www.slanecastle.ie Open in 2023: Mar 18-19, 25-26. April 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, May 5-7, June 23-25, July 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, Aug 4-6, 12-20, 25-27, Sept 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30, Oct 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29
tours 11am, 1pm, 3pm Fee: adult €14, OAP/student €12.50, child €8.40, concession group discounts available for over 3 guests, starting from 10%-32% for up to 25 guests
Today (Saturday 27th April 2019) my husband Stephen and I made our first official blog trip. We started in the “ancient east,” going to Slane Castle in County Meath. The land around the Boyne River is beautiful, rolling and fertile. It took almost exactly one hour to drive from our home in Dublin, taking the M1 which I find easier than the M2 through the city’s north side, with which I’m less familiar. Our timing was perfect, we arrived at 2:10pm, in time for the 2:15 tour – there are tours every hour on the quarter hour. 
The castle is three storeys over basement, in the Gothic Revival style. There is a bow on the back side of the castle, facing the river, and the basement serves as the ground floor on this side due to the steep slope down to the River Boyne. The bow forms a round tower, but you cannot see it as you approach the castle as the river is behind.
Our guide Matthew told us that the castle was reconstructed and enlarged by William Burton Conyngham (1733-1796). It was built on the foundations of a medieval castle of the Fleming family, replacing an earlier house. William Burton Conyngham was a classicist and the front hall features Greek columns and key patterns on the walls and many marble Greek sculptures, including a sculpture of King George IV of England, donated by the king himself.
William Burton Conyngham argued with his architects, Matthew told us, so ended up having three architects for his castle: James Gandon, James Wyatt and Francis Johnston. According to Mark Bence-Jones in A Guide to Irish Country Houses, Francis Johnston completed the house for the the second Lord Conyngham’s son, nephew of William Burton Conyngham, Henry (1766-1832), who later became the 1st Marquess Conyngham. Other architects were consulted at various times, including James Gandon, who most famously designed the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, and Emo in County Laois. Francis Johnston designed the General Post Office in Dublin, and Townley Hall, County Louth. Another architect consulted was a favourite of King George IV, the English Thomas Hopper.
In 1785 the castle was remodelled to the design of James Wyatt (1746 – 1813). Wyatt also designed another house on the section 482 list this year, Curraghmore in County Waterford, and a house not on the list, unfortunately, as I would love to see inside, Abbeyleix House (incidentally, my father grew up in Abbeyleix and we used to enjoy the gardens which used to be open and which were reknowned for the bluebells. Also, coincidentally, according to wikipedia, Wyatt spent six years in Italy, 1762–68, in company with Richard Bagot of Staffordshire, who was Secretary to the Earl of Northampton’s embassy to the Venetian Republic. My family is rumoured to be descended from the Staffordshire Bagots, although I have not found the connection!).
The Conyngham family have owned the castle since 1703.
The Flemings of Slane
The Conynghams bought the land in Slane after it was confiscated from the Flemings. In 1175, Richard Le Fleming built a castle at the western end of Slane hill and, three generations later, Simon Fleming was created Baron of Slane. 
The Conynghams did not acquire Slane directly after it was confiscated from the Flemings – Terry Trench of the Slane History and Archaeology Society writes that the estate changed hands, at least on paper, seven times between 1641 and 1703. The estate was taken from the Flemings in 1641, when William Fleming, the 14th Baron Slane, joined the Catholic Irish forces in rebellion against the British. He remained loyal to the king, but objected to the laws that the British parliament passed to make the Irish parliament subservient to the British parliament. The estate was restored to William’s son Randall under the Act of Settlement and Distribution of Charles II’s reign, by decree dated 27th March 1663.  Many estates that had been confiscated by Cromwell’s parliament were restored when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660.
The Flemings had their land confiscated again as Christopher, 17th Baron Slane (1669-1726), backed James II in his battles against William of Orange. He served in the Irish Parliament of King James II in 1689, and as colonel in James’s army in Ireland 1689-91, fighting in both the Battle of the Boyne and in Aughrim, where he was taken prisoner by William’s forces. Released, he emigrated and fought in the French and Portuguese armies, as did many of James II’s followers who were attainted and lost their estates, as they needed to be able to earn a living. He was later reconciled with Queen Anne of England (daughter of James II) and returned to Ireland, to live in Anticur, County Antrim. In 1703, Henry Conyngham purchased the estate of Slane.
The Conynghams of Slane
The Conyngham motto, Over Fork Over, recounts the way Duncan hid from Macbeth (familiar to us from Shakespeare). Matthew told us that Duncan hid in straw in a barn, having it forked over him. After that, he managed to defeat Macbeth and to become king. So the Conynghams are descendants of a Scottish king!
Alexander Conyngham moved from Scotland to Ireland when he was appointed in 1611 to be the first Protestant minister to Enver and Killymardin the diocese of Raphoe, County Donegal.  He was appointed dean of Raphoe in 1631.
He settled at Mount Charles, County Donegal, on an estate he leased from John Murray, earl of Annandale, the owner of ‘a vast estate’ in Scotland. Conyngham subsequently acquired the Mount Charles property through his marriage to the earl’s grand-neice, Marian, daughter of John Murray of Broughton, in Scotland (see ).
Alexander’s son Albert lived at Mountcharles.  Albert had fought with William III’s troops in the Battle of the Boyne, against Fleming and James II’s troops.
Albert married Mary, daughter of the Right Reverend Robert Leslie, Bishop of Raphoe – this Bishop is the ancestor of the Leslie family of Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, another property on the Section 482 list that I will be visiting. Albert was killed by Irish Royalist rebels, and succeeded by his only surviving son, Henry (1664-1705).
Henry, a military man who also served as MP for County Donegal, purchased the land in Slane in 1703.
He built himself a residence, which he called Conyngham Hall, on the foundations of an older castle formerly belonging to the Flemings.
Henry Conyngham (d. 1705) fought first in James II’s army, but then persuaded his regiment to transfer their loyalty to William III.
Henry’s son Henry (1705-1781) inherited the Slane estate. Henry became an Member of the Irish Parliament and was raised to the peerage in 1753 to the title of Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, and later became Viscount and eventually, Earl. He died without a son so the Barony passed to his nephew, William Burton (his sister Mary had married Francis Burton).
William Burton (1733-1796) took the name of Conyngham upon inheriting the estate in 1781. It was he who rebuilt Slane Castle.
His brother Francis Pierpoint Burton also who then took the name of Conyngham in 1781 as he inherited the title to become 2nd Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, Co. Donegal. He died six years later, in 1787. [see 3]. In 1750 he had married Elizabeth, the daughter of amateur architect Nathaniel Clements, whose work we will see later in other houses on the section 482 list of heritage properties. For himself, Nathaniel Clements built what is now the Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of our President, Michael D. Higgins, in Phoenix Park in Dublin.
The castle and estate passed to Francis 2nd Baron Conyngham’s son Henry (1766-1832). Henry succeeded as the 3rd Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, Co. Donegal in 1787. He served as a politician and moved quickly up the ranks of the peerage and was Lord Steward of the Royal household between 1821-30. He married Elizabeth Denison in 1794.
In 1821 King George IV visited Ireland, and he spent time in the Castle with his lover, Elizabeth, wife of Frances Pierpoint Burton Conyngham. “In return,” as our guide told us, the king made Conyngham a Marquess, although this isn’t quite true as he became Marquess in 1816. .
One of the rooms of the castle, the Smoking Room, has two cartoons from the period mocking the King and his consort Elizabeth, drawing them as overweight. In one, she aids her son when he has to move from the Castle of Windsor where he was Royal Chamberlain. It was he who announced to Victoria that she was Queen, upon death of the previous monarch. He was let go from his position when he tried to move his lover into his rooms in Windsor. His mother came to fetch him, with several wheelbarrows, the story goes, and she took all the furniture from his rooms. Somehow she brought a grand piano back from Windsor to Slane Castle where it sat in a specially made arbor for music in the Smoking room, until it was destroyed by a fire in Slane Castle in the 1990’s. One of the Punch style cartoons is of Elizabeth with a wheelbarrow fetching her son from Windsor. I can’t quite remember the other – it had King George IV and herself in a carriage. The Irish were very annoyed that when he came to Ireland he spent his entire time at Slane Castle!
The Irish Aesthete writes of the visit:
“Neither the king nor his inamorata were in the first flush of youth, and both were equally corpulent. These circumstances however did nothing to dampen their ardour. As was written of them at the time, ‘Tis pleasant at seasons to see how they sit/ First cracking their nuts, and then cracking their wit/ Then quaffing their claret – then mingling their lips/ Or tickling the fat about each other’s hips.’ And according to one contemporary observer, Lady Conyngham ‘lived exclusively with him during the whole time he was in Ireland at the Phoenix Park. When he went to Slane, she received him dressed out as for a drawing-room; he saluted her, and they then retired alone to her apartments.’” 
Our tour started with a video of Charles Conyngham, now known as Lord Mount Charles, telling of his childhood in the Castle, growing up in a very old-world upper class manner. He did not join his parents at the dining table until he was twelve years old, dining until then in the Nursery. His nurse, Margaret Browne, came to the Castle at 16 years old, and he held her in such regard that he named his bar after her.
Lord Mount Charles described how he started out, when he had to take over the Castle, with a restaurant, which is now the Gandon Restaurant. To further fund the Castle maintenance, Lord Mount Charles started concerts at the venue, beginning with Thin Lizzy in 1981. To seal the deal, the next show was the Rolling Stones! With such august imprimateur, the Castle’s concerts became world-famous and featured many top performers including David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Queen.
Henry 1st Marquess Conyngham’s son, Francis Nathaniel Burton Conyngham (1797-1876) inherited the property and the title, to become 2nd Marquess Conyngham. His daughter Frances Caroline Maria married Gustavus William Lambart (1814-1886), who we will come across later as the owner of Beauparc in County Meath, another Section 482 property https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/07/22/beauparc-house-beau-parc-navan-co-meath/ . The current owner of Slane inherited Beauparc from the Lambarts.
A son, George Henry (1825-1882) became 3rd Marquess Conyngham, and his son, Henry Francis the 4th Marquess. He married the daughter of the 4th Baron Mollens of Ventry, County Kerry. Their son the 5th Marquess died unmarried, so the title passed to his brother, Frederick William Burton, 6th Marquess. The current Marquess is the 8th, who is known as Lord Henry Mount Charles, but is officially 8th Marquess Conyngham since 2009.
A disasterous fire in the castle in 1991 destroyed the roof and one third of the castle.
The magnificent library with its intricate ceiling and impressive wooden chandelier was saved by two firemen fighting the fire from within the room, battling for nine hours. The smoke was so thick that one couldn’t see the ceiling. I think they deserve a plaque in the room to recognise their effort! Meanwhile the family saved as many priceless historic paintings and antiques as they could, including a huge portrait of King George IV that is now hanging again in the library, by cutting it from its giant gilt frame then taking the frame apart into four pieces in order to get it out through the doors. Lord Mount Charles now suffers with his lungs, probably partially as a result of long exposure to the flames and smoke. It took ten years to reconstruct the castle, but it has been done excellently so traces of the fire barely remain.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, as usual with these properties. There is a picture of the ornate roof in the library on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete .
Mark Bence-Jones describes the room in his 1988 book (published before the fire, but this room remained intact!), A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“…the great circular ballroom or library which rises through two storeys of the round tower and is undoubtedly the finest Gothic Revival room in Ireland; with a ceiling of Gothic plasterwork so delicate and elaborate that it looks like filigree. Yet this, too, is basically a Classical room; the Gothic ceiling is, in fact, a dome; the deep apses on either side of the fireplace are such as one finds in many of Wyatt’s Classical interiors, except that the arches leading into them are pointed; they are decorated with plasterwork that can be recognised as a very slightly Gothicized version of the familiar Adam and Wyatt fan pattern.“
Of the tales on the tour, I especially enjoyed the story of the funeral of a soldier’s leg. Apparently it was quite the custom to have funerals for body parts – his leg had to be amputated on the field of battle and the soldier brought it back to be buried with a full-scale military funeral. It must have been to do with the fact that a person’s body is to be resurrected on the Last Day, so it’s good to know where all the parts are! Cremation used to be forbidden in the Catholic church, as somehow it would be too difficult for God to put the ashes back together – never mind a disintegrated body!
We had lunch in the bar after the tour.
There is an adjoining distillery in what used to be the stables, and a tour of that can be purchased in combination if desired. Lord Charles’s mother bred horses before the stables were converted. The stables were designed by Capability Brown.
According to the Irish Aesthete:
“Henry Conyngham, grandson of General Henry Conyngham who purchased the property, around 1770 invited Capability Brown around 1770 to produce a design both for the landscaping of the parkland at Slane, and also for a new stable block. In the collection of the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin a drawing survives of Brown’s proposal for the latter. It is not unlike the finished building, but more elaborate than what we see today.” 
I found a blog by the Irish Aesthete on a portrait now in Slane, of Lady Elizabeth wife of the first Marqess’s daughter, Lady Maria Conyngham. Reportedly Lady Elizabeth looked very like her daughter – which one would not guess from the unflattering cartoons of her! 
Help me to fund my creation 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! For this entry I paid for petrol and entrance fee for myself and Stephen.
“She probably became his [George IV’s] lover in 1819, when he was Prince Regent, but finally supplanted her predecessor, Isabella Seymour-Conway, Marchioness of Hertford, after he became king in 1820. He became besotted with her, constantly “kissing her hand with a look of most devoted submission.” While his wife Caroline of Brunswick was on trial in 1820 as part of efforts to divorce her, the king could not be seen with Lady Conyngham and was consequently “bored and lonely.” During his coronation, George was constantly seen “nodding and winking” at her. “Lady Conyngham’s liaison with the king benefited her family. Her husband was raised to the rank of a marquess in the Peerage of the United Kingdom and sworn to the Privy Council, in the coronation honours of 1821. He was also given several other offices, including Lord Steward of the Household and the lieutenancy of Windsor Castle. Her second son was made Master of the Robes and First Groom of the Chamber.”
10. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway€
11. Currarevagh, Oughterard, Co Galway – country house hotel€€
12. Delphi Lodge, Leenane, Co Galway€€€
13. Emlaghmore Cottage, Connemara, County Galway€
14. Glenlo Abbey, near Galway, Co Galway – accommodation
15. Kilcolgan Castle, Clarinbridge, Co Galway
16. Lisdonagh House, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway– section 482, see above
17. Lough Cutra Castle, County Galway, holiday cottages
18. Lough Ina Lodge Hotel, County Galway€
19. Oranmore Lodge Hotel(previously Thorn Park), Oranmore, Co Galway
20. The Quay House, Clifden, Co Galway
21. Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway – hotel
22. Rosleague Manor, Galway – accommodation€
23. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway
24. Ross Lake House Hotel, Oughterard, County Galway
25. Screebe House, Camus Bay, County Galway€€€
Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:
1. Carraigin Castle, County Galway – sleeps 10
2. Cloghan Castle, near Loughrea, County Galway – whole castle accommodation and weddings, €€€ for two.
1. Ardamullivan Castle, Galway – national monument, to be open to public in future – check status
“The castle is a is a restored six storey tower house. Part of the original defensive wall remains. Ardamullivan Castle was built in the 16th century by the O’Shaughnessy family. Although there is no history of the exact date of when the castle was built, it is believed it was built in the 16th century as it was first mentioned in 1567 due to the death of Sir Roger O’Shaughnessey who held the castle at the time.
Sir Roger was succeeded by his brother Dermot, ‘the Swarthy’, known as ‘the Queen’s O’Shaughnessy’ due to his support shown to the Crown. Dermot became very unpopular among the public and even among his own family after he betrayed Dr Creagh, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, who had sought refuge in the woods on O’Shaughnessy territory.
Tensions came to a boil in 1579, when John, the nephew of Dermot, fought with Dermot outside the south gate of the castle in dispute over possession of the castle. Both men were killed in the fight. After this period the castle fell into ruin until the last century where it was restored to its former glory.” 
“Coole Park, in the early 20th century, was the centre of the Irish Literary Revival. William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge and Sean O’ Casey all came to experience its magic. They and many others carved their initials on the Autograph Tree, an old Copper beech still standing in the walled garden today.
At that time it was home to Lady Gregory, dramatist and folklorist. She is perhaps best known as a co-founder of the Abbey Theatre with Edward Martyn of nearby Tullira Castle and Nobel prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats. The seven woods celebrated by W.B. Yeats are part of the many kilometres of nature trails taking in woods, river, turlough, bare limestone and Coole lake.
At Coole, we invite you to investigate for yourself the magic and serenity of this unique landscape. Although the house no longer stands, you can still appreciate the environment that drew so many here. You will experience the natural world that Yeats captured in his poetry. Through this website, you can learn about this special place and its wildlife, as well as Gregory family history and literary connections.“
The website tells us: “Nestled in the heart of Connemara, on the Wild Atlantic Way, Kylemore Abbey is a haven of history, beauty and serenity. Home to a Benedictine order of Nuns for the past 100 years, Kylemore Abbey welcomes visitors from all over the world each year to embrace the magic of the magnificent 1,000-acre estate.“
“Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman, and liberal politician. Inspired by his love for his wife Margaret, and his hopes for his beloved Ireland, Henry created an estate boasting ‘all the innovations of the modern age’. An enlightened landlord and vocal advocate of the Irish people, Henry poured his life’s energy into creating an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara. Today Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine community who have been in residence here since 1920.
Come to Kylemore and enjoy the new visitor experience in the Abbey, From Generation to Generation…..the story of Kylemore Abbey. Experience woodland and lakeshore walks, magnificent buildings and Ireland’s largest Walled Garden. Enjoy wholesome food and delicious home-baking in our Café or Garden Tea House. History talks take place three times a day in the Abbey and tours of the Walled Garden take place throughout the summer. Browse our Craft and Design Shop for unique gifts including Kylemore Abbey Pottery and award-winning chocolates handmade by the Benedictine nuns. Discover the beauty, history, and romance of Ireland’s most intriguing estate in the heart of the Connemara countryside.“
“Although Mitchell Henry was born in Manchester he proudly proclaimed that every drop of blood that ran in his veins was Irish. The son of a wealthy Manchester cotton merchant of Irish origin, Mitchell was a skilled pathologist and eye surgeon. In fact, before he was thirty years of age, he had a successful Harley Street practise and is known to have been one of the youngest ever speakers at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
On his father’s death, Mitchell inherited a hugely successful family business and became one of the wealthiest young men in Britain at the time. Mitchell lost no time in quitting his medical career and turning instead to liberal politics where he felt he could change the world for the better. His newfound wealth allowed him to buy Kylemore Lodge and construct the castle and enabled him to bring change, employment, and economic growth to the Connemara region which was at the time stricken with hunger, disease, and desperation.
On exiting the castle, turn around and look up, you will notice the beautiful carved angel which guards over it. In the hands of that angel is the coat of arms of Margaret Henry’s birth family, the Vaughan’s of County Down. Margaret’s arms over the front door proudly proclaim this as her castle. Look more closely and you will also see charming carvings of birds which were a favourite motif of the Henry’s. The birds represented the Henry’s hope that Kylemore would become the ‘nesting’ place of their family. Indeed, Kylemore did provide an idyllic retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in London where, even for the very wealthy, life was made difficult by the polluted atmosphere caused by the Industrial Age.
At Kylemore Margaret, Mitchell and their large family revelled in the outdoor life of the ‘Connemara Highlands’. Margaret took on the role of the country lady and became much loved by the local tenants. Her passion for travel and eye for beauty were reflected in the sumptuous interiors where Italian and Irish craftsmen worked side by side to create the ‘family nest’. Sadly the idyllic life did not last long for the Henrys. In 1874 just a few years after the castle was completed, the Henry family departed Kylemore for a luxurious holiday in Egypt. Margaret was struck ill while travelling and despite all efforts, nothing could be done. After two weeks of suffering Margaret had died. She was 45 years old and her youngest daughter, Violet, was just two years of age. Mitchell was heartbroken. Margaret’s body was beautifully embalmed in Cairo before being returned to Kylemore. According to local lore Margaret lay in a glass coffin which was placed beneath the grand staircase in the front hall, where family and tenants alike could come to pay their respects. In an age when all funerals were held in the home, this is not as unusual as it may first seem. In time Margaret’s remains were placed in a modest red brick mausoleum in the woodlands of her beloved Kylemore.
Although Henry remained on at Kylemore life for him there was never the same again. His older children helped him to manage the estate and care for the younger ones, as he attempted to continue his vision for improvements and hold on to his political career. By now he had become a prominent figure in Irish politics and was a founding member of Isaac Butt’s Home Rule movement. In 1878 work began on the neo-Gothic Church which was built as a beautiful and lasting testament to Henry’s love for his wife. Margaret’s remains were, for some reason, never moved to the vaults beneath the church and to this day she lays alongside Mitchell in the little Mausoleum nestled in the Kylemore woodlands.
The Kylemore Estate, like the rest of Connemara, was made up of mountain, lakes and bog. In keeping with his policy of improvement and advancement, Henry began reclaiming bogland almost immediately and encouraged his tenants to do likewise. Forty years under the guiding hand of Mitchell Henry turned thousands of acres of waste land into the productive Kylemore Estate. He developed the Kylemore Estate as a commercial and political experiment and the result brought material and social benefits to the entire region and left a lasting impression on the landscape and in the memory of the local people. Mitchell Henry introduced many improvements for the locals who were recovering from the Great Irish Famine, providing work, shelter and later a school for his workers children. He represented Galway in the House of Commons for 14 years and put great passion and effort into rallying for a more proactive and compassionate approach to the “Irish problem”. Mitchell Henry gave the tenants at Kylemore a landlord hard to be equalled not just in Connemara but throughout Ireland.
Despite the tragedies that befell the family and Mitchell’s hard work, life at Kylemore was certainly very luxurious. The castle itself was beautifully decorated and provided all that was needed for a family used to a lavish London lifestyle. The Walled Gardens provided a wide range of fruit and vegetables that included luxuries unthinkable to ordinary Irish people such as grapes, nectarines, melons and even bananas. Fruit and vegetable grown at Kylemore were often served at the Henry’s London dinner parties. Salmon caught in Kylemore’s lakes could also be wrapped in cabbage leaves and posted to London where they made a novel addition to the table. As well as a well-equipped kitchen, Kylemore also had several pantries, an ice house, fish and meat larder and a beer and wine cellar. The still room was used for a myriad of ingenious way to preserve and store food stuffs throughout the year.
Guests at Kylemore were presented with a bouquet of violets to be worn at dinner. Violets were a craze in Victorian London as they represented loyalty and friendship. Kylemore castle was well equipped for entertaining and throughout the Salmon season from march to September the Henry’s welcomed many guests from Manchester and London. After dinner, entertainment was provided in the beautiful ballroom with its sprung oak floor for dancing with much of the music and plays being performed by the family themselves.
The older Henry sons enjoyed such pastimes as photography and keeping exotic pets. Alexander Henry is responsible for many of the black and white photographs displayed at Kylemore today. His darkroom was located where Mitchell’s Café stands today. Lorenzo Henry kept a building called the ‘Powder House’ where he experimented with explosives. Indeed, Lorenzo had a brilliant mind like his father’s and went on to develop a number of successful inventions including the Henrite Cartridge for pigeon shooting. All of the family, including the girls enjoyed the outdoor life of fishing, shooting and horse riding. But the family were to suffer heartbreak again when Mitchell’s daughter Geraldine, was to be killed in a tragic carriage accident on the estate while out for a jaunt with her baby daughter and nurse. Both Geraldine’s daughter Elizabeth, and the baby’s nurse survived the accident but Geraldine’s death deeply affected the Henry Family and their connection to Kylemore.
The Henry family eventually left Kylemore in 1902 when the estate was sold to the ninth Duke of Manchester. Mitchell Henry lived to be 84 years old but heartbreak had taken its toll and Mitchel died an aloof individual with a meagre sum of £700 in the bank.”
In 1903, Mitchell Henry sold Kylemore Castle to the Duke of Manchester (William Angus Drogo Montague) and his Duchess of Manchester, Helena Zimmerman. They lived a lavish lifestyle financed by the Duchess’ wealthy father, the American businessman, Eugene Zimmerman.
On arrival at Kylemore in Connemara the couple set about a major renovation, removing much of the Henry’s Italian inspired interiors and making the castle more suitable for the lavish entertainments that they hoped to stage in their new home, including an anticipated visit from their friend King Edward VII.
The renovation included the removal of the beautiful German stained-glass window in the staircase hall and ripping out large quantities of Italian and Connemara marble. Local people were unhappy with the developments and felt the changes represented a desecration of the memory of the much-loved Margaret Henry and her beloved Kylemore Castle.
