3. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits:
Open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26)
We visited Castle Bellingham in November 2022, and Mr. Corscadden gave us a tour. It’s a beautiful castle venue, for weddings or events, and is sometimes available for accommodation.
It was a rainy November day and the castle is long so I didn’t capture the whole front facade in one shot, so I include to older photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
The Castle is owned by the Corscadden family, who also own Cabra Castle in County Cavan, Markree in County Sligo, and the other we have yet to visit, Ballyseede in County Kerry.
“At Bellingham Castle, the welcome is warm, the facilities luxurious and the memories, eternal. Nestled in the medieval village of Castlebellingham in County Louth along Ireland’s Ancient East, Bellingham Castle is an elegant and spacious 17th Century authentic Irish Castle available for exclusive hire, to allow you become King or Queen of your very own castle for a truly memorable experience. The Castle opens for overnight stays on select dates throughout the year, but is predominantly a venue for spectacular Weddings, conferences or events.
Set at the gateway to the Cooley mountains and on the banks of the glistening River Glyde, Bellingham Castle is the centrepiece of a 17-acre estate that includes a weir and man-made river island where you can create memories that last a lifetime. The opulent 17th Century Irish castle is bursting with rich history, splendour and old-world luxury.
Fully refurbished, yet retaining all of its character and charm, Bellingham Castle prides itself on elegance and sophistication, intimacy and cosiness, luxury and exclusivity – all just 50 minutes from both Dublin and Belfast.
We wanted to create something different at Bellingham Castle, an exquisite combination of a welcoming atmosphere and luxury castle experience. From dreamy and palatial bedrooms, to magnificent reception rooms and meticulously manicured gardens, we ensure each guest enjoys high-quality, bespoke service in an idyllic and inspirational location.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Bellingham (1988):
p. 62. “The original castle here, called Gernonstown, which was acquired by Henry Bellingham [1622-1676] mid C17, was burnt by King James’s soldiers before the Battle of the Boyne, when its then owner, Colonel Thomas Bellingham [1645-1721], was fighting for King William. Col Bellingham built a new house 1690/1700 [the National Inventory says 1712] and named it Castle Bellingham; it had a high-pitched roof and is said to have resembled Beaulieu, in the same county. Mrs Delany described it (1745) as “one of the prettiest places I have seen in Ireland.”
The house was remodelled in later C18, when a third storey was added, and again in early C19, when it was given a battlemented parapet, some turrets and a few other mildly medieval touches. The final result was not so much a castle as a castellated house, with plain Georgian sash windows. The nine bay entrance front, which appears to be only of two storeys owing to the higher ground on this side; the entrance, through a Gothic porch not centrally placed, is, in fact, on the first floor, where the principal rooms are situated. The opposite front, which also just misses being symmetrical – with three bays on one side of a shallow, curving bow and two bays and a turret on the other – also has a curved bow. Simple, pleasant rooms; a small staircase in a narrow hall at right angles to the entrance. Garden with terraces overlooking the river Glyde, formerly adorned with statues brought from Dubber Castle, the seat of another branch of the Bellinghams; vista to shrine of the Virgin Mary, erected by Henry Bellingham, a convert to Catholicism during the later years of the Oxford Movement. Straight avenue aligned on the entrance front of the house, terminated at the opposite end by a castellated gatehouse facing the village green. Having been sold by the Bellinghams ca 1956, Castle Bellingham is now an hotel.” 
The website gives a further history of the castle:
“Bellingham Castle served as one of the ancestral homes for the Bellingham family from the 17th Century until the 1950s. The original castle was built around 1660 by Sir Henry Bellingham [1622-1676], who was a cornet in the Army during the Civil War.
He purchased the lands of Gernonstowne, Co. Louth, from a fellow soldier who had been granted them in lieu of arrears of pay. The purchase was confirmed by King Charles II.
There is some variation on the spelling of Gernonstowne. On various maps and other documents, it is spelled Gernonstowne, Gernonstown, Gernon’s-Town, Gormanstown, Germanstown, Garlandstown and Garland.
Irish road signs show the English as Castlebellingham, while the Irish translation still refers to Baile an Ghearlanaigh – or Gernonstown. It was not called Castlebellingham for at least 40 years after the purchase. The name does not appear on any document before the year 1700. Around 1710, it began to appear in journals and other sources as Castlebellingham.
The castle was occupied by troops and burned down in the autumn of 1689 by King James II, in revenge for Colonel Thomas Bellingham [1645-1721] being a guide for William III, prior to the Battle of the Boyne. It is said that King William’s armies camped the night before the Battle of the Boyne in the grounds of the castle.“
Thomas Bellingham had a son, Henry. The estate passed Henry’s son Henry, but he had no children so when he died in 1755 it passed to his brother Alan Bellingham (1709-1796).
Alan’s son O’Bryen Bellingham (d. 1798) set up a brewery on site around 1770. The website tells us:
The website continues: “Over time, Castlebellingham became an important gathering point in the county. Fairs were held there every year and a church was constructed next door to the castle, along with a graveyard that houses the Bellingham family vault. The Bellinghams became one of the most powerful and influential families in the county; for over 100 years, a Bellingham held the seat in Parliament for County Louth.
Records also note Castlebellingham for having ‘the best malt liquor’ in Ireland. A brewery was built on site about 1770 and belonged to an O’Bryen Bellingham [d. 1798, a son of Alan Bellingham]. For a number of years, a brewery partnership ran their liquor business. The brewery is still there but now houses the ‘button factory’ or Smallwares Ltd. The brewery was the main supplier of drink to the Boer War troops.“
Alan’s son William married Hester Frances Cholmondeley, daughter of Reverend Robert Cholmondeley and was created 1st Baronet Bellingham, of Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth. He did not have any children and the title passed to his brother Alan’s son, another Alan (1740-1800), who became 2nd Baronet Bellingham of Castle Bellingham, County Louth.
The website continues: “A history of the parish, dated 1908, states that the impressive Calvary standing at the entrance to Bellingham Castle was erected by Sir [Alan] Henry Bellingham [4th Baronet]as a monument to the memory of his first wife, Lady Constance.
A collection of inset religious panels can be seen on the upper facades of many of the village buildings. These are also a reflection of Sir Henry’s religious sentiments, and they are unique in Ireland. In addition to the many panels, there are biblical quotations cut into the stone window sills of some buildings. North of the castle is a carefully preserved group of ‘widows’ dwellings’, built from charitable motives by Sir Henry.
In 1905, Bellingham Castle was the venue for the romantic wedding celebrations of Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham, daughter of Sir Alan Bellingham [1846-1921], 4th Baronet to the 4th Marquis of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart.
The Marquis, who was one of the wealthiest men in the British Isles at the time, spared no expense and treated his bride and guests to a lavish celebration, including chartering the Princess Maud steamer to take their guests and the Isle of Bute pipe band across the Irish Sea to Bellingham Castle for the wedding. As the society event of the year, the wedding attracted worldwide media attention, from California to New Zealand.
Footage from the wedding celebrations still exists. This remarkable film is believed to be the one of the earliest wedding films in the world. Bellingham Castle is clearly depicted in the footage, together with scenes at nearby Kilsaran Church and the village of Annagassan, from where the wedding party and their guests arrived and departed by steamer.
Castlebellingham was the ancestral home of the Baronetcy until the late 1950s. The last Bellingham to live there was Brigadier General Sir Edward Bellingham [5th Baronet], born in 1879, who was the last Lord Lieutenant and Guardian of the Rolls (Custos Rotulorum).
It was purchased by Dermot Meehan in 1958 from the Irish Land Commission for £3,065.00. Mr Meehan spent several years converting the house into a hotel. The Meehan family sold the hotel and 17 acres in 1967 for £30,636.61 to Mr John Keenan and under the Keenan family stewardship, the castle prospered over the following four decades.
In December 2012, the castle – including the 17 acres – was acquired by the Corscadden family. The family also own Ballyseede Castle in Tralee, Co. Kerry; Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, and Markree Castle, Co. Sligo.
The next chapter in the history of Bellingham Castle has begun, as an exclusive venue for private weddings, civil ceremonies, conferences, meetings and corporate events.
Bellingham Castle is a building of intrinsic historical and architectural interest and is open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26).“
House & garden tour with tea/coffee & cake… €20 per person
Lunch for larger parties is available as is a more formal 5 course evening dinner, for more information please contact us.
Telephone +353 87 2355645
The website tells us:
“Collon House, steeped in history, is full of character and charm; its gracious rooms are exquisitely furnished with period antiques and paintings, retaining the atmosphere of early Georgian living, making this a rare opportunity to experience less than one hour from Dublin City Centre, thirty minutes from Dublin Airport and just five miles from historic Slane.
Collon House is a perfect location from which to enjoy the wonderful treasures of the Boyne Valley. Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) prehistoric megalithic sites, The Battle of the Boyne visitors centre at Oldbridge, Slane Castle, Old Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice High Crosses are all less than twenty minutes drive from Collon House.“
The Historic Houses of Ireland (HHI) website tells us:
“Anthony Foster [1705-1778], Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, purchased the Collon estate in 1740 and chose to build in the centre of the County Louth village, now a market town on the road from Dublin to Derry. His early Georgian house was extended in the 1770s to form a substantial L-shaped dwelling, set back from the street at the central crossroads. The original dwelling is long and low but the later building is taller and more generous in scale with more elaborate interiors and a “handsome half-turn stair” that gives access to the upper floors.” 
“Anthony’s son John [1740-1828] was elected to the family borough of Dunleer and became the member for Louth in 1768 at the age of twenty-one. Considered ‘the best informed man in the house’ he was briefly Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer before his election as Speaker of the Irish Commons. He held office from 1785 until 1800, when Parliament was dissolved for ever under the Act of Union, a measure which Foster had strenuously opposed. As Speaker he pronounced the final words at the closing session, choosing to retain his official mace ‘for future contingencies’. Mr. Speaker Foster was returned to Westminster after the Union and was finally rewarded with a UK peerage in 1821 (his wife had previously been granted two Irish titles) after an illustrious political career that spanned more than sixty years.
In ‘A Tour of Ireland‘published in 1780, the agronomist Arthur Young mentions Foster whose improvements on the Collon estate “were of a magnitude that I have never heard of before.” These included Oriel Temple, an elaborate and chastely classical lakeside folly, which was subsequently enlarged to form the principal family seat. Foster’s son Thomas married an heiress, Harriet Skeffington, and the family moved to Antrim Castle when she succeeded as Viscountess Massereene.”
