Places to visit and stay in Munster: Limerick and Tipperary

Accommodation is in red. Section 482 properties are in purple.

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;

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

Limerick:

1. Ash Hill, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – section 482

2. Askeaton Castle, County Limerick – OPW

3. Desmond Castle, Adare, County Limerick – OPW

4. Desmond Castle, Newcastlewest, County Limerick – OPW

5. Glebe House, Holycross, Bruff, Co. Limerick – section 482

6. Glenville House, Glenville, Ardagh, Co. Limerick – section 482

7. Glenquin Castle, Newcastle West, Co Limerick – open to visitors 

8. Glenstal Abbey, County Limerick

9. Kilpeacon House, Crecora, Co. Limerick – section 482

10. King John’s Castle, Limerick

11. Odellville House, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick – section 482

12. Mount Trenchard House and Garden, Foynes, Co. Limerick – section 482

13. The Turret, Ryanes, Ballyingarry, Co. Limerick – section 482

14. The Old Rectory, Rathkeale, Co. Limerick – section 482

Places to stay, County Limerick:

1. Adare Manor, Limerick – hotel €€€

2. Ash Hill Towers, Kilmallock, Co Limerick – section 482, Hidden Ireland accommodation €

3. The Dunraven, Adare, Co Limerick € 

4. Flemingstown House, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, Ireland – whole house accommodation, up to 11 guests. €€€ for two for a week, € for 4-11

5. Longcourt House Hotel, Newcastle West, Co Limerick 

6. Woodlands House and Spa, Adare, Co Limerick €€

Whole house rental County Limerick

1. Ballyteigue House, County Limerick self-catering whole house accommodation, rental per week. €€ for two, € for 4-10

2. Flemingstown House, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, Ireland whole house accommodation, up to 11 guests. €€€ for two for a week, € for 4-11

3. Glin Castle, whole house rental.

4. Springfield Castle, Drumcollogher, Co. Limerick, Ireland €€€ for 2, € for 5-25.

Tipperary:

1. Beechwood House, Ballbrunoge, Cullen, Co. Tipperary – section 482

2. Cahir Castle, County Tipperary – OPW

3. Carey’s Castle, Clonmel, County Tipperary

4. Clashleigh House, Clogheen, Co. Tipperary – section 482

5. Cloughjordan House, Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary – section 482

6. Fancroft Mill, Fancroft, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary – section 482

7. Farney Castle, Holycross, County Tipperary

8. Grenane House, Tipperary, Co. Tipperary – section 482

9. Killenure Castle, Dundrum, Co Tipperary – section 482

10. Lismacue House, Bansha, Co. Tipperary – section 482

11. Nenagh Castle, County Tipperary

12. Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary – OPW

13. Redwood Castle, Redwood, Lorrha, Nenagh, North Tipperary – section 482

14. The Rectory, Cashel Road, Cahir, Co. Tipperary – section 482

15. Roscrea Castle and Damer House, County Tipperary

16. Silversprings House, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary – section 482

17. Swiss Cottage, County Tipperary – OPW

Places to stay, County Tipperary

1. Ashley Park, Nenagh, Co Tipperary – accommodation

2. Ballinacourty House, Co Tipperary – guest house and restaurant

3. Birdhill House, Clonmel, County Tipperary

4. Cahir House Hotel, Cahir, County Tipperary

5. Cashel Palace Hotel €€€

6. Croc an Oir, Mullinahone, County Tipperary € for 4-15

7. Dundrum House, County Tipperary – €€

8. The Rectory, Cashel Road, Cahir, Co. Tipperary – section 482

Whole house rental/wedding venue County Tipperary

1. Bansha Castle, County Tipperary – whole house rental €€€ for 2; € for 7-16

2. Cloughjordan House, Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary – section 482

3. Inch House, Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland – whole house rental €€€ for 2; €€ for 7-10

4. Killaghy Castle, Mullinahone, Tipperary – whole house rental €€€ for 2; € for 11-14

5. Kilshane, Tipperary, Co Tipperary

6. Kilteelagh House, Dromineer, Lough Derg, County Tipperary – whole house €€€ for 2; €€ for 10-12

7. Lisheen Castle, Thurles, County Tipperary €€€ for two, € for 11-14

8. Lismacue, County Tipperary, ihh member, whole house rental

www.lismacue.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility) Open: Mar 18-Oct 31

Limerick:

1. Ash Hill, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – section 482 €

contact: Simon and Nicole Johnson
Tel: 063-98035
www.ashhill.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: Apr 1-Sept 30, 9.30am-4.30pm Fee: adult €5, child/OAP/student €3

Ashill Towers, taken  c.1865-1914 by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection, National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.
Ash Hill Towers, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1]

The website tells us: “Ash Hill is a large, comfortable Georgian estate, boasting many fine stucco ceilings and cornices throughout the house. For guests wishing to stay at Ash Hill, we have three beautifully appointed en-suite bedrooms, all of which can accommodate one or more cots…Open to the public from January 15th through December 15th. Historical tours with afternoon tea are easily arranged and make for an enjoyable afternoon. We also host small workshops of all kinds, upon request…For discerning guests, Ash Hill can be rented, fully staffed, in its entirety [comfortably sleeps 10 people]. Minimum rental 7 days.”

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

“(Evans/Carbery/ Johnson/ Harrington) A C18 pedimented house [the National Inventory tells us it was built in 1781], the back of which was rebuilt in Gothic 1833, probably to the design of James and George Richard Pain [the National Inventory corrects this – it was designs by Charles Frederick Anderson], with two slender round battlemented and machiolated towers. Rectangular windows with wooden tracery. Good plasterwork in upstairs drawing room in the manner of Wyatt and by the same hand as the hall at Glin Castle; saloon with domed ceiling. The towers have, in recent years, been removed. Originally a seat of the Evans family; passed in the later C19 to John Henry Weldon. Now the home of Major Stephen Johnson.” [2]

The website also tells us about its history:

The oldest evidence of habitation at Ash Hill is what is believed to be a long barrow grave dating somewhere between 4000 and 2000 B.C. This was described in letters written by Eileen Foster, an American visiting her ancestral home, Ash Hill, in 1908. Miss Foster wrote “close to the avenue, as they call it, although there are trees on only one side of the road, is a large green mound which is supposed to mark the burial place of one of the Irish chieftains and a number of his followers. It was the custom in those days to bury a dozen or so of his slaves with every chieftain. Father says he would like to explore the spot, but not a man could be found who would put a spade into the sacred earth”.

Also on the estate, beside the site of an old lake, there are the remains of a crannog (an Irish house built on a small island) usually dating prior to 1000 A.D. The lake was drained in the 1915 and during this process, the remains of numerous Irish Elk (deer from the interglacial period) were discovered.

Close to the lake, overlooking the town, is the site of Castle Coote, birthplace of Lieutenant General Sir Eyre Coote, conqueror of India. This castle was demolished in the later half of the eighteenth century.

The courtyard to the main house was built sometime between 1720 and 1740 and it was sympathetically restored in the 1950’s by the late Mrs. Denny Johnson. The present house, which overlooks this courtyard, was built by Chidley Coote [1735-1799] in 1781.

This part of the house has numerous ceilings of historical and architectural importance displaying dancers from Herculaneum which are similar to the stucco medallions found in the saloon at Castletown, County Kildare. Numerous windows, looking out onto the courtyard, date from this period and have the original glass. 

In the 1830’s, Eyre Evans [1773-1856] employed Charles Anderson, an architect, to build the front of the house in a Gothic style with two large towers on it. There are various Gothic features in this part of the house. Unfortunately, due to excessive rates (a valuation based property tax), some parts of the house, including the towers, were removed in the early 1960’s.

During the “troubled times”, the house was occupied by three sets of troops who looted and vandalized the property, using ancient family portraits for target practice. As these “troubled times” were ending, Michael Collins, the Irish leader at the time, visited the house on his way south to what would be his violent and untimely demise at the hands of his enemies. There is a considerable amount of graffiti left on the walls of the top floor rooms which were occupied by both troops and prisoners.

The first recorded ownership of Ash Hill was in 1667 when Chidley Coote [d. 1702, grandson of Charles Coote, 1st Baronet Coote, of Castle Cuffe, Queen’s Co., or perhaps his father Chidley Coote (d. 1668)] acquired the property from Catherine Bligh. It is probable that he had a son who was also Chidley Coote [(1678-1730). He married Jane Evans of Bulgaden Hall, Limerick.]. In 1726, Lieutenant General Eyre Coote [1726-1783] (son of Chidley Coote–a clergyman and owner of Castle Coote) was born at Ash Hill which was known as Castle Coote at that time [There were three other brothers: Robert Coote who married Anne Purdon of Ballyclough, County Cork (now partly demolished); Reverend Charles Coote who married Grace Tilson; Thomas Coote who married Eleanor White of Charleville, County Cork]. General Coote went on to become one of the greatest military tacticians of the eighteenth century with numerous victories to his credit, including winning India from the French in the Seven Years’ War and defeating Hyder Ali despite being outnumbered by almost twenty to one. This same victorious pattern was to be repeated in battles throughout the war. 

Coote’s nephew, Sir Eyre Coote [(1762-1823), son of Eyre Coote’s brother Reverend Charles Evans Coote (1713-1796)], who was born at Ash Hill in the late eighteenth century, became the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica between 1806 and 1808. It has been said that Coote, while living in Jamaica, had a relationship with a slave girl. Although unconfirmed, it is thought that Colin Powell, hero of the Gulf War, may be a descendent of this relationship.

Sometime prior to 1799, Ash Hill passed on to Eyre Evans. We are still attempting to ascertain if Eyre Evans was a descendent of Eyre Coote [I believe he is related: Jane Evans who married Reverend Chidley Coote had a brother named Thomas Evans (d. 1753). He had a son, Eyre Evans (1723-1773). This Eyre had a son also named Eyre Evans (1773-1856). It was he who inherited Ash Hill Towers. He married Anna Maunsell of Limerick]. We believe this could well be the case in light of both parties sharing the same first name as well as ownership of Ash Hill. At about the time of the Famine, ownership of the estate passed out of the Evans family and, in 1858, part of the estate was acquired by Thomas Weldon. In 1860, another part of the estate was acquired by Captain Henry Frederick Evans. In 1880, Evans’ widow sold her interest in the estate to John Henry Weldon, a son of Thomas Weldon. 