Born in March 1877, William Montagu – the Duke was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, and succeeded his father when he was still a minor. The Duke inherited a grand estate which included lavish residences such as Tanderagee Castle in Co. Armagh and Kimbolton Castle in Huntington, England. However, his inheritance, which was administered by trustees was heavily indebted and together with his lavish lifestyle meant that by the age of 23 the Duke was bankrupt. When in 1900 the Duke married the Cincinatti born heiress, Helena Zimmerman, it seemed that his money problems could be forgotten. As Helena’s parents frowned on the relationship the couple eloped to Paris where they were married – a suitably glamorous start to the marriage of this sparkling and often talked about pair. It is thought that Helena’s father hoped the life of a country squire at Kylemore would help the Duke to leave behind his days of gambling and partying but this was not to be. The Duke and Duchess left Kylemore in 1914 following the death of Helena’s father. There were many stories in circulation which claimed that the Duke lost Kylemore in a late-night gambling session in the Castle however it seems more likely that following the death of Eugene Zimmerman there were insufficient funds available to the Duke to maintain the Kylemore estate.“
“Beginning in Brussels in 1598, following the suppression of religious houses in the British Isles when British Catholics left England and opened religious houses abroad, a number of monasteries originated from one Benedictine house in Brussels, founded by Lady Mary Percy. Houses founded from Lady Mary’s house in Brussels were at Cambray in France (now Stanbrook in England) and at Ghent (now Oulton Abbey) in Staffordshire. Ghent in turn founded several Benedictine Houses, one of which was at Ypres. Kylemore Abbey is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. The community of nuns, who have resided here since 1920, have a long history stretching back almost three hundred and forty years. Founded in Ypres, Belgium, in 1665, the house was formally made over to the Irish nation in 1682.The purpose of the abbey at Ypres was to provide an education and religious community for Irish women during times of persecution here in Ireland.
Down through the centuries, Ypres Abbey attracted the daughters of the Irish nobility, both as students and postulants, and enjoyed the patronage of many influential Irish families living in exile.
At the request of King James II the nuns moved to Dublin in 1688. However, they returned to Ypres following James’s defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The community finally left Ypres after the Abbey was destroyed in the early days of World War One. The community first took refuge in England, and later in Co Wexford before eventually settling in Kylemore in December 1920.
At Kylemore, the nuns reopened their international boarding school and established a day school for local girls. They also ran a farm and guesthouse; the guesthouse was closed after a devastating fire in 1959. In 2010, the Girl’s Boarding School was closed and the nuns have since been developing new education and retreat activities.“
Display board from exhibition in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is compiling a Garden Survey.
“Kylemore Abbey’s Victorian Walled Garden is an oasis of ordered splendour in the wild Connemara Countryside. Developed along with the Castle in the late 1800s it once boasted 21 heated glasshouses and a workforce of 40 gardeners. One of the last walled gardens built during the Victorian period in Ireland it was so advanced for the time that it was compared in magnificence with Kew Gardens in London.
Comprised of roughly 6 acres, the Garden is divided in two by a beautiful mountain stream. The eastern half includes the formal flower garden, glasshouses the head gardener’s house and the garden bothy. The western part of the garden includes the vegetable garden, herbaceous border, fruit trees, a rockery and herb garden. Leaving the Garden by the West Gate you can visit the plantation of young oak trees, waiting to be replanted around the estate. The Garden also contains a shaded fernery, an important feature of any Victorian Garden. Follow our self-guiding panels through the garden and learn more about its intriguing history and the extensive restoration work that it took to return the garden to its former glory after falling into disrepair.
Today Kylemore is a Heritage Garden displaying only plant varieties from the Victorian era. The bedding is changed twice a year, for Spring and Summer and its colours change throughout the year. Be sure to visit us and fall in love with a garden that is surely the jewel in Connemara’s Crown.“
8. The Grammer School, College Road, Galway– section 482
www.yeatscollege.ie Open dates in 2023: May 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, June 10-11, July 1-31, Aug 1-20, 9am-5pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 12 free
The National Inventory tells us about it under the heading of Yeats College. I am not sure why the Revenue section 482 spells is “Grammer” rather than “Grammar” but as it is listed as that every year, I defer to their spelling!
“Freestanding H-plan five-bay three-storey school with basement, built 1815, having slightly advanced gable-fronted end bays to front, and having recent addition to rear… Round-headed recesses to end bays and to ground floor of middle bays. Tripartite Diocletian windows to top floor of end bays, their recesses encompassing blind square-headed openings to first floor…Square-headed door opening to front within segmental-headed recess, having replacement timber panelled door within tooled limestone doorcase comprising moulded limestone surround surmounted by panelled blocks and moulded cornice framing paned overlight and flanked by paned timber sidelights with chamfered limestone surround.
This large-scale former school retains its original character. Designed by Richard Morrison in 1807, the school was named after Erasmus Smith who founded the original grammar school, located at the courthouse, in 1699. The building displays a host of classical architectural features and a variety of window types. Its impressive scale on the main approach to the city from the east makes it one of the most significant buildings in the city.” 
This was the home of Violet Martin, one half of the Somerville and Ross partnership of writers, with Edith Somerville.
The website tells us of the house, which is open to accommodation:
“Ross Castle offers refined elegance for your special occasion or memorable holiday. The distinctive ambience of the Castle’s grand rooms and self catering cottages, accented with beautiful antique furnishings, will captivate you and up to 40 guests. This 120 acre estate is nestled in a picturesque setting of mountains, lake, and parkland.
Constructed in 1539 by The “Ferocious” O’Flahertys, one of the most distinguished tribes of Galway, the property was later acquired by the Martin Family who built the present manor house upon the former castle’s foundation. After two fires and much neglect, the McLaughlin family acquired the property in the 1980s and have spent the past several decades restoring the estate to its present splendour.
Upon entering the estate you are immediately awestruck by the grand front lawn; undulating to the lake and Parkland.
From the Castle’s courtyard cottages and through the carriage entrance, a gothic archway entices you to explore the walled in Gardens.
Stroll along the herbaceous bordered pathways while taking in the beauty and tranquility of your surroundings, shadowed by 6 massive yew trees hundreds of years old. Giant box hedges create unexpected surprises around every turn: stone sculptures, a red-brick pond, greenhouse, urns and statuary.“
“Thoor Ballylee is a fine and well-preserved fourteenth-century tower but its major significance is due to its close association with his fellow Nobel laureate for Literature, the poet W.B.Yeats. It was here the poet spent summers with his family and was inspired to write some of his finest poetry, making the tower his permanent symbol. Due to serious flood damage in the winter of 2009/10 the tower was closed for some years. A local group the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society has come together and are actively seeking funds to ensure its permanent restoration. Because of an ongoing fundraising effort and extensive repair and restoration work, the tower and associated cottages can be viewed year round, and thanks to our volunteers are open for the summer months, complete with a new Yeats Thoor Ballylee exhibition for visitors to enjoy.“
14.Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden– section 482, garden only
Open dates in 2023: Feb 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, Mar 3-6, June 2-5, 9-11,16-18, 23-25, 30, July 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, Aug 4-6, 11-20, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult/OAP €8, Tours €10, student, €6, child €4
The website tells us Woodville is home to a restored walled kitchen garden along with a museum outlining the fascinating connection to Lady Augusta Gregory at Woodville. “Come for a visit to this romantic secret garden in the West of Ireland and enjoy the sights, scents and colours contained within the original stone walls.“
“The D’Arcy family most certainly have been at Woodville in 1750 when Francis D’Arcy left his initials on the keystone in the garden arch. The most famous member of the D’Arcy family to live at Woodville was Robert, who held the position of land agent to the estate of the first Marquis of Clanricarde for over 30 years – including the famine period. He does not seem to have been a popular figure in the local area, carrying out his duties with no small amount of vigour. After Robert’s death the estate passed to Francis Nicholas D’Arcy. He lived quietly at Woodville until his death in 1879.
For the next 25 years little is known about Woodville. From the 1901 census we learn that Catherine Kelly was occupying the house and Lord Clanricarde was the landowner.
On the 1st of May 1904 Henry Persse [1855-1928, brother of Augusta, who married William Henry Gregory of Coole Park] leased Woodville house and farm, which comprised of 460 acres, for a period of 29 years from the Marquise of Clanricarde. Henry Persse was the seventh son of Dudley Persse of Roxborogh, Kilchreest He was born on 14th of October 1855 and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He went to India and served in the Indian police for some years, stationed at Madras. Coming into a legacy he returned to Ireland and married Eleanor Ada Beadon in 1888. They had two sons, Lovaine and Dermot, both born in Kilchreest.
The grandparents of the present owners, Pat and Maria Donohue, took over the running of Woodville house and farm, and took a lease out on the farm in 1916 and purchased it outright in 1920. It is from the memories of their oldest daughter. Maureen Donohue, known as Sr. Austin of The Mercy Convent, Loughrea, that it was possible to collect information about what was grown in the walled garden at the time her parents came Maureen was just 3 years of age and her first memory as a child is of visiting the garden with her father and being given a lovely ripe peach picked from a tree by Harry Persse. There was an abundance of fruit trees of all different varieties at Wooville: peaches, pears, plums, greengage, damsons, cherries, quince, meddlers and apples, Cox’s Orange Pippins, Summers Eves, Brambly Seedlings, Beauty of Bath.
Leading from the steps to the centre of the garden was an arch covered with climbing roses and in front of this were two bamboo trees on either side of the entrance. The central paths were lined with iron railings and box hedging. The garden was planted with poppies, lily of the valley, daffodils, snowdrops, and bluebells. It took four men to maintain the garden at Woodville and the head gardeners name was Tap Mannion and the cook in the house was Mary Lamb.Soft fruits included red and green gooseberries, Tay berries, loganberries, red and white currants and raspberries. There was also a fig tree in the south – east corner of the garden – demonstrating just what a microclimate the walls create.”
The Visit Galway website tells us “Built in 1832 by John d’Arcy, Abbeyglen Castle was shortly after leased to the then parish priest, and was named ‘Glenowen House’.
The castle was later purchased for use as a Protestant orphanage by the Irish Church Mission Society. Here girls would have been trained for domestic service. In 1953, the orphanage became a mixed orphanage until 1955, where it closed due to financial difficulties.
The castle fell derelict and was home to livestock for some time. It was then purchased by Padraig Joyce of Clifden and became a hotel. The castle continued to operate as a hotel after the Hughes family took over in 1969 and still remains a prestigious hotel to this day.” 
2. Ardilaun House Hotel(formerly Glenarde), Co Galway – hotel €
The Landed Estates database tells us it was the town house of the Persse family, built in the mid 19th century, bought by the Bolands of Bolands biscuits in the 1920s and since the early 1960s has functioned as the Ardilaun House Hotel.
3. Ashford Castle, Cong, Galway/Mayo – hotel – see County Mayo. €€€
“Welcome to Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, one of Ireland’s finest luxury castle hotels. Voted #6 Resort Hotel in in the UK & Ireland by Travel & Leisure and #3 in Ireland by the readers of Condé Nast magazine. Set in a private 700 acre estate of woodland, rivers and walks in the heart of Connemara, Co. Galway. This authentic and unpretentious Castle Hotel stands proudly overlooking its famous salmon fishery, with a backdrop of the beautiful 12 Bens Mountain range.
During your stay relax in your beautifully appointed bedroom or suite with wonderful views, wake up to the sound of the river meandering past your window before enjoying breakfast in the elegant restaurant, which was voted the best in Ireland in April 2017 by Georgina Campbell.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes:
p. 25. “[Martin/IFR, Berridge/IFR] A long, many-windowed house built in late C18 by Richard Martin [1754-1834], who owned so much of Connemara that he could boast to George IV that he had “an approach from his gatehouse to his hall of thirty miles length” and who earned the nickname “Humanity Dick” for founding the RSPCA.
When Maria Edgeworth came here 1833 the house had a “battlemented front” and “four pepperbox-looking towers stuck on at each corner”; but it seemed to her merely a “whitewashed dilapidated mansion with nothing of a castle about it.” The “pepperbox-looking towers” no longer exist; but both the front entrance and the 8 bay garden front have battlements, stepped gables, curvilinear dormers and hood mouldings; as does the end elevation.
The principal rooms are low for their size. Entrance hall with mid-C19 plasterwork in ceiling. Staircase hall beyond; partly curving stair with balustrade of plain slender uprights. Long drawing room in garden front, oval of C18 plasterowrk foliage in ceiling, rather like the plasterwork at Castle Ffrench. Also reminiscent of Castle Ffrench are the elegant mouldings, with concave corners, in the panelling of the door and window recesses. The principal rooms still have their doors of “magnificently thick well-moulded mahogany” which Maria Edgeworth thought “gave an air at first sight of grandeur” though she complained that “not one of them would shut or keep open a single instant.” The drawing room now has a C19 chimneypiece of Connemara marble. The dining room has an unusually low fireplace, framed by a pair of Ionic half-columns. Humanity Dick was reknowned for his extravagant way of life, and in order to escape his creditors he retired to Bologne, where he died. He left the family estates heavily mortgaged, with the result that his granddaughter and eventual heiress, Mary Letitia Martin, known as “The Princess of Connemara” was utterly ruined after the Great Famine, when Ballynahinch and the rest of her property was sold by the Emcumbered Estates Court; she and her husband being obliged to emigrate to America, where she died in childbirth soon after her arrival Ballynahinch was bought by Richard Berridge, whose son sold it in 1925; after which it was acquired by the famous cricketer Maharaja Ranhisinhji, Jam Sahib of Nawanagar. It is now a hotel.”
6. Cashel House, Cashel, Connemara, Co Galway – hotel€€
The website tells us: “A perfect start on your venture on the Wild Atlantic Way, Cashel House Hotel overlooks the majestic Cashel Bay on the west coast of Ireland. Here a traditional welcome awaits guests in this classic country house retreat. Built in the 19th century this gracious country home was converted to a family run four star hotel in 1968 by the McEvilly family. Situated in the heart of Connemara and nestling in the peaceful surroundings of 50 acres of gardens and woodland walks this little bit of paradise offers an ideal base from which to enjoy walking, beaches, sea and lake fishing, golf and horse riding.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 293. “(Browne-Clayton/IFR) A house of ca 1850, asymmetrical gabled elevations, built by Captain [Thomas] Hazel [or Hazell] for his land agent, Geoffrey Emerson, [a great great grandfather of the current owner] who is said to have designed it. From 1921-52 the home of the O’Meara family who remodelled the interior with chimneypieces salvaged from Dublin and laid out most of the garden. In 1952 it became the house of Lt-Col and Mrs William Patrick Browne-Clayton, formerly of Browne’s Hill, who gave the garden its notable collection of fuschias. Cashels is now owned by Mr and Mrs Dermot McEvilly, who run it as a hotel.”
The website continues the history:
“From 1919 to 1951 Cashel House was the home of Jim O`Mara T.D. and his family. Jim O`Mara was the first official representative of Ireland in the United States and he devoted his life and talents to make Ireland a nation. Jim O`Mara was a keen botanist and found happiness in Cashel House.
Over the years he carried out a lot of work on the Gardens. The three streams, which flow through the Garden, were a delight to him with their banks clothed with bog plants and Spirea & Osmunda ferns. O`Mara turned the orchard field into a walled garden of rare trees, Azaleas, Heather’s and dwarf Rhododendrons, which his children named ‘the Secret Garden’.
In 1952 Cashel House became the home of Lt Col and Mrs Brown Clayton, formerly of Brownes Hill in Carlow. During their time at Cashel House the Browne Clayton’s had Harold McMillian, the late British Prime Minister, stay as their guest. The Browne Clayton’s also gave the Garden its notable collection of Fuchisas.
Dermot and Kay McEvilly purchased Cashel House in 1967. Total refurbishment began immediately, with a fine collection of antiques being added and offering all modern facilities. The house reopened in May 1968 and ‘Cashel House Hotel’ was born.“
“CastleHacket House, steeped in Irish History. Built in 1703 by John Kirwan Mayor of Galway, the house is surrounded by nature and is very quiet and peaceful. Join in one of our “quiet “Yoga Classes, hike Connemara, stroll Knockma Woods, explore the lakes – world Famous for brown Trout fishing, or simply relax in the beautiful Park and Gardens.
We are environmentally friendly and support green living, health and wellbeing.
Ground Floor, West wing Guest Apartment in Historic CastleHacket House. Tastefully decorated, your own private door leads to 2 bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen-dining room. Tea and coffee facilities available and breakfast is included.
Guest access to: Library, Reception/Lounge Room, Dining Room with tea and coffee facilaties, Sun Room, Outdoor Picnic area with bbq/pizza wood fired oven. Extensive gardens and woods. Safe car parking. Undercover area for Motorbikes and bicycles. Yoga classes and therapeutic Baths (extra cost). Wifi. Use of water hose, dry place to hang wet gear.“
Castlehacket takes its name from the Hackett family who owned the land prior to the Kirwans.
Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):
p. 70. “[Kirwan, sub Paley; Bernard, sub Bandon; Paley 1969] An early C18 centre block of 3 storeys over a basement, with 2 storey wings added later in C18, and a late C19 wing at the back. Burnt 1923; rebuilt 1928-9, without one of C18 wings and the top storey of the centre block. The seat of the Kirwans, inherited by Mrs. P.B. Bernard (nee Kirwan) 1875. Passed from Lt Gen Sir Denis Barnard 1956 to his nephew Percy Paley, who had a notable genealogical library here.”
The National Inventory describes it: “two-storey country house over basement, built c.1760 and rebuilt 1929 after being burnt in 1923. Eight-bay entrance front faces north onto large courtyard with gateway, has one-bay projections to each side of entrance bay, flat-roofed porch between projections, and two-bay east side elevation, and with slightly lower four-bay two-storey over basement service wing at west side and stables at east. Seven-bay garden front faces south, with pair of full-height canted bows on either side of central two bays, and is continued by slightly lower three-bay two-storey over basement block terminating in further rounded corner bay, to join with four-bay two-storey over basement service wing on west side of courtyard…Garden front has render frieze to parapet, with medallions separated by fluting…Porch has open arch to exterior, supported on columns with Temple of the Winds-style capitals, and approached by flight of steps. West bow of garden front has round-headed doorway with glazed timber door and fanlight and approached by three limestone steps. Garden to south of house bounded by low hedge, with parkland and sheep grazing beyond.
This large country house displays mid-eighteenth-century, nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century work. The modestly presented front elevation is enhanced by the projecting bays and arched entrance. The brick bows to the garden elevation contrast nicely with the plain rendered walls elsewhere, and the decorated frieze and other details add interest and incident. The large lower block and service wing greatly enlarged the house and the fine accompanying stable block and demesne gateways provide a setting of considerable quality and interest.“
“Stay in one of our five beautiful rooms (Old Mill Rooms, Salmon Pool & Abbey Rooms). The River Room is situated beside the Castle on the banks of the River Clare in the village of Claregalway. Just 10km from Galway City Centre and within walking distance of a bus stop, restaurants/bars and the stunning Abbey. This family room is very comfortable with under-floor heating and luxurious bedding. Includes complimentary wine, tea/coffee & a generous continental breakfast.
Claregalway Castle is a fully restored 15th century Anglo-Norman tower house and together with the castle grounds is a fabulous opportunity to savour the history while enjoying the comfort of your beautifully decorated and comfortable room.“
The website tells us:
“Claregalway Castle is a fully restored 15th century Anglo-Norman tower house. Situated on the banks of the River Clare, in Claregalway village, on the N17 road, the castle is just under 10 km from Galway City. The castle is open to the public daily from June to September, 12 noon to 4 pm, Thursday – Sunday inclusive.
Claregalway castle was the chief fortress of the powerful Clanricard de Burgo or Burke family from the early 1400s to the mid-1600s. The Clanricard Burkes were descended from William de Burgh, an English knight of Norman ancestry who led the colonial expansion into Connacht in the early 1200s. His brother Hubert was Justiciar of England. William became the progenitor of one of the most illustrious families in Ireland.
Exploring Claregalway castle and its environs through a guided tour, visitors can find out about its fascinating, often bloody, six-hundred-year history. Visitors can also discover some of the castle’s secrets, learn what everyday life in a medieval Irish castle was like, and hear about the colourful characters who once lived there, such as the 1st Earl of Clanricard, Ulick Burke, in Irish Uileag na gCeann (‘Ulick of the heads/the beheader’), Ladies Eustacia Fitzgerald and Honora de Burgo, the notorious Cromwellian commander Sir Charles Coote, the great Hollywood actor Orson Welles and many more.“
The visit Galway website tells us: “Claregalway Castle was believed to have been built in the 1440’s as a stronghold to the De Burgo (Burke) family. The castle was strategically placed on a low crossing point of the Clare River, allowing the De Burgo family to control the water and land trade routes.
In the past, the castle would have featured a high bawn/defensive wall, an imposing gate-house and a moat. The Battle of Knockdoe in 1504, was one of the largest pitched battles in Medieval Irish history, involving an estimated 10,000 combatants. On the eve of the battle, Ulick Finn Burke stayed at the Castle (which was 5km’s from the battle ground), drinking and playing cards with his troops. The Burke family lost the battle and the castle was later captured by the opponents, the Fitzgerald family.
In the 1600’s, Ulick Burke, 5th Earl of Clanricarde [1st Marquess Clanricarde], held the castle however it was captured by Oliver Cromwell in 1651 who made the castle his headquarters. English military garrison occupied the castle in the early 1700’s and by the end of the 1700’s, the castle was described as going into decline and disrepair. During the War of Independence in 1919-21, the British once again used the castle as a garrison and a prison for I.R.A soldiers. In the later 1900’s, the famous actor Orson Welles is believed to have stayed at the castle as a 16 year old boy.
Today, the castle has been fully restored to its former glory.” 
The listing tells us that “Cregg Castle is a magical place built in 1648 by the Kirwin Family, one of the 12 tribes of Galway. It is set on 180 acres of pasture and beautiful woodlands. Your host, Artist Alan Murray who currently hosts the Gallery of Angels in the main rooms.“
Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):
p. 94. “A tower house built 1648 by a member of the Kirwan family [I think it was Patrick Kirwan (c. 1625-1679)]. And said to have been the last fortified dwelling to be built west of the Shannon; given sash-windows and otherwise altered in Georgian times, and enlarged with a wing on either side: that to the right being as high as the original building, and with a gable; that to the left being lower, and battlemented. In C18 it was the home of the great chemist and natural philosopher Richard Kirwan [1733-1812], whose laboratory, now roofless, still stands in the garden. It was acquired ca 1780 by James Blake [c. 1755-1818].”
Richard Kirwan married Anne Blake, daughter of Thomas (1701-1749), 7th Baronet Blake of Galway.
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The hall, entered through a rusticated round-headed doorway with a perron and double steps, has a black marble chimneypiece with the Blake coat of arms. The dining room has a plasterwork ceiling. Sold 1947 by Mrs Christopher Kerins (nee Blake) to Mr and Mrs Alexander Johnston. Re-sold 1972 to Mr Martin Murray, owner of the Salthill Hotel, near Galway.”
Alan who now lives in the castle is, I believe, a nephew of Martin Murray of the Salthill Hotel.
The National Inventory describes it:
“multi-period house, comprising tower house of 1648 at centre, later modified and refenestrated to three-bay two-storey over half-basement, flanked to west by lower two-bay two-storey with attic over half-basement block of c.1780 with two-bay gable elevation, and to east by slightly lower three-bay three-storey over half-basement L-plan block of c. 1870 with gables over eastmost bay of front and rear elevations. Lower four-storey return block at right angles to rear of middle and west blocks, having two-bay elevations. Further two-bay single-storey block to rear of four-storey return, two-bay two-storey block to west of west block and with single-storey block further west again.“
10. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway€
“Crocnaraw Country House is an Irish Georgian Country Guest House (note we’re not a Hotel as such) by Ballinakill Bay,10 kilometres from Clifden, Connemara-on the Galway-Westport road.Set in 8 hectares of gardens and fields with fine views,Crocnaraw Country House has been winner of the National Guest House Gardens Competition for 4 years. This independently run Country Inn is noted for Irish hospitality and informality but without a sense of casualness.The House is tastefully and cheerfully decorated, each of its bedrooms being distinctively furnished to ensure the personal well-being of Guests. Fully licensed Crocnaraw Country House’s excellent cuisine is based on locally sourced fish and meat as well as eggs,fresh vegetables, salads and fruits from kitchen garden and orchard. Moyard is centrally located for Salmon and Trout fishing, deep-sea Angling, Championship Golf-Courses and many more recreational activities in the Clifden and Letterfrack Region of Connemara in County Galway.”
