King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

Majella Hunt

Tel: 090-6637153 https://www.visitkinghouse.ie/

Open dates listed in 2022: April-Sept, Tue-Sat, Aug 15-23 National Heritage Week, 11am-5pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student /child €3, group discounts apply

It is hard to capture King House in a photograph.

Stephen and I visited King House during Heritage Week 2022. It is open to the public and is not longer a private home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

King House, August 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside King House today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The front of King House before repair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information in King House about Boyle in the 1700s.

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

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

His daughter Eleanor died unmarried in 1822.

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

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

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

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

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

Dining room, King House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One can now stay in Newcastle House, see https://www.newcastlehousehotel.ie/

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

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

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

Obituary for 1st Viscount Lorton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31804023/king-house-military-road-knocknashee-boyle-co-roscommon

[4] https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/08/22/kingston-lodge/

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/09/01/god-bless-the-kings/

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13402709/newcastle-house-newcastle-newcastle-demesne-county-longford

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/tag/king-house/

Blarney Castle & Rock Close, Blarney, Co. Cork

contact: C. Colthurst

Tel: 021-4385252

www.blarneycastle.ie

Open dates in 2022: all year except Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, Jan-Feb, Nov-Dec, 9am-4pm,
Mar-Oct, 9am-5pm.
Fee: adult €18, OAP/student €15, child €10, family and season passes.

Blarney Castle, County Cork, June 2022.

We visited Blarney Castle on a trip to Cork in June 2022, choosing to visit on a date when we could also visit Blarney House – see my entry (on its way!).

We have all heard that kissing the Blarney stone gives us the “gift of the gab,” but where did the story come from? Randal MacDonnell, in his book, The Lost Houses of Ireland, tells us that Queen Elizabeth I said of Cormac mac Diarmada MacCarthy (1552-1616), Lord of Muskerry, ‘This is all Blarney; what he says he never means!’ so the term was used as far back as Elizabethan times. The Blarney Stone, set high in the castle under the battlements, was said to have been a gift to the MacCarthy family after sending 5,000 soldiers to help Robert the Bruce (who died in 1329) in battle. It was reputedly the stone that gushed water after Moses struck it, or else it is said to be part of the Stone of Scone, on which the Kings of Scotland were inaugurated. It is also said to be the pillow that Jacob slept upon when he dreamed of angels ascending a ladder to heaven, that was brought from the Holy Land after the Crusades. Frank Keohane tells us bluntly in his description of Blarney Castle in Buildings of Ireland, Cork City and County (published 2020) that it is in fact the lintel to the central machicolation on the south side!

An Irish person can be reluctant to visit Blarney castle, thinking it “stage Irish” with its tradition of kissing the Blarney stone but it is really well worth a visit, including queueing to get to the top of the castle (to kiss the stone, which you can of course skip!), because along the way you can see the interior five storeys of the castle with its many rooms and corridors. Each year around 550,000 tourists visit Blarney Castle.

It is also worth visiting just to wander the seventy acres of gardens, which are beautiful. There’s a coffee shop in the stable yard.

Map of the extensive estate and gardens.
The Stables and Coach Yard have a coffee shop.
This sign board tells us that the castle we see today is the third structure that was erected on the site. In the tenth century there was a wooden hunting lodge. Around 1210 this was replaced by a stone structure, which was demolished for the foundations of the third, current, castle, built by Cormac MacCarthy in 1446.

The castle we see today is the third structure that was erected on the site. In the tenth century there was a wooden hunting lodge. Around 1210 this was replaced by a stone structure, which was demolished for the foundations of the third, current, castle, built by Cormac Laidir (‘the strong’) MacCarthy in 1446. To put it into chronological perspective, this is around the same time that Richard III deposed King Edward V and nearly fifty years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the “New world” in 1492 (see the terrific chronology outlined in James Lyttelton’s Blarney Castle, An Irish Towerhouse). He built a slender self-contained four storey tower house, which is now called the northwest tower.

The MacCarthy clan had vast estates, and were recognised as Kings of Munster by the lesser Irish chiefs, the sign boards at Blarney tell us. They trace their ancestry back to a chieftain who was converted to Christianity by St. Patrick. Cormac MacCarthy built Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel, 1127-1134, before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169.

The second, larger, five storey tower was built in the early to mid 16th century.

In 1628 King Charles I created Cormac (Charles) MacCarthy (1564-1640/41) Viscount Muskerry. His father was the 16th Lord of Muskerry – the family gained the title from the English crown in 1353 – and his mother was Mary Butler, daughter of the 1st Baron Caher (of second creation), Theobald, of Cahir Castle in County Tipperary. Viscount Muskerry inherited Blarney in 1616 and undertook alterations, perhaps adding the tall machicolated parapets, and enlarging windows, fitting them with hooded twin and triple light mullioned windows. He married Margaret O’Brien, a daughter of the 4th Earl of Thomond, and secondly, Ellen, widow of Donall MacCarthy Reagh, and daughter of David, seventh Viscount Fermoy. [1]

Viscount Muskerry died in 1640/41, passing the title 2nd Viscount to his son Donnchadh (or Donough). Donough MacCarthy based himself in Macroom, County Cork, and Dublin. Donough and his father were Members of Parliament and sat in the House of Lords in Dublin. He was loyal to the crown in 1641 during the rebellion but afterwards supported the Catholics who sought to be able to keep their lands. The Duke of Ormond sought negotiation between the Confederate Catholics and the crown, and 2nd Viscount Muskerry played an active role in these negotiations. [2] Negotiations were complicated because the lines of disagreement were unclear and as time progressed and more negotiators became involved, goals changed. For some, it was about Catholics being able to own land, for others, to be able to practice their religion freely. Factions fought amongst themselves.

Donough MacCarthy (1594-1665), 2nd Viscount Muskerry and 1st Earl Clancarty, Painted portrait (oil on canvas) at the Hunt Museum, Limerick, Accession number HCP 004. The portrait is part of the original collection donated by antiquarian John Durell Hunt and wife Gertrude Hunt. Other sources suggest it is Donough MacCarthy the 4th Earl Clancarty. I will have to check this!

Further complications arose as Parliament in England was unhappy with the reign of Charles I. Viscount Muskerry was firmly Royalist, along with his brother-in-law the Duke of Ormond. It was at this time that Donough MacCarthy the 2nd Viscount married Eleanor Butler, twin sister of the 1st Duke of Ormond. In 1649, Lord Broghill (Roger Boyle, later created 1st Earl of Orrery) persuaded the towns of Cork, Youghal, Bandon, and Kinsale to declare for Parliament. The division was no longer between Catholics and English rule, but between Royalists and Parliament supporters.

Blarney Castle was taken by Cromwell’s army under Lord Broghill in 1646 and again in 1649 by Oliver Cromwell. The inhabitants and defenders fled via the passageways below the castle and escaped.

It is said that the inhabitants of the castle escaped Cromwell’s army by these routes under the castle.

The 2nd Viscount became the 1st Earl of Clancarty in 1658, raised to the title by the exiled son of King Charles I, who in 1660 became King Charles II. MacCarthy’s property was restored to him by the King.

Charles 3rd Viscount died in the same year as his father (1665), having joined first the French army when in exile from Ireland, and later, the regiment of the Duke of York (who later became King James II). It was therefore his son, Charles James MacCarthy, who became 2nd Earl of Clancarty. The 2nd Earl’s mother was Margaret de Burgh, or Bourke, daughter of the 1st Marquess Clanricarde. The 2nd Earl died in the following year, so the 1st Earl’s second son, Callaghan (1635-1676) became 3rd Earl of Clancarty in 1666. Callaghan converted to Protestantism. He married Elizabeth FitzGerald, daughter of the 16th Earl of Kildare. His younger brother, Justin, was given the title of Viscount Mountcashel.

Jane Ohlmeyer writes of the MacCarthys of Muskerry in her book Making Ireland English:

p. 108: “[the MacCarthys of Muskerry] The family thus enjoyed a formidable range of kinship ties that included the Butlers, of Ormond and Cahir, and the houses of Thomond, Fermoy, Buttevant, Courcy of Kinsale and Kerry. Like Viscount Roche, Muskerry enjoyed a close friendship with the earl of Cork and stood as godfather to one of his youngest children. …Blarney Castle..was the family’s principal residence…. They also resided at Macroom castle in mid-Cork…Though Muskerry retained the traditional customs associated with Gaelic lordship, he also acted as an anglicizing speculator, loaning money and securing lands through mortgages, and as an improving landlord who encouraged English settlers to his estates and especially his main town of Macroom, in mid-Cork.” [see 1]

We saw many means of defense illustrated on our tour of Cahir Castle recently during Heritage Week 2022, and many of these were utilised at Blarney. [see my entry on Cahir Castle in https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/ ] One can see the heavy machicolation, a series of openings in the floor of projecting parapets in castles and tower-houses through which offensive or injurious substances can be dropped on the enemy below.

See the machicolation at the top of Blarney Castle.

The castle rises formidably from the bedrock of solid limestone. Its height gives a view all around for defense.

The castle is built on a bedrock of solid limestone.
Ground level openings.
The ground level entrance we see was a gatehouse that defended the tower. Below the castle is a labyrinth of underground passages and chambers. One chamber may have been used as a prison. Another housed a well.

A bawn surrounded the tower house: a defensive area of about eight acres surrounded by a wall. Maurice Craig tells us in his book The Architecture of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1880 that the word bawn comes from the Irish name “bádhún” meaning an enclosure for cattle. Animals and people took shelter within the bawn in times of danger. The castle was self-sufficient and the bawn would have been a hive of activity with tanners, blacksmiths, masons, woodcutters, carpenters, livestock keepers, horses, cows, pigs, poultry, butchers, cooks, gardeners and attendants. Part of the bawn wall remains.

View of the bawn wall from the castle.
Defense measures include an Oubliette for unwanted guests, and a murder hole if you gain entry to the tower house.
The tower house rising from the limestone bedrock.
The impressively intact casement oriel window we can see here was the Earl of Clancarty’s bedchamber, probably added in 1616 when Cormac (Charles) MacCarthy (1564-1640/41) Viscount Muskerry inherited and undertook major alterations. Further up, there is a two-light window, which was not made to be glazed so is therefore very old.

Blarney was a typical tower house with four or five storeys, with one or two main chambers and some smaller rooms on each floor. A vaulted stone ceiling served to keep the thin tower structurally sound by tying the walls together and also acted as a firebreak. Blarney was constructed as two towers, one built later (by about 100 years) than the other. At the bottom the walls are about 18 feet thick. When it was first built it would have been covered in plaster and whitewashed to protect it from rainy weather.

The MacCarthys retained Blarney Castle until forced to leave it in the years following the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. They were Jacobites, supporters of King James II, and not supporters of King William III, who was crowned King of England, along with his wife Mary, James II’s daughter, in 1689. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the castle was fortified by Donogh MacCarthy (c. 1668-1734), 4th Earl of Clancarty, who fought for James II in the Williamite War. [3]

The Dictionary of Irish Biography tells us that Donogh MacCarthy the 4th Earl held the office of Lord of the Bedchamber to King James II in Ireland in 1689. MacCarthy fought in the Siege of Cork in 1690, where he was captured, and he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He escaped and fled to France in May 1694. In 1698 he secretly returned to England but was betrayed by his brother-in-law, Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, and was again imprisoned in the Tower. The Dictionary tells us that Lady Russell obtained a pardon for him, on condition he stayed permanently abroad. Lady Rachel Russell, nee Wriothesley, had previously petitioned unsuccessfully for the freedom of her husband, William Lord Russell, who had been arrested as part of the Rye House Plot to kill King Charles II and his brother James.

In exile in France in 1707, Donogh MacCarthy was Lord of the Bedchamber to the titular King James III (so called by the Jacobites who continued to support the Stuarts for the monarchy after William III and Mary had taken the throne). [4] This means he would have known John Baggot of County Cork and Baggotstown, County Limerick, whom I hope was an ancestor of mine (I haven’t been able to trace my family tree back that far). John Baggot married Eleanor Gould, daughter of Ignatius Gould, and fought at the Battle of Aughrim, where he lost an eye. The exiled monarchy recognised his sacrifice and in gratitude, made him groom of the bedchamber to the titular King James III in France also. Those that left Ireland at this time were called the Wild Geese. His son John Baggot subsequently fought in the French army and the other son, Ignatius, in the Spanish army.

There is a terrific summary in plaques in the ground in Limerick city around the Treaty of Limerick stone, on which the Treaty of Limerick was signed in 1691, that tells of the series of battles fought between the troops supporting King James II and the troops supporting King William. One plaque tells us:

Sept 1690 King William returned to England leaving Baron de Ginkel in charge. Cork and Kinsale surrendered to William’s army. Sarsfield rejects Ginkel’s offer of peace. More French help arrives in Limerick as well as a new French leader, the Marquis St. Ruth. Avoiding Limerick, Ginkel attacked Athlone, which guarded the main route into Connaght. 30th June 1691, Athlone surrendered. St. Ruth withdrew to Aughrim. 12th July 1691 The Battle of Aughrim. The bloodiest battle ever fought on Irish soil. The Jacobites were heading for victory when St. Ruth was killed by a cannonball. Without leadership the resistance collapsed and by nightfall, the Williamites had won, with heavy losses on both sides. Most of the Jacobites withdrew to Limerick.

Plaques in the ground of Limerick City around the Treaty of Limerick Stone, about the War of two Kings.
There are many additions to the castle as well as the main keep. This round tower was part of a Gothic mansion built on to the side of the castle by James Jefferyes in 1739.

After the MacCarthys were forced to leave Blarney Castle, it was occupied by the Hollow Sword Blade Company from London. The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that this company was a forerunner of the disastrously speculative South Sea Company that was attempting to break the Bank of England’s monopoly over Government loans. [5] The Landed Estates database tells us:

The Hollow Sword Blades Company was set up in England in 1691 to make sword blades. In 1703 the company purchased some of the Irish estates forfeited under the Williamite settlement in counties Mayo, Sligo, Galway, and Roscommon. They also bought the forfeited estates of the Earl of Clancarty in counties Cork and Kerry and of Sir Patrick Trant in counties Kerry, Limerick, Kildare, Dublin, King and Queen’s counties (Offaly and Laois). Further lands in counties Limerick, Tipperary, Cork and other counties, formerly the estate of James II were also purchased, also part of the estate of Lord Cahir in county Tipperary. In June 1703 the company bought a large estate in county Cork, confiscated from a number of attainted persons and other lands in counties Waterford and Clare. However within about 10 years the company had sold most of its Irish estates. Francis Edwards, a London merchant, was one of the main purchasers.” [6]

In 1702 the castle was sold to Sir Richard Pyne, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, who sold it the following year, in 1703, to the Governor of Cork, Sir James Jeffereyes (alternatively spelled “Jefferyes”). Richard Pyne also purchased land at Ballyvolane in County Cork, another section 482 property which we have yet to visit!

In 1739 James Jeffereyes built a four storey Gothic style mansion on to the side of the castle, which he called “The Court,” demolishing a former house the MacCarthys had added to the castle. Frank Keohane tells us that the architect may have been Christopher Myers, who had previously rebuilt Glenarm Castle in County Antrim. We can see glimpses of its appearance from the round towers and ruins to one side of the castle, which are the remnants of this grand mansion. The Jefferyes family also laid out a landscape garden at Blarney known as Rock Close, with great stones arranged to look as though they had been put there in prehistoric times. There is a stone over the “wishing steps” inscribed “G. Jefferyes 1759” which commemorates the date of birth of James Jefferyes’s heir. It was a popular tourist destination as early as the 1770s.

Blarney Castle, County Cork 1796 After Thomas Sautelle Roberts, Irish, 1760-1826, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
Pictures of the Gothic house that was built on the side of the castle, on a noticeboard at Blarney.
Ruins of “the Court,” the Gothic house added to the side of the castle by the Jeffereyes. You can see the plaster decoration of a horse over the door. This must have been put up by later owners of the castle as the horse, or colt, is a symbol of the Colthurst family.

We joined the queue to go up the tower. The ground floor is a large vaulted space. We saw the same sort of vaulting in Oranmore Castle in County Galway, which we visited later that week during Heritage Week 2022.

Ground floor of the Castle, a vaulted space.

This room would have been the cellar chamber when first built, and would have had a wooden floor above, supported by still-present stone supports in the walls. The room on the upper wooden floor was the Great Hall. Originally, an information board tells us, the lower storey probably housed servants or junior members of the household. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it had become a wine cellar, as evidenced by some brick-lined shelves.

Ground floor of Blarney Castle.

We can see the arched vaulted ceiling from the ground floor, with indentations left from wickerwork mats that were used, on which the bed of mortar for the roof was set. We saw similar indentations at Trim Castle and the nearby house of St. Mary’s Abbey in Trim, in the basement [see https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/09/17/st-marys-abbey-high-street-trim-co-meath/ ]. The walls would have been covered in tapestries, which were put on the floor at some stage, becoming carpets. The arched ceiling tied the walls of the tower together.

See the remnants of the wickerwork on the vaulted ceiling, and an impressive fireplace remains in what would have been the Great Hall.

Next to the Great Hall was the Earl’s bedroom.

From here we have a good view of the remnants of the Gothic house remnants:

Remnants of the Gothic styled house which had been built onto the castle.

We climbed a stone spiral staircase inside the tower to see the upper chambers. As usual in tower houses, the narrow spiral staircase was built partly for defense.

We next reached the “Young Ladies’ Bedroom.” The noticeboard tells us that three daughters of Cormac Teige MacCarthy (d. 1583), 14th Lord, grew up here.

The room above the Great Hall in the tower would have been the family room.

Remaining plasterwork on the wall in the family room.
One end of the Family Room has a large fireplace, and the Banqueting Hall was on the storey above. The floor of the Banqueting Hall no longer exists, but you can see the fireplace of this room on the right hand side of the photograph.
Continuing our climb up to the top of Blarney Castle, looking down.

The floors of the banqueting hall, above the family room, and the chapel which would have been on the floor above the banqueting hall, are gone, so when you reach the top of the castle, you can look down inside.

Looking down from the battlements at what would have been the chapel (with the arched windows) and the Banqueting Hall below.

In the Chapel, mass would have been said in Latin, and the chaplain acted as tutor to the children also. The builder of Blarney Castle, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, was a generous patron of the church and he built five churches, including Kilcrea Abbey where he was buried, which became the traditional burial place for the lords of Blarney.

I love how well-preserved the stone door and window frames remain.

The information boards tell us that feasting was part of the way of life at the time and a meal was combined with a night’s entertainment as part of the social life of the Castle. A series of courses would be served, with fish eggs, fowl and roast meat, all highly spiced to keep them fresh. Alcohol served included mead, beer, wine and whiskey. The high ranks sat near the Lord at the top of the table “above the salt” and others sat “below the salt.” As the meal progressed the Chieftain’s Bard would play his harp and sing songs celebrating the prowess of the MacCarthy clan.

The bell-tower, midway along the top of the eastern battlements. The north pilaster supporting the arch is built on top of a chimneystack that served the fireplaces in the Great Hall and the Banqueting Hall.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that in former times visitors were lowered over the parapet to kiss ‘The Stone’ while gripped firmly by the ankles. The process has become easier and safer today though one still has to lean very far back to kiss the stone, head dangling downward. It has been a popular tourist destination since the days of Queen Victoria. The keep and Blarney stone remains, “despite the osculatory attrition of the eponymous stone by thousands of tourists every year” as Burke’s Peerage tells us with verve! (107th Edition (2003) page 865)

Photograph dated around 1897, National Library of Ireland Creative Commons on flickr.
photo by Chris Hill, 2015, Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
Winston Churchill at Blarney Stone, 1912.
Photograph from National Library of Ireland Creative Commons.

One can see from the window embrasures how thick the castle walls are. There are passageways within the walls.

Passageways within the thick walls of the castle.

Some passageways lead to ancilliary rooms, sometimes to a garderobe or “bathroom.”

James St. John Jeffereyes (1734-1780) inherited Blarney estate at the age of six. St. John Jeffereyes was an “improving” landlord who sought to aid the welfare of his tenants and maximise profits from his estates. He took an interest in the linen trade developing in County Cork, which processed locally grown flax into linen. St. John Jeffereyes created a village near Blarney Castle in 1765 with a linen mill, bleach mill, weavers’ cottages and a bleach green. The River Martin powered the mills. The rise of cotton, however, proved the downfall of the production of linen. In 1824, Martin Mahon moved his woollen manufacturing business to a former cotton mill in Blarney, to develop Blarney Woollen Mills. James St. John also, with three other landed gentlemen, established the Tonson Warren bank in Cork city (1768). It was a prominent institution in Cork until its failure in 1784, after Jeffereyes’s death.

James St. John Jeffereyes first married Elizabeth Cosby (1721-1788). We came across her when we visited Stradbally in County Laois, which is still owned by the Cosby family. Her father was William Cosby (1690-1736), who was Governor of New York. She had been previously married to Augustus Fitzroy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, who died in 1741. James St. John and Elizabeth’s daughter Lucia served as Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.

James St. John Jeffereyes married secondly Arabella Fitzgibbon, sister of the 1st Earl of Clare, John Fitzgibbon (1748-1802) (who, by the way, married the daughter of Richard Chapell Whaley, who had the house on St. Stephen’s Green built which now houses the Museum of Literature Ireland (MOLI) – see my entry for MOLI on https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/06/06/covid-19-lockdown-20km-limits-and-places-to-visit-in-dublin/. He was the Lord Chancellor of Ireland who forced the Act of Union through parliament). With Arabella, James had a son and heir, George Jeffereyes (1768-1841).

James’s son George Jeffereyes (1768-1841) married Anne, daughter of the Right Hon. David la Touche of Marlay, the richest man in Ireland and head of the banking dynasty. George’s sisters also married well: Marianne married George Frederick Nugent, 7th Earl of Westmeath; Albinia married Colonel Stephen Francis William Fremantle; and Emilia married Richard Butler, 1st Earl of Glengall.

The Court was destroyed by fire in 1820. Instead of rebuilding, George Jeffereyes and his family moved to Inishera House in West Cork. [7] George and Anne’s son St. John Jeffereyes (1798-1862) inherited Blarney. He had a son, also St. John, who lived in Paris and died in 1898. The estate passed to St. John’s sister Louisa, who married George Colthurst (1824-1878), 5th Baronet Colthurst, of Ardum, Co. Cork. He was a man of property, with another large estate at Ballyvourney near the border with County Kerry, along with Lucan House in County Dublin (currently the Italian ambassador’s residence in Ireland). Blarney remains in the hands of the Colthurst family. Blarney House was built for Louisa and George Colthurst, in 1874.

Blarney House, built for George Colthurst (1824-1878), 5th Baronet Colthurst and his wife Louisa Jeffereyes in 1874, as seen from the top of Blarney Castle.

