Places to visit and stay in County Clare

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/

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Help me to fund the maintenance and update of this website. It is created purely out of love for the subject and I receive no payment so any donation is appreciated!

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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. Mount Ievers Court, Sixmilebridge, County Clare  

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

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

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

14. 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

Clare:

1. Barntick House, Clarecastle Co. Clare V95 FH00section 482

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

Barntick House May 2022, photograph courtesy of Ciarán Murphy.

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.” [1]

An article in the Irish Times by Mary Leland published Saturday April 13th 2019 tells us a little more:

Plantation House, barracks and now a farm, Barntick House in Co Clare was built in 1665, renovated in 1740 and survived through the families of Hickman, Peacocke, Lyons and Murphy.

“In 2016 it was a case of do something or let it go completely,” Ciarán Murphy says. “But all the aesthetics are still in place and after the childhood I had out there I had to do something. Revenue was very helpful: once you adhere to the guidelines there’s no problem.”” [2]

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. [3]

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.” [4]

Bunratty Castle, County Clare, Photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])
Bunratty Castle, County Clare, Photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])
Bunratty Co Clare National Library of Ireland stereo pairs collection STP_1858. (Dublin City Library and Archives) [5]
Bunratty Castle Co Clare National Library of Ireland Lawrence Collection taken between 1880 and 1914, L_CAB_00962 (Dublin City Library and Archives) [5]

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 [3])

– 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.” [6]

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.” [7]

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

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 [3])

– ‘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.” [8]

6. Knappogue or Knoppogue Castle, County Clare

Knappogue is maintained by Shannon Heritage.

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. Mount Ievers Court, Sixmilebridge, County Clare  

Mount Ievers, photograph from National Inventory.

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.

A topographical vie of Mount Ievers, County Clare dating from the second quarter of the 18th century, courtesy of exhibition “In Harmony with Nature” curated by Robert O’Byrne in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022.

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.

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

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

www.newtowncastle.com , 
Open dates in 2023: Jan 9-13, 16-20, 23-27, 30-31, Feb 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-28, March 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-31, Apr 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, May 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29-31, June 1-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24, 26-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 1, 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, Oct 2-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-28, 30-31, Nov 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-30, Dec 1, 4-8, 11-15, 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.” 

Maurice Craig and Desmond Fitzgerald the Knight of Glin describe it in their book Ireland Observed. A handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities: “This sixteenth-century tower, nearly round in plan, rises from a square base, on which is the entrance door. Ingeniously places shot-holes protect its four sides.” [9]

Maurice Craig also writes about Newtown in his book The Architecture of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1880:

There is a small class of cylindrical tower-houses: so small that it is worth attempting to enumerate them all, omitting those which appear to be thirteenth-century (and hence not tower-houses). They are Cloughoughter, County Cavan (which is dubiously claimed for the fourteenth century); Carrigabrack, East of Fermoy County Cork; Knockagh near Templemore County Tipperary; Ballysheeda near Cappawhite County Tipperary; Golden in the same county; Crannagh now attached to an eighteenth century house near Templetuohy in the same county; Balief County Kilkenny; Grantstown near Rathdowney County Leix; Barrow Harbour County Kerry; Newtown near Gort in County Galway; Doonagore County Clare also by the sea; Faunarooska, Burren, County Clare; and Newtown at the North edge of the Burren, also in County Clare.

The last of these is in some ways the most interesting, being in form a cylinder impaled upon a pyramid. Over the door (which is in the pyramid) there is a notch in the elliptical curve traced by the cylinder, and in this notch is a gunhole covering a wide sector of the sloping wall below. At some other castles, for example, Ballynamona on the Awbeg river, there is a feature using the same principle, which is not easy to describe. On each face of the building there is what looks at first site like the “ghost” or creasing of a pitched roof, but is in fact a triangular plane, about a foot deep at the top, decreasing to nothing at the base. In the apex there is a gunhole. Aesthetically the effect is very subtle.” [10]

Newtown Castle, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [11]

9. 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.” [12]

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 [3])

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 [1675-1717], 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.” 

Lucius Henry O’Brien, 3rd Baronet of Dromoland, County Clare (1731-95) also lived in 14 Henrietta St from 1767-1795 – for more about him, see Melanie Hayes, The Best Address in Town: Henrietta Street, Dublin and its First Residents 1720-80, published by Four Courts Press, Dublin 8, 2020. 

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

Falls Hotel, photograph for Failte Ireland, 2021. [see Ireland’s Content Pool]. (see [3])

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

www.clareecolodge.ie
Open dates in 2023: June 1-August 31, Wed-Sun, National Heritage Week, Aug 12-20, 2pm-6pm

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.
Clare Ecolodge at Loughnane’s offers a wide variety of accommodation to suit the needs of individuals and groups visiting Feakle for a residential courses or using the village as a base to explore the wild and beautiful landscape of County Clare.
Feakle is an ideal location from which to discover the East Clare countryside. Steeped in history and heritage, the area is known for its fine walks, stunning lakes, rugged mountains and of course its vibrant Irish traditional music scene.
Loughnane’s offers a unique blend of tranquillity and fun giving guests a genuine Irish experience.