The HHI website continues: “Collon House has been altered over the intervening years but the building retains many fine Georgian interiors, now greatly enhanced by sympathetic restoration, fine furniture, glass, porcelain, pictures and objects. Their rich decoration makes a striking contrast with the plain exterior.
The gardens have also been restored with inspired and authentic planting. The entrance overlooks a sunken garden with an intricate box parterre, while the herbaceous border in the ornamental garden leads to a classical summer house in the Grecian style.” 
The National Inventory tells us it is a: “Corner-sited attached five-bay three-storey house, built c. 1770. Rectangular-plan, extended by two-bays into two-storey terrace to east, three-bay two-storey wing to north, extended former mews buildings surrounding courtyard to north, single-storey flat-roofed entrance porch to west elevation…This imposing house, the principal home of the Foster family, at the heart of Collon, has historical associations with John Foster, the last man to speak in the Irish House of Commons. It contains many details of interest, such as stone window dressings. Its prominence at the heart of the village is of intrinsic importance to the architectural heritage of Collon.” (see )
We treated ourselves to a stay in Ballymascanlon House hotel in November 2022.
The website tells us: “The Ballymascanlon House is set on 130 acres of beautiful parkland, this impressive Victorian House forms the heart of this Hotel. It is one of the most remarkable historical estates in Ireland dating back to 833 A.D. Steeped in history, Ballymascanlon estate is located in Ireland’s North East on the Cooley Peninsula in close proximity to the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains. Less than 1 hour from Dublin and Belfast, and 20 minutes from the medieval town of Carlingford. We are delighted to welcome you to our beautiful luxurious venue, ideal for both Business and Leisure.”
Ballymascanlon means the town of the son of Scanlan, and was part of the ancient Sept of Scanlan. I noticed that locals call it “Ballymac” and it would seem the “mac” would be correct if it’s “son of” though the name now skips that “c” – it’s not named “Ballymac scanlan” any longer. A document in the front hall tells us of its history. The area is full of ancient archaeological features including the Proleek Dolmen which dates to approximately 4000 BC. The information tells us that a chieftain, MacScanlan, expelled a Danish incursion into the area, before the Anglo-Normans came to Ireland.
When the Anglo-Normans came, Hugh de Lacy gave this area to the Cistercian Mellifont Abbey. After the dissolution of the monastery by King Henry VIII the land was given to Edward Moore (1540-1601), ancestor of the Marquess of Drogheda.
The document also tells us that the Duke of Schomberg camped here before the Battle of the Boyne, and that a field hospital was set up. Later the Irish Volunteer branch, the Ballymascanlon Rangers, were led by Robert MacNeale of Ballymascanlon, father of James Wolf MacNeil, who built the building we see today.
Ballymascanlon House is a multiple-bay two-storey over basement with attic Tudor-Revival house, built in 1863 for James Wolfe MacNeil, incorporating fabric of earlier building which had been built for Frederick Foster, with gables, mullioned windows, hood-mouldings and a recessed doorway.  MacNeil owned the nearby corn mills. There may be been a house previously located on the site, David Hicks tells us in Irish County Houses, A Chronicle of Change. 
Hicks tells us that the house was sold and further improved by architect P.J. Byrne for Frederick Foster. The red brick gate lodge was added at this time. Frederick Foster (1799-1888) married Isabella Vere. He was the son of John William Foster (1745-1809). Frederick had no children. His sister Louisa Jane married Thomas Span Plunkett, 2nd Baron Plunket of Newton.
Further building works were carried out in 1904 and 1919 for Katherine Plunkett, daughter of Louisa Jane and Thomas Span Plunkett, who then owned the house. The house has high pitched gables and projecting bays. The Plunkett coat of arms over the front door depicts and horse and the Plunkett motto, Festina Lente, or Make Haste Slowly.
Hicks continues his description:
“Inside, a spine corridor leads past the various reception rooms that overlook the gardens through mullioned windows. This corridor provided ample space for family portraits and landscapes that once decorated the walls. One of the most interesting features of the interior is the glazed dome that provides light to the inner hall at the centre of the house where the hotel reception is. The various reception rooms of the house are tastefully decorated and have retained much of their old world charm.“
The house was offered for sale in 1943 and purchased by George Noble Plunkett, a Papal court who received his title from Pope Leo XIII for donating money to Catholic charities. He was the father of Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising.
George Noble Plunkett and his wife Josephine Cranny were children of Pat Plunkett and Pat Cranny, two successful property developers who built many of the red brick Victorian houses in Dublin. Count Plunkett began his professional life as the director of the National Museum. After his son was killed he entered politics. After his wife died, he sold the house to the Quinn family, who turned it into a hotel.
2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth – see above
3. Darver Castle, County Louth
Darver Castle by Barry McGee 2016 courtesy of Flickr constant commons.
“The Castle, dating from the 15th century is situated in a fine parkland setting and surrounded by mature trees. The courtyard, approached through a medieval arched gateway has lofted stone faced buildings while the outer yard has very impressive stone faced buildings with stabling for 20 horses. Also included is an outdoor manège, partly walled garden and orchard. The lands, all in old pasture, have excellent road frontage and are renowned for their fattening qualities.In the early 12th Century a man named Patrick Babe was given 500 acres of land in the parish of Derver by King James II. He built a castle for himself and his family to live in on the grounds formerly owned by the church. The castle was built on the north side of the hill north of the cave and on the edge of the deep slope that led to the banks of two rivers, which provided fish and eels for the family food.The rivers acted as security from the enemy advancing from the north. With a large yard wall to the east 12 feet high and 20 acres of woodland to the west helped keep the enemy out. But a problem arose on the southside of the hill as it sloped to a deep valley and joined the high hill of newtown Darver. As the top of this hill is just 4 feet higher than the level of the top of the castle. So the soldiers were unable to see the enemy approaching from the south. Patrick Babe had a round tower built on the very top of the hill and placed soldiers into this garrison which gave them a clear view for 40 miles away so no enemy ever got near Darver Castle Estate during all the wars.
The church was never reached by Cromwell because of the protection from the hilltower. When the wars were over, Patrick Babe had wings put on the front of the tower and converted it into a windmill, and used it to ground corn for himself and his tenants. This continued for 150 years until large mills were built on the edge of the rivers, powered by the water, so that the use of the towermill ended and it was later demolished and the land around made arable. The hill is still known as windmill hill. 12thC Patrick Babe built the castle. Later he built 14 tenant houses. 1385 John Babe was given the advocasy of the church 1655 The Babes rented the castle to Abraham Ball. He died in 1742. 1740 James Babe sold the castle and 500 acres of land to Richard Fiscall Dublin for $4,000 1777 According to a survey done by Taylor and Skinner. The castle was idle. 1789 John Booth bought the castle. He died in 1840. 1840 Joseph Booth appears. He added the new wing and porch. 1857 John Filgate Booth died there. 1890 Frances Rutherford died there. 1894 Elizabeth Booth died there. 1906 Charles Rutherford died there. 1921 Zane Booth died there. 1980 John Booth died there. 1993 McCormack family took over and shortly afterwards Aidan and his wife Mary took ownership. Through a lot of hard-work and love for the castle, they have transformed it into the castle wedding venue it is today. The Carville family still continue to care for the castle, with improvements happening endlessly.“
The National Inventory tells us: “Built in 1727 by William Stannus, this building, with its unadorned façade and finely-balanced elegant classical proportions, is a handsome representative of architectural developments during the Georgian era. It retains a large amount of original and early fabric, including handsome boundary walls, corner tower and carriage arch.”
Whole House Rental, County Louth:
1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, see above, €€€ for two, € for 6-12
2. Bellingham Castle, Co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits
 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’ve been looking forward to staying in Castlecor house, after seeing a photograph of its incredible octagonal room.
The website tells us:
“The construction of this magnificent residence, as it stands today, spanned 300 years, originally built in the mid 1700’s as a Hunting Lodge with additions in the 19th & 20th century.
The website continues: “It was built by the Very Revd. Cutts Harman (1706 – 1784), son of the important Harman family of nearby Newcastle House [which offers accommodation]. He was Dean of Waterford cathedral from 1759 and was married to Bridget Gore (1723-1762) from Tashinny [Tennalick, now a ruin, which passed from the Sankey family to the Gore family by the marriage of Bridget’s mother Bridget Sankey to George Gore, son of Sir Arthur Gore, 1st Baronet of Newtown Gore, County Mayo] in c. 1740.“
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (www.buildingsofIreland.ie) gives the building an unusually long appraisal which explains the unusual building:
“It was originally built as a symmetrical two-storey block on octagonal-plan with short (single-room) projecting wings to four sides (in cross pattern on alternating sides), and with tall round-headed window openings between to the remaining four walls. The single wide room to the octagon at first floor level has an extraordinary central chimneypiece (on square-plan) with marble fireplaces to its four faces; which are framed by Corinthian columns that support richly-detailed marble entablatures over. The marble fireplaces themselves are delicately detailed with egg-and-dart mouldings and are probably original. This room must rank as one of the most unusual and interesting rooms built anywhere in Ireland during the eighteenth-century.“
The National Inventory continues: “The walls of the octagonal room are decorated with Neo-Egyptian artwork, which may have been inspired by illustrations in Owen Jones’ book ‘Decoration’, published in 1856. The inspiration for this distinctive octagonal block is not known. Some sources suggest an Italian inspiration, such as the pattern books of the noted architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475 – 1554) [Mark Bence-Jones suggests this ], or that it was based on the designs of the much larger hunting lodge (Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi) that was built for the Duke of Savoy, near Turin, between 1729 and c. 1731 (The later seems a highly fanciful idea but there are some similarities in plan, albeit on a much larger scale at Stupinigi); while Craig (1977, 15) suggests that the ‘inspiration is clearly the hunting lodge at Clemenswerth in Lower Saxony, Germany’, which was constructed between 1737 – 1747 to designs by Johann Conrad Schlaun for Prince Clemens August, a structure that Castlecor resembles in terms of scale and plan. However, it may be that the plan of this building was inspired by William Halfpenny (died 1755), an English Palladian architect who created a number of unexecuted designs for Waterford Church of Ireland cathedral and for an associated bishop’s palace from c. 1739. Interestingly, a number of these unexecuted plans for the bishop’s palace included a central octagonal block with projecting wings, while a number of the church plans included an unusual separate baptismal building attached to the nave, which is also on an octagonal-plan. The Very Revd. Cutts Harman may well have been aware of Halfpenny’s unexecuted designs, being Dean of the cathedral from 1759 and was probably associated with the diocese from an earlier date, and perhaps he used these as his inspiration for the designs of Castlecor. The central four-sided chimneypiece is reminiscent of the centerpiece of the Rotunda of Ranelagh Gardens, London, (built to designs by William Jones 1741 – 2; demolished c. 1803) albeit on a much reduced scale at Castlecor. The plan of Castlecor is also similar to a number of buildings (some not executed) in Scotland, including Hamilton Parish Church (built c. 1733 to designs by William Adam (1698 – 1748) and the designs for a small Neoclassical villa prepared by James Adam (1732 – 92), c. 1765, for Sir Thomas Kennedy. The exact construction date of Castlecor is not known, however the traditional building date is usual given as c. 1765. The architectural detailing to the interior of the original block, and perhaps the personal life of Very Revd. Cutts Harman (married in 1751 to a daughter of Lord Annaly of Tennalick 13402348; his duties at Waterford cathedral from 1759; Cutts Harmon leased out a number of plots of land in Longford from c. 1768) would suggest an earlier date of, perhaps, the 1740s. The architect is also unknown although it is possible that Harman designed the house himself (perhaps inspired by a pattern book or by Halfpenny’s unexecuted designs); while Craig (1977) suggest that the architect may have been Davis Ducart (Daviso de Arcort; died 1780/1), an Italian or French architect and engineer who worked extensively in Ireland (particularly the southern half of the island) during the 1760s and 1770s.” We saw Ducart’s work at Kilshannig in County Cork, another section 482 property, see my entry .