George Colthurst’s maternal grandmother was Emily La Touche, daughter of David La Touche and Elizabeth Marlay, and paternal grandmother was Emily La Touche’s sister Harriet. Their sister Anne had married George Charles Jeffereyes, Louisa’s grandmother, so Louisa and George were second cousins.

Randall MacDonald tells us in his book The Lost Houses of Ireland. A chronicle of great houses and the families who lived in them:

p. 29 “The Colthursts had arrived in Ireland from Yorkshire towards the end of Elizabeth I’s reign and settled in Cork. Christopher Colthurst was murdered by the rebels in 1641 near Macroom in County Cork. By the 1730s, they were High Sheriffs of County Cork, and in 1744 John Colthurst, who had married the daughter of the 1st Earl of Kerry, Lady Charlotte Fitzmaurice, was created a baronet. It would be uncharitable to suggest that it was his father-in-law’s influence that procured him this advancement. He was Member of Parliament for Doneraile from 1751 (and afterwards for Youghal and Castle Martyr). His son Sir John Colthurst, the 2nd Baronet, was killed in a duel with Dominick Trant in 1787 and the title passed to his brother (MP for Johnstown, Co Longford and then for Castle Martyr until 1795), who married Harriet, daughter of the Right Hon. David la Touche. Sir Nicholas Colthurst, the 4th Baronet, was the MP for the city of Cork from 1812-1829.

It was his son, Sir George Colthurst, the 5th Baronet, who married Louisa Jefferyes of Blarney Castle in 1846.” [8]

The 9th Baronet Colthurst, Richard La Touche Colthurst (1928-2003) married Janet Georgina Wilson Wright, from Coolcarrigan in County Kildare, another section 482 property [ https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/05/31/coolcarrigan-house-and-gardens-coill-dubh-naas-county-kildare/ ]. Their son is the current owner of Blarney Castle and House.

We headed for the coffee shop after our perusal of the Castle. In the yard they have beautiful barrell vaulted wagons, and in the cafe, lovely old travel advertisements.

Individual stables have been made into “snugs” for snacks.

The seventy acres of gardens offer various landscapes. The bawn contains a Poison Garden, or medicinal garden, where various medicinal plants are grown, including poisons such as wolfsbane, ricin, mandrake, opium and cannabis.

The bawn wall and poison garden.

The Rock Close is the garden that was developed by the Jefferyes in the 1750s and echoes Ireland’s ancient past with giant rock formations and hints of Druidic culture. Water running through adds to the beauty, with a lovely waterfall.

We were impressed by the bamboo maze.

My favourite area is the Fern Garden, which feels prehistoric and is extremely picturesque, with raised wooden walkways. We headed to Blarney House, which will be my next entry!

The Fern Garden, which includes lovely wooden walkways.

[1] p. 108. Ohlmeyer, Jane. Making Ireland English: The Irish Aristocracy in the 17th Century.

[2] See Ó Siochrú, Micheál’s entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography: https://www.dib.ie/biography/maccarthy-donough-a5129

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

[4] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 216. Quoted on the website The Peerage.com. See also https://www.dib.ie/biography/maccarthy-donogh-a5128

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

[6] https://landedestates.ie/family/2877

[7] see the timeline in James Lyttelton’s Blarney Castle, An Irish Towerhouse.

[8] MacDonnell, Randal. The Lost Houses of Ireland. A chronicle of great houses and the families who lived in them. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. London, 2002.

Places to stay and visit in County Mayo, Connaught

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

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

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

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

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

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

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

Mayo:

1. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – hotel and gives tours 

2. Brookhill House, Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo – section 482

3. Enniscoe House & Gardens, Castlehill, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

4. Old Coastguard Station, Rosmoney, Westport, Co. Mayo – section 482

5. Partry House, Mayo

6. Prizon House, Prizon North, Balla, Co. Mayo – section 482

7. Turlough Park, Museum of Country Life, Mayo

8. Westport House, County Mayo

Places to stay, County Mayo:

1. Ashford Castle, Mayo/Galway – hotel €€€

2. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo –  €€

3. Breaghwy, Castlebar, Co Mayo – hotel

4. Enniscoe House, Castlehill, Ballina, Co Mayo – section 482  – accommodation

5. Knockranny House Hotel, County Mayo 

6.  Mount Falcon, Ballina, County Mayo – hotel €€

7. Newport House, Newport, Co. Mayo, Ireland

8. Owenmore, Garranard, Ballina, Co. Mayo section 482

9. Turin Castle, Turin, Kilmaine, Co. Mayo, Irelandwhole castle rental, €€ for two, € for 10-12

10. Westbrook Country House, Castlebar, County Mayo

Mayo:

1. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – hotel and gives tours

 https://www.belleekcastle.com/

Belleek Manor, or Castle, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us:

Welcome to your authentic Castle Experience in the beautiful West of Ireland in Ballina, County Mayo. An award winning hotel & wedding venue with a gourmet restaurant, cafe and museum on site!

Explore Belleek Castle, an iconic Irish Country Home a restaurant, wedding venue, boutique hotel and spectacular exhibition of the eclectic Marshall Doran Collection of which one of our academically trained guides will be delighted to take you on a tour. 

Belleek Castle has been a member of the prestigious Ireland’s Blue Book since 2016. Ireland’s Blue Book is a romantic collection of Irish Country House Hotels, Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants. Located throughout the island of Ireland these charming and stylish hideaways are the perfect choice for your holiday vacation in Ireland. They are also ideal for a midweek or weekend break and those seeking a romantic getaway.

The neo-gothic Country House, dating from 1831, has not lost its flavour by over modernisation…This historic Belleek Castle is informal, hassle-free and friendly, rich in decor and antiquities, with many open log fires to warm your steps back through half a millennium.”

Belleek Manor, or Castle, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Belleek Manor, or Castle, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

It continues in the history section:

Belleek Castle was built between 1825 and finished in 1831 for the cost of £10,000. The building was commissioned by Sir Arthur Francis Knox-Gore for the cost of £10,000 and . The manor house was designed by the prolific architect John Benjamin Keane, and the Neo-Gothic architecture met the taste of the time, when Medieval styles became fashionable again.”

John B. Keane began his career as assistant to Richard Morrison in the early 1820s and set up his own practice by 1823, David Hicks tells us in his Irish Country Houses, A Chronicle of Change. The stone for the house was quarried from nearby quarry in Moyne. Francis Arthur Francis Knox-Gore had inherited the estate in 1818 when he was 15, and the manor was built after his marriage to Sarah Nesbit Knox from Castle Lacken, County Mayo. It is thought to have replaced an earlier structure, as the basement area of the castle today appears to be older than the floors above.

The website continues: “The house is thought to have replaced an earlier structure & is named after the original Belleek Castle, a 13th Tower House Castle situated on the banks of the River Moy. Francis lived at Belleek Castle with his wife Sarah and his 9 children until his death in 1873. According to his wishes he was buried in Belleek Demense. A striking Neo-Gothic Monument, designed by James Franklin Fuller, now marks his grave and is situated in the middle of Belleek Woods. It is said that his wife & favourite horse are both buried beside him. His eldest son Charles Knox-Gore inherited & became the 2nd Baronet. Charles died without issue in 1890 & was also buried in Belleek Demense beside the River Moy, and his dog Phizzie was buried beside him. The house was inherited by his sister Matilda who married Major General William Boyd Saunders of Torquay. Their grandson William Arthur Cecil Saunders-Knox-Gore sold the house in 1942. 

The house was later purchased by the Beckett family who intended on converting the Manor House into a stud farm but later sold the house. Mayo County Council purchased the house in the 1950s and used the Manor House as a hospital & military barracks and was later abandoned it. It was at this time that Mayo County Council considered taking the roof of the building to avoid paying rates. Fortunately Marshall Doran, a merchant navy officer and an avid collector of fossils and medieval armour, acquired the run down property in 1961, restored it and opened it as a hotel in 1970. Some of the rooms are in 19th style, whilst most of the interior design has a medieval and nautical touch. Marshall, being quite a craftsman, did a lot of the work himself, assisted by John Mullen, and supervised the restoration expertly. Today, the Castle is managed by Marshall’s son Paul Doran and Ms. Maya Nikolaeva.

And about the tour of the castle:

The Belleek Castle Tour includes an explanation of the origins of the Castle and the history of its former owners, the Knox-Gore family, the Earls of Arran. Learn about the life of Marshall Doran an adventurer, sailor & smuggler who restored Belleek Castle in the 1960’s. Visitors will see private dining rooms, decorated in opulent romantic style, as well as rooms designed by Marshal such as the Medieval Banquet Hall, the Spanish Armada Bar and the Tween Deck. The highlight of the tour is The Marshall Doran Collection, which is one of the finest collections of Jurassic fossils, Medieval Weapons and Medieval armour in Ireland. Visitors will also see the Grace O’Malley “The Pirate Queen’s” bed, the last wolf shot in Connaught and other curiosities.”

Magherameena Castle, Belleek, County Fermanagh, also designed by John Benjamin Keane, no longer standing. National Library of Ireland NLI Ref L_CAB_04725 National Library of Ireland

2. Brookhill House, Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo – section 482

contact: Patricia and John Noone
Tel: 094-9371348, 087-3690499, 086-2459832
Open: Jan 13-20, Apr 13-20, May 18-24, June 8-14, July 13-19, Aug 1-25, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/child/student €3, National Heritage Week free.

Brookhill House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1]

The National Inventory tells us it is a:

Detached three-bay two-storey double-pile over part raised basement country house with attic, built 1845, on a T-shaped plan centred on single-bay full-height gabled frontispiece; three- or five-bay two-storey rear (south) elevation centred on single-bay full-height gabled “bas-relief” breakfront… “Restored”, 1990-1…Tudor-headed central door opening approached by flight of thirteen drag edged tooled cut-limestone steps between wrought iron railings, trefoil leaf-embossed timber doorcase having engaged colonette-detailed moulded rebated reveals with hood moulding on polygonal label stops framing timber panelled door. Pointed-arch flanking window openings with creeper- or ivy-covered sills, timber Y-mullions, and carved timber surrounds framing timber casement windows. Square-headed window openings in tripartite arrangement with drag edged dragged cut-limestone sills, timber cruciform mullions, and rendered flush surrounds having chamfered reveals with hood mouldings framing two-over-two timber sash windows without horns. Hipped square-headed central door opening to rear (south) elevation approached by flight of nine drag edged tooled cut-limestone steps between replacement mild steel railings, tooled cut-limestone surround having chamfered reveals with hood moulding framing glazed timber panelled double doors having sidelights below overlight. Square-headed window openings with rendered flush surrounds having chamfered reveals framing timber casement windows. Interior including (ground floor): central hall on a square plan retaining carved timber lugged surrounds to door openings framing timber panelled doors, and moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling; and carved timber surrounds to door openings to remainder framing timber panelled doors with carved timber surrounds to window openings framing timber panelled shutters on panelled risers. Set in landscaped grounds.

Appraisal

A country house erected to a design attributed to Frederick Darley Junior (1798-1872) of Dublin representing an important component of the domestic built heritage of the rural environs of Claremorris with the architectural value of the composition, one enveloping a “four square” house annotated as “Brook hill [of] Kirwan Esquire” by Taylor and Skinner (1778 pl. 214), confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking landscaped grounds; the symmetrical frontage centred on a “medieval” doorcase demonstrating good quality workmanship with the corresponding Garden Front centred on a streamlined doorcase; the diminishing in scale of the multipartite openings on each floor producing a graduated tiered visual effect with the principal “apartments” defined by polygonal bay windows; and the robust timber work embellishing the roofline. Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; Classical-style chimneypieces; and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition. Furthermore, adjacent outbuildings (extant 1893); a lengthy walled garden (extant 1893); and an abbreviated “Triumphal Column” erected over the burial place of Joseph Lambert JP (1793-1855), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of an estate having historic connections with the Lambert family including Joseph Lambert (1760-1813), one-time High Sheriff of County Mayo (fl. 1796); Alexander Clendenning Lambert JP DL (1803-92), ‘County Treasurer late of Brookhill County Mayo’ (Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1893, 432); Colonel Joseph Alexander Lambert JP DL (1855-1907), ‘late of Brookhill Claremorris County Mayo and of Bouverie Road West Folkestone Kent’ (Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1908, 297); and Brigadier Alexander Fane Lambert DL (1887-1974), later of Auld Licht Manse, Angus, Scotland; and a succession of tenants including Valentine Joseph Blake JP (1842-1912), ‘Land Agent’ (NA 1901); Major General Reginald Henry Mahon (1859-1929; NA 1911); and Katharine Tynan Hinkson (1859-1931; occupant 1916-21), poet and author of the autobiographical “The Years of the Shadow” (1919) and “The Wandering Years” (1922).

The Landed Estates database tells us:

Brookhill was situated on church land held by the Gonnes, who leased the house to the Kirwans in the late 1770s. Occupied by the Lambert family from the 1790s to the 1940s when it was sold to Gerald Maguire, a solicitor in Claremorris. Now the home of the Noone family.” [2]

3. Enniscoe House & Gardens, Castlehill, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/25/enniscoe-house-gardens-castlehill-ballina-co-mayo/
contact: Susan Kellett
Tel: 096-31112
www.enniscoe.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: April 1-Oct 31
Open: garden, April 1-Oct 31, 10am-5pm,
Fee: garden & heritage centre adult €8, OAP €6, child €3 under 4 years free, student €3, family 2 adults and 2 children €15, tour of house €5 per adult, free tour in National Heritage Week

4. Old Coastguard Station, Rosmoney, Westport, Co. Mayo – section 482

contact: James Cahill
Tel: 094-9025500
www.jamescahill.com/coastguardstation.html
Open: July 1-Sept 9 closed Sundays, National Heritage Week Aug 13-21, 11am-4pm
Fee: €1.

Old Coastguard Station, County Mayo, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory tells us it is “A coastguard station erected to a design examined (1876) by Enoch Trevor Owen (c.1833-81), Assistant Architect to the Board of Public Works (appointed 1863), representing an important component of the later nineteenth-century maritime architectural heritage of County Mayo. Having been reasonably well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior: the introduction of replacement fittings to the openings, however, has not had a beneficial impact on the character or integrity of the composition. Nevertheless, an adjacent boathouse (extant 1897) continues to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a neat self-contained ensemble making a pleasing visual statement in a low hillside overlooking the islet-studded Westport Bay.

5. Partry House, Mayo

http://www.museumsofmayo.com/partry-house/partry-house.html

The website tells us:

Partry House is a charming historic house in a unique and secluded old estate by the shores of Lough Carra.

Built in 1667 on the site of an old Castle, it is set in just 250 acres of unspoilt woodland, bog, pasture and parkland.

Farm

The farm and gardens are run on ecologically friendly and organic principles. Wildlife abounds on this peaceful sanctuary in scenic South County Mayo.

Now restored in keeping with its age and character, Partry House is open in part to the public during July and August.

Partry House dates from 1667 when it was built on the remains of Cloonlagheen Castle by Arthur Lynch as a dowager house for his mother Lady Ellis, widow of Sir Roebuck Lynch [2nd Baronet, 1621-1667] of Castle Carra.

Sir Roebuck’s lands were seized by the Cromwellians and he was compensated by lands at Castle Carra during the first half of the seventeenth century. The Castle was named after Cloonlagheen (‘the meadow of the little lake’) townland on which it stands.

Evidence of the original castle was discovered during restoration work in 1995 when slit windows opening inwards were found at knee level on the first floor. Old castle walls can be seen incorporated into stable walls.

Knox’s ‘History of Mayo‘ (1910) clearly states that Cloonlagheen castle was owned in 1574 by Abbé MacEnvile who was over Ballintubber Abbey. This was part of the Elizabethan survey called the ‘Divisons of Connaught’.

The Lynchs, of the noted Galway family, occupied Partry House from 1667 until 1991; over 330 years in residence. Many of the ancestors of the present Lynch family are buried in a ring-fort graveyard on the estate, where their achievemements are noted on a large stone obelisk. Military, Exploratory and Humanitarian, their dates and names are written in stone.

The one-time islands Moynish, Creggaun and Leamnahaye are linked to the shore by means of the Famine Walk built between the lake and a bog area. This and the fine limestone shore edging date from famine times when the Lynchs looked after their tenants providing food and work for them. Two old cast iron pots used to cook cornmeal stand in the garden.

The obelisk commemorates George Quested Lynch MD who returned at once to Partry from Euphrates on hearing of the famine and died here of Typhus in 1848, aged only 34. The Lynchs, along with Browns of Westport House and the Moores of Moore Hall chartered the ship the ‘Martha Washington’ to bring corn meal from America for their tenants.”

6. Prizon House, Prizon North, Balla, Co. Mayo – section 482

contact: Tom O’Connor
Tel: 087-9032133

www.prisonehouse.wordpress.com
Open: May 1-31, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €5, student/OAP/child free

The website gives a wonderfully detailed study of the townland and the house, which is a terrific summary of some important historical figures of the area. The website tells us:

Prison House is situated in the townland of Prison North in the parish of Manulla and barony of Carra, Co. Mayo.  The townland of Prison North comprises 340 acres 3 roods and 26 perches. Originally Prison North, West and East were not subdivided but went collectively under the name of Prison townland.  One of the earliest references to Prison townland dates from 1586.  Prison also appears variously as ‘Prizon’, ‘Prisone’ and ‘Preeson’.  The origin of the townland’s name is unknown.  The Ordnance Survey books of 1837 notes the name but does not provide a suggestion for its origin, although the books record two forts and a cave in the townland. [1*]

The 1654 Down Survey and the Browne Rentals indicate that Prison was previously also known as Trineloghan/Trineleghane, and Triskine/Trilkine, names that appear to have no connection to its other alias.

The lands of Prison were successively in the possession of the Bourke family, later Viscounts of Mayo; the Browne family later Viscounts of Sligo; the Nolan family; and the Trench and Domville families.  Prison remained in the hands of the Domville’s until the 20th century.

Prison House:

Prison House is a simple three bay house, two stories high.  To put any definitive date on Prison House has proved to be impossible, but the research to date has been able to prove that a building has stood on the site for over 200 years.  As early as 1814, Prison house was already referred to as the ‘old house’ by the surveyor John Longfield, employed by the local landlord, Frederick Trench.

We have concluded that Prison House probably stands on the site of an older house, parts of which were incorporated into the structure of the house now standing.  Although the external features of the house indicate that the house was built in the early 19th Century, the unusual chimney-stacks suggest that this part of the house at least was probably built in the late 18th Century. This opinion was confirmed by David Griffin, the director of the Irish Architectural Archives, on viewing the survey photographs of Prison House.

The Irish Architectural Archive (IAA) does not hold any photographic records of Prizon House. David Griffin, the director of the IAA was shown photographs of the building but was unable to put a date other than possibly early 19th century on the house.  He did however comment on the unusual chimney-stacks, saying that they had only ever seen two other examples of this, one on an unspecified house in County Wexford, the other Luggala House in County Wicklow.  Luggala House was built by the La Touche family of banking fame, in the 1790s.  A late Victorian photograph does show the same type of chimney-stack but at some date these were replaced and no longer exist in Luggala House. This is helpful to the extent that it dates at least part of the house to the late 18th century.

It is almost certain that Prison House was built in the second half of the 18th Century. In 1764 the landlord Reverend Trench concluded a lease with the Ormsby family for three lives. The lease makes no specific mention of an existing house, and does not require the Trench’s to provide stone or bricks as building materials, or the Ormsbys to build a house as a condition of lease. The size of Prison House, and the apple orchard and many other trees planted around it, indicates that a great deal of initial work was carried out when the house was first built.

Given the circumstantial evidence it is probable that Prison House was laid out by the Ormsby family, although there is a remote chance that the landlord Frederick Trench, a well known amateur architect, may have designed and built the original house. [2*]  …

The Bourke Family:

An early reference to Prison townland appears in an Elizabethan fiant of 1586. This fiant records the pardon of ‘Walter Boorke m’Richard en yeren, of Prisone’ [3*]. [Wikipedia tells us that a “fiant” is a writ issued to the Irish Chancery mandating the issue of letters patent under the Great Seal of Ireland. The name fiant comes from the opening words of the document, Fiant litterae patentes, Latin for “Let letters patent be made”.]

Walter Bourke was the son of Richard Bourke [1532-1583] or as he was more commonly known, ‘Richard-an-Iarainn’ (literally Richard of Iron) the second husband of the infamous Grace O’Malley, ‘Granuaile’ described in 1576 by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney, as ‘a most famous feminine sea captain. . .a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland’[4*]. Richard Bourke was descended from the sept of the Bourkes of Umhall and Carra, one of the senior Bourke branches. The fact that Walter was recorded as ‘of Prisone’ would suggest that at this date he was the occupier of the townland, and that his residence was there.  However in two subsequent fiants of 1592 and 1598 he was described as ‘of Togher’ and ‘of Mohine’ respectively, so his stay in Prison may well have been brief.

In 1641 the proprietor of Trynylonghan comprising 171 acres, and Treelkin comprising 14 acres, was one David Bourke [b. 1576]. This David may have been the grandson of Richard-an Iarainn and son of the 1st Viscount Mayo, Tibbott-ne-Long [5*], the only child born to Granuaile and her second husband Richard. [6*]  David Bourke inherited the castle and lands of Manulla and acquired further lands in Carra barony.  He married first Mary O’Donnell the sister of Red Hugh O’Donnell, and secondly a daughter of Richard Heword of Dublin.  David Bourke’s date of death is unknown and as he died without legitimate issue the lands reverted to Viscount Mayo.

Patrick Nolan:

While David Bourke was the owner of Prison townland in 1641, part of these lands recorded as ‘arable and pasture’ were subsequently confiscated and granted to a Patrick ‘Nowlan’.  On the 16th of September 1685 Trinelogan and Triskeen and various other townlands were sold by Patrick Nolan of ‘Balenderry’ County Galway to [Colnel] John Browne of Kinturk, County Mayo for £694 [7*].

Colonel John Browne:

This John Browne of Kinturk was more commonly known as Colonel John Browne. A barrister by profession and a colonel in the army of King James II, John Browne had married Maud Bourke in 1669.  Maud was the daughter of the third Viscount Mayo, Theobald Bourke. Following James II’s defeat Browne was heavily in debt. He owed money to his wife’s family for lands purchased from the Estate of Viscount Mayo in the baronies of Carra, Murrisk and Burrishole. He was eventually imprisoned for his debt and the lands sold. Family fortunes improved in 1702 when John Browne’s daughter Mary married her cousin Theobald Bourke [(1681-1731) 6th Viscount Mayo]. The Browne family were later made Viscounts Sligo, with a family seat at Westport House.

Rentals of Colonel Browne’s estate dating 1696 record that Randle McDonnell held a three year lease of the lands of ‘Preeson’ at a year’s rent of £35 for the first two years and £40 for the third year.

