Places to visit and stay in County Louth, Leinster

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

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

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/

Places to visit in County Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

2. Carlingford Castle, County Louth – OPW

3. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth 

4. Collon House, County Louth

5. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

6. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – OPW

7. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Places to stay, County Louth:

1. Ballymascanlon House, Louth  – hotel 

2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth [also Oriel Temple] – B&B, plus guided tours 

3. Darver Castle, County Louth

4. Ghan House, Co Louth – accommodation 

5.  Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, Co Louth – accommodation

Whole House Rental, County Louth:

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, €€€ for two, € for 6-12

2. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth – weddings

Places to visit in County Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

Barmeath, County Louth, October 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/23/barmeath-castle-dunleer-drogheda-county-louth/

contact: Bryan Bellew
Tel: 041-6851205
Open: May 1-31, June 1-10, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-10, 9am-1pm Fee: adult /OAP/student €5, child free

2. Carlingford Castle, County Louth – OPW

See my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

King John’s Castle, Carlingford, Co Louth, photograph by Nomos Production for Failte Ireland 2022.
Carlingford Castle, Carlingford Lough, County Louth, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

3. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits:

Open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26)

Castle Bellingham, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

The website tells us:

At Bellingham Castle, the welcome is warm, the facilities luxurious and the memories, eternal. Nestled in the medieval village of Castlebellingham in County Louth along Ireland’s Ancient East, Bellingham Castle is an elegant and spacious 17th Century authentic Irish Castle available for exclusive hire, to allow you become King or Queen of your very own castle for a truly memorable experience. The Castle opens for overnight stays on select dates throughout the year, but is predominantly a venue for spectacular Weddings, conferences or events.

Set at the gateway to the Cooley mountains and on the banks of the glistening River Glyde, Bellingham Castle is the centrepiece of a 17-acre estate that includes a weir and man-made river island where you can create memories that last a lifetime. The opulent 17th Century Irish castle is bursting with rich history, splendour and old-world luxury.

Fully refurbished, yet retaining all of its character and charm, Bellingham Castle prides itself on elegance and sophistication, intimacy and cosiness, luxury and exclusivity – all just 50 minutes from both Dublin and Belfast.

We wanted to create something different at Bellingham Castle, an exquisite combination of a welcoming atmosphere and luxury castle experience. From dreamy and palatial bedrooms, to magnificent reception rooms and meticulously manicured gardens, we ensure each guest enjoys high-quality, bespoke service in an idyllic and inspirational location.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Bellingham (1988):

p. 62. “The original castle here, called Gernonstown, which was acquired by Henry Bellingham [1622-1676] mid C17, was burnt by King James’s soldiers before the Battle of the Boyne, when its then owner, Colonel Thomas Bellingham [1645-1721], was fighting for King William. Col Bellingham built a new house 1690/1700 [the National Inventory says 1712] and named it Castle Bellingham; it had a high-pitched roof and is said to have resembled Beaulieu, in the same county. Mrs Delany described it (1745) as “one of the prettiest places I have seen in Ireland.”

The house was remodelled in later C18, when a third storey was added, and again in early C19, when it was given a battlemented parapet, some turrets and a few other mildly medieval touches. The final result was not so much a castle as a castellated house, with plain Georgian sash windows. The nine bay entrance front, which appears to be only of two storeys owing to the higher ground on this side; the entrance, through a Gothic porch not centrally placed, is, in fact, on the first floor, where the principal rooms are situated. The opposite front, which also just misses being symmetrical – with three bays on one side of a shallow, curving bow and two bays and a turret on the other – also has a curved bow. Simple, pleasant rooms; a small staircase in a narrow hall at right angles to the entrance. Garden with terraces overlooking the river Glyde, formerly adorned with statues brought from Dubber Castle, the seat of another branch of the Bellinghams; vista to shrine of the Virgin Mary, erected by Henry Bellingham, a convert to Catholicism during the later years of the Oxford Movement. Straight avenue aligned on the entrance front of the house, terminated at the opposite end by a castellated gatehouse facing the village green. Having been sold by the Bellinghams ca 1956, Castle Bellingham is now an hotel.” [2]

The website gives a further history of the castle:

Bellingham Castle served as one of the ancestral homes for the Bellingham family from the 17th Century until the 1950s. The original castle was built around 1660 by Sir Henry Bellingham [1622-1676], who was a cornet in the Army during the Civil War.

He purchased the lands of Gernonstowne, Co. Louth, from a fellow soldier who had been granted them in lieu of arrears of pay. The purchase was confirmed by King Charles II.

There is some variation on the spelling of Gernonstowne. On various maps and other documents, it is spelled Gernonstowne, Gernonstown, Gernon’s-Town, Gormanstown, Germanstown, Garlandstown and Garland.

Irish road signs show the English as Castlebellingham, while the Irish translation still refers to Baile an Ghearlanaigh – or Gernonstown. It was not called Castlebellingham for at least 40 years after the purchase. The name does not appear on any document before the year 1700. Around 1710, it began to appear in journals and other sources as Castlebellingham.

The castle was occupied by troops and burned down in the autumn of 1689 by King James II, in revenge for Colonel Thomas Bellingham [1645-1721] being a guide for William III, prior to the Battle of the Boyne. It is said that King William’s armies camped the night before the Battle of the Boyne in the grounds of the castle.