Clare Ecolodge at Loughnane’s in Feakle has been designated by the Irish State as a building of significant historical, architectural interest and members of the public are invited to view the building (free of charge) at the following times from June 1 to August 31 from Wednesday to Sunday between 2pm and 6pm.

Clare Ecolodge; The Energy Story:

Clare Ecolodge was created in 2018 to signify the changes which we have implemented over  the past two years at Loughnane’s Guesthouse/ Hostel. 

We have converted all our rooms in the main house to large private double and family rooms.

In May 2018 we installed 30 Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of the main building. Look up and see for yourself!

Since then we have been producing between 20 to 60kw hours per day.

In May 2018 we also installed an air to water heat pump system. This is a low usage eco-water heating system powered by electricity.

This heats all our water requirements for showers, laundry and kitchen requirements. We have not turned on our oil burner since installation. 

The average yearly energy requirements for an Irish household is approximately 4000kwh. Our energy system has produced this in the past 3 months. In that time we have avoided 2.5 tonnes of CO2.

We use between 5 and 15kwh per day. The surplus is sent back to the grid at the transformer  at the top of the village. We currently receive zero compensation for the excess electricity we generate but the ESB charges the community for the usage of this electricity.

We estimate that we are currently at least 50% off-gird.

Our main hot water and energy requirements are in the summer months. In high season there are more showers used and laundry needed. Our current energy system can handle this with little effort.

For the past decade we have been growing our own vegetables and herbs for use in our kitchen.

Next phase – Winter time

Our Solar PV panels are powered by light rather than heat so will work in winter, albeit not for periods as long in the summer. 

We aim to install a battery storage system so we can manage the energy we generate to be used at the most opportune times.

We aim to install a second heat pump for our central heating requirements. This will effectively reduce our oil consumption to zero.

We aim to install a wind turbine system on our 12 acre farm behind the main house. This will be used as a back up to bridge the energy generation gap between winter and summer.

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/

Newpark House, County Clare by Jen on flickr constant commons, 2016.

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

http://smithstowncastle.com 

Ballynagowan Castle County Clare by Neale Adams, 2011 on flickr constant commons.

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.

13. 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.

Almost a century later, in January 1928, a successor, Robert Gould Ellis, sold the property to the Mercy Sisters for £2,400 and in 1929 Colonel Burdett Morony sold Woodbine Cottage to the nuns for £300. Colonel Burdett Morony was a son of widow Ellen Burdett Morony of Miltown House, a woman who was quite unpopular amongst her tenants for rack-renting to such an extent that a boycott was operated against her. Woodbine Cottage, now part of the local secondary school building, was a summer residence of the Russell family and part of the Morony estate.

On 19 March 1929 – the feast of St Joseph – a deed of purchase was signed and Sea View House became St Joseph’s Convent. The coach house, stables and harness rooms were fitted out as classrooms and a secondary school was opened on 4 September 1929.

In 1931 the west wing was used as dormitories for boarders for the first time. In 1946 Wooodbine Cottage was converted into three classrooms and Miltown House (the Morony family seat, built in the early 1780s by Thomas J. Morony, who developed the town of Miltown Malbay) was also bought by the nuns and became the convent of the Immaculate Conception and a day school, while St Joseph’s was given over to boarding pupils.

In 1959 a new secondary school was opened in part of Miltown House and in Woodbine Cottage by Dr Patrick Hillery, then Minister for Education. He originally came from Spanish Point and was later to become President of Ireland.

In 1978 the boarding school at St Joseph’s closed, due to falling numbers, following the introduction of free secondary education and free school transport, which allowed pupils a greater choice of schools. The house was then given by the sisters to Clare Social Services as a holiday home for children, and was called McCauley House after the Venerable Catherine McCauley – founder of the Mercy Order.

In September 2015 Clare Social Service sold the former convent to Pat and Aoife O’Malley, who restored it as a luxury guesthouse and re-named it Spanish Point House.”

14. 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

Inchiquin House, County Clare by Conall, 2021 on flickr constant commons.

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.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20404103/barntick-house-barntick-co-clare

[2] 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

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

[4] 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.

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

[6] https://www.irishhomesandgardens.ie/irish-architecture-history-part-1/

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

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

[9] Craig, Maurice and Knight of Glin [Desmond Fitzgerald] Ireland Observed. A handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities. The Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970.

[10] p. 103. Craig, Maurice. The Architecture of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1880, Lambay Books, Portrane, County Dublin, first published 1982, this edition 1997, p. 103.

[11] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20400502/newtown-art-college-newtown-burren-co-clare

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

Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare

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

Kildare:

2. Castletown House, County Kildare

3. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare

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

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

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]

From “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.
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:

2. 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

https://castletown.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.
Castletown Gates, built in 1783 by Lady Louisa Conolly, by John Coates of Maynooth. They are mounted with sphinxes.

The Conolly family sold Castletown in 1965. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. In 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres, to be the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. It is now maintained by the Office of Public Works and the Castletown Trust.

William Conolly (1662-1729) rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.

William Conolly had property on Capel Street in Dublin, before moving to Celbridge. Conolly’s house was on the corner of Capel Street and Little Britain Street and was demolished around 1770. [4] The Kildare Local History webpage gives us an excellent description of William Conolly’s rise to wealth:

In November 1688, William Conolly was one of the Protestants who fled Dublin to join the Williamites in Chester alongside his late Celbridge neighbour Bartholomew Van Homrigh.