In 1704 when the estate was sold ‘Presson & Gallon farme’ was leased by Colonel Manus O’Donnell, although a note states that there was ‘no tenant at present’. It is not clear from this why a farm at Prison should be called Prison and Gallen or if it is in fact referring to two separate farms.  It would appear to be the latter as a further note stated that ‘Coll Manus O’Donnell is to pay out of Gallen farme for one year ending’. [8*]

The Trench Family:

Prison townland and the neighbouring lands were bought by William Trench [1683-1729] of County Laois in the first decade of the 18th Century. William’s grandfather, Frederick Trench, came to Ireland from England in 1631 and settled in Galway. William Trench and his wife, Susanna Segar, heiress of Redcastle, Co. Laois, had nine children and the family established themselves at Ballinakill, Co.Laois. Their second son, Frederick Trench born 21st September 1715, inherited Prison townland and lands in Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Laois on the death of his elder brother.Frederick Trench received a BA degree from Trinity College in 1737 and was ordained in 1740.  He married Mary Moore of Crymorgan, Co. Laois in 1745.  Their only child was Michael Frederick Trench, known as Frederick, a renowned amateur architect.  Michael Frederick married Anna Helena Stewart in 1775.  They had six surviving children including; Frederick William (1775-1859) MP and aide-de-camp to George IV; Stewart-Segar, Chancellor of Christ Church Cathedral and Sarah Helena.

In 1708 in order to preserve official copies (memorials) of land and commercial transactions the Registry of Deeds was established by Act of the Irish Parliament.  Registration of deeds was voluntary, so the majority of early records relate mainly to those properties that were likely to face a legal challenge.  A search of the early indexes for the townland of Prison and the other aliases (Trineloghan and Triskine/Trilkine) was unsuccessful.  The first reference relating to Prison townland in the Registry of Deeds was in the 1739-1810 townland index.  A memorial of a deed of lease dated 6th October 1764 [9*] records that part of Prison townland was held by the Reverend Frederick Trench of Ballynakill, Co. Laois.  The deed stated that part of the lands of Prizon and Drimloughra ‘lately held by Mr Garret Coghlan’ were to be let to Anthony Ormsby of Ballynamore, Co. Mayo, for the lives of Thomas his eldest son, Adam his second son and his third son, Christopher, for the sum of £164 sterling.  There was a clause of surrender at the end of every three years and liberty to carry off sixteen acres of Corn Potatoes or Flax’.  There was no reference to any specific building in the lease, so that we know that Prison House was not yet built at this time.

The Ormsby family seat was at Ballinamore co. Mayo, and it is not known whether any of the family ever lived in Prison townland. The Ormsby family had settled in Ireland in the late 16th century. According to Burke’s Irish Family Records Anthony Ormsby was a High Sheriff and a Captain in Hingham Regiment of Horse. [10*]  He married Sarah, the daughter of Thomas Lindsay of Co. Mayo and the couple had four children, one daughter Anne, and three sons, mentioned in the deed of 1764.

The deeds ledger of the Trench estates, and the Longfield Maps – 1814:

The first definitive reference to a building occupying the site where Prison House now stands is in maps of Prison surveyed by John Longfield in 1814.  This was not the first time that the lands had been mapped, the 1814 deeds ledger of the Trench estate refers to maps of Prison townland surveyed in 1719, 1756 and 1785.  Unfortunately none of these maps appear to have survived.  One of the maps of 1814 however shows a building termed the ‘Old House’ which is clearly situated on the site where Prison House now stands. Longfield drew a rectangular structure with an adjoining rear, an L-shaped structure.  Two buildings stood to the front left and right of the house.  A long avenue ran up to the house and this can be traced in the map accompanying the Land Registry documents seen clearly as a thin strip of land.  A garden stood to the left of the house and Longfield also marked a Haggard (an enclosed space near the farm-house), denoted by the words ‘Hgd’.

At the same time as the map was being surveyed a member of the Trench family, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick William Trench visited Prison and its neighbouring townlands.  In a bound volume he not only recorded his Grand Tour of Europe but also chronicled his tour of his father’s estate which fortunately concentrates on lands in the barony of Carra.  His visit may have been designed to coincide with Longfield’s survey.  In a letter surviving from this time William’s father wrote to his son: I consider it as an Event truly fortunate that you became acquainted with Mr Longfield, a person of so much real knowledge and Exertion, and on whom you seem so justly to have placed so much reliance…’.[14*]  F.W. Trench appears to have been keen to note improvements that could be made to the lands and frequently noted the rentals...

The next substantial information on Prison dates from the mid 1820s. On Monday the 14th November 1825 the Trench estate ‘upwards of 5000 English acres’, the property of Colonel Sir Frederick William Trench including Prison townland was to be auctioned in lots at the Commercial Buildings in Dame Street, Dublin at 12 noon by the vendor’s solicitors Messrs. Robert Hamilton & Co.  Lot No. 3 consisted of Prison townland and the following description was detailed in the auction prospectus:

‘. . .containing 453 acres 2 roods 23 perches situate in the Barony of CARRA, and County of Mayo, let to Thomas[sic] Ormsby, Esq. By Lease, dated in 1764, for 3 Lives, (only one of whom, viz. Christopher Ormsby , Esq. supposed to be now aged about 75 years, is in being), at £164 per Annum, and consists of Arable, Pasture, Meadow, and Bog is most commodiously circumstanced, having a south aspect, and being well sheltered.  The Meadow is of superior quality and the Feeding Land is supposed to be as good as any in the County of Mayo – There are on this Lot 12 good Houses, and the Farm is ornamented with Hedge-rows – The Turbary is both plenty and convenient – These Lands if now to be Let would produce a very large Annual Sum, the excellent quality of the ground being well known, and highly esteemed.’

Improvements must have been made to the townland, the sale notice writes of twelve good houses.  It does not however refer to any new buildings having been built or to any modernisation of Prison House.  The sale notice remarks solely on the Hedge-rows of the Farm and Trench was himself impressed by the hedging and planting of trees.  He made a small pencil sketch of a rectangular building and the various trees planted around, this presumably did not refer to Prison House, as the map outlines a rectangular structure without an adjoining rear and this could refer to the Herd’s house and his own tree planting.

The estate failed to find a buyer in 1825, and in 1833 Sir Frederick William Trench of Moyvannon Castle, Co. Roscommon, sold the estate to Sir Compton Domville of Santry House, Co. Dublin, his brother-in-law, for £60,000 less £18,000 that was loaned from Domville to Sir Frederick [16*]. Frederick William’s sister Sarah Helena had married Sir Compton Pocklington Domville of Templeogue and Santry House, County Dublin in 1815.

With the sale of the lands at Prison the Ormsby’s lease came to an end. An advertisement was placed in the local newspaper, the Mayo Constitution, published in Castlebar…

Once again there is no reference to Prison House itself, suggesting that it was neither new nor modernised.  Presumably J. E. Strickland was the agent acting for the Trench family.  Prison townland was at this time leased by a Michael Barrett recorded in the Tithe Applotment Books, taken for the parish of Manulla in 1837. [18*]  Barrett held the lands in Prison North of Sir Compton Domville, and the only additional observation recorded was that Barrett ‘has no lease’, i.e. he held the lands at the landlord’s will.  (A copy of the TAB for Prison North is enclosed with this report).

It was in this same year (1837) that the Ordnance Survey maps of Ireland were first published. The map of Prison townland shows the farm, an L-plan structure with two outbuildings.  A large grove of trees to the rear right of the building is shown and the long avenue of trees still stands as do the outbuildings (a copy of the 1837 map is enclosed with this report) [19*].

Prison Farm continued to be occupied by the Barrett family into the 1840s. The 1842 Tenement Act provided for a uniform valuation of all property in Ireland based on the productive capacity of land and the potential rent of buildings, for taxation purpose. The Commissioner of Valuation, Richard Griffith, produced and published a nationwide survey between 1847 and 1864. However prior to Griffith’s Valuation, the original valuation surveyors took two nationwide surveys in the 1840s which are recorded in a set of books known variously as the ‘field’, ‘house’, ‘mill’ and ‘tenure books’.

In 1893 the Ordnance Survey published new maps for County Mayo. At some date between the surveying of the townland in 1837 and the publication of new maps in 1893, Prison House was altered.  By 1893 the adjoining rear now stood to the centre of the main building and the large outhouses parallel and to the rear of the house were constructed. It is probable that the alterations to the house were made prior to 1858. The Cancelled Books do not indicate any alternations to the house or outhouses after 1858.  Although amendments and alterations sometimes went unnoticed, it is highly unlikely that the type of large-scale improvements indicated in the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, would not have resulted in a revision of the rates on Prison House.

The changes to Prison House most likely occurred between 1841, the time of the first survey recorded in the House-books, and 1858, the start of the first Cancelled Books for the townland of Prison North.  In the course of research we found a later (1901) lease for the house and lands at Prison North, which cited an earlier, 1853 lease between Sir Compton Domville and Martin Barrett. The Tithe Applotment Books had indicated that as late as 1837 Martin Barrett had no lease, and would have rented the house and lands from year to year.   It seems very probable that the alterations to Prison House were made sometime after the lease was agreed in 1853, and November 1857 when Martin Barrett died.

On 13th September 1901 a lease was recorded between the Very Reverend John Canon Barret of St Mary’s, Headford, Tuam, Co. Galway; John McEllen of Balla, Co. Mayo, Merchant; and Sir Compton Meade Domville of Santry ‘ a person of unsound mind’. [23*]  The Reverend Barrett appears to have sold the time that remained on the 1853 lease, to John McEllen, with the agreement of the trustees of Sir Compton Meade Domville.

In March 1901 the Census recorded that Thomas Connolly, married with four infant children occupied Prison House.

The Connolly family appear to have remained resident in Prison House even after John McEllin bought out the lease to Prison townland.  In 1920, the Congested Districts Board took over the House, offices and lands (19 acres 1 rood 12 perches).  Between 1920 and 1931 possession of Prison North passed to the Irish Land Commission.  The Connolly family remained resident in Prison House despite the change in land title.

In 1931 the house and lands were sold to Ellen Connolly, widow of Thomas Connolly. The house remained in the Connolly family’s possession until 1999 when it was sold to the current owners.

[1*] NLI Pos 4123 Ordnance Survey Office John O’Donovan name books for Co. Mayo, Killala to Turlough.  Unfortunately there is not at present an archaeological inventory for Mayo County.

[2*] See also, Patricia Friel, Frederick Trench 1746-1836, Maynooth Studies in Irish Local History, 2000.

[3*] The Irish Fiants of the Tudor Sovereigns Vol 2 (Dublin,1994)

[4*] Cited in Granuaile: The Life and Times of Grace O’Malley by Anne Chambers, (Dublin, 1998) p3

[5*] Books of Survey and Distribution Co. Mayo

[6*] Ibid

[7*] National Archives of Ireland D. 12,111 Memorial of deed

[8*] National Library of Ireland. Pos. 940

[9*]Registry of Deeds. Book 238 page 239 No. 154263

[10*] A copy of the Ormsby pedigree is enclosed with this report.

[11*] National Library of Ireland, Ms. 9393

[12*] They are not mentioned as among the Trench papers in the Hayes Guide, nor are they listed in the Historical Manuscripts Commission, National Register of Archives which provides coverage of the U.K. and Scotland.  However, after the report was completed the researcher noted that the British Records Association has recently deposited schedules relating to Trench family deeds and lands, including at least one document relating to co. Mayo.

[13*] NLI Ms. 9393

[14*] National Library of Ireland. Ms. 11,348 – Michael Frederick Trench to William Frederick Trench, Heywood, December 27th 1814

[15*] ‘John Mucalini’ is almost certainly a pun based on “mucal”, the Irish word for swine.  The pun was possibly coined as a local nick-name for the herder James Monyahan.

[16*] See Patricia Friel’s Frederick Trench and Heywood, Queen’s County (Dublin, 2000)

[17*] The Mayo Constitution, Thursday May 2nd 1833 page 3 column e

[18*] The Composition Act of 1823 specified that tithes due to the Established Church, the Protestant Church of Ireland, which had hitherto been payable in kind, should now be paid in money.  As a result it was necessary to carry out a valuation of the entire country, civil parish by civil parish, to determine how much would be payable by each landholder.  This was done between 1823 and 1838, at which latter date the tithe system was abolished. The tithe applotment books for the parish of Manulla were assessed in 1837

[19*] NLI Ordnance Survey map 1837, 79/12 microfiche no. 14

[20*] National Archives

[21*] Martin Barrett was granted a lease by Compton Domville dated 19th November 1853.  Reference was made to this lease in a later lease of 1901.  A search was made for the 1853 lease in the Registry of Deeds but no record was found.

[22*] Full government censuses were taken of the entire island of Ireland after 1821.  The census returns recorded between 1821 and 1851 were almost entirely destroyed in the fire in the Public Records Office in 1922, while the census returns between 1861 and 1891 were pulped during WWI by order of the government.  However, the government extracted and published statistical information in the aftermath of each census.

[23*] Book 1901-86-32

[24*] Ellen Connolly, aged 4 years at the time of the 1901 Census appears to have died as a young child.

[25*] National Archives 1901 & 1911 Census 56/D.E.D ‘7’

7. Turlough Park, Museum of Country Life, Mayo

https://www.museum.ie/en-IE/Museums/Country-Life

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.
The name of the village and estate derives from the Irish turlach, signifying a lake that dries up in the summer period.

The website tells us about the house:

Turlough Park was built in 1865, to replace a much older building near the entrance to the park. The name of the village and estate derives from the Irish turlach, signifying a lake that dries up in the summer period.

Turlough Park was the home of the Fitzgerald family, to whom the estate was granted under the Cromwellian land settlements of the mid-seventeenth century.

At its largest, the Turlough estate consisted of almost 8,500 acres requiring many indoor servants and outdoor estate workers to maintain the house and lands. In 1915, the Congested Districts Board – established to initiate economic improvements along the western seaboard – purchased and re-distributed the Fitzgerald estate.

Turlough Park ca. 1880, photograph from National Library of Ireland, on flickr constant commons.
Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.
Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

A notable family member was George Robert [c. 1712-1782], son of George and later known as the ‘Fighting Fitzgerald’. Famous for his brave and reckless horsemanship, and a renowned duellist, George Robert was involved in a number of disputes and family quarrels. He was found guilty of murder and hanged in Castlebar, Co. Mayo in 1786.

His younger brother Charles Lionel would inherit the Turlough Park estate.

The architect Thomas Newenham Deane designed Turlough Park House. Deane was also the designer of the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology in Dublin.

The architectural style of the house has been referred to as ‘Victorian Gothic’. The two-storey house built of limestone rises to a high-pitched roof with dormer windows. It incorporates an open central Gothic porch bearing the house’s 1865 date stone.

A service area adjoining the house, which once accommodated the kitchen and stable block, now incorporates visitor facilities such as the gift shop and café. In such houses, the kitchen was detached from the main house to avoid cooking smells disturbing the family and their guests and to minimise the risk of fire.

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

An imposing stained glass window above the porch incorporates the Fitzgerald family crest and bears the motto Honor Probataque Virtus (Honour, Probity & Virtue)

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

While the library was used mostly for recreation and study, the room was also where tenant farmers paid their quarterly rents to their landlord, the Fitzgerald family. The agent, seated facing the glass doors where the tenants entered, would note the payment in his rent book and issue the tenant with a receipt. It is said that the landlord sometimes sat behind the concealed door to hear what the tenants had to say without being observed.

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.
Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.
Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

The Drawing Room of the Big House

This room is furnished and decorated the way it may have looked around 1900. Most families occupying a house for a long time accumulate a variety of furniture from different eras and in different styles. The furniture here is from the Decorative Arts & History collections of the Museum.

The Drawing Room,Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

Among the items is a Lyrachord Piano, which is the only one of its kind in the world. The left side operates like a piano and the right like a harpsichord.

Lyrachord Piano, Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

There is also a nest of tables with harp and shamrock inlay typical of the Killarney school of furniture, as well as an embroidered armchair from Adare Manor, Co. Limerick dating from 1850.

Becoming part of the National Museum of Ireland

Turlough Park House remained in the same family until 1991 when it was purchased by Mayo County Council. The proposal to open the house as a museum was a local initiative which led eventually to a decision made in 1995 to locate part of the National Museum of Ireland here. The Museum’s Folklife collections had been stored for a long time in Daingean, Co. Offaly, awaiting a suitable venue.

Museum of Country Life, Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

As the house was not suitable as a major exhibition space, a new building was purpose-built alongside it. Housing the Museum galleries, this award winning design was created by the architectural branch of the Office of Public Works. As part of the project, the Office of Public Works also restored the original ‘Big House’. The grounds and gardens were restored by Mayo County Council.

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

8. Westport House, County Mayo

Westport House, Westport, ©Christian McLeod 2016, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [5]

https://www.westporthouse.ie/

The website tells us: “One of the few privately-owned historic houses left in Ireland, Westport House was built by the Browne family whose connections to Mayo date back to the 1500s. Their lineage relates them and the house to the trail-blazing pirate queen and chieftain, Grace O’Malley.

Westport House, Westport, ©Christian McLeod 2016, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [5]

“In 2017, Westport House was bought by another local and historic family, the Hughes family, who hope to ensure its survival into the future.

Built in the 18th century, Westport House was designed by the famous architects, Richard Cassels, James Wyatt and Thomas Ivory. Westport House is located west of the Shannon and is considered to be one of Ireland’s most beautiful historic homes open to visitors – and is today often described as being one of Ireland’s National Treasures. It is situated in a superb parkland setting with lake, terraces, gardens and magnificent views overlooking Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, Clare Island and Ireland’s Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick right in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. It was built … by the Browne family, who are direct descendants of the famous 16th century Pirate Queen – Grace O’Malley.

After Grace O’Malley’s death, a report stated that for forty years she was the stay of all rebellions in the West. She was chief of the O’Malley Clan and ruled the seas around Mayo. Grace O’Malley had several castles in the West of Ireland and it was on the foundations of one of these that Westport House was actually built. There is still an area of her original castle in the basement of the House (now known as The Dungeons), which is on view to visitors.

The original house which would have been smaller, was built by Colonel John Browne [1631-1712], a Jacobite, who was at the Siege of Limerick and his wife, Maude Burke [or Bourke, (1640-1690)] in 1679-83. Maude Burke was Grace O’Malley’s great-great granddaughter. The house did not have the lake or a dam and the tide rose and fell against the walls.

The east front of the House, as it is today, was built in 1730 by Colonel John Browne’s grandson, also John- 1st Earl of Altamont [1709-1776]. He hired the famous German architect, Richard Cassels. It is built with the finest limestone taken from the quarry south of the estate farmyard and was executed by local craftsmen. Richard Cassels also designed Carton, Haselwood, Russborough and Leinster Houses.

From the plans made in 1773, the ground floor contained:

  • The Waiting Room – now The Library
  • Front Staircase – now the Ante- library
  • Living Room – now The Front Hall
  • Back staircase – now part of the present Drawing Room
  • Dressing Room – now the East end of The Long Gallery.

It was only one room deep, built round an open courtyard.

In 1778, Peter, the 2nd Earl Of Altamont built the south wing to the Thomas Ivory plans his father had commissioned but had not carried out. Ivory’s south façade has a delicacy quite unlike Cassel’s bolder work on the East.  In the 1780’s Peter’s son John Denis, 3rd Earl of Altamont (who later became the 1st Marquess of Sligo), completed the square of the House. He engaged James Wyatt to decorate his new Long Gallery and Large Dining Room (one of the great English architects who is responsible for other significant buildings in the town of Westport and further afield).

John Denis Browne, 1st Marquess of Sligo Date 1806 Engraver William Whiston Barney, British, fl. c. 1805 After John Opie, English, 1761-1807, courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

In 1816, Howe Peter (2nd Marquess of Sligo) began his alterations to the House. He built on the north wing for men servants and between 1819-1825, he built on the south wing. The south wing was built as a two-tiered library designed by Benjamin Wyatt. This was warmed by hot air and due to defects in the system, it was destroyed by fire almost immediately in 1826.

In the 1830s, the central open courtyard where the Marble Staircase now sits, was covered in and Howe Peter made a new library by running a gallery round the now enclosed wall. In 1858 his son George abolished his father’s Library, moving it to where it is today and replaced it with the Marble Staircase.

On the west side of the house, the highly effective balustraded terraces’above the lake and the landing places were put in by George Ulick (6th Marquess of Sligo). These were designed by the English architect, Romaine Walker, whose main Irish work was the remodelling of Waterford Castle.

Aerial view of Westport House, Co Mayo, ©Tsung Ho Lam 2020, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool [5]

The website continues, telling us about the Browne Family:

The story of the Browne Family is a microcosm for the wider and, at times, turbulent history of Ireland. Each generation has had to contend with and adapt to the prevailing social, political and religious changes encountered along the way. Despite revolution, invasion, plantation, famine and confiscation, the bond uniting Westport House and its family remained right up until 2017.

The Browne Family originally arrived into Mayo from Sussex in the 16th century. Through marriage with daughters of native Irish landowners and by purchase, they built up a small estate near The Neale. As a Catholic family, they were fortunate that their lands were situated in Connaught thereby escaping the notorious confiscations of Cromwell. It was with John Browne III (1638-1711) with whom the connection with Westport House commenced. A successful lawyer, he married Maud Burke, daughter of Viscount Mayo and great-great granddaughter of the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley (Granuaile 1530-1603).

John Browne greatly increased his estate in Mayo and Galway including Cathair-na-mart (Stone-fort of the Beeves), a ruinous O’Malley fortress on the shores of Clew Bay. John’s good fortune was swept away as Ireland was plunged into chaos in the Williamite Wars. A Catholic, John supported the Jacobite cause and was appointed a Colonel in the Jacobite army. From the iron mines on his lands near Westport, he supplied the army with cannon balls and weapons. The defeat of the Jacobite army at Aughrim and Limerick in 1691 brought financial ruin in the confiscations that followed. At his death in 1711, his estate was reduced to Cathair-na-Mart and a few hundred acres.

The Penal Laws which followed left his grandson, John IV, with little option but to conform to the prevailing religion in hope of surviving the confiscations and political upheaval. John IV gradually revived the family fortune. Young and ambitious he set about extending his estate and transforming the old O’Malley castle into modern day Westport House. In 1767, he – along with architect, William Leeson – replaced the old village of Cathair-na-Mart with a new town of Westport where he established a thriving linen industry. An excellent farmer he set about improving the fertility of his lands, which for the most part were of poor quality. He became the 1st Earl of Altamont. In 1752, his son and heir, Peter, 2nd Earl Of Altamont, married the heiress Elizabeth Kelly from Co. Galway whose estates in Jamaica further enhanced the family fortune. It is said that – as part of the dowry – her father insisted that he take the Kelly name and he became known as Peter Browne Kelly.