The Evans family was a large family with many branches that emigrated to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England, Canada and U.S.A. One of the branch that emigrated to New Zealand was a prolific writer and much or possibly all of his writings were donated to the Alexander Turnbull library in Wellington, New Zealand. 

The estate passed out of the Weldon family to P.M. Lindsay in 1911. Captain Lindsay sold Ash Hill to Mrs. Denny Johnson in 1946. 

After Denise Johnson bought the property in 1946 she ran it as a successful stud, and she was a successful point-to-point rider with over 50 wins to her name. In 1956 she married Stado Johnson. After many falls she was told to “take up a safer sport then point-to point riding” by her doctor, she took up 3-day eventing and represented Ireland at an international level. 

Today, Ash Hill has been opened to the public and sees a great many people of vaired interests. From architects to historians interested in taking a peek at Ireland’s unique past, all are welcome. Ash Hill is still owned by the Johnson family who enjoy sharing their love of history and the outdoors with the public. Most days, Simon and Nikki Johnson can be found wandering around the estate tending to the garden and pastures. For those interested, Simon can be happily talked into a full tour.

2. Askeaton Castle, County Limerick – OPW

See my OPW write-up: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

3. Desmond Castle, Adare, County Limerick – OPW

See my OPW write-up: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

4. Desmond Castle, Newcastlewest, County Limerick – OPW

See my OPW write-up: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

5. Glebe House, Holycross, Bruff, Co. Limerick – section 482

Is it this? Brackvoan, former Presbytry, Bruff, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [3]

contact: Kate Hayes and Colm McCarthy
Tel: 087-6487556
Open: Jan 4-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, Aug 13-22, Sept 1-30, Mon-Fri, 5.30pm- 9.30pm, Sat-Sun, 8am-12 noon

Fee: Free

6. Glenville House, Glenville, Ardagh, Co. Limerick – section 482

Glenville House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [4]

contact: Owen O’Neill
Tel: 086-2541435
Open: Apr 1-30, May 1-31, Sept 1-13, Tue-Sat, Aug 13-21, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult €5, OAP/student €3, child free

The National Inventory tells us it is a :”Detached three-bay two-storey country house, dated 1803, having six-bay block to north (rear) elevation, extending to east of main block and adjoining L-plan multiple-bay two-storey outbuilding. Central full-height breakfront to south (front) elevation. …Flat arched opening to east elevation with cut limestone surround, voussoirs and keystone, and double-leaf timber battened door… Lunette openings to first floor, east and west elevations, having tooled limestone sills, red brick surrounds and timber framed windows…

Once the home of William Massey, this building is currently undergoing restoration. Its size and massing make it a very notable feature on the landscape and the regular façade and restrain in ornamentation adds to the imposing appearance. The retention of timber sliding sash windows and limestone sills is significant, and adds to the architectural significance of the site. Symmetry is evident in the design and is enhanced by the hipped roof, central chimneystacks and breakfront. The outbuildings, walled garden to the rear, and gate lodge all serve to add context to the site. Keystone reads: ‘WM/AD/1803’.” [4]

Glenville House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [4]
Glenville House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [4]

7. Glenquin Castle, Newcastle West, Co Limerick – open to visitors 

One of the finest tower houses to survive from the 16th century, Gleann an Choim (Glen of the Shelter) is situated a few miles from Ashford at the edge of the road (open to the public during summer). 

This castle was a fortified dwelling, for the protection against raids and invaders, more correctly described as a Tower House. [5]

Robert O’Byrne tells us: “Thought to stand on the site of an older building dating from the 10th century, Glenquin Castle in Killeedy was built by the O’Hallinan family (their name deriving from the Irish Ó hAilgheanáin, meaning mild or noble). When the castle was built seems unclear; both the mid-15th and mid-16th centuries are proposed. Regardless, it is typical of tower houses being constructed at the time right around the country.” [6]

8. Glenstal Abbey, County Limerick

Glenstal Abbey, Courtesy Michelle Crowley 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [7]

https://glenstal.com/

The website tells us: “Glenstal Abbey is home to a community of Benedictine monks in County Limerick, Ireland, and is a place of prayer, work, education and hospitality. The monastery sits alongside a popular guesthouse and a boarding school for boys, housed within a 19th century Normanesque castle amidst five hundred magnificent acres of farmland, forest, lakes and streams.

We are happy to welcome groups who wish to visit the monastery and spend some time getting to know our place, our tradition and our life.”

You can book to stay, as a retreat: https://glenstal.com/abbey/stay/

View of a copy of the romansque cathedral door in Glenstall. Country Life 03/10/1974 [8]

The castle was built as a home for Joseph Barrington (1764-1846), 1st Baronet of Limerick. Joseph married Mary Baggott – I wonder are we distantly related? She was the daughter of Daniel Baggot (the landed families website tells us that he was a bootseller in Limerick!). Joseph’s son Matthew, 2nd Baronet was also involved with having the home built.

The front door is flanked by figures of Henry II and Queen Eleanor, who were such a warring couple that one wonders if they were chosen in ignorance: the Queen holds a scroll on which is inscribed the Irish welcome, Cead mile failte. [9]

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 139. “(Barrington, BT/Pb) A massive Norman-Revival castle by William Bardwell, of London, begun in 1837, though not finished till about 1880. 

The main building comprises a square, three-storey keep joined to a broad round tower by a lower range. 

The entrance front is approached through a gatehouse copied from that of Rockingham Castle, Northamptonshire. The stonework is of excellent quality and there is wealth of carving; the entrance door is flanked by the figures of Edward I and Eleanor of Castille; while the look-out tower is manned by a stone soldier. Groined entrance hall; staircase of dark oak carved with animals, foliage and Celtic motifs, hemmed in by Romanesque columns; drawing room with mirror in Norman frame. Octagonal library at the base of the round tower, lit by small windows in very deep recesses; the vaulted ceiling painted with blue and gold stars; central pier panelled in looking-glass with fireplace. Elaborately carved stone Celtic-Romanesque doorway copied from Killaloe Cathedral between two of the reception rooms. Glen with fine trees and shrubs; river and lake, many-arched bridge. Now a Benedictine Abbey and a well-known  boys’ public school.” 

Glenstal Abbey, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Glenstal Abbey, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Glenstal Abbey, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Glenstal Abbey, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Glenstal Abbey, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Glenstal Abbey, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Glenstal Abbey, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Sean O’Reilly writes: “the castle remains one of the most magnificent attempts at creating an Irish version of the medieval Anglo-Norman castle. Yet Glenstal’s castle-like form is not due to the need for defence. In a tradition going back to Georgian castles such as Glin, Co Limerick and Charleville forest, Co Offaly, the intention is to evoke some ancient time, but conbined with the needs of a modern country house.” [10]

“(p. 172)The appearance of antiquity might also give to its patron at least the suggestion of an ancient lineage, and that in itself, in an increasingly disjointed Irish society, was not without significance. The Barringtons settled in Limerick relatively late, at the end of the seventeenth century, and furthered their fame less though marriage than through hard work, innovative industry and successful trading. Pofessional advancement was not accompanied by significant social advance, and though Joseph Barrington was a baronet, the family were in essence business people rather than aristocracy. Although there was no speedier way of securing the impression of title and history than by having one’s own castle, his son Matthew, Crown solicitor for Munster, must have recognized the discomfort of real castles, and so decided to build a more comfortable, modern version. 

The design passed through numerous phases even before building began. Even after construction commenced in 1838, from designs provided by the successful English architect William Bardwell, changes, indecision and economic variables all added further complications. Initially, before the selection of the design, the problem was the choice of site. Not having inherited lands on which to build, Barrington might use any site, and he decided first on property he had leased in 1818 from the increasingly encumbered Limerick estates of the Lord Carberry. Part of these included the district of Glenstal, at one time intended as a site for the house, and although Barrington later turned to various other sites, he took with him the name. Consequently, in a very characteristic Georgian incongruity, the title of this apparently ancient castle bears no relation to the land on which it sits.

View of the Central peri of one of the fire places in the library at Glenstall. Country Life 03/10/1974 [8]
 

O’Reilly tells us “[William] Bardwell [1795-1890], little known today despite his long life – he died in 1890 aged 95 – was still less familiar when first employed by Barrington, and Glenstal remains his most important work. After training in England he advanced his studies, rather unusually for the date, in France. He gained some celebrity through competing both for the London Houses of Parliament, and for the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. It may well have been the Norman tower proposed by Bardwell as his entrance to Parliament that suggested him to his Limerick patron, though as all periods of architecture were intended to be represented in that building, any prospective client may have found something of interest. 

The ultimate inspiration for Bardwell’s Glenstal lay less with the designs of the Paines or O’Hara than with the work of Thomas Hopper, notably his Gosford Castle in Armagh, of 1819. This was the first Normal revival castle in these islands, and the first in a style that Hopper would make his own. Neither Barrington nor Bardwell need have been with Gosford itself, for by the late 1830s the type was not uncommon. 

…Bardwell was in Ireland in 1840, reviewing the completed work. It then extended from the largest, southern, tower to the gatehouse in the south-east wall. However, work stopped in the following year, and began again only in 1846 or 1847. Construction paused again in 1849, to recommence in about 1853, with Bardwell finally paid off, and a Cork architect, Joshua Hargrave, appointed to complete the work with restricted funds, and to create something approaching a functioning building…

Most carving was executed by an English firm, W.T. Kelsey of Brompton, which provided fifteen cases of columns, capitals and corbels in 1844. However, the detailing of much of the carved work suggests some familiarity with Irish early Christian sources, and echoes abound of recent work at Adare Manor, itself being slowly built over many years, although using native craftsmen. 

If much of the carved detail is evocative rather than accurate, there are also striking and significant copies of Irish early Christian design. The style was then only beginning to receive proper attention as part of Ireland’s heritage. The idea may have been inspired again by Dunraven’s Adare – Barrington is known to have had business dealings with the family – for they used such Hiberno-Romanesque designs in the doorcase of their entrance hall. At Glenstal we find superb copies, notably the doorcase connecting the dining room and drawing room. This is a magnificently carved and surprisingly accurate reconstruction of the doorway in Killaloe Cathedral, Co Clare, today recognized as one of the masterpieces of the Irish Romanesque. A lack of understanding of the importance of such work was prevalent in mid-nineteenth-century Ireland – it might be compared to the recent lack of interest in the heritage of the country house – and its introduction here was an important moment in the history of the revival of interest in Ireland’s Christian and Celtic legacy.