On the victory of William III, he acquired a central role dealing in estates forfeited by supporters of James II, commencing his rise to fortune with the forfeited estates of the McDonnells of Antrim.

In 1691 he purchased Rodanstown outside Kilcock, which became his country residence until he purchased Castletown in 1709.

A dowry of £2,300 came his way in 1694 when he married Katherine Conyngham, daughter of Albert Conyngham, a Williamite General who had been killed in the war at Collooney in 1691.

He was appointed Collector and Receiver of Revenue for the towns of Derry and Coleraine on May 2nd 1698.

Conolly was the largest purchaser of forfeited estates in the period 1699–1703, acquiring also 20,000 acres spread over five counties at a cost of just £7,000.” [5]

He rose to become Speaker of the House of Commons in the Irish Parliament. William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle in County Meath (see my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/slane-castle-county-meath/). As well as earning money himself, his wife brought a large dowry.

William Conolly purchased land in County Kildare which had been owned by Thomas Dongan (1634-1715), 2nd Earl of Limerick, in 1709. Dongan’s estate had been confiscated as he was a Jacobite supporter of James II (he became first governor of the Duke of York’s province of New York! The Earldom ended at his death). Dongan’s mother was the daughter of William Talbot, 1st Baronet of Carton (see my entry about Carton, County Kildare, under Places to stay in County Kildare https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/).

William Conolly (1662-1729) in his robes as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, by Stephen Catterson Smith the Elder (1806-1872), portrait in Hall of Castletown. The portrait was donated by Mr and Mrs Galen Weston. This posthumous portrait was based on Jervas’s portrait of the Speaker in the Green Drawing Room.
Statue taken from the funeral monument of Speaker William Conolly, of him reclining next to his wife, by Thomas Carter.
The Funerary monument with William and Katherine Conolly. The Latin inscription reads: “William Conolly who attained as the reward of his medit the highest honours, was for about twenty years a Commissioner of the revenue in the reign of Queen Anne and George I, was a Privy Councillor in the reign of George II. He was twice unanimously elected Speaker of the House of Commons in the Parliament of this realm and then ten times held the Office of Lord Justice of Ireland, being the first to whom both the Sovereign and the people entrusted at the same time of their privileges with the happiest result. As a subject, he was loyal, as a citizen, patriotic. In perilous times he not once or twice proved that he served his King without forgetting his duty to his country. Firm, resolute, just, wise, formed by nature for the ilfe of a statesman, his administration of affairs was crowned with success to the greater advantage of the Commonwealth. He made a modest, though splendid use of the great riches he had honestly acquired, distinguished as he was alike for the courtesy, integrity and munificence of his disposition. Kind-hearted towards all men, he was loyal to his friends, whom he bound to himself in great numbers – retained their friendship when once he had gained it. Wishing to do good even after his death, he gave directions by his will that a building should be erected on the adjacent lands for the maintenance and education of the children of the poor and he endowed it forever with large revenues. Having lived long enough to satisfy the claims of nature and his fame, he died October 1729 in the 67th year of his life. Cath of the Conyngham family has erected this monument to her worthy husband.”
Katherine Conyngham, wife of William Conolly, also from the funeral monument.
Katherine Conyngham (c. 1662-1752) who married William Conolly, with her great-niece Molly Burton. Portrait by Charles Jervas.
I’m not sure but the top portrait looks like Katherine Conyngham to me.

The Archiseek website tells us about the design of Castletown House:

“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” [6]

Alessandro Gallilei (1691-1737).
Castletown House, County Kildare, Photograph from macmillan media for Tourism Ireland 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] Started in 1722 to the designs of Alessandro Gallilei, it was continued by Edward Lovett Pearce, who was influenced by Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Pearce designed the colonnades and pavilions. In the wings on the left (west wing) are the kitchens and on the right, the stables (east wing).

Mark Bence-Jones describes Castletown in his  A Guide to Irish Country Houses. The centre block is of three storeys over basement, and has two almost identical thirteen bay fronts “reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty  and serenity.” [7] The centre block is made of Edenderry limestone, and is topped by cornice and balustrade. On the ground floor the windows have frieze, cornice and lugged architrave, and on the first floor, alternating triangular and segmental pediments.

On the ground floor the windows have frieze, cornice and lugged architrave, and on the first floor, alternating triangular and segmental pediments. The upper floor is half size.
The doorcase is gracefully tall and is framed by Ionic columns, and is reached by a sweeping set of steps. Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013, from flickr constant commons.

Pearce added the curved Ionic colonnades and two two-storey seven bay wings. He also designed the impressive two-storey entrance hall inside.

Back of Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals2022 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
Colonnade by Edward Lovett Pearce, October 2022.
The East Wing.
The east side of Castletown, and the back of east wing. The back of the curved colonnade can be seen.
The Sensory Garden and the side and back of the West Wing.
The East side of the house. The West Wing houses the Café.
The Café in the West Wing.
Side of the West Wing, October 2022. Extending the facade of the house are pedimented gateways to the kitchen yard and stable yard.