The National Inventory tells us that the house is a L-plan six-bay two-storey two-pile house, built c.1850, having crenellated full-height canted bay to south-east side elevation. Recent flat-roof two-storey extension to north-east…”Originally named Rockfield House, this building has undergone many alterations over time, the crenellated bay being an interesting addition. The area was leased by Thomas Butler as a Protestant orphanage and was known locally as ‘The Forty Boys’. The retention of timber sash windows enhances the building. The road entrance sets the house off plesantly.“
11. Currarevagh, Oughterard, Co Galway – country house hotel€€
“Currarevagh House is a gracious early Victorian Country House, set in 180 acres of private parkland and woodland bordering on Lough Corrib. We offer an oasis of privacy for guests in an idyllic, undisturbed natural environment, providing exceptional personal service with a high standard of accommodation and old fashioned, traditional character. A genuine warm welcome from the owners.“
“Currarevagh House was built by the present owner’s great, great, great, great grandfather in 1842, however our history can be traced further back. The seat of the Hodgson Family in the 1600s was in Whitehaven, in the North of England, where they owned many mining interests. Towards the end of the 17th Century, Henry William Hodgson moved to Arklow and commenced mining for lead in Co Wicklow. A keen angler and shot he travelled much of Ireland to fulfil his sport (not too easy in those days), and during the course of a visit to the West of Ireland decided to prospect for copper. This he found along the Hill of Doon Road. At much the same time he discovered lead on the other side of Oughterard. So encouraged was he that he moved to Galway and bought Merlin Park (then a large house on the Eastern outskirts of Galway, now a Hospital) from the Blake family and commenced mining. As Galway was some distance from the mining activities he wanted a house closer to Oughterard. Currarevagh (not the present house, but an early 18th century house about 100m from the present house) was then owned by the O’Flaherties – the largest clan in Connaught – and, though no proof can be found, we believe that he purchased it from the O’Flaherties. However a more romantic story says he won it and 28,000 acres in a game of cards. The estate spread beyond Maam Cross in the heart of Connemara, and to beyond Maam Bridge in the North of Connemara. As the mining developed so the need for transportation of the ore became increasingly difficult until eventually two steamers (“the Lioness” and “the Tigress”) were bought. These, the first on Corrib, delivered the ore to Galway and returned with goods and passengers stopping at the piers of various villages on the way. All apparently went very well. The present house was built in 1842, suggesting a renewed wealth and success. No sooner however was present Currarevagh completed, then the 1850’s saw disaster. A combination of British export law changes, and vast seems of copper ore discovered in Spain and South America, heralded the end of mining activity in Ireland. The family, who were fairly substantial land owners at this stage, got involved in various projects, from fish farming to turf production – inventing the briquette in the process. Certainly Currarevagh was been run as a sporting lodge for paying guests by 1890 by my great grandfather; indeed we have a brochure dated 1900 with instructions from London Euston Railway Station. This we believe makes it the oldest in Ireland; certainly the oldest in continuous ownership. After the Irish Civil War of the 1920s the Free State was formed and many of the larger Estates were broken up for distribution amongst tenants. This included Currarevagh, even though they were not absentee landlords and had bought all their land in the first place. Landlords were assured they would be paid 5 shillings (approx 25c) an acre, however this redemption was never honoured, and effectively 10’s of thousands of acres were confiscated by the new state, leaving Currarevagh with no income, apart from the rare intrepid paying guest. At one stage a non local cell of the Free Staters (an early version of the IRA) tried to blow up Currarevagh, planting explosive under what is currently the dining room. However the plan was discovered before hand, and the explosive made safe. From then on a member of the local IRA cell remained at the gates of Currarevagh to warn off any of the marauding out of towners, saying Currarevagh was not to be touched. Evidently they were well integrated into the community, and indeed during the famine years it seems they did as much as they could to help alleviate local suffering. Indeed there is a famine graveyard on our estate; this was because the local people became too week to bring the dead to Oughterard. It is also one of the few burial grounds to contain a Protestant consecrated section. Having got through the 1920s and 30s, Currarevagh again got in financial trouble during the second world war: although paying guests did come to Ireland (mainly as rationing was not so strict here), the original house was put up for sale. It did not sell, and eventually was pulled down in 1946, leaving just Currarevagh House as it stands today. In 1947 it was the first country house to open as a restaurant to no staying guests; still, of course, the situation today.”
The website tells us: “A delightful 1830s country house, fishing lodge and hotel in one of the most spectacular settings in Connemara Ireland. It offers charming accommodation, glorious scenery, great food and total tranquillity. Located in a wild and unspoilt valley of extraordinary beauty, the 1000-acre Delphi estate is one of Ireland’s hidden treasures…
The Marquis of Sligo (Westport House) builds Delphi Lodge as a hunting/fishing lodge and is reputed to have named it “Delphi” based on the valley’s alleged similarity to the home of the Oracle in Greece.“
“Connemara cottage, four hundred yards off the coast road, 10 km from Roundstone and 4 km from Ballyconneely.
Emlaghmore Cottage was built in stone in about 1905, with just three rooms, and was extended in the 1960s to make a holiday home for a family. It stands on about ¾ acre running down to Maumeen lake, and is about 400 yards off the coast road (The Wild Atlantic Way) in a secluded situation with fine views. It has a shed with a supply of turf for the open fire in the living room, and garden furniture. There is a boat for anglers on the lake.“
14. Glenlo Abbey, near Galway, Co Galway – accommodation€€
Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988): p. 138. “(Palmer, sub De Stacpoole/IFR) A long plain two storey house built onto slender tower with pointed openings near the top. The seat of the Palmer family.”
The estate belonged to the Ffrench family in the 1750s, an Anglo-Norman family. It was originally named Kentfield House, before becoming Glenlow or Glenlo, derived from the Irish Gleann Locha meaning “glen of the lake.” The adjacent abbey was built in the 1790s as a private church for the family but was never consecrated. In 1846 the house was put up for sale. It was purchased by the Blakes.
In 1897 it was purchased by the Palmers. In the 1980s it was sold to the Bourke family, who converted it to a hotel.
In 1990s two carriages from the Orient Express train were purchased and they form a unique restaurant.
p. 165. “(St. George, sub French/IFR; Blyth, B/PB; Ffrench, B/PB) A small early C19 castle, built ca 1801 by Christopher St. George, the builder of the nearby Tyrone House, who retired here with a “chere amie” having handed over Tyrone House to his son [Christopher St George was born Christopher French, adding St George to his surname to comply with his Great-Grandfather, George St George (c. 1658-1735) 1st Baron Saint George of Hatley Saint George in Counties Leitrim and Roscommon]. It consists of three storey square tower with battlements and crockets and a single-storey battlemented and buttressed range. The windows appear to have been subsequently altered. The castle served as a dower house for Tyrone, and was occupied by Miss Matilda St George after Tyrone was abandoned by the family 1905; it was sold after her death, 1925. Subsequent owners included Mr Martin Niland, TD; Mr Arthur Penberthy; Lord Blyth; and Mrs T.A.C.Agnew (sister of 7th and present Lord Ffrench); it is now owned by Mr John Maitland.”
16. Lisdonagh House, Caherlistrane, Co. GalwayH91 PFW6 – section 482 – whole house rental and self-catering cottages.
The house is available as whole house rental, and it also has cottages for accommodation.
The website tells us:
“When looking for an authentic Irish country house to hire, the beautiful 18th century early Georgian Heritage home is the perfect choice. Lisdonagh House is large enough to accommodate families, friends and groups for private gatherings. This private manor house is available for exclusive hire when planning your next vacation or special event. Enchantingly elegant, Lisdonagh Manor House in Galway has been lovingly restored and boasts original features as well as an extensive antiques collection. Peacefully set in secluded woodland surrounded by green fields and magnificent private lake, this luxury rental in Galway is full of traditional character and charm. The tasteful decor pays homage to the history of Lisdonagh Manor with rich and warm colours in each room. The private estate in Galway is perfect for family holidays, celebrations and Board of Director strategy meetings. Lisdonagh is an excellent base for touring Galway, Mayo and the Wild Atlantic Way.“
The Visit Galway website tells us that Lisdonagh House is an early Georgian country manor built around the 1720’s by the Reddingtons for the St. George family who were prominent landlords in Galway. The house has commanding views over Lough Hackett, a private Lake which forms part of the Estate, and Knochma hill. 
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
“a 2 storey house, probably of 1790s [the National Inventory says c. 1760], with a front of 2 bays on either side of a curved bow. Rusticated fanlighted doorway in bow; oval hall, walls painted with an Ionic order and figures in grisaille by J. Ryan. Staircase behind hall, partly in 3 sided projection. On one side of the house is a detached pyramidally-roofed Palladian pavilion with a Venetian window on one face and a niche on the other; Dr. Craig is doubtful whether a balancing pavilion was ever built. The seat of the Palmer family.”
The National Inventory tells us that Lisdonagh is a:
“Detached country house, built c.1760, having five-bay two-storey over basement front elevation and three-bay three-storey rear elevation, former with round entrance bay and latter with flat-roofed canted middle bay. Two-bay side elevations. Two-bay flat-roofed addition to north end, presenting one-storey over basement to front and two storeys to rear… Round-headed stairs window to rear projecting bay, with cobweb fanlight. Round-headed doorcase with limestone block-and-start surround, moulded transom and leaded cobweb fanlight, keystone in form of massive scroll bracket, further cornice above and limestone bracket above that in form of heraldic bird’s head, beak forming ring for hanging a lantern. Replacement timber panelled door, and approached by flight of five limestone steps with wrought-iron railings. Round-headed doorway to rear entrance bay having double-leaf timber panelled door and fanlight, and flanked by windows, formerly four-over-four bay in sides of bay. Diocletian windows to basement with tooled limestone voussoirs and leaded cobweb fanlights. Quadrant wall projects from north addition and terminates in square-plan pavilion with pyramidal slated roof, niche facing towards house, Venetian window facing out, and basement having two Diocletian windows to basement at north side, with tooled limestone voussoirs and leaded cobweb fanlights. Detached eight-bay two-storey stable block, built c.1760, in yard ancillary to Lisdonagh House. Now in use as domestic accommodation...
Lisdonagh House is an important mid-eighteenth-century country house with the unusual feature of bows at the front and rear. The unusual chimneystack arrangement is identical to that at Bermingham House. The very fine doorcase and most unusual heraldic bird sculpture add considerably interest to the front façade and the retention of many timber sash windows and other historic fabric enhances the structure. The interesting pavilion next to the house, the various outbuildings, gates and the gate lodge add context and incident to the accompanying demesne.“
It seems to have various owners as the Landed Estates website tells us that it was:
“An O’Flaherty home, built in the late 18th century, sold to the O’Mahonys in the late 19th century and passed by marriage to the Palmers. Now functions as a guest house run by John and Finola Cook.” 
It has two cottages, a coach house and gate lodge accommodation also.
17. Lough Cutra Castle, County Galway, holiday cottages
“Nestled into the Northern corner of the courtyard, this beautifully appointed self catering cottage can sleep up to six guests – with private entrance and parking. Built during 1846 as part of a programme to provide famine relief during the Great Potato Famine of the time, it originally housed stabling for some of the many horses that were needed to run a large country estate such as Lough Cutra. In the 1920’s the Gough family, who were the then owners of the Estate, closed up the Castle and converted several areas of the courtyard including Cormorant into a large residence for themselves. They brought with them many original features from the Castle, such as wooden panelling and oak floorboards from the main Castle dining room and marble fireplaces from the bedrooms.
We have furnished and decorated the home to provide a luxuriously comfortable and private stay to our guests. Each unique courtyard home combines the history and heritage of the estate and buildings with modern conveniences.“
The website gives us a detailed history of the castle:
“Lough Cutra Castle and Estate has a long and varied history, from famine relief to the billeting of soldiers, to a period as a convent and eventually life as a private home. It was designed by John Nash who worked on Buckingham Palace, and has been host to exclusive guests such as Irish President Michael D Higgins, His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla, Bob Geldof, Lady Augusta Gregory and WB Yeats. The countryside surrounding Lough Cutra holds many a story, dating back centuries.
The extensive history of the Lough Cutra Castle and Estate can be traced back as far as 866 AD. It is quite likely that Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick, passed Lough Cutra on his travels and also Saint Colman MacDuagh as he was a relative of nearby Gort’s King Guaire. The round tower Kilmacduagh built in his honour is an amazing site to visit near Lough Cutra. The countryside surrounding Lough Cutra holds stories for the centuries, all the way back to the Tuatha De Danann.
The immediate grounds of the 600 acre estate are rich in remnants of churches, cells and monasteries due to the introduction of Christianity. A number of the islands on the lake contain the remnants of stone altars.
The hillsides surrounding Lough Cutra contain evidence of the tribal struggle between the Firbolgs and the Tuatha De Danann (the Firbolgs and the Tuatha De Danann were tribes said to have existed in Ireland). These are from around the times of the Danish invasion. The ruined church of nearby Beagh on the North West shore was sacked by the Danes in 866 AD and war raged through the district for nearly 1000 years. In 1601 John O’Shaughnessy and Redmond Burke camped on the shores of the lake while they plundered the district.
In 1678, Sir Roger O’Shaughnessy inherited from Sir Dermot all the O’Shaughnessy’s Irish land – nearly 13,000 acres – and this included Gort and 2,000 acres around Lough Cutra and the lake itself. Following the revolution during which Sir Roger died of ill health, the Gort lands were seized and presented to Thomas Prendergast. This was one of the oldest families in Ireland. Sir Thomas came to Ireland on King William’s death in 1701 and lived in County Monaghan. The title to the lands was confused, but was in the process of being resolved when Sir Thomas was killed during the Spanish Wars in 1709. His widow, Lady Penelope decided to let the lands around the lake and the islands. On these islands, large numbers of apple, pear and cherry trees were planted, and some still survive today. The land struggle continued as the O’Shaughnessy’s tried to lay claim to the lands that had been taken from them by King William. In 1742 the government confirmed the Prendergast title, but it was not until 1753 that Roebuck O’Shaughnessy accepted a sum of money in return for giving up the claim.
Following Sir Thomas’s death, John Prendergast Smyth inherited the Gort Estate. It was John who created the roads and planted trees, particularly around the Punchbowl where the Gort River disappears on its way to Gort and Coole. John lived next to the river bridge in Gort when in the area. This area is now known as the Convent, Bank of Ireland and the old Glynn’s Hotel which is now a local restaurant. When John died in 1797 he was succeeded by his nephew, Colonel Charles Vereker who in 1816 became Viscount Gort. The estate at this time was around 12,000 acres.
When the estate was inherited by Colonel Vereker in 1797 he decided to employ the world renowned architect John Nash to design the Gothic Style building now known as Lough Cutra Castle. Colonel Vereker had visited Nash’s East Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight and was so taken with it that he commissioned the construction of a similar building on his lands on the shore of Lough Cutra. Nash also designed Mitchelstown Castle, Regents Park Crescent, his own East Cowes Castle, as well as being involved in the construction of Buckingham Palace.
The Castle itself was built during the Gothic revival period and is idyllically situated overlooking the Estate’s 1000 acre lake. The building of the castle was overseen by the Pain brothers, who later designed and built the Gate House at Dromoland. The original building included 25 basement rooms and the cost of the building was estimated at 80,000 pounds. While the exact dates of construction are not known the building commenced around 1809 and went on for a number of years. We know that it had nearly been finished by 1817 due to a reference in a contemporary local paper.
Colonel Charles Vereker, M.P., (1768-1842), Constable of Limerick Castle, later 2nd Viscount Gort Engraver James Heath, English, 1757-1834 After John Comerford, Irish, 1770-1832, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
The Viscount Gort was forced to sell the Castle and Estate in the Late 1840s having bankrupted himself as a result of creating famine relief. The Estate was purchased by General Sir William Gough, an eminent British General. The Gough’s set about refurbishing the Castle to their own taste and undertook further construction work adding large extensions to the original building, including a clock tower and servant quarters. Great attention was paid to the planting of trees, location of the deer park, and creation of new avenues. An American garden was created to the south west of the Castle. The entire building operations were completed in 1858 and 1859.
A further extension, known as the Museum Wing, was built at the end of the nineteenth century to house the war spoils of General Sir William Gough by his Grandson. This was subsequently demolished in the 1950s and the cut stone taken to rebuild Bunratty Castle in County Clare.
In the 1920s the family moved out of the Castle as they could not afford the running costs. Some of the stables in the Courtyards were converted into a residence for them. The Castle was effectively closed up for the next forty years, although during WWII the Irish army was billeted within the Castle and on the Estate.
The Estate changed hands several times between the 1930s and the 1960s when it was purchased by descendants of the First Viscount Gort. They took on the task of refurbishing the Castle during the late 1960s. Having completed the project, it was then bought by the present owner’s family.
In more recent years there has begun another refurbishment programme to the Castle and the Estate generally. In 2003 a new roof was completed on the main body of the Castle, with some of the tower roofs also being refurbished. There has been much done also to the internal dressings of the Castle bringing the building up to a modern standard. Around the Estate there has been reconstruction and rebuilding works in the gate lodges and courtyards. There has also begun extensive works to some of the woodlands in order to try and retain the earlier character of the Estate.
It is envisaged that more works will be undertaken over the coming years as the history and legend of Lough Cutra continues to build.“
“Lough InaghLodge was built on the shores of Lough Inagh in the 1880. It was part of the Martin Estate (Richard “Humanity Dick” Martin of Ballynahinch Castle) as one of its fishing lodges. It was later purchased by Richard Berridge, a London brewer who used the building as a fishing lodge in the 1880’s. It passed through the hands of the Tennent family, and then to Carroll Industries until 1989 it was redeveloped by the O’Connor family back to its former glory into a modern bespoke boutique lodge.”
“The Oranmore Lodge Hotel is a four-star family-run hotel that has earned the reputation of being a “home away from home”, situated in Oranmore, a popular village bursting with life and character. From the moment you arrive, take in the beautiful surroundings and unique character of the building that will encourage you to relax and leave it all behind. Guests have enjoyed our Irish hospitality for over 150 years.“
The National Inventory tells us:
“The Oranmore Lodge Hotel was formerly the residence of the Blake Butler family. The house was altered in the late nineteenth century and its name changed from Mount Vernon to Thornpark, and the steep gables, bay windows and crenellations are typical of that era. An interesting symmetrical elevation, enhanced by the family shield with motto. It retains much original fabric notwithstanding its extension on both sides.“
“Built for the Harbour Master nearly 200 years ago, The Quay House has been sensitively restored and now offers guest accommodation in fourteen bedrooms (all different) with full bathrooms – all but three overlook the Harbour. Family portraits, period furniture, cosy fires and a warm Irish welcome make for a unique atmosphere of comfort and fun.
The owners, Paddy and Julia Foyle, are always on hand for advice on fishing, golfing, riding, walking, swimming, sailing, dining, etc – all close by.
The Quay House is Clifden’s oldest building, dating from C1820. It was originally the Harbour Master’s house but later became a Franciscan monastery, then a convent and finally a hotel owned by the Pye family. Now providing Town House Accommodation in Clifen, it is run by the Foyle family, whose forebears have been entertaining guests in Connemara for nearly a century.
The Quay House stands right on the harbour, just 7 minutes walk from Clifden town centre. All rooms are individually furnished with some good antiques and original paintings; several have working fireplaces. All have large bathrooms with tubs and showers and there is also one ground floor room for wheelchair users.“
The website tells us: “First opened as a hotel in 1883, it is spectacularly located on a 150 acre estate on the shores of the Wild Atlantic Way in Connemara, Co. Galway. The grounds include a private freshwater lake for fishing and boating, a beach, woodlands, gardens and numerous activities on site including tennis, croquet, outdoor heated swimming pool, canoeing and shore angling. For a unique location, an award winning Restaurant, comfortable bedrooms and a truly uplifting break, here, the only stress is on relaxation.
Its often-turbulent history has mirrored the change of circumstances and troubled history of Ireland, but it has been resilient and survived. Renvyle House was once home of the Chieftain and one of the oldest and most powerful Gaelic clans in Connacht; that of Donal O’Flaherty, who had a house on the site since the 12th Century where the hotel stands today.
The Blakes (one of the 14 Tribes of Galway) bought 2,000 acres of confiscated O’Flaherty land in 1689. They leased it to the senior O’Flaherty family until the Blakes took up residence in 1822. Before then the ‘Big House’ was a thatched cabin 20ft by 60ft and one storey high. Henry Blake implemented major improvements to make it more compatible to a man of his means. The timber used in the building of the house extension was said to have been from a shipwreck in the bay. The thatch was replaced with slate roof and he added another storey. In 1825 the Blake family published the ‘Letters from the Irish Highlands’ describing the life and conditions in Connemara at that time. His widow, Caroline Johanna opened it first as a hotel in 1883. ‘Through Connemara in a Governess Cart’ published in 1893, written by Edith Somerville and Violet Martin. In this beautifully illustrated book, they visit Ballynahinch Castle, Kylemore Abbey and Renvyle House.
The house was sold before the War of Independence In 1917 to surgeon, statesman and poet Oliver St.John Gogarty played host to countless distinguished friends including Augustus John, W.B. Yeats (who came on his honeymoon to Renvyle House and Yeat’s first Noh play was first performed in the Long Lounge). Indeed in 1928 Gogarty had a flying visit from aviator Lady Mary Heath and her husband which was well documented. The House was burned to the ground during the Irish Civil War in 1923 by the IRA, as were many other home of government supporters; along with Gogarty’s priceless library. The house was rebuilt by Gogarty as a hotel in the late 1920’s in the Arts & Crafts design of that era. “My house..stands on a lake, but it stands also on the sea – waterlilies meet the golden seaweed…at this, the world’s end” Oliver St. John Gogarty.
he war years were difficult times although the hotel stayed open all year round. Dr. Donny Coyle visited Renvyle house in July 1944 with friends and as fate would have it, he bought it with friends Mr. John Allen and Mr. Michael O’Malley in 1952 from the Gogarty estate and they reopened it on the 4th July that year.
The 1958 brochure announced new facilities in the hotel bedrooms. “Shoe cleaning. Shoe polishing and shining materials are in each room, just lift the lid of the wooden shoe rest.” Guests were also informed that dinner was served from 7.30pm to 9pm, and that they were not to go hungry through politeness. “Don’t be shy, if you’d like a little more, please ask.” – and that ethos of hospitality remains to this day.
It remains in the Coyle family to this day, owned by Donny’s son John Coyle and his wife Sally.Their eldest daughter Zoë Fitzgerald is also involved with the hotel, is the Marketing Director and Chairman of the Board.“
The website tells us: “Resting on the quiet shores of Ballinakill Bay, and beautifully secluded within 30 acres of its own private woodland, Rosleague Manor in Connemara is one of Ireland’s finest regency hotels.“
The National Inventory tells us: “Attached L-plan three-bay two-storey house, built c.1830, facing north-east and having gabled two-storey block to rear and multiple recent additions to rear built 1950-2000, now in use as hotel…This house is notable for its margined timber sash windows and timber porch. The various additions have been built in a sympathetic fashion with many features echoing the historic models present in the original house.”
“Ross Lake House Hotel in Galway is a splendid 19th Century Georgian House. Built in 1850, this charming Galway hotel is formerly an estate house of the landed gentry, who prized it for its serenity. Set amidst rambling woods and rolling lawns, it is truly a haven of peace and tranquillity. Echoes of gracious living are carried throughout the house from the elegant drawing room to the cosy library bar and intimate dining room.“
“Tucked away in the idyllic surrounds of Camus Bay, experience the best of Connemara at one of Ireland’s finest Victorian country homes, Screebe House.
Built in 1872 as a fishing lodge and lovingly restored by the Burkart family in 2010, Screebe House offers guests an experience of luxury comfort, and effortless charm. With open fireplaces, high ceilings and heritage décor, Screebe’s elegant spaces evoke a sense of grandeur and provide the perfect setting to read a good book or savour a delicious glass of wine while taking in the breathtaking Connemara scenery.
Screebe, originating from the Irish word ‘scribe’ meaning destination, is ideally located for those who want to explore the stunning scenery of Connemara or partake in a wealth of activities available, from renting bikes to fishing, deer spotting, swimming, hiking, and more. Screebe’s privately owned estate extends 45,000 acres, one of the largest estates in the country.“
Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:
“Surrounded by seven acres of lawns, park and woodland, Carraigin Castle is an idyllic holiday home in a beautiful setting on the shores of Lough Corrib, one of Ireland’s biggest lakes, famous for its brown trout and its multitude of picturesque islands. From the Castle one can enjoy boating and fishing on the lake, walking, riding and sightseeing all over Galway and Mayo, or just relax by the open hearth and contemplate the charm and simple grandeur of this ancient dwelling, a rare and beautiful example of a fortified, medieval “hall house”.
Family groups or close friends will love the relaxed atmosphere of this authentic 13th-century manor house, which has been restored by the present owner after languishing for more than two centuries as a crumbling, roofless ruin. Carraigin’s church-like structure sits on a rise reached by an avenue across the tree-lined Pleasure Ground.“
“Despite its massive, castellated walls, Carraigin was never a mere fortress, but rather, an elegant home where a land-owning family could live securely in turbulent times. For some ten generations, the castle housed the descendants of its founder, Adam Gaynard III, grandson of a Norman adventurer who had taken part in the colonisation of the neighbourhood by the great de Burgo conquerors in 1238.
Towards 1650, another military adventurer, George Staunton, acquired “the castle and lands of Cargin”, which his descendants continued to own until 1946. By, then, the castle had long been abandoned. Stripped of its roof in the early 18th century, Carraigin’s relatively recent upper storeys and finer stonework were demolished and burned to make lime for the construction of the nearby Georgian mansion which replaced it.