“…It was part of a wider interest in Ireland’s national character that the future of this important house was put in jeopardy. The tragic accidental shooting of the daughter of the 5th Baronet, Charles Barrington, by the IRA in an ambush on the Black and Tans in May 1921, led to the family’s departure and, eventually, the sale of the estate in 1925.

Timothy William Ferres quotes “The Origins and Early Days of Glenstal” by Mark Tierney OSB, in Martin Browne OSB and Colmán O Clabaigh (eds), The Irish Benedictines: a history (Dublin, 2005):

When eventually, in 1925, the time came to leave, Sir Charles made a magnificent gesture. He wrote to the Irish Free State government, offering Glenstal as a gift to the Irish nation, specifically suggesting that it might be a suitable residence for the Governor-General. 

Mr W T. Cosgrave, the President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, and Mr Tim Healy, the Governor-General, visited Glenstal in July 1925, and ‘were astonished at its magnificence, which far exceeded our expectations’. However, financial restraints forced them to turn down the offer. Mr Cosgrave wrote to Sir Charles, stating that ‘our present economic position would not warrant the Ministry in applying to the Dail to vote the necessary funds for the upkeep of Glenstal’. “

9. Kilpeacon House, Crecora, Co. Limerick – section 482

contact: Donie and Mary Costello
Tel: 087-9852462
Open: May 3-June 30, Mon- Sat, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €8, child/OAP/student €4

Kilpeacon, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

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

“[Gavin, sub Westropp/IFR] An early C19 villa undoubtedly by Sir Richard Morrison, though it is undocumented; having a strong likeness to Morrison’s “show” villa, Bearforest, Co Cork; while its plan is, in Mr. McPartland’s words, “an ingenious contraction of that of Castlegar,” one of his larger houses in the villa manner, 2 storey; 3 bay front; central breakfront; curved balustraded porch with Ionic columns; Wyatt windows under semi-circular relieving arches on either side in lower storey. Eaved roof. 5 bay side elevation. Oval entrance hall. Small but impressively high central staircase hall lit by lantern and surrounded by arches lighting a barrel-vaulted bedroom corridor. The seat of the Gavin family.

The landed estates database tells us:

Lewis writes that the manor was granted to William King in the reign of James I and that “the late proprietor” had erected a handsome mansion which was now the “property and residence of Cripps Villiers”. In his will dated 1704 William King refers to his niece Mary Villiers. The Ordnance Survey Field Name Book states that Kilpeacon House was the property of Edward Villiers, Dublin, and was occupied by Miss Deborah Cripps. Built in 1820 it was a large, commodious building of 2 stories. It was the residence of Edward C. Villiers at the time of Griffith’s Valuation, held in fee and valued at £60. Bought by Major George Gavin in the early 1850s from the Villiers and the residence of his son Montiford W. Gavin in the early 20th century. The Irish Tourist Association surveyor writes in 1942 that this house was completed in 1799. The owner was Mrs O’Kelly, her husband having purchased the house in 1927 from the Gavins. This house is still extant and occupied.” [11] 

10. King John’s Castle, Limerick

King John’s Castle Limerick, July 2018.

Maintained by Shannon Heritage. Archiseek tells us: “King John’s Castle, on the south side of Thomond Bridge head, built in 1210 “to dominate the bridge and watch towards Thomond”, is one of the finest specimens of fortified Norman architecture in Ireland.

The castle is roughly square on plan and its 60 meter frontage along the river is flanked by two massive round towers, each over 15m. in diameter with walls 3 metres thick. The castle gate entrance – a tall, narrow gateway between two tall, round towers is quite imposing. There is another massive round tower at the north east corner of the fortification, but the east wall and the square tower defending the south-east corner of the castle, and on which cannons were mounted, is long demolished. 

There was a military barracks erected within the walls in 1751, some of which still remains. Houses were also erected in the castle yard at a very much later date. These have now been removed and a modern visitor centre built on the walls. 

The walls and towers still remaining of the castle are in reasonably good state of preservation. The domestic buildings of the courtyard do not survive, except for remnants of a 13th century hall and the site of what could be the castle chapel.” [12]

King John’s Castle Limerick, July 2018.
King John’s Castle Limerick, July 2018.

The castle was built around 1197 under the orders of King John following the invasion of the Anglo-Normans. It was built on the site of an original Viking settlement believed to date back to 922 AD.” [13]

King John’s Castle, Limerick. The information board tells us that from here you can see the Gatehouse and the Great Hall. These are some of the earliest remaining features of the stone castle: the back of the twin-towered gatehouse and the northeast tower. The gatehouse defences were continued into the courtyard by means of an arched passageway, at the end of which were placed the inner gates of the castle. This extension was demolished in the 18th century.

The information board tells us that built between 1210-1212 along part of the line of the 12th century ringwork, the gatehouse was the first of its kind to be constructed in Ireland, with boldly projecting towers placed on either side of the gate. It followed the latest trend in European castle building, moving from rectangular to round towers, as curved walls offered better protection from attack, particularly from mining. Mining is when one digs a series of holes or “mines” under the walls in order to weaken the walls – hence comes our term “to undermine.” The two towers of the gatehouse are “D” shaped in plan, with three floors of circular chambers within and a parapet on top.

By flanking the gate, the two towers allowed the castle’s entrance to be defended in depth, from a number of well-positioned arrow loops in the chambers. The defences also included a portcullis and a murder hole. The castle was also supplied via the river, where there is a more modest watergate in the west curtain wall.

“In 1642 the castle was occupied by people escaping the confederate wars and was badly damaged in the Siege of Limerick. The confederate leader Garret Barry had no artillery so dug under the foundations of the castle’s walls, causing them to collapse. There was also considerable damage caused during the Williamite sieges in the 1690s and so the castle has been repaired and restored on a number of occasions.” [13]

It is a good place here to review the Siege of Limerick. Near the castle is the Treaty Stone: apparently the Treaty of Limerick, which was signed by, amongst others, John Baggot, was signed on this stone, which was later memorialised on a plinth. A series of plaques on the ground around the stone tells us the story of the Siege of Limerick:

The War of Two Kings. James II, a Catholic, was king of England. Parliament, unhappy with the power that James II had given to the Catholics, invite William and Mary to take over the throne. William of Orange was married to Mary the Protestant daughter of James. William arrives in England. James, fearing for his life, flees to France and gets support from his cousin Louis XIV, William’s enemy. James lands at Kinsale.

A document in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, with pictures of King William III and Queen Mary, the daughter of King James II.

William and Mary are crowned King and Queen of England. A French army of 7000 men arrive in Ireland to help James regain his crown.

King William arrives in Carrickfergus with a large army, aiming to take Dublin. Battle of the Boyne. James’ army had 25,000 poorly equipped Irish and French soldiers. William had 36,000 experienced soldiers from all over Europe. King William is victorious.”

King William sent General Schomberg first, who landed in Carrickfergus on 14th June 1690 with 300 troops.

Seats of Schonberg (or Schomberg) and King William III in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.
Chair where King William III sat in St Patrick’s Cathedral where he gave thank for winning the Battle of the Boyne.

The plaques continue the story: “July 2nd 1690 James flees to France. By the 2nd July, most of the army had gathered in Limerick with Tyrconnell [Richard Talbot (1630-1691), 1st Duke of Tyrconnell] in charge. Limerick, an important port, was the second largest city in the country, with 1000 inhabitants. The Irish military in Limerick had few weapons. A small force of French cavalry were with the Irish cavalry on the Clare side of the Shannon. Their leader was Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan [1620-1693].

First Siege of Limerick. King William’s army began to set up camp while they waited for their heavy guns and ammunition to arrive from Dublin. Aug 10th 1690, In a daring overnight raid Sarsfield attacked the siege train at Ballyneely. King William continued his siege but massive resistance from the Jacobite army and the people of Limerick, plus bad weather, forced him to call off the siege.

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.

There is a John Baggot who fought in the Battle of Aughrim, and lost an eye. He later went to France with the Wild Geese, and served in the court of James II and “James III” (his followers called him James III although he was not the recognised king).

The city walls had been strengthened since the previous year. Tyrconnell died in mid-August and the promised help from Louis XIV had not yet arrived. The Second Siege of Limerick. Ginkel and the Williamites reached Limerick and took up positions on the Irishtown side. They bombarded the city daily with cannon. They managed to break down a large section of the walls at English town, but could not get into the city. With a large English fleet on the Shannon, the city was cut off and almost completely surrounded. Sept 22nd 1691 Ginkel’s army attacked the Jacobites who were defending Thomond Bridge. The drawbridge was ordered to be raised too soon and about 600 Irish were killed or drowned. This had a profound effect on the morale of the garrison. A council of war was held and the Jacobites decided to call a truce. Leaders from both sides saw that they could gain more by ending the fighting and the discussions were conducted with great courtesy. The Treaty was finally signed on October 3rd 1691, reputedly on the Treaty Stone.

Article Civil and Military, agreed on the 3rd day of October 1691, between the Right Honourable Sir Charles Porter, Knight, and Thomas Coningsby, Esq, Lords Justices of Ireland, and his Excellency the Baron de Ginkel, Lieutenant General, and the Commander in Chief of the English army, of the one part and Sarsfield and his followers on the other. The treaty had civil and military sections. The Civil articles promised freedom to practice their religion to Catholics, but in the years after 1691, harsh laws were passed against Catholics known as the Penal Laws.

The broken treaty embittered relations between the English and Irish for two centuries.

The military parts of the Treaty allowed the Irish Jacobites to join the French army. Most of the Irish (about 14,000 approx.) went to France with Sarsfield. Some of their wives and children also travelled to France. These exiles were known as the Wild Geese. The Wild Geese became part of the French army, which included Irish regimens until the French Revolution. Wine Geese: some of the Wild Geese got into the wine trade, where their names live on today, names such as Michael Lynch, who fought in the battle of the Boyne, Phelan, Barton, and Richard Hennessy of Hennessy cognac.

John Baggot’s sons (sons of Eleanor Gould), John and Ignatius, became soldiers and one fought for France and one fought for Spain.