Thomas Bellingham had a son, Henry. The estate passed Henry’s son Henry, but he had no children so when he died in 1755 it passed to his brother Alan Bellingham (1709-1796).

Alan’s son O’Bryen Bellingham (d. 1798) set up a brewery on site around 1770. The website tells us:

The website continues: “Over time, Castlebellingham became an important gathering point in the county. Fairs were held there every year and a church was constructed next door to the castle, along with a graveyard that houses the Bellingham family vault. The Bellinghams became one of the most powerful and influential families in the county; for over 100 years, a Bellingham held the seat in Parliament for County Louth.

Records also note Castlebellingham for having ‘the best malt liquor’ in Ireland. A brewery was built on site about 1770 and belonged to an O’Bryen Bellingham [d. 1798, a son of Alan Bellingham]. For a number of years, a brewery partnership ran their liquor business. The brewery is still there but now houses the ‘button factory’ or Smallwares Ltd. The brewery was the main supplier of drink to the Boer War troops.

Alan’s son William married  Hester Frances Cholmondeley, daughter of Reverend Robert Cholmondeley and was created 1st Baronet Bellingham, of Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth. He did not have any children and the title passed to his brother Alan’s son, another Alan (1740-1800), who became 2nd Baronet Bellingham of Castle Bellingham, County Louth.

The website continues: “A history of the parish, dated 1908, states that the impressive Calvary standing at the entrance to Bellingham Castle was erected by Sir [Alan] Henry Bellingham [4th Baronet]as a monument to the memory of his first wife, Lady Constance.

A collection of inset religious panels can be seen on the upper facades of many of the village buildings. These are also a reflection of Sir Henry’s religious sentiments, and they are unique in Ireland. In addition to the many panels, there are biblical quotations cut into the stone window sills of some buildings. North of the castle is a carefully preserved group of ‘widows’ dwellings’, built from charitable motives by Sir Henry.

In 1905, Bellingham Castle was the venue for the romantic wedding celebrations of Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham, daughter of Sir Alan Bellingham [1846-1921], 4th Baronet to the 4th Marquis of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart.

The Marquis, who was one of the wealthiest men in the British Isles at the time, spared no expense and treated his bride and guests to a lavish celebration, including chartering the Princess Maud steamer to take their guests and the Isle of Bute pipe band across the Irish Sea to Bellingham Castle for the wedding. As the society event of the year, the wedding attracted worldwide media attention, from California to New Zealand.

Footage from the wedding celebrations still exists. This remarkable film is believed to be the one of the earliest wedding films in the world. Bellingham Castle is clearly depicted in the footage, together with scenes at nearby Kilsaran Church and the village of Annagassan, from where the wedding party and their guests arrived and departed by steamer.

Castlebellingham was the ancestral home of the Baronetcy until the late 1950s. The last Bellingham to live there was Brigadier General Sir Edward Bellingham [5th Baronet], born in 1879, who was the last Lord Lieutenant and Guardian of the Rolls (Custos Rotulorum).

It was purchased by Dermot Meehan in 1958 from the Irish Land Commission for £3,065.00. Mr Meehan spent several years converting the house into a hotel. The Meehan family sold the hotel and 17 acres in 1967 for £30,636.61 to Mr John Keenan and under the Keenan family stewardship, the castle prospered over the following four decades.

In December 2012, the castle – including the 17 acres – was acquired by the Corscadden family. The family also own Ballyseede Castle in Tralee, Co. Kerry; Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, and Markree Castle, Co. Sligo.

The next chapter in the history of Bellingham Castle has begun, as an exclusive venue for private weddings, civil ceremonies, conferences, meetings and corporate events.

Bellingham Castle is a building of intrinsic historical and architectural interest and is open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26).

4. Collon House, County Louth

Collon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [3]

https://www.collonhouse.com

House & garden tour with tea/coffee & cake… €20 per person

Lunch for larger parties is available as is a more formal 5 course evening dinner, for more information please contact us.

Telephone +353 87 2355645 

The website tells us:

Collon House, steeped in history, is full of character and charm; its gracious rooms are exquisitely furnished with period antiques and paintings, retaining the atmosphere of early Georgian living, making this a rare opportunity to experience less than one hour from Dublin City Centre, thirty minutes from Dublin Airport and just five miles from historic Slane.

Collon House is a perfect location from which to enjoy the wonderful treasures of the Boyne Valley. Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) prehistoric megalithic sites, The Battle of the Boyne visitors centre at Oldbridge, Slane Castle, Old Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice High Crosses are all less than twenty minutes drive from Collon House.

The Historic Houses of Ireland (HHI) website tells us:

Anthony Foster [1705-1778], Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, purchased the Collon estate in 1740 and chose to build in the centre of the County Louth village, now a market town on the road from Dublin to Derry. His early Georgian house was extended in the 1770s to form a substantial L-shaped dwelling, set back from the street at the central crossroads. The original dwelling is long and low but the later building is taller and more generous in scale with more elaborate interiors and a “handsome half-turn stair” that gives access to the upper floors.” [4]

Anthony Foster married Elizabeth Burgh of Bert House (now called de Burgh Manor, available as a whole house rental, see my entry www.irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/), County Kildare.