However, the solid masonry core of the original 13th Century building had been constructed with such skill that it weathered centuries of neglect, surviving as a romantic, ivy-covered ruin until, in 1970, the castle was restored to its original form and purpose.“
The Interior: “The ancient-looking, nail-studded front door on the ground floor, often mistaken for an authentic antiquity, was actually made by the owner during the building’s restoration in the 1970s. Round the corner, an imposing stone staircase leads to another grand entrance, into the lofty, oak-beamed Great Hall featuring a wide, stone-arched fireplace that provides a comforting aroma of turf and wood-smoke.
The Great Hall is the central living and dining area of the castle. It features a mix of old oak and comfortable modern furniture surrounding the welcoming hearth. Its white walls are extensively decorated with art including tapestries, brass rubbing portraits of ancient kings and knights and a magnificent triptych featuring a Galway galleon (as on that city’s coat of arms). There is a tiny but well-equipped kitchen next door with a view over the tall trees of the Pleasure Ground.
On the same level as the Hall is an oak-beamed double bedroom with a king-size bed and bathroom. A stone staircase winds upwards over this master bedroom to a family loft room overlooking the Great Hall. Another winding stairs leads up to a little single bedroom in the corner tower. From both of these second-floor rooms you can stroll out onto the castle parapets with fabulous views of Lough Corrib and the hills of Connemara and Mayo, and even those of Clare, on the other side of Galway Bay.
The rest of you sleep in the four cosy ‘Vaults’ on the ground floor below, their walls also lined with tapestries and other artworks. The Vaults have much picturesque charm with their oak-timbered partitions, arches and vaulted ceilings, and they work if you know each other well as the rooms lead one into the other. Vault I, the largest of the four, sleeps two in bunk-beds and features a fair-sized work table and chairs for busy teenagers and a mini-sofa for one or two in the window embrasure. Vault II (off No. 1) has a double bed and a similar window seat. Vault III (also off No.1) has one double and one single bed and a window seat. Vault III in turn gives access to Vault IV, a small single room with a three-light gothic window looking out at the standing stone sundial on the lawn.“
2. Cloghan Castle, near Loughrea, County Galway– whole castle accommodation and weddings, €€€ for two.
“An air of historic grandeur and authenticity is the initial impression upon arrival at Cloughan Castle. Follow the long sweeping driveway surrounded with breath-taking countryside views, to the beautifully restored castle with its ornamental stonework & imposing four storey tower. Sitting within several acres of matured woodlands with striking panoramic countryside views, this lovingly restored 13th-century castle holds its historic past with a character that blends effortlessly with elegance and comfort.
Find yourself immersed in unrivalled castle comfort with the ultimate mix of homeliness & grandeur, the most appealing destination for those seeking exclusivity & privacy. A combination of seven magnificently appointed bedrooms, two versatile reception rooms, complete with an idyllic backdrop, ensures a truly memorable occasion to be long remembered. Cloughan Castle offers complete exclusivity for all occasions, from an intimate family getaway to a private party celebration, to a truly magical wedding location.“
The Visit Galway website tells us:
“Cloghan Castle near Loughrea in Galway, was originally built as an out-post fortification in the 12th century by an Anglo-Norman family. The castle was last inhabited by Hugh de Burgo, a son of Walter de Burgo, Earl of Ulster, in the 15th century.
In 1973, Cloghan Castle was a derelict ruin and all that remained of the fortified Norman keep, built in 1239, were the walls of the tower house. Its current owner, Michael Burke, always had an interest in history and seeing the ruined castle on a neighbour’s land he thought it would be a nice idea to restore it.
The aim of the restoration work was to recreate what it was like to live in a medieval castle, but without having to suffer the deprivation of 13th century living. The meticulous and historically accurate restoration programme was completed in the December of 1996 and the castle now plays host and venue to numerous weddings each year.“
 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.
To read a fantastic summary of the history of Castle Ellen and more information on the house, read David Hicks blog here.
There has also been some fantastic work carried out by Patricia Boran (and her colleagues) at NUIG where they compiled a Landed Estates Database, which is a searchable, online database of all Landed Estates in Connacht and Munster. This database is maintained by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway. The Lambers (of Castle Ellen) can be found here. A detailed genealogical study of the Lambert family can be found at Andy Lambert’s Lambert Family
“Original home to the Overend family, today Airfield House is an interactive tour and exhibition which brings visitors closer to this admired Dublin family. Here you’ll view family photographs, letters, original clothing and display cases with information on their prize-winning Jersey herd, vintage cars and their much loved Victorian toys and books.
We focus not just on the way of life the family lived at Airfield, but also on their fantastic charitable work for organisations such as St John Ambulance and The Children’s Sunshine Home (now The Laura Lynn Foundation) to name but a few.
Every Wednesday through to Sunday at 11.30am and then again at 2.30pm we offer visitors guided house tours.“
www.corkelodge.com Open dates in 2023: June 1-30, Mon-Sat, July 4-28, Tue-Fri, Aug 7-27, 10am-2pm Fee: €8, paid voluntarily in honesty box to benefit Our Lady’s Hospice
“The house was built in the 1820’s to designs by William Farrell as an Italianate seaside villa. A Mediterranean grove was planted with a Cork tree as its centrepiece. In the remains of this romantic wilderness, the present owner, architect Alfred Cochrane, designed a garden punctuated by a collection of architectural follies salvaged from the demolition of Glendalough House, an 1830’s Tudor revival mansion, built for the Barton family by Daniel Robertson who designed Powerscourt Gardens.”
“There is more fun at Corke Lodge” writes Jane Powers, The Irish Times, where ” the ‘ancient garden’ of box parterres is punctuated by melancholy gothic follies, and emerges eerily from the dense boskage of evergreen oaks, myrtles, and a writhing cork oak tree with deeply corrugated bark. Avenues of cordyline palms and tree ferns, dense planting of sword-leaved New Zealand flax, and clumps of whispering bamboos lend a magical atmosphere to this rampantly imaginative creation.”
www.selinaguinness.com Open dates in 2023: Jan 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30-31, Feb 1, 6-8, Mar 3-7, May 3-4, 6-10, 15-18, June 6-8, 10-14, 19-20, Aug 12-20, Sept 4-6, 11-13, 18-19, 23-24, 9am-1pm Fee: adult/OAP €8 student €5, child free, Members of An Taisce and The Irish Georgian Society €5
Open days 3rd Friday & Sat of months Feb – October
“Tyrrelstown House & Garden is set in 10 hactre of parkland in Fingal, North County Dublin, just minutes from the M50, off the N3 (Navan Road). There are 2 walled gardens, and an arboretum with woodland walks including 2 hectares of wild flower & pictorial meadows. Lots of spring bulbs and cyclamen adorn this lovely sylvan setting.
The walled gardens are over 600 years old and include a wide range of alkaline and acid loving plants and shrubs and include an organic vegetable garden.
The Wilkinson family arrived here in 1895 & have been farming the land ever since.“
The website tells us that the word “clontarf” means “meadow of the bull” and that the sound of the waves on the shore sounded like the bellowing of a bull. The National Inventory describes the castle:
“Detached country house, built 1836-7, comprising square-plan single-bay four-stage pastiche tower house with curved corners to east end with taller tower to rear (north) of this, both with battered bases, and having complex-plan gabled four-bay two and three-storey Tudor Revival house attached to west end, having two-bay porch and two-storey canted-bay windows with crenellations to front elevation, gabled breakfront and canted-bay window with crenellations to west elevation, extensive recent extensions to rear (north) and east elevations. Now in use as hotel.” 
The summary appraisal of the castle tells us:
“William Vitruvius Morrison was commissioned by J.E.V. Vernon to rehabilitate Clontarf Castle in 1835. The original castle was built by the Knights Templar and added to over several centuries by the Vernon family, who were granted land in Clontarf, having arrived with Cromwell in 1649. The castle was demolished and rebuilt in its entirety in 1836-7. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style and uses the architectural vocabulary of medieval castle architecture to impress the viewer and to refer to the medieval origins of Clontarf Castle. The numerous gables and the two towers create a number of interesting viewing angles, and were purposely designed to imitate a building gradually developed over centuries, with a pastiche medieval tower house contrasting with the more domestically scaled house block to the west. It was notable at the time for its visibility from the surrounding area. The well carved stonework is testament to the craftwork of nineteenth-century stonemasons. It retains richly decorative interior features, including joinery and plasterwork ceilings.”
The National Inventory entry continues the description: “Crenellated parapets with corner turrets and machicolations to tower, with pitched natural slate roofs to house having carved limestone copings and finials to raised barges, carved limestone octagonal-plan chimneystacks, and cast-iron rainwater goods. Snecked cut limestone walls to towers and ashlar limestone walls to house, with carved limestone stringcourses, painted carved shields to gables, carved Portland stone shield and date-stone to porch. Round-headed loops to towers and round-headed window openings to front tower, some paired, having carved limestone surrounds with chevron motif and leaded windows. Tudor-arch window openings to bay windows to house, having carved limestone surrounds, transoms and mullions, and leaded lights. Square-headed and Tudor-arch window openings with carved limestone label-mouldings, and timber cinquefoil and Tudor-arch leaded lights. Round-headed tripartite window openings under shared carved limestone label-moulding to porch, having leaded lights. Pointed arch door opening to porch, having carved limestone roll mouldings to surround, flanked by octagonal-plan piers with richly carved Portland stone capitals, double-leaf timber doors. Tudor-arch door opening to west elevation of house, having chamfered reveals and timber panelled door. Recent square-headed door opening to west elevation, with double-leaf timber doors. Round-headed door opening to west elevation of rear tower, having carved limestone surround. Retains extensive interior features, including plasterwork ceilings, timber wainscoting and joinery, fireplaces and encaustic tiled floors. Set in own grounds with carpark to front, entrance from south from tree-lined approach, from Castle Avenue.”
2. Finnstown, Lucan, Co Dublin – hotel – Closing December 6th 2022.
The website does not tell us about the history. The National Inventory describes the house:
“Detached seven-bay two-storey over basement Victorian former country house, c.1865, now in use as a hotel. Timber sash windows in segmental-arched openings with moulded dressings, decorative keystone and bracketed stone sills. Two-storey central breakfront with projecting flat-roofed porch having parapet. Timber panelled door with fanlight and flanking windows, all with round-headed dressed arches with prominent keystones. Smooth rendered walls with raised quoins and moulded string and eaves courses. Three-sided two-storey projecting bay on north-west elevation with doorway leading to ornamental foot bridge over basement access.” 
Boutique accommodation. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us it is a terraced double-pile three-bay four-storey over basement former townhouse, built c. 1800. It has round-headed door opening with brick voussoirs, engaged Ionic columns and pilasters supporting a fluted frieze with paterae and cornice, spoked fanlight with fluted surround and ribbed coving with raised lettering ‘HARRINGTON HALL’. Inside it has decorative plasterwork cornice and ceiling in the entrance hall.
The National Inventory tells us further:
“Though altered for use as a hotel, this former townhouse positively contributes to the historic character of the street, which is dominated by late-Georgian and early-Victorian townhouses. The restrained façade is enriched with balconettes and most notably, a Neo-classical doorcase featuring a decorative fanlight embellished by ribbed coving and further complemented by decorative sidelights. The doorcase glazing allows additional light into the entrance hall, highlighting the delicate plasterwork ceiling. Harcourt Street was opened 1777 by John Hatch, barrister and Seneschal of the Manor of St. Sepulchre. Development was sporadic until the late 1790s when Messrs Hatch, Wade and Whitten obtained approval from the Wide Street Commissioners for the further development of the street.“
4. Killiney Castle, Killiney, Co Dublin – Fitzpatrick’s hotel
“Welcome to Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel Dublin. Our 18th century 4 star luxury castle hotel is located near the historic village of Dalkey and the coastal town of Dun Laoghaire & only minutes from Killiney Beach, nestled next to Killiney Hill, with panoramic views over Dublin Bay and beyond. The Family owned & run Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, now in its third generation offers guests tranquility, breathtaking scenery and old world elegance which blends seamlessly with the hotels modern luxury making it the ideal location for business or pleasure.“
Archiseek tells us:
“This house has been alternatively known as Mount Malpas, Roxborough and Loftus Hill. The first house on the site was built about 1740 for Col. John Mapas or Malpas. The property was owned in turn by a Mr. Maunsell, Henry Loftus, Viscount of Ely, Lord Clonmel and Robert Warren, who in 1840 enlarged the house and called it Killiney Castle. He also restored and added to the monuments on the hill.
The Georgian house was given Gothic decoration and remodelled by Sandham Symes, including castellation, corner turrets, another pair of turrets in the centre, and a Gothic porch. Later the arrangement of the centre was altered to create a canted bow a storey higher than the rest of the front and with a conical roof. Now garishly painted, and forms the centrepiece of a hotel complex dating from the 1970s.”
The Castle website tells us:
“The Colonel’s [Colonel Henry Loftus 1st Earl of Ely] stay was a short one; in 1772 he advertised the castle and its 150 acres for sale despite his short tenure. During his time in residence however, Colonel Loftus and his nephew converted the barren stoney soil to meadow and pasture and cut a road around the hill, his successor was Lord Clonmel [John Henry Scott, 1st Earl of Clonmell] who in 1790 improved the estate further spending £3,000 in the process, a handsome sum of money in the early 19th century.
The name Robert Warren is very much associated with the Castle and it was he who in 1840 enlarged the house and called it Killiney Castle. He also restored and added to the monuments on the hill, repairing the obelisk originally erected by Col. Mapas and donated land and most of the money for the building of Killiney parish church. The land on the hill – once part of the estate – was purchased from his son, Robert Warren Jnr. by Queen Victoria’s jubilee memorial association and subsequently re-named Victoria Hill – as we still know it today.
Its subsequent owners included a Mrs Chippendale Higgan. The trees and shrubs she planted can still be seen today and provide a decorative setting for the castle.
In the 20th Century Killiney Castle was used by the Black & Tans, the IRA and the Republicans in the civil war before being burnt by Free State Troops. It was requisitioned by the Government during the 1939-45 period and used as billets for the army
Killiney Castle exchanged hands again with the late Paddy and Eithne Fitzpatrick taking over the helm in the 1970’s, transforming it into a first class hotel and re-naming it Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. Today their daughter Eithne Fitzpatrick Scott-Lennon owns the hotel and together with her family continues to guide the way to its continued success, whilst maintaining the original Castle charm and Irish welcome long associated with the Castle.“
In the castle: The Lutyens Guest Wing was added in 1908-1910. Referred to as one of Lutyens’ finest examples of domestic architecture, the two sections of Lambay Castle complement each other perfectly and are seamlessly, almost invisibly, connected by a long central corridor that runs beneath the East Terrace.
The Whitehouse was completed in 1933 for Rupert Baring’s two sisters Daphne and Calypso (daughters of Cecil and Maude) and their large families. It was the final Baring-Lutyens architectural addition to the island and Cecil died just one year after its completion.
The Whitehouse may be booked by private groups subject to the prior approval of Lambay Estate. As a house of historical value, as well as personal importance to the family, it is not well suited as a party venue or for groups with many young children. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for enquiries.
O’Connell’s Cottage (No.6) is at the end of the row of Coastguard Cottages, which dates back to the 17th Century. Originally two cottages, it was merged into one large home for the estate manager and his family of eight, and has kept his name ever since.
The website for the Sutton Martello tower tells us: “Martello Tower Sutton offers self-cateringaccommodation with a difference. This unique historic building is available for rental as a holiday home, a short-term letting, or even corporate letting.
Built-in 1804, Martello Tower Sutton is located on the north coastline of Dublin Bay, Ireland, with breathtaking views of the bay and surrounding areas. Set in Red Rock, Sutton, the Tower has been refurbished to a high standard and offers guests a truly unique self-catering holiday option.
Accommodation consists of three levels: two bedrooms and a bathroom on the lower level; living area and balcony overlooking the bay on the middle level; and a modern kitchen/dining room offering breathtaking 360° views from roof level.“
The website gives the history:
“Fear of an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte reached panic proportions among the authorities in Ireland and England in 1804 and was the reason Martello Towers were built, first in Ireland and then in England. Their purpose was to provide what were, in those days, ‘bombproof’ towers from which fire could be directed at ships of the hourly expected French invasion fleet. Martello Tower Sutton was the first Tower to be built in Dublin and is referred to in the annals as Tower No. 1.
The name “Martello” derived from the name of a tower at Mortella point in the gulf of Fiorenzo. The Royalist French along with the Royal Navy, failed to take the tower after attempting to rebel against the Napoleonic French in 1794. So impressed were the British by the strength of the tower, they suggested that similar towers would be useful in Ireland and England...
The original Towers from the Napoleonic era are circular in shape, with 2-4 meter thick walls, which were made from solid stone that was all sourced locally. The entrance doorway of the towers are three metres from the ground which meant at the time access to the entrance was only made by a ladder. The ladder then could be removed to protect against an invader.
The Towers never fired a cannon in anger, as Napoleon never invaded Ireland or England. However, it is believed that the Towers acted as a deterrent, as Napoleon had every intention to invade England using Ireland as a “back door” bridgehead.
In total there were 50 Martello Towers built in Ireland, and 103 built in England. The Military numbered the towers for easy reference. Towers were also built in South Africa, Majorca and the whole Mediterranean area but most are not Martello Towers, but rather defence towers against pirates.
The function and purpose of the Towers in Ireland today differs from one to another. In Dublin while there are 21 Towers that remain standing many are derelict, some demolished, some are owned by government departments, and others are privately owned, some of which are habited and some uninhabited.”
The website tells us that it was built in 1720, then restored in 2005. Each suite has a large, stylish bathroom and soundproofed windows. Archiseek tells us that the Merchant Hall building was built in 1821 by Frederick Darley – I’m not sure if the hotel is located in this building. Merchant Hall was built as a Guild Hall.
From the website: “The Merrion is one of the most significant restoration projects which has taken place in Dublin over recent years. The Georgian architecture lends itself perfectly to the needs of a hotel: the elegantly simple and dignified exterior of the houses give presence and a wonderful sense of arrival, to The Merrion. Mornington House has transitional interiors of great magnificence which provide an exciting backdrop for the activities of the hotel and its guests. These four important Listed houses have been sympathetically restored and brought back to life to be enjoyed by people from all over the world.” Peter MacCann, General Manager, The Merrion
“The Main House of the hotel is comprised of four meticulously restored Grade I Listed Georgian townhouses and a specially commissioned contemporary Garden Wing is arranged around two private period gardens. The houses were built in the 1760’s by Lord Monck (Charles Stanley Monck) for wealthy Irish merchants and nobility. He lived in No. 22, which became known as Monck House. The most important of the four houses is, however, No. 24 Upper Merrion Street. This was leased to Garrett Wellesley, Earl of Mornington, in 1769, it has since been known as Mornington House. The house is remembered historically as being the birthplace of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. All four houses had been in use as state offices for most of this century. The well-known Irish writer, Flan O’Brien,(also known as Myles na Gopaleen) author of “The Third Policeman,” allegedly worked in the buildings when he worked for the government.“
“The four houses forming the Main House of The Merrion are typical of domestic Georgian architecture in Ireland. The plain exteriors rely for effect on the carefully worked out classical proportions of the timber sash windows and their relation to the whole façade. The door cases, with their varied treatment and intricate beautiful fanlights, were where the builder could impose some individuality on the building.
In most other areas, the normal lease laid down strict requirements. Internally, there were no such restrictions. This explains the wealth of varied plasterwork and woodwork contained in the houses. The architectural detail of the houses clearly indicates the progression of their construction. No. 21 has intricate rococo plasterwork and a particularly heavy staircase. The detail lightens as one progresses along the terrace, although No. 22, the first to be built, is an exception. Here the main stair hall and the principal reception rooms have much lighter detailing, in the neo-classical, Adam style. In the midst of this lighter decoration, there are examples of heavier detail, such as the intricate Corinthian cornice in the stairwell, and the superb third floor room with coved ceilings and dramatic rococo plasterwork. Monck House was “modernised” in the late 18th century or the beginning of the 19th century.
No. 23 was also “modernised” thirty or forty years after completion. The reception rooms in particular changed after 1790 when the windows were enlarged, window boxes and shutters modified and connections made to the front room. The removal of the principal stairs and hall inside the front door may have been done later in order to increase the number of rooms in the house. Since all four houses are Grade 1 Listed, immense care was taken before work began on the site. Planning Permission was granted after two years, with the Architect dealing with all relevant bodies including An Taisce (The Irish National Trust). Work eventually started in October 1995. The Merrion comprises 123 rooms and 19 suites. The interior is designed using Irish fabrics and antiques to reflect the architecture and original interiors of the Main House. Throughout the hotel guests benefit from the latest technology. There is a choice of two restaurants and two bars. A luxurious Spa and swimming pool, six magnificent meeting and private dining rooms, and a private car park.“
The website tells us: “In 1932, in America, the present owner’s parents purchased plans for use in building their new home, Mooreen House. The design was already famous and had been awarded the title House of the Year, and a full-scale replica was constructed in Macy’s New York Department Store.
While intended for 20th century living the interior cleverly combines the grandeur of former times with a modern economy of space, all in authentic Art Deco taste. Today this is reflected by the original contents which combine with the building to form a family home of considerable elegance and charm. The house, with a newly built cottage using all the latest insulation techniques for additional guests, is set in 20 acres of beautifully maintained private gardens and woodlands. The owner can justly claim her place in Ireland’s history since her grandfather, The O’Rahilly, was one of the few 1916 leaders killed in the fighting near the GPO.”
“Number 31 is Dublin’s premier tucked away place to stay, combining a period Georgian townhouse and a light filled modernist mews, once home to famed architect Sam Stephenson and the epicentre of social Dublin in the 1960s and 70s.
The place to stay of choice for artists and design enthusiasts, here light, colour and texture combine to create a mildly eccentric, laid back luxury vibe.
The Mews building at Number 31 was a disused stable when it was bought by renowned and controversial architect Sam Stephenson in 1957, allegedly for £1000, which he quickly turned into Dublin’s perfect James Bond baddie pad.
The elegant Georgian town-house on Fitzwilliam Place with ornate stucco ceilings and spacious rooms is decorated as an homage to the Jazz age, featuring stunning period pieces and objet’s d’art from our owners collection.
A secluded garden joins both buildings, a tranquil space for guests to enjoy.
Delia’s renowned breakfast is one of the highlights here and seals our reputation for serving the Best Breakfast in Dublin among those in the know. It’s no surprise Number 31 was awarded Georgina Campbell’s 2017 Guesthouse of the Year.
As a guest at Number 31, lounge in Stephenson’s high style 1970s sunken living room and even stay in Sam’s Room with the latest 21st century technology at your fingertips as you dream about bygone glitterati.
All this and more is hidden behind a traditional Dublin Georgian façade in a luxury townhouse that also features Jazz themed rooms and its cool sounds and décor of the Jazz Age in New Orleans, Chicago, London, New York, Paris, and even Berlin.“
14. St. Helen’s, Booterstown, Co Dublin – now Radisson Blu Stillorgan hotel €€
The Stillorgan Genealogy and History website tells us that it was built around 1750 for Thomas Cooley – Barrister/MP for Duleek, and was originally named Seamount. St. Helen’s is:
“A listed two storey, five bay classical house with a centre pediment carried on coupled Corinthian pilasters, and lower wings, which are single-storey on one side and two-storey on the other. It has a cladding of Portland stone and a glass conservatory with curved roof. The fourth gatelodge was shared with San Souci. The garden is thought to have been originally designed by Ninian Niven (the Victorian age landscaper). The 1st Viscount Gough [Hugh Gough (1779-1869), 1st Viscount of Goojerat and of Limerick], renamed the House St Helen’s during his tenure and employed John McCurdy to makes extensive alterations and additions so as ‘to add to the accommodations and comfort’ in 1862/3. A beech tree planted in the garden had a circular iron seat which was slowly subsumed by the tree. The garden also contained one of the few old Mulberry trees in the locality.
The house was renovated again for Sir John Nutting when he purchased it in 1897 by English architect William Douglas Caroe. It had four gatelodges, one of which was opposite St Thomas’s Church and another which as on Booterstown Avenue. By 1903 the house was the location for parties and charity concerts with over 500 people sometimes in attendance to hear Madame Alice Etsy or Melfort D’Alton sing, or a ball with Gottlieb’s band in attendance. The Nuttings were gracious hosts and they opened the gardens of their home for many charitable events.” Sold 1925 to Christian Brothers, who sold 1988, and after a period of uncertainty it was sold for conversion to an hotel in 1996. 
“The Cottage has a great history and has stood here for over 200 years looking down over the City boundaries, Dublin Bay and beyond.