In 1791 the British Army built military barracks suitable for up to 400 soldiers at the castle and remained there until 1922. In 1935 the Limerick Corporation removed some of the castle walls in order to erect 22 houses in the courtyard. These houses were subsequently demolished in 1989 when the castle was restored and opened to the public.” [13]

11. Odellville House, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick – section 482

Odellville, Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [14]

contact: Aisling Frawley
Tel: 085-8895125
www.odellville.simplesite.com
Open: May 1-31, June 1-30, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €8, student/OAP/child €4

The National Inventory tells us it is a detached five-bay two-storey over basement house, built c. 1780, with later two-storey extension to rear (south). It continues: “Odell Ville is typical of the small country houses of rural Ireland, often associated with the gentleman farmers of the eighteenth century. The retention of historic fabric such as sliding sash windows, fine tooled limestone details and modest door with its stepped approach all contribute positively to the building’s character. It was once the house of T. A. O’Dell, Esq. Athough of a modest design, the overall massing of the house makes a strong and positive impact on the surrounding countryside. The associated gate lodge adds further context and character to the site.” [14]

12. Mount Trenchard House and Garden, Foynes, Co. Limerick – section 482

contact: Frieda Keane Carmody
Tel: 087-2220692
Open: June 1-31, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 10am-4pm Fee: adult €10, child/OAP/student €5

The Landed estates database tells us:

Lewis described this mansion formerly called Cappa as “beautifully situated on the banks of the Shannon”. Marked as “Cappo” on the Taylor and Skinner map of the 1770s. Home of the Rice/Spring Rice family in the 19th century, valued at £40 in the 1850s and at £54 in 1906. Occupied by the Military in 1944, sold to Lady Holland in 1947 and to the Sisters of Mercy in 1953 who opened a school.” [15]

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

“[Spring-Rice, Monteagle of Bandon, B/PB] A late-Georgian house of three storeys over basement, with 2 curved bows on its entrance front, which overlooks the estuary of the Shannon, and a wide curved bow in the centre of its garden front. At one side is a 2 storey Victorian wing almost as high as the main block; at the other side is 1 bay three storey addition and a lower 2 storey wing. Also in the Victorian period, a rather unusal porch was added, in the form of a short length of curving corridor, with an open arched end; it was placed not in the centre of the front, but to the left of the left-hand bow, growing out of the high two storey addition. This was subsequently removed and a more conventional entrace doorway made between the two bows with a pillared and pedimented doorcase. From the garden front, a straight walk between trees ascends the hillside. In recent years the home of Lt-Cmdr C.E. Hall; now owned by an order of teaching nuns.

Timothy William Ferres tells us in his blog:

“Thomas Rice, of Mount Trenchard, wedded Mary, daughter of Maurice FitzGerald, 14th Knight of Kerry, and had issue, a son, Stephen Edward Rice, of Mount Trenchard, who married, in 1785, Catherine, only child and heir of Thomas Spring, of Castlemaine, County Kerry.” [16]

Their son was Thomas Spring-Rice (1790-1866), of Brandon, County Kerry, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1835-39. He married in 1811 the Lady Theodosia Pery, second daughter of Edmund, 1st Earl of Limerick. Thomas was elevated to the peerage in 1839 to become 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, County Kerry.

When the 5th Baron Monteagle of Brandon died in 1946, the estate was sold.

Recently the house was used as a Direct Provision Centre.

13. The Turret, Ryanes, Ballyingarry, Co. Limerick – section 482

The Turret, County Limerick – photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Donal Mc Goey
Tel: 086-2432174
Open: May 1-31, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31,12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €5, OAP/child/student/ free

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

“(Odell/LGI1958) A three storey house, 1 room deep, with a curvilinear gable at one end of its front; built 1683 by Major John Odell; said to have incorporated a turret surviving from an old house of the Knights Hospitallers, hence its name. Became a presbytery at the end of C19, when an enclosed porch was added on the front and a wing at the back.”

14. The Old Rectory, Rathkeale, Co. Limerick – section 482

contact: John Roche
Tel: 087-8269123
Open: May 1-Nov 27, Saturday and Sundays, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €8, child/OAP/student €3

Places to stay, County Limerick:

1. Adare Manor, Limerick – hotel €€€

Adare Manor, Limerick, October 2012.
Adare Manor, photograph from Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

Originally a two storey 7 bay early C18 house with a 3 bay pedimented breakfront and a high-pitched roof on a bracket cornice; probably built ca 1720-1730 by Valentine Quin [1691-1744], grandfather of the first Earl of Dunraven [Valentine Richard Quin (1752-1824)]. From 1832 onwards the 2nd Earl [Wyndham Henry Wyndham Quin (1782-1850)], whose wife [Lady Caroline Wyndham]was the wealthy heiress of the Wyndhams of Dunraven, Glamorganshire, and who was prevented by gout from shooting and fishing, began rebuilding the house in the Tudor Revival style as a way of occupying himself; continued to live in the old house while the new buildings went up gradually behind it only moving out of it about ten years later when it was engulfed by the new work and demolished.

To a certain extent Lord and Lady Dunraven acted as their own architects, helped by a master mason named James Conolly; and making as much use as they could of local craftsmen, notably a talented carver. At the same time, however, they employed a professional architect, James Pain; and in 1846, when the house was 3/4 built, they commissioned A.W. Pugin to design some of the interior features of the great hall. Finally, between 1850 and 1862, after the death of the second Earl, his son, the 3rd Earl [Edwin Richard Wyndham-Quin (1812-1871)], a distinguished Irish archaeologist, completed the house by building the principal garden front, to the design of P.C. [Philip Charles] Hardwick. The house, as completed, is a picturesque and impressive grey stone pile, composed of various elements that are rather loosely tied together; some of them close copies of Tudor originals in England, thus the turreted entrance tower, which stands rather incongruously at one corner of the front instead of in the middle, is a copy of the entrance to the Cloister Court at Eton.

Adare Manor, Limerick, October 2012.
Adare Manor, Limerick

The detail, however, is of excellent quality; and the whole great building is full of interest, and abounds in those historical allusions which so appealed to early-Victorians of the stamp of the second Earl, his wife and son. As might be expected, Hardwick’s front is more architecturally correct than the earlier parts of the house, but less inspired; a rather heavy 3 storey asymmetrical composition of oriels and mullioned windows, relieved by a Gothic cloister at one end and dominated by an Irish-battlemented tower with a truncated pyramidal roof, surmounted by High-Victorian decorative iron cresting. 

Adare Manor, Limerick, October 2012.
Adare Manor, Limerick:Irish-battlemented tower with a truncated pyramidal roof, surmounted by High-Victorian decorative iron cresting.

The Archiseek website tells us:

The structure is a series of visual allusions to famous Irish and English homes that the Dunravens admired. It is replete with curious eccentricities such as the turreted entrance tower at one corner rather than in the centre, 52 chimneys to commemorate each week of the year, 75 fireplaces and 365 leaded glass windows. The lettered text carved into the front of the south parapet reads: “Except the Lord build the house, the labour is but lost that built it.” The elaborate decoration is a miracle of stonework – arches, gargoyles, chimneys and bay windows. The interior spaces are designed on a grand scale. One of the most renowned interior spaces is the Minstrel’s Gallery: 132 foot long, 26-1/2 foot high expanse inspired by the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles and lined on either side with 17th Century Flemish Choir Stalls. 

Other architects to have collaborated with the Earl include Lewis [Nockalls] Cottingham, Philip Charles Hardwick, and possibly A.W.N Pugin who designed a staircase and ceiling.” [17]

Adare Manor, Limerick: The lettered text carved into the front of the south parapet reads: “Except the Lord build the house, the labour is but lost that built it.” O’Reilly tells us that “The ornamental carving at Adare is one of the earliest manifestations of a survival – or perhaps revival – in Ireland of ancient carving traditions. This same tradition would shape the future of the Gothic revival in Ireland, and make the nineteenth century one of the most creative periods in the whole history of the nation’s architecture. Two names in particular are associated with the stonework over the 1830s and early 1840s, James Conolly and Michael Donoghue, but it remains uncertain as to which of them, if either, deserves the major credit.”
Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Adare Manor, Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The entrance hall has doorways of grey marble carved in the Irish Romanesque style; the ceiling is timbered, the doors are covered in golden Spanish leather. The great hall beyond, for which Pugin provided designs, is a room of vast size and height, divided down the middle by a screen of giant Gothic arches of stone, and with similar arches in front of the staircase, so that there are Gothic vistas in all directions. A carved oak minstrels’ gallery runs along one side; originally there was also an organ-loft. From the landing of the stairs, a vaulted passage constitutes the next stage in the romantic and devious approach to the grandest room in the house, the long gallery, which was built before the great hall, in 1830s; it is 132 feet long and 26 feet high with a timbered roof; along the walls are carved C17 Flemish choir stalls and there is a great deal of other woodcarving, including C15 carved panelling in the door.

The other principal reception rooms are in Hardwick’s garden front; they have ceilings of Tudor Revival plasterwork and elaborately carved marble chimneypieces; that in the drawingroom having been designed by Pugin.

Hall of Adare Manor, Limerick, October 2012.
Hall of Adare Manor, Limerick, October 2012.

Sean O’Reilly writes in his book Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of  Country Life.

Nowhere is the creativity of Adare more apparent than in the Great Hall and its associated spaces. Enclosed by screens of giant and more modest arches, round and pointed, surrounded by corridors, staircases and steps flying in an apparently conflicting succession of directions, and with galleries breaking through walls, not to mention the ubiquitous antlers of the Irish elk, the great hall was one of the most picturesque interiors of its day. Lady Dunraven described the room as being ‘peculiarly adapted to every purpose for which it may be required,’ observing that ‘it has been frequently used with equal appropriateness as a dining room, concert-room, ballroom, for private theatricals, tableaux vivants and other amusements.’ ” [18]

Inside Adare Manor, Limerick, October 2012: The Gallery.
The Gallery, Adare Manor, Limerick

O’Reilly writes: “If the hall is the most complex space, the most dramatic is the gallery, a huge timber-roofed space rising through two storeys and stretching nearly forty-five metres. With its architectural details, pictures and furnishings, the idea, as Cornforth so well expressed it, was to ‘create 250 years of history overnight.’ The family history from the twelfth century is traced in Willement’s stained glass and portraits – both family heirlooms and acquisitions – which carry the story through in more intimate, if also more vague terms. Seventeenth century Flemish stalls, purchased by the Dunravens during their Continental tour of 1834-36, add to the ambiguous combination of old and new.” [18]

Adare Manor, Limerick: 15th century carved panelling in the door. 
The Gallery, Adare Manor, Limerick
The Gallery, Adare Manor, Limerick: Seventeenth century Flemish stalls, purchased by the Dunravens during their Continental tour of 1834-36.
The Gallery, Adare Manor, Limerick: 15th century carved panelling in the door. 
The Gallery, Adare Manor, Limerick
Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012. The other principal reception rooms are in Hardwick’s garden front; they have ceilings of Tudor Revival plasterwork and elaborately carved marble chimneypieces; that in the drawing room having been designed by Pugin. 
Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012.
Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012.
Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012.
Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012.
Adare Manor, Limerick, breakfast room, 2012.