William died in 1729 aged just 67, so he had only a few years to enjoy his house. His wife Katherine lived on in the house another twenty-three years until her death at the age of 90 in 1752. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754), son of William’s brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James married Lady Anne Wentworth, the daughter of the Earl of Strafford. Her father, Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford is not the more famous Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford who was executed (of whom there is at least one portrait in Castletown) but a later one, of the second creation. William James died just two years after Katherine Conolly, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).

Thomas 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.
Lady Anne Conolly (née Wentworth) (1713-1797) Attributed to Anthony Lee, Irish, fl.1724-1767. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Thomas married Louisa Lennox in 1758, one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster). At Carton, Louisa was exposed to the fashionable ideas of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. [8] Louisa loved Castletown and continually planned improvements, planting trees, designing the lake and building bridges.

Louisa Lennox who married Thomas Conolly.
In the dining room, over the fireplace, half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, by Jean-Baptiste Van Loo, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. 
Carton House, 2022.

Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” (see [6])

Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 6]

Great Hall, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
The Gallery of the Great Hall. Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.

The polished limestone floor with its chequered design and the Kilkenny marble fireplace reflect William Conolly’s desire to build the house solely of native Irish materials. Unfortunately when we visited in October 2022, the hall was half hidden with a large two storey curtain, as the windows are all being repaired. As we can see in the photograph, the room has an Ionic colonnade to the rear, and a gallery at first floor level, and the stair hall is through an archway in the east wall.

Hall of Castletown, with picture of Leixlip Castle by Joseph Tudor over the black Kilkenny marble fireplace, and portrait of William Conolly 1662-1729, by Stephen Catterson Smith the Elder.
Picture of Leixlip Castle, which was also owned by William Conolly and by Desmond Guinness.

When the owners were selling off the items in the house, they tried to sell the picture of Leixlip Castle that is in the front hall over the fireplace. It turned out to be painted on to the wall, so had to remain in the house! See my entry about Leixlip Castle https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/04/leixlip-castle-county-kildare-desmond-guinnesss-jewelbox-of-treasures/

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 large curtain, in October 2022, is protecting the room from where the windows are being repaired. Instead of capitals, the cloumns in the upper storey are topped with baskets of fruit.
Great Hall, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The coved ceiling of the Hall has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame, modillion cornice and central roundel with shell decoration. A modillion cornice is a cornice of the Corinthian order, made up of modillions, or ornamented brackets, frequently used as the cornice of a ceiling.
Ceiling of Great Hall, Castletown House, June 2015.
Photograph from the album of Henry Shaw, of the Entrance Hall, in the time of that later Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.
Photograph from the album of Henry Shaw, of the Entrance Hall, in the time of that later Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.

From the entrance hall, one enters the magnificent Stair Hall. The Castletown website describes the stair hall:

The Portland stone staircase at Castletown is one of the largest cantilevered staircases in Ireland. It was built in 1759 under the direction of the master builder Simon Vierpyl (c.1725–1811). Prior to this the space was a shell, although a plan attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce suggests that a circular staircase was previously intended.

The solid brass balustrade was installed by Anthony King, later Lord Mayor of Dublin. He signed and dated three of the banisters, ‘A. King Dublin 1760’. The opulent rococo plasterwork was created by the Swiss-Italian stuccadore Filippo Lafranchini, who, with his older brother Paolo, had worked at Carton and Leinster House for Lady Lousia’s brother-in-law, the first Duke of Leinster, as well as at Russborough in Co. Wicklow. Shells, cornucopias, dragons and masks feature in the light-hearted decoration which represents the final development of the Lafranchini style. Family portraits are also included with Tom Conolly at the foot of the stairs and Louisa above to his right. The four seasons are represented on the piers and on either side of the arched screen.

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.

 
Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Stair Hall, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The Portland stone staircase at Castletown is one of the largest cantilevered staircases in Ireland. It was built in 1759 under the direction of the master builder Simon Vierpyl (c.1725–1811). The plasterwork is by Lafranchini brothers. In the stair hall, in the rococo plasterwork, Tom and Louisa Conolly are represented in plaster, along with shells, masks and flowers. 
The solid brass balustrade was installed by Anthony King, later Lord Mayor of Dublin. He signed and dated three of the banisters, ‘A. King Dublin 1760’.
Thomas Conolly, who inherited the estate, in stucco on stairs of Castletown, and his wife Louisa is further up on his right. Her sister Emily, who lived at Carton nearby, is also pictured in the plasterwork.
Thomas Conolly, grand-nephew of William Conolly.
Lady Louisa Conolly, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Ceiling of Stair Hall, Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, a copy of ‘The Bear Hunt’ by 17th century Flemish painter Paul de Vos (1596-1678) is framed by Lafranchini plasterwork. It was cut down at some stage on the right side to fit into the central plaster recess above the cantilevered staircase, which would indicate that the painting was not commissioned for the space. Our guide told us that men would bet on how quickly the dogs would kill the bear. What a dreadful past-time! The Conollys imported a bear, and kept it in the dog kennels but it died, and they had it stuffed and put in the nursery!
In this old photograph of the nursery on the second floor, we see not only the stuffed bear but the skin and head of another. The photograph is one from an album of photographs on display at Castletown, belonging to Chris Shaw. His father Henry was the brother of Sarah Eliza Shaw who married Thomas Conolly (1823-1876), who inherited Castletown.
Castletown House, June 2015.
The staircase in the 1950s, prior to the sale of the house and the auction of two of the three large canvases above the stairs, photograph by Hugh Doran.