This unique Irish Cottage has been tastefully restored to the highest modern standards so as to provide four star comforts within its two foot thick walls. The Cottage is a great place from which to explore.“
16. Tibradden Farm Cottages, Rathfarmham, Dublin 16€ for 4-8
“Waterloo House is situated in Ballsbridge Dublin 4, just off the bustling Baggot Street and only a few minutes walk from St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street and many of Dublin’s key places of interest. Waterloo House offers free off-street parking – an absolute rarity in downtown Dublin! Yet amazingly, we are on one of the tranquil tree-lined avenues of Ballsbridge – a quiet residential street with gardens on both sides. Waterloo House has 19 bedrooms, all are en-suite with HD flat screen TVs, direct-dial telephones and tea/coffee making facilities. There is also a lift to all floors. Reception is provided on a 24 hour basis and there is free Wi-Fi access throughout the hotel. Enjoy the hustle and bustle when you want it and then retreat to Waterloo House for a quiet night’s sleep. Waterloo House has combined two tall 1830’s Georgian townhouses to offer the finest in luxury four star boutique accommodation in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 – an elegant and stylish inner Dublin City Centre suburb. This fashionable address also boasts some of the finest restaurants in Dublin.“
Dalkey Lodge, which dates to c. 1660, is the oldest surviving house in the heritage town of Dalkey. The house stands on just over an acre of mature, walled gardens, just a few minutes stroll from Dalkey village.
Accommodation comprises of a drawing room, dining room, well equipped kitchen, eight bedrooms, five bathrooms, games room / library with bar and a fully equipped utility room. The drawing room, dining room, games room and six of the bedrooms have fireplaces.
The castle dates from around 1420, according to Timothy William Ferrars.  Ferrars tells us that SIR GEOFFREY DE LUTEREL (c1158-1218), who had large estates in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Yorkshire, accompanying KING JOHN to Ireland, and diligent in public affairs, “obtained a grant from the crown of Luttrellstown, on the payment of twenty ounces of gold, to hold by military service, and had livery of these lands” from John Marshal, Lord Marshal of Ireland.
Thomas Luttrell (1466-1544) was Chief Justice of Ireland and lived in Luttrellstown. He married Anne Aylmer, of Lyons, County Kildare, in 1506. Another Thomas Luttrell of Luttrellstown married Alison St. Lawrence, of Howth Castle, daughter of the 10th Baron Howth (Nicholas St Lawrence, d. 1643).
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 195. “(Luttrell, Carhampton, E/DEP; White, Annaly, B/PB; Guinness, sub Iveagh, E/PB). An old castle of the Pale, originally the seat of the Irish Luttrells; whose members, during the course of C18, included the notorious Col Henry Luttrell [1655-1717], murdered in his sedan-chair in the streets of Dublin 1717; and two sisters, Anne, who married George III’s brother, the Duke of Cumberland, and Elizabeth, who is said to have committed suicide in Augsburg after being sentence to sweep the streets chained to a wheelbarrow, on a charge of picking pockets.” 
This Henry Luttrell had raised and commanded five squadrons of cavalry for King James II. Although a Jacobite (a supporter of King James II) he was pardoned after the Treaty of Limerick (and therefore allowed to keep his lands, which had been confiscated from his brother, Simon [1600-1660]. Simon was married to Mary Preston, daughter of Jenico Preston, 5th Viscount Gormanston and his wife Margaret St Lawrence of Howth. He sat in the Patriot Parliament of King James II and was a representative for Carlow hence would have known Mark Baggot who also sat as representative for Carlow at that time!). In 1702, Henry was appointed a major-general in the Dutch service; but, on the death of King William III, retired to his principal residence at Luttrellstown.
Bence-Jones continues: “The brother of these two ladies, Gen Henry Luttrell, 2nd Earl of Carhampton, sold Luttrellstown ca 1800 to Luke White [1740-1824], MP, self-made millionaire who changed the name of the property to Woodlands, and encased the old castle in romantic early C19 Gothic, with battlements and round and polygonal turrets; he also added to it, and remodelled and redecorated the interior; creating the octagonal entrance hall, with its ceiling of plaster Gothic vaulting, and giving the ballroom its magnificent and unusual ceiling of plaster vaulting with Adamesque ornamentation. The only major interior surviving from Luttrell’s time is the library, which in their day was the entrance hall; it has an unusual C18 ceiling with a bow and arrow in high relief.“
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The two principal ranges of the castle are at an acute angle to each other, which makes for attractive vistas through the rooms in unexpected directions. An entrance tower and porch, and a Tudor-Revival banqueting hall, were added to the castle later in C19, probably in 1850s by Luke White’s son, who afterwards became 1st Lord Annaly [Henry, 1789-1873]. 3rd Lord Annaly [Luke, 1857-1922], who held various court appointments under Edward VII and George V, went back to calling the castle by its old name of Luttrellstown. For some years, early this century, Luttrellstown was owned by Major E.C. Hamilton; then, ca 1927, it was bought by Hon Ernest Guinness [Arthur Ernest Guinness, (1876-1949) son of the 1st Earl of Iveagh], who gave it to his daughter, Hon Mrs Brinsley Plunket [Aileen], on her wedding [to Brinsley Sheridan Bushe Plunket]. During the years that Luttrellstown was her home, Mrs Plunket decorated and furnished the castle with palatial elegance, and entertained in a grand manner. She replaced C19 Tudor banqueting hall with a splendid dining room in early C20 style, with birds and swags and foliage of stucco in high relief on the walls, and a painted ceiling by de Wit. The room was designed by Mr Felix Harbord, who also designed an Adamesque drawing room decorated with grisaille paintings by Peter de Gree fro Oirel Temple, and transformed the staircase hall with a painted ceiling by Thornhill. The demesne of Luttrellstown is of great extent and beauty, with a large lake spanned by a many-arched bridge, a sham ruin and Doric temple.”
“A Georgian mansion built by Dublin snuff merchant Lundy Foot back in 1790. Frequent visitors to the house included the Great Emancipator Daniel O’Connell, Eoin Mac Neill, Padraig Pearse and William Smith O’Brian, among many other famous figures from Anglo-Irish history.
A truly unique house set on 45 acres in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, with spectacular views over Dublin City and stretching out as far as the Irish Sea. We are only 25 minutes from Dublin Airport and from Dublin city centre. The house has been lovingly and tastefully restored in recent years, with large drawing and reception rooms and open fires. Our beautiful dining room sits 20 people at our regency table. There is a large games room in the basement of the house with table tennis, pool table, and a full-sized snooker table.
There is lots to do in the immediate area including numerous hiking trails both on the estate and in proximity including the Dublin Way and the Wicklow Way. We have an equestrian centre next door with reduced rates for guests and some of Dublin’s most infamous pubs are within 10 minutes of the house, with great local food, traditional music, and Irish dancing.
The house really is one-of-a-kind.
Orlagh house is the perfect location for couples who want something different from the norm, a unique and truly personal day to remember. Exclusively yours for your wedding day with a second day optional, we also have 14 bedrooms to offer your guests.
We have an in-house catering team who can create your perfect menu, from sit down formal dining to a more laid-back BBQ’. Choose from our indoor ballroom or numerous outside garden areas. Our wedding team are there to help you with everything you may need.“
 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.
On September 9th 2023 all Landmark Trust properties in Northern Ireland will be open to visitors, from 10am-4pm. See their website for details, https://irishlandmark.com/ as booking will be required, but booking is not open yet. Subscribe for updates to find out when you need to book to make a visit.
I maintain pages on this website which list the big houses available to visit in each county, as well as big houses in which one can stay. I refer to these pages myself when booking accommodation when Stephen and I travel the country visiting Section 482 properties. There are many wonderful historic properties in which one can stay. Many people are familiar with the “blue book” of accommodation, or Landmark Trust properties, or “Hidden Houses of Ireland” that lists historic houses that have accommodation. With the rise of the popularity of airbnb, I have found many more historic houses that offer accommodation.
Let me know if you have any suggestions of historic houses in which one can stay, which I have not yet discovered to list on my pages!
On the map above:
blue: places to visit that are not section 482
purple: section 482 properties
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
2023 Diary of Irish Historic Houses (section 482 properties)
To purchase an A4 size 2023 Diary of Historic Houses that lists the open dates of properties open to the public to fulfil the Section 482 requirement, send your postal address to email@example.com along with €25 via this payment button. The calendar of 100 pages includes space for writing your appointments as well as photographs of the historic houses.
The province of Ulster contains counties Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone.
For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:
€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);
Kevin V. Mulligan writes in The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster (p. 83)  that Ardress is the best preserved example of a gentleman’s farmhouse in South Ulster, due to its ownership by the National Trust. The discovernorthernireland website tells us:
“Ardress is nestled in the apple orchards of County Armagh and offers afternoons of fun and relaxation for everyone. Built in the 17th century as a farmhouse, Ardress was remodelled in Georgian times and has a character and charm all of its own.
• Elegant Neo-classical drawing-room with plasterwork by the Dublin plasterer Michael Stapleton • Attractive garden with scenic woodland and riverside walks • Home to an important collection of farm machinery and tools • Rich apple orchards • On display is the 1799 table made for the speaker of the Irish Parliament upon which King George V signed the Constitution of Northern Ireland on 22nd June 1921
Visitor Facilities: Historic house, Farm yard, Garden, Shop, Guided tours, Suitable for picnics, Programme of events.”
Mulligan writes that it is a mid-Georgian house with a two storey facade of seven bays, with a small Tuscan portico in the centre, and it was later enlarged to nine bays by the addition of a slightly lower quoined wings. It began as a smaller five bay house with basement, and Mulligan tells us that it was probably built for Thomas Clarke.
The National Trust website tells us: “Clarke and Ensor families who lived at Ardress from the late 1600s to the mid 20th-century. See how the originally modest farmhouse was enlarged and re-modelled over the years. Some of the furnishings are original while others have made their way back here. Highlights include the drawing room, dining room and a fine collection of paintings on loan from Stuart Hall in County Tyrone.
Past our brand new visitor reception area you’ll find the traditional, cobbled farmyard. Pop into the different outbuildings such as the smithy, byre and threshing barn to get a flavour of old-time rural life. The whole family will love meeting the friendly chickens, goats and donkey, and there’s also a children’s play area.
Bring your walking boots and set off on the Lady’s Mile (really three-quarters-of-a-mile, if you’re counting). This circular, woodland path is a real highlight of any visit, especially in spring when it’s full of wildflowers. There are some great views back to the house and look out for Frizzel’s Cottage, an 18th-century mud-walled house which is now fully refurbished.
Ardress sits in the heart of Armagh’s rich apple-growing country. Visit in May to see the orchards burst into vibrant whites and pinks, truly a memorable sight. During Apple Blossom Sundays (12 and 19 May), there will be orchard tours, local cider, local honey, music, country crafts and family fun. Be sure to come back in October for the Apple Press Days, when you can pick your own apples. Kids can also press their own apple juice.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 11. “(Ensor/LG1894) A two storey five bay gable-ended house of ca. 1664 with two slight projections at the back; enlarged and modernized ca. 1770 by the Dublin architect, George Ensor – brother of better-known architect, John Ensor – for his own use. Ensor added a wing at one end of the front, and to balance it he built a screen wall with dummy windows at the other end. These additions were designed to give the effect of a centre block two bays longer than what the front was originally, with two storey one bay wings having Wyatt windows in both storeys. To complete the effect, he raised the façade to conceal the old high-pitched roof; decorating the parapet with curved upstands and a central urn; the parapet of the wings curving downwards on either side to frame other urns. Ensor also added a pedimented Tuscan porch and he altered the garden front, flanking it with curved sweeps. Much of the interior of the hosue was allowed to keep its simple, intimate scale; the oak staircase dates from before Ensor’s time. But he enlarged the drawing room, and decorated the walls and ceiling with Adamesque plasterwork and plaques of such elegance and quality that the work is generally assumed to have been carried out by the leading Irish artist in this style of work, Michael Stapleton. Ardress now belongs to the Northern Ireland National Trust and is open to the public.” 
“The Argory was built in the 1820s and its hillside location has wonderful views over the gardens and 320 acre wooded estate bordering the River Blackwater. This former home of the MacGeough–Bond family has a splendid stable yard with horse carriages, harness room, acetylene gas plant and laundry. Take a stroll around the delightful gardens or for the more energetic along the woodland and riverside way-marked trails.
Fascinating courtyard displays Garden, woodland and riverside walks with wonderful sweeping views Snowdrop walks and superb spring bulbs Adventure playground and environmental sculpture trail Enjoy afternoon tea and award winning scones in Lady Ada’s tea room
The National Trust website tells us: “The Argory is the home of Mr Bond, the last of four generations of the MacGeough Bond family. Designed by brothers Arthur and John Williamson of Dublin (who also did work for Emo Court in County Laois), the house was built by Mr Bond’s great-grandfather, Walter. The Argory was gifted to the National Trust in 1979. Designed in approximately 1819, started in 1820 and finished about 1824, The Argory came into existence due to a quirky stipulation in a will. Created with Caledon stone in coursed ashlar blocks with Navan limestone window sills, quoins and foundations, the interior of this understated and intimate house remains unchanged since 1900.
The house was largely closed up at the end of the Second World War, with Mr Bond, the last owner, moving into the North Wing. What you see today is a result of four generations of collecting, treasured by Mr Bond, displayed as he remembers it from his childhood.”
Of The Argory, Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 12. “(MacGeough Bond/IFR) Built ca. 1820 by Walter MacGeough (who subsequently assumed the surname of Bond), to the design of two architects, named A. and J. Williamson, one or both of whom worked in the office of Francis Johnston. A house with imposing and restrained Classical elevations, very much in the Johnston manner, of two storeys, and faced with ashlar. Main block has seven bay front, the centre bay breaking forward under a shallow pediment with acroteria; Wyatt window in centre above porch with Doric columns at corners. Unusual fenestration: the middle window in both storeys either side of the centre being taller than those to the left and right of it. Front prolonged by wing of same height as main block, but set back from it; of three bays, ending with a wide three-sided bow which has a chimneystack in its centre. Three bay end to main block; other front of main block also of seven bays, with a porch; prolonged by service wing flush with main block. Dining room has plain cornice with mutules; unusual elliptical overdoors with shells and fruit in plasterwork. Very extensive office ranges and courtyards at one corner of house; building with a pediment on each side and a clock tower with cupola; range with polygonal end pavilions; imposing archway. The interior is noted for a remarkable organ and for the modern art collection of the late owner. Now maintained by the National Trust.” 
“Brownlow House or Lurgan Castle, so named presumably after the Rt. Hon. Charles Brownlow, who built it in 1833, was created Baron Lurgan in 1839, was owned by the Brownlow family until the turn of the century. Changing fortunes resulted in property being sold to the Lurgan Real Property Company Ltd. and subsequently the House and surrounding grounds were purchased on behalf of Lurgan Loyal Orange District Lodge. The legal document of conveyance is dated 11 July 1904. In appreciation of the effort of the late Sir William Allen, KBE, DSO, DL, MP in obtaining the House, an illuminated address was presented to him by District Lodge and now hangs in the Dining Room beside the portrait of Sir William painted by Frank McKelvey. He together with Messrs. Hugh Hayes, John Mehaffey, George Lunn Jun. and James Malcolm Jun. were the first Trustees.
Browlow House, built in an age of grandeur and cultured tastes, is an imposing building. It has retained much of the atmosphere of bygone days and one can readily pause and still imagine what life was like when it was occupied as a dwelling.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Brownlow House (1988):
p. 49. (Brownlow, Lurgan, B/PB) A large Elizabethan-revival house by William Playfair, of Edinburgh, built from 1836 onwards for Charles Brownlow, 1st Lord Lurgan, whose son, 2nd Baron, owned the famous greyhound Master McGrath, and whose brother-in-law, Maxwell Close, built Drumbanagher, also to the design of Playfair. Of honey coloured stone, with a romantic silhouette; many gables with tall finials; many tall chimneypots; oriels crowned with strapwork and a tower with a lantern and dome. The walls of three principal reception rooms are decorated with panels painted to resemble verd-antique; while the ceilings are grained to represent various woods. The grand staircase has brushwork decoration in the ceiling panesl, and the windows are filled with heraldic stained glass. Sold 1903 to the Orange Order, its present owners, by whom it is used for seasonal functions. Its grounds have become a public park.”
4. Derrymore House, Bessbrook, County Armagh – National Trust, open to public.
The National Trust website tells us that Derrymore House is a late 18th-century thatched house in gentrified vernacular style.
“The name Derrymore is derived from ‘doire’, the Irish for an oak grove and ‘mór’, meaning large. Derrymore was the home of Isaac Corry (1753-1813), MP for Newry from 1776. He commissioned John Sutherland (1745-1826), the leading landscape gardener of the day, to carry out improvements to the land. Sutherland enhanced the existing woodland by planting thousands more trees. Oak, chestnut, pine and beech trees now dominate the woodlands, which contain some very fine mature specimens. The picturesque thatched house was built for Corry, in the style of a ‘cottage orné’, which gives it a rather romantic feel. It is surprisingly large inside with reception and bedrooms on the ground floor, and service rooms in the basement.
Isaac Corry was Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer in 1800, when the Act of Union with Britain was passed. It followed a time of extreme political unrest. The Act removed parliamentary control from Dublin to London, a highly contentious move. Many who supported the union were seen as betraying Ireland in the interests of economics and trade, while others saw it as an economic and political necessity. As MP for Newry and supporter of the linen industry, Corry was keen to ensure solid trade links. The Act was also meant to deliver Catholic Emancipation, but to the dismay of many, including Corry, this part of the Act was not ratified.
Corry sold Derrymore in 1810 and retired to his Dublin house, where he died in 1813. After passing through several hands, Derrymore was bought by John Grubb Richardson (1815-1890), owner of the Bessbrook linen works and village and a member of the Society of Friends.
By the mid-19th century the linen industry had become a major part of the Ulster economy. Industrialisation brought in ever more sophisticated engineering. The Craigmore Viaduct, visible from Derrymore demesne, opened in 1852, creating a major transport link between Dublin and Belfast. The linen business at Bessbrook grew from a small mill, with weaving carried out on looms in people’s own cottages (piece work), into an impressive series of flax, spinning and weaving mills, spear-heading new developments in damask weaving, and established a world-wide reputation for Richardson Linens.
John G. Richardson invested heavily in Bessbrook, creating a model village around the large mill, run on Quaker principles of mutual respect between managers and workers. Good housing, religious tolerance, playing fields and schools helped create a thriving and settled community. No public house ensured that there was no need for a police station, nor for a pawnshop.
John G. Richardson let Derrymore house to tenants and built The Woodhouse for his own family in the northern part of the demesne. He created informal gardens through the rocky woodland, making use of the granite rock from local quarries, enhanced the walled garden and built entrance lodges.
In 1940, soldiers of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry arrived in Bessbrook as a defence against German invasion of Northern Ireland from across the Irish border. In 1943, the troops were replaced by the US Army Quartermaster Depot Q111-D until August 1944.
After the war, John S.W. Richardson, a descendant of John G Richardson, offered Derrymore House to the National Trust. In the 1970s the “Troubles” impacted Bessbrook and Derrymore. The mill was turned into a major base for the British Army and was known as the busiest military heliport in Europe. Corry’s association with the Act of Union led to bombs being planted at Derrymore house on several occasions between 1972 and 1979; one firebomb damaged the house. The caretaker, Mr Edmund Baillie and his two sisters lived in the house and luckily were unhurt, but their safety and the survival of the house were largely due to Mr Baillie’s personal courage in moving some of the bombs away from the building. The Trust was forced to close the house and remove the contents for safe keeping; it opened again in the late 1980s. In 1985 John Richardson generously bequeathed the rest of Derrymore demesne to the National Trust, including The Woodhouse, walled garden and various lodges.
The National Trust has worked with a number of partners to enhance access to Derrymore Demesne with a focus on local visitors, providing better footpaths, parking, toilet facilities and a children’s play area to ensure that everyone can enjoy the beauty of Derrymore in harmony with nature and wildlife and its historic past.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes:
p. 102. “(Corry/LG1886) A single-storey thatched cottage ornee of Palladian form, consisting of a bow-fronted centre block and two flanking wings, joined to the main block by diminutive canted links. The central blow of the main block is three sided, and glazed down to the ground, with mullions and astragals; it is flanked by two quatrefoil windows, under hood mouldings. There is also a mullioned window in each wing. Built ante 1787 by Isaac Corry, MP for Newry and last Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer. The Act of Union is said to have been drafted in the fine drawing room here. Now owned by the Northern Ireland National Trust and open to the public.“
Milford House was the one of its age. The most technologically advanced house in 19th century Ireland – the first in Ireland to be lit with hydro electricity. The creation of Robert Garmany McCrum, self made industrialist, benefactor and inventor who revolutionized the linen industry. His son William invented the penalty kick rule in football (which makes Milford world famous!) and his daughter Harriette was a founding member of the women’s suffragette movement in Ireland. By 1880 Milford House had six bathrooms each with a Jacuzzi and Turkish bath and a waterfall in the dining room. From 1936 to 1965 it was home to the Manor House School.
Today Milford House is one of the top ten listed buildings at most serious risk in Northern Ireland.
p. 206. “A two storey vaguely Italianate C19 house. Camber-headed windows; three sided bow; pedimented three bay projection. Elaborate range of glasshouses running out at right angles from the middle of the front. The seat of the McCrums, of the firm of McCrum, Watson & Mercer, damask manufacturers, of Belfast.”
“Crannagael House, owned and occupied by Jane and John Nicholson, is nestled in the heart of the County Armagh countryside and is approximately 3 miles from M1 junction 13 and 5 miles from Portadown on the B28, Moy – Portadown Road.
It is a grade 2 listed Georgian house and is still owned by the same family that built it in the mid 18th century. It is surrounded by gardens, parkland and mature woodland, and the accommodation overlooks an apple orchard – a delight when the blossom is out in May!
Nicholsons have lived at Crannagael House since 1760. Subsequent generations were involved in the linen industry and then in 1884 one Henry Joseph Nicholson, the current owner’s great grandfather, imported the first 60 Bramley Seedling trees to Armagh from Southwell in Nottinghamshire, and the rest as they say is history!
The self contained apartment on the East wing comprises several bedrooms, bathroom and downstairs shower with wc (both with wonderful views of the orchard!)and a fully fitted kitchen, dining area and lounge.”
“Killeavy Castle Estate is the perfect antidote to the modern fast paced world. As the centrepiece of 350 acres of mixed farm and woodland in County Armagh’s stunning Slieve Gullion, it’s the ideal place to escape, retreat, relax and unwind. Easily accessible only 10 minutes outside Newry City and one hour from both Belfast and Dublin Airports makes it Northern Irelands premier Hotel and Spa destination.
At Killeavy Castle Estate we are all about living life more slowly and in the present; cherishing those ahhh moments for when the distractions of the modern world finally ebb away and you get closer to the things that matter most. Whether that’s nature, history, loved ones or even yourself, this secluded country Estate will provide everything you need to emerge fully rejuvenated.
Perfect for a unique getaway, wedding or special celebration, take a closer look at everything the Estate has to offer from a beautifully restored Castle, boutique Hotel accommodation, superb cuisine with ingredients sourced from our local farm, Spa and endless opportunities for walking in a stunning location.”
“Killeavy Castle is a Grade A listed historical building originally designed in 1836 by architect George Papworth of Dublin. Formally known as Killeavy Lodge, the Foxall family had their home rebuilt in the style of the pre-Victorian Gosford Castle with towers, Tudor windows and a medieval-style door transforming the modest farmhouse into a home fit for a king.
Situated on the eastern base of Slieve Gullion, the original castle and surrounding grounds brought a new element to the beautiful landscape. The building contained a basement level with a kitchen, store rooms, servant’s quarters and an underground tunnel to allow servants to enter and exit the building unseen. Above was a parlour and wine cellar, with an adjoining drawing room, library and conservatory. On the top level were six bedrooms, four dressing rooms and bathrooms. There was a beautiful walled garden and an ornamental water wheel.
The Bell family took ownership of the property in 1881, but in recent years the building fell into disrepair. Fortunately, the facade remained intact and, surrounded by fir plantations and lush farmland, it has been returned to its former glory.
George Papworth (1781-1855) was the younger brother of English architect John Buonarotti Papworth. He established himself in Ireland and designed many notable buildings including Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital and the King’s Bridge in Dublin. His drawings of Killeavy were exhibited in the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1836.
Killeavy’s Journey From Family Home to Historic Hotel
We are proud to have brought a stunning piece of architectural heritage and Northern Ireland history back from the brink of ruin. When we took ownership of Killeavy Castle Estate, we saw its incredible potential and decided to restore it to its former glory.
Our mission was to fully restore Killeavy Castle Estate so that locals and visitors alike could enjoy it for generations to come. In 2019, we opened the Killeavy Castle to the public as a historic hotel, wedding venue, spa and visitor attraction.
Since then, we have welcomed countless visitors from around the world. Guests flock to our Estate to appreciate our meticulously restored 19th century Castle, manicured gardens, unspoiled woodlands, and authentic working farm.
Killeavy Castle Estate Today
Today, the Killeavy Castle Estate comprises our 19th-century Castle, a four-star boutique-style Hotel with 45 guestrooms in our restored Mill and Coach House, and a three-guestroom luxury self catering Gatelodge.
