: Desius Mus and Manlius Torquatus leave to fight the Latins.
The 12 foot thick walls of the Tapestry Room in the North Tower.
The Nursery. Boys were usually sent away to boarding school in England at a young age. The Butlers traditionally sent their sons to Harrow. Girls however generally received less formal education at home including sewing, drawing, etiquette and instruction on running a household. 
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. On the walls are remnants of hand painted Chinese wallpaper original to the room with monochrome infill carried out by the studio of David Skinner. This delicate paper was probably ordered as part of the redecorations done to the castle by the 18th Earl, Walter Butler. During the 19th century ladies withdrew here from the dining room leaving the men to enjoy their port and cigars after dinner, as was the social convention.
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. A tulipiére is an ornate vessel in which to grow tulips. They are typically constructed to accommodate one bulb per spout with a larger common water reservoir base. It is usually made of hand crafted pottery, classically delftware. This tulipiére was hand-made in Delft in 2009 as a one off.
The Ante Room.

From the website: “Today the first floor space is occuppied by three rooms: Anteroom, Library and Drawing Room, as it was in the 19th century. The processional lay out of the rooms, each opening into the next is characteristic of the Baroque style of the 17th century and was know as an ‘ enfilade’ suite of rooms. Baroque protocol dictated that visitors of lower rank than their host would be escorted by servants down the enfilade to the nearest room that their status allowed. In the 16th and 17th century the State Rooms were situated on this floor. 17th century history records that it was in these state apartments that James Butler 1st Duke of Ormonde received the Papal Nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini during the Irish Confederate Wars of that century. An Anteroom was a small room used as a waiting room, that leads into a larger and more important room. The Anteroom and the room below,  today the Serving Room, were constructed in the area where an earlier stone staircase was situated.” The anteroom features a reproduction poplin wallpaper and bronze figurines in niches.

The anteroom leads to the library. “The interior decoration is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th century. Thanks to a salvaged fabric remnant found behind a skirting board, it was possible to commission the French silk poplin on the walls in its original pattern and colour from the firm of Prelle in Lyons in France. The claret silk damask curtains are also based on the originals were made in Ireland. One of the nine massive curtain pelmets is original and an Irish firm of Master Gilders faithfully reproduced matching gilt reproductions. The bookcases were also reproduced based on one original bookcase acquired by the OPW in the 1980s, this original with its 19th century glass stands in the right end corner of the library. The matching pair of pier mirrors over the mantelpieces was conserved and re gilded.”

The Moorish Staircase: Created by the architects Woodward & Deane to allow better access to the Picture Gallery and provide another staircase in this awkwardly shaped building. It is a rising half-turn stairs around a sky-lit well. Charles Harrison (1835-1903), the stone carver, is credited with the carved naturalistic foliage and small animals which adorn the stairs.

The magnificent Picture Gallery is situated in the east wing of Kilkenny Castle.This stunning space dates from the 19th century and was built primarily to house the Butler Family’s fine collection of paintings.

From the website: “The Picture Gallery was built during the early nineteenth century building programme carried out by the architect William Robertson. It was constructed on earlier foundations. Robertston’s Picture Gallery, in keeping with his work on the rest of the castle, was in a Castellated Baronial style. Initially the gallery was built with a flat roof that had begun to cause problems shortly after its completion. The distinguished architectural firm of Deane and Woodward was called in during the 1860s to make changes to the overall design of the Picture Gallery block, and other corrections to Robertson’s work. These changes included the insertions of four oriels in the west wall and the blocking up of the eight windows, while another oriel added to the east wall…. The entire ceiling was hand painted by John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902), then Professor of Fine Arts at Newman College, Dublin, using a combination of motifs ranging from the quasi-medieval to the pre-Raphaelite, with interlace, gilded animal and bird heads on the cross beam.