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.

In the dining room, the Cranfield Mirror, the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809). There are three of these mirrors, and one is cracked. I took this photograph when our friend Mark was visiting Ireland in 2017.
The cracked Cranfield mirror, cracked by a Bible which the local prelate had thrown at the Devil!

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.

My Dad Desmond and Stephen in the Dining Room of Castletown House, June 2015. 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 dining room, 2017. 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. Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables, which are also attributed to Richard Cranfield. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms.
The frieze on the giltwood side tables in the Dining Room is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms.
The Dining Room, October 2022, with the giltwood side table, Meissen vase, and portrait of Katherine Conyngham with her niece. Portraits over the landscape painting are of Harriet Murray (1742-1822) who married Henry Westenra (1742-1809) and Hester Westenra – this portrait could be of Harriet Murray’s daughter Hester (1775-1858) who married Edward Wingfield (1772-1859).
Harriet Murray (1742-1822) married Henry Westenra (1742-1809) and Hester Westenra – this portrait could be of Harriet Murray’s daughter Hester (1775-1858) who married Edward Wingfield (1772-1859). There are many portraits of the Westenra family currently in Castletown House. I don’t know if there is any connection between the Westenra family and Castletown – perhaps the portraits belong to the Office of Public Works and are used to suitably furnish Castletown.
Anne Murray (1734-1827), sister of Harriet in the photograph above. Anne married Theophilus Jones (1725-1811). Perhaps the man in the portrait is Theophilus Jones. Anne was second wife of Theophilus Jones, who had previously married Catherine Beresford of Curraghmore, daughter of Marcus Beresford 1st Earl of Tyrone.
Josephine Lloyd (1827-1912) who married Henry Robert Westenra, 2nd (UK) and 3rd Baron (Ireland) Rossmore of Monaghan.
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. I don’t know who is featured in this portrait – I’ll have to find out! It’s very beautiful. Tell me if you can identify our lovely lady in white and blue. To me she looks like Anne Hyde (1637-1671), Duchess of York, wife of King James II.

Between the front of the house, with its Entrance Hall, Stair Hall and Dining Room is a corridor, or rather, two corridors, one to the west and one to the east of the Entrance Hall. This corridor is on every storey, including the basement. To the rear (north) of the house on the ground floor is an enfilade of rooms: the Brown Study to the west end, next to another staircase, then the Red Drawing Room, the Green Drawing Room, the Print Room, the State Bedroom, and then small rooms called the Healy Room and the Map Room.

One of the corridors between the front and back of the house on the ground floor, October 2022.
The high ceilinged corridors end in large windows.

The corridors now hold paintings and art works, and one has a cabinet of Meissen porcelain.

Meissen porcelain pieces were created specially for clients, with favourite symbols and objects.
King George III
Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.
Queen Victoria.

Next to the Dining Room at the front of the house is the Butler’s Pantry, which contains photographs of the servants of Castletown, and a portrait of a housekeeper, Mrs Parnel Moore (1649–1761). It’s unusual to have a portrait of a housekeeper but perhaps someone painted her because she was a beloved member of the household, as she lived to be at least 112 years! This is a very old portrait dating back to the 1700s.

The Castletown website tells us about the Butler’s Pantry: “The Butler’s Pantry dates from the 1760s and connected the newly created Dining Room with the kitchens in the West Wing. Food was carried in from the kitchens through the colonnade passageway and then reheated in the pantry before being served. The great kitchens were on the ground floor of the west wing, with servants’ quarters upstairs. Upwards of 80 servants would have been employed in the house and kitchens in the late eighteenth century under the direction of the Butler and the Housekeeper.”

A house like Castletown relied on an army of servants and this portrait of former housekeeper Mrs Parnel Moore – aged 112 according to the inscription – dates back to the beginnings of Castletown and is one of the oldest original items in the collection.
English servants of Castletown, photograph in Butler’s Pantry of Castletown.
Irish servants of Castletown, photograph in Butler’s Pantry of Castletown.
Enfilade of rooms on the north side, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.

The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

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

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

The neoclassical ceiling, which replaced the vaulted original, is based on published designs by the Italian Renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio, and is modelled after one in Leinster House (belonging to Lady Louisa’s sister’s husband the Earl of Kildare). The white Carrara chimney-piece came to the house in 1768.

The Red Drawing Room in 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. [9]
The Red Drawing Room in October 2022.
The Red Drawing Room in October 2022.
The white Carrara chimney-piece came to the house in 1768. Andrew Tierney tells us in Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. The Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly that it is by John Devall & Son and based on Isaac Ware’s Designs of Inigo Jones (1731).
The neoclassical ceiling, which replaced the vaulted original, is based on published designs by the Italian Renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio. There is also a modillion cornice and a Rococo frieze.
The wallpaper has been specially recreated from original material, and the curtains have been made to match.
Chinese Chippendale sofas, Irish, c.1770, photograph from 2015.