John, 3rd Earl of Altamont, continued the innovative farming tradition of his grandfather. He created the lake to the West of Westport House and planted trees. He laid out the principal streets of the present town of Westport and many of the streets in Westport today are named after Browne Family members such as Peter Street, James Street, Altamont Street and John’s Row. He also established a theatre at the Octagon and built the town of Louisburgh. In 1787, he married Louisa Catherine, daughter and heiress of the famous English Admiral Earl Howe. During his lifetime, the French inspired 1798 Rebellion occurred. Aided by the arbitrary actions of Denis Browne, his younger brother, against the Irish insurgents (which earned him the reputation of “ black sheep” of the family), the Rebellion was crushed.

In 1800, there was an Act of Union with England. The 3rd Earl voted for it and became the 1st Marquess of Sligo and an Irish representative peer. The reason the title is Sligo when the family home is in Mayo, is that in 1800 there was already an Earl of Mayo, a Viscount Galway to the south and a Lord Roscommon to the East. West was the Atlantic Ocean, so it had to be North – the land of Yeats and black cattle – Sligo.

His only son Howe Peter, 2nd Marquess of Sligo, inherited in 1809 at the age of twenty-one. Extravagant and generous, his early life subscribed to the popular image of a “regency buck”. Friend of Byron, de Quincy and the Prince Regent, he traveled extensively throughout Europe on the “grand tour”. He excavated at Mycenae and discovered the 3,000 year old columns of the Treasury of Atreus. To bring them back to Westport, he took some seamen from a British warship and was subsequently sentenced to 4 months in Newgate prison. He married Hester, the Earl of Conricard’s daughter, with whom he had 14 children and settled down to life in Westport. He bred many famous race horses both at Westport and the Curragh. One of his horses, Waxy, won the Derby. He owned the last two of the original breed of Irish Wolfhound. In 1834, he was appointed Governor of Jamaica with the difficult task of overseeing the “apprenticeship system” a period prior to the full emancipation of the slaves. He met with great opposition from plantation owners and other vested interests. He was first to emancipate the slaves on the family’s Jamaican plantations. The first “free village” in the world, Sligoville, was subsequently named in his honour. A liberal, he was one of the few Irish Peers to vote for Catholic Emancipation. He died in 1845 as the clouds of the Great Famine descended over Mayo.

His son, George, the 3rd Marquess, inherited a terrible legacy. The West of Ireland was worst affected by the famine. Westport House was closed and with no rents forthcoming, George borrowed where he could, spending £50,000 of his own money to alleviate the suffering of the tenants. With the guidance of his mother, Hesther Catherine, he imported cargoes of meal to Westport Quay and sub-vented the local workhouse, then the only shelter available to the destitute. He wrote tirelessly to the British Government demanding that they do more to help the famine victims. He wrote and had published a pamphlet outlining many pioneering reforms of the economic and social conditions that had led to the famine. In 1854, on being offered the Order of St. Patrick, an honour once held by his father and grandfather, disillusioned by England’s Irish policy (a reoccurring sentiment at Westport House!), the 3rd Marquess wrote “ I have no desire for the honour.” An exhibition about the Great Famine is on display in Westport House as told through Hesther Catherine’s letters to the estate’s agent in Westport, Hildebrand.

John succeeded his brother as 4th Marquess. He had to contend with the huge changes that occurred in the ownership of land in Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Above all he was a “professional” farmer whose main contribution was to transform a reduced and almost bankrupt estate into a profitable one solely from agriculture. This work was continued by the 6th Marquess who added a sawmill, a salmon hatchery and planted extensively. The compulsory acquisition of the main entrance to the House for local public housing occurred in the ownership of the 8th Marquess which altered the historic relationship that had existed between the House and the town of Westport.

In 1960, in the midst of a great depression and facing rising death duties, the 10th Marquess, Denis Edward, his wife Jose and son Jeremy (11th Marquess) decided to open Westport House and the grounds to the visiting public. It was a pioneering venture in a place and at a time that was remote and depressed. Over the succeeding decades, the 11th Marquess and his family developed the Estate into a Tourist Attraction.

The Grounds & Gardens

The Brownes of Westport House knew the value of trees in a landscape too, as the stunning woodland in the estate’s grounds attest. Westport Demesne retains 100 acres of historic woods dating back to the 1700s.

Back in the day, these trees provided a number of resources for the Westport House Estate. They created a shelter belt from the harsh Atlantic weather systems, they provided a fuel and timber source for heating and building materials, and they created a lush green back drop for the ‘naturalised parkland’ design landscape.

The lords and ladies loved to interact with the landscape by promenading along a deep networks of track and trails. They would bring their visitors along these paths too, impressing them with the grandeur and beauty of the estate’s stately woodlands. Aptly enough, these design pathways and the areas of woodlands they ventured through were known as ‘the pleasure grounds’.

An elaborate network of serpentine pathways meandered along, softly curving – following the style of landscape design that was popular during the 1800s and remains timeless to this day. The trails led the walker deep into the woodlands and surrounding landscape, where they could discover hidden design elements, such as sculptural pieces of architecture, exotic plant and tree species and new views.

The pyramidal cone of Croagh Patrick was one of the most emphasised views in the Westport House Demesne, and a number of the historic pathways were specifically designed to yield the most captivating vistas. The woodlands even had purposely made gaps to seduce the stroller with sudden framed glimpses of the famous Reek.

Opened to the Public in 1960

By the early 1960s, most historic homes of its nature were either burnt, knocked down or abandoned. Not so for Westport House. Jeremy – 11th Marquess of Sligo (1939 – 2014), took the estate in a whole new direction with inspiration from the “Big Houses” in the UK who had opened their doors to the interested public who were keen to see how the “other half” lived. In 1960, when Jeremy and Jennifer opened the attraction, the admission price was 2/6 for adults and 1/- for children. Admission to the grounds was 6d for both adults and children. In 1960, 2,400 visitors visited Westport House.

Jeremy had a remarkable passion for product development and marketing. He was inspired by other houses that were becoming sustainable and viable by diversifying their offering from not only heritage but including other leisure attractions. He felt strongly that Westport House needed to appeal to a wider audience than those solely interested in antiques and architecture. Over time, he introduced a number of fun attractions. In the 1970s, the Slippery Dip (Cannon Ball run) and the Miniature Railway (Westport House Express) were added discretely on the grounds. A Camping and Caravan Park was developed – as well as Horse Drawn Caravan tours of Connemara – and Gracy’s Restaurant (situated at the Farmyard was created from what was originally a cowshed) and a shop evolved from a similar situation. There were even one armed bandits in the basement at one point in time and the giant pink rabbit called Pinkie was introduced as the estate’s mascot.  The Tennis Courts, Pitch and Putt, a Flume Ride (The Pirates Plunge), Jungle World (The Pirates Den), and of course The Giant Swans on the lake were also phased in. In 2008, the Ships Galleon (The Pirate Queen) was introduced.

It was during this time that Jeremy and Jennifer realised that in order to be able to leave the estate to their daughters, drastic action would need to be taken. Jeremy had signed a family trust aged 21 to leave the estate and title to his son. They went on to have five wonderful daughters (with no sign of a male heir). With the help of Mary Robinson QC (and later, first female president of Ireland) and Michael Egan, solicitor from Castlebar, Jeremy succeeded in bringing the Altamont Act through the senate in 1992 allowing him to leave the estate to his daughters and break the trust. He did not enact the same for the title of Marquess of Sligo and today, the 12th Marquess of Sligo, Sebastian Browne, resides in Sydney, Australia.

In 2003, Jeremy commissioned Michael Cooper, his brother-in-law, to create a sculpture of Grace O’Malley – the original of alabaster stone is situated in the House and a bronze casting is in the garden. This was the beginning of reinstating her back where she belongs – in her home, with her family, and where the re-branding of the estate in 2009 as Westport House and Pirates Adventure Park emanated from.

It was around this time that Sheelyn and Karen Browne – the two eldest of Jeremy’s five daughters – took the reins and added an Adventure Activity Centre, a seasonal Events Programme as well as holding the first large music festivals on the estate while Clare and Alannah ran Gracy’s Bar. Fifth sister, Lucinda, was always happy to lend a hand when home from the U.K. In 2017, the Browne family sold the house and estate to the local Hughes family who own neighbouring Hotel Westport and workwear provider, Portwest. A new chapter in the history of Westport House & Estate has begun. The Hughes family immediately started working on the grounds and gardens of the estate. The adventure park has been upgraded with a variety of new attractions and rides and there are plans to further invest in adventure. In 2021, urgent and necessary restorative works to Westport House will begin. And our new CEO’s main focus – along with the Hughes family – has been to produce a master plan for the entire estate that will ensure the sustainability and viability of the house and estate into the future.

Places to stay, County Mayo:

1. Ashford Castle, Mayo/Galway – hotel €€€

Ashford Castle, photograph Courtesy Aervisions 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).

https://ashfordcastle.com/

The website tells us: “Unrivalled service, warm Irish hospitality and five-star luxury await at Ashford Castle, part of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection. Situated in a spectacular 350-acre estate, discover sumptuous rooms and suites, splendid interiors brimming with antique furniture, fine fabrics and unique features at every turn.

It was built originally by the Norman De Burgo family around 1228.

Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).

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

p. 12. “(Browne, Oranmore and Browne, B/PB; Guinness, Bt/PB) A vast and imposing Victorian-Baronial castle of rather harsh rough-hewn grey stone in a superb postion and the head of Lough Corrib…built onto an earlier house consisting of a 2 storey 5 bay Georgian shooting-box enlarged and remodelled in French chateau style. The shooting-box and estate originally belonged to the Oranmore and Browne family; they were sold by the Encumbered Estates Court in 1855 and bought by Benjamin Lee Guinness, afterwards 1st Bt., head of Guinness’s brewery, who transformed the shooting-box into the French chateau. From the 1870s onwards, his son, Arthur, 1st and Last Lord Ardilaun, added the castle, which was designed by James Franklin Fuller and George Ashlin. He also built the tremendous castellated 6 arch bridge across the river, with outworks and an embattled gateway surmounted by a gigantic A and a Baron’s coronet, which is the main approach; from the far side of this bridge the castle looks most impressive. Its interior, however, is a disappointment, like the interiors of so many late-Victorian houses. The rooms are not particularly large, and some of them are rather low; everything is light oak, with timbered ceilings and panelling. The main hall was formed out of 2 or more rooms in the earlier house, and has a somewhat makeshift air; it is surrounded by an oak gallery with thin uprights and a staircase rises straight from one side of it. Another room has an immense carved oak mantel with caryatids and the Guinness motto. Magnificent gardens and grounds; large fountain, vista up the hillside with steps; castellated terrace by the lake. Sold ca 1930, now a hotel.” (see [3])

Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
George V Dining Room, Ashford Castle, Co Mayo, Courtesy Jack Hardy 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Billiards Room, Ashford Castle, Courtesy Jack Hardy 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Afternoon tea, Ashford Castle, Co Mayo Courtesy Kelvin Gillmor 2014. (see [5])
Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Ashford Castle, photograph by unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).

2. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – €€ and see above 

3. Breaffy House Resort, Castlebar, Co Mayo (formerly Breaghwy)

https://www.breaffyhouseresort.com/

The website tells us: “Breaffy House Resort is located in the heart of County Mayo and is the perfect destination if you are looking for a well-deserved and relaxing break! Set on 101 acres, the resort consists of 4* Breaffy House Hotel and Self-Catering Apartments, only a 2 minute stroll between House Hotel & Apartments.”

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 47. “(Browne/IFR) A large Victorian Baronial mansion of rough-hewn grey stone with red sandstone around the windows; unusually long for its height. Entrance front with single-storey battlemented porch. Garden front with stepped gables, polygonal corner turret with battlements and pointed roof, and another battlemented turret set at an obtuse angle to the façade. Sold ca 1960. Now an hotel.” (see [5])

Archiseek describes it: “Dominick Andrew Browne built the present Breaffy House in 1890. The house is a Scottish baronial mansion and is victorian in style and was designed by English architect William M. Fawcett from Cambridge. The house has boldly recessed facades, a polygonal corner turret with battlements and pointed roof, a second turret set at an obtuse angle to the facade and stepped gables. The entrance front has a single story battlement porch. The building has tall slender chimneys and there are dormer windows on the roof.” (see [3])

4. Enniscoe House, Castlehill, Ballina, Co Mayo – section 482

5. Knockranny House Hotel and Spa, County Mayo

https://www.knockrannyhousehotel.ie/

The website tells us: “Owned and run by Adrian & Geraldine Noonan, Knockranny House Hotel & Spa is one of Ireland’s finest 4 star hotels in Westport. 

Set in secluded grounds on a hillside, this luxury hotel stands proudly overlooking the picturesque town of Westport and enjoys breathtaking views of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay’s islands to the west and the Nephin Mountains to the north, one of the best Westport hotels locations.  

The welcoming atmosphere at Knockranny House Hotel Westport begins with the open log fires in the reception hall, and is carried throughout the property with its antique furniture, excellent spa facilities, superb cuisine and friendly service, creating a genuine sense of relaxed warmth and hospitality. Previously voted as AA Irish hotel of the year. 

6.  Mount Falcon, Ballina, County Mayo – hotel €€

https://www.mountfalcon.com/

Mount Falcon Estate, Co Mayo_by Mount Falcon 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [5])

The website tells us:

Mount Falcon Estate is a luxury 32 bedroom 4-star deluxe hotel with 45 luxury lodges located on the west bank of the River Moy and is situated perfectly for exploring the 2500km of rugged Irish coastline called The Wild Atlantic Way. Mount Falcon hotel offers 100 acres of magical woodlands, between Foxford and Ballina, in North County Mayo, the most beautiful part of the West of Ireland.  Situated in the heart of the Moy Valley (which encompasses Mayo North and Co. Sligo) this Victorian Gothic manor house (est. 1876) exudes understated elegance from a bygone era. Originally constructed as a wedding gift, Mount Falcon Estate has subsequently become known as the most romantic house in Ireland. 

Mount Falcon’s owners, the Maloney Family fell in love with the Estate and transformed it into one of the top Hotels in Ballina and Mayo. The owners have invested heavily in an ongoing restoration programme, and have ensured that the integrity and charm of the Estate have been completely retained. AA Hotel of the Year 2009/2010 & IGTOA Boutique Hotel of the Year 2011. Best Manor House Hotel in Ireland 2015, Hotel of the year 2017 Manor House Hotel, Traditional Luxury Hotel 2018 Luxury Travel Diary, Irelands Favourite Place to Stay Connaught 2018 Gold Medal Awards People Choice Winner, Top 100 Best Wedding Venues 2018 One Fab Day.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 213. “(Knox/IFR) A Victorian Gothic house of rough-hewn stone, built 1876 for U.A. Knox [Utred Augustus Knox JP DL (1825-1913)], probably to the design of James Franklin Fuller. Of two storeys with a three storey bock to which a tower was added. Plate glass windows. There is a similarity between Mount Falcon and Errew Grange. Mount Falcon is now a hotel.

The National Inventory adds:

A country house erected for Utred Augustus Knox JP DL (1825-1913) to a design signed by James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924) of Great Brunswick Street [Pearse Street], Dublin, representing an important component of the later nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Mayo with the architectural value of the composition, one evoking strong comparisons with the Fuller-designed Errew House (1872-7), Errew, confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on scenic vistas overlooking gently rolling grounds; the compact, albeit multi-faceted plan form; the robust rock faced surface finish offset by sheer limestone dressings not only demonstrating good quality workmanship, but also compounding a ponderous two-tone palette; the slight diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a feint graduated visual effect with the principal “apartments” defined by polygonal bay windows; and the spire-topped tower embellishing a multi-gabled roofline. Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where encaustic tile work; contemporary joinery; restrained chimneypieces carrying the monogram of the proprietor (“UAK”); and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the considerable artistic potential of a country house having subsequent connections with the Aldridge family including Major John Beauclerk Aldridge RA (1900-76), previously of Glenmore: meanwhile, a discreet benchmark remains of additional interest for the connections with cartography and the preparation of maps by the Ordnance Survey (established 1824).” [7]

7. Newport House, Newport, Co. Mayo, Ireland

http://www.newporthouse.ie

Newport provides guests with a unique opportunity to experience the elegance and hospitality of an historic Irish Country House Hotel, with luxury guest accommodation ideal for an overnight stay or longer sejourn.

Newport overlooks the tidal river and quay, it rests between Achill Island and the mountains of Mayo close to the wild and unspoilt splendours of Erris and Connemara.

The superb menu offered at Newport House reflects the hospitable character of the house, using fresh produce from the fishery, garden and farm, including home-smoked salmon. The cellar, with wines of character and value, is internationally renowned and compliments the cuisine.

All the reception rooms are spacious and appropriately furnished. The bedrooms have individuality as well as comfort. Twelve are in the main house. The others are in two smaller houses near the courtyard, one of which was previously the holiday residence of the late Sean Lemass, Prime Minister of Ireland. Some bedrooms are well suited for families, as they are in self-contained sections.”

The National Inventory tells us it is : “A country house erected by Hugh O’Donel (d. 1762) representing an important component of the mid eighteenth-century domestic built heritage of Newport with the architectural value of the composition, one subsequently annotated as “Seamount [of the] Honourable J. Browne” by Taylor and Skinner (1778 pl. 79), confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking an inlet of Newport Bay; the neo-Palladian-esque plan form centred on a polygonal breakfront showing a provincial Gibbsian doorcase ‘omitting architrave [sic] and frieze’ (Craig 1976, 40); the diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual impression; and the high pitched roofline. Having been reasonably well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; Classical-style chimneypieces; and sleek plasterwork refinements, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition: however, the introduction of replacement fittings to most of the openings has not had a beneficial impact on the character or integrity of the country house. Furthermore, a lengthy outbuilding (extant 1838); a walled garden (extant 1838); and a nearby gate lodge (extant 1897), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a self-contained estate having historic connections with the O’Donel family including Sir Neal O’Donel (d. 1811); Lieutenant Connell O’Donel (1775-1840; Lewis 1837 I, 233); Sir George Clendenning O’Donel (1832-89), fifth Baronet (Bence-Jones 1978, 204); and Edwin Thomas O’Donel JP DL (né Thomas) (1853-1932; NA 1911); and Sir Anthony Beaver KCVO CBE (1895-1977), one-time Private Secretary to Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1967). 

8. Owenmore, Garranard, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

contact: Jerry O’ Mara
Tel: 087-2446744 

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: March-Oct and Dec

Originally called Millbrook, Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 229. “(Orme/LGI1912; McCausland/IFR) An early C19 house of two storeys over high basement. Entrance front of 5 bays; single-storey Doric portico with a die up broad flight of steps. Entablatures on console brackets over windows of lower storey. Side elevation of one bay with a curved bow; at the other side is a two storey bowed wing of the same height and style as the main block, set back from it and joined to it by a canted bay. Eaved roof on cornice. Two drawing rooms en suite with decoration of ca 1830; ceilings with plasterwork in compartments; pediment over double-doors. Dining room ceiling  with delicate plasterwork in centre surrounded by rectangular frame with similar decoration.” [3]

www.owenbeg.ie – link doesn’t work.

Timothy William Ferres tells us it was built ca 1847, and when the estate was decimated by the Land Acts, about 1926, it was sold to the Knox family. It was sold again in 1950 to Major Marcus McCausland.” [4]

It seems to have been built for William Orme (1810-76), JP. The National Inventory adds:

the compact plan form centred on a pillared portico demonstrating good quality workmanship in a blue-grey limestone; and the very slight diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual impression with those openings showing sleek “stucco” dressings. Having been well maintained, the form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior, including crown or cylinder glazing panels in hornless sash frames: meanwhile, contemporary joinery; and ‘splendid ceilings [revealing] the superb skill of the Italian masters introduced for this work’ (Irish Tourist Association Report 1942), all highlight the artistic potential of the composition.”

9. Turin Castle, Turin, Kilmaine, Co. Mayo, Irelandwhole castle rental, €€ for two, € for 10-12

http://turincastle.com

The website tells us:

Turin Castle in County Mayo is a luxury self catering venue near Ballinrobe in County Mayo Ireland. It is a unique medieval castle set against the backdrop of picturesque countryside. This exclusive and intimate venue is the perfect location for a  romantic, castle wedding or family gathering.  Unfortuntately It is not suitable for stag or hen parties. It is the only privately owned castle in Ireland with en-suite facilities. The castle sleeps a maximum of 12 people and is hired on a self catering basis but catering can be arranged if required. Please ask for details.

If you are looking for a truly exceptional medieval experience, Turin Castle in County Mayo will not disappoint. The castle is ideal for a family holiday with a difference or a special intimate wedding affording total privacy. 

Turin Castle is situated in the ancient barony of Kilmaine, the castle is surrounded by 16 acres of rich walled pasture land and is an ideal choice for couples searching for an idyllic but small wedding venue. The nearest town is Ballinrobe which is 8 km away offering a good selection of pubs and eateries. The picturesque village of Cong famous for the John Ford film ” The Quiet Man” and Ashford castle are also close by. The castle is conveniently located close to excellent golf courses.

The website includes a good description of its history:

1238 was a most auspicious year  in the long and turbulent  history of County Mayo. For we are told in the annals of the four Masters that the foreigners erected Castles In Conmacnaine Cuile(Kilmaine) and Muinter Murchadha.(Robeen).

The Foreigners were Anglo-Normans led by Richard de Burgo, son of William de Burgo. One of the most powerful Lords in England. In 1228 Richard had received the Overlordship  of the whole of Connacht from the English King, Henry II, making him the “ red Earl “ the most powerful man in Ireland.

The de Burgo dynasty survived and flourished up until Elizabethan times when the two hereditary titles of upper and lower Mac William (From William de Burgo, known as the conqueror) were finally abolished. During this time the de Burgos had become completely integrated into Gaelic society adopting Gaelic customs, laws and language becoming “ Hiberniores  Hibernis  ipis”.  More Irish than the Irish themselves .However this was the beginning of the end of the old Gaelic order in Ireland and opened the way for the final conquest and plantation of Ireland.

The origins and history of Turin Castle Ireland and neighbouring castles are sadly mostly lost in the mists of time. According to the chronicler O’Donovan “ In the parish of Kilmaine there are several square Castles said to have been built by the Burkes ( de Burgos) There is one in Kilmaine, one in Cregduff, one in Elistron and one in Killernan”. Turin would appear to derive from the old Irish meaning ‘small bleaching field’. Which may suggest that Turin Castle Ireland was involved in the very lucrative trade of sheep farming.  There was a growing market for hides, meat and wool in continental Europe and by the mid 16th Century Kilmaine, politically and economically was the most important barony in the county. In 1574 there were 41 castles in an area of just 10 miles long by eight broad, by far the highest concentration of castles in Connacht, an indication that agriculture was on an industrial scale. The producers were the owners or tenants of  the  estates  who  would have enjoyed the protection of the upper and lower  Mac William and in turn the Mac Williams would profit from the duty imposed which would probably directly affect the commodity market price in Galway. Keeping the lines of communication open was essential hence the need for a line of Castles protecting the trade route from Lough Corrib to Galway. Apart from this liberal studding of castles in Kilmaine another possible indication of the profitability and importance of this trade was the presence of a large mercenary army loyal to the Mac Williams.