The website tells us:”The Rev. Cutts Harman who had Castlecor built died without issue, it was inherited by his niece’s son [or was it his sister Anne’s son? If so, it was her son Lawrence Harman Parsons (1749-1807); she married Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet of Birr Castle. Her son added Harman to his surname when he inherited Castlecor from his uncle], Laurence Harman- Harman, later Lord Oxmantown, and finally Earl of Rosse. Peyton Johnston, the Earl’s nephew, rented the house during this time. Captain Thomas Hussey, Royal Marines; purchased Castlecor in c.I820. There is very little documentary evidence relative to Captain Hussey’s occupancy. He resided there from 1832/3 to 1856 and was High Sheriff of Longford.“
Mark Bence-Jones adds: “To make the house more habitable, a conventional two storey front was built onto it early in C19, either by Peyton Johnston, who rented the house after it had been inherited by the Earl of Rosse, or by Thomas Hussey, the subsequent tenant who bought the property ante 1825. This front joins two of the wings so that its ends and theirs form obtuse angles. In the space between it and the octagon is a top-lit stair. Early in the present century, a wider front of two storeys and three bays in C18 manner, with a tripartite pedimented doorway, was built onto the front of the early C19 front. Castlecor subsequently passed to a branch of the Bonds, and was eventually inherited by Mrs C. J. Clerk (nee Bond).”
The National Inventory continues to tell us the history of the house: “The building was extended c. 1850 (the house appears on its original plan on the Ordnance Survey first edition six-inch map 1838) by the construction of a two-storey block to the northeast corner of the house, between two of the wings of the original structure. The earlier wing to the west may have been extended at this time also. The lion’s head motifs to the rainwater goods throughout the building (built around and before c. 1850) are very similar to those found at the gate lodge serving Castlecor to the northwest, built c. 1855, suggesting that the house was altered at this time, possibly as part of wider program of works at the estate.”
The National Inventory continues: “The projection to the south wing having the box bay window also looks of mid-to-late nineteenth century date and may also have been added at this time. The Castlecor estate was bought by the Hussey family during the late-eighteenth century following the death of Cutts Harman, and the first series of works may have been carried out when Capt. Thomas Hussey (1777 – 1866), High Sheriff of Longford from 1840 – 44, was in residence. However, the Castlecor estate was offered for sale by Commissioners of Incumbered Estates in 1855 when it was bought by a branch of the Bond family and, perhaps, the house was extended just after this date by the new owners. The Bonds were an important landed family in Longford at the time, and owned a number of estates to the centre of the county, to the north of Castlecor, and a branch also lived at adjacent Moygh/Moigh House (13402606) [still standing and in private hands] during the second half of the nineteenth century. Thomas Bond (1786 – 1869) [of Edgeworthstown] was probably the first Bond in residence at Castlecor. A John Bond, later of Castlecor, was High Sheriff of Longford in 1856. The last Bond owner/resident was probably a Mrs Clerk (nee Bond) [Emily Constance Smyth Bond] who was in residence in 1920. She married a Charles James Clerk (J.P. and High Sheriff of Longford in 1906) in 1901/2, and he was responsible for the three-bay two-storey block that now forms the main entrance, built c. 1913. This block was built to designs by A. G. C. Millar, an architect based on Kildare Street, Dublin. This block is built in a style that is reminiscent of a mid-eighteenth century house, having a central pedimented tripartite doorcase and a rigid symmetry to the front elevation. The house became a convent (Ladies of Mary) sometime after 1925 until c. 1980, and was later in use as a nursing home until c. 2007. This building, particularly the original block, is one of the more eccentric and interesting elements of the built heritage of Longford, and forms the centrepiece of a group of related structures.” 
The website tells us thatthe four wings adjoining the original octagonal hunting lodge align with the four cardinal compass points.
In 2009, the current owners Loretta Grogan and Brian Ginty set about purchasing the house, with the aspiration to restore Castlecor House, its grounds, native woodland and walled garden with pond and orchard to its former glory, opening it to the public by appointment and also welcoming guests.
2. Maria Edgeworth Visitor Centre, Longford, County Longford.
“The Maria Edgeworth Centre, in County Longford, is located in one of Ireland’s oldest school buildings that opened in 1841. Using a combination of audio, imagery and interactive displays, the centre tells the story of the Edgeworth family and the origins of the National School system. You will also learn about the role the family played in the educational, scientific, political and cultural life in Ireland. Maria Edgeworth was a notable pioneer of literature and education, a feminist and a social commentator of her time. Audios and displays are available in seven languages.”
contact: Michael O’Donnell Tel: 047-81952 Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-29, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/OAP/student/child €8
The National Inventory describes it:
“Detached three-bay two-storey over basement house on L-shaped plan, built c. 1815, having two-storey-storey return to rear (northwest) with pitched slate roof. Two-storey extension attached to the northwest end of rear return. Recently renovated. Possibly incorporating fabric of earlier building/structure. …This appealing and well-proportioned middle-sized house, of early nineteenth-century appearance, retains its early form, character and fabric. Its form is typical of houses of its type and date in rural Ireland, with a three-bay two-storey main elevation, hipped natural slate roof with a pair of centralised chimneystacks, and central round-headed door opening with fanlight. The influence of classicism can be seen in the tall ground floor window openings and the rigid symmetry to the front facade. The simple doorcase with the delicate petal fanlight over provides a central focus and enlivens the plain front elevation. The return to the rear has unusually thick walls and a relative dearth of openings, possibly indicating that it contains earlier fabric. This house forms an interesting group with the entrance gates to the southeast, the outbuildings (13401509) and walled garden to the rear, and the highly ornate railings to the southwest side featuring a sinuous vine leaf motif. The quality of these railings is such that their appearance is equally fine from both sides, the vine leaves being cast in three dimensions. They are notable examples of their type and date, and add substantial to the setting of this fine composition, which is an important element of the built heritage of the local area. Moorhill was the home of a R. (Robert or Richard) Blackall, Esq. in 1837 (Lewis). The Blackalls were an important family in the locality and built nearby Coolamber Manor c. 1837 [built for Major Samuel Wesley Blackhall (1809 – 1871)…to designs by the eminent architect John Hargrave (c. 1788 – 1833). Hargrave worked extensively in County Longford during the 1820s and was responsible for the designs for the governor’s house at Longford Town Jail in 1824; works at Ardagh House in 1826; the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Church of Ireland church at Newtown-Forbes; the remodelling of Castle Forbes, nearby Farragh/Farraghroe House (demolished); Doory Hall now ruinous; St. Paul’s Church of Ireland church, Ballinalee; and possibly for the designs of St. Catherine’s Church of Ireland church at nearby Killoe. …and [Coolamber Manor] may have replaced an earlier house associated with the Blackall family at Coolamber (a Robert Blackall (1764 – 1855), father of the above, lived in Longford in the late-eighteenth century)].
Moorhill House “was possibly the home of Robert Blackall, the father of Samuel Wensley, who was responsible for the construction of Coolamber Manor and later served as M.P. (1847 – 51) for the county before serving as Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1868 until his death in 1871. Moorhill may have been the residence of a Francis Taylor in 1894 (Slater’s Directory).”
Newcastle House is a 300-year-old manor house, set on the banks of the River Inny near Ballymahon, in Co. Longford.
The website tells us; “Standing on 44 acres of mature parkland and surrounded by 900 acres of forest, Newcastle House is only one and half hour’s drive from Dublin, making it an excellent base to see, explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Ireland. So whether you are looking for a peaceful place to stay (to get away from it all) or perhaps need a location to hold an event, or that most important wedding, give us a call.”
The website previously included a brief history of the inhabitants of Newcastle:
“Newcastle Wood was once part of Newcastle Demesne, an estate of some 11,000 hectares run by the King- Harman family in the 1800’s. The beautiful, historic nearby Newcastle House was where the King- Harmans lived and there are many features and place names in the woodland which refer back to that time.“
We came across Lawrence Harman Parsons (1749-1807) who became the 1st Earl of Rosse, and who added Harman to his surname to become Lawrence Harman Parsons Harman, when he inherited Castlecor in County Longford. He married Jane King, daughter of Edward Thomas King, 1st Earl of Kingston, from Boyle, County Roscommon. They had a daughter, Frances Parsons-Harmon, who married Robert Edward King (1773-1854), 1st Viscount Lorton of Boyle, County Roscommon. Their second son, Lawrence Harman King assumed the additional name of Harman to become Lawrence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875). It was his family who lived at Newcastle Wood.