Our guests can also enjoy our fine dining restaurant, casual bistro bar and luxury spa facilities. Comfort and class are our guiding principles, bringing the opulence of days gone by to everyone who visits our Estate.“
From the website: “Welcome to Newforge House, a historic family-run country house offering warm hospitality, luxurious rooms and delicious local seasonal food in tranquil surroundings. Set on the edge of the small village of Magheralin, Newforge is an oasis of calm and the perfect location for your romantic break or a special occasion with friends and family. Our central location, only 30-minute drive from Belfast, makes Newforge an ideal base for touring Northern Ireland.”
“Elmfield Estate has been a family home for generations and of the Shaw family for the last 60 years. It has evolved through the years, from a modest dwelling house and stable yard in the 18c to an impressive Victorian Scottish baronial style house with turrets and ziggurat balustrades, built by the wealthy linen barons in the mid-1800s. The estate ran into disrepair after the second world war but was saved by the Shaws who have lovingly restored the house, farm, and gardens room by room lawn by lawn. Elmfield has certainly been a place of transformation and vision over the last 60 years. When Derek and Ann’s three children were little, they enjoyed the freedom and wildness that only a semi-derelict estate can offer. To turn that into what you see today is down to Derek’s vision.
There are more than 300 years of fascinating history to be discovered here, from the history of the founding, design and redesign of the house to the plans for the grounds and courtyards. Over the years more than one family dynasty of linen merchants has called Elmfield their home, and the layers of heritage here offer deep insights into Northern Ireland’s once-dominant linen industry.
During World War II Elmfield was home to a very different cohort of people, housing German and Italian prisoners of war within its grounds. Some years after the war a comprehensive restoration of the Elmfield Estate was completed by the Shaw family and forms the basis of what you can see today, enabling the estate to host rewarding holistic experiences that include mindfulness and meditation walks, self-discovery retreats, corporate wellness and leadership programmes, and transformative deep yoga residencies.”
“Built around 1619 by Sir Baptist Jones, Bellaghy Bawn is a fortified house and bawn (the defensive wall surrounding an Irish tower house). What exists today is a mix of various building styles from different periods with the main house lived in until 1987.” Open on Sundays.
“Hezlett’s picturesque thatched cottage exterior hides a fascinating early timber frame dating from 1690, making it one of the oldest vernacular domestic buildings in Northern Ireland. The story of the house is told through the experiences of the people who lived there.“
The house at Liffock became home to the Hezletts in 1766 and stayed within the family for the next 200 years until the National Trust acquired it in 1976. The National Trust website tells us:
“Isaac Hezlett (1720-1790) was the first Hezlett to live in the cottage at Liffock. He acquired the dwelling and some land in 1766. At this point in his life he was married to his second wife Esther and had two sons; Samuel from his first marriage with Margaret Kerr and Jack, half-brother to Samuel.When Samuel’s father died, he inherited the farm at the age of 37 and about five years later he married Esther Steel. She was 22 years his junior and they had eight children.Samuel was intimidated by local insurgents to join the United Irishmen; his half-brother Jack was an ardent supporter. He was threatened to be hanged from the Spanish chestnut tree in his own garden.By 1798 the rebellion was at its height and the two brothers were on opposite sides of the war. 30,000 lives were lost when the rebels were finally defeated. Jack escaped to the recently created United States of America while Samuel remained with his family in their home at Liffock until he died in 1821.
Samuel’s eldest son Isaac (1796-1883) married Jane Swan (1805-1896) in 1823. He built a two-storey extension to form a new self-contained unit for his mother and sisters. This extension could be regarded as forerunner of what we call today a ‘granny-flat’. Isaac also increased the acreage farmed at Liffock.Hugh (1825-1906), Samuel and Jane’s eldest son, increased the acreage of the farm once more. By putting his education to good use he made the farm more productive; more cash crops were grown and the herds of dairy cattle and sheep were increased. The outputs from the farm which generated income included the cash crops of flax, barley, potatoes, oats and turnips, in addition to wool, milk, calves, pigs and eggs. Hugh also oversaw an extensive re-modelling of the farmyard and outbuildings.In 1881 the Gladstone Land Act paved the way for further Acts which enabled tenant farmers to buy the land they had hitherto rented. So by the early 20th century the Hezletts were not tenant farmers but owner-occupiers.
In 1976, with funds provided by Ulster Land fund and the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society the National Trust acquired the house from the third Hugh Hezlett (1911-1988).”
“Downhill Demesne delves into a life and landscape steeped in history and nature. There’s much to explore as you enter this enchanting estate. Wander around the 18th-century demesne and discover dovecotes and gardens as you stumble upon a spectacular temple.”
The house of Downhill is now a ruin.
The National Trust website tells us:
“2018 marked the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Frederick Augustus Hervey in the Diocese of Derry. He was consecrated as Bishop in St Columb’s Cathedral in March 1768. Frederick was a man of many parts as well as being a cleric he was a scientist with a deep interest in volcanology; he was a collector of art; he travelled extensively and spoke German, French and Italian fluently; he took a keen interest in Irish politics and music; he was a powerful proponent of religious equality; and he was a builder of churches, bridges and roads.
He is remembered by us for his association with the Giant’s Causeway and the creation of the Downhill Demesne. A keen volcanologist, Frederick ‘discovered’ the Giant’s Causeway in the sense that he publicised what was then an isolated, seldom-visited spot and was the first to study it in a wider scientific context and pass on his findings to his learned friends throughout Europe. He also created Downhill House and the Mussenden Temple, Northern Ireland’s most iconic building, as his country retreat.
The Earl Bishop is largely regarded as being his own architect at Downhill but it was the Cork born Michael Shanahan who drew up most of the building plans and was, for most of the time, his buildings works superintendent. The mason James McBlain executed all the decorative carving and much of the subsequent building for the Earl. Italian stuccadores were also employed, chief among whom was Placido Columbani.
Downhill is characterised by a three storey front, facing south and with two long wings at the back of this. Originally these wings terminated in domes topped with ornamental chimney-pots. The wings were continued in ranges of outbuildings, forming inner and outer yards, and ending towards the sea in two immense curving bastions of basalt.
The main house block was faced with freestone from Dungiven quarries, about 30 miles away. The basement is rusticated and the storeys above decorated with pairs of Corinthian pilasters, topped by Vitruvian scroll course, a cornice and parapet.
Sadly the interior of the house shows little of its original character. The house was almost entirely gutted by a fire which broke out on a Sunday in May 1851. The library was completely destroyed and more than 20 pieces of sculpture had been ruined. Most of the paintings were rescued, but a Raphael, The Boar Hunt, was reported destroyed.
In his later years, the Earl Bishop spent very little time in Ireland. His Irish estates were administered by a distant cousin, Henry Hervey Aston Bruce, who succeeded him following his death in 1803.
In 1804 Henry Hervey Aston Bruce was created a baronet and Downhill remained with the Bruce family until at least 1948, though the family rarely lived there after around 1920.
The only other occupation of the house came about during WWII when the site was requisitioned by the RAF. The house was subsequently dismantled after the war and its roof removed in 1950.”
Frederick Augustus Hervey also built Ballyscullion in Derry and Ickworth in Suffolk, England. He built them not only to indulge his love of architecture, but to house his large collection of paintings, furniture and statues. He first encountered his architect, Michael Shanahan, when he was Bishop of Cloyne in Cork. David Hicks tells us in his Irish Country Houses, a Chronicle of Change that Hervey took Shanahan on a trip to Italy between 1770-1772 in order to make sketches of various items of interest that could be incorporated into his home. Shanahan took up residence in the Hervey estate in Derry and acted as the Earl Bishop’s architect in residence.
The Bishop created Mussenden Temple in memory of Mrs Frideswide Mussenden, a cousin who died in 1785. Shanahan was the architect. It is believed that the Bishop used it as a private library, and permitted local Catholics to use the ground floor for mass. He left Downhill and Ballyscullion to Mrs Mussenden’s brother, Reverend Henry Aston Bruce. In doing so, he disinherited his wife and son, with whom he had quarrelled.
Frideswide Mussenden was born Frideswide Bruce. Her parents were Henrietta Aston and James Bruce. Henrietta Aston was daughter of Rev. Hon. Henry Hervey-Aston, son of John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol, who was the brother of Bishop Frederick Augustus’s father. The Bishop’s heir was therefore only distantly related, quite a blow to the disinherited wife and son.
Reverend Bruce who inherited Downhill and Ballyscullion dismantled the latter in 1813, perhaps due to window taxes, and transferred its furniture and art to Downhill. A fire in 1851 destroyed Downhill and much of its contents. The house was rebuilt to some degree to the design of John Lanyon between 1870-74.
Reverend Bruce was created a British Baronet in 1804. His son became 2nd Baronet and grandson, 3rd Baronet of Downhill. It was passed to the 4th, 5th and 6th Baronets. By the 1950s most of the contents of the house has been sold and the house dismantled and surrounding land sold. The estate is now in the care of the National Trust.
“Springhill has a beguiling spirit that captures the heart of every visitor. Described as ‘one of the prettiest houses in Ulster’, its welcoming charm reveals a family home with portraits, furniture and decorative arts that bring to life the many generations of Lenox-Conynghams who lived here from 1680. The old laundry houses one of Springhill’s most popular attractions, the Costume Collection with some exceptionally fine 18th to 20th century pieces.
New Visitor Reception offering a retail and grab and go catering offer. Celebrated collection of costumes, from the 18th century to 1970s. Visit our second-hand bookshop and pick up a bargain.
Walks: Beautiful walled gardens and way marked paths through the parkland. Children’s adventure trail play park and natural play area. A variety of events throughout the year. There are three walks available: Beech Walk, Snowdrop Walk, Sawpit Hill Walk.“
Visitor Facilities: Historic house, garden, shop, refreshments, guided tours. Suitable for picnics and country walks. Programme of events available. House: admission by guided tour (last admission 1 hour before closing). Open Bank Holiday Mondays and all other public holidays in Northern Ireland. Closed 25 and 26 December. Visitor Centre has café and shop. See Information tab for full Opening Times and Prices. Access for visitors with disability and facilities for families. Dogs welcome on leads in grounds/garden only. Available for functions.
Mark Bence-Jones writes about Springhill House in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 263. “(Lenox-Conyngham/IFR) A low, white-washed, high roofed house with a sense of great age and peace; its nucleus late C17, built ca 1680 by “Good Will” Conyngham, who afterwards played a leading part in the defence of Derry during the Siege. Altered and enlarged at various times; the defensive enclosure or bawn with which it was originally surrounded was taken down, and two single storey free-standing office wings of stone with curvilinear end-gables were built early C18 flaking the entrance front, forming a deep forecourt. Col William Conyngham, MP, added two single-storey wings to the house ca 1765, which was when the entrance front assumed its present appearance: of seven bays, the windows on either side of the centre being narrower than the rest, and with a three sided bow in each of the wings. In the high roof, a single central dormer lighting the attic. The hall has C18 panelling; behind the hall is an early C18 staircase of oak and yew with alternate straight and spiral twisted balusters. The Gun Room has bolection moulded oak panelling which could be late C17 or early C18, though it cannot have been put into this room until much later, for there are remains of C18 wallpaper behind it. The large and lofty drawing room in the right-hand wing is a great contrast after the small, low-ceilinged rooms in the centre of the house; it has a modillion cornice and a handsome black marble chimneypiece. Though essentially a Georgian room, it has been given a Victorian character with a grey and green wallpaper of Victorian pattern. Next to the drawing room, in the garden front, is the dining room, added ca 1850 by William Lenox-Conygham; a large simple room of Georgian character, with a red flock paper and a chimneypiece of yellow marble brought from Herculaneum by the Earl of Bristol Bishop of Derry and presented by him to the family. The garden front, which is irregular, going in and out, facing along an old beech venue to a ruined tower which may originally have been a windmill. Transferred to the Northern Ireland Trust by W.L Lenox-Conygham, HML, shortly before his death in 1957. Springhill is featured in his mother, Mina’s book An Old Ulster Home and is open to the public.”
William Conyngham married Ann Upton, daughter of Arthur Upton of Castle Upton, County Antrim (this still exists and is privately owned), MP for County Antrim. Springhill passed to their daughter Anne who married David Butle, a merchant. Their son George took the name Conyngham and inherited Springhill. Although he had sons, Springhill passed through the line of his daughter, Ann (1724-1777) who married Clotworthy Lenox (1707-1785). Their son took the name George Lenox-Conyngham (1752-1816) when he inherited. George married twice: first to Jane Hamilton, and their son William Lenox-Conyngham (1792-1858) added the dining room to Springhill. George married secondly Olivia Irvine of Castle Irvine (also called Necarne; the park around Necarne Castle can freely be visited during daytime. The ruin of the castle itself is boarded up, so its interior can not be visited), County Fermanagh. One of their descendants was Jack Nicholson who inherited Enniscoe in County Mayo.
Springhill passed then from William Lenox-Conyngham (1792-1858) and his wife Charlotte Mesolina Staples of Lissan, County Tyrone, to their son William Fitzwilliam Lenox-Conyngham, and it was his grandson William Lowry Lenox-Conyngham who left it to the Northern Ireland Trust.
Places to stay, County Derry
1. Ardtara Country House and restaurant, County Derry €€
“Whether it’s for a drink, dinner, a weekend break or a round of golf we want you to enjoy the Brown Trout experience.
At the Brown Trout Inn we know that relaxing means different things to different people. For some, food and drink is all-important. Our menu offers fresh locally sourced produce ranging from ‘taste of Ulster’ favourites like honey-grilled gammon and buttery champ to slow-roasted lamb shanks and not forgetting fresh fish, including grilled trout of course.
For others, putting their feet up is the closest thing to heaven. Our Courtyard accommodation offers space, comfort and quality – the cottages hold NITB four-star status. All our accommodation is easily accessible for wheelchair users and guests with disabilities and all rooms are dog-friendly. Wifi access is free throughtout the hotel.“
3. Roselick Lodge, County Derry – whole house rentalfor 8 guests, three night minimum
“Dating back to 1830, this sympathetically restored Georgian property offers a tranquil rural setting midway between Portstewart and Portrush. Whilst retaining many of the original features and charm, the open plan extension has been adapted to suit modern living. The accommodation comprises three main reception areas, a Magnificent Family Kitchen /Living and Dining area, a cosy and tastefully decorated Snug with open fire, access to south facing Orangery and large secluded cottage gardens. Upstairs are four well proportioned bedrooms sleeping up to eight guests and a spacious first floor balcony with sea views. Minimum 3 night stay.“
Nestled in beautiful parkland where you will find our grand Georgian Mansion House which is perfect for weddings, family get togethers, corporate events and much more.
Mark Bence-Jones writes about Drenagh House (formerly Fruit Hill) in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 107. “(McCausland/IFR) The earliest major country house by Charles Lanyon, built ca 1837 for Marcus McCausland, replacing an early C18 house on a different site. Of significance in the history of C19 Irish domestic architecture in that it is a competent late-Georgian design by an architect whose buildings in the following decade are definitely Victorian. Two storey; o an attractive pinkish sandstone ashlar. Five bay entrance front with the centre bay recessed and a single-storey Ionic portico in which the outer columns aer coupled. Adjoining front of six bays with two bay pedimented breakfront; the duality of the elevation being emphasised rather than resolved by the presence of three giant pilasters, supporting the pediment. Rear elevation of one bay between two three sided bows, with fanlighted tripartite garden door. Lower service wing at side. Balustraded parapet round roof and on portico. Single-storey top-lit central hall with screen of fluted Corinthian columns; graceful double staircase with elegant cast iron balusters rising from behind one of these screens. Rich plasterwork ceilings in hall, over staircase and in drawing room; simpler ceilings in morning room and dining room. At the head of the stairs, a bedroom corridor with a ceiling of plaster vaulting and shallow domes goes round the central court or well, the lower part of which is roofed over to form the hall. Very large and extensive outbuildings. Vista through gap in trees opposite entrance front of house to idyllic landscape far below, the ground falling steeply on this side; straight flight of steps on the axis of this vista leading down to bastion terrace with urns. Chinese garden with circular “moon gate,” laid out by Lady Margaret McCausland 1960s. Gate lodge by Lanyon with pedimented Ionic portico.”
“The castle is named after its late 16th-century owners, the Audleys, an Anglo-Norman family who held land in the area in the 13th century, It was sold, with the surrounding estate, to the Ward family in 1646 and used in 1738 as an eye-catching focus of the long vista along Castle Ward’s artificial lake, Temple Water.
The site comprises of a number of paths to allow you to get to the Castle.“
“This impressive building was built for the Hon Robert Edward Ward and his family in 1852. It is presently the headquarters of Ards and North Down Borough Council who use the mansions spectacular grand salon as the council chamber. The building is situated in the grounds of Castle Park alongside North Down Museum and is just a short walk from Bangor Castle Walled Garden.
CS Lewis visited North Down on many occasions throughout his life and regularly returned to the area. He enjoyed the beautiful view over Belfast Lough from the grounds of Bangor Castle. As Lewis himself once said “Heaven is Oxford lifted and placed in the middle of County Down”.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 30. “(Ward, sub Bangor, V/PB; Bingham, Clanmorris, B/PB) An Elizabethan-Revival and Baronial mansion by William Burn, built 1847 for Robert Ward, a descendant of 1st Viscount Bangor. Mullioned windows; oriels created with strapwork; rather steep gables with finials. At one end, a battlemented tower with a pyramidal-roofed clock turret. Partly curved quoins, very characteristic of Burn. Inherited by Robert Ward’s daughter and heiress, Matilda Catherine, wife of 5th Lord Clanmorris. Featured in Peers and Plebs by Madeleine Bingham. Now owned by the town of Bangor.”
“The current Castle Ward is a particularly unusual building, famed for having been built with two completely different architectural styles, both inside and out.
One half is built in the classical Palladian style, with the other half which faces out across Strangford lough built in the more elaborate Gothick* style.
The story told for the reason behind this unusual decorative scheme is that the original builder of the house, Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount Bangor, did not agree with his wife Lady Anne on the décor. Bernard was more classical in taste with Lady Anne prefering the fashionable Gothick style, leading them to split the house down the middle. This story is compounded by the fact that they separated not long after the house was finished with Anne leaving Castle Ward for good. This hint of scandal has carried this story through the years, but let us consider instead that Anne and Bernard set out to build the house exactly as it is – not a marriage of compromise, but a triumph of collaboration.
When Bernard and Lady Anne inherited the estate in 1759 they set about building themselves a fine new house, one which would be symbolic of their union and exist as a statement of the Ward family’s bold and forward-thinking place in the world. Castle Ward was completed in 1766 and by 1781 they had been created Viscount and Viscountess Bangor in the Peerage of Ireland.
Lady Anne’s grandfather was the nephew of the Duchess of York – wife of King James II, and a first cousin of Queen Anne. This royal ancestry shows itself in the choice of the Gothick style. The ceiling in the Morning Room is copied from the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey where Anne’s maternal family were permitted to be buried due to their royal blood. Rather than the house becoming known as an architectural monstrosity, the couple aimed for it to be a masterpiece, striving against convention and rooting the Ward family as bold, modern thinkers with an impressive past.
The unusal combination of styles has long been a point of joy or novelty for guests, having a ‘marmite’ appeal. On a visit to Castle Ward, writer and poet John Betjeman referred to the ceiling in the Boudoir as “like sitting under a cow’s udder”, and the comment has stuck. Others comment on the otherworldly feeling created in the exotic grandeur of the Gothick side.
Please check the homepage for opening times of the mansion house before planning your visit, as they may change seasonally. There is no need to book your visit in advance.“
The website also tells us more about owner Anne Ward:
“Castle Ward – the story of a warring couple, divided in opinion and styles leading to a house with two sides. Perhaps the story is a little more complicated – here we delve deeper into the background of Lady Anne Bligh, co-architect of Castle Ward.
Given that Lady Anne Ward was co-creator of the dichotomous style of Castle Ward, it is surprising how few of her possessions or papers are left in the collection. Hers’ remains a hidden history. Having left Castle Ward and her husband Bernard in 1770 shortly after the completion of the house, she has become a symbol of mystery and speculation, made notorious and unusual because of her independence of mind and spirit.
The public expression of her personal tastes in the Gothick style at Castle Ward, clashed dramatically with her husband’s preferred classical style, and this has resulted in the condemnation of Lady Ann as unusual. History has found it difficult to understand the architectural choice that was reached by Lady Anne and Bernard, seeming as a legacy to their failed marriage. Whilst Bernard is remembered as the maker of the classical side of the house, symbolically representing reason, balance and order, Lady Anne in contrast represents an ‘otherness’ which she expressed in Gothick architecture – seemingly conveying her fantastical, whimsical and unconventional personality.
The Royal blood from her maternal grandparents gave Lady Anne the hauteur and confidence to do as she pleased. Her grandfather, the Earl of Clarendon was the nephew of the Duchess of York, wife of James II, and a first cousin of Queen Anne. Queen Anne was her mother Theodosia’s Godmother, and as such Theodosia was allowed to marry in Westminster Abbey. This was something Lady Ann was keen to highlight in her choice of architecture at Castle Ward, even copying the plasterwork from the Henry VII Chapel and recreating it in the Morning Room as a reminder of her royal connections.
The Earl of Clarendon also prompted perception of the family as “eccentric” by accounts of them acting out their role as Colonial Governor of New York dressed in articles of women’s clothing which challenged social boundaries of the period. Historians have been unable to confirm the accuracy of these accounts nor the motivations behind the Earl’s alleged presentation of gender non-conformity. Whatever the accuracy or reason, contemporaries condemned the Earl and considered it to be a sign of ‘great insanity’, however the Earl remained protected and often handsomely rewarded by their cousin Queen Anne. This connection provided crucial protection from critics.
Elizabeth Hastings, Countess of Moira who knew the family decribed them as having ‘an hereditary malady’. Members were noted as experiencing varied mental health issues. Lady Anne was accused of having ‘a shade of derangement in her intellects’. Her brother, Lord Darnley, was convinced he was a teapot and was reluctant to engage in sexual activity lest ‘his spout would come off in the night’; Lady Anne’s son Nicholas was declared ‘a lunatic’ in 1785 but details about this are scant.
Lady Anne’s relationship with a woman, prior to her two marriages, has also been the source of popular speculation and of academic debate. At 21, Lady Anne embarked on a six year relationship with Letitia Bushe, a woman considered much inferior in status and wealth, but much more experienced in the world with a great intellect and close friend of Mrs Delany. From the surviving correspondence of Letitia Bushe, it is clear that she was besotted with Lady Anne who was some fifteen years her junior, writing in 1740:
‘This Day twelvemonth was the Day I first stay’d with you, the night of which you may remember pass’d very oddly. I cannot forget how I pity’d you and how by that soft road you led me on to love you… that first Sunday at Bray, when you were dressing and I lay down on your Bed – ‘twas then I took first a notion to you’.
Academic research has suggested that this instance of same-sex love and desire provided Lady Anne with ‘an alternative outlet for emotional needs and energies, free of the complex web of economic and social considerations that surrounded relations between men and women of the propertied classes’ at this time.
Sadly none of Lady Anne’s correspondence to Letitia Bushe survives – in true Lady Anne style she remains an enigma, true to herself regardless of tastes or conventions, and a symbol of ‘the three-dimensional complexity of human life’.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p.78. Castleward: “Ward, Bangor, V/PB) A grandmid-C18 house of three storeys over basement and seven bays; built 1760/73 by Bernard Ward (afterwards 1st Viscount Bangor), and his wife, Lady Anne, daughter of 1st Earl of Darnley, to replace an earlier house. Probably by an English architect; and faced in Bath stone, brought over from Bristol in Mr Ward’s own ships. It seems that the Wards could not agree on the style of their new house; he wanted it to be Classical; but she was of what Mrs Delany called “whimsical” taste and favoured the fashionable new Strawberry Hill Gothic. The result was a compromise. The entrance front was made Classical, with central feature of a pediment and four engaged Ionic columns rising through the two upper storeys, the bottom storey being rusticated and treated as a basement. The garden front, facing over Strangford Lough, was made Gothic, with a battlemented parapet, pinnacles in the centre, and pointed windows in all its three storeys and seven bays – lancet in the central breakfront, ogee on the other side. All the windows have delightful Strawberry Hill Gothic astragals. This front of Castleward, and Moore Abbey, Co Kildare, are the only two surviving examples of mid-C18 Gothic in major Irish country houses which are not old castles remodelled. The interior of Castleward is remarkable in that the rooms on the Classical side of the house are Classical and those on the Gothic side Gothic; thus the hall – now the music room – has a Doric frieze and a screen of Doric columns; whereas the saloon has a ceiling of fretting and quatrefoils, pointed doors and a Gothic chimneypiece. The dining room, with its grained plaster panelling, is Classical and the sitting room is Gothic with spectacular plaster fan vaulting. Mr Ward, however, managed to be one up on his wife in that the staircase, which is in the middle of the house, is Classical; lit by a Vvenetian window in one of the end bows. If we believe Lady Anne, this was not the only time when he got his own way at her expense, for, having left him, as it turned out, for good, she wrote accusing him of bullying her. In C19, a porch was added to one of the end bows of the house, making a new entrance under the staircase; so that the hall became the music room. In the grounds there is a four storey tower-house, built at the end of C16 by Nicholas Ward; also a temple modelled on Palladio’s Redentore, dating from ante 1755; it stands on a hill, overlooking an early C18 artificial lake, or canal. On the death of 6th Viscount, 1950, Castleward was handed over in part payment of death duties to the Northern Ireland Government, who gave it, with an endowment, to the National Trust. The house and garden are now open to the public, and the Trust has set up various projects in different parts of the estate.”