O’Reilly adds: “It was Pugin’s successor, the English architect P.C. Hardwick, who developed the next and final major phase of work at Adare. This involved the laying out of the surrounding terraces, and the completion of the southern range, that which looks across to the river and occupies the site of the original classical house. Although Hardwick’s work embodies the professional finish of the later nineteenth century, it possesses none of the amateur exuberance of the earlier work. Yet his patron, the 3rd Earl, was to establish himself as one of the foremost authorities of Irish antiquities. He was a friend of the celebrated Irish antiquary George Petrie, and collated the material for the posthumously published Notes on Irish Antiquities, one of the most significant antiquarian publications of the century.” [18]

Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012.
Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012.

Mark Bence-Jones adds: “The house stands close to the River Maigue surrounded by a splendid desmesne in which there is a Desmond castle, and a ruined medieval Franciscan friary; one of 3 monastic buildings at Adare, the other 2 having been restored as the Catholic and Protestant churches.” 

Ruined medieval Franciscan friary at Adare Manor, Limerick, 2012.

Unable to bear the expense of maintaining Adare Manor, the 7th Earl sold it and its contents in 1984. 

Veteran’s Memorial, Adare Manor, Limerick
Adare Manor, Limerick, veterans memorial

Among the trees southwest of the Manor House are Ogham Stones, which were brought to Adare Manor from Kerry by Edwin, the 3rd Earl of Dunraven. Ogham Stones date from the early 5th Century to the middle of the 7th Century. They are mainly Christian in context and are usually associated with old churches or early Christian burial sites. Ogham inscriptions are in an early form of Irish, frequently followed by Latin inscriptions and often read from the bottom upwards.

Ogham stones at Adare Manor, Limerick.

2. Ash Hill Towers, Kilmallock, Co Limerick – section 482, Hidden Ireland accommodation €

www.ashhill.com 

Ashill Towers, taken  c.1865-1914 by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection, National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

3. The Dunraven, Adare, Co Limerick € 

https://www.dunravenhotel.com/

4. Flemingstown House, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, Ireland – whole house accommodation, up to 11 guests. €€€ for two for a week, € for 4-11

https://flemingstownhouse.com

plus self-catering cottage for up to 4 people.

5. Longcourt House Hotel, Newcastle West, Co Limerick 

https://www.longcourthousehotel.ie/our-story/

“It is a vibrant property and the teams behind it are equally passionate and dedicated to the hotel and guests who frequent it. Jim & Mary Long are the proprietors, who purchased the property in 2014 and lovingly restored it and redeveloped it for its opening in December 2017. They are both from West Limerick but reside in London and have always maintained their strong connections to the area and frequent visitors to the hotel and their extended family and friends.”

6. Woodlands House and Spa, Adare, Co Limerick € or €€

https://www.woodlands-hotel.ie/home/history/

Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel & Spa, which is a founding member of Original Irish Hotels, began life more than 40 years ago as a four-bedroomed bed and breakfast (B&B) run by Mary and Dick (RIP) Fitzgerald as a way to supplement their farming income.  Today, it is an 89-room award-winning four-star hotel employing more than 200 people.”

Whole house rental County Limerick

1. Ballyteigue House, Bruree, County Limerick – self-catering whole house accommodation, rental per week. €€ for two, € for 4-10

http://www.ballyteigue.com/

Ballyteigue House accommodation Limerick can accommodate nine people comfortably and there is a Courtyard Cottage which can accommodate an extra 6 people.

The House available for holiday lettings consists of 5 Bedrooms, 4 double or twin, and a single room. All rooms have their own bathroom.

Bruree is where President De Valera spent the early part of his life and went to school.

2. Flemingstown House, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, Ireland – whole house accommodation, up to 11 guests

https://flemingstownhouse.com

plus self-catering cottage for up to 4 people.

3. Glin Castle, whole house rental.

Glin Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.glin-castle.com/

You can see lovely photographs of the castle, inside and out, on the website.

The website tells us: “The castle comprises 5 exquisite reception rooms filled with a unique collection of Irish 18th century furniture. The entrance hall with a screen of Corinthian pillars has a superb Neo-classical plaster ceiling and the enfilade of reception rooms are filled with a unique collection of Irish 18th century mahogany furniture. Family portraits and Irish pictures line the walls, and the library bookcase has a secret door leading to the hall and the very rare flying staircase.

Upstairs there are 15+ individually decorated bedrooms, each with its own private bathroom. Colourful rugs and chaise longues stand at the end of comforting plump beds. Pictures and blue and white porcelain adorn the walls. The bedrooms at the back of the castle overlook the garden, while those at the front have a view of the river.

Glin Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Glin Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us of the history:

The FitzGeralds first settled here in the 1200’s at nearby Shanid Castle following the Norman invasion of Ireland. Their war cry was Shanid Abu!  (Shanid forever in Gaelic). In the early 14th century the Earl of Desmond, head of the Geraldines, made hereditary Knights of 3 illegitimate sons he had sired with the wives of various Irish chieftains, creating them the White Knight, the Green Knight of Kerry and the Black Knight of Glin. For seven centuries they defended their lands against the troops of Elizabeth I, and during the Cromwellian plantation and Penal laws.

Coming into the hall with its Corinthian columns and elaborate plaster ceiling in the neo­ classical style, one can see straight ahead among a series of family portraits, some already mentioned, the picture of Colonel John FitzGerald [(1765-1803)the 23rd Knight of Glin], the builder of the house, wearing the uniform of his volunteer regiment the Royal Glin Artillery. In his portrait, which hangs over the Portland stone chimneypiece, he is proudly pointing at his cannon. In May 1779 Colonel John’s father, Thomas FitzGerald, whose portrait in a blue coat is on the left of the dining room door, wrote to Edmund Sexton Pery the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons to warn him that a French naval invasion was expected off the coast. There were rumours that the American privateer Paul Jones had sailed up the Shannon to Tarbert after he had defeated an English ship in Belfast Lough in the summer of 1779. France and Spain had declared war on England and were supporting the American colonists in the War of Independence. Panic spread among the gentry and nobility of Ireland in case the country should be left unprotected in the face of an invasion, and the Irish Volunteer Regiments were raised between 1778 and 1783-40,000 men having been enrolled by 1779 and 100,000 by 1782. Inspired by the success of the Americans and with the strength of the Volunteers behind them, Henry Grattan and his Patriot Party demanded legislative independence for Ireland from Britain following their achievement of the abolition of trade restrictions in 1778. These stirring optimistic times were the background to the building of Glin.” 

Glin Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website continues: “The new prosperity of the country was reflected in a great deal of public and private building and the accompanying extensive landscaping and tree planting showed the pride of Ireland’s ruling classes in their newly won but brief national independence-an independence which was shaken by the French Revolution and finally shattered by the Rebellion of 1798 and the ensuing Union with England in 1800. Colonel John supported this Union, though his faith in King and Country had faltered under the influence of his United Irishman brother, Gerald during the 1798 Rebellion, when his kinsman Lord Edward FitzGerald is said to have stayed at Glin. Colonel John had no political influence as all the local boroughs were in the hands of the new English settler families. This meant that unlike so many of them he did not spend money on a large Dublin house and thereby concentrated on cutting a greater dash at home. 

Unfortunately, we have no direct information about who designed the house or the identity of the craftsmen who styled the superb woodwork such as the mahogany library bookcase with its concealed secret door, the inlaid stair-rail, the flying staircase, or the intricate plaster ceilings. This is because many of the family papers were burned by the so-called ‘Cracked Knight’ in the 1860s. Tradition tells us that the stone for the house was brought across the hills from a quarry in nearby Athea on horse-drawn sleds by a ‘strongman’ contractor called Sheehy. This is the only name connected with the building of the house that has come down to us. 

It seems likely that Colonel John started his house sometime in the 1780s as he obviously used the same masons and carpenters as were used for two houses adjoining each other in Henry Street, Limerick, one built for the Bishop of Limerick, later Lord Glentworth, and the other for his elder brother the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, Viscount Pery. These Limerick houses were finished by 1784 and it would seem not unlikely that they are the work of a good local carpenter /builder. Colonel John may well have been his own architect working with the excellent craftsmen that Limerick could obviously produce. The neo-classical plasterwork of the hall is possibly an exception as it is close to the work of two Dublin stuccadores, Charles Thorpe or Michael Stapleton. The motifs on the frieze reminds us of the Volunteer enthusiasm of the house for the military trophies, shields sprouting shamrocks and the full bosomed Irish harp which are to be seen on the hall ceiling all underline Colonel John’s patriotism. The French horn and the music book also reminds us that this hall doubled up as a ballroom; the music undoubtedly being played by the musicians from the artillery band. Colonel John loved music and had been taught the flute by a Gaelic music and dancing master, Seań Bán Aerach Ó Flanagán. The house stands on the banks of the widest part of the river Shannon and the snub nosed dolphins and tridents in· the corners of the main hall ceiling symbolise water, while flower-laden cornucopiae and ears of wheat represent the fruitful grasslands that surround the newly built mansion. Oval plaques with their Pompeian red background portray Roman soldiers depicting war and other figures characterise peace and justice. All this symbolism reminds us of contemporary events in the sea girt island of Ireland. This magnificent ceiling retains much of its original 18th century colouring. 