The old website continued: “The King- Harmans were generally regarded as good landlords by the local populace. They employed many local people in all sorts of trades. The last of the King- Harmans died in 1949. King- Harman sold lands to the Forestry Department in 1934 and over the following two years it was planted with a mixture of coniferous and broadleaf trees.“
Then National Inventory describes the house:
“Detached double-pile seven-bay three-storey over basement former country house, built c. 1730 and altered and extended at various dates throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, having curvilinear Dutch-type gable to the central bay and later gable-fronted single-bay single-storey entrance porch with matching curvilinear Dutch-type gable to the centre of the main block (southeast elevation), built c. 1820. Advanced three-bay single-storey over basement wing flanking main block to northeast, and advanced four-bay two-storey over basement wing flanking main block to southwest, both built c. 1785. Recessed single-bay single-storey over basement Tudor Gothic style addition attached to northeast elevation having gable-fronted rear elevation and chamfered corners at ground floor level having dressed ashlar limestone masonry , built c. 1850, and two-storey extension to southwest, built c. 1880. Possibly incorporating the fabric of earlier house(s) to site c. 1660. Later in use as a convent and now in use as a hotel…Round-headed door opening to front face of porch (southeast) having carved limestone surround with architrave, square-headed timber battened door with decorative cast-iron hinge motifs, wrought-iron overlight, and having moulded render label moulding over.…Painted stuccoed ceilings and ceiling cornices, some with a neoclassical character, a number of early panelled timber doors and marble fireplaces survive to interior...” 
Before belonging to the King-Harman family, Newcastle belonged to the Sheppard family. It came to the King-Harman family through the marriage of Frances Sheppard (d. 1766) daughter of Anthony Sheppard of Newcastle to Wentworth Harman (d. 1714) of Moyle, County Longford.
The National Inventory adds:
“The lands and house at Newcastle were successively in the possession of the Chappoyne/Chappayne/Choppin, the Sheppard, the Harman and the King-Harman families. The earliest mention of the estate is references to an Anthony Chappoyne at Newcastle in 1660, although this may have been the site of an earlier ‘castle’ from as early as the fourteenth century (as the placename suggests). In 1680 a Robert Choppayne appears to have purchased/consolidated the lands of Newcastle from Gerald Fitzgerald, 17th Earl of Kildare. Dowdall (1682) describes the site as ‘..on the southside of the river is Newcastle, the antient Estate of the Earl of Kildare now the estate and habitation of Robert Choppin Esqr where he hath lately built a fair house and a wooden bridge over said river’. The estate passed into the ownership of Anthony Sheppard (born 1668 – 1738), heir (son?) of Robert Chappoyne, c. 1693, who served as High Sheriff of County Longford in 1698. His son, also Anthony, was M.P. for Longford in 1727. The estate later passed by marriage into the ownership into the Harman family at the very end of the seventeenth century. Robert Harman (1699 – 1765; M.P. for Longford c. 1760 -5) [son of Wentworth Harman and Frances Sheppard] was in possession of the estate of much of the middle of the eighteenth century and it is likely that he was responsible for much of the early work on the house. The Very Revd. Cutts Harman, who built the quirky hunting/fishing lodge at nearby Castlecor, inherited the house c. 1765 following the death of his brother Robert. The estate later passed into the ownership of Lawrence Parsons-Harman (1749 – 1807) in 1784 (M.P. for Longford 1776 – 1792; Baron Oxmantown in 1792; Viscount Oxmantown in 1795; Earl of Rosse 1806; sat was one of the original Irish Representative Peers in the British House of Lords) and he greatly increased the Newcastle estate, and by his death (1807) its size had doubled to approximately 31,000 acres in size. It is likely that he was responsible for the construction of the side wings to the main block and general improvements to the house from 1784. The estate passed into the ownership of his wife Jane, Countess of Rosse (who partially funded the construction of a number of Church of Ireland churches and funded a number of schools in County Longford during the first half of the nineteenth century), who left the estate to her grandson Laurence King-Harman (1816 – 1878) after falling out with her son.Laurence King-Harman has probably responsible for the vaguely Tudor Gothic extension to the northeast elevation. The brick chimneystacks also look of mid-nineteenth century date and may have been added around the same time this wing was constructed. The King family had extensive estates in Ireland during the nineteenth century, owning the magnificent Rockingham House (demolished) and King House [also a Section 482 property which I hope to visit later this year], Boyle, both in County Roscommon;as well as Mitchelstown Castle in County Cork, burnt in 1922 (memorial plaques and carved stone heads from Mitchelstown Castle were built into the northeast elevation of Newcastle House c. 1925, but have been removed and returned to Cork in recent years). The estate reached its largest extent in 1888, some 38,616 acres in size, when Wentworth Henry King-Harman was in residence. The estate was described in 1900 as ‘a master-piece of smooth and intricate organisation, with walled gardens and glasshouses, its diary, its laundry, its carpenters, masons and handymen of all estate crafts, the home farm, the gamekeepers and retrievers kennels, its saw-mill and paint shop and deer park for the provision of venison. The place is self supporting to a much greater degree than most country houses in England’. The estate went in to decline during the first decades of the twentieth century, and with dwindled in size to 800 acres by 1911. The house and estate remained in the ownership of the King-Harman family until c. 1951, when Capt. Robert Douglas King-Harman sold the house to an order of African Missionary nuns (house and contents sold for £11,000). It was later in use as a hotel from c. 1980.” 
“Discover this boutique gem, a secret tucked away in the heart of Ireland. This magnificent 17th century manor is complemented by its incredible countryside surroundings, and by the four acres of meticulously-maintained garden that surround it. Within the manor you’ll find a place of character, with open fires, beautiful furniture, fresh flowers and Irish literature. The manor retains its stately, historic charm, and blends it with thoughtful renovation that incorporates modern comfort.
Here, you will unwind into the exceptionally relaxing atmosphere, a restful world where all you hear is peace, quiet and birdsong.“
This house was advertised for sale in recent years. The National Inventory describes it:
“Detached three-bay three-storey house, built c. 1750 and remodeled c. 1860, having single-bay single-storey porch with flat roof to the centre of the front elevation (north). Renovated c. 1994. Formerly in use as a Church of Ireland charter school (c. 1753 – 1826)…This elegant mid-sized Georgian house is a fine example of the language of classical architecture reduced to its essential elements. It retains its early character and form despite recent alterations….Set in extensive mature grounds, this fine structure is a worthy addition to the architectural heritage of County Longford….This house was the home of the Cuffe family during the first half of the eighteenth century. It was later inherited by Thomas Pakenham (later [1st] Baron Longford [of Pakenham Hall, or Tullynally, County Westmeath, another section 482 property, see my entry]) following his marriage to Elizabeth Cuffe (1714-94) in 1739 or 1740. It is possible that Viewmount House was constructed shortly after this date and it may have replaced an earlier Cuffe family house on or close to the present site. The house was never lived in by the Pakenham family but it was used by their agent to administer the Longford estate, c. 1860. It was apparently in use as a charter school from 1753 until 1826, originally founded under the patronage of Thomas Pakenham. There is a ‘charter school’ indicated here (or close to here) on the Taylor and Skinner map (from Maps of the Roads of Ireland) of the area, dated between 1777 – 1783. A ‘free charter school’ at Knockahaw, Longford Town, with 32 boys, is mentioned in an Irish Education Board Report, dated 1826 – 7 (Ir. Educ. Rept 2, 692 – 3).” 
 p. 66. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.
green: gardens to visit
Today we start with places to see in Ulster. I am publishing this list first because in my researches, I have so often met with families and properties in Northern Ireland which I had not been including in my listings. I can’t wait to start exploring Northern Ireland as well as continuing my visits to Section 482 properties.
The province of Ulster contains counties Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone.
For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:
€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);
1. Antrim Castle gardens and Clotworthy House, County Antrim – estate and gardens open to the public, the Castle was destroyed by fire. The stable block, built in the 1840s and now known as Clotworthy House, is used as an arts centre.
“Antrim Castle Gardens are an absolute historical gem. You will find nothing like these 400 year old gardens anywhere else in Northern Ireland. A £6m restoration project, which received generous support from Heritage Lottery Fund, has now preserved this historic site for generations to come.
Walk into the past as you stroll around this magnificent setting, visiting beautiful features such as the Large Parterre, Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pond.
Within the heart of the Gardens is a unique visitor experience, the refurbished Clotworthy House. Visit the Garden Heritage Exhibition where you can read about the history of the Gardens and the story of the Massereene family. It provides a fantastic opportunity to come and learn about garden history how the lives of the key family members intertwine with the development of Antrim town and the surrounding areas.
The light filled Oriel Gallery plays host to a range of stunning exhibitions throughout the year.
Be sure to visit and sample the many culinary delights in the Garden Coffee Shop with its delicious treat menu which has something to suit everyone. Your visit won’t be complete without a visit to the Visitor Shop where there is a unique range of goods with a distinct garden focus. With Christmas just around the corner, the shop offers some interesting and quaint gift ideas so why not drop in and pick something up for a friend, a loved one or even to spoil yourself.
With a year round programme of events and activities including talks, walks, interactive workshops, performances and exhibitions, the Gardens are just waiting to be explored.“
“Antrim Castle Gardens is a 17th century Anglo Dutch water garden, one of only three in the British Isles. In a beautiful riverside location close to Antrim town centre they are perfect for a stroll, a coffee or the opportunity to experience a variety of exhibitions, courses and classes.
Developed around Antrim Castle, built by Sir Hugh Clotworthy and his son, Sir John Clotworthy, between 1610 and 1662, they are a complex living museum containing over four centuries of culture and heritage that tell the stories of the people who created, lived and worked here.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Antrim Castle in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses
“(Skeffington, Massereene and Ferrard, V/PB) A castle by the side of the Sixmilewater, just above where it flows into Lough Neagh, built originally 1613 by the important English settler, Sir Hugh Clotworthy, and enlarged 1662 by his son, 1st Viscount Massereene [John Clotworthy (1614-1665)]. The castle was rebuilt 1813 as a solid three storey Georgian-Gothic castellated mansion, designed by John Bowden, of Dublin, faced in Roman cement of a pleasant orange colour; the original Carolean doorway of the castle, a tremendous affair of Ionic pilasters, heraldry, festoons and a head of Charles I, being re-erected as the central feature of the entrance front, below a battlemented pediment. Apart from this, and tower-like projections at the corners, with slender round angle turrets and shallow pyramidal roofs, the elevations were plain; the entrance front being of four bays between the projections, and the long adjoining front of 11 bays. Mullioned oriels and a tall octagonal turret of ashlar were added to the long front in 1887, when the castle was further enlarged. Remarkable C17 formal garden, unique in Ulster, its only surviving counterpart being at Killruddery, Co Wicklow. Long canal, bordered with tall hedges, and other canal at right angles to it, making a “T” shape; old trees, dark masses of yew and walls of rose-coloured brick. Mount, with spiral path, originally the motte of a Norman castle. Imposing Jacobean revival outbuildings of course rubble basalt with sandstone dressings; built ca. 1840. Entrance gateway to the demesne with octagonal turrets. Antrim Castle was burnt 1922.” 