The HHI website continues: 

Anthony’s son John [1740-1828] was elected to the family borough of Dunleer and became the member for Louth in 1768 at the age of twenty-one. Considered ‘the best informed man in the house’ he was briefly Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer before his election as Speaker of the Irish Commons. He held office from 1785 until 1800, when Parliament was dissolved for ever under the Act of Union, a measure which Foster had strenuously opposed. As Speaker he pronounced the final words at the closing session, choosing to retain his official mace ‘for future contingencies’. Mr. Speaker Foster was returned to Westminster after the Union and was finally rewarded with a UK peerage in 1821 (his wife had previously been granted two Irish titles) after an illustrious political career that spanned more than sixty years. 

In ‘A Tour of Ireland published in 1780, the agronomist Arthur Young mentions Foster whose improvements on the Collon estate “were of a magnitude that I have never heard of before.” These included Oriel Temple, an elaborate and chastely classical lakeside folly, which was subsequently enlarged to form the principal family seat. Foster’s son Thomas married an heiress, Harriet Skeffington, and the family moved to Antrim Castle when she succeeded as Viscountess Massereene.”

John Foster, (1740-1828), Last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, later 1st Baron Oriel Date 1799 Engraver Patrick Maguire, Irish, fl.1783-1820 After Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755-1828. Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.

For more about the Foster family see my Cabra Castle entry, www.irishhistorichouses.com/2021/03/28/cabra-castle-kingscourt-county-cavan/ 

The HHI website continues: “Collon House has been altered over the intervening years but the building retains many fine Georgian interiors, now greatly enhanced by sympathetic restoration, fine furniture, glass, porcelain, pictures and objects. Their rich decoration makes a striking contrast with the plain exterior.

The gardens have also been restored with inspired and authentic planting. The entrance overlooks a sunken garden with an intricate box parterre, while the herbaceous border in the ornamental garden leads to a classical summer house in the Grecian style.” [4]

Collon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [3]

The National Inventory tells us it is a: “Corner-sited attached five-bay three-storey house, built c. 1770. Rectangular-plan, extended by two-bays into two-storey terrace to east, three-bay two-storey wing to north, extended former mews buildings surrounding courtyard to north, single-storey flat-roofed entrance porch to west elevation…This imposing house, the principal home of the Foster family, at the heart of Collon, has historical associations with John Foster, the last man to speak in the Irish House of Commons. It contains many details of interest, such as stone window dressings. Its prominence at the heart of the village is of intrinsic importance to the architectural heritage of Collon.” (see [3])

5. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

Killineer, Drogheda, County Louth, June 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/08/10/killineer-house-county-louth/
contact: Charles & Eithne Carroll
Tel: 086-2323783
www.killineerhouse.ie
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-15, June 1-10, Aug 10-24, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult/OAP/child/student, house: €4, garden €6

6. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – OPW

See my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

7. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Rokeby, County Louth, September 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/17/rokeby-hall-grangebellew-county-louth/
contact: Jean Young
Tel: 086-8644228
www.rokeby.ie
Open: May 1-31, Mon-Sat, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-30, Mon-Sat, 10am-2pm Fee: adult/OAP €7, child/student €5

Places to stay, County Louth:

1. Ballymascanlon House, Louth  – hotel

 https://www.ballymascanlon.com

Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

The website tells us: “The Ballymascanlon House is set on 130 acres of beautiful parkland, this impressive Victorian House forms the heart of this Hotel. It is one of the most remarkable historical estates in Ireland dating back to 833 A.D. Steeped in history, Ballymascanlon estate is located in Ireland’s North East on the Cooley Peninsula in close proximity to the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains. Less than 1 hour from Dublin and Belfast, and 20 minutes from the medieval town of Carlingford. We are delighted to welcome you to our beautiful luxurious venue, ideal for both Business and Leisure.”

Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]
Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

Ballymascanlon House is a multiple-bay two-storey over basement with attic Tudor-Revival house, built in 1863 for James Wolfe MacNeil, incorporating fabric of earlier building, with gables, mullioned windows, hood-mouldings and a recessed doorway. MacNeil owned the nearby corn mills. There may be been a house previously located on the site, David Hicks tells us in Irish County Houses, A Chronicle of Change. [6]

Hicks tells us that the house was sold and further improved by architect P.J. Byrne for Frederick Foster. The red brick gate lodge was added at this time. Frederick Foster (1799-1888) married Isabella Vere. He was the son of John William Foster (1745-1809). Frederick had no children. His sister Louisa Jane married Thomas Span Plunkett, 2nd Baron Plunket of Newton.

Further building works were carried out in 1904 and 1919 for Katherine Plunkett, daughter of Louisa Jane and Thomas Span Plunkett. who then owned the house. The house has high pitched gables and projecting bays. The Plunkett coat of arms over the front door depicts and horse and the Plunkett motto, Festina Lente, or Make Haste Slowly. Hicks continues his description:

Inside, a spine corridor leads past the various reception rooms that overlook the gardens through mullioned windows. This corridor provided ample space for family portraits and landscapes that once decorated the walls. One of the most interesting features of the interior is the glazed dome that provides light to the inner hall at the centre of the house where the hotel reception is. The various reception rooms of the house are tastefully decorated and have retained much of their old world charm.

The house was offered for sale in 1943 and purchased by George Noble Plunkett, a Papal court who received his title from Pope Leo XIII for donating money to Catholic charities. He was the father of Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising.

George Noble Plunkett and his wife Josephine Cranny were children of Pat Plunkett and Pat Cranny, two successful property developers who built many of the red brick Victorian houses in Dublin. Count Plunkett began his professional life as the director of the National Museum. After his son was killed he entered politics. After his wife died, he sold the house to the Quinn family, who turned it into a hotel.

Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth – see above

3. Darver Castle, County Louth

Darver Castle by Barry McGee 2016 courtesy of Flickr constant commons.

https://www.darvercastle.ie/home/

The website tells us:

The Castle, dating from the 15th century is situated in a fine parkland setting and surrounded by mature trees. The courtyard, approached through a medieval arched gateway has lofted stone faced buildings while the outer yard has very impressive stone faced buildings with stabling for 20 horses. Also included is an outdoor manège, partly walled garden and orchard. The lands, all in old pasture, have excellent road frontage and are renowned for their fattening qualities.In the early 12th Century a man named Patrick Babe was given 500 acres of land in the parish of Derver by King James II. He built a castle for himself and his family to live in on the grounds formerly owned by the church. The castle was built on the north side of the hill north of the cave and on the edge of the deep slope that led to the banks of two rivers, which provided fish and eels for the family food.The rivers acted as security from the enemy advancing from the north. With a large yard wall to the east 12 feet high and 20 acres of woodland to the west helped keep the enemy out. But a problem arose on the southside of the hill as it sloped to a deep valley and joined the high hill of newtown Darver. As the top of this hill is just 4 feet higher than the level of the top of the castle. So the soldiers were unable to see the enemy approaching from the south. Patrick Babe had a round tower built on the very top of the hill and placed soldiers into this garrison which gave them a clear view for 40 miles away so no enemy ever got near Darver Castle Estate during all the wars.

The church was never reached by Cromwell because of the protection from the hilltower. When the wars were over, Patrick Babe had wings put on the front of the tower and converted it into a windmill, and used it to ground corn for himself and his tenants. This continued for 150 years until large mills were built on the edge of the rivers, powered by the water, so that the use of the towermill ended and it was later demolished and the land around made arable. The hill is still known as windmill hill. 12thC Patrick Babe built the castle. Later he built 14 tenant houses. 1385 John Babe was given the advocasy of the church 1655 The Babes rented the castle to Abraham Ball. He died in 1742. 1740 James Babe sold the castle and 500 acres of land to Richard Fiscall Dublin for $4,000 1777 According to a survey done by Taylor and Skinner. The castle was idle. 1789 John Booth bought the castle. He died in 1840. 1840 Joseph Booth appears. He added the new wing and porch. 1857 John Filgate Booth died there. 1890 Frances Rutherford died there. 1894 Elizabeth Booth died there. 1906 Charles Rutherford died there. 1921 Zane Booth died there. 1980 John Booth died there. 1993 McCormack family took over and shortly afterwards Aidan and his wife Mary took ownership. Through a lot of hard-work and love for the castle, they have transformed it into the castle wedding venue it is today. The Carville family still continue to care for the castle, with improvements happening endlessly.

4. Ghan House, Co Louth

 https://www.ghanhouse.com

The National Inventory tells us: “Built in 1727 by William Stannus, this building, with its unadorned façade and finely-balanced elegant classical proportions, is a handsome representative of architectural developments during the Georgian era. It retains a large amount of original and early fabric, including handsome boundary walls, corner tower and carriage arch.”

5.  Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, Co Louth

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/11738928?source_impression_id=p3_1574613728_Shdh4WSLqYmh5i8M

Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, County Louth, March 2022.

The airbnb entry describes the little castle:

Hatch’s Castle has many beautiful features including the Dome Hall,  the original spiral staircase, and a wonderfully restored drawing room on the first floor, where you can sit down and relax. 
We’re situated in the lovely town Ardee, which is surrounded by many historic places such as the Jumping Church and Newgrange. There are few restaurants around Ardee and several shops.
 

Walking inside Hatch’s castle on the Main Street of Ardee is a feeling of space and tranquility. From that moment you know you have entered a castle that is waiting to be explored.  There are four floors, each boasting character and an ambiance of true charm and comfort.  Ground floor entrance hall with dome ceiling is also used as a dining room. The 1st floor has the drawing room with an open fire. Here you can help yourself to a drink, relax, read and unwind. Breakfast can be served here in the large window over looking the Main Street. The 2nd and 3rd floor have a bedroom and private bathroom each.  

It is possible to see Ardee and its surrounding countryside from the roof.  There is a cobble stone yard to sit in and a walled garden to enjoy during the summer months. 

The entire castle is here for you to explore and enjoy. There is a front door entering the castle from the main street.

The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster (1993) has an entry for Hatch’s Castle:

p. 117. “Rectangular four storey tower house with rounded corners and a façade only one window wide. C15 or C16 and for centuries a property of the Hatch family. Two semicircular turrets project at rear. The castle is sandwiched between ordinary two and three-storey houses on the main street. In 1837 it was described by Lewis as ‘recently fitted up as a dwelling by Wm Hatch,’ which probably accounts for the new battlements, windows and hoodmouldings. Quaint interior, with timber panelling in the barrel-vaulted hall and a carpeted turret stair.” [7]

Whole House Rental, County Louth:

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louthsection 482, see above, €€€ for two, € for 6-12

2. Bellingham Castle, co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits 

https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

See above

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13826003/bellingham-castle-castlebellingham-castlebellingham-castlebellingham-louth

[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/13828001/collon-house-drogheda-street-ardee-street-collon-collon-louth

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

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13900756/ballymascanlon-house-ballymascanlan-ballymascanlon-louth

[6] p. 147. Hicks, David. Irish County Houses: Chronicle of Change. Collins Press, Cork, 2012. 