Glin Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Glin Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

In 1789 Colonel John married his beautiful English wife, the daughter of a rich west country squire, and her coat-of-arms are impaled with his on the hall ceiling. Her portrait hangs above her husbands to the right of the drawing room door in the hall. Her coat-of-arms on the ceiling suggests that the house was still being decorated in 1789 although the money must have been beginning to run out, because work was stopped short on the third floor, and walls remained scored for plaster and pine doors are unpainted to this day. Financial problems must have marred their brief decade together at Glin as in 1791 the Dublin La Touche Bank called in their debts going back as far as 1736 and took a case to Parliament. In June 1801 a private Act of Parliament in Westminster was passed to force part of the Glin estate to be sold in order to pay off the many ‘incumbrances’ which had accrued through the 18th century. This document mentions that Colonel John had expended ‘Six thousand pounds and upward in building a mansion house and offices and making plantations and other valuable and lasting improvements…’. Comparing costs with other roughly contemporary buildings shows us that the cut stone Custom House in Limerick cost £8,000 in 1779 and Mornington House, one of Dublin’s largest houses, was sold for the same sum in 1791, so £6,000 ‘and upwards’ was a substantial sum in those days. Colonel John’s wife Margaretta Maria Fraunceis died at one of her father’s properties, Combe Florey in Somerset a few months after the Act was passed. In 1802, 5,000 acres of Glin were sold, and Colonel John himself died in 1803 leaving an only son, and heir aged 12. In June 1803 the local newspaper the Limerick Chronicle advertised sales of the household furniture, the library, , ‘a superb service of India china’, but no pictures or silver. The hall chairs and amorial sideboard in the hall survived because of their family associations but carriages, farm stock, and ‘the fast-sailing sloop The Farmer, her cabin neatly fitted up’ followed. The FitzGeralds of Glin were almost bankrupt.

It was only because of the long minority of John Fraunceis FitzGerald, the son and heir, and the fact that there were no younger children to provide for, which saw the estate on to 1812 when he attained his majority. Educated at Winchester and Cambridge he regained the family fortunes by successful gambling and though he married an English clergyman’s daughter with no great dower, he built the various Gothic lodges and added the battlements and sugar icing detail to the old Glin House making it into the ‘cardboard castle’ that it is today. This would have been typical of the romantic notions of the 1820s and he obviously thought that the holder of such an ancient title should be living in a castle like his medieval ancestors.

Glin Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The top floor was never completed and other than further planting, little else was done to Glin for over a hundred years as money was scarce during the Victorian period. Over 5,000 acres were sold by 1837 and for the rest of the century the estate consisted of 5,836 acres and the town of Glin. The rent roll came to between £3,000 and £3,800 a year but with mortgages, windows jointures, and other family charges there was in 1858 a surplus of only £777 16s. 5d. brought in from the estate. Not included in this would have been the income from the salmon weirs on the Shannon. Lack of money may have been a blessing in disguise for there were few Victorian improvements at Glin though the Dublin firm of Sibthorpe redecorated the staircase ceiling and added Celtic revival monograms in two roundels and carried out some stencil work in the library and smoking room. This work would have been done in the 1860s probably at the same time that the Protestant church at the gate was being rebuilt.

4. Springfield Castle, Drumcollogher, Co. Limerick, Ireland €€€ for 2, € for 5-25.

Springfield Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.springfieldcastle.com 

The website tells us: “Springfield Castle is situated in the heart of County Limerick on a magical 200 acre wooded estate and is approached along a magnificent three quarter mile long avenue, lined with ancient lime trees. Enjoy an exclusive relaxing stay in a one of a kind castle.

Accommodation for up to 25 people in a unique Irish castle we are the perfect place for your vacation, family gathering or boutique wedding in Ireland. It is the ideal place to stay in an Irish castle, Springfield is centrally located allowing you to explore many of Ireland’s fantastic gems including the Wild Atlantic Way. It is a one of a kind place where you can unwind and relax.

Springfield castle is owned By Robert Fitzmaurice Deane the 9th Baron of Muskerry. Robert and his wife Rita are regular visitors. Robert has funded the ongoing restoration in Springfield since 2006, most recently of the garden cottage where he and Rita stay when visiting Ireland.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 263. “(Petty-Fitzmaurice, sub Lansdowne, M/PB; Deane, Muskerry, B/PB) A three storey C18 house adjoining a large C16 tower house of the FitzGeralds, later bought by the Fitzmaurices, whose heiress married Sir Robert Deane, 6th Bt, afterwards 1st Lord Muskerry, 1775. …A two storey C19 Gothic wing with pinnacle buttresses was added at one end of C18 block, extending along one side of the old castle bawn, a smaller tower at another and outbuildings along two of the remaining sides to form a courtyard. 20C entrance gates and lodge in the New Zealand Maori style. C18 house was burnt 1923 and new house was afterwards made out of C19 Gothic wing, which was extended in the same style.” 

Springfield Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Springfield Castle, County Limerick, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory tells us it is a “Gothic Revival style country house with courtyard complex, commenced c. 1740, comprising attached eight-bay two-storey country house, rebuilt c. 1925, having single-bay three-stage entrance tower. Earlier two-bay three-storey wing to side (east) having single-bay three-stage gate tower with integral camber-headed carriage arch. Tooled limestone octagonal corner turrets with pinnacles to front (south) elevation of wing gate tower, rendered octagonal turrets and pinnacles to side (west) elevation of main block. Two-bay two-storey double-pile over basement block to rear (north) incorporating possibly earlier three-stage tower to north-west. Additional lean-to stairwell block to side (west) elevation of extension block.

This impressive country house is situated in a picturesque location with extensive panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The house and courtyard complex are the ancestral home of Lord and Lady Muskerry and occupies the site of an old bawn associated with the sixteenth-century tower house. The first record of a castle at Springfield is dated to 1280, when the Norman Fitzgeralds arrived. A visible mark to the tower house represents part of the roof line of an earlier eighteenth-century mansion that was built by John Fitzmaurice, a grandson of the 20th Lord of Kerry. Sir Robert Deane [1745-1818] married Ann Fitzmaurice in 1780, the sole heiress of Springfield and was a year later awarded the title Baron Muskerry. This mansion was burnt in 1921 by the IRA who were afraid that the occupying Black and Tans were going to convert the buildings into a garrison. The current house was rebuilt by ‘Bob’ Muskerry, the 5th Baron and follows the Gothic Revival style of the nineteenth century, with characteristic pinnacled turrets to the house and main entrance. The castellated entrance towers with tooled stone forming the main fabric of the turrets and a grand entrance door greatly enliven the façade of the building. The fine Gothic Revival style gate tower provides a glorious entrance to the substantial courtyard. A large variety of outbuildings display great skill and craftsmanship with well executed rubble stone walls and numerous carriage arches helping to maintain the historic character of the site. A curious mechanised clock controlling a mechanical calendar, lunar calendar and a bell constructed by the current owner’s great grand uncle is a mechanical masterpiece of great technical interest. Coupled with the archaeological monuments, this complex has a significant architectural value at a national level.

The website tells us about the history:

Steeped in history, it is the ancestral home of Lord and Lady Muskerry, whose motto Forti et fideli nihil dificile which means “nothing is difficult to the strong and faithful” underlies over 700 years of family history.

The earliest castle at Gort na Tiobrad, the Irish name for Springfield Castle, is reputed to date from 1280 when one of the Fitzgeralds, a junior member of the Earl of Desmond’s family, married a lady of the O Coilleains, who were the Gaelic Lords of Claonghlais. He took the title Lord of Claonghlais and subsequently built a castle at Springfield. The Tower house and build circa 1480. This was the beginning of a long association of the Fitzgeralds with the area. They were patrons to Irish poets and musicians.As you enter the impressive gateway to Springfield Castle a plaque on the wall commemorates Daithi O’Bruadair, a classical Irish poet of the seventeenth century who lived at the castle with his patrons, the Fitzgerald family, recording their lives (and general events). He described Springfield Castle as “a mansion abounding in poetry, prizes and people”

The Fitzgeralds soon became, as the saying goes “more Irish than the Irish themselves” and had an oft-times difficult relationship with the British monarchy. In 1691 they had their lands confiscated for the third and last time and Sir John Fitzgerald went to France with Sir Patrick Sarsfield to continue fighting the English there, never to return to Ireland. A younger son of the 20th Lord of Kerry, William Fitzmaurice [1670-1710], (cousins to the Fitzgeralds) then bought Springfield castle. His son, John, built a very large 3 story early Georgian mansion attached to the existing buildings. The Fitzmaurices occupied Springfield Castle until Sir Robert Deane married Ann Fitzmaurice, the sole heiress, in 1780. He was awarded the title Baron Muskerry in 1781 and the title Lord Muskerry has stayed at Springfield Castle to this day. The castle was burnt in 1921 during the war of Independence and rebuilt by “Bob” Muskerry the 5th Baron in 1929. The 9th Baron, Robert Fitzmaurice Deane, lives and works in South Africa at present, and started restoring the castle in 2006. Robert’s sister Betty, her husband Jonathan and their children Karen and Daniel run Springfield Castle and look forward to meeting you.

Tipperary:

1. Beechwood House, Ballbrunoge, Cullen, Co. Tipperary – section 482

Beechwood House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [17]

contact: Maura & Patrick McCormack
Tel: 083-1486736
Open: Jan 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, Feb 14-18, May 6-9, 13-23, Aug 13-21, Sept 2-5, 9- 12, 16-19, 23-26, 10.15am-2.15pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student €2, child free, fees donated to charity

The National Inventory tells us Beechwood House is a:

Detached seven-bay three-storey country house, built 1741, with three-bay pedimented breakfront. Two-bay single-storey over basement flanking wings, added 1853. Tower house to rear, built 1594, giving overall T-plan and is multiple-bay three-storey block. Later greenhouse added to north…Timber panelled door set in square-headed opening with pedimented carved limestone surround having pulvinated frieze...

The form of this imposing country house, set in a mature landscape retains many notable features and materials, such as the slate roof, ashlar limestone quoins and interior features. Architectural features, such as the pedimented breakfront and flanking wings, enliven the regular façade. The doorway is notable for its design and execution. The remodelled tower house attached to the rear adds archaeological interest and indicates a long tradition of high status settlement at this site. The outbuildings survive in their original form and together with the country house and tower house combine to create an interesting and notable group of structures.” [19]

2. Cahir Castle, County Tipperary – OPW

See my OPW write-up: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

3. Carey’s Castle, Clonmel, County Tipperary – a ruin, owned by Coillte:

https://www.coillte.ie/site/careys-castle/

This is a beautiful mixed woodland that lies close to the Glenary River, a tributary of the Suir. The main feature of this site is the ruins of the castle that gives the forest its name. It is just 500m from the car park down a mixed woodland trail that leads to the river. It is believed to have been built at some stage during the 1800’s by the Carey family, who were local schoolmasters in the Clonmel area. A number of architectural styles are still evident in the ruined remains, including; Gothic windows, a Celtic round tower, a Norman Keep, and both Romanesque and Gothic arches. The remnants of a walled garden can be found to the southern side of the castle. An ice-house is located just off the trail beyond the castle. This is a stone-lined pit which used to serve as a ‘fridge’ when the castle was inhabited. Carey’s Castle was occupied by monks and up to recent years the ruins of the alms house was still in evidence. A real gem of a site for local historians.”