The 1st Viscount Massereene married Margaret Jones, daughter of Roger Jones, 1st Viscount Ranelagh. Their daughter Margaret married and her husband gained the title through her, to become John Skeffington, 2nd Viscount Massereene. The 4th Viscount, whose first name was Clotworthy, which became a family name, married Lady Catherine Chichester, eldest daughter of Arthur, 4th Earl of Donegall. Their son Clotworthy became 1st Earl of Massereene.
The 4th Earl died in 1816, and the earldom expired; but the viscountcy of Massereene and barony of Loughneagh devolved upon his only daughter and sole heiress, Harriet Skeffington, 9th Viscountess of Massereene (1789-1843) . She married, in 1810, Thomas Henry Foster, 2nd Viscount Ferrard. It was for Harriet and Thomas that the castle was rebuilt in 1813. Algernon William John Clotworthy Whyte-Melville Skeffington, 12th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard, DSO, was the last of the Skeffingtons to live at Antrim Castle. Lord and Lady Massereene and their family were hosting a grand ball in Antrim Castle when it was burnt by an IRA gang on the 28th October, 1922. Following the fire, Lord Massereene went to live in the nearby dower house, Skeffington Lodge (which subsequently became the Deer Park Hotel, but is no longer a hotel). Further losses of family treasures – this time by sale, not by fire – now followed.
After the Second World War, Skeffington Lodge was abandoned; the Antrim Castle stable block was converted for use as a family residence, and was re-named Clotworthy House. Clotworthy was acquired by Antrim Borough Council, and was converted for use as an Arts Centre in 1992.
Timothy William Ferrers tells us that a fine stone bridge, the Deer Park Bridge, spans the river at a shallow point and formed a link between the demesne and the rest of the estate. He continues:
“The Anglo-Norman motte adjacent to the house was made into a garden feature, with a yew-lined spiral walk leading to the top, from which views of the grounds, the town of Antrim and the river could (and can still) be enjoyed.
The castle and the motte were enclosed within a bawn and protected by artillery bastions, which were utilized for gardens from the 18th century.
The formal canals, linked by a small cascade and lined with clipped lime and hornbeam hedges, are the main attraction. The main gate lodge from the town, the Barbican Gate, was possibly built in 1818 to the designs of John Bowden and has been separated from the site by the intrusion of the road. An underpass now connects the lodge entrance to the grounds.” (see )
Also Featured in Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters. David Hicks. The Collins Press, Cork, 2014.
“Belfast Castle estate is situated on the lower slopes of Cave Hill Country Park in north Belfast. It contains both parkland and mature mixed woodland and offers superb views of the city from a variety of vantage points. The estate is home to many different species of wildlife, including long-eared owls, sparrowhawks and Belfast’s rarest plant, the town hall clock.
More information about the estate is available from Cave Hill Visitor Centre, located in Belfast Castle. You can call the centre directly on 028 9077 6925. Park features include Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, Cave Hill Visitor Centre, landscaped gardens, a Millennium herb garden, ecotrails and orienteering routes. We also offer refreshments (in Belfast Castle), scenic views, full car parking facilities and a wide variety of wildlife.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“(Chichester, Donegall, M/PB; Ashley-Cooper, Shaftsbury, E/PB) The original Belfast Castle was a tall, square semi-fortified house with many gables, built at the beginning of C17 by the Lord Deputy Sir Arthur Chichester, uncle of the 1st Earl of Donegall. It stood surrounded by formal gardens and orchards going down to a branch of the River Lagan, and was the seat of the Donegalls until 1708 when it was destroyed by a fire “caused through the carelessness of a female servant,” three of six daughters of 3rd Earl perishing in the blaze. The castle was not rebuilt and the ruin was subsequently demolished; its site and that of its gardens is now occupied by Castle Place and the adjoining streets, in what is now the centre of the city. For much of C18, the Donegalls lived in England; later, they lived at Ormeau, just outside Belfast to the south-east. 3rd Marquess of Donegall [George Hamilton Chichester (1797-1883)] found Ormeau inconvenient; and so, towards the end of 1860s, he and his son-in-law and daughter, afterwards 8th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury, built a large Scottish-Baronial castle at the opposite side of the city, in a fine position on the lower slopes of Cave Hill, overlooking the Lough; it was named Belfast Castle, after Sir Arthur Chichester’s vanished house. The architects of the new Belfast Castle were Sir Charles Lanyon and William Henry Lynn; stylistically, it would seem to be very much Lynn’s work; but it may also perhaps have been influenced by a design by William Burn, having a plan almost exactly similar to those of several of Burns’s Scottish-Baronial castles. Tall square tower, of six storeys, in the manner of Balmoral. Projecting pillared porch in “Jacobethan” style, with strapwork on columns. On the garden front, a fantastic snaking Elizabethan staircase of stone leading down to the terrace from the piano nobile was added 1894. Entrance hall in base of tower; larger hall opening at one end into staircase well with massive oak stair; arcaded first floor gallery. Now well maintained by the City of Belfast as a setting for functions.” 
The Castle passed from the 3rd Marquess of Donegall to his daughter Harriet Chichester and her husband Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1831-1886), who became the 8th Earl of Shaftsbury. Their son the 9th Earl of Shaftsbury served as Lord Mayor in 1907 and Chancellor of Queen’s University the following year. The family presented the castle and estate to the City of Belfast in 1934.
Timothy William Ferres tells us that from the end of the 2nd World War until the 1970s the castle became a popular venue for wedding receptions, dances and afternoon teas. In 1978, Belfast City Council instituted a major refurbishment programme that was to continue over a period of ten years at a cost of over two million pounds.
The architect this time was the Hewitt and Haslam Partnership. The building was officially re-opened to the public on 11 November 1988. [see 2]
“Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough.
Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland.
For more than 800 years, Carrickfergus Castle has been an imposing monument on the Northern Ireland landscape whether approached by land, sea or air. The castle now houses historical displays as well as cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
A visit will give you the opportunity to see how the Great Hall at the top of the Great Tower has been transformed by the new roof which has greatly improved the visitor’s experience.“
The Department for Communities website has more information about Carrickfergus Castle. It tells us:
“Begun by John de Courcy soon after his 1177 invasion of Ulster. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland.
Its long history includes sieges by King John in 1210 and Edward Bruce in 1315, its capture by Schomberg for William III in 1689, and capture by the French under Thurot in 1760. The castle was used by the army until 1928, and in the 1939 to 1945 war it housed air-raid shelters.“
John de Courcy (1177-1204) came to Ireland in the time of King Henry II, and Henry gave him land in Ulster. De Courcy fought the inhabitants of Downpatrick for his land and set up a castle there for himself. King Henry II was so pleased with him he created him Earl of Ulster and Lord of Connacht and in 1185 appointed him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. [see Patrick Weston Joyce, The Wonders of Ireland, 1911, on https://www.libraryireland.com/Wonders/Sir-John-De-Courcy-1.php ]
“With evidence of settlement from the first millennium, the present castle ruins date mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. It was inhabited by both the feuding McQuillan and MacDonnell clans. Historical and archaeological exhibits are on display for public viewing.
Opening Hours: Please check before visiting as public access may be restricted.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:
“(McDonnell, Antrim, E/PB) The ancestral stronghold of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, dramatically situated at the end of a rocky promontory jutting out into the sea off the north Antrim coat. The castle, which was built at various periods from C14 to C17, eventually consisted of several round towers and a gatehouse with rather Scottish bartizans, joined by a curtain wall, with domestic buildings inside this enclosure. The latter included a mid-C16 loggia with sandstone columns, and a two storey Elizabethan or Jacobean house, with three large oriels. These two buildings were first of two courtyards into which the castle enclosure was divided; the other and lower yard containing offices and servants’ quarters. There were also buildings on the mainland, erected early C17. In 1639, part of the curtain wall of the castle collapsed into the sea, together with some of the servants’ quarters and a number of servants. After the Civil Wars, the castle was abandoned by the family in favour of Glenarm Castle, it is now a romantic ruin.” 
5. Galgorm Castle – now part of a golf club, County Antrim
The website tells us: “Galgorm Castle is an historic estate dating back to Jacobean times but has evolved into one of Northern Ireland’s most vibrant destinations with diverse business, golf and recreational activities housed there. The focal point is the 17th century Jacobean castle dating back to 1607, which has been restored and along with the immaculate walled gardens is part of the Ivory Pavilion wedding and events company. The castle is also a historical reminder of the important role the Galgorm Estate played as part of Northern Ireland’s history. Away from the championship golf course there is plenty of opportunity to try the game for the first time at the Fun Golf Area with a six-hole short course and Himalayas Putting Green. The Galgorm Fairy Trail is another family option which runs out of Arthur’s Cottage at the Fun Golf Area.And if looking for great food and drink, a meal at the Castle Kitchen + Bar at the Galgorm Castle clubhouse is a must. Members and non-members are welcome.”
The website contains a history of the Castle:
“Galgorm Castle is one of the finest examples of Jacobean architecture in Ireland. In May 1607, King James I granted the Ballymena Estate to Rory Og MacQuillan, a mighty warrior, famous for stating “No Captain of this race ever died in his bed,” (which thankfully means Galgorm Castle has one less ghost.). His Castle overlooks and dominates the 10th green and a network of souterrains at the fifth and eighth greens.
Sir Faithful Fortescue (b. 1585) was the nephew Arthur Chichester. This name may have come from his habit of being particularly sharp in his dealings as he tricked Rory Og McQuillan out of estates and started to build Galgorm Castle in 1618. He might better have been known as Sir Faithless Fortescue as during the Civil War, in the heat of the battle of Edghhill, he changed sides from the Parliamentarians to the Cavaliers, but forgot to instruct his men to remove the orange sashes of the Parliamentarians so seventeen of them were slain by the Cavaliers as the enemy.
Always known for turning a quick buck Sir Faithless sold the estate to the infamous Dr Alexander Colville [(c.1597-c.1679. He was a clergyman who became a wealthy landlord so it may have been malicious gossip that led to rumours)] who, as legend has it was an alchemist, reputed to have sold his soul to the devil for gold and knowledge. The stories of the good doctor are well documented and his portrait is not allowed to ever leave the castle or disaster will fall. His footsteps beat out a steady tattoo through the night as he does his rounds. Other nights, a ghostly light flickers around the park as he searches for his treasure, lost for over 300 years.