The Marble Fireplace is made of Carrara marble and was designed by J. H. Pollen also in a quasi-medieval style. It was supplied by the firm of Ballyntyne of Dorset Street, Dublin. Foliage carving attributed to Charles Harrison covers the chimneypiece and a frieze beneath is decorated with seven panels, showing the family coat of arms and significant episodes from the family’s long history. Starting on the left, the first panel shows the buying the castle by the first Earl of Ormond in 1391 from the Despenser family – money changing hands is shown. The second panel depicts Theobald Fitzwalter acting as Chief Butler to the newly crowned King of England highlighting their ancient royal privilege and upon which their surname of Butler is based. On the third panel, you see King Richard the Second acting as godfather for one of the infants of the Butler family in 1391. The centrepiece is the family crest which can also be seen over the arch and gateway, with the family motto “comme je trouve”- “as I find”, as well as the heraldic shield guarded, the falcon, the griffin (a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) and the ducal coronet. In the fifth panel, the 1st Duke of Ormond can be seen entering the Irish House of Lords still bearing his sword. Indeed, he refused to hand his weapon over as were the protocols in case it was used inside during an argument; this became known as The Act of Defiance. The sixth panel next to this symbolizes the charity of the Butler family showing Lady Ormonde giving alms to the poor. Finally, the sixth and last panel portrays the First Duke of Ormond’s triumphant return to Dublin from exile on the Restoration of Charles the Second in 1662, when he also established the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and founded the Phoenix Park.”

From the Poole photographic collection, National Library of Ireland. Royal visitors to the Picture Gallery of Kilkenny Castle: the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary with James Butler the 3rd Marquess of Ormond and his wife Elizabeth Grosvenor, also Two other Ormondes (likely the Marquess’ daughter & brother), Marshal & Lady Roberts (Frederick Roberts & Nora Bews), 4th Viscount & Viscountess De Vesci (John Vesey & Evelyn Charteris), Lady Eva Dugdale (later Lady of the Bedchamber), Earl of Ava (Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood d.1900), Sir Charles Leopold Cust (baronet), Sir Francis De Winton, Mr J. T Seigne JP (officer of Ormonde’s estate – we came across him when we visited Kilfane, as he lived in the house there), and “Mr Moncrieffe” 
King Charles II (1630-85); Artist: attributed to John Michael Wright (1617-1694)
Son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. During the civil war in England, Charles played an active role and fought with the army. After the defeat of the royalist, he left England for France to join his mother. In 1649, after the execution of his father, he was proclaimed king of Edinburgh and later in parts of Ireland by Ormond. In 1660 the monarchy was restored.
Full-length, standing in robes of the Garter in a pose frequently used in the studio of Sir Peter Lely. The portrait has suffered severe paint loss, and it is difficult to be certain about the attribution. The carefully delineated folds of linen, and the treatment of textures in general, are similar to those featured in the work of John Michael Wright. Other than the pose, it does not resemble the work of Sir Peter Lely. It may be one of a group of portraits which were undertaken by Wright when he painted several works for Ormond in the early 1680s.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the interior was largely redecorated and wood-carvings in the manner of Grinling Gibbons were introduced into some of the family rooms in the South Tower after the castle suffered damage 1922 during the Civil War, when, having been occupied by one side, it was attacked and captured by the other; the Earl of Ossory (afterwards 9th Marquess) and his wife being in residence at the time. In 1935 the Ormondes ceased to live in the castle, which for the next thirty years stood empty and deteriorating. It is now a wonderful place to visit, and has fifty acres of rolling parkland, a terraced rose garden, playground, tearoom and man-made lake, for visitors to enjoy.

28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 6894, breda.lynch@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This church was built in the late thirteenth century as a collegiate church and was served by a college – clerics who lived in a community but did not submit to the rule of a monastery. 

The church was patronised by the Butler family and many early family members are commemorated here with elaborate medieval tombs. The impressive ruins were decorated by the Gowran Master whose stone carvings are immortalised in the poetry of Nobel Laureate Séamus Heaney. 

The once medieval church was later partly reconstructed in the early 19th century and functioned as a Church of Ireland church until the 1970’s when it was gifted to the State as a National Monument. Today the restored part of the church preserves a collection of monuments dating from the 5th to the 20th centuries.

[1] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com

[2] https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/altamont-gardens/

[3] p. 8, Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.

[4] https://archiseek.com/2011/1770s-castletown-house-celbridge-co-kildare/

[5] p. 75. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[6] p. 129. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitgGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

[7] https://castletown.ie/collection-highlights/

[8] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

[9] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/characters-of-kilkenny-castle/

[10] http://www.stevenroyedwards.com/kilkennycastle-timeline.html

[11] p. 167. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.