[7] p. 117, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

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

Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, County Cavan

Cabra Castle (Hotel)

Kingscourt, Co. Cavan

Howard Corscadden.

Tel: 042-9667030

www.cabracastle.com

contact: Howard Corscadden.
Tel: 042-9667030
www.cabracastle.com
Open in 2022: all year, except Dec 24, 25, 26, 11am-4pm
Fee: Free

Stephen and the Knight have a heart to heart. We attended a wedding in Cabra Castle in 2011 and I took this photograph.

Stephen and I visited Cabra Castle in December 2020. I contacted the owner, Howard Corscadden, in advance, to request a tour of the castle. The Corscadden family own several beautiful Irish properties which provide unique castle accommodation. As well as Cabra Castle, they own Markree Castle in County Sligo and Ballyseede Castle in County Kerry, both of which are on the Section 482 list, as well as Bellingham Castle in County Louth. They are all hotels except the latter which is available as a four star venue for weddings and events, with accommodation. Howard’s parents and grandparents were also in the hotel business in Ireland, as are his siblings – Ballyseede is run by his sister Marnie, Castle Bellingham by his brother Patrick and Markree Castle by his sister Patricia. Howard worked in the Waldorf hotel in Switzerland and in Dromoland Castle in Ireland before purchasing Cabra Castle in 1991. [1] It had been converted to a hotel in 1964 by the local Brennan family. In 1986 it was sold to become a private house once more, but with a change in fortune the family sold to Howard Corscadden.

The early history of the castle is the history of two land-owning families, the Fosters and the Pratts. The building now known as Cabra Castle was originally known as Cormy Castle. At that time, an adjacent property was called “Cabra.” Cormy Castle was named after the townland of Cormy.

In 1795 the land, which contained an old round tower castle called Cormy Castle, belonged to John Thomas Foster (1747-1796), who had been MP for Dunleer, County Louth, and for Ennis, County Clare. The main building of Cormy Castle was in ruins, destroyed during the Cromwellian War, but its adjacent courtyard remained in good repair.

The Foster family owned large amounts of land in County Louth and their family seat was in Dunleer. The family produced many members of the Irish Parliament. John Thomas’s grandfather John Foster (1665-1747) had been MP for Dunleer. His father, Reverend Thomas Foster (1709-1784) was Rector at Dunleer. His uncle Anthony Foster (1705-1778) had also been MP for Dunleer and for County Louth, and was Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and lived at Collon, County Louth. [2] Anthony’s son John Foster (1740-1828) was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, created 1st Baron Oriel of Ferrard, and also owned property which is now part of University College Dublin and the adjacent road Foster Avenue is named after him.

John Foster, 1st Baron Oriel, by Francesco Bartolozzi, after Unknown artist, stipple engraving, late 18th century. Photograph from National Portrait Gallery, London.

Turtle Bunbury tells us that John Thomas Foster’s father Reverend Thomas, the rector of Dunleer, acquired land in County Louth in the 1750s and 1760. He then acquired the 700 acre manor of Killany, County Louth, from 1763 on a series of long leases from the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College Dublin. He purchased Stonehouse, Dunleer, around 1787. [3]

Stone House, County Louth, built around 1760 and purchased by Reverend Thomas Foster in around 1787. Photograph from National Archive of Architectural Heritage.

In 1776 John Thomas Foster married Elizabeth Christina Hervey, daughter of the 4th Earl of Bristol. After the marriage they lived with her father in Suffolk. They had two sons: Frederick Thomas (1777-1853) and Augustus John (1780-1848). [4] 

The marriage of John Thomas and Elizabeth Christina was not a success, and they separated after five years. Foster took the sons, and she did not see them for fourteen years. [5]

Elizabeth Christina Hervey, Lady Foster, painted by Thomas Lawrence in around 1805, as the Tiburtine Sybil, the Roman prophetess who foretold the coming of Christ. In 1782 she became the lover of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, and they lived together at Chatworth, Derbyshire, with his wife Georgiana. Following the birth of a number if illegitimate children, she married the Duke in 1809. Portait in the National Gallery of Ireland.

In 1783 John Thomas Foster inherited a property named Rosy Park in Louth from his uncle, John William Foster. In 1820 it was renamed Glyde Park by his son, Augustus. [6] It is unfortunately now a ruin.

The ruin of Glyde Court, County Louth, built around 1780. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

John Thomas died in 1796, when his sons were still minors. They moved back to England to live with their mother, who by this time was living with William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, along with his wife, Georgiana, and had born him two children. A film starring Keira Knightly, “The Duchess,” is based on their story. [7] She married him in 1809 when his wife died.

Meanwhile, a cousin of John Thomas Foster, Henry Foster (c. 1747-1838), was appointed Trustee and Executor of the property of Cormy. He lived at Cormy Castle while acting as Trustee for his wards. According to Turtle Bunbury, he was a magistrate for Meath, Cavan and Louth. There is a record in the National Library of Ireland of a Grant of Arms to Henry Foster of Cormy Castle from March 13th 1806, when he was about to be created a baronet, but “the creation did not eventuate” (i.e. he was not made baronet). The National Library also has a map of the demesne of Cormy Castle from 1810, named as the seat of Henry Foster. In 1808 he began to rebuild and enlarge the castle. However, he exhausted the personal estate of his wards in doing so, and incurred debts, and the castle and land had to be sold. In about 1813 his wards sold the estate to Colonel Joseph Pratt, who lived on the adjacent property. [8]

John Thomas Foster’s son Frederick Thomas Foster may have remained in England, as he served as MP for Bury St. Edwards between 1812 and 1818. His brother Augustus John Foster became a politician and diplomat. Between roughly 1802 and 1804 he was Secretary to the British Legion in Naples. He held the office of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the U.S.A. in 1812. He wrote about his American experiences in Notes on the United States of America.