In the division of Connacht 1570-1574 one Walter Mac Remon is listed as being resident of Turin Castle Ireland.The Mac Remons was a cadet branch of the clann Seonin who were one of the chief de Burgo clans of Ireland.

Following the death of the Mac William Sir Richard Bourke, in September of 1586. The de Burgo clans and the Mac Donnells along with the O’Malleys  and the Joys(Joyces) rose up against the English oppressors in an attempt to reinstate the Mac Williamship and other lordships which the English had abolished. One of the signatories to a document presented to the council of Connaught was Walter Mac Jonyn ( Seonin) of Towrin (Turin). This document attested that the principle reason for the rebellion was the abolition of the Mac Williamship and other titles.

In 1589 the de Burgo clans along with the O’ Flaherties,Joys  and  Clandonnel rose up against the English forces and plundered the baronies of Clare,Kilmaine and Clanmorris.

Sir Murrough O’Flaherty [(1540-1626)I believe he was a son of Grace O’Malley and Donal O’Flaherty] stayed with a few men at Keltyprichnane in Kilmaine and sent the rest under his son Teige to plunder the baronies of Clare and Dunmore where they burned 16 towns and gathered 3000 head of cattle and horses. The” rebel forces” gathered at the Carre in Kilmainham and engaged the English. Edward Bermingham of MilltownCastle and former Sherrif of Mayo joined the battle after being attacked by Teig O’ Flaherty. He described the battle in a letter written from Athlone on the 31st March:-

“The soldiers not neglecting their time went against them; there was a volley of shot on both sides.They came to the push of the pike with great courage, when the said Teig O’ Flaherty was slain with eight of his company. They were then disordered and I with six horsemen of mine and eight footmen, being beside our battle as a wing ready to charge upon the breach, did charge,

When I struck their Guidion (standard bearer) under his morion (helmet) with my staff and ran him through in the face of battle. I followed another and had him down, and so did my horseman Kill 5 more at that charge. We had not six score of ground to deal with them when they recovered a main bog. Three of my horsemen and eight footmen did kill of them in the bog 16.

Her majesties attorney in that province (Mr Comerford)understanding of their disordering, issued forth when he met of them and did slay 16.Divers others in the fight did kill of them, so that I account there is slain of them 80 and upwards. The attorney and I brought the head of Teige O’Flaherty to Sir Richard yester night that was wonderful glad, for this Teige was the stoutest man in the province and could do most.”

According to a letter written by Comerford at Turin Castle Ireland dated 29th March Comerford rode two miles to the battle field and sallied forth on the fugitives with six shot, seven footmen and four horsemen killing 24.

Following the subjugation and pacification of the Gaelic lords and subsequent plantation of Mayo. Many of the Castles were abandoned by their new English owners preferring the comfort of Manor houses. In some cases, incorporating the existing building or cannibalising materials from it. From records we know that Turin Castle Ireland had been abandoned for at least two hundred and fifty years up until its restoration in 1997.

10. Westbrook Country House, Castlebar, County Mayo

https://www.westbrookhousemayo.com

The website tells us:

A New Boutique Georgian Country House, Westbrook epitomises elegance & splendour. Located between the tourist meccas’ Westport & Castlebar, Westbrook Country House is the ideal base from which to explore the stunning West of Ireland Wild Atlantic Way, cycle the Greenway, sail on Clew Bay, climb Croagh Patrick, visit Knock Shrine or the National Museum of Country Life, or catch a show in the Castlebar Theatre Royal.

As restful or as adventurous as you prefer your break to be, Westbrook Country House is the perfect place to base yourself; with world-class home cooked breakfasts, and stylish, spacious, immaculate five star hotel-grade guest rooms & suites complimented by a relaxed, friendly family atmosphere.

Curl up on a leather armchair in front of a roaring fire with a first edition or your favourite novel in our library, climb in under crisp white linen sheets on one of our sumptuous beds or sink into a bubbling Jacuzzi bath with your favourite music & a lovely glass of Sauvingon Blanc, our vibe is opulent and fabulous but down to earth, and homely. We pride ourselves on guest consideration that is second to none.

Arrive as a Guest, leave as a friend. We look forward to welcoming you to Westbrook.”

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31310114/brookhill-brookhill-co-mayo

[2] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie:8080/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=638

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

[4] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2014/07/owenmore-house.html

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

[6] https://archiseek.com/2009/breaffy-house-co-mayo-ireland/

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31303909/mount-falcon-drumrevagh-co-mayo

Places to visit and stay in County Galway, Connaught

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

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

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

The five counties of Connacht are Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

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

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

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

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

Galway

1. Ardamullivan Castle, Galway national monument, to be open to public in future – check status 

2. Athenry Castle, County Galway  – open to public 

3. Aughnanure Castle, County Galway (OPW)

4. Castle Ellen House, Athenry, Co. Galway – section 482

5. Claregalway Castle, Claregalway, Co. Galway – section 482

6. Coole Park, County Galway – house gone but stables visitor site open

7. Gleane Aoibheann, Clifden, Galway  – gardens

8. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

9. The Grammer School, College Road, Galway – section 482

10. Oranmore Castle, Oranmore, Co. Galway – section 482

11. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

12. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – gardens open 

13. Signal Tower & Lighthouse, Eochaill, Inis Mór, Aran Islands, Co. Galway – section 482

14. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

15. Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden, Craughwell, Co. Galway – section 482, garden only

Places to stay, County Galway

1. Abbeyglen Castle, Galway €€

2. Ardilaun House Hotel (formerly Glenarde), Co Galway – hotel €

3. Ashford Castle, Cong, Galway  – hotel €€€ 

4. Ballindooly Castle, Co Galway – accommodation 

5. Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway – hotel €€€

6. Cashel House, Cashel, Connemara, Co Galway – hotel €€

7. Castle Hacket west wing, County Galway

8. Claregalway Castle, Claregalway, Co. Galway – section 482 €€

9. Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, Co Galway – Airbnb 

10. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway

11. Currarevagh, Oughterard, Co Galway – country house hotel €€

12. Delphi Lodge, Leenane, Co Galway €€€

13. Emlaghmore Cottage, Connemara, County Galway

14. Glenlo Abbey, near Galway, Co Galway – accommodation 

15. Kilcolgan Castle, Clarinbridge, Co Galway  

16. Lisdonagh House, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway – section 482, see above

17. Lough Cutra Castle, County Galway, holiday cottages

18. Lough Ina Lodge Hotel, County Galway

19. Oranmore Lodge Hotel (previously Thorn Park), Oranmore, Co Galway

20. The Quay House, Clifden, Co Galway 

21. Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway – hotel

22. Rosleague Manor, Galway – accommodation  

23. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway

24. Ross Lake House Hotel, Oughterard, County Galway 

25. Screebe House, Camus Bay, County Galway €€€

Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:

1. Carraigin Castle, County Galway – sleeps 10

2. Cloghan Castle, near Loughrea, County Galwaywhole castle accommodation and weddings, €€€ for two.

Galway

1. Ardamullivan Castle, Galway – national monument, to be open to public in future – check status 

Ardamullivan Castle County Galway photograph courtesy of SA 2.0 Mike Searle cc, Sept 2009, file 1543253

The castle is a is a restored six storey tower house. Part of the original defensive wall remains. Ardamullivan Castle was built in the 16th century by the O’Shaughnessy family. Although there is no history of the exact date of when the castle was built, it is believed it was built in the 16th century as it was first mentioned in 1567 due to the death of Sir Roger O’Shaughnessey who held the castle at the time.  

Sir Roger was succeeded by his brother Dermot, ‘the Swarthy’, known as ‘the Queen’s O’Shaughnessy’ due to his support shown to the Crown. Dermot became very unpopular among the public and even among his own family after he betrayed Dr Creagh, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, who had sought refuge in the woods on O’Shaughnessy territory.  

Tensions came to a boil in 1579, when John, the nephew of Dermot, fought with Dermot outside the south gate of the castle in dispute over possession of the castle. Both men were killed in the fight. After this period the castle fell into ruin until the last century where it was restored to its former glory.” [1]

2. Athenry Castle, County Galway  – open to public 

Athenry Castle, County Galway, photograph courtesy of OPW website.

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/14/office-of-public-works-properties-connacht/

3. Aughnanure Castle, County Galway (OPW)

Aughnanure Castle County Galway, photograph courtesy of OPW website

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/14/office-of-public-works-properties-connacht/

4. Castle Ellen House, Athenry, Co. Galway, Eircode: H65 AX27 – section 482

contact: Míceál P. O’Cionnaith and Diarmuid
Tel: 087-2747692, 087-8137058
http://www.castleellen.ie/
Open: June 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, July 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, Aug 7-11, 13- 25, 28-31, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-4pm
Fee: Free

Castle Ellen, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [2]

Mark Bence-Jones tells us about Castle Ellen in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) that it is a two storey five bay early to mid-C19 house with a balustraded Ionic porch and entablatures over the ground floor windows. [3]

The National Inventory adds that it is over a raised basement, built c.1840 [the website says 1810. It was probably built for Walter Peter Lambert (1757-1836)], having flat-roofed tetrasytle in antis porch to front elevation, and half-hexagonal bay to ground floor and basement of middle bay of south elevation, latter with cut limestone cornice and cast-iron parapet. (see [2]) It has “cut-stone parapets with frieze and cornice, and smooth ruled-and-lined render to ground and first floors with render quoins, and chanelled render with vermiculated quoins to basement, with cut-stone plinth course and tooled stone string course between ground floor and basement. Rubble stone walls to rear having remnants of early render, and rubble stone and brick to bow. Square-headed window openings having moulded rendered surrounds to ground and first floors, with cornices to ground, all with stone sills and one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows. Round-headed niches to inner faces of bow. Six-over-six pane timber sliding sash windows to basement. Round-headed stair window opening to rear elevation having stone sill and fixed timber window. Round-headed openings to short sides of entrance porch having stone sills and fixed timber windows. Carved limestone Ionic columns to front of porch, flanked by square-plan Doric columns and with Doric pilasters behind and to side walls of porch, and having classical entablature, and balustrading. Square-headed door opening with carved limestone surround having timber panelled door. Stone steps leading to front entrance with retaining cut limestone walls. Property set within its own grounds and yard to rear enclosed by rubble stone garden wall. Set within its own grounds containing mediaeval ruin.

The Ionic and Doric portico and classical frieze to the parapets are evidence both of highly skilled craftsmanship in stone carving… The house was built to replace a castle on the site, and was home to the Lambert family for many generations, including Isabella Lambert, the mother of Edward Carson, the latter known as the architect of the Northern Ireland state.” (see [2])

The website tells us:

Castle Ellen was built in 1810, and was home to the Lambert family for many generations. Branches of this family lived throughout the area, and a book, “The Lamberts of Athenry” by Finbarr O’Regan was produced in conjunction with Carnaun National School. More information about this project can be found at the Carnaun School website. [4]

“The most famous member of the Lambert family was undoubtedly Edward Carson [1854-1935]. Known as the architect of Northern Ireland, his mother was Isabella Lambert [1823-1899], and young Edward spent much of his holidays in Castle, playing hurley with the local Cussaun team.

Carson went on to become Solicitor General for Ireland, then England, was knighted as Baron Carson of Duncairn, and become the leader of the Ulster Unionist party.

Before being purchased by Michael Keaney in 1974, the house was unoccupied for a number of years. During this period, it had a brief career as a school house while Carnaun National School was being refurbished in 1961. Many of the then pupils have cherished memories of attending school in Castle Ellen!

Michael is proud of Castle Ellen’s lineage, and during the summer months he runs a small museum in the house. He is conscious of the link between Castle Ellen and northern unionism, and he wrote to Sir Paddy Mayhew about this, when he was the Northern Secretary, outlining the role that Castle Ellen could play in the peace process. Sir Paddy replied, as Gaeilge,acknowledging the importance of the house.

Castle Ellen’s story continues onwards into the future, as the Keaney family, and the many visitors, create their own history with each passing year. Who knows what part Castle Ellen will have to play in the 21st Century.


Architectural Features of Castle Ellen:

  • Swept Limestone Entrance
  • Basement Wine Cellar with Brick-Arched Compartments
  • Decorative Plaster Work
  • Limestone Floor in the Basement Kitchen
  • Wide Variety of Open Fireplaces.
  • Tower Castle with Dry Moat dating to 1679
  • Livestock Tunnel under Main Avenue

Conservation is very important to Michael Keaney, and coal and oil are never used in Castle Ellen. The Irish language is another subject which is close to his heart, and he hopes that Castle Ellen can be a haven for keeping the language alive.

David Hicks tells us that the connection with Edward Carson was through his mother Isabella who met the architect Edward Henry Carson when he came to Castle Ellen to design a stable block for her father. Isabella was the daughter of Peter Fitzwalter Lambert of Castle Ellen and Eleanor Seymour of Ballymore Castle. Peter Fitzwalter died in 1844 and Castle Ellen was inherited by Isabella’s brother Walter. [5]

Hicks continues: “There is an entry in the Dictionary of Irish Architects which indicates that the architect Edward Henry Carson received a commission in 1863 to carry out extensive alterations and additions to Castle Ellen for his brother-in-law Walter Peter Lambert. Edward Henry Carson was quite accomplished in his field having designed the Colonial Building in the center of Galway city (opposite Brown Thomas today) and was also Vice-President of the Royal Institute of Irish Architects.

Despite the time that he spent in Castle Ellen with the Catholic community in his early life, his battle cry in later years was that ‘ Home Rule is Rome Rule’ as Carson wished to retain Ireland’s union with Britain. Today outside the Stormont Parliament Building near Belfast in Northern Ireland, stands a statue of Edward Carson which indicates the long shadow he still casts over Irish politics.  In June 1914, it was reported that despite his efforts in Northern Ireland, it appears that Edward Carson was still fondly thought of in Athenry, as a local Catholic farmer was heard to declare ‘Ned Carson is a decent man. I take no notice of his ranging and ranting among the Orangemen of Ulster. Sure, isn’t every successful lawyer a bit of a play actor!’. Edward Carson obviously had great affection for the maternal side of his family as when his first son was born in 1880, he was named William Henry Lambert Carson, and thus ensuring the Lambert name would be carried in to the next generation of his family.” [5]

“…Oscar Wilde and Edward Carson’s paths often appeared to have crossed many times throughout their lives. As children in Dublin their homes were located near each other, when in Galway Carson and Wilde were said to have met at Castle Ellen and then they were contemporaries in Trinity College, Dublin. However it was their most infamous encounter that has gone down in history.  In 1895, Oscar Wilde took a libel case against the Marquis of Queensbury, the Marquis was appalled at the nature of Wilde’s relationship with his son and had used a public forum to express his opinion. Wilde sued the Marquis who had chosen to be represented by Edward Carson in the trial of the century, whose every detail was picked over in the press. Caron’s skillful cross examination of Wilde, extracted all the lurid detail necessary to ensure Wilde’s case against the Marquis collapsed. Wilde was subsequently arrested and tried for gross indecency which resulted in his imprisonment and ruin. For two men who started life in similar circumstances, upon their death, one was celebrated with a state funeral and the other passed away in penury.  Wilde was released from jail in 1897 and immediately left for France where he died 3 years later, Carson’scareer flourished, he became a key figure in the politics of Northern Ireland, dying in 1935 and received a state funeral.” [5]

The Lamberts sold Castle Ellen after 1921, probably due to agrarian unrest. Hicks tells us that a friend of the family, Frank Shawe-Taylor of Castle Taylor in Ardrahan was shot in March 1920 while travelling to the fair in Galway which probably heightened the fears of the family.

Hicks writes: “In November 1921, an advertisement appeared in the national press offering Castle Ellen and 600 acres for sale by auction on the 1st December 1921 in a Dublin auction room. The house is described as having an entrance hall with double staircase, two drawing rooms with folding doors and marble chimney pieces, morning room and dining room. Also on the entry level was a butler’s pantry, gun room and store room. On the first floor were six family bedrooms, two dressing rooms, a bathroom, two lavatories and linen press.  Servant’s quarters in the basement extended to a tiled kitchen, scullery, pantries, dairy and maid’s rooms. The enclosed yard consisted of out offices, garage, chauffeurs living quarters, stables, two stalls and nine loose boxes together with a large coach house, lofts, kennels, cart sheds, haggard, large hay shed and cattle sheds. Also included was the large walled garden, the ruins of a castle and tennis courts.

Castle Ellen changed hands several times before it was purchased by the current owner. Hicks tells us:

By 1974, Castle Ellen and 11 acres are offered for sale by public auction by the Irish Land Commission however the house is now described as derelict. Michael Keaney spotted this advertisement and fortunately purchased the house for sum of £6,800. The house he now owned was badly vandalised over the previous years that it had remained empty. Windows had been broken and lead had been removed from the roof which allowed water to destroy the interior, rot floors and destroy ceilings. Any fixtures such as fireplaces had been stolen and the only way to enter the house was through a window. Over a number of years, before Michael made the house his full time residence, he secured the external fabric which meant reinstating the roof and windows in an effort to make the building water tight. During his restoration, any element of architectural merit was saved and stored until the time came that it could be reinstated. A lot of decorative plasterwork survives in the reception rooms of the house, however the entrance hall and staircase ceiling had collapsed before Michael’s tenure. Large sections of this ceiling survive and give tantalising glimpses of what this area of the house once looked like. Decorative capitals of pillars remain on the half landing of the stairs around which cling elements of the polychromatic plasterwork with its daring red, green and gold colour scheme.” [5]

5. Claregalway Castle, Claregalway, Co. Galway – section 482

contact: Eamonn O’ Donoghue
Tel: 091-799666
www.claregalwaycastle.com
Open: June-Sept, Sunday-Wednesday, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon- 4pm

Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €4

The website tells us:

Claregalway Castle is a fully restored 15th century Anglo-Norman tower house. Situated on the banks of the River Clare, in Claregalway village, on the N17 road, the castle is just under 10 km from Galway City. The castle is open to the public daily from June to September, 12 noon to 4 pm, Thursday – Sunday inclusive.

Claregalway castle was the chief fortress of the powerful Clanricard de Burgo or Burke family from the early 1400s to the mid-1600s. The Clanricard Burkes were descended from William de Burgh, an English knight of Norman ancestry who led the colonial expansion into Connacht in the early 1200s.   His brother Hubert was Justiciar of England.  William became the progenitor of one of the most illustrious families in Ireland.

Exploring Claregalway castle and its environs through a guided tour, visitors can find out about its fascinating, often bloody, six-hundred-year history. Visitors can also discover some of the castle’s secrets, learn what everyday life in a medieval Irish castle was like, and hear about the colourful characters who once lived there, such as the 1st Earl of Clanricard, Ulick Burke, in Irish Uileag na gCeann (‘Ulick of the heads/the beheader’), Ladies Eustacia Fitzgerald and Honora de Burgo, the notorious Cromwellian commander Sir Charles Coote, the great Hollywood actor Orson Welles and many more.

The visit Galway website tells us: “Claregalway Castle was believed to have been built in the 1440’s as a stronghold to the De Burgo (Burke) family. The castle was strategically placed on a low crossing point of the Clare River, allowing the De Burgo family to control the water and land trade routes. 

In the past, the castle would have featured a high bawn/defensive wall, an imposing gate-house and a moat. The Battle of Knockdoe in 1504, was one of the largest pitched battles in Medieval Irish history, involving an estimated 10,000 combatants. On the eve of the battle, Ulick Finn Burke stayed at the Castle (which was 5km’s from the battle ground), drinking and playing cards with his troops. The Burke family lost the battle and the castle was later captured by the opponents, the Fitzgerald family. 

In the 1600’s, Ulick Burke, 5th Earl of Clanricarde [1st Marquess Clanricarde], held the castle however it was captured by Oliver Cromwell in 1651 who made the castle his headquarters. English military garrison occupied the castle in the early 1700’s and by the end of the 1700’s, the castle was described as going into decline and disrepair. During the War of Independence in 1919-21, the British once again used the castle as a garrison and a prison for I.R.A soldiers. In the later 1900’s, the famous actor Orson Welles is believed to have stayed at the castle as a 16 year old boy. 

Today, the castle has been fully restored to its former glory.” [6]

6. Coole Park, County Galway – house gone but stables visitor site open

https://www.coolepark.ie/

The website tells us:

Coole Park, in the early 20th century, was the centre of the Irish Literary Revival. William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge and Sean O’ Casey all came to experience its magic. They and many others carved their initials on the Autograph Tree, an old Copper beech still standing in the walled garden today.

At that time it was home to Lady Gregory, dramatist and folklorist. She is perhaps best known as a co-founder of the Abbey Theatre with Edward Martyn of nearby Tullira Castle and Nobel prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats. The seven woods celebrated by W.B. Yeats are part of the many kilometres of nature trails taking in woods, river, turlough, bare limestone and Coole lake.

At Coole, we invite you to investigate for yourself the magic and serenity of this unique landscape. Although the house no longer stands, you can still appreciate the environment that drew so many here. You will experience the natural world that Yeats captured in his poetry. Through this website, you can learn about this special place and its wildlife, as well as Gregory family history and literary connections.

7. Gleane Aoibheann, Clifden, Galway  – gardens

https://www.gardensofireland.org/directory/23/gleann+aoibheann/

The website tells us there are almost two hectares of seaside gardens dating back to the 1820s. One can also have tours of the house.

8. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

https://www.kylemoreabbey.com/

Kylemore Abbey, Co Galway photograph Courtesy of Finn Richards 2019 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [7]
Kylemore Abbey, photograph by ©Chris Hill Photographic 2011 +44(0) 2890 245038 for Tourism Ireland, 2014. (see [7])

The website tells us: “Nestled in the heart of Connemara, on the Wild Atlantic Way, Kylemore Abbey is a haven of history, beauty and serenity. Home to a Benedictine order of Nuns for the past 100 years, Kylemore Abbey welcomes visitors from all over the world each year to embrace the magic of the magnificent 1,000-acre estate.

Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman, and liberal politician. Inspired by his love for his wife Margaret, and his hopes for his beloved Ireland, Henry created an estate boasting ‘all the innovations of the modern age’. An enlightened landlord and vocal advocate of the Irish people, Henry poured his life’s energy into creating an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara. Today Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine community who have been in residence here since 1920.