The Youngs – rich linen merchants, bought the Estate in 1850 and their cousin Sir Roger Casement lived here for six years while he was at Ballymena Academy.
The Duke of Wurtenburg made his headquarters at Galgorm following the Battle of the Boyne. The renowned Irish scholar Rose Young was born at Galgorm in 1865.
During the 1980’s, Christopher Brooke and his family inherited Galgorm Castle Estate and began developing his vision to turn Galgorm Castle into the one of Northern Ireland’s premier destinations, securing the Estate’s long-term future.”
6. Glenarm Castle, County Antrim– private, can book a tour
The website tells us that Glenarm Castle is one of few country estates that remains privately owned but open to the public. It is steeped in a wealth of history, culture and heritage and attracts over 100,000 visitors annually from all over the world.
“Visitors can enjoy enchanted walks through the Walled Garden and Castle Trail, indulge in an amazing lunch in the Tea Room, purchase some local produce or official merchandise, or browse through a wide range of ladies & gents fashions and accessories and a selection of beautiful gifts, souvenirs and crafts in the Byre Shop and Shambles Workshop – with many ranges exclusive to Glenarm Castle.“
“Glenarm Castle is the ancestral home of the McDonnell family, Earls of Antrim. The castle is first and foremost the private family home of Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and their family but they are delighted to welcome visitors to Glenarm Castle for guided tours on selected dates throughout the year.
Delve deep into the history of Glenarm Castle brought to life by the family butler and house staff within the walls of the drawing room, the dining room, the ‘Blue Room’ and the Castle’s striking hall.
Finish the day with the glorious sight of the historic Walled Garden, which dates back to the 17th century.“
Dates are limited and booking in advance is required.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 135. “(McDonnell, Antrim, E/PB) Originally a castle built 1603 by Sir Randal MacDonnell [1610-1682], afterwards 1st Earl of Antrim, as a hunting lodge or secondary residence; became the principal seat of the family after Dunluce Castle was abandoned.
The mansion house was rebuilt ca 1750 as a 3-storey double gable-ended block, joined by curving colonnades to two storey pavilions with high roofs and cupolas. [This would have been during the life of the 5th Earl of Antrim, Alexander MacDonnell (1713-1775)].
The main block had a pedimented breakfront with three windows in the top storey, a Venetian window below and a tripartite doorway below again, flanked on either side by a Venetian window in each of the two lower storeys and a triple window above. The pavilions were of three bays. Ca. 1825, the heiress of the McDonnells, Anne, Countess of Antrim in her own right, and her second husband [Edmund Phelps], who had assumed the surname of McDonnell, commissioned William Vitruvius Morrison to throw a Tudor cloak over Glenarm. He did very much the same as he had done at Borris, Co Carlow and Kilcoleman Abbey, Co Kerry; adding four slender corner turrets to C18 block, crowned with cupolas and gilded vanes; he also gave the house a Tudor-Revival façade with stepped gables, finials, pointed and mullioned windows and heraldic achievements, as well as a suitably Tudor porch. The other fronts were also given pointed windows and the colonnades and pavilions were swept away, a two storey Tudor-Revival service wing being added in their stead.
The interior remained Classical; the hall being divided by an arcade with fluted Corinthian columns; the dining room having a cornice of plasterwork in the keyhole pattern. In 1929, the Castle was more or less gutted by fire; in the subsequent rebuilding, to the designs of Imrie & Angell, of London, the pointed and mullioned windows were replaced with rectangular Georgian sashes. Apart from the octagon bedroom, which keeps its original plasterwork ceiling with doves, the interior now dates from the post-fire rebuilding; some of the rooms have ceilings painted by the present Countess of Antrim [Elizabeth Hannah Sacher]. The service wing was reconstructed after another fire 1967, the architect being Mr Donal Insall. In 1825, at the same time as the castle was made Tudor, the entrance to the demesne from the town of Glenarm was transformed into one of the most romantic pieces of C19 medievalism in Ireland, probably also by Morrison. A tall, embattled gate tower, known as the Barbican, stands at the far end of the bridge across the river, flanked by battlemented walls rising from the river bed.”
Randall William MacDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim and later 1st (and last) Marquess of Antrim (1749-1792), married Letitia Morres, daughter of Hervey Morres 1st Viscount Mountmorres of Kilkenny. They had no sons. His eldest daughter Anne Catherine became Countess of Antrim in her own right. When she died her sister Charlotte became Countess of Antrim. Her sons became the 4th and 5th Earls of Antrim. The descendants still live in the castle.
See also the blog of Timothy William Ferres. [see 2]
7. Lissanoure Castle, County Antrim– private, wedding venue
George MacCartney, 1st and last Earl Macartney, lived at Lissanoure Castle, and is an ancestor of my husband, Stephen! His mother was a Winder.
The website tells us: “Lissanoure Castle is an award-winning venue situated on a privately owned estate. The beautiful natural landscape provides the perfect backdrop for those all important photos and memories that last a lifetime. The 18th century Coach House and the Castle Barn have been converted into spectacular venues, with a fully licensed bar.“
“Lissanoure Castle is on an island site in the heart of a privately owned estate of Peter and Emily Mackie. It was the original seat of Lord Macartney, the first British Ambassador to China.” Earl Macartney brought his cousin (1st cousin, once removed) Edward Winder with him to China, and Edward kept a diary, which is in the National Library of Ireland’s manuscript room.
The website for Lissanoure tells us: “There has been a settlement at Lissanoure since Celtic times because of its naturally defensive position. In the middle of the lake there is a crannóg (an artificial island normally dating from the Iron Age and used for defence).
The earliest record of a castle situated at Lissanoure dates from 1300. There is some confusion about who built it, some records naming Sir Philip Savage and other records showing Richard Óg de Burgh, second Earl of Ulster (also known as The Red Earl).
The estate passed to the O’Hara family of Crebilly in the early part of the fourteenth century. There are maps dated 1610 and published by John Speede, showing the castle (called Castle Balan) sited on the north shore of the lake.
The estate was sold in 1733 to George Macartney, a member of the Irish Parliament, for over fifty-four years.
It passed in due course to his only grandson, George (born 1737) later Envoy Extraordinary to Catherine the Great, Chief Secretary for Ireland, President of Fort St. George, Madras, Ambassador to China, Govenor of the Cape of Good Hope, Earl in the Irish Peerage and Baron in the British Peerage.
The estate remained with the Macartney family until the beginning of the last century when it was acquired by the Mackie family.
Today, it is still a traditional family estate with farming and forestry and it is owned and managed by Peter and Emily Mackie. They have continued the restoration work, started by his parents, of the castle and the gardens.“
Earl Macartney did not have children. The website tells us that The Lissanoure and Dervock estates were left to Macartney’s wife who had a life-interest. The heir was his sister’s daughter, Elizabeth Belaguier, who married the Rev. Dr Travers Hume, a Church of Ireland clergyman. However she never inherited the estates as she died before the Countess of Macartney, so Elizabeth’s eldest son, George Hume, inherited the Lissanoure and Dervock estates, with one of the conditions being that he assumed the surname Macartney.
George Hume Macartney had expressed dissatisfaction with the existing castle as it was often in need of repair, for it suffered from damp, and the family had to move out for periods. He decided to rebuild much of it whilst, at the same time rebuilding an “elegant cottage in the later English style” near the edge of the lake. He changed the Gothic mansion to a Georgian styled mansion extending the living quarters for the house into where the stables and coach houses were in the court yard. He then built on a semi-circular yard of grand dimensions for the stables and coach houses with an impressive Tudor revival archway and clock tower entrance.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
“Following Lord Macartney’s death in 1806, Lissanoure was inherited by his great-nephew, George Hume, who assumed the surname of Macartney; and who began rebuilding the house from 1829 onwards, pulling down the old castle, which stood at one corner of it; putting up a Tudor archway leading into the courtyard, surmounted by an octagonal battlemented belfry and spire, very much in the manner of William Vitruvius Morrison.
Not until 1847 did he tackle the front of the house, having in the meantime built himself ”an elegant cottage in the later English style, richly embellished” by the side of the lake. In that same year, after the front wall has been taken down, with a view to rebuilding it, there was an explosion which killed Mrs Macartney and presumably also damaged the structure of the house; for all work on it ceased and it was allowed to fall into ruin. The “elegant cottage” continued to serve as the family residence and it was later rebuilt in a more rustic style, with dormer gables and elaborate bargeboards; and an office wing a the back almost twice as large as the house itself.” 
The website tells us that George Hume Macartney died and the Lissanoure and Dervock estates were inherited in 1869 by his eldest son, George Travers Macartney, a former Captain in the 15th King’s Hussars. “He was well regarded by all his tenants and workers, so it came as a tremendous shock when he died of a sudden heart attack on the 29th August 1874 attack aged 44 leaving a wife and four small children. The people of Dervock erected a fountain to him beside the bridge in the centre of the village in his memory and many tributes were paid to him.
Carthanach George Macartney, aged 5 years, inherited the estates. He was officially landlord of Lissanoure and Dervock for a total of 62 years, a record among Irish gentry.
His mother and cousins took charge in the early years but when Carthanach came to power he proved himself kind and generous.
He saw the break-up of the estate under the Land Acts,which started in 1881, under which his tenantry eventually became owner-occupiers and he was left only with the lands immediately around his home, which he farmed. In 1936 his son George Travers Lucy Macartney aged 40 years became his successor... In 1943 The Mackie family of James Mackie & Sons of Belfast, once the world’s largest producers of textile machinery and major contributors to the war effort with the production of Bofors gun shells and the fuselage for Stirling bombers, buy the estate from the Macartney family.”
8. Malone House, Belfast, County Antrim– wedding and conference venue
“Located on the site of a 17th century fort, Malone House was built in the 1820s for William Wallace Legge, a rich Belfast merchant who had inherited the surrounding land. A keen landscaper, he designed and planted most of the estate’s grounds, which remain relatively unchanged today.
When Legge died, ownership of Malone House passed to the Harberton family, who lived on the premises from 1868 to 1920. The building’s last owner was William Barnett, who presented Malone House to the city of Belfast in 1946.
Following its presentation to the city, Malone House was leased to the National Trust in the early 1970s. After it was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1976, the building was repaired by the council and reopened in June 1983.
Since then, it has become a major venue for weddings, conferences, social functions and other events, while the surrounding grounds are popular with walkers and cyclists.”