From 1814-1824 he held the office of Minister Plenipotentiary to Denmark. He was created 1st Baronet Foster of Glyde Court in 1831, and was appointed Privy Counsellor. His final posting was to Turin, in the Kingdom of Sardinia. 

Colonel Joseph Pratt, who owned the adjacent Cabra estate, continued the enlargement of Cormy Castle, and the work was completed in 1837. In 1820 he renamed it Cabra Castle. [9]

Before we examine the development of Cabra Castle, let’s look at the history of the property of Cabra across the road from the current Cabra Castle. 

Old Cabra, in Dun Na Ri Forest Park

Old Cabra, in Dun Na Ri Forest Park
The former stable block of Old Cabra, popularly known as “The Barracks,” in Dun Na Ri Forest Park

According to the Cabra Castle website, this area belonged to the O’Reilly family. In 1607 Gerald Fleming, who had been granted territory by King James I, built a castle on the property. He lost his lands, however, when he supported James II against William III, and Colonel Thomas Cooch (1632-1699) acquired the property. [10]

Colonel Thomas Cooch married Elizabeth Mervyn, (sister of Audley Mervyn, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons), and they had an only daughter and heiress, Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth’s first husband (Nathaniel Pole, who lived in County Meath) died in 1685, before they had any children, and Elizabeth then married Joseph Pratt, who lived not far off at Garadice, Co. Meath, a property which his father received for his support of Oliver Cromwell. [11] This marriage (which was also Joseph Pratt’s second) took place in 1686 and a son, Mervyn Pratt, was born in 1687. Joseph Pratt held the office of High Sheriff of County Meath in 1698. He and Elizabeth had several other children.

Colonel Thomas Cooch left his Cabra property to his grandson Mervyn. 

Mervyn Pratt was only 12 years old when his grandfather died. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin and married Elizabeth Coote, daughter of Sir Thomas Coote, Judge, of Bellamont, Coote Hill, County Cavan. Mervyn and Elizabeth lived at Cabra near the Wishing Well. He followed in his father’s footsteps and held the office of High Sheriff, but of County Cavan rather than Meath. He was also an MP for County Cavan.

The Fleming castle was modernised by Mervyn Pratt. The new villa may have been designed by Edward Lovett Pearce, who was a cousin of Elizabeth Coote. The Irish Aesthete quotes a visitor to Mervyn Pratt in Cabra:

On August 25th 1732, the future Mrs Delany (then the merrily widowed Mrs Pendarves) embarked on a journey from Navan, County Meath to Cootehill, County Cavan. She wrote in her journal, ‘travelled through bad roads and a dull, uninhabited country, till we came to Cabaragh, Mr Prat’s house, an old castle modernized, and made very pretty: the master of it is a virtuoso, and discovers whim in all his improvements. The house stands on the side of a high hill; has some tall old trees about it; the gardens are small but neat; there are two little terrace walks, and down in a hollow is a little commodious lodge where Mr Prat lived whilst his house was repairing. But the thing that most pleased me, was a rivulet that tumbles down from rocks in a little glen, full of shrub-wood and trees; here a fine spring joins the river, of the sweetest water in the world.’” [12]

Cabra Castle by Robert French, Lawrence Photograph Collection NLI flickr constant commons.

Mervyn and Elizabeth Pratt had three daughters and one son. Their son Joseph joined the clergy. Reverend Joseph married Elizabeth Chetwood and had five children.

Of the five children of Reverend Joseph Pratt, a daughter Anne married her neighbour Henry Foster the trustee for Cormy Castle. [13] A son, James Butler Pratt, married a sibling of Henry Foster, Margaret. Another son entered the clergy, Reverend Joseph Pratt (1738-1831).

This second Reverend Joseph Pratt married Sarah Morres, daughter of the 1st Viscount Mountmorres, of Castle Morres, County Kilkenny (which has been demolished). Their son, Colonel Joseph Pratt (1775-1863), purchased Cormy Castle from Henry Foster. Their other son, Hervey Randall Saville Pratt inherited the property of Castle Morres through his mother.

The house at Cabra was destroyed by fire in the 1950s, and is now part of Dun na Ri Forest Park, a lovely place to explore, owned by Coillte. After Joseph Pratt moved to Cormy Castle and created a new seat for his family, his former property became known as Old Cabra. [14] 

Now let us travel back across the road to the former Cormy Castle, now Cabra Castle. Cabra Castle is a mixture of Norman and Gothic styles.

The entrance is in a Norman-style “donjon” or square tower house, with corner turret. The door is in a deeply recessed pointed arch.

The building has two, three and four story sections over a basement. The building, including outbuildings, is castellated, and has several round and square towers.

The windows are of various shape, some with hood mouldings. 

A recent creation to one side of the tower is “Mitzi’s garden,” a formal garden with fountain, tribute to the mother of the current generation of Corscaddens, who is nicknamed Mitzi. This area used to be used for parking. 