Come to Kylemore and enjoy the new visitor experience in the Abbey, From Generation to Generation…..the story of Kylemore Abbey. Experience woodland and lakeshore walks, magnificent buildings and Ireland’s largest Walled Garden. Enjoy wholesome food and delicious home-baking in our Café or Garden Tea House. History talks take place three times a day in the Abbey and tours of the Walled Garden take place throughout the summer. Browse our Craft and Design Shop for unique gifts including Kylemore Abbey Pottery and award-winning chocolates handmade by the Benedictine nuns. Discover the beauty, history, and romance of Ireland’s most intriguing estate in the heart of the Connemara countryside.

Kylemore Abbey, photograph by ©Chris Hill Photographic 2011 +44(0) 2890 245038 for Tourism Ireland, 2014. (see [7])

Although Mitchell Henry was born in Manchester he proudly proclaimed that every drop of blood that ran in his veins was Irish. The son of a wealthy Manchester cotton merchant of Irish origin, Mitchell was a skilled pathologist and eye surgeon. In fact, before he was thirty years of age, he had a successful Harley Street practise and is known to have been one of the youngest ever speakers at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

On his father’s death, Mitchell inherited a hugely successful family business and became one of the wealthiest young men in Britain at the time. Mitchell lost no time in quitting his medical career and turning instead to liberal politics where he felt he could change the world for the better. His newfound wealth allowed him to buy Kylemore Lodge and construct the castle and enabled him to bring change, employment, and economic growth to the Connemara region which was at the time stricken with hunger, disease, and desperation.

On exiting the castle, turn around and look up, you will notice the beautiful carved angel which guards over it. In the hands of that angel is the coat of arms of Margaret Henry’s birth family, the Vaughan’s of County Down. Margaret’s arms over the front door proudly proclaim this as her castle. Look more closely and you will also see charming carvings of birds which were a favourite motif of the Henry’s. The birds represented the Henry’s hope that Kylemore would become the ‘nesting’ place of their family. Indeed, Kylemore did provide an idyllic retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in London where, even for the very wealthy, life was made difficult by the polluted atmosphere caused by the Industrial Age.

At Kylemore Margaret, Mitchell and their large family revelled in the outdoor life of the ‘Connemara Highlands’. Margaret took on the role of the country lady and became much loved by the local tenants. Her passion for travel and eye for beauty were reflected in the sumptuous interiors where Italian and Irish craftsmen worked side by side to create the ‘family nest’. Sadly the idyllic life did not last long for the Henrys.
In 1874 just a few years after the castle was completed, the Henry family departed Kylemore for a luxurious holiday in Egypt. Margaret was struck ill while travelling and despite all efforts, nothing could be done. After two weeks of suffering Margaret had died. She was 45 years old and her youngest daughter, Violet, was just two years of age. Mitchell was heartbroken. Margaret’s body was beautifully embalmed in Cairo before being returned to Kylemore. According to local lore Margaret lay in a glass coffin which was placed beneath the grand staircase in the front hall, where family and tenants alike could come to pay their respects. In an age when all funerals were held in the home, this is not as unusual as it may first seem. In time Margaret’s remains were placed in a modest red brick mausoleum in the woodlands of her beloved Kylemore.

Although Henry remained on at Kylemore life for him there was never the same again. His older children helped him to manage the estate and care for the younger ones, as he attempted to continue his vision for improvements and hold on to his political career. By now he had become a prominent figure in Irish politics and was a founding member of Isaac Butt’s Home Rule movement. In 1878 work began on the neo-Gothic Church which was built as a beautiful and lasting testament to Henry’s love for his wife. Margaret’s remains were, for some reason, never moved to the vaults beneath the church and to this day she lays alongside Mitchell in the little Mausoleum nestled in the Kylemore woodlands.

The Kylemore Estate, like the rest of Connemara, was made up of mountain, lakes and bog. In keeping with his policy of improvement and advancement, Henry began reclaiming bogland almost immediately and encouraged his tenants to do likewise. Forty years under the guiding hand of Mitchell Henry turned thousands of acres of waste land into the productive Kylemore Estate. He developed the Kylemore Estate as a commercial and political experiment and the result brought material and social benefits to the entire region and left a lasting impression on the landscape and in the memory of the local people. Mitchell Henry introduced many improvements for the locals who were recovering from the Great Irish Famine, providing work, shelter and later a school for his workers children. He represented Galway in the House of Commons for 14 years and put great passion and effort into rallying for a more proactive and compassionate approach to the “Irish problem”. Mitchell Henry gave the tenants at Kylemore a landlord hard to be equalled not just in Connemara but throughout Ireland.

Despite the tragedies that befell the family and Mitchell’s hard work, life at Kylemore was certainly very luxurious. The castle itself was beautifully decorated and provided all that was needed for a family used to a lavish London lifestyle. The Walled Gardens provided a wide range of fruit and vegetables that included luxuries unthinkable to ordinary Irish people such as grapes, nectarines, melons and even bananas. Fruit and vegetable grown at Kylemore were often served at the Henry’s London dinner parties. Salmon caught in Kylemore’s lakes could also be wrapped in cabbage leaves and posted to London where they made a novel addition to the table. As well as a well-equipped kitchen, Kylemore also had several pantries, an ice house, fish and meat larder and a beer and wine cellar. The still room was used for a myriad of ingenious way to preserve and store food stuffs throughout the year.

Guests at Kylemore were presented with a bouquet of violets to be worn at dinner. Violets were a craze in Victorian London as they represented loyalty and friendship. Kylemore castle was well equipped for entertaining and throughout the Salmon season from march to September the Henry’s welcomed many guests from Manchester and London. After dinner, entertainment was provided in the beautiful ballroom with its sprung oak floor for dancing with much of the music and plays being performed by the family themselves.

The older Henry sons enjoyed such pastimes as photography and keeping exotic pets. Alexander Henry is responsible for many of the black and white photographs displayed at Kylemore today. His darkroom was located where Mitchell’s Café stands today. Lorenzo Henry kept a building called the ‘Powder House’ where he experimented with explosives. Indeed, Lorenzo had a brilliant mind like his father’s and went on to develop a number of successful inventions including the Henrite Cartridge for pigeon shooting. All of the family, including the girls enjoyed the outdoor life of fishing, shooting and horse riding. But the family were to suffer heartbreak again when Mitchell’s daughter Geraldine, was to be killed in a tragic carriage accident on the estate while out for a jaunt with her baby daughter and nurse. Both Geraldine’s daughter Elizabeth, and the baby’s nurse survived the accident but Geraldine’s death deeply affected the Henry Family and their connection to Kylemore.

The Henry family eventually left Kylemore in 1902 when the estate was sold to the ninth Duke of Manchester. Mitchell Henry lived to be 84 years old but heartbreak had taken its toll and Mitchel died an aloof individual with a meagre sum of £700 in the bank.”

Kylemore Abbey, photograph for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

In 1903, Mitchell Henry sold Kylemore Castle to the Duke of Manchester (William Angus Drogo Montague) and his Duchess of Manchester, Helena Zimmerman. They lived a lavish lifestyle financed by the Duchess’ wealthy father, the American businessman, Eugene Zimmerman. 

On arrival at Kylemore in Connemara the couple set about a major renovation, removing much of the Henry’s Italian inspired interiors and making the castle more suitable for the lavish entertainments that they hoped to stage in their new home, including an anticipated visit from their friend King Edward VII.

The renovation included the removal of the beautiful German stained-glass window in the staircase hall and ripping out large quantities of Italian and Connemara marble. Local people were unhappy with the developments and felt the changes represented a desecration of the memory of the much-loved Margaret Henry and her beloved Kylemore Castle.

Born in March 1877, William Montagu – the Duke was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, and succeeded his father when he was still a minor. The Duke inherited a grand estate which included lavish residences such as Tanderagee Castle in Co. Armagh and Kimbolton Castle in Huntington, England. However, his inheritance, which was administered by trustees was heavily indebted and together with his lavish lifestyle meant that by the age of 23 the Duke was bankrupt. When in 1900 the Duke married the Cincinatti born heiress, Helena Zimmerman, it seemed that his money problems could be forgotten. As Helena’s parents frowned on the relationship the couple eloped to Paris where they were married – a suitably glamorous start to the marriage of this sparkling and often talked about pair. It is thought that Helena’s father hoped the life of a country squire at Kylemore would help the Duke to leave behind his days of gambling and partying but this was not to be. The Duke and Duchess left Kylemore in 1914 following the death of Helena’s father. There were many stories in circulation which claimed that the Duke lost Kylemore in a late-night gambling session in the Castle however it seems more likely that following the death of Eugene Zimmerman there were insufficient funds available to the Duke to maintain the Kylemore estate.

Beginning in Brussels in 1598, following the suppression of religious houses in the British Isles when British Catholics left England and opened religious houses abroad, a number of monasteries originated from one Benedictine house in Brussels, founded by Lady Mary Percy. Houses founded from Lady Mary’s house in Brussels were at Cambray in France (now Stanbrook in England) and at Ghent (now Oulton Abbey) in Staffordshire. Ghent in turn founded several Benedictine Houses, one of which was at Ypres. Kylemore Abbey is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. The community of nuns, who have resided here since 1920, have a long history stretching back almost three hundred and forty years. Founded in Ypres, Belgium, in 1665, the house was formally made over to the Irish nation in 1682.The purpose of the abbey at Ypres was to provide an education and religious community for Irish women during times of persecution here in Ireland.

Down through the centuries, Ypres Abbey attracted the daughters of the Irish nobility, both as students and postulants, and enjoyed the patronage of many influential Irish families living in exile.

At the request of King James II the nuns moved to Dublin in 1688. However, they returned to Ypres following James’s defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The community finally left Ypres after the Abbey was destroyed in the early days of World War One. The community first took refuge in England, and later in Co Wexford before eventually settling in Kylemore in December 1920.

At Kylemore, the nuns reopened their international boarding school and established a day school for local girls. They also ran a farm and guesthouse; the guesthouse was closed after a devastating fire in 1959. In 2010, the Girl’s Boarding School was closed and the nuns have since been developing new education and retreat activities.

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara by George Munday 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

Display board from exhibition in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is compiling a Garden Survey.

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

Kylemore Abbey’s Victorian Walled Garden is an oasis of ordered splendour in the wild Connemara Countryside. Developed along with the Castle in the late 1800s it once boasted 21 heated glasshouses and a workforce of 40 gardeners. One of the last walled gardens built during the Victorian period in Ireland it was so advanced for the time that it was compared in magnificence with Kew Gardens in London.

Comprised of roughly 6 acres, the Garden is divided in two by a beautiful mountain stream. The eastern half includes the formal flower garden, glasshouses the head gardener’s house and the garden bothy. The western part of the garden includes the vegetable garden, herbaceous border, fruit trees, a rockery and herb garden. Leaving the Garden by the West Gate you can visit the plantation of young oak trees, waiting to be replanted around the estate. The Garden also contains a shaded fernery, an important feature of any Victorian Garden. Follow our self-guiding panels through the garden and learn more about its intriguing history and the extensive restoration work that it took to return the garden to its former glory after falling into disrepair.

Today Kylemore is a Heritage Garden displaying only plant varieties from the Victorian era. The bedding is changed twice a year, for Spring and Summer and its colours change throughout the year.  Be sure to visit us and fall in love with a garden that is surely the jewel in Connemara’s Crown.

9. The Grammer School, College Road, Galway – section 482

contact: Terry Fahy
www.yeatscollege.ie
Tel: 091-533500
Open: May 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, June 11-12, July 1-31, Aug 1-21, 9am-5pm Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 12 free

The Grammer School, Yeats College, County Galway, designed by Richard Morrison. Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [11]

The National Inventory tells us about it under the heading of Yeats College. I am not sure why the Revenue section 482 spells is “Grammer” rather than “Grammar” but as it is listed as that every year, I defer to their spelling!

Freestanding H-plan five-bay three-storey school with basement, built 1815, having slightly advanced gable-fronted end bays to front, and having recent addition to rear… Round-headed recesses to end bays and to ground floor of middle bays. Tripartite Diocletian windows to top floor of end bays, their recesses encompassing blind square-headed openings to first floor…Square-headed door opening to front within segmental-headed recess, having replacement timber panelled door within tooled limestone doorcase comprising moulded limestone surround surmounted by panelled blocks and moulded cornice framing paned overlight and flanked by paned timber sidelights with chamfered limestone surround.

This large-scale former school retains its original character. Designed by Richard Morrison in 1807, the school was named after Erasmus Smith who founded the original grammar school, located at the courthouse, in 1699. The building displays a host of classical architectural features and a variety of window types. Its impressive scale on the main approach to the city from the east makes it one of the most significant buildings in the city.” [11]

10. Oranmore Castle, Oranmore, Co. Galway – section 482

Leonie Phinn
http://www.oranmorecastle.com/
Tel: 086-6003160
Open: April 14-30, May 10-20, June 10-20, Aug 10-24, Sept 1-6, 11am-3pm Fee: adult €8, child €3

Oranmore Castle, photograph from flickr creative commons Johanna.

The website welcomes us: “Welcome to Oranmore Castle — an exciting experience, which brings the mystery of the old alive and an eccentricity into the new. Oranmore Castle is a wonderful experience for people of all ages. Whether you come just to take a guided tour or whether you would like to create your own special event in the castle this is certainly an experience not to be missed! This enchanting castle sparks the imagination and is perfect for artistic retreats and alternative events, wedding ceremonies, concerts and workshops.

Just imagine getting married in the romantic and atmospheric setting of this charismatic space, certainly a day to be remembered! Run by dynamic husband and wife team Leonie (artist) and Alec Finn (noted musician of De Dannan) with a passion for the arts, the castle provides a unique, creative, welcoming and alternative space for people to reconnect with their artistic selves. Overlooking the magnificent Galway Bay, Oranmore Castle is a natural delight and will leave you feeling nourished, refreshed and inspired. Come and join in the fun and mystery or create your own history at Oranmore Castle, a place steeped in magic, tradition and eccentricity.

Oranmore Castle was built sometime round the fifteenth century possibly on the site of an older castle.

It was a stronghold of the Clanricardes who were a prominent Norman family of Galway. In 1641 Galway was under the overlordship of the Marquess and fifth Earl Clanricarde. In March 1642 the town revolted and joined the Confederates with the Fort (St Augustin’s) still holding out.

Clanricarde placed a strong garrison in Oranmore castle, from which he provisioned the Fort of Galway from the sea until 1643 when Captain Willoughby Governor of Galway surrendered both fort and castle without the Marquess’s consent. In 1651 the castle surrendered to the Parliamentary forces. All the Marquess’s property was of course forfeited but his successor, the 6th Earl [Richard Burke (c. 1610-1666)], got back most of it including the castle. In 1666 he leased the castle to Walter Athy. Mary, Walter’s daughter married secondly Walter Blake [c. 1670-1740] of Drumacrina Co Mayo, and her descendants by that marriage, held Oranmore until 1853, when the estates of Walter Blake were sold to the Encumbered Estates Court.

The Blake family built the house against the south side of the castle. This house was left in ruins when the Blake family left Oranmore and the castle was un-roofed until 1947 when it was bought by Lady Leslie [see my entry about Castle Leslie, County Monaghan], a cousin of Churchill and wife of Sir Shane Leslie the writer.

Lady Leslie re-roofed the castle and gave it to her daughter, Mrs Leslie King who is also well known as a writer under the name of Anita Leslie. Between 1950 and 1960, Mrs Leslie King and her husband, Cmdr Bill King (also a writer who sailed solo around the world in 1970) added a two storey wing joined to the castle by a single storey range. The castle is now occupied by artist Leonie King (daughter of Anita Leslie and Bill King) and her husband Alec Finn of the music band De Danaan.

11. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/14/office-of-public-works-properties-connacht/

12. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – gardens open 

Ross House or Castle, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

www.rosscastle.com 

This was the home of Violet Martin, one half of the Somerville and Ross partnership of writers, with Edith Somerville.

The website tells us of the house, which is open to accommodation:

Ross Castle offers refined elegance for your special occasion or memorable holiday. The distinctive ambience of the Castle’s grand rooms and self catering cottages, accented with beautiful antique furnishings, will captivate you and up to 40 guests. This 120 acre estate is nestled in a picturesque setting of mountains, lake, and parkland.

Constructed in 1539 by The “Ferocious” O’Flahertys, one of the most distinguished tribes of Galway, the property was later acquired by the Martin Family who built the present manor house upon the former castle’s foundation. After two fires and much neglect, the McLaughlin family acquired the property in the 1980s and have spent the past several decades restoring the estate to its present splendour.

Upon entering the estate you are immediately awestruck by the grand front lawn; undulating to the lake and Parkland.

From the Castle’s courtyard cottages and through the carriage entrance, a gothic archway entices you to explore the walled in Gardens.

Stroll along the herbaceous bordered pathways while taking in the beauty and tranquility of your surroundings, shadowed by 6 massive yew trees hundreds of years old. Giant box hedges create unexpected surprises around every turn: stone sculptures, a red-brick pond, greenhouse, urns and statuary.

13. Signal Tower & Lighthouse, Eochaill, Inis Mór, Aran Islands, Co. Galway – section 482

contact: Michael Mullen
Tel: 087-2470900
www.aranislands.ie
Open: June-Sept, 9am-5pm.
Fee: adult €2.50, child €1.50, family €5, group rates depending on numbers

Inis Oírr ( Inisheer) Lighthouse, Aran Islands, Co Galway, photograph Courtesy of Lukasz Warzecha for Tourism Ireland, 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

14. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

Thoor Ballylea 1984 Dublin City Library Archives [12]

website: https://yeatsthoorballylee.org/home/

The website tells us:

Thoor Ballylee is a fine and well-preserved fourteenth-century tower but its major significance is due to its close association with his fellow Nobel laureate for Literature, the poet W.B.Yeats. It was here the poet spent summers with his family and was inspired to write some of his finest poetry, making the tower his permanent symbol. Due to serious flood damage in the winter of 2009/10 the tower was closed for some years. A local group the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society has come together and are actively seeking funds to ensure its permanent restoration. Because of an ongoing fundraising effort and extensive repair and restoration work, the tower and associated cottages can be viewed year round, and thanks to our volunteers are open for the summer months, complete with a new Yeats Thoor Ballylee exhibition for visitors to enjoy.

15. Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden – section 482, garden only

Craughwell, Co. Galway
Margarita and Michael Donoghue
Tel: 087-9069191
www.woodvillewalledgarden.com
Open: Jan 28-31, Feb 4-7, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, June 1-30, Aug 13-22, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €10, OAP €8, student, €6, child €3 must be accompanied by adult, family €20-2 adults and 2 children.

Woodville House, County Galway, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us Woodville is home to a restored walled kitchen garden along with a museum outlining the fascinating connection to Lady Augusta Gregory at Woodville. “Come for a visit to this romantic secret garden in the West of Ireland and enjoy the sights, scents and colours contained within the original stone walls.

Outbuilding at Woodville House, County Galway, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The D’Arcy family most certainly have been at Woodville in 1750 when Francis D’Arcy left his initials on the keystone in the garden arch. The most famous member of the D’Arcy family to live at Woodville was Robert, who held the position of land agent to the estate of the first Marquis of Clanricarde for over 30 years – including the famine period. He does not seem to have been a popular figure in the local area, carrying out his duties with no small amount of vigour. After Robert’s death the estate passed to Francis Nicholas D’Arcy. He lived quietly at Woodville until his death in 1879.

For the next 25 years little is known about Woodville. From the 1901 census we learn that Catherine Kelly was occupying the house and Lord Clanricarde was the landowner.

On the 1st of May 1904 Henry Persse [1855-1928, brother of Augusta, who married William Henry Gregory of Coole Park] leased Woodville house and farm, which comprised of 460 acres, for a period of 29 years from the Marquise of Clanricarde. Henry Persse was the seventh son of Dudley Persse of Roxborogh, Kilchreest He was born on 14th of October 1855 and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He went to India and served in the Indian police for some years, stationed at Madras. Coming into a legacy he returned to Ireland and married Eleanor Ada Beadon in 1888. They had two sons, Lovaine and Dermot, both born in Kilchreest.

The grandparents of the present owners, Pat and Maria Donohue, took over the running of Woodville house and farm, and took a lease out on the farm in 1916 and purchased it outright in 1920. It is from the memories of their oldest daughter. Maureen Donohue, known as Sr. Austin of The Mercy Convent, Loughrea, that it was possible to collect information about what was grown in the walled garden at the time her parents came Maureen was just 3 years of age and her first memory as a child is of visiting the garden with her father and being given a lovely ripe peach picked from a tree by Harry Persse. There was an abundance of fruit trees of all different varieties at Wooville: peaches, pears, plums, greengage, damsons, cherries, quince, meddlers and apples, Cox’s Orange Pippins, Summers Eves, Brambly Seedlings, Beauty of Bath.

Leading from the steps to the centre of the garden was an arch covered with climbing roses and in front of this were two bamboo trees on either side of the entrance. The central paths were lined with iron railings and box hedging. The garden was planted with poppies, lily of the valley, daffodils, snowdrops, and bluebells. It took four men to maintain the garden at Woodville and the head gardeners name was Tap Mannion and the cook in the house was Mary Lamb.Soft fruits included red and green gooseberries, Tay berries, loganberries, red and white currants and raspberries. There was also a fig tree in the south – east corner of the garden – demonstrating just what a microclimate the walls create.”

Places to stay, County Galway

1. Abbeyglen Castle, County Galway €€

www.abbeyglen.ie

Abbeyglen Castle, County Galway, photograph courtesy of http://www.abbeyglen.ie

The Visit Galway website tells us “Built in 1832 by John d’Arcy, Abbeyglen Castle was shortly after leased to the then parish priest, and was named ‘Glenowen House’.  

The castle was later purchased for use as a Protestant orphanage by the Irish Church Mission Society. Here girls would have been trained for domestic service. In 1953, the orphanage became a mixed orphanage until 1955, where it closed due to financial difficulties.  

The castle fell derelict and was home to livestock for some time. It was then purchased by Padraig Joyce of Clifden and became a hotel. The castle continued to operate as a hotel after the Hughes family took over in 1969 and still remains a prestigious hotel to this day.” [13]

2. Ardilaun House Hotel (formerly Glenarde), Co Galway – hotel

https://www.theardilaunhotel.ie

Ardilaun House Hotel, 1962, photograph courtesy of http://www.theardilaunhotel.ie

The Landed Estates database tells us it was the town house of the Persse family, built in the mid 19th century, bought by the Bolands of Bolands biscuits in the 1920s and since the early 1960s has functioned as the Ardilaun House Hotel.

Ardilaun House Hotel, photograph courtesy of http://www.theardilaunhotel.ie
Ardilaun House Hotel, aerial view of garden, photograph courtesy of http://www.theardilaunhotel.ie

3. Ashford Castle, Cong, Galway/Mayo  – hotel – see County Mayo. €€€

4. Ballindooly Castle, Co Galway – accommodation 

https://www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/

Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/

5. Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway – hotel €€€

https://www.ballynahinch-castle.com

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, County Galway, 2014 Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [2])
Ballynahinch Castle, photograph courtesy of hotel website.