“Hillsborough Castle has been a grand family home and is now the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and a royal residence. Members of the Royal Family stay at Hillsborough when visiting Northern Ireland.
Viewed by some as a politically neutral venue, Hillsborough has played an important role in the Peace Process in Northern Ireland since the 1980s.
In 2014, Historic Royal Palaces took over the running of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens and began an ambitious project to restore the house and gardens to its former glory.
Hillsborough, originally the settlement of Cromlyn (meaning Crooked Glen) in mid-Down, became part of the Hill family estates in the early 1600s. Moyses Hill, the landless second son of an English West Country family, joined the army to seek his fortune in Ireland, where he supported the Earl of Essex, a military leader sent by Elizabeth I.
At this time, the land was still in the hands of Irish chiefs of the Magennis family. But the defeat of Irish chieftain Hugh O’Neill in 1603 opened the way for men such as Moyses Hill to establish themselves as landowners in Ireland. The Hills bought some 5,000 acres of land, then gradually added to this over the next 20 years until the whole area around the present Hillsborough had passed from the Magennises to the Hills.
Successive generations of this ambitious family began to rise, politically and socially, in Ireland. Within 50 years they were one of the most prominent landowning families in the area; their estates stretched for over 130 miles from Larne, north of Belfast to Dun Laoghaire, south of Dublin, around 115, 000 acres in total.
Wills Hill was the first Marquess of Downshire and his diplomatic skills as a courtier cemented the family’s position in society.
From 1768-72 he held the post of Secretary of State for the Colonies. He had grown very powerful in government and served the royal family, for which he was awarded his title in 1789.
Wills Hill famously hosted American founding father Benjamin Franklin, but contrary to popular myth, when they met at Hillsborough in 1771, the two men got along well together.
Wills Hill built not only this house but also the Courthouse in The Square. He also built the terraces around The Square and other buildings in the town.
Hillsborough is unusual for an Irish Big House as it is not a country house around which a town grew; rather it was built as a townhouse, forming one side of a neat Georgian square.
The road to Moira once passed directly below the windows, and opposite the house were a variety of shops, houses and the Quaker Meeting House.
The 3rd and 4th Marquesses, also commissioned a lot of work on the house, giving it the outward appearance it has today.
When the house was being altered in the 1840s, the family decided to expand the gardens and so rebuilt the road, houses and Quaker Meeting House all further away. The old road was absorbed into the landscaping of the gardens, and the south side of the house was opened out to allow views of the ‘picturesque’ gardens.
Successive generations of the Hill family enjoyed the house as a family home, renovating and redecorating in the latest styles and improving the gardens.
However, by the end of the 19th century they were spending more time on their estate in England, at Easthampstead Park in Berkshire or their seaside home at Murlough House in County Down. The sixth Marquess’ uncle and guardian, Lord Arthur Hill remained at Hillsborough Castle to look after his nephew’s estate. The family first rented out Hillsborough in 1909, then sold it completely in 1925.
It was bought by the British government, for around £24,000 (equivalent to £1.3m today) to be the residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland.
Following Partition in 1921, Governors were appointed to represent the monarch in Northern Ireland, replacing the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland who had previously lived at Dublin Castle. The house became known as Government House, remaining the official residence of the Governors for over 50 years.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 152. “(Hill, Downshire, M/PB; Dixon, Glentoran, B/PB) A large, rambling, two storey late-Georgian mansion of a warm, golden-orange ashlar; its elevations rather long for their height. It appears to incorporate a much smaller house of ca 1760, but was mostly built later in C18, to the design of R.F. Brettingham, by Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire, a prominent member of Lord North’s Cabinet at the time of the American War. The work was not completed until 1797, four years after 1st Marquess’s death. In 1830s and 1840s, the house was enlarged and remodelled, to the design of Thomas Duff, of Newry, and William Sands. The pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns in the middle of the long seventeen bay garden front – originally the entrance front – which is the principal exterior feature, dates from this period; as does the present appearance of the pedimented front adjoining to the left, with its asymmetrical projecting ends; as well as the treatment of the elevations of the two ranges at right angles to each other which form two sides of the entrance forecourt; one of them having a rather shallow single-storey portico of four pairs of coupled Ionic columns. The forecourt, with its magnificent mid-C18 wrought iron gates and railings, brought here 1936 from Rich Hill, Co Armagh, is on one side of the main square of the charming little town of Hillsborough, which is reminiscent of the Schlossplatz in a small German capital. Although the house backs onto a sizeable demesne, with a lake, the park is on the opposite side of the town. Its chief feature is Hillsborough Fort, a star-shaped fort built by Col Arthur Hill ca 1650. The gatehouse of the fort was rebuilt most delightfully in the Gothic taste ca 1758, perhaps to the design of Sanderson Miller himself. Hillsborough Castle became the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland 1925, and consequently became known as Government House; from then, until 1973, when the post of Governor was abolished, it was occupied by successive Governors (all PB); namely, 3rd Duke of Abercorn, 4th Earl Granville, 2nd Lord Wakehurst, Lord Erskine of Rerrick, and Lord Grey of Naunton; during this period, the house was frequently visited by members of the British Royal Family. In 1934 the house was seriously damaged by fire, and in the subsequent rebuilding the principal rooms were done up in a more palatial style, with elaborate plasterwork. The future of the house is now uncertain.”
“For the first time in its history, this mystical and enchanting estate, set in magnificent natural surroundings, is open to visit.
Nestled in the picturesque County Down countryside, Montalto is a privately-owned demesne steeped in history dating back to the 1600s. It is famously the site of ‘The Battle of Ballynahinch’ which took place during the Irish rebellion in 1798. It is also home to an exotic plant collection initially created by ‘The Father of Irish Gardening’, Sir Arthur Rawdon.
Montalto Estate aims to reconnect visitors with nature through access to a range of captivating gardens and beautiful walks and trails. The visitor experience includes: public access to the estate’s beautiful gardens along with unique and surprising garden features; historic walks and trails; and an exciting play area where children can explore, learn and wonder at their natural surroundings. A purpose built centre, designed in keeping with the look and feel of the estate, includes a welcome area featuring interpretation of the estate’s history; a stylish café offering flavoursome and beautifully presented food; and a shop that offers a mix of estate produce, local craft products and many other unique and exceptionally designed items.
The beautiful gardens include an Alpine Garden, a Winter Garden, a Cutting Garden, a Walled Garden, a Formal Garden and the Orchard situated within a wildflower meadow. Both the Winter Garden and Alpine Garden will always be accessible whilst the other gardens will be accessible whenever possible as they are working gardens. Four champion trees are located around the lake and the pinetum and over the past three years over 30,000 trees have been planted here.
Active families will enjoy the Woodland Trail and low wood. The impressive purpose built tree house, which was handcrafted onsite, features rope bridges, monkey bars and treetop views kids of all ages will enjoy. Mini explorers can enjoy the smaller tree house and natural play area. Everything within this area has been designed to fuel the imagination through exploration and discovery.
For tranquil and picturesque walks you can enjoy the stunning views of The Lake Walk and The Garden Walk. Catch a glimpse of some of the wonderful wildlife that calls Montalto Estate their home or simply take in the beautiful seasonal displays and reconnect with nature.”
“Montalto, nestled beautifully in the heart of the picturesque Co. Down countryside, is a privately-owned demesne which dates back to the early 1600s.
In pre-plantation times the estate was originally owned by Patrick McCartan. However, due to his involvement in the 1641 Rebellion, his Ballynahinch lands were confiscated, and in 1657 the townland was purchased by Sir George Rawdon [and Patrick McCartan was executed]. Circa 1765, his descendant Sir John Rawdon – First Earl of Moira – built a mansion property on the estate: this is the house that we now know as Montalto House.
Sir John’s ancestor, Sir Arthur Rawdon – The Father of Irish Gardening – had earlier amassed a large collection of exotic foreign plants at Moira Castle. Many of Sir Arthur’s plants were transferred to Montalto when his grandson Sir John moved onto the estate.
During the Battle of Ballynahinch (part of the 1798 Rebellion), rebels occupying Montalto House are attacked by the militia. The mansion sustains some fire and artillery damage. Francis Rawdon-Hastings – 2nd Earl of Moira and Montalto resident – is a respected British military officer during the American War of Independence. He is a close friend of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. For ten years he is Governor General of India, carrying huge military and political responsibilities. He sells the Montalto Estate soon after the 1798 Rebellion and later becomes 1st Marquess of Hastings in 1816.
In 1803 David Ker of Portavo purchased the estate. In 1910 Richard – the last of the Kers to reside at Montalto – is finally forced to sell the estate.In 1912 Arthur, 5th Earl of Clanwilliam, purchases Montalto for £20,000.
The Earl fights in the Boer War (where he is badly wounded), and with the Guards in France in WW1. His wife Lady Muriel cares for wounded Allied officers during their convalescence at Montalto.
In 1979 the house is purchased by the Hogg Corry Partnership. In 1988 Corry withdraws. In 1995 it is purchased by the Wilson family. Working with local architects Hobart and Heron, as well as John O’Connell – a leading conservation architect from Dublin, specialising in Georgian architecture – they set about a programme of works to restore the house, grounds, and outbuildings to their former glory.
The estate has been almost exclusively, a family home since Lord Moira built the first house here. Nowadays Montalto offers visitors the use of 400 acres of rolling Irish countryside, which includes wonderful trails and gardens and a chance to explore this historic demesne and reconnect with nature.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 209. “(Rawdon, Moira, E/DEP; Ker/IFR; Meade, Clanwilliam, E/PB) A large and dignified three storey house of late-Georgian aspet; which, in fact, was built mid-C18 as a two storey house by Sir John Rawdon, 1st Earl of Moira, who probably brought the stuccodore who was working for him at Moira House in Dublin to execute the plasterwork here; for the ceiling which survives in the room known as the Lady’s Sitting Room is pre-1765 and of the very highest quality, closely resembling the work of Robert West; with birds, grapes, roses and arabesques in high relief. There is also a triple niche of plasterwork at one end of the room; though the central relief of a fox riding in a curricle drawn by a cock is much less sophisticated than the rest of the plasterwork and was probably done by a local man. 2nd Earl, afterwards 1st Marquess of Hastings, who distinguished himself as a soldier in the American War of Independence, and was subsequently Governor-General of India, sold Montalto 1802 to David Ker, who enlarged the windows of the house, in accordance with the prevailing fashion. In 1837, D.G. Ker enlarged the house by carrying out what one would imagine to be a most difficult, not to say hazardous operation; he excavated the rock under the house and round the foundations, thus forming a new lower ground floor; the structure being supported by numerous arches and pillars. It was more than just digging out a basement, as has been done at one or two other houses in Ulster; for the new ground floor is much higher than any basement would be; the operation made the house fully three storeyed. Entrance front of two bays on either side of a central three sided bow; the front also having end bows. Shallow Doric porch at foot of centre bow. Ground floor windows round-headed; those above rectangular, with plain entablatures over the windows of the original ground floor, now the piano nobile. Parapeted roof. The right hand side of the house is of ten bays, plus the end bow of the front; with a pilastered triple window immediately to the right of the bow in the piano nobile, balanced by another at the far end of the elevation. The left-hand side of the house is only of three bays and the bow, with a single triple window’ the elevation being prolonged by a two storey wing with round-headed windows. Various additions were built at the back of the house and at the sides during the course of C19; a ballroom being added by D.S. Ker, grandson of the David Ker who bought the estate. In 1837 ground floor there is an imposing entrance hall, with eight paired Doric columns, flanked by a library and a dining room. A double staircase leads up to the piano nobile, where there is a long gallery running the full width of the house, which may have been the original entrance hall. Also on the piano nobile is the sitting room with the splendid C18 plasterwork. Montalto was bought ca 1910 by 5th Earl of Clanwilliam, whose bridge refused to live at Gill Hall, the family seat a few miles to the west, because of the ghosts there. In 1952, the ballroom and a service wing at the back were demolished.”
“The Stewarts came from Scotland to Donegal as part of the Jacobean Plantation of Ulster. Alexander Stewart and his wife, Mary Cowan, bought a large area of land in County Down in 1744, part of which became Mount Stewart demesne. Mary had inherited a fortune from her brother, Robert Cowan, who was in the East India Company, and was Governor of Bombay.
A modest house on the shore of Strangford Lough was extended in the 1780s into a long low 2-storey house by Alexander’s son, Robert. Robert also built a walled garden and farm buildings further inland, and commissioned James ‘Athenian’ Stuart to design the Temple of the Winds, one of the finest small neo-classical buildings in Ireland. Through his political connections and marriage, Robert rose through the political ranks, becoming earl and subsequently marquess of Londonderry.
It was Robert’s son, best known as Viscount Castlereagh, who chose the architect George Dance to design a new wing for Mount Stewart which included a series of fine reception rooms. The west wing was built around 1804–6.
Castlereagh is best known in Ireland for his involvement in the repression of the 1798 Rebellion and as one of the architects of the Anglo-Irish Union of 1800, for which he was vilified by many. He was however regarded as a consummate statesman and astute negotiator.
From 1802 to 1822 he was based in London as Secretary of State for War and Foreign Secretary during the wars with America and France under Napoleon. He was one of the chief negotiators at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) and his greatest legacy was steering the Congress towards a more equitable balance of power. The Congress was the first multinational European congress; many issues were discussed including the abolition of slavery. Castlereagh became a staunch supporter of abolition, as the trade was ‘repugnant to the principles of humanity and universal morality’.
The Peterloo Massacre of 1819 earned him more criticism, for although he was not personally responsible and was appalled by the outcome, as Home Secretary he had to justify the yeomanry’s actions. In 1822 he suffered a breakdown and took his own life, just a year after becoming the 2nd marquess of Londonderry.
Castlereagh’s half-brother, Charles Stewart fought in the Peninsula War under Wellington and became British ambassador at Berlin and then Vienna during the Congress. In 1819 he married the wealthy Frances Anne Vane Tempest who had inherited coal mines and a grand estate in County Durham. They travelled widely and rebuilt Wynyard, County Durham and Londonderry House in London. Charles also extended Mount Stewart in the 1840s. His grandson, the 6th Marquess, was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the 1880s. The 6th Marquess was strongly opposed to Home Rule for Ireland; he and his wife were instigators and signatories of the Ulster Covenant in 1912.
Charles’s great-grandson, Charles 7th Marquess, served in the First World War, during which his wife Edith founded the Women’s Legion. At the end of the war, Edith began to create the gardens at Mount Stewart and redecorated and furnished the house, processes she thoroughly enjoyed and continued until her death in 1959. Charles served in the new Northern Irish government following the partition of Ireland in 1921. He later became Secretary of State for Air during the early 1930s. The horrors of the First World War and the rise of Communism meant many were anxious to avoid another European war. For Charles, this meant holding a series of meetings with the Nazi leadership, but his actions and intentions were misunderstood and his career and reputation were fatally damaged.
These historic, sometimes seismic, events are woven into Mount Stewart and there are many objects, books and paintings in the house that connect us to the people who experienced, influenced and formed them.”
You can see pictures and read more about the treasures in the house on the website.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 216. “Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Londonderry, M/PB) A long two storey Classical house of 1820s, one end of which is, in fact, a house built 1803-06 by 1st Marquess of Londonderry (father of the stateman, Castlereagh) to the design of George Dance. The seven bay front of 1803-06 house survives as the end elevation of the present house; unchanged, except that its centre bay now breaks forward under a shallow pediment, similar to those on either side of the present entrance front, which are very much of 1820s. The three rooms at this end of the house keep their original ceilings of delicate plasterwork; the centre one, which was formerly the entrance hall, has a ceiling with pendentives, making it an octagon. Behind this former entrance hall is an imperial staircase with a balustrade of elegant ironwork, lit by a dome; this too, is part of the earlier house. 3rd Marquess, Castlereagh’s younger half-brother, who was far richer than either his father or his brother had ever been, having married the wealthy Durham heiress, Frances Anne Vane Tempest, enlarged the house to its present form ca 1825-28, his architect being William Vitruvius Morrison. A new block was built onto what had been the back of the original house, as wide as the original house was long and long enough to make, with the end of the original house, a new entrance front of 11 bays, with a pedimented porte-cochere of four giant Ionic columns as its main central feature; the three outer bays on either side being treated as pavilions, each with a one bay pedimented breakfront similar to that which was put onto the front of the original house. The outer bays have a balustraded roof parapet, which is carried round the end of the house and along the new garden front. The latter is as long as the entrance front, and has a boldly projecting centre with a pediment and a single-storey portico of coupled Ionic columns; and a curved bow at either end. The principal interior feature of the newer building is a vast central hall, consisting of an octagon, top-lit through a balustraded gallery from a dome filled with stained glass, with rectangular extensions so as to form a room much longer than it is wide; with screens of couple painted marble Ionci columns between the octagon and the extensions. Morrison’s reception rooms are spacious and simple; the drawing room has a screen of Ionic colmns at either end. The interior of the house was done up post WWI by 7th Marquess, Secretary of State for Air in 1930s; the central room in the garden front being panelled as a smoking and living room. The 7th Marquess and his wife (the well-known political hostess and friend of Ramsay MacDonald) also laid out an elaborate garden, going down the hillside from the garden front of the house towards Strangford Lough. As well as this noteaable C20 garden. Mount Stewart boasts of one of the finest C18 garden buildings in Irelnad, the Temple of the Winds, an octagonal banqueting house built 1780 to the design of “Athenian” Stuart, who based it on the Tower of the Winds in Athens. It has a porch on two of its faces, each with two columns of the same modified Corinthian order as that of the columns of the Tower of the Winds. Mount Stewart was given to the Norhtern Ireland National Trust by Lady Mairi Bury, daughter of 7th Marquess, ca 1977, and is now open to the public. The Temple of the Winds was given 1962 to the Trust, which has since restored it; the garden was given to the Trust in 1955.”
8. Newry and Mourne Museum, Bagenal’s Castle, County Down
“Bagenal’s Castle is a sixteenth century fortified house and adjoining nineteenth century warehouse. It houses Newry and Mourne Museum and Newry Visitor Information Centre.
During restoration work on the Castle many original features were uncovered including fireplaces, windows, doorways, gun loops and a bread oven. These have been interpreted for the visitor and drawings were commissioned to illustrate how the various living quarters of the castle would have functioned in the sixteenth century. Highlights include a restored Banqueting Room which is used throughout the year for seasonal and family events.
The Museum’s diverse collections include material relating to prehistory, Newry’s Cistercian foundations, Ulster’s Gaelic order and the relationship with the English Crown; the building of a merchant town and the first summit level canal in the British Isles. You can also discover the history of the ‘Gap of the North’, the historic mountain pass between Ulster and Leinster located to the south of Newry. One of the key main exhibitions, ‘A Border Town’s Experience of the 20th Century’, examines local attitudes to major political and economic events of the 20th century. There are also permanent exhibitions on farming, fishing and folklore in the Mournes and South Armagh.”
“Portaferry Castle is a 16th-century tower-house, built by the Savage family and prominently located on the slope overlooking Portaferry harbour within sight of Strangford and Audley’s Castles across the water. Simpler than the earlier ‘gatehouse’ tower house, it is square in plan with one projecting tower to the south where a turret rises an extra storey and contains the entrance and stair from ground floor to first floor.
There are three storeys and an attic, and like early tower-houses it has spiral stairs. However, like some later tower houses it lacks a stone vault as all floors were originally made of wood.
***THE CASTLE IS CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR REPAIRS AND WILL NOT OPEN THIS YEAR”
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 232. “(Nugent, sub Douglas-Nugent/IFR) A dignified house of 1821, by William Farrell, who apparently worked on a plan produced by Charles Lilley 1790, the three storey centre of the house being very possibly a three storey block of 1770s. The centre of the entrance front is of five bays, with a central Wyatt window in each of two upper storeys; and a porch with paired Ionic columns and Ionic end piers. On either side of the centre there is a wide, three-sided bow, ofonly two storeys but as high as the rest of the front. Ionic columns in hall and some good plasterwork. The house stands in beautiful parkland overlooking the entrance to Strangford Lough.”
Places to stay, County Down
1. Barr Hall Barns, Portaferry, County Down– self catering €
and Florida Manor Gambles Patch, Hollow View and Meadow Green.
The website tells us: “Dating back to 1676, Florida Manor, an original Irish Georgian Estate has undergone sympathetic refurbishment. Within the estates original stone perimeter wall lies 200 acres of extensive landscaped grasslands, private lakes, walkways and bridal paths.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 297. “(Gordon/IFR) A C18 house consisting of a three storey principal block with a recessed centre, linked to lower wings by curved sweeps with balustrades and pilasters. Projecting enclosed porch, also balustraded and with Ionic columns. quoins. Originally the seat of the Crawfords; passed by marriage to the Gordons C18. The house became ruinous in the present century but has been restored as two dwellings.”
“A tower with pepper-pot bartizans rising from a hill at the southern end of the demesne, completed 1862 to a design by William Burn. It was built in honour of his mother, Helen, Lady Dufferin, one of three beautiful and lively sisters who were the granddaughters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan; in a room near the top of the tower, lined with delicate Gothic woodwork, the walls are adorned with poems on bronze tablets expressing the love between mother and son; including a poem written specially for Lord Dufferin by Tennyson:
The website tells us: “Kiltariff Hall is a Victorian Country House on the outskirts of the small market town of Rathfriland. Built by our great-grandfather William Fegan in 1888, the house is set at the end of a short drive and is surrounded by mature oak, sycamore and pine trees. It is run myself, Catherine and my sister Shelagh who grew up in Kiltariff when it was a working farm. We are both passionate and knowledgeable about the Mourne area and believe that providing good locally produced food is key to ensuring guests enjoy their stay.“
“Narrow Water Castle is the private home of the Hall family who have lived at Narrow Water since 1670, originally in the Old Narrow Water Keep situated on the shoreline of Carlingford Lough which is now a national monument.
As a private home the castle is not open for public admission. It does however occasionally open its doors for weddings and exclusive events.
In 1816 construction began on the new Castle by Thomas Duff, a well-known Newry architect who also designed the Cathedrals in Newry, Armagh and Dundalk. The Elizabethan revival style castle is made from local granite and built next to the existing house, Mount Hall (1680). It was completed in 1836.
The self catering apartments are located in the original hub of the castle (Mount Hall), dating back to 1680. Mount Hall joins the Elizabethan revival part of the castle to the courtyard.“
Number 2: The apartment opens into an elegant open plan, living room and dining room with open fire. We have used several antique pieces of furniture to hint of times gone by. We are happy to provide logs if our guests wish to use the fire.
There are two spacious, beautifully furnished bedrooms, one of which is en-suite.
Number 6: This 2 bedroom luxury apartment is the perfect place to escape and unwind. Both bedrooms are en-suite. There is a grand open plan living /dining area with a unique feature skylight and exposed beams. The living area is adorned with antique furniture has a wood burning stove for cosy nights by the fire. The modern kitchen is fully equipped and the dining area seats six comfortably. A quality sofa bed allows this apartment to accommodate up to six guests. This apartment is on the first floor with access via the original stone staircase dating to the 1680s
The website tells us: “Slieve Donard was originally built by the Belfast and County Down Railway as an ‘end of the line’ luxury holiday destination. Construction started in 1896 and was completed and officially opened on 24th June 1898 at the cost of £44,000. It was one of the most majestic hotels of its time and was almost self-sufficient with its own bakery, vegetable gardens, pigs, laundry and innovatively a power plant, which also provided electricity for the railway station.
Slieve Donard typified the idea of Victorian grandeur and luxury with its Drawing Room, Grand Coffee Room, Reading and Writing Room, Smoking Room, Billiard Room and Hairdressing Rooms—you can’t help but conjure up scenes of great style and decadence. ‘One could even partake of seawater baths, douche, spray, needle and Turkish baths all provided by an electric pump straight from the sea.
In 2021, Adventurous Journeys (AJ) Capital Partners acquired Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, which will become the first Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts property in Northern Ireland and the fourth hotel in the collection.“
9. St John’s Point Lighthouse Sloop, Killough, County Down€ for 3-4
“This fabulous period home is a historic Irish country farm house. Set on wonderful gardens including an orchard, Tullymurry House is an ideal base for golf, fishing, hiking, walking, beach, and other outdoor pursuits.“
11. Tyrella, Downpatrick, County Down, BT30 8SU– accommodation €
“Tyrella House is a luxury B&B and wedding venue located in the heart of picturesque County Down, with its necklace of pretty fishing villages. A fine 18th century house surrounded by glorious wooded parkland with its own private beach just a short walk from the house, Tyrella offers a tranquil and relaxing getaway.