The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

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

The Castletown website tells us: “The Green Drawing Room was the main reception room or saloon on the ground floor. Visitors could enter from the Entrance Hall or the garden front. Like the other state rooms it was extensively remodelled between 1764 and 1768. The influence of the published designs of Serlio and the leading British architect Isaac Ware can be seen in the neo-classical ceiling, door cases and chimney-piece...The walls were first lined with a pale green silk damask in the 1760s. Fragments of this silk, which was replaced by a dark green mid-nineteenth century silk, survived and the present silk was woven as a direct colour match in 1985 by Prelle et Cie in Lyon, France.”

The 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 door to the entrance hall is gilded and pedimented and is by Richard Cranfield of Dublin (after that by Ware in the saloon of Leinster House), with “pulvinated” (i.e. having the shape of a cushion) bay-leaf frieze. The chimeypiece replicates the key pattern on the ceilng.
Our guide showed us how the Green Drawing Room opens into the Great Hall.
The Green Drawing Room, October 2022.
Charles Lennox 2nd Duke of Richmond (1701-1750). I’m not sure if this is his wife Sarah Cadogen beside him.
I think this is a portrait of Louisa’s brother Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond.
King Charles I, and below, a mistress of King Charles II, Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, who was the mother of Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond.
Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford (1593-1641), Lord Deputy of Ireland 1632-1640 for King Charles I.
The website tells us about this Musical Clock by Charles Clay c.1730. “Katherine and William Conolly are credited with bringing this important musical clock to Castletown. It was made by Charles Clay, official clock-maker to His Majesty’s Board of Works in London. It is the only clock of its kind known to be in Ireland and its sweet chime can be heard throughout the enfilade.”

The Brown Study is at one end of this enfilade of rooms. The website describes it:

The Brown Study with its wood-panelled walls, tall oak doors, corner chimney-piece, built-in desk and vaulted ceiling is decorated as it was in the 1720s when the house was first built. This room was used as a bedroom in the late nineteenth century and then as a breakfast parlour in the early twentieth century.

Between the windows is a piece of the ‘Volunteer fabric’. Printed on a mixture of linen and cotton in Harpur’s Mills in nearby Leixlip, it depicts the review of the Leinster Volunteers in the Phoenix Park in 1782. Thomas Conolly was active in the Volunteer leadership in both Counties Derry and Kildare. The Volunteers were a local militia force established during the American War of Independence to defend Ireland from possible French invasion while the regular troops were in America. They were later linked to the Patriot party in the Irish House of Commons led by Henry Grattan and to their campaigns for political reform.

Brown Study, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The Brown Study. Jonathan Swift portrait, and King William III.
The ‘Volunteer fabric’. Printed on a mixture of linen and cotton in Harpur’s Mills in nearby Leixlip, it depicts the review of the Leinster Volunteers in the Phoenix Park in 1782.
Dublin Volunteers on College Green, 1779, by Francis Wheatley.
Key to the Dublin Volunteers on College Green, 1779 by Francis Wheatley. In the centre facing forward is the Duke of Leinster. I found it odd to see that James Napper Tandy is one of the Volunteers pictured, since I know he is famous for being a rebel, along with Edward FitzGerald. It turns out that James Napper Tandy was expelled from the Irish Volunteers in 1780 because he proposed the expulsion of the Duke of Leinster! Tandy went on to help to form the United Irishmen, along with Theobald Wolf Tone.
Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798). He fought with the British side in the American War of Independence but was injured and as he recuperated with the help of his servant, his sympathies turned to those fighting for Independence from the British. He continued this fight in Ireland, joining the United Irishmen. He was imprisoned and died in prison, his last visitor being his aunt Louisa Conolly.
Our guide showed us a photograph of the Brown study in the time of the Conolly Carew family, when they struggled with the upkeep of the house.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca. 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776.

The website tells us about the Print Room, completed in 1769: “More than any other room in Castletown, the Print Room bears the imprint of Lady Louisa, who assiduously collected, cut out, and arranged individual prints, frames and decorations. The prints were glued on panels of off-white painted paper which was later attached to the walls on battens covered with cloth. Lady Louisa thus created an intimate, highly individual room which has survived changing tastes and fashions and is now the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in Ireland.”

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. Prints featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline.

The room was later used as a billiards room, and this helped inadvertedly to save the prints, as our guide told us, as the smoke from their pipes helped to protect against silverfish insects which eat wallpaper.

The print room, central picture of Louisa’s sister Sarah Lennox, who married first Thomas Charles Bunbury 6th Baronet, then George Napier.
Sarah Lennox was at first expected to marry King George III. His advisors dissuaded him, and so she married Thomas Charles Bunbury 6th Baronet. However, she left him to elope with a lover, Wililam Gordon with whom she had a daughter. He abandoned her, however, and she was left in disgrace, moving to her brother’s family home. She was finally allowed to divorce, and she married George Napier, and they moved to Celbridge.
Many of the prints reflect fashionable cultural figures at the time that Louisa made the print room. Above the chimneypiece is David Garrick, an English actor, playwright and theatre manager. Louisa loved the theatre. A small temple in the grounds of Castletown is dedicated to actress Sarah Siddons.

Next to the Print Room is the State Bedroom. The website tells us:

In the 1720s, when the house was first laid out, this room, along with the rooms either side, probably formed William Conolly’s bedroom suite. It was intended that he would receive guests in the morning while sitting up in bed or being dressed in the manner of the French court at Versailles. In the nineteenth century, the room was converted into a library and the mock leather Victorian wall paper dates from this time. Sadly, the Castletown library was dispersed in the 1960s and today the furniture reflects the room’s original use.