The website tells us:

Welcome to Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, one of Ireland’s finest luxury castle hotels. Voted #6 Resort Hotel in in the UK & Ireland by Travel & Leisure and #3 in Ireland by the readers of Condé Nast magazine. Set in a private 700 acre estate of woodland, rivers and walks in the heart of Connemara, Co. Galway. This authentic and unpretentious Castle Hotel stands proudly overlooking its famous salmon fishery, with a backdrop of the beautiful 12 Bens Mountain range. 

During your stay relax in your beautifully appointed bedroom or suite with wonderful views, wake up to the sound of the river meandering past your window before enjoying breakfast in the elegant restaurant, which was voted the best in Ireland in April 2017 by Georgina Campbell.”

Ballynahinch Castle, photograph courtesy of hotel website.

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 25. “[Martin/IFR, Berridge/IFR] A long, many-windowed house built in late C18 by Richard Martin [1754-1834], who owned so much of Connemara that he could boast to George IV that he had “an approach from his gatehouse to his hall of thirty miles length” and who earned the nickname “Humanity Dick” for founding the RSPCA.

When Maria Edgeworth came here 1833 the house had a “battlemented front” and “four pepperbox-looking towers stuck on at each corner”; but it seemed to her merely a “whitewashed dilapidated mansion with nothing of a castle about it.” The “pepperbox-looking towers” no longer exist; but both the front entrance and the 8 bay garden front have battlements, stepped gables, curvilinear dormers and hood mouldings; as does the end elevation.

The principal rooms are low for their size. Entrance hall with mid-C19 plasterwork in ceiling. Staircase hall beyond; partly curving stair with balustrade of plain slender uprights. Long drawing room in garden front, oval of C18 plasterowrk foliage in ceiling, rather like the plasterwork at Castle Ffrench. Also reminiscent of Castle Ffrench are the elegant mouldings, with concave corners, in the panelling of the door and window recesses. The principal rooms still have their doors of “magnificently thick well-moulded mahogany” which Maria Edgeworth thought “gave an air at first sight of grandeur” though she complained that “not one of them would shut or keep open a single instant.” The drawing room now has a C19 chimneypiece of Connemara marble. The dining room has an unusually low fireplace, framed by a pair of Ionic half-columns. Humanity Dick was reknowned for his extravagant way of life, and in order to escape his creditors he retired to Bologne, where he died. He left the family estates heavily mortgaged, with  the result that his granddaughter and eventual heiress, Mary Letitia Martin, known as “The Princess of Connemara” was utterly ruined after the Great Famine, when Ballynahinch and the rest of her property was sold by the Emcumbered Estates Court; she and her husband being obliged to emigrate to America, where she died in childbirth soon after her arrival Ballynahinch was bought by Richard Berridge, whose son sold it in 1925; after which it was acquired by the famous cricketer Maharaja Ranhisinhji, Jam Sahib of Nawanagar. It is now a hotel.” 

Ballynahinch Castle, photograph courtesy of hotel website.

6. Cashel House, Cashel, Connemara, Co Galway – hotel €€

https://cashelhouse.ie/cms/

The website tells us: “A perfect start on your venture on the Wild Atlantic Way, Cashel House Hotel overlooks the majestic Cashel Bay on the west coast of Ireland. Here a traditional welcome awaits guests in this classic country house retreat. Built in the 19th century this gracious country home was converted to a family run four star hotel in 1968 by the McEvilly family. Situated in the heart of Connemara and nestling in the peaceful surroundings of 50 acres of gardens and woodland walks this little bit of paradise offers an ideal base from which to enjoy walking, beaches, sea and lake fishing, golf and horse riding.

Cashel House Hotel, County Galway, courtesy of hotel website

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 293. “(Browne-Clayton/IFR) A house of ca 1850, asymmetrical gabled elevations, built by Captain [Thomas] Hazel [or Hazell] for his land agent, Geoffrey Emerson, [a great great grandfather of the current owner] who is said to have designed it. From 1921-52 the home of the O’Meara family who remodelled the interior with chimneypieces salvaged from Dublin and laid out most of the garden. In 1952 it became the house of Lt-Col and Mrs William Patrick Browne-Clayton, formerly of Browne’s Hill, who gave the garden its notable collection of fuschias. Cashels is now owned by Mr and Mrs Dermot McEvilly, who run it as a hotel.” 

The website continues the history:

From 1919 to 1951 Cashel House was the home of Jim O`Mara T.D. and his family. Jim O`Mara was the first official representative of Ireland in the United States and he devoted his life and talents to make Ireland a nation. Jim O`Mara was a keen botanist and found happiness in Cashel House. 

Over the years he carried out a lot of work on the Gardens. The three streams, which flow through the Garden, were a delight to him with their banks clothed with bog plants and Spirea & Osmunda ferns. O`Mara turned the orchard field into a walled garden of rare trees, Azaleas, Heather’s and dwarf Rhododendrons, which his children named ‘the Secret Garden’. 

In 1952 Cashel House became the home of Lt Col and Mrs Brown Clayton, formerly of Brownes Hill in Carlow. During their time at Cashel House the Browne Clayton’s had Harold McMillian, the late British Prime Minister, stay as their guest. The Browne Clayton’s also gave the Garden its notable collection of Fuchisas. 

Dermot and Kay McEvilly purchased Cashel House in 1967. Total refurbishment began immediately, with a fine collection of antiques being added and offering all modern facilities. The house reopened in May 1968 and ‘Cashel House Hotel’ was born.

7. Castlehacket west wing, County Galway

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/21260269?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-08-19&check_out=2022-08-26&federated_search_id=f22d54a7-29f3-47e0-bb8c-4f930cedd2de&source_impression_id=p3_1652359805_Hs62GlGfqNCKPaSf

Castlehacket, photograph courtesy of airbnb Castlehacket entry.

The entry tells us:

CastleHacket House, steeped in Irish History. Built in 1703 by John Kirwan Mayor of Galway, the house is surrounded by nature and is very quiet and peaceful. Join in one of our “quiet “Yoga Classes, hike Connemara, stroll Knockma Woods, explore the lakes – world Famous for brown Trout fishing, or simply relax in the beautiful Park and Gardens.

We are environmentally friendly and support green living, health and wellbeing.

Ground Floor, West wing Guest Apartment in Historic CastleHacket House. Tastefully decorated, your own private door leads to 2 bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen-dining room. Tea and coffee facilities available and breakfast is included.

Guest access to: Library, Reception/Lounge Room, Dining Room with tea and coffee facilaties, Sun Room, Outdoor Picnic area with bbq/pizza wood fired oven. Extensive gardens and woods. Safe car parking. Undercover area for Motorbikes and bicycles. Yoga classes and therapeutic Baths (extra cost). Wifi. Use of water hose, dry place to hang wet gear.

Castlehacket takes its name from the Hackett family who owned the land prior to the Kirwans.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 70. “[Kirwan, sub Paley; Bernard, sub Bandon; Paley 1969] An early C18 centre block of 3 storeys over a basement, with 2 storey wings added later in C18, and a late C19 wing at the back. Burnt 1923; rebuilt 1928-9, without one of C18 wings and the top storey of the centre block. The seat of the Kirwans, inherited by Mrs. P.B. Bernard (nee Kirwan) 1875. Passed from Lt Gen Sir Denis Barnard 1956 to his nephew Percy Paley, who had a notable genealogical library here.” 

The National Inventory describes it: “two-storey country house over basement, built c.1760 and rebuilt 1929 after being burnt in 1923. Eight-bay entrance front faces north onto large courtyard with gateway, has one-bay projections to each side of entrance bay, flat-roofed porch between projections, and two-bay east side elevation, and with slightly lower four-bay two-storey over basement service wing at west side and stables at east. Seven-bay garden front faces south, with pair of full-height canted bows on either side of central two bays, and is continued by slightly lower three-bay two-storey over basement block terminating in further rounded corner bay, to join with four-bay two-storey over basement service wing on west side of courtyard…Garden front has render frieze to parapet, with medallions separated by fluting…Porch has open arch to exterior, supported on columns with Temple of the Winds-style capitals, and approached by flight of steps. West bow of garden front has round-headed doorway with glazed timber door and fanlight and approached by three limestone steps. Garden to south of house bounded by low hedge, with parkland and sheep grazing beyond

This large country house displays mid-eighteenth-century, nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century work. The modestly presented front elevation is enhanced by the projecting bays and arched entrance. The brick bows to the garden elevation contrast nicely with the plain rendered walls elsewhere, and the decorated frieze and other details add interest and incident. The large lower block and service wing greatly enlarged the house and the fine accompanying stable block and demesne gateways provide a setting of considerable quality and interest.

8. Claregalway Castle, Claregalway, Co. Galway – section 482 €€

https://www.airbnb.ie/users/85042652/listings

“Stay in one of our five beautiful rooms (Old Mill Rooms, Salmon Pool & Abbey Rooms). The River Room is situated beside the Castle on the banks of the River Clare in the village of Claregalway. Just 10km from Galway City Centre and within walking distance of a bus stop, restaurants/bars and the stunning Abbey. This family room is very comfortable with under-floor heating and luxurious bedding. Includes complimentary wine, tea/coffee & a generous continental breakfast.

The space

Claregalway Castle is a fully restored 15th century Anglo-Norman tower house and together with the castle grounds is a fabulous opportunity to savour the history while enjoying the comfort of your beautifully decorated and comfortable room.

9. Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, Co Galway – Airbnb

Tower house of 1648 at centre of Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle and its demesne.

We were lucky to discover this wonderful castle for accommodation on airbnb. https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/7479769?source_impression_id=p3_1652358063_y2E%2FxsRMKAae0vkr

The listing tells us that “Cregg Castle is a magical place built in 1648 by the Kirwin Family, one of the 12 tribes of Galway. It is set on 180 acres of pasture and beautiful woodlands. Your host, Artist Alan Murray who currently hosts the Gallery of Angels in the main rooms.

Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 94. “A tower house built 1648 by a member of the Kirwan family [I think it was Patrick Kirwan (c. 1625-1679)]. And said to have been the last fortified dwelling to be built west of the Shannon; given sash-windows and otherwise altered in Georgian times, and enlarged with a wing on either side: that to the right being as high as the original building, and with a gable; that to the left being lower, and battlemented.  In C18 it was the home of the great chemist and natural philosopher Richard Kirwan [1733-1812], whose laboratory, now roofless, still stands in the garden. It was acquired ca 1780 by James Blake [c. 1755-1818].

Richard Kirwan married Anne Blake, daughter of Thomas (1701-1749), 7th Baronet Blake of Galway.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The hall, entered through a rusticated round-headed doorway with a perron and double steps, has a black marble chimneypiece with the Blake coat of arms. The dining room has a plasterwork ceiling. Sold 1947 by Mrs Christopher Kerins (nee Blake) to Mr and Mrs Alexander Johnston. Re-sold 1972 to Mr Martin Murray, owner of the Salthill Hotel, near Galway.” 

Alan who now lives in the castle is, I believe, a nephew of Martin Murray of the Salthill Hotel.

Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.

The National Inventory describes it:

multi-period house, comprising tower house of 1648 at centre, later modified and refenestrated to three-bay two-storey over half-basement, flanked to west by lower two-bay two-storey with attic over half-basement block of c.1780 with two-bay gable elevation, and to east by slightly lower three-bay three-storey over half-basement L-plan block of c. 1870 with gables over eastmost bay of front and rear elevations. Lower four-storey return block at right angles to rear of middle and west blocks, having two-bay elevations. Further two-bay single-storey block to rear of four-storey return, two-bay two-storey block to west of west block and with single-storey block further west again.

Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
“Round-headed doorway to middle of middle block, having double-leaf mid-eighteenth-century door with raised and fielded panelling and original brass knocker, doorknob and heart-shaped cover for keyhole,” Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021: “original brass knocker, doorknob and heart-shaped cover for keyhole.”
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Cregg Castle, with paintings by Alan Murray, County Galway, July 2021.
The Blake coat of arms on the fireplace, Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Cregg Castle, with paintings by Alan Murray, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
The long driveway up to Cregg Castle. Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.

10. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway

http://www.crocnaraw.ie/

The website tells us:

Crocnaraw Country House is an Irish Georgian Country Guest House (note we’re not a Hotel as such) by Ballinakill Bay,10 kilometres from Clifden, Connemara-on the Galway-Westport road.Set in 8 hectares of gardens and fields with fine views,Crocnaraw Country House has been winner of the National Guest House Gardens Competition for 4 years. This independently run Country Inn is noted for Irish hospitality and informality but without a sense of casualness.The House is tastefully and cheerfully decorated, each of its bedrooms being distinctively furnished to ensure the personal well-being of Guests. Fully licensed Crocnaraw Country House’s excellent cuisine is based on locally sourced fish and meat as well as eggs,fresh vegetables, salads and fruits from kitchen garden and orchard. Moyard is centrally located for Salmon and Trout fishing, deep-sea Angling, Championship Golf-Courses and many more recreational activities in the Clifden and Letterfrack Region of Connemara in County Galway.”

The National Inventory tells us that the house is a L-plan six-bay two-storey two-pile house, built c.1850, having crenellated full-height canted bay to south-east side elevation. Recent flat-roof two-storey extension to north-east…”Originally named Rockfield House, this building has undergone many alterations over time, the crenellated bay being an interesting addition. The area was leased by Thomas Butler as a Protestant orphanage and was known locally as ‘The Forty Boys’. The retention of timber sash windows enhances the building. The road entrance sets the house off plesantly.

11. Currarevagh, Oughterard, Co Galway – country house hotel €€

https://www.currarevagh.com

Currarevagh House, photograph from house website.
Currarevagh House, photograph from house website.

The website tells us:

Currarevagh House is a gracious early Victorian Country House, set in 180 acres of private parkland and woodland bordering on Lough Corrib. We offer an oasis of privacy for guests in an idyllic, undisturbed natural environment, providing exceptional personal service with a high standard of accommodation and old fashioned, traditional character. A genuine warm welcome from the owners.

Currarevagh House, photograph from house website.

Currarevagh House was built by the present owner’s great, great, great, great grandfather in 1842, however our history can be traced further back. The seat of the Hodgson Family in the 1600s was in Whitehaven, in the North of England, where they owned many mining interests. Towards the end of the 17th Century, Henry William Hodgson moved to Arklow and commenced mining for lead in Co Wicklow.  A keen angler and shot he travelled much of Ireland to fulfil his sport (not too easy in those days), and during the course of a visit to the West of Ireland decided to prospect for copper. This he found along the Hill of Doon Road. At much the same time he discovered lead on the other side of Oughterard. So encouraged was he that he moved to Galway and bought Merlin Park (then a large house on the Eastern outskirts of Galway, now a Hospital) from the Blake family and commenced mining. As Galway was some distance from the mining activities he wanted a house closer to Oughterard. Currarevagh (not the present house, but an early 18th century house about 100m from the present house) was then owned by the O’Flaherties – the largest clan in Connaught – and, though no proof can be found, we believe that he purchased it from the O’Flaherties. However a more romantic story says he won it and 28,000 acres in a game of cards. The estate spread beyond Maam Cross in the heart of Connemara, and to beyond Maam Bridge in the North of Connemara. As the mining developed so the need for transportation of the ore became increasingly difficult until eventually two steamers (“the Lioness” and “the Tigress”) were bought. These, the first on Corrib, delivered the ore to Galway and returned with goods and passengers stopping at the piers of various villages on the way.  All apparently went very well. The present house was built in 1842, suggesting a renewed wealth and success. No sooner however was present Currarevagh completed, then the 1850’s saw disaster. A combination of British export law changes, and vast seems of copper ore discovered in Spain and South America, heralded the end of mining activity in Ireland.  The family, who were fairly substantial land owners at this stage, got involved in various projects, from fish farming to turf production – inventing the briquette in the process. Certainly Currarevagh was been run as a sporting lodge for paying guests by 1890 by my great grandfather; indeed we have a brochure dated 1900 with instructions from London Euston Railway Station. This we believe makes it the oldest in Ireland; certainly the oldest in continuous ownership. After the Irish Civil War of the 1920s the Free State was formed and many of the larger Estates were broken up for distribution amongst tenants. This included Currarevagh, even though they were not absentee landlords and had bought all their land in the first place. Landlords were assured they would be paid 5 shillings (approx 25c) an acre, however this redemption was never honoured, and effectively 10’s of thousands of acres were confiscated by the new state, leaving Currarevagh with no income, apart from the rare intrepid paying guest. At one stage a non local cell of the Free Staters (an early version of the IRA) tried to blow up Currarevagh, planting explosive under what is currently the dining room. However the plan was discovered before hand, and the explosive made safe. From then on a member of the local IRA cell remained at the gates of Currarevagh to warn off any of the marauding out of towners, saying Currarevagh was not to be touched. Evidently they were well integrated into the community, and indeed during the famine years it seems they did as much as they could to help alleviate local suffering. Indeed there is a famine graveyard on our estate; this was because the local people became too week to bring the dead to Oughterard. It is also one of the few burial grounds to contain a Protestant consecrated section. Having got through the 1920s and 30s, Currarevagh again got in financial trouble during the second world war: although paying guests did come to Ireland (mainly as rationing was not so strict here), the original house was put up for sale. It did not sell, and eventually was pulled down in 1946, leaving just Currarevagh House as it stands today. In 1947 it was the first country house to open as a restaurant to no staying guests; still, of course, the situation today.”

12. Delphi Lodge, Leenane, Co Galway €€€

and Boathouse cottages: https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/boathouse-cottages/ €€

and Wren’s Cottage: https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/wrens-cottage/ €€

Delphi Lodge, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).

 https://delphilodge.ie

The website tells us: “A delightful 1830s country house, fishing lodge and hotel in one of the most spectacular settings in Connemara Ireland. It offers charming accommodation, glorious scenery, great food and total tranquillity. Located in a wild and unspoilt valley of extraordinary beauty, the 1000-acre Delphi estate is one of Ireland’s hidden treasures…

The Marquis of Sligo (Westport House) builds Delphi Lodge as a hunting/fishing lodge and is reputed to have named it “Delphi” based on the valley’s alleged similarity to the home of the Oracle in Greece.

Delphi Lodge, 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).

13. Emlaghmore Cottage, Connemara, County Galway

https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/emlaghmore-cottage/

Connemara cottage, four hundred yards off the coast road, 10 km from Roundstone and 4 km from Ballyconneely.

Emlaghmore Cottage was built in stone in about 1905, with just three rooms, and was extended in the 1960s to make a holiday home for a family. It stands on about ¾ acre running down to Maumeen lake, and is about 400 yards off the coast road (The Wild Atlantic Way) in a secluded situation with fine views. It has a shed with a supply of turf for the open fire in the living room, and garden furniture. There is a boat for anglers on the lake.

14. Glenlo Abbey, near Galway, Co Galway – accommodation €€

Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate, Co Galway Kelvin Gillmor Photography 2020, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).

 https://www.glenloabbeyhotel.ie

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988): p. 138. “(Palmer, sub De Stacpoole/IFR) A long plain two storey house built onto slender tower with pointed openings near the top. The seat of the Palmer family.” 

The estate belonged to the Ffrench family in the 1750s, an Anglo-Norman family. It was originally named Kentfield House, before becoming Glenlow or Glenlo, derived from the Irish Gleann Locha meaning “glen of the lake.” The adjacent abbey was built in the 1790s as a private church for the family but was never consecrated. In 1846 the house was put up for sale. It was purchased by the Blakes.

In 1897 it was purchased by the Palmers. In the 1980s it was sold to the Bourke family, who converted it to a hotel.

In 1990s two carriages from the Orient Express train were purchased and they form a unique restaurant.

Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate, Co Galway Kelvin Gillmor Photography 2020, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).
Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate, ©Glenlo Abbey Hotel and Estate, Galway 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).
Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate, Co Galway Courtesy Glenlo Abbey Hotel and Estate, Galway 2017, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).
Glenlo Abbey Hotel 2020 Courtesy Glenlo Abbey Hotel and Estate, Galway, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).
Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate, Co Galway_©Glenlo Abbey Hotel and Estate, Galway 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).
Palmer Bar, Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate, Courtesy Glenlo Abbey Hotel and Estate, Galway 2020, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).

15. Kilcolgan Castle, Clarinbridge, Co Galway €€€

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/3828868?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-08-03&check_out=2022-08-08&federated_search_id=321dc1f8-3115-4a71-9c5b-00aa67ee2c4a&source_impression_id=p3_1652359008_yrD4CHLmFCj0nNf0

Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 165. “(St. George, sub French/IFR; Blyth, B/PB; Ffrench, B/PB) A small early C19 castle, built ca 1801 by Christopher St. George, the builder of the nearby Tyrone House, who retired here with a “chere amie” having handed over Tyrone House to his son [Christopher St George was born Christopher French, adding St George to his surname to comply with his Great-Grandfather, George St George (c. 1658-1735) 1st Baron Saint George of Hatley Saint George in Counties Leitrim and Roscommon]. It consists of three storey square tower with battlements and crockets and a single-storey battlemented and buttressed range. The windows appear to have been subsequently altered. The castle served as a dower house for Tyrone, and was occupied by Miss Matilda St George after Tyrone was abandoned by the family 1905; it was sold after her death, 1925. Subsequent owners included Mr Martin Niland, TD; Mr Arthur Penberthy; Lord Blyth; and Mrs T.A.C.Agnew (sister of 7th and present Lord Ffrench); it is now owned by Mr John Maitland.” 

Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.
Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.
Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.
Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.

16. Lisdonagh House, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway – section 482, see above – whole house rental and self-catering cottages.

contact: John & Finola Cooke
Tel: 093-31163, John, 086-0529052, Finola, 086-0546565
www.lisdonagh.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: May 1-Nov 1
Fee: Free

Email: cooke@lisdonagh.com

Lisdonagh House, photograph from website.

The house is available as whole house rental, and it also has cottages for accommodation.

The website tells us:

When looking for an authentic Irish country house to hire, the beautiful 18th century early Georgian Heritage home is the perfect choice. Lisdonagh House is large enough to accommodate families, friends and groups for private gatherings. This private manor house is available for exclusive hire when planning your next vacation or special event. Enchantingly elegant, Lisdonagh Manor House in Galway has been lovingly restored and boasts original features as well as an extensive antiques collection. Peacefully set in secluded woodland surrounded by green fields and magnificent private lake, this luxury rental in Galway is full of traditional character and charm. The tasteful decor pays homage to the history of Lisdonagh Manor with rich and warm colours in each room. The private estate in Galway is perfect for family holidays, celebrations and Board of Director strategy meetings. Lisdonagh is an excellent base for touring Galway, Mayo and the Wild Atlantic Way.