9. Wilmont House (park only), Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Rose Gardens.
“The beautiful Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park comprises rolling meadows, woodland, riverside fields and formal gardens. The City of Belfast International Rose Garden has made the park world famous, and contains over 20,000 blooms in the summer, divided into trial and display beds, an historical section, and a heritage garden that displays the best of the roses from local breeders. Each season thousands of visitors enjoy the rose gardens and associated events during Rose Week.
Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park also contains International Camellia Trials, a walled garden, a Japanese-style garden with water features for quiet contemplation, a very popular childrens’ playground, an orienteering course and many walks.”
Mark Bence-Jones describes Wilmont House: p. 285. “(Reade/LGI1958) A plain two storey Victorian house, built 1859. Three bay front, with balustraded porch; lower wing, ending with wing as high as main block. Adjoining front with central curved bown and one bay on either side. Camber-headed windows in upper storey of main block. Eaved roof on bracket cornice.”
Timothy William Ferres tells us:
“The original house, which stood on the site of the present-day barbecue area, dated back to 1740 and was replaced by the present red-bricked house in 1859.
This house was designed by Thomas Jackson (1807-90), one of Belfast`s most notable Victorian architects.
Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon purchased Wilmont demesne in 1919.
Sir Thomas died at Harrowgate in 1950. Lady Dixon, who was appointed DBE after the 1st World War in recognition of her service to HM Forces, died in 1964. A year before her death, in 1963, Wilmont demesne was officially handed over to Belfast Corporation. The house, according to her wishes, was shortly afterwards opened as a home for the elderly; while the grounds, at her behest, were opened to the public.
The present park, named after its benefactors, consists of 134 acres and has been the venue for the City of Belfast International Rose Trials since 1964.” (see )
Places to stay. Count Antrim:
1. Ballyealy Cottage, Castle Shane Estate, County Antrim€€ for two, € for 3-5
The website tells us: “Located close to the shores of Lough Neagh, Ballealy Cottage is a nature lover’s paradise. With a wonderful wildlife garden and surroundings to explore this property is ideal for people who want to escape from the hustle and bustle life. With zero light pollution Ballealy Cottage is perfect for star gazing and watching the resident bat colony returning to roost in the evenings.”
“Ballygally Castle, affectionately dubbed “the jewel in the Hastings Crown”, was purchased by the Hastings Hotels Group in 1966 and over the years various extensions and renovations have transformed it to the charming hotel it is today. It received official four star status from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in 2007 and in 2014 the hotel underwent a further major refurbishment and extension project, with the addition of ten new Coastal Deluxe bedrooms, a new larger Reception area and the stunning new Kintyre Ballroom. All developments at the Castle have been very carefully undertaken so as not to distract from the history of the original building, as the hotel’s distinctive character comes from the fact that it dates back to 1625. The Ballygally Castle is unique in that it is the only 17th Century building in Northern Ireland still being used as a residence today!
Built in 1625 by James Shaw and his wife Isabella Brisbane. Shaw, a native of Greenock, Scotland, came to Ireland in 1606 to seek his fortune. In 1613, he received a sub-grant of land from the Earl of Antrim. It was on this land that the castle was built. [James Shaw, a Scot, built the castle in Scottish style with a steep roof, high walls, corner turrets and dormer windows. Its walls are five feet thick and studded with ‘loopholes’, narrow vertical slits through which muskets could be fired.]
The castle came under attack during the 1641 rising, when the Gaelic Irish rose against the English and Scots settlers. Although a nearby Irish garrison controlled the countryside around and tried to force their way in, the inhabitants held out.
They did not all survive. John Jamieson sent his two sons and daughter out to fetch corn. One son was hung by rebels and his daughter taken prisoner.
In 1680 the castle was actually captured by the ‘Tories’ of Londonderry – dispossessed Irish chieftains who had lost everything following the 1641 rising. However, with a bounty on their heads, they did not stay long and soon returned to the then plentiful woods.
The original castle served as a place of refuge for the Protestants during the Civil Wars. During that time, it was handed down from fathers to sons and in 1799 it was passed to William Shaw, the last squire of Ballygally. In the early 1800s the Shaw family lost their wealth and the estate was sold to the Agnew family for £15,400.
For several years it was used as a coastguard station, before the Reverend Classon Porter and his family took residence. It was then taken over by the Moore family. They then sold it to textile millionaire Mr. Cyril Lord in the early 1950s, who refurbished it as a hotel.
After centuries of private ownership, Ballygally Castle was turned into the elegant Candlelight Inn in the 1950s by ‘Carpet King’ Cyril Lord, who became famous from the TV ads for his carpet company. Its candelabra brand was designed around distinctive light fittings, some of which can still be seen in the 1625 Room.
Sir Billy Hastings bought Ballygally Castle in 1966. Beautifully refurbished, the hotel has preserved the castle’s unique character and many of its features.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 22. “A unique example of a C17 Plantation Castle surviving intact, inhabited and unchanged, except from the insertion of sash windows. Built 1625 by James Shaw. With its high roof, its two pepperpot bartizans, and its two curvilinear dormer-gables, which do not quite match, it looks for all the world like a little C16 or early C17 tower-house in Scotland. In 1814, the residence of Rev. Thomas Alexander. Now an hotel.”
See also the blog of Timothy William Ferres. [see 2]
Mark Bence-Jones writes in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 24. “(Traill/IFR) A C18 house originally belonging to Archibald Stewart of Ballintoy; bought by the Traill family 1789, two storey over basement; three bay front. The front was subsequently given Wyatt windows; battlemented segmental flanking walls with niches were built 1815; and a wing was added, also in early C19. At some other date, the Tuscan doorcase was moved from the centre to the front to the righ-hand bay, thereby spoiling the symmetry. Plasterwork in hall which may be contemporary with the original building of the house; plasterwork festoons, flowers and foliage elsewhere, probably later.”
See also the blog of Timothy William Ferres. [see 2]
4. Drum Gate Lodge, Ballylough House, Bushmills, County Antrim€€
The blog of Timothy William Ferres tells us that there are two gate lodges to Ballylough House: the unusual circular West Lodge of ca 1800, now known as The Drum; and the East Lodge of ca 1840, which is still occupied and has its own charming cottage garden. The West Lodge, now known as The Drum, was built at the end of a long avenue of beech trees at the western edge of the Ballylough Estate in 1800 by Archdeacon Traill, two years after he bought the estate. [see 2]
5. Blackhead Cutter Lighthouse keeper’s house, Whitehead, County Antrim €€ for two, € for 4/5
“Located at the heart of County Antrim, our location is easily accessed from anywhere in Northern Ireland, and further afield with Belfast International Airport only a short 10-minute drive away.
If the walls within our iconic venue could speak, they will tell many stories of times gone by, dating back to the 1600’s when it housed the High Kings of Ireland, to its days as a Paper Mill and a Linen Mill before it took form as a hotel.
It’s time for you to experience the history that flows through this iconic venue, rich with traditional features still on show, complimented now by its modern and contemporary décor.“
8. Barbican, Glenarm Castle, County Antrim– €€ see also Glenarm Castle, above
Timothy William Ferres tells us: “The Barbican gate lodge is built into the estate wall at the end of an old stone bridge spanning the river Glenarm. It was commissioned in 1823 by Edmund Phelps, the second husband of Anne Catherine, Countess of Antrim suo jure, who inherited the estate when her father, the 6th Earl, died without male issue.
The architect William Vitruvius Morrison built it using local, coursed, rubble basalt and red ashlar sandstone dressings. This gate lodge has a narrow turret staircase which leads onto a roof terrace overlooking the surrounding countryside.” [see 2]
“KILMORE HOUSE, Glenariff, County Antrim, comprises a large two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block with earlier Georgian wings to its southern elevation.The house was constructed in stages, and parts of the building may date from as early as the 18th century. The current façade of the house, however, was built in 1907-8.
The first recorded occupant of the site was Coll McDonnell, a gentleman who leased 10 acres of land in Kilmore from his kinsman, Lord Antrim, and established a dwelling there in 1706. The site passed to Coll’s son Alexander in 1742; and then to his grandson, John, in 1803 before being occupied by his great-grandson Randal in 1815.
The McDonnells initially resided in an early-Georgian house which had been constructed in the townland ca 1706.
The two-storey, four-bay farmhouse (at the south side of the two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block) had been constructed by 1832.
A thatched building (which predated the rest of the farmhouse) was presumably the McDonnell family’s previous dwelling on the site, however it cannot be confirmed with certainty whether any trace of this structure survives at the site.
The farmhouse at Kilmore was originally known as Ballinlig.
By the mid-19th century Ballinlig had passed to Randal McDonnell’s eldest son Alexander; following whose decease, in 1862, Ballinlig was occupied by his younger brother, Colonel John McDonnell, who remained at the site until his own death in 1905.
McDonnell’s residence became known as “Kilmore House” by at least the turn of the 20th century. Following the death of Colonel McDonnell in 1905, Kilmore House passed to his nephew, Captain William Alexander Silvertop.
The Silvertop family extended the house in 1907-8. The Edwardian extension was designed by Nicholas Fitzsimmons (1869-c1940), a Belfast-based architect who entered into partnership with Robert Graeme Watt and Frederick Tulloch in 1909. Fitzsimons’s original plans show that the extension consisted of the two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block to the north side of the Georgian farmhouse.
The plans of Kilmore House record that the interior floor-plan of the original farmhouse was altered to incorporate the kitchen, dining-room, a study and private chapel; whilst the new block consisted of a drawing-room and billiards-room (at ground floor), bedrooms and bathrooms (at first floor) and servants quarters (in the attic storey).
Captain Silvertop served in France during the 1st World War, but following his death, in 1917, the house was sold and passed out of the McDonnell family. Kilmore House had lain vacant from 1910 until 1919, when it was purchased by Joseph Maguire, a senator in the Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont.
The De La Salle Order purchased Kilmore in 1958, when it was occupied by the Most Rev Dr D Mageean, RC Bishop of Down and Connor (1882-1962).The Bishop resided at Kilmore House until ca 1960, when the building was converted into a holiday home for visitors to the North Coast, administered by the Trustees of Kilmore Holiday House.
Kilmore House was listed in 1980 and is now a country house hotel. Today the house is set in thirteen acres. It has fourteen bedrooms. A stained-glass window at the landing still has the McDonnell and Silvertop armorial bearings.” (see )
10. Kiln Wing, Old Corn Mill, Bushmills, County Antrim€€
The website tells us that Larchfield extends to 600 acres and includes peaceful forest and woodland alongside picturesque river banks. Steeped in history, Larchfield’s heritage dates back to the 1600’s with many remarkable ups and downs throughout its 350-year history.