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 State Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015.
State Bedroom, 2022.
Harriet St. Lawrence (d. 1830), daughter of William 2nd Earl of Howth. She married Arthur French St. George (1780-1844). Olivia Emily Ussher-St. George married William Robert Fitzgerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster, the son of Emily, Louisa’s sister.

Next to the State Bedroom is The Healy Room: “This room originally served as a dressing room or closet attached to the adjoining State Bedroom. It was used as a small sitting room and later became Major Edward Conolly’s bedroom in the mid-twentieth century, as it was one of the few rooms that could be kept warm in winter. It is now known as the Healy room after the pictures of the Castletown horses by the Irish artist Robert Healy (d.1771).”

Upstairs has more bedrooms, and the beautiful Long Gallery. A corridor overlooks the Great Hall.

Corridor overlooking the Great Hall, below the railings on the left.
The door on the left enters the Long Gallery.

To one side of the Stair Hall upstairs is Lady Kildare’s Room, named after Lady Louisa’s sister Emily, Countess of Kildare and later Duchess of Leinster, who had raised Louisa and the two younger sisters Sarah and Cecilia at nearby Carton House after their parents’ death. Currently being renovated, in the past the room housed the Berkeley Costume Collection. Made in France, Italy, and England, the dresses on display consist of rich embroidered bodices and full skirts made from silk and gold thread.

Costumes from the Berkeley Costume Collection, in Lady Kildare’s Room, 2017.

Across the upstairs East Corridor from Lady Kildare’s room is the Blue Bedroom. The website tells us that the Blue Bedroom provides a fine example of an early Victorian bedroom. Like the Boudoir, it forms part of an apartment with two adjoining dressing rooms, one of which was upgraded into a bathroom with sink and bathtub. The principal bedrooms, used by the family and honoured guests, were on this floor. Bedrooms on the second floor were also used for guests and for children, while the servants slept in the basement. This room has a lovely pink canopied bed, but we did not see the room when we visited in 2022.

At the front of the house on the other side of the Great Hall upstairs are the Boudoir, and Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, and across the West Corridor upstairs, the Pastel Room. The website tells us:

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

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

The Boudoir, October 2022.
The Boudoir, Castletown House, July 2017. The website tells us about the writing bureau, Irish-made around 1760: A George III mahogany cabinet with dentilled-scrolled broken pediment carved with rosettes. Throughout her life, Lady Louisa maintained a regular correspondence with her sisters and brothers in Ireland and England, and it is easy to picture her writing her epistles at this bureau and filing the letters she received in the initialled pigeonholes and drawers. A handwritten transcription of her letters to her siblings can be accessed in the OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre in Castletown. 
The writing bureau has no “J” or “U” as they are not in the Latin alphabet.
The Boudoir, October 2022. In this photograph we can see the false door, with glass panels, which had previously been covered by Lady Louisa’s writing bureau.
The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery.
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.
Castletown House, June 2015.
From the photograph album of Henry Shaw.
Castletown House, June 2015, 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.
In 2022, Louisa’s bedroom now features a tremendous bed.
I have yet to identify this portrait. It looks remarkably similar to Lady Anne Conolly (née Wentworth) (1713-1797) Attributed to Anthony Lee, Irish, fl.1724-1767, and she is even wearing the same dress. Maybe the artist did two portraits.

Across the West Corridor upstairs is the Pastel Room. The Corridor has more portraits.

Charles I and Henrietta Maria.
William Robert FitzGerald (1748-1804), 2nd Duke of Leinster, son of Louisa’s sister Emily.

The Pastel Room, the website tells us, was originally an anteroom to the adjoining Long Gallery. It was used as a school room in the nineteenth century and is now known as the Pastel Room because of the fine collection of pastel portraits. The smaller pastels surrounding the fireplace include a pair of portraits of Thomas and Louisa Conolly by the leading Irish pastel artist of the eighteenth century, Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

The small medallion in the centre is Lady Louisa by Hugh Douglas Hamilton. The one of the two girls on the right is of Louisa Staples and her sister, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton. William James Conolly (1712-1754) was the nephew of William Conolly who built Castletown, and he inherited the estate. He was the father of Thomas Conolly (1734-1803). Thomas’s sister Harriet married John Staples, and their daughter was Louisa Staples. Louisa married Thomas Pakenham (1757-1836). It was their son, Edward Michael (1786-1849) who inherited Castletown, and added Conolly to his surname, to become Pakenham Conolly.
The pastel on the top left is Thomas Conolly (1734-1803), Louisa’s husband.
The parents of Louisa and Emily: Sarah Cadogen (1705-1751) and Charles Lennox (1701-1750) 2nd Duke of Richmond.
Pastel of Lady Louisa Lennox, from the circle of Geoge Knapton, c.1747, it depicts Lady Louisa at the tender age of four. Louisa was the daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, and his wife, Lady Sarah Cadogan. Her parents died when she was eight years old, and both she and her two younger sisters, Sarah and Cecilia, went to live with their older sister Emily, Countess of Kildare, in Ireland.