The Visit Galway website tells us that Lisdonagh House is an early Georgian country manor built around the 1720’s by the Reddingtons for the St. George family who were prominent landlords in Galway. The house has commanding views over Lough Hackett, a private Lake which forms part of the Estate, and Knochma hill. [9]

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

a 2 storey house, probably of 1790s [the National Inventory says c. 1760], with a front of 2 bays on either side of a curved bow. Rusticated fanlighted doorway in bow; oval hall, walls painted with an Ionic order and figures in grisaille by J. Ryan. Staircase behind hall, partly in 3 sided projection. On one side of the house is a detached pyramidally-roofed Palladian pavilion with a Venetian window on one face and a niche on the other; Dr. Craig is doubtful whether a balancing pavilion was ever built. The seat of the Palmer family.”

The National Inventory tells us that Lisdonagh is a:

Detached country house, built c.1760, having five-bay two-storey over basement front elevation and three-bay three-storey rear elevation, former with round entrance bay and latter with flat-roofed canted middle bay. Two-bay side elevations. Two-bay flat-roofed addition to north end, presenting one-storey over basement to front and two storeys to rear… Round-headed stairs window to rear projecting bay, with cobweb fanlight. Round-headed doorcase with limestone block-and-start surround, moulded transom and leaded cobweb fanlight, keystone in form of massive scroll bracket, further cornice above and limestone bracket above that in form of heraldic bird’s head, beak forming ring for hanging a lantern. Replacement timber panelled door, and approached by flight of five limestone steps with wrought-iron railings. Round-headed doorway to rear entrance bay having double-leaf timber panelled door and fanlight, and flanked by windows, formerly four-over-four bay in sides of bay. Diocletian windows to basement with tooled limestone voussoirs and leaded cobweb fanlights. Quadrant wall projects from north addition and terminates in square-plan pavilion with pyramidal slated roof, niche facing towards house, Venetian window facing out, and basement having two Diocletian windows to basement at north side, with tooled limestone voussoirs and leaded cobweb fanlights. Detached eight-bay two-storey stable block, built c.1760, in yard ancillary to Lisdonagh House. Now in use as domestic accommodation...

Lisdonagh House is an important mid-eighteenth-century country house with the unusual feature of bows at the front and rear. The unusual chimneystack arrangement is identical to that at Bermingham House. The very fine doorcase and most unusual heraldic bird sculpture add considerably interest to the front façade and the retention of many timber sash windows and other historic fabric enhances the structure. The interesting pavilion next to the house, the various outbuildings, gates and the gate lodge add context and incident to the accompanying demesne.

It seems to have various owners as the Landed Estates website tells us that it was:

“An O’Flaherty home, built in the late 18th century, sold to the O’Mahonys in the late 19th century and passed by marriage to the Palmers. Now functions as a guest house run by John and Finola Cook.” [10]

It has two cottages, a coach house and gate lodge accommodation also.

Lughnasa Villa at Lisdonagh House, photograph from website.
Coach House at Lisdonagh House, photograph from website.
Gate Lodge at Lisdonagh House, photograph from website.

17. Lough Cutra Castle, County Galway, holiday cottages

https://www.loughcutra.com/cormorant.html

info@loughcutra.com

Nestled into the Northern corner of the courtyard, this beautifully appointed self catering cottage can sleep up to six guests – with private entrance and parking. Built during 1846 as part of a programme to provide famine relief during the Great Potato Famine of the time, it originally housed stabling for some of the many horses that were needed to run a large country estate such as Lough Cutra. In the 1920’s the Gough family, who were the then owners of the Estate, closed up the Castle and converted several areas of the courtyard including Cormorant into a large residence for themselves. They brought with them many original features from the Castle, such as wooden panelling and oak floorboards from the main Castle dining room and marble fireplaces from the bedrooms.

We have furnished and decorated the home to provide a luxuriously comfortable and private stay to our guests. Each unique courtyard home combines the history and heritage of the estate and buildings with modern conveniences.

https://www.loughcutra.com/

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

The website gives us a detailed history of the castle:

Lough Cutra Castle and Estate has a long and varied history, from famine relief to the billeting of soldiers, to a period as a convent and eventually life as a private home. It was designed by John Nash who worked on Buckingham Palace, and has been host to exclusive guests such as Irish President Michael D Higgins, His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla, Bob Geldof, Lady Augusta Gregory and WB Yeats. The countryside surrounding Lough Cutra holds many a story, dating back centuries.

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

The extensive history of the Lough Cutra Castle and Estate can be traced back as far as 866 AD. It is quite likely that Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick, passed Lough Cutra on his travels and also Saint Colman MacDuagh as he was a relative of nearby Gort’s King Guaire. The round tower Kilmacduagh built in his honour is an amazing site to visit near Lough Cutra. The countryside surrounding Lough Cutra holds stories for the centuries, all the way back to the Tuatha De Danann.

The immediate grounds of the 600 acre estate are rich in remnants of churches, cells and monasteries due to the introduction of Christianity. A number of the islands on the lake contain the remnants of stone altars.

The hillsides surrounding Lough Cutra contain evidence of the tribal struggle between the Firbolgs and the Tuatha De Danann (the Firbolgs and the Tuatha De Danann were tribes said to have existed in Ireland). These are from around the times of the Danish invasion. The ruined church of nearby Beagh on the North West shore was sacked by the Danes in 866 AD and war raged through the district for nearly 1000 years. In 1601 John O’Shaughnessy and Redmond Burke camped on the shores of the lake while they plundered the district.

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

In 1678, Sir Roger O’Shaughnessy inherited from Sir Dermot all the O’Shaughnessy’s Irish land – nearly 13,000 acres – and this included Gort and 2,000 acres around Lough Cutra and the lake itself. Following the revolution during which Sir Roger died of ill health, the Gort lands were seized and presented to Thomas Prendergast. This was one of the oldest families in Ireland. Sir Thomas came to Ireland on King William’s death in 1701 and lived in County Monaghan. The title to the lands was confused, but was in the process of being resolved when Sir Thomas was killed during the Spanish Wars in 1709. His widow, Lady Penelope decided to let the lands around the lake and the islands. On these islands, large numbers of apple, pear and cherry trees were planted, and some still survive today. The land struggle continued as the O’Shaughnessy’s tried to lay claim to the lands that had been taken from them by King William. In 1742 the government confirmed the Prendergast title, but it was not until 1753 that Roebuck O’Shaughnessy accepted a sum of money in return for giving up the claim.

Following Sir Thomas’s death, John Prendergast Smyth inherited the Gort Estate. It was John who created the roads and planted trees, particularly around the Punchbowl where the Gort River disappears on its way to Gort and Coole. John lived next to the river bridge in Gort when in the area. This area is now known as the Convent, Bank of Ireland and the old Glynn’s Hotel which is now a local restaurant. When John died in 1797 he was succeeded by his nephew, Colonel Charles Vereker who in 1816 became Viscount Gort. The estate at this time was around 12,000 acres.

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

When the estate was inherited by Colonel Vereker in 1797 he decided to employ the world renowned architect John Nash to design the Gothic Style building now known as Lough Cutra Castle. Colonel Vereker had visited Nash’s East Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight and was so taken with it that he commissioned the construction of a similar building on his lands on the shore of Lough Cutra. Nash also designed Mitchelstown Castle, Regents Park Crescent, his own East Cowes Castle, as well as being involved in the construction of Buckingham Palace.

The Castle itself was built during the Gothic revival period and is idyllically situated overlooking the Estate’s 1000 acre lake. The building of the castle was overseen by the Pain brothers, who later designed and built the Gate House at Dromoland. The original building included 25 basement rooms and the cost of the building was estimated at 80,000 pounds. While the exact dates of construction are not known the building commenced around 1809 and went on for a number of years. We know that it had nearly been finished by 1817 due to a reference in a contemporary local paper.

Colonel Charles Vereker, M.P., (1768-1842), Constable of Limerick Castle, later 2nd Viscount Gort Engraver James Heath, English, 1757-1834 After John Comerford, Irish, 1770-1832, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

The Viscount Gort was forced to sell the Castle and Estate in the Late 1840s having bankrupted himself as a result of creating famine relief. The Estate was purchased by General Sir William Gough, an eminent British General. The Gough’s set about refurbishing the Castle to their own taste and undertook further construction work adding large extensions to the original building, including a clock tower and servant quarters. Great attention was paid to the planting of trees, location of the deer park, and creation of new avenues. An American garden was created to the south west of the Castle. The entire building operations were completed in 1858 and 1859.

A further extension, known as the Museum Wing, was built at the end of the nineteenth century to house the war spoils of General Sir William Gough by his Grandson. This was subsequently demolished in the 1950s and the cut stone taken to rebuild Bunratty Castle in County Clare.

In the 1920s the family moved out of the Castle as they could not afford the running costs. Some of the stables in the Courtyards were converted into a residence for them. The Castle was effectively closed up for the next forty years, although during WWII the Irish army was billeted within the Castle and on the Estate.

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

The Estate changed hands several times between the 1930s and the 1960s when it was purchased by descendants of the First Viscount Gort. They took on the task of refurbishing the Castle during the late 1960s. Having completed the project, it was then bought by the present owner’s family.

In more recent years there has begun another refurbishment programme to the Castle and the Estate generally. In 2003 a new roof was completed on the main body of the Castle, with some of the tower roofs also being refurbished. There has been much done also to the internal dressings of the Castle bringing the building up to a modern standard. Around the Estate there has been reconstruction and rebuilding works in the gate lodges and courtyards. There has also begun extensive works to some of the woodlands in order to try and retain the earlier character of the Estate.

It is envisaged that more works will be undertaken over the coming years as the history and legend of Lough Cutra continues to build.

18. Lough Inagh Lodge Hotel, County Galway €

https://www.loughinaghlodgehotel.ie/en/

Lough Inagh Lodge was built on the shores of Lough Inagh in the 1880. It was part of the Martin Estate (Richard “Humanity Dick” Martin of Ballynahinch Castle) as one of its fishing lodges. It was later purchased by Richard Berridge, a London brewer who used the building as a fishing lodge in the 1880’s. It passed through the hands of the Tennent family, and then to Carroll Industries until 1989 it was redeveloped by the O’Connor family back to its former glory into a modern bespoke boutique lodge.”

19. Oranmore Lodge Hotel (previously Thorn Park), Oranmore, Co Galway  https://www.oranmorelodge.ie

The Oranmore Lodge Hotel is a four-star family-run hotel that has earned the reputation of being a “home away from home”, situated in Oranmore, a popular village bursting with life and character. From the moment you arrive, take in the beautiful surroundings and unique character of the building that will encourage you to relax and leave it all behind. Guests have enjoyed our Irish hospitality for over 150 years.

The National Inventory tells us:

The Oranmore Lodge Hotel was formerly the residence of the Blake Butler family. The house was altered in the late nineteenth century and its name changed from Mount Vernon to Thornpark, and the steep gables, bay windows and crenellations are typical of that era. An interesting symmetrical elevation, enhanced by the family shield with motto. It retains much original fabric notwithstanding its extension on both sides.

20. The Quay House, Clifden, Co Galway €€

https://thequayhouse.com  

The website tells us:

Built for the Harbour Master nearly 200 years ago, The Quay House has been sensitively restored and now offers guest accommodation in fourteen bedrooms (all different) with full bathrooms – all but three overlook the Harbour. Family portraits, period furniture, cosy fires and a warm Irish welcome make for a unique atmosphere of comfort and fun.

The owners, Paddy and Julia Foyle, are always on hand for advice on fishing, golfing, riding, walking, swimming, sailing, dining, etc – all close by.

The Quay House is Clifden’s oldest building, dating from C1820. It was originally the Harbour Master’s house but later became a Franciscan monastery, then a convent and finally a hotel owned by the Pye family. Now providing Town House Accommodation in Clifen, it is run by the Foyle family, whose forebears have been entertaining guests in Connemara for nearly a century.

The Quay House stands right on the harbour, just 7 minutes walk from Clifden town centre. All rooms are individually furnished with some good antiques and original paintings; several have working fireplaces. All have large bathrooms with tubs and showers and there is also one ground floor room for wheelchair users.

The Quay House hotel, Clifden, County Galway, photograph by James Fennell 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).
The Quay House hotel, Clifden, County Galway, photograph by James Fennell 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).
The Quay House hotel, Clifden, County Galway, photograph by James Fennell 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).
The Quay House hotel, Clifden, County Galway, photograph by James Fennell 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [7]).

21. Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway – hotel

https://www.renvyle.com

The website tells us: “First opened as a hotel in 1883, it is spectacularly located on a 150 acre estate on the shores of the Wild Atlantic Way in Connemara, Co. Galway. The grounds include a private freshwater lake for fishing and boating, a beach, woodlands, gardens and numerous activities on site including tennis, croquet, outdoor heated swimming pool, canoeing and shore angling. For a unique location, an award winning Restaurant, comfortable bedrooms and a truly uplifting break, here, the only stress is on relaxation.

Its often-turbulent history has mirrored the change of circumstances and troubled history of Ireland, but it has been resilient and survived. Renvyle House was once home of the Chieftain and one of the oldest and most powerful Gaelic clans in Connacht; that of Donal O’Flaherty, who had a house on the site since the 12th Century where the hotel stands today.

The Blakes (one of the 14 Tribes of Galway) bought 2,000 acres of confiscated O’Flaherty land in 1689.  They leased it to the senior O’Flaherty family until the Blakes took up residence in 1822. Before then the ‘Big House’ was a thatched cabin 20ft by 60ft and one storey high.  Henry Blake implemented  major improvements to make it more compatible to a man of his means. The timber used in the building of the house extension was said to have been from a shipwreck in the bay.  The thatch was replaced with slate roof and he added another storey.  In 1825 the Blake family published the ‘Letters from the Irish Highlands’ describing the life and conditions in Connemara at that time.  His widow, Caroline Johanna opened it first as a hotel in 1883.  ‘Through Connemara in a Governess Cart’ published in 1893, written by Edith Somerville and Violet Martin. In this beautifully illustrated book, they visit Ballynahinch Castle, Kylemore Abbey and Renvyle House.

The house was sold before the War of Independence In 1917 to surgeon, statesman and poet Oliver St.John Gogarty played host to countless distinguished friends including Augustus John, W.B. Yeats (who came on his honeymoon to Renvyle House and Yeat’s first Noh play was first performed in the Long Lounge).  Indeed in 1928 Gogarty had a flying visit from aviator Lady Mary Heath and her husband which was well documented.  The House was burned to the ground during the Irish Civil War in 1923 by the IRA, as were many other home of government supporters; along with Gogarty’s priceless library.   The house was rebuilt by Gogarty as a hotel in the late 1920’s in the Arts & Crafts design of that era.
“My house..stands on a lake, but it stands also on the sea – waterlilies meet the golden seaweed…at this, the world’s end” Oliver St. John Gogarty.

he war years were difficult times although the hotel stayed open all year round.  Dr. Donny Coyle visited Renvyle house in July 1944 with friends and as fate would have it, he bought it with friends Mr. John Allen and Mr. Michael O’Malley in 1952 from the Gogarty estate and they reopened it on the 4th July that year.

The 1958 brochure announced new facilities in the hotel bedrooms. “Shoe cleaning. Shoe polishing and shining materials are in each room, just lift the lid of the wooden shoe rest.”  Guests were also informed that dinner was served from 7.30pm to 9pm, and that they were not to go hungry through politeness. “Don’t be shy, if you’d like a little more, please ask.” – and that ethos of hospitality remains to this day.

It remains in the Coyle family to this day, owned by Donny’s son John Coyle and his wife Sally.Their eldest daughter Zoë Fitzgerald is also involved with the hotel, is the Marketing Director and Chairman of the Board.

22. Rosleague Manor, Galway – accommodation €€

 https://www.rosleague.com

The website tells us: “Resting on the quiet shores of Ballinakill Bay, and beautifully secluded within 30 acres of its own private woodland, Rosleague Manor in Connemara is one of Ireland’s finest regency hotels.

The National Inventory tells us: “Attached L-plan three-bay two-storey house, built c.1830, facing north-east and having gabled two-storey block to rear and multiple recent additions to rear built 1950-2000, now in use as hotel…This house is notable for its margined timber sash windows and timber porch. The various additions have been built in a sympathetic fashion with many features echoing the historic models present in the original house.”

23. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – see above

www.rosscastle.com 

24. Ross Lake House Hotel, Oughterard, County Galway

http://rosslakehotel.com/

Ross Lake House Hotel in Galway is a splendid 19th Century Georgian House. Built in 1850, this charming Galway hotel is formerly an estate house of the landed gentry, who prized it for its serenity. Set amidst rambling woods and rolling lawns, it is truly a haven of peace and tranquillity. Echoes of gracious living are carried throughout the house from the elegant drawing room to the cosy library bar and intimate dining room.

25. Screebe House, Camus Bay, County Galway €€€

https://www.screebe.com/

Tucked away in the idyllic surrounds of Camus Bay, experience the best of Connemara at one of Ireland’s finest Victorian country homes, Screebe House. 

Built in 1872 as a fishing lodge and lovingly restored by the Burkart family in 2010, Screebe House offers guests an experience of luxury comfort, and effortless charm. With open fireplaces, high ceilings and heritage décor, Screebe’s elegant spaces evoke a sense of grandeur and provide the perfect setting to read a good book or savour a delicious glass of wine while taking in the breathtaking Connemara scenery. 

Screebe, originating from the Irish word ‘scribe’ meaning destination, is ideally located for those who want to explore the stunning scenery of Connemara or partake in a wealth of activities available, from renting bikes to fishing, deer spotting, swimming, hiking, and more. Screebe’s privately owned estate extends 45,000 acres, one of the largest estates in the country.

Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:

1. Carraigin Castle, County Galway – sleeps 10

https://www.carraigin.net

The website tells us:

Surrounded by seven acres of lawns, park and woodland, Carraigin Castle is an idyllic holiday home in a beautiful setting on the shores of Lough Corrib, one of Ireland’s biggest lakes, famous for its brown trout and its multitude of picturesque islands. From the Castle one can enjoy boating and fishing on the lake, walking, riding and sightseeing all over Galway and Mayo, or just relax by the open hearth and contemplate the charm and simple grandeur of this ancient dwelling, a rare and beautiful example of a fortified, medieval “hall house”.

Family groups or close friends will love the relaxed atmosphere of this authentic 13th-century manor house, which has been restored by the present owner after languishing for more than two centuries as a crumbling, roofless ruin.  Carraigin’s church-like structure sits on a rise reached by an avenue across the tree-lined Pleasure Ground.

The History:

Despite its massive, castellated walls, Carraigin was never a mere fortress, but rather, an elegant home where a land-owning family could live securely in turbulent times. For some ten generations, the castle housed the descendants of its founder, Adam Gaynard III, grandson of a Norman adventurer who had taken part in the colonisation of the neighbourhood by the great de Burgo conquerors in 1238. 

Towards 1650, another military adventurer, George Staunton, acquired “the castle and lands of Cargin”, which his descendants continued to own until 1946. By, then, the castle had long been
abandoned. Stripped of its roof in the early 18th century, Carraigin’s relatively recent upper storeys and finer stonework were demolished and burned to make lime for the construction of the nearby Georgian mansion which replaced it.

However, the solid masonry core of the original 13th Century building had been constructed with such skill that it weathered centuries of neglect, surviving as a romantic, ivy-covered ruin until, in 1970, the castle was restored to its original form and purpose.

The Interior: “The ancient-looking, nail-studded front door on the ground floor, often mistaken for an authentic antiquity, was actually made by the owner during the building’s restoration in the 1970s.  Round the corner, an imposing stone staircase leads to another grand entrance, into the lofty, oak-beamed Great Hall featuring a wide, stone-arched fireplace that provides a comforting aroma of turf and wood-smoke.

The Great Hall is the central living and dining area of the castle. It features a mix of old oak and comfortable modern furniture surrounding the welcoming hearth. Its white walls are extensively decorated with art including tapestries, brass rubbing portraits of ancient kings and knights and a magnificent triptych featuring a Galway galleon (as on that city’s coat of arms). There is a tiny but well-equipped kitchen next door with a view over the tall trees of the Pleasure Ground.

On the same level as the Hall is an oak-beamed double bedroom with a king-size bed and bathroom.  A stone staircase winds upwards over this master bedroom to a family loft room overlooking the Great Hall. Another winding stairs leads up to a little single bedroom in the corner tower.  From both of these second-floor rooms you can stroll out onto the castle parapets with fabulous views of Lough Corrib and the hills of Connemara and Mayo, and even those of Clare, on the other side of Galway Bay. 

The rest of you sleep in the four cosy ‘Vaults’ on the ground floor below, their walls also lined with tapestries and other artworks. The Vaults have much picturesque charm with their oak-timbered partitions, arches and vaulted ceilings, and they work if you know each other well as the rooms lead one into the other. Vault I, the largest of the four, sleeps two in bunk-beds and features a fair-sized work table and chairs for busy teenagers and a mini-sofa for one or two in the window embrasure. Vault II (off No. 1) has a double bed and a similar window seat. Vault III (also off No.1) has one double and one single bed and a window seat. Vault III in turn gives access to Vault IV, a small single room with a three-light gothic window looking out at the standing stone sundial on the lawn.

2. Cloghan Castle, near Loughrea, County Galway – whole castle accommodation and weddings, €€€ for two.

https://www.cloughancastle.ie/

The website describes it:

An air of historic grandeur and authenticity is the initial impression upon arrival at Cloughan Castle. Follow the long sweeping driveway surrounded with breath-taking countryside views, to the beautifully restored castle with its ornamental stonework & imposing four storey tower. Sitting within several acres of matured woodlands with striking panoramic countryside views, this lovingly restored 13th-century castle holds its historic past with a character that blends effortlessly with elegance and comfort.

Find yourself immersed in unrivalled castle comfort with the ultimate mix of homeliness & grandeur, the most appealing destination for those seeking exclusivity & privacy. A combination of seven magnificently appointed bedrooms, two versatile reception rooms, complete with an idyllic backdrop, ensures a truly memorable occasion to be long remembered. Cloughan Castle offers complete exclusivity for all occasions, from an intimate family getaway to a private party celebration, to a truly magical wedding location.

The Visit Galway website tells us:

Cloghan Castle near Loughrea in Galway, was originally built as an out-post fortification in the 12th century by an Anglo-Norman family. The castle was last inhabited by Hugh de Burgo, a son of Walter de Burgo, Earl of Ulster, in the 15th century. 

In 1973, Cloghan Castle was a derelict ruin and all that remained of the fortified Norman keep, built in 1239, were the walls of the tower house. Its current owner, Michael Burke, always had an interest in history and seeing the ruined castle on a neighbour’s land he thought it would be a nice idea to restore it. 

The aim of the restoration work was to recreate what it was like to live in a medieval castle, but without having to suffer the