Tyrella House has been owned by the Corbett family for over 60 years, and was bought by John Corbett after the Second World War to train race horses.
His son, David Corbett began running B&B in the 1990s, which continues to this day. In 2020, the day to day running of the B&B was taken over by his son, John and his wife Hannah.“
“At Ballydugan we can provide accommodation and an oasis of relative calm for the Bride’s immediate family. Also if absolute adherence to tradition is important then we haveBallymote Country Housenearby, where we can ensure that the paths of the Bride and Groom will not cross prior to the wedding.“
2. Drenagh Estate and Gardens, County Down (wedding venue)
It tells us “Nestled in beautiful parkland and surrounded by our gardens, you will find our grand Georgian Mansion House which is perfect for weddings, family get togethers, corporate events and much more.“
The website tells us the history of the McCausland family who own the property:
“The family name McCausland goes back more than 900 years to an O’Cahan named Anselan, son of Kyan, King of Ulster. Anselan was forced to leave Ireland in about 1016 on account of his share in a ‘memorable stratagem where he and other young Irishmen dressed in women’s attire surprised and slaughtered their Danish oppressors’ (The Vikings). When Malcolm II of Scotland heard of Anselans feats he invited him to become his Master of Arms and ‘bestowed ample lands upon him in The Lennox’.
Twelve generations later, in the 1540s, his descendant Baron Alexander McAuslane returned to Ulster with his brother Andrew and settled in the Strabane area. The first McCausland to live at Drenagh (then called Fruithill) was Robert McCausland, Alexander’s grandson. Robert was bequeathed the Estates when he married the daughter of William Conolly, a wealthy self-made man and speaker of the Irish Parliament.
Robert named his first son Conolly in reverence to his father-in-law; the name is still used in alternate generations to this day. A large painting of Robert and his family now hangs in the dining room at Drenagh. The first Conolly married the heiress Elizabeth Gage from Bellarena (five miles up the coast) and had a son, Conolly, who also formed another lucrative union with Theodosia Mahon from Strokestown House, Co. Roscommon.
It was their son Marcus McCausland (1787-1862) who was responsible for commissioning Sir Charles Lanyon to build the present house. The former house (Fruithill) can be seen through a window painted in the portrait of Robert McCausland and his family. Marcus and his wife, Marianne, nee Tyndall from The Fort at Bristol, produced an heir Conolly Thomas(1828-1902). A delightful portrait of him dressed in his Eton cricketing clothes also hangs in the dining room at Drenagh.
Conolly Thomas’s son Maurice Marcus lived through both the best and worst of times at Drenagh as in 1902, through the Irish Land Acts; the Government compulsorily purchased 75% of the Estate. Drenagh was lucky; many Irish Estates were taken off their owners in their entirety. Some say this was no bad thing, as landlords the Irish landed gentry could be brutal in their treatment of their tenantry, indeed some were burnt out before they could be bought out.
Conolly Robert, Maurice’s son, fought in the 2nd World War and was so profoundly affected by what he experienced that he changed his Faith to Catholicism. This he did despite knowing he had signed a codicil to his fathers will barring him from inheriting should he become a Catholic. The will was contested but it was found that although the codicil applied to Conolly Robert, it did not do so to any of his direct descendants. So, on his death in 1968, his son Marcus inherited Drenagh.
Sadly four years later in 1972 Marcus was shot dead by the IRA.
Currently Marcus’s son Conolly Patrick lives at Drenagh.“
 Mulligan, Kevin V. The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster, Armagh, Cavan and Monaghan. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2013.
 p. 11. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 12, 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.
I didn’t publish yet this week, because I was busy with holidays and also with attending the terrific 21st Annual Historic Irish Houses Conference organised by the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates in Maynooth University.
Stephen and I have visited 93 of the Section 482 properties, so we have passed the halfway mark, as there are 179 listed properties in 2023 (I see that 1 Martello Terrace in Bray has dropped off the list, unfortunately). We are just home from a jaunt to County Wexford where we visited Kilmokea, Woodville House and Gardens, and Sigginstown Castle. We also went to see Johnstown Castle, since on our previous visit the castle itself was closed, and we visited the Office of Public Work site of Tintern Abbey.
The Section 482 Revenue Scheme gives a reduction from income tax for a percentage of the cost of upkeep of a historic property. It took me a long time to understand that there are different types of Section 482 properties. This can make it difficult for property owners as well as for potential visitors.
In general, a property that is included in the Section 482 List, published by Irish Department of Revenue, has to be open to the public for sixty days a year. However, not every property listed under Section 482 has to be open to the public. If a property is listed with the bold type “Tourist Accommodation Facility,” this is another type of listing with different requirements and obligations. A property of this type does not have to open to the general public at all.
Furthmore, I have discovered much to my dismay that a property listed as Tourist Accommodation Facility does not need to facilitate the average tourist. It may be listed as an accommodation facility when it is only available as a whole house rental.
To add to the confusion, several properties are hotels or have accommodationn but are not listed as a Tourist Accommodation Facility under the scheme. They may not qualify under all of the obligations of the scheme, and therefore choose to list as a regular Section 482 property. These, therefore, have to be accessible to the public for visits on the listed sixty days a year.
Many of the properties that are listed officially as Tourist Accommodation Facility are kind enough to have open days, but not all of them! This is purely out of their own generosity. The lack of clarity in the way the list is published means that visitors – like me for a couple of years – think that the property has an obligation to be open to the public, when they actually do not.
It may not be fair that a property qualifies as a “section 482 property” and receives public tax money when it is not open to the public, but this is a matter for legislation. As it stands, these properties do not have to be open to the public at all. So, for example, my excitement at seeing Lambay Castle listed was short-lived, when I realised it is listed as a Tourist Accommodation Facility.
However, Lambay Castle is one of the properties that does open to the public for tours. A visitor has to have deep pockets, since a visit to the island which includes a tour of the house costs at least €790, not the usual €5-10. That can include 6-12 guests and includes the boat over to the island, which makes it somewhat more reasonable, but it is still quite an expensive day out. If you want to take advantage of it being a tourist accommodation facility, you have to book the entire house, unfortunately. So I don’t expect to see Lambay Castle unless I receive a windfall! The same goes for Lisdonagh in County Galway or Lismacue in County Tipperary, which are both “entire house” accommodation and do not open to the public.
The third type of listing is as a garden. Properties that qualify as a garden only have to open the garden to the public. In the Revenue Section 482 list, it does not specify whether a property is listed as a house, or as “garden only.” Therefore at the start of the year I write to the Revenue to ask which properties are garden only. Properties listed as garden only cannot obtain a reduction on income tax from repairs made to a house but only the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the garden.
Many of the properties have gardens, and since it is not specified on the list whether the property is “garden only,” some owners may, I suspect, take advantage of the ambiguity, and seek to direct the visitor toward the garden only – this has certainly happened to me on one occasion! I only found out later that the owner was meant to make the house accessible for a visit.
So, purely for my own sense of achievement, I am going to list the Section 482 properties here, and I will highlight the ones I have visited so far. There are 179 listed properties. However, since there are 21 properties listed as Tourist Accommodation and at least 15 do not have open days for public visits, I actually passed the half-way mark, or the achievement of visiting half of the properties, a while ago! Of the 158 properties that are not listed as Tourist Accommodation Facility, we have visited 83. Of the 179 properties, we have visited 93!
75 remain to visit, that are not tourist accommodation!
1. Borris House, Borris, Co. Carlow
2. Huntington Castle, County Carlow
3. The Old Rectory Killedmond, Borris, Co. Carlow.
The Old Rectory Lorum, Co. Carlow Tourist Accommodation Facility
4. Cabra Castle (Hotel), Co. Cavan
5. Corravahan House & Gardens, Co. Cavan
6. Barntick House, Clarecastle Co. Clare – still to write up and publish
112. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly – still to write up and publish
113. High Street House, Tullamore, Co. Offaly
114. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly
115. Springfield House, Co. Offaly
The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly Tourist Accommodation Facility
116. Castlecoote House, Co. Roscommon – the two times we have been in County Roscommon I have tried to make an appointment but they have been closed due to having guests. They are not listed as Tourist Accommodation Facility so they should be open to visitors.
Open dates in 2023: June 3-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 1-10, 10.30am-6pm Fee: adult €14, child €7
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!
We visited Lissadell during Heritage Week 2022. I had been looking forward to seeing it as it has some amazing internal Classical architecture. It is most famous as the birthplace of Constance Markievicz, née Gore-Booth, the first woman senator in Ireland and fighter in the 1916 uprising, and also more recently as the host of a concert of Leonard Cohen. It was only sold out of the Gore-Booth family in 2004.
It was built in 1830-35 for Robert Gore-Booth (1805-1876), 4th Baronet, to the Greek Revival design of Manchester architect Francis Goodwin (1784-1835). It replaced an earlier house nearer the shore which itself replaced an old castle. It is a nine-bay two-storey over basement house built of Ballisodare limestone. 
The entrance front (north) elevation has a three-bay pedimented central projection flanked by three-bay side sections. When one approaches on the path one can see that the lower storey is open to the east and west to form a porte-cochere. The house was described by Maurice Craig as being ‘…distinguished more by its solidity than by its suavity and more by its literary associations than by either.’ I find the crafted stone and the massive squareness of it beautiful.
The east elevation which faces the sea has a five-bay central section between two-bay projections. The five-bay section contains a three-bay central breakfront with tall framing pilasters. Above the upper floor windows is a stepped stone feature that runs around three sides of the house.
Other former residents of the house deserve to be as famous as Constance.
Dermot James in his book The Gore-Booths of Lissadell tells us that the Gore-Booths are descended from Paul Gore of Manor Gore, County Donegal. He was MP for Ballyshannon in Donegal, and was created 1st Baronet Gore, of Magherabegg, County Donegal in 1621/22. He married a niece of the 1st Earl of Strafford, Isabella Wickliffe.
Paul Gore of Manor Gore had seven sons, and all married well. His oldest son, Ralph, 2nd Baronet, became the ancestor of the earls of Rosse, who are in Birr Castle[another section 482 property I visited]. Arthur, the second son, became the ancestor of the Earls of Arran, a family that subsequently inherited the very large Saunders Court estate near Ferrycarrig in County Wexford. He was MP for County Mayo and became 1st Baronet Gore, of Newtown Gore, Co. Mayo. A third son, Henry, married the eldest daughter of Robert Blaney of Monaghan and was the ancestor of the earls of Kingston. Two further sons settled in County Kilkenny, giving the family name to Goresbridge, and the seventh son settled in County Mayo and, according to a memorial tablet in Killala Cathedral, married Ellinor St. George of Carrick, County Leitrim, and he died at his residence, Newtown Gore, later named Castle Gore and Deel Castle, near Killala, County Mayo in 1697.
The fourth son, Francis Gore (1612-1712), lived in Ardtarman, County Sligo, which still stands and has been renovated for habitation and self-catering accommodation. 
The front door is under the tall porte-cochere, which has a curved painted ceiling and massive wooden doors.
Dermot James tells us that Francis managed to keep on good terms with both the Cromwellians and Royalists during the Civil War, avoiding an engagement with either cause. After the Restoration of Charles II, he was rewarded with grants of land in Sligo, Mayo and Kilkenny, and in 1661 he was knighted and also became M.P. for Sligo. He settled at Ardtarmon, two miles west of Lissadell. He fought for the crown in Lieutenant-Colonel Coote’s Regiment.
Francis and Anne had a son, Robert (1645-1720). He married Frances Newcomen and they had a son, Nathaniel (1692-1737). He married Letitia (or Lettice) Booth, only daughter and heiress of Humphrey Booth, of Dublin.  She must have inherited quite a bit since later generations added her surname “Booth” to their surname. In fact, the prosperous Booth estates in the English midlands were added to the Sligo property.
Robert and Lettice named their son “Booth” (1712-1773). In 1760 Booth Gore was created 1st Baronet Gore of Lissadell, County Sligo.
Booth married Emilia Newcomen, daughter of Brabazon Newcomen, and they had several children. Their first son, also named Booth, who became 2nd Baronet, died unmarried, and his brother Robert Newcomen inherited and added Booth to his surname in 1804, when he succeeded as the 3rd Baronet.
Robert Newcomen Gore-Booth inherited in his 60s, and only then married Hannah Irwin from Streamstown, County Sligo (ninety years later this property became part of the Gore-Booth estate). Their daughter Anne married Robert King, 6th Earl of Kingston, son of the 1st Viscount Lorton.
The eldest son, Robert (1805-1876) became the 4th Baronet, and he built the house at Lissadell which we see now. He was Lord Lieutenant for County Sligo and also MP for Sligo.
The 4th Baronet married Caroline King, daughter of Robert Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton, whom we came across in King House in County Roscommon. Sadly, she died the following year in 1828. Two years later he married Caroline Susan Goold, daughter of Thomas Goold (or Gould). Her sister Augusta married Edwin Richard Wyndham-Quin, 3rd Earl of Dunraven, of Adare Manor in Limerick.
According to Dermot James, “Henry Coulter described Lissadell before Robert inherited the estate as ‘wild and miserable and poor looking.’ But within a few decades Sir Robert had demonstrated ‘the immense improvement which may be made in the appearance of the country and the quality of the soil by the judicious expenditure of capital.’ Coulter continued, considering the estate to be “one of the most highly cultivated and beautiful in the United Kingdom… If the excellent example set by Sir Robert Booth as a resident country gentleman – living at home and devoting himself to the improvement of his property – were more generally followed by Irish landlords then indeed the cry of distress which is so often raised… would never more be heard, even in the west of Ireland.” [Henry Coulter, The West of Ireland published 1862]. 
Robert was in situ at the time of the Great Famine in the 1840s. He did send some tenants to North America, and was later criticised for the evictions, but on the whole he was a generous landlord. He ran a soup kitchen and provided seed for crops. When his first wife Caroline died the Sligo Journal called her “a ministering angel among the people, her charitie was unbounded and her exertions to relieve the wants and sufferings of the distressed excited the admiration of all classes” when “the dark clouds of pestilence and death covered the land.”
Dermot James writes: “If the exterior of Lissadell House is seen by some to be disappointingly plain, Goodwin’s design ensured that the entrance to the interior is all the more unexpected and dramatic. The visitor is met by a spectacularly high entrance hall decorated with Doric and Ionic columns from which there is an impressive staircase in Kilkenny marble with cast iron balustrade leading to the building’s most important feature, the great gallery, lit by sky-lights high above. On Goodwin’s plans, the gallery is marked as the music room, reflecting one of Sir Robert’s tastes, where an organ was installed. In the main, the house then remained largely unaltered for more than a century and a half.“
Mark Bence-Jones describes the entrance stair hall in his Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) as a lofty two storey hall, partly top-lit, with square Doric columns below and Ionic columns above and double staircase of Kilkenny marble.
In the book Great Irish Houses, with forewards by Desmond FitzGerald, and Desmond Guinness published by IMAGE Publications in 2008, we are told that the scale of the stair hall is such that, unusually, a large fireplace was added to the return landing. The iron balusters are adorned with golden eagles.
Sir Robert took an interest also in the garden and Lord Palmerston of nearby Classiebawn would send him seeds from overseas. He sold some of the property in England and expanded his property in Ireland.
Dermot James tells us that when serving as MP Robert went regularly to London and brought his family and also servants. His servant Kilgallon wrote about the packing up: “They took all the silver plate. It was quite a business packing all up. They had boxes specially made for them. The housekeeper did not go as there was a housekeeper for the London house, a Mrs Tigwell. They took the first and second housemaids, house steward, groom chambers, under butler, and first and second footmen and steward’s room boy. All the other servants were put on board [reduced] wages [but] they were allowed milk and vegetables.” 
Kilgallon also described some details about how the Lissadell household was then being run, which is described by Dermot James: “The servants were managed by the house steward, Mr Ball, who engaged all the servants, paid their wages, and dismissed them when necessary. His duties included ordering all the wine for the house and acting as wine waiter at dinners. Ball supervised a small army of footmen, grooms, maids, etc. The groom chambers carved, and with the footmen, waited at all meals, despatched the post, opened the newspapers and ironed them. Their other duties included attending the hall door and polishing the furniture in the main rooms. One of the footmen was also the under-butler who kept the dinner silver in order and laid the dinner table, making sure that plates intended to be hot were kept warm in a special iron cupboard heated by charcoal kept outside the dining room door.”
The maids had to be up at 4am to prepare for carrying hot water to the bedrooms. There was a cook, pastry cook, kitchen maid, scullery maid and some kitchen boys. Kilgallon describes the meals, serving order and seating, and entertainment – there was a small dance in the servants hall once or twice a week, with beer and whiskey punch provided!
Henry William Gore-Booth (1843-1900) inherited in 1876 and became the 5th Baronet. He held the offices of High Sheriff of County Sligo, Deputy Lieutenant of County Sligo and Justice of the Peace for County Sligo. He was also a keen fisherman and Arctic explorer.
His sister Fanny Stella married Owen Wynne of nearby Hazelwood, County Sligo (which was designed by Richard Cassells and was recently owned by Lough Gill Distillery, until sold to American alcohol company Sazerac, which plans to save the house from dereliction).
From the entrance hall, we were brought by the tour guide into the Billiards Room full of Gore-Booth memorabilia, including Henry’s fishing equipment. Kilgallon stayed on for the next generation, and he accompanied Henry the 5th Baronet on all of his fishing adventures and Arctic explorations. Kilgallon became Sir Henry’s personal valet as well as his close companion and confidant. At one point he saved Henry from an attacking bear, and the bear was then stuffed and brought back to Lissadell. It used to stand in the front hall, alarming arriving guests!
The original wallpaper has been replaced by David Skinner, an expert on wallpapers of the great houses of Ireland, with hand-blocked period copies.
It is said that Sir Henry’s wife Georgina built the artificial lake at Lissadell in the vain hope that he might stay at home and fish in it, but as the harpoons and whale bones in the billiard room testify, Sir Henry continued to travel.
Robert was President of the Sligo Agricultural Society, and he and his eldest son founded three co-operative societies in the area. He also took over the Sligo Shirt Factory to prevent it from closing and made it flourish again. He was also involved in mining locally, and played a role in setting up the railway connecting Sligo with Enniskillen, subsequently becoming the company’s chairman. He also continued the oyster fishery his father had set up – his father was one of the pioneers in creating artificial oyster beds. Henry married Georgina Mary Hill, daughter of Colonel John Hill of Tickhill Castle, Yorkshire.
Upstairs is the music gallery. Mark Bence-Jones describes it as a vast apse-ended gallery (an apse is an area with curved walls at the end of a building, usually at the the east end of a church), lit by a clerestory (a clerestory is a high section of wall that contains windows above eye level) and skylights, with engaged Doric piers along one side, and Ionic columns along the other. It was hard to capture in a photograph since we were on a tour.
In Great Irish Houses, forewards by Desmond FitzGerald and Desmond Guinness, we are told that the gallery is 65 foot long. It still has its original Gothic chamber organ, which was made by Hull of Dublin in 1812 and is pumped by bellows in the basement! Two Grecian gasoliers by William Collins, a renowned Regency maker of chandeliers, hang on chains from the ceiling. As late as 1846 Lissadell generated gas from its own gasometer.
Lissadell was the first house in Ireland to be lit by its own gas supply. This was produced in a plant installed by Sir Robert about a quarter of a mile to the west of the mansion, complete with a house for the manager in charge of the works.
A team led by Kevin Smith, from the internationally renowned Windsor House Antiques of London, undertook the major task of restoring the gasoliers.
The 4th Baronet and Georgina Mary Hill had five children. The eldest son, Josslyn (1869-1944) was to inherit the property. There was a younger son, Mordaunt, and three daughters, Constance, Eva and Mabel.
It was with Josslyn that Henry William set up the co-operatives. When Josslyn was young, he had socialist ideals, much like his sisters Eva and Constance. He joined Horace Plunkett in his efforts to help the farmers to help themselves, by cutting out the middle man. It took a while for farmers to trust the motivation of Plunkett and Gore-Booth in setting up the co-operatives, thinking that “no good thing could come from a man who was at once a Protestant, a landlord and a Unionist.” Catholic priests even denounced the co-operatives as a “Protestant plot.” Eventually, however, they flourished, and helped the farmers.
Josslyn continued to develop the estate, so that it became one of the most progressive and best run in Ireland.
Josslyn was a keen gardener and plant breeder. At Lissadell he established one of the finest horticultural enterprises in Europe. By 1906, his gardens provided employment for more than 200 people. The head gardener, Joseph Sangster, became head gardener of the Royal Horticultural Society in England. An advocate of land reform, he let more than 1000 tenants buy out 28,000 acres of the property under the Wyndham Land Act of 1903. The final payments under the scheme were not received until the 1970s. Until he died in 1944, the estate was famous the world over for its varieties of old and new flowers.  The current owners are working to re-establish the gardens.
Next we enter a room that is in the bow of the house, and features in a poem by W. B. Yeats. Mark Bence-Jones tells us:
“The rather monumental sequence of hall and gallery leads to a lighter and more intimate bow room with windows facing towards Sligo Bay – the windows Yeats had in mind when he wrote, in his poem on Eva Gore-Booth and her sister, Constance Markievizc:
“The light of evening, Lissadell
Great windows open to the South.”
This room, and all other principal receptions rooms, have massive marble chimney-pieces in the Egyptian taste. The ante-room has a striped wallpaper of lovely faded rose.”
“In memory of Eva Gore Booth and Constance Markiewicz” This is the first part of this poem:
The light of evening, Lissadell, Great windows open to the south, Two girls in silk kimonos, both Beautiful, one a gazelle.
But a raving autumn shears Blossom from the summer’s wreath; The older is condemned to death, Pardoned, drags out lonely years Conspiring among the ignorant. I know not what the younger dreams – Some vague Utopia – and she seems, When withered old and skeleton-gaunt, An image of such politics.
Many a time I think to seek One or the other out and speak Of that old Georgian mansion, mix pictures of the mind, recall That table and the talk of youth, Two girls in silk kimonos, both Beautiful, one a gazelle.”
Constance went to art school in the Slade School of Art in London 1892-1894. She lived in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, where many of London’s bohemians and writers gathered: George Eliot had lived there, Whistler, Henry James and Erskine Childers. At the age of 25 went to Paris to continue her studies, and met and married a fellow artist, the Polish Casimir Markievicz. Many of Constance’s paintings still hang on the walls, as well as some work by Casimir. Their only child, Maeve Allys, was born in Lissadell in 1901.
Constance had a strong social conscience, and became involved in the 1913 Lockout, where workers went on strike for better pay. She was then involved in the 1916 Rising, and was jailed for her activity. When the new state was born, she was elected to Dáil Eireann, where she served as Minister for Labour. She was also the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons at Westminster, London, but like many other Irish politicians, she declined to take her seat – members of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland continue in this tradition and refuse to take their seats in Westminster.
Eva was a suffragist and poet, and lived in meagre circumstances in England with her partner Esther Roper.
Eva fought for Women’s Rights and clashing with the young Winston Churchill over barmaids’ rights in 1908. She spent many years in Manchester working to alleviate the condition of working women.
The little waves of Breffny
The grand road from the mountain goes shining to the sea And there is traffic on it and many a horse and cart, But the little roads of Cloonagh are dearer far to me And the little roads of Cloonagh go rambling through my heart.
A great storm from the ocean goes shouting o’er the hill, And there is glory in it; and terror on the wind: But the haunted air of twilight is very strange and still, And the little winds of twilight are dearer to my mind.
The great waves of the Atlantic sweep storming on their way, Shining green and silver with the hidden herring shoal; But the little waves of Breffny have drenched my heart in spray, And the little waves of Breffny go stumbling through my soul.
There is also a collection of paintings by a friend of W.B. Yeats, “A.E.” i.e. George William Russell, who was also part of the farming Co-operative movement and, like Yeats, a mystic.
The anteroom still has an engraving that Constance made with her sister Mabel in a windowpane with a diamond in 1898. Drawings from Constance’s sketchbook are displayed also.
I had been particularly looking forward to seeing the dining room as I had seen pictures of it before and it has rather eccentric paintings which I love! Again, it was hard to take photographs because the room was crowded with the tour. Casimir painted portraits onto the pillars. He painted some of the servants, including Kilgallon. The bear shot by Kilgallon stands now beside his portrait.
Next we went down to the basement, which holds the old kitchen and a warren of corridors.
The long tunnel provides access to a sunken courtyard and the coach house and stable block, which was one of the largest in Ireland. This limestone complex of stables, tack rooms, grain stores and rooms once for staff and guests is now almost completely restored. Today it houses tea rooms, a gallery for exhibitions and lecture rooms.