From the Pastel Room, we enter the Long Gallery. The website tells us about this room:

Originally laid out as a picture gallery with portraits of William Conolly’s patrons on display, its function and layout changed under Lady Louisa. In 1760, she had the original doorways to the upper east and west corridors removed, replacing them with the central doorway above the Entrance Hall. The new doorcases as well as new fireplaces at either end were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. The Pompeian style decoration on the walls dates from the 1770s and was inspired by Montfaucon’s publications on the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and by Raphael’s designs for the Vatican. The murals were the work of an English artist and engraver Charles Ruben Riley (1752–98). The Long Gallery became a space for informal entertaining and was full of life and activity as the following excerpt from one of Louisa’s letters suggests: “Our gallery was in great vogue, and really is a charming room for there is such a variety of occupations in it, that people cannot be formal in it. Lord Harcourt was writing, some of us played at whist, others at billiards, Mrs Gardiner at the harpsichord, others at chess, others at reading and supper at one end. I have seldom seen twenty people in a room so easily disposed of.”

Upstairs, The Long Gallery, Castletown House, June 2015.
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.
The Long Gallery in the 1880s, photograph from the album of Henry Shaw.

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.” 

The Long Gallery: its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s and is by Edward Lovett Pearce. It was painted and gilded in the 1770s.

Archiseek continues: “In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland).

The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard. The fireplaces installed by Louisa at either end of the room were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. It contains a Wedgewood encaustic centrepiece.
The portrait of Tom is in the style of Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland).
The new doorcases were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. Thomas Conolly imported the statue, a seventeenth century statue of Diana, in the centre, supposedly smuggling it home in a coffin! Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

Archiseek tells us: “The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

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

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

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. 

Mark Bence-Jones tells us: “The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers.

The Obelisk, or Conolly Folly, was reputedly built to give employment during an episode of famine. It was restored by the Irish Georgian Society in 1960.

Obelisk, Castletown, attributed to Richard Castle, March 2022. Desmond Guinness’s wife Mariga, who played a great role in the Irish Georgian Society, is buried below.
Obelisk, Castletown, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022, created in 1743.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
When we went to find the Wonderful Barn, we discovered there is not just one but in fact three Wonderful Barns!
The smaller Wonderful Barn.

As Bence-Jones tells us, Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly, to become Pakenham Conolly. Thomas and Louisa had no children, and Thomas’s sister Harriet married John Staples, and their daughter was Louisa Staples. Louisa married Thomas Pakenham (1757-1836). It was their son, Edward Michael (1786-1849) who inherited Castletown.

The house then passed to his son, another Thomas Conolly (1823-1876). He was an adventourous character who travelled widely and kept a diary. Stephen and I recently attended a viewing of portraits of Thomas and his wife Sarah Eliza, which are to be sold by Bonhams. His diary of his trip to the United States during the time of the Civil War is being published.

Thomas Conolly (1823-1876), painting by William Osbourne.
Sarah Eliza Conolly, wife of Thomas.

Sarah Eliza was the daughter of a prosperous Celbridge paper mill owner, Joseph Shaw. Her substantial dowry helped to fund her husband’s adventurous lifestyle! A photograph album which belonged to her brother Henry Shaw, of a visit to Castletown, was rescued from the rubble of his home in London when it was destroyed by a German bomb in 1944. Sadly, he died in the bombing. The photograph album is on display in Castletown.

Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.

Sarah Eliza and Thomas had four children. Thomas, born in 1870, died in the Boer War in 1900. William died at the age of 22. Edward Michael (Ted), born in 1874, lived until his death in Castletown, in 1956. Their daughter Catherine married Gerald Shapland Carew, 5th Baron Carew, the grandson of Robert Carew, 1st Baron Carew of Castleboro House, County Wexford (today an impressive ruin), and son of Shapland Francis Carew and his wife Hester Georgiana Browne, daughter of Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo.

Sarah Eliza sits reading while her daughter Catherine descends the stairs.
Photographs of the Conolly family. Thomas Conolly who died in the Boer War is pictured on the left in the striped cap.
View of Castletown House from the meadow from Henry Shaw’s album.
Sarah Eliza with Catherine and her children seated at the table in the Dining Room. William Francis in foreground.

Catherine’s son, William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994), 6th Baron Carew, inherited Casteltown, and added Conolly to his surname.

Lord William Francis Conolly-Carew relaxing in the Green Drawing Room in the 1950s.
The grounds around Castletown are beautiful and one can walk along the Liffey.
In front is a photograph of William Francis Conolly-Carew, 6th Baron Carew.
The Round House and the Gate Lodge (below) at the gates of Castletown can be rented for accommodation from the Irish Landmark Trust – see my Places to visit and stay in County Kildare page https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/.

3. 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 https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/maynooth-castle/:

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.

[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] p. xiii, Jennings, Marie-Louise and Gabrielle M. Ashford (eds.), The Letters of Katherine Conolly, 1707-1747. Irish Manuscripts Commission 2018. The editors reference TCD, MS 3974/121-125; Capel Street and environs, draft architectural conservation area (Dublin City Council) and Olwyn James, Capel Street, a study of the past, a vision of the future (Dublin, 2001), pp. 9, 13, 15-17.

[5] http://kildarelocalhistory.ie/celbridge See also my entry on Castletown House in my entry for OPW properties in Kildare, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

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

[7] 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.

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

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