4. Clashleigh House, Clogheen, Co. Tipperary – section 482

Clashleigh House, County Tipperary, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Elizabeth O’Callaghan
Tel: 086-8185334
Open: April 5-28, May 3-31, Tues & Thurs, June 2-30, Tue, Thurs, Sat & Sun, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-29, Oct 4-27, Tues & Thurs, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €4

The National Inventory tells us it is a “detached three-bay two-storey over basement country house, built c. 1810, with recessed lower irregular-plan four-bay two-storey 1930s extension to south, full-height bowed bay to rear and flat-roofed porch to front. Used as rectory 1920-1976. ..Rendered and timber porch with Doric-style portico and fixed windows with decorative consoles. Timber panelled double-doors having limestone steps and cast-iron bootscrape. Segmental-arched doorway with spoked fanlight and panelled shutters to interior. Folly and remains of walled garden to site. ..

This house is carefully-proportioned with widely-spaced diminishing windows and centrally-placed chimneystacks. The bow provides a sense of grandeur to the rear elevation, enhanced by the finely-crafted sash windows. One of several projects in the area commissioned by the Grubb family, it retains much of its demesne architecture, enhanced by mature grounds and planting, including the remains of a walled garden, finely-made entrance piers, and an interesting folly.

5. Cloughjordan House, Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary – section 482

Cloughjordan House, County Tipperary, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Sarah Baker
Tel: 085-2503344
www.cloughjordanhouse.com
Open: May 2-31, June 1-30, Sept 5-30 Mon- Sat, National Heritage Week Aug 13-21, 9.30am-1.30pm

Fee: adult €6, OAP €4

The website tells us: “An 800 year old French style manor house set in the lush countryside of North Tipperary. Cloughjordan House is at heart a place of wholesome home-grown food, warm, welcoming rooms, gardens to explore and wide lawns to play on.

The website tells us a little about the history of the house: “You can’t walk around the grounds of Cloughjordan House without feeling steeped in Irish history. The house itself has been there for over 800 years, dating back to as early as 1214. It’s covered in a colourful Virginia creeper residual from the historic Hodgins’ Arboretum and nursery gardens that the grounds were once famous for. The property has been in the hands of The Baker family since 1914 when they purchased it from the Hodgins family. In 1922, free state soldiers occupied the house and evidence of their target practise can see be seen on an ancient tree outside.

Peter Baker, his wife Sarah and their children; Julie, Holly and Sam are the proud residents of Cloughjordan House today. Over the past decade or more, they have transformed Cloughjordan House from a dairy farm into a magical destination with the best in food, atmosphere and accommodation. The family live in their own wing of the main house and welcome guests as though they are friends and family, even the family dogs Louis and Monty are available for a belly rub during your stay.”

The National Inventory tells us it is a “Detached multi-period country house, comprising five-bay two-storey central block, built c.1675, having rear stairs return, flanked by two blocks that advance forwards, eastern being medieval tower house and western being ballroom block built c.1850. Flanking blocks are gable-fronted and two-storey with attic, and middle block has pitched slate roofs with massive rendered chimneystacks. Rendered walls, with battered base and dressed quoins to tower house...Round-headed doorway with petal fanlight and replacement timber and glazed door to ballroom block. Part of original staircase with barley-twist balusters survives. Various gabled and lean-to additions to rear. Detached L-plan stable block, built c.1860. Wrought-iron gates set on limestone plinth to entrance. Remains of moat to north and east. 

Cloughjordan House is a substantial farmhouse that contains significant fabric from the medieval period to the nineteenth century. Its form, detailing and original fabric provide important information about rural architectural development in Ireland. The house also contains fine joinery and plaster work and the barley-twist staircase is a rare survival. It has one of the few surviving nursery gardens for which there is substantial documentation that is now preserved in the National Botanic Gardens.

6. Fancroft Mill, Fancroft, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary – section 482

Fancroft Mill, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Marcus & Irene Sweeney
Tel: 0505-31484, 087-9263300 

www.fancroft.ie

Open: May 11-31, June 1-2, 9-30, Aug 13-22, Oct 3-7, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €8, OAP/student €6, child free under 5 years, adult supervision essential, group rates available

Fancroft  Fancroft Gardens are not open to visitors for the seasons 2021/22.

The website tells us:

An extensive conservation project, commenced in 2006 by Marcus & Irene Sweeney, has resulted in the rescue from dereliction of this mill complex which is of noted industrial heritage importance. A set of new mill stones were installed in 2010. Milling capability is now restored for domestic   purposes. A recently installed generator contributes to the household heating system. All of the buildings at Fancroft are included on  the  Offaly County Council list of  Protected Structures.

The rescue from dereliction of the mill complex at Fancroft received public recognition in 2017 when the Irish Georgian Society awarded the owners one of their Conservation Awards. The inaugural Norman Campion award for Best Restored Industrial Site or Museum was conferred on Fancroft Mill & Gardens by the Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland in 2019.

Approached by the winding  road  one has no idea of what lies behind the hedge  and across the stream which drives the water wheel  in the corn mill. Consequently the extensive gardens, created mostly in the 1990’s by previous owner Angela Jupe, unfold as a series of delightful surprises as one proceeds beyond the pebbled courtyard leaving the busy world behind.

In recent years Fancroft  Mill & Gardens has proven to be a wonderful venue for successful  heritage seminars, classical and traditional music events, sponsored walks and visits by interested individuals and groups from Ireland and overseas.

Eircode: E53 ET72.
e.mail: millgardens@gmail.com

7. Farney Castle, Holycross, County Tipperary

Farney Castle, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://cyrilcullen.wordpress.com/farney-castle/

The website tells us:

Farney Castle Visitor centre

As well as being the Cullen family home, Cyril Cullen Knitwear and porcelain is designed and produced in the converted ‘old stables’ in the castle courtyard. The unique parian/porcelain designs are sold in what was the old dairy at Farney castle, the knitwear boutique is situated in the original kitchen of the castle and a coffee shop is situated in the 15th century round tower.It is the only Round Tower in Ireland occupied as a family home. Tours of the castle are available daily and harp recitals take place in the drawing room by arrangement.

The History of Farney Castle

The first castle was built at Farney in 1185 and this would have been a timbered structure. The present round tower was built in 1495 by Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, and it was part of a defensive system created by the Butlers to protect their land in Tipperary. The Butlers were in Farney Castle for 500 years but in 1536 the castle was confiscated by King Henry VIII of England. He returned the lands again to the Butlers in 1538 when he married Anne Boleyn who was the daughter of James, 3rd Earl of Ormond. Subsequently the castle was occupied for short periods by two other English monarchs namely King James 1st from 1617 – 1625, and King George 1st from 1716 -1721.

In 1649 Cromwell landed in Ireland and shortly after 1650 a Cromwellian soldier named Hulett took over the castle. Then in 1660 Capt. William Armstrong, a Cavalier who supported the Stuarts and who fought against Cromwell, acquired the castle and lands, and there were Armstrongs in the castle for the next 200 years. William Armstrong came from a Scottish Border country family which was famed in the sixteenth century for its ferocity, and in 1677 he purchased large estates in the area including Holy Cross Abbey and Holy Cross lands.

The round tower is 58 ft. high and has five stories. It is unusual in being circular whereas the majority of this sort of tower were square or oblong. It possesses a mural staircase (built within the thickness of the walls) off which it appears that secret rooms still exist undiscovered. The main door was opened up by Cyril Cullen having been closed for 200 years. There is a “murdering hole” over the main door and this enabled the castle defenders to shoot from above at any intruders. The tower castles were built to safeguard the Butler lands during the long periods when the family was away in England.”

8. Grenane House, Tipperary, Co. Tipperary – section 482

Grenane House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Philippa Mansergh-Wallace Tel: 062-52484 

www.hfhtours.ie

Open: May & Sept, Mon-Sat, Aug 13-21, 2pm-6pm, closed Sundays Fee: adult €8, student/OAP €6, group rates available

Mark Bence-Jones tells us it is: “[Mansergh] A 2 storey 3 bay late-Georgian house with a long 2 storey service wing. Enclosed porch with roundheaded windows; a Wyatt window on either side of it.

The National Inventory adds: “three-bay two-storey country house, of at least two phases, front elevation rebuilt c. 1820, with entrance porch. Rear part of east elevation of main block, together with lower two-storey wings, five-bay to north-west and two-bay to north-east, may be early eighteenth century. Additional double-pile three-bay two-storey block having pitched slate roof to north-east…A pleasing middle-sized house of balanced Georgian proportions, existing largely in its early form and retaining much of its original fabric. This house is elevated above other typical early nineteenth century middle-sized country houses by the inclusion of ornate features including the elaborate entrance porch with round-headed openings and the tripartite windows with delicately proportioned engaged clustered timber columns. The house, its yards, walled and terraced gardens, together with its monumental entrance piers, form an attractive and interesting group on a slightly elevated site in the landscape. “

9. Killenure Castle, Dundrum, Co Tipperary – section 482

Killenure Castle, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Eavaun Carmody
Tel: 087-6402664
www.killenure.com
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 10.30am-2.30pm Fee: adult €10, child /OAP/student €5

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988): p. 170. “(Cooper/IFR) A large tower-house of the O’Dwyer family, burnt by the Cromwellians but still very well preserved, with a plain and unassuming C18 house of two storeys over basement alongside it. Sold in recent years, now a private school.” 