View of Mitzi’s Garden from the balcony above.

There are statue-filled niches, and a side entrance, up a flight of steps, leads to the recently refurbished ballroom.

The steps leading to the entry to the Ballroom.

The other side of the building has a terrace which contains a seating area outside the bar, which also serves food.

This is a photograph of the terrace from 2011, which has been altered slightly, as you can see in the photograph below.

The bar on the ground floor.
The ogee arched shaped windows and doors mirror those of the entrance.

This courtyard looks out to a lawn area that has a giant chess set and places to sit.

This path leads out to a golf course.
The castle is permanently inhabited by some beautiful Irish wolf hounds, who make a picturesque and atmospheric addition to wedding photographs.
This is the area beyond the courtyard and bar, and is the outer walls of the courtyard to the rear of the castle.
This arial photograph was taken before Mitzi’s Garden was developed. The square turret in the inside corner of the L bend of the castle contains our en suite. The courtyard with further accommodation, of one square within a larger square, is at the rear.

The oldest part of the castle can be pinpointed in the aerial view. According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage the “earlier house of c.1750 [is] embedded within northern section of south-east side concealed behind extension of c.1990, junction marked by square-plan rendered turret corresponding to north-west side in simplified form.” This square plan turret actually contains our bathroom!

Beyond Mitzi’s Garden a path leads to the car park and further self-catering accommodation, beyond the tennis court. A branch of this path and driveway curves around to the courtyard at the back of the castle. One can also enter this courtyard through the castle. The courtyard originally contained the stables, but these have been converted into more hotel accommodation. There are about sixty rooms in the courtyard.

The outside of the courtyard buildings.

Some of the buildings in the courtyard have been newly constructed. My amateur eye cannot distinguish the new from the old.

In the middle of the courtyard is Karl’s Garden, named after a former groundsman. 

The Cabra Castle website tells us:

“Colonel Joseph Pratt had married Jamima, daughter of Sir James Tynte [of Tynte Park, County Wicklow – the beautiful house that stands there today wasn’t built until around 1820; Jamima married in 1806], and had ten children. The eldest – Mervyn, born in 1807 – married Madeline Jackson, only daughter and heiress of Colonel Jackson of Enniscoe, Co. Mayo. They inherited this property when Colonel Pratt died. 

He succeeded his father, Col. Joseph Pratt, as owner of Cabra in 1863, but from this time onwards, the interests of the Pratt Family were divided between Cabra in Co. Cavan and Enniscoe in Co. Mayo. Mervyn Pratt died in 1890 and was succeeded on his death by his eldest son – Major Mervyn Pratt, in 1927.”

Enniscoe, by the way, is another Section 482 property which I look forward to visiting, which also provides accommodation. The house was completed in 1798. [15] 

Mervyn Pratt (1807-1890) who married into Enniscoe had several brothers. Joseph Pratt took the name of Tynte in 1836 from his mother and lived in Tynte Park. Mervyn held the offices of High Sheriff of County Cavan in 1841 and High Sheriff of County Mayo in 1843. He was also Justice of the Peace for County Cavan and High Sheriff for County Meath in 1875. His son Joseph Pratt (1843-1929) inherited Enniscoe and Cabra Castle, and then Joseph’s son Mervyn (1873-1950) lived at Enniscoe and left Cabra Castle unoccupied. He served in the military, and was a Justice of the Peace, and never married. He bequeathed Cabra to his nearest male relative, Mervyn Sheppard (1905-1994), a Malayan Civil Servant. [16] According to the Cabra Castle website, death duties and taxes, rates, the cost of repairs, and farm losses, meant he could not afford to live there, and he had to sell it. It was sold in 1964 to the Brennans and turned into a 22 bedroom hotel.

The manager of the hotel, Johnny, took us on a tour. While we waited for him we sat by an open fire in a small sitting room off the reception hall.

Reception area within the front entrance.
Small room off the reception area, where we waited for the Manager for our tour.

Beyond the reception area is the staircase hall with a bifurcating staircase with metalwork balustrade ascending to the first floor. Two statues very similar to the ones that were recently removed from outside the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin while the owners determined whether they represented slave girls or not (they do not) adorn the staircase. [17]

On the second floor the staircase hall is surrounded by a gallery, and has ceiling work of thin fretting.

At the top of the stairs on the first floor is a Victorian drawing room with an original gilt wallpaper.

The ceiling has matching gilt decoration. Next to this room, facing the staircase, is the dining area – a suite of several rooms. The arches between the rooms reflect the entrance arch to the castle and the arched windows.

This is the bay window we can see as the canted three storey tower outside.

The historic elegance of the rooms is maintained with original fireplace, antique mirrors, portraits and chandeliers.

On the second floor is more cosy sitting room, decorated in dark green William Morris style wallpaper, making it more like a den or library.

This den overlooks an outdoor seating area. This is the seating area overlooking Mitzi’s Garden.

Beautiful antiques adorn the rooms. I love these porcelain cranes on the  fine desk.
I can’t find this Cecil Pratt in the family tree. I would love to identify all the sitters in the portraits. Most, however, were bought after the Pratts’ belongings went elsewhere.

The manager then took us through to the most recent piece de resistance, the Ballroom. It has been sensitively built and decorated to reflect the style of the older parts of the castle, and I loved the ceiling, which is quite amazing and looks like heavy medieval carved wood but is actually manufactured using a modern technique. In the hallway leading to the ballroom, our guide pointed out that the original round stone tower of the castle has been incorporated.