“Larchfield’s story starts back in 1660 when the land (at that time, about 1500 acres) was bought from the O’Neills. It wasn’t until 1750 that the original part of the current house was built on the site of an old farm house. It was built by the Mussendens, who were merchants bankers in Belfast. We have an interesting connection with Mussenden Temple in County Londonderry which was built by the Earl Bishop (a cousin) in memory of Mrs. Mussenden from Larchfield who died at the age of 22, sadly before Mussenden Temple was finished.
In 1845, the house was redesigned by Charles Lanyon, one of Belfast’s most prominent and influential architects of the Victoria Era and famous for designing Queens University and the Custom House in Belfast among many others. We know that Lanyon changed the front of the house to face south, with new driveways.
Then in 1868/9, William Mussenden sold the house to Ogilvie B Graham, 1st of a family of hereditary directors of the York Street Flax Spinning Company. The valuation of the house was about £100 at the time and as well as adding an extra storey to the main house, Graham added the gate lodge.
In 1873 the Victorian wing of the house was added, followed by the Fish Pond Lake in 1896. Our Fish Pond Lake, accessed exclusively by only the bride and groom when we host a wedding, is referenced both in maps from 1896 and also in Gerard Brennan’s book, A Life of One’s Own. In this book he also refers to Larchfield as the pink house. Gerard Brennan was the grandson of the Ogilvie Grahams.
Moving to more recent times, in 1968, Mr. Leslie Mackie, father of current owner Gavin Mackie, bought the estate at auction from Col Ogilvy Graham (approx. 300 acres). Some of the best parkland trees had to be bought back from a timber merchant as they had been sold prior to auction!
The current owners (Gavin and Sarah Mackie) were married themselves at Larchfield in 2007, and moved back to take on the estate from Gavin’s parents. The estate was opened up for weddings and events around this time and in 2010, as part of its renovation, the Stables was re-built and re-roofed for hire for ceremonies and smaller functions downstairs.
In 2012, Rose Cottage was the first of the onsite accommodation to be restored, leading to the development of accommodation for up to 37 guests. Late 2019 saw the completion of the redevelopment of an 1800s railway style building facing the Larchfield Estate cottages. Harkening back to its history as a piggery, The Old Piggery was officially launched in 2020 as a new offering for experiences, dining, special celebrations and corporate retreats. This project was kindly supported by the Rural Development Programme.“
“The Merchant Hotel has long been admired for its distinctive architectural style, both in its former life as the headquarters of the Ulster Bank and now, in its current incarnation as a five-star luxury hotel.
This formidable sandstone structure was purpose built as the headquarters of the Ulster Bank. The site was originally acquired in 1836. However, the decision to build was not taken until 1857. Bank Directors Robert Grimshaw and James Heron visited Glasgow and Edinburgh to glean as much information as possible on the best banking buildings. It was their wish that the building should appear elegant, substantial and prosperous.
The location was deemed suitable as it was in the heart of Belfast’s mercantile and commercial centre. In fact, Waring Street derives its name from a successful local merchant William Waring.
For the creation of the Ulster Bank headquarters, the directors felt the work should be undertaken by an innovative architect. Over sixty proposals were submitted to the bank’s committee and £100 was offered for the best design. In the end the design of a talented Glaswegian by the name of James Hamilton was selected. The building work was undertaken by Messer’s D and J Fulton, while the spectacularly ornate plasterwork in the main banking hall was carried out by Belfast man George Crowe.
The exterior of the building is Italianate in style. Sculptures depicting Commerce, Justice and Britannia, look down benignly from the apex of the magnificent façade. Under the grand central dome of the main banking hall (now The Great Room Restaurant), fruit and foliage designs surround the walls in a magnificent frieze. Four Corinthian columns frame the room and feature plump putti (cherub-like figures) depicting science, painting, scripture and music.
Generosity of proportions and an ornate but not ostentatious style throughout the building has ensured that it is one of the most renowned and best loved buildings in Belfast. When the designs were first shown at the 1858 London Architectural Exhibition, the literary magazine Athenaeum described them as “very commendable, earnest, massive, rich and suitable”. Writing more than a century later, founding member of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society C.E.B. Brett said the building offered “every inducement to linger and ponder on wealth and its advantages”.
The Ulster Bank headquarters were transformed into the five-star Merchant Hotel in 2006. The original Grade A listed building was then greatly enhanced in the summer of 2010 by the addition of a £16.5 million extension featuring a wealth of new facilities for guests.
Thanks to local historian Raymond O’Regan for some of the historical information referenced in this section.“
15. Old Bushmills Barn, 15 Priestlands Road, Antrim€€€ for two; € for four
The history of the barn fascinates everyone. Tradition and innovation melts into these stunning grounds. Bushmills is a town with a rich history boasting the oldest distillery in the world, originating in 1608.
Bushmills grows and The Old Rectory & its Barns are built.
The 1821 listing’s text changed to: In 1821 for a cost of £1200 (£960,000 in today’s money) the still existing church, Dunluce Parish was built. Four years later in 1825 the Rectory and the Barns were extended, a big step in the history of Bushmills, serving as a home to the church’s ministers for the next 150 years.
In 1821 for a cost of £1200 (£960,000 in today’s money) the still existing church, Dunluce Parish was built. Four years later in 1825 the Rectory and the Barns was erected, starting its journey in the history of Bushmills, serving as a home to the church’s ministers for the next 150 years.
The Reverent James Morewood was the first occupant.
During these periods of ownership, the Barns are used for servants quarters and stables for horses.
In 1960 flooding happened and the house and barns were abandoned and a new modern house was built for the minister at that time and future ministers to come.
Young business owners Robert Mckeag and Louise Mckeag purchase the house from the church and the original restoration of this Georgian Manor begins.
The original restoration of the now Old Rectory is completed. With the Barns now having a tin roof.
The Old Rectory hosts the VIP guests and commentators of the American news channel NBC news for the 148th British Open, Royal Portrush.
After studying International Hospitality and Tourism Management and working at The Gleneagles Hotel, Robert and Louise’s son Jasper dreams up the perfect accommodation for exploring the booming tourism spot – The North Coast of Northern Ireland.”
“Step through the bold red stable door of this cottage to discover the quirky internal layout. Take in the sea views from the bedroom or head outside to feel the sand between your toes on the wide sandy beach. Families, history enthusiasts and walkers will love the secluded location.
Sitting in the heart of the Antrim coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you may recognise the dramatic landscape surrounding the cottage from the Game of Thrones series. Inside, the layout downstairs is definitely unusual, but you’ll find a living room with woodburner, separate dining room, bathroom and hallway (not necessarily in that order, but that’s part of the fun). Upstairs there’s three bedrooms; a double, a twin and a single. Make the most of sunny seaside days and nights in the enclosed grassy gardens front and back, where the picnic table provides a great spot for an al-fresco family meal.
With its secluded setting just north of the village of Cushendun, Strand House is ideal for escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The village (which is now cared for by the National Trust) was built in the Cornish style in 1912 by Baron Cushendun in attempt to please his Cornish-born wife. The sheltered bay is also where you’ll find amenities like the pub, tearoom and shops. Or stay closer to home and relax on the beautiful sandy beach that curves right past the cottage. If you’re a nature lover, there are red squirrels to seek out in the forest at nearby Glenmona House.“
18. Tullymurry House, Banbridge, County Antrim, whole house rental:€€€ for two; € for 3-8
The website tells us: “This fabulous period home is a historic Irish country farm house. Set on wonderful gardens including an orchard, Tullymurry House is an ideal base for golf, fishing, hiking, walking, beach, and other outdoor pursuits.“
“Whitepark House is situated on the North Antrim coast road above the prettiest beach in Northern Ireland, Whitepark Bay.
The Giants Causeway is 4 miles west of us and Ballintoy harbour and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is 2 miles east.
We like to think that Whitepark House is one of the most interesting and atmospheric houses on the North coast , it was here in 1730 and has been added to over the centuries.
In the winter of 2006 we decided we felt confident enough to re-invest in the house and did a major renovation………re-wiring the house, new plumbing, heating, bathrooms and even a new roof…… we added a big conservatory for guests breakfast in the summer and some extra space for ourselves.
Hopefully we’ll never have to see another builder in our lifetime.
We now have 3 double bedrooms, some overlook the garden, some look towards the sea, all have large bathrooms containing power showers and separate baths. The rooms are individual in style thanks to Siobhan’s curtain making skills, one has a brass four poster bed, the others are brass or leather.”
“The stunning Magheramorne Estate, conveniently located just 23 miles from Belfast, is one of the most exclusive venues available for private hire in Northern Ireland. From weddings, family parties, corporate meetings and events to occasion meals, this coastal estate offers a variety of unique indoor and outdoor spaces to fulfil your dreams.
Built as a grand family home around 1880, the house has recently enjoyed sympathetic and elegant restoration in keeping with its Grade B1 listed status.
The Allen family have made significant investments to ensure the house meets modern expectations while carefully retaining the welcoming warmth of genuine domestic comfort.
Designed circa 1878 by Samuel P Close, it was built by James Henry for Sir James Hogg to mark his rise to the peerage of Baron Magheramorne in 1880. It replaced Ballylig House, an earlier and more modest residence originally constructed in 1817.
Magheramorne House was then occupied by the Baron’s family until 1904 when Colonel James McCalmont took up residence.
The estate changed hands again in 1932 as Major Harold Robinson, (of Robinson and Cleaver’s department store fame), transformed the house and grounds.
He further extended and developed the impressive gardens by planting many of the 150 different species of woodland trees present at the estate to this day.
These grounds are today maintained in their impressively manicured state by a skilled full-time gardener.
Magheramorne House’s architectural and historical significance is reflected in its Grade B1 listed status. While the accommodation has been modernised since its original construction, many notable period features, both internally and externally, have been retained.
The magnificent gardens extend over 40 acres and are a particular feature of the estate.
They include formal landscaped gardens and an exceptional array of specimen trees that impressively enhance the naturalistic planting.
Also tucked away in the private estate are two dramatic glens, a waterfall, ornamental walks, streams, ponds, feature bridges and a wide array of flora, fauna and indigenous wildlife to discover.
A new chapter in the history of Magheramorne Estate was opened in 2020 following its purchase by the Allen family who are very well respected in the food and hospitality sector.
They are currently investing all their time and energy into giving Magheramorne Estate a whole new lease of life with a sympathetic restoration and innovative plans for staging future events.“
 p. 6. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 36, Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 116. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 188, Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
 p. 198. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.