The original round stone tower of the castle has been incorporated into the newer wing. A pair of ogee arched doorways lead to the bar.
A tripartite stone window is also incorporated into the newer area.
I asked our guide whether this door was a genuine old one, and he told me it is not, but was carefully crafted.
 

The ballroom includes a large “minstrels’ gallery.”

Tipperary crystal chandelier.
The tower has been incorporated to form a little nook for a wedding cake.
The cake tower room comes complete with a sword to cut the cake!

Off the ballroom is a small kitchen, called Josephine’s Kitchen after one of the staff who worked here for thirty years.

In Josephine’s kitchen, guests can help themselves to tea and coffee. A painting of Cormy Bridge, near where Old Cabra was located, is by Josephine herself!

Our guide told us that Howard Corscadden likes to pick up antiques to add to the décor. I love these additions, making me feel like I was a visitor in the days of the Pratts when the castle must have boasted its full glory. After our tour, I explored the nooks and crannies, enjoying the irregularity of the stairways and corridors.

There was a great photograph of Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan on the way up to our bedroom.

Even the back corridors have wonderful artworks. I love this series of portraits. I wonder who they are?

I also really like these Arabic scenes:

Our guide showed us to one of his favourite bedrooms, which has a ceiling recently adorned with plasterwork. He particularly loves the use of the round tower, renovated into a gorgeous bathroom.

He then took us outside to the courtyard, and showed us the Bridal Suite in the courtyard area.

I loved the detail of the fish tank built into the wall.

The room has its own jacuzzi.

There is another Bridal Suite, inside the castle. I have saved the best until last, because this was our room! It used to be three bedrooms, a hallway and an office, all now incorporated into a luxurious suite. It has a canopied four poster bed, a comfortable seating area with fireplace, and a beautiful clawfoot bath.

I love the antique desk.
I wonder who is in the portraits? 

The ensuite bathroom has the largest walk-in shower that I’ve ever seen, and the muted lighting feels particularly luxurious.

The bathroom has a door to a large private patio, with stunning views over Mitzi’s Garden and the landscape beyond. And best of all, we had our own private outdoor jacuzzi!

The view from our balcony.
Stephen prepares to soak in the jacuzzi, under the tower which is attached to the oldest part of the castle.

There are self-catering cottages where one can also stay. It is a beautiful part of the country. Before heading home, we availed of the opportunity to visit the impressive remnants nearby of Castle Saunderson.

Castle Saunderson, County Cavan.

[1] http://audrey.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/cabra-castle.pdf

See also Ballyseede Castle: https://www.ballyseedecastle.com

Markree Castle: https://www.markreecastle.ie

Castle Bellingham: https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

[2] Collon House now runs a B&B and you can also request a tour. www.collonhouse.com

[3] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/family/bunburyfamily_related/bunbury_family_related_foster.html

It is interesting to note that his neighbour, Dr. Benjamin Pratt, son of Joseph Pratt and Elizabeth Cooch, was a Provost of Trinity College Dublin in 1710.

[4] http://www.thepeerage.com/p957.htm#i9561

[5] Chapman, Caroline & Jane Dormer, Elizabeth and Georgiana: The Duke of Devonshire and his Two Duchesses, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2002

[6] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/04/20/the-scattering/

[7] Hicks, David. Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters. The Collins Press, Cork, 2014.

[8] https://archiseek.com/2020/1808-cabra-castle-kingscourt-co-cavan/

[9] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/40403506/cabra-castle-cormey-co-cavan

Also http://www.dunari.ie/history.html

[10] www.cabracastle.com

[11] http://www.bomford.net/IrishBomfords/Chapters/Chapter20/Chapter20.htm

[12] https://theirishaesthete.com/2020/04/20/cabra-demesne/

[13] http://www.thepeerage.com/p38140.htm#i381397

[14] Mark Bence-Jones. 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.

[15] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31303803/enniscoe-house-originally-inishcoe-house-prospect-co-mayo

and https://www.enniscoe.com

[16] Imagine inheriting a castle from a distant relative! Mervyn Pratt died in 1950 and his siblings had predeceased him and had no children. Louisa Catherine Hannah Pratt was his aunt. It was through her line that Mervyn Sheppard inherited.

Louisa Pratt was the sister of Joseph Pratt (1843-1929), who lived at Enniscoe, the father of Mervyn Pratt. Louisa Pratt married Thomas Rothwell. Thomas Rothwell served in County Meath militia, and was High Sheriff of County Meath in 1867, and also served as Justice of the Peace for County Meath. He lived at Rockfield, County Meath. 

Louisa and Thomas had four daughters. Louisa Frances Rothwell must have been the oldest of the daughters, as it was through her son that Mervyn Sheppard inherited. Mervyn Sheppard was the son of Canon James William ffrank Sheppard and Louisa Frances Rothwell. Mervyn probably grew up in England where father was rector. He had a twin, Frank Baden ffrank Sheppard, who served in the military, and a younger brother. 

[17] An Irish Times article by Ronan McGreevy from Thursday Sept 24th 2020  explains the origin of the Shelbourne hotel statues. They were designed and sculpted by Mathurin Moreau (1822-1912) and were cast in a foundry in Paris. The statues represent Egyptian and Nubian women.