The National Inventory adds: “Detached two-storey country house, comprising T-plan five-bay block, c. 1770, with central pedimented breakfront and rear return, with four-bay block built to south-west, c. 1800, to give overall L-plan. Two-storey pitched addition to north gable, with single-storey lean-to extension to rear and having catslide addition to rear of later block. Early seventeenth-century fortified house located to west….Fortified house has round-plan corner towers and three-bay four-storey gable-fronted façade, triple-gabled rear elevation, rubble limestone walls, dressed limestone string courses, loops to towers and ground floor of main facades, upper floors of latter having square-headed one-and mullioned two-light and three-light windows, some blocked, to main facades with chamfered limestone surrounds and label-mouldings. Pointed-arch doorways to front and rear walls, and flight of external steps up to north-west tower. Conical slate roof to north-eastern tower, rubble limestone chimneystacks and dripstones. Some later square-headed window openings to south-east tower, with red brick surrounds, one having carved timber traceried casement windows. Lofted stable and coach house to rear of house with half-hipped slate roofs and rendered rubble limestone walls and having square- and segmental-headed openings. Three-bay single-storey gate-lodge with hipped slate roof and rendered walls and entrance gates with dressed limestone piers to vehicluar and pedestrian entrances with wrought-iron gates and flanking rubble limestone walls. 

This multi-period country house was formerly the home of the antiquary Austin Cooper. Its setting, next to a substantial fortified house, indicates considerable continuity of living at this location, and reflects the transition in attitudes to living patterns with a concentration on defence shifting to one of comfortable living. The later wing is typical of an early nineteenth-century country house with centrally-placed chimneystacks and tall sash windows. The fortified house retains mainly notable feature features including defensive elements such as the gun loops. The fortified house, country house and associated outbuildings make an impressive complex in the landscape.”

The Killenure website tells us:

Nestled in the spectacular scenery of South Tipperary, Killenure Castle the home of Killenure Dexter beef is a truly stunning gift from times gone by. It has held a central place in the local community for over five centuries, as a stronghold; a school; an artistic retreat; a visitor attraction; and vitally, a family home. 

Since its purchase in 2007, the house has been lovingly restored and updated. The renovations reflect the family’s role as both inhabitants and custodians of the castle, and have successfully balanced the needs – and responsibilities – that come with both. This continues the organic pattern of development that Killenure Castle has enjoyed for the over 450 years. From the original castle whose ruinous remains now dominates the space, to a charming ‘Hansel and Gretel’ style tree-house that is built around a 300-year-old living Irish Beech tree, the eclectic range of buildings reflects the fascinating range of almost five centuries of lucky inhabitants. 

As well as providing shelter for generations of owners and their families, Killenure Castle represents the centre of a community. Its survival through 500 years is testament to the strength of the community it represents, and Eavaun and her family are delighted to share the castle with visitors. As custodians of Killenure Castle, we have built a sustainable, community-orientated business, ensuring the survival of the castle and Killenure Dexter beef for future generations. 

Whilst the spectacular medieval castle and grounds have previously been open to visitors during the summer, they will remain closed in 2017 due to ongoing restoration works. If you would like to learn more, a guidebook is available for those wishing to learn more about this extra-ordinary castle, and the community that surrounds it. 

You can purchase a short history of Killenure which documents the history of Killenure from the O’Dwyer Clan up to the contemporary Killenure of today. The cost of the book is €5.00 plus postage. To order a copy please contact info@killenure.com  

10. Lismacue House, Bansha, Co. Tipperary – section 482, whole house rental

Lismacue House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Katherine Nicholson
Tel: 062-54106
www.lismacue.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility) Open: Mar 18-Oct 31

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 185. “[Baker/IFR] A late-Georgian house with battlements and other mild Gothic touches. 2 storeys;  entrance front of three bays with Gothic porch, prolonged by lower wing ending in a gable with tracery window. Side of five bays has a battlemented pediment with pinnacles. Another pediment on the rear facade.” 

The National Inventory adds: “This is an imposing and diverse country house, which has been enlivened through the addition of many Gothic-style elements. The early nineteenth-century middle wing provides a foil for the classically-designed original block, in its use of unrendered stone walls. The extensive and well-designed courtyard reflects the grandeur of this dwelling, which is set in landscaped grounds. The retention of early wallpaper to two ground floor reception rooms is an indication of the sympathetic maintenance this house receives.

The website tells us: “Lismacue House is a Luxury Georgian Country House set in the heart of Ireland.

This is the ideal property for anyone wanting to rent a luxury home for a quiet country break.

Approached by the gracious lime tree avenue, Lismacue House looks out on the splendour of the Galtee mountains.

Standing in 200 acres of parkland with the excellent ‘Ara’ trout fishing, this is the ideal location to relax and explore the wonders of Ireland.

The website tells us more about the history:

The original dwelling, situated in the “Oak Paddock” had  five chimneys and therefore incurred a hearth tax of 10/- according to the records of 1665.

On the 15th October, 1704 Lismacue was purchased by William Baker, ancestor of Kate Nicholson, for the sum of £923. Since then the house has been continually occupied by the family. Sir Augustine Baker, a solicitor, was President of the Incorporated Law Society in 1903. He compiled the family history in 1922, just before the Public Record Office was burned down.

The present house was completed in 1813 to the design of architect William Robertson. It is a classically proportioned Irish country house set in 200 acres and approached by one of the most impressive lime tree avenues in Ireland, planted c.1760 by Hugh Baker.

Lismacue is a beautifully maintained model of country house splendour with high ceilings and intricate plasterwork, broad staircases and gloriously stained pine floors. Differing architectural styles can be discerned between the main building, the wing and Coach House.

At the turn of the century guests were collected at Bansha railway station by trap.

The accommodation consists of a classically proportioned drawing room, dining room, breakfast room and library. The house is centrally heated throughout, with traditional warm and welcoming log fires in the reception rooms. All windows have the original pine shutters that are closed each evening.

The plasterwork in the Drawing Room is of unusual pendulous Gothic design and coupled with the gilt pelmets, mahogany doors and original wallpaper give it an air of timelessness and tranquillity. In the Dining room the elegant dining room table surrounded by the original Hicks chairs, which can seat a party of 12, is West facing thereby getting the benefit of the evening sun.

The library, overlooking the croquet lawn, contains original wallpaper, which is French in design, and is now almost two hundred years old. The architects preparatory sketches hang above the bookcase.

All bedrooms contain a King or Queen size bed and are especially designed for perfect rest. Each spacious room features antique furniture, direct dial telephones, fresh cut flowers all year round. There’s a sumptuous deep soaking bath and shower in all bathrooms. Each room enjoys panoramic views over the surrounding landscaped gardens and estate.

11. Nenagh Castle, County Tipperary

See my OPW write-up: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

12. Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary – OPW

See my OPW write-up: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

13. Redwood Castle, Redwood, Lorrha, Nenagh, North Tipperary – section 482

Redwood Castle by irishfireside on flickr constant commons.

Redwood is off the Birr/Portumna Rd

contact: Coleesa Egan
Tel: 087-7479566 

www.redwoodcastleireland.com

Open: June 15-30, July 1-17, Aug 9-31, Sept 1-7, 2.30pm-6.30pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €5

Redwood Castle from flickr constant commons Discover Lough Derg.

The website tells us:

Welcome to Redwood Castle in Co. Tipperary, ancient home of the MacEgan’s and O’Kennedy’s.

Today the Castle is one of the main historical attractions in the midlands of Ireland. Come and take a guided tour around Redwood Castle and learn about the history of the Castle and surrounding area.

The website tells us more about the castle:

Redwood is a complex structure made up of two main sections. Firstly, there are a series of main chambers stacked one above the other that form the core of the tower house. These are accompanied by a series of smaller ancillary rooms at the front of the building, which were used as bed chambers.

This layout may seem fairly straightforward but it is complicated by each room being on different levels. While we normally think of castle walls as thick and strong for defensive purposes, they were in reality riddled with passageways and staircases that served the larger rooms inside. Irish castle builders generally made very economical use of walls for domestic purposes rather than military strength, meaning that castles were far less impenetrable than they appeared.

A series of defensive features on the exterior such as battlements and machicolation were instead used to convey a certain military bravado to those who approached the castle. The occupants of these castles were aristocratic warriors who participated in an ancient martial culture, and castles played an important part in dramatising and expressing their identity.

The earliest recorded occupants of Redwood are the O’Kennedy sept who are referred to in possession of the castle in the 1540s. However, it was likely to have previously been in possession of the O’Maddens whose east Galway lordship once extended into the north of Ormond and the parish of Lusmagh beyond. They seem to have lost this territory in the 1440s and it would appear that the sept of O’Kennedy Roe came into possession of the castle around that time.

The Mac Egans were a prominent bardic family in their day, and they were one of only seven Irish families to practice the ancient Brehon Law. Of these seven, five served just one ruling family, one served five senior lords, and members of the Mac Egan clan served as the chief advisors to all of the remaining thirteen lords and chieftains. The position of the “Brehon” was one of great importance. They served as a kind of first minister for their master, functioning as his chief advisors on legal matters as well as those of a more general nature. In addition, they served as ambassadors and negotiators, brokering deals and treaties between the feudal lords of medieval Ireland. As such, they were widely respected and were treated as neutrals in any conflicts. There is only one medieval record of a Brehon being killed by an Irish chief, and even that was a case of mistaken identity. Finally, the Brehons sat in judgement on the Brehon courts, which ran in conflict with the English Common Law system which was theoretically the one and only legal system.

The website gives us more information about Brehon Law.

Redwood Castle was originally constructed around 1210 by an Anglo-Norman family by the name of De Cougan. Redwood’s strategic position was of the utmost importance owing to its close proximity to the River Shannon. The Anglo-Normans made several attempts to cross the Shannon and administer the west of Ireland, but none were successful enough to allow the invaders to settle on a permanent basis. As a result, the Anglo-Normans faced the constant danger of being attacked themselves from across the Shannon, leading to a long line of castles and towerhouses being constructed along its eastern bank. The original structure here at Redwood was only two storeys tall, and there were no entrances or exits here on the ground floor for security reasons. The original doorway would have been on the second floor, accessible by a retractable ladder. The main entrance you see today dates from the mid-1300s. For many years ivy covered all of the castle except this doorway, and so a lot of tourist material still mistakenly dates the entire castle from this period.

The De Cougans eventually vacated Redwood, and the castle was granted to the O’Kennedy family in 1350. It was then that the other floors were added to the castle. The local branch of the O’Kennedy family were based in Lackeen Castle, approximately 3 miles south of here, and so they turned this castle over to their chief bardic family, the Mac Egans. The bardic families played a crucial role in medieval Ireland, serving Gaelic chieftains and English lords alike. They fulfilled many functions, including those of advisors, administrators, lawyers, musicians, poets, physicians and ambassadors. However, each individual family tended to specialise in just one or two specific areas of study. The Mac Egans of Redwood were experts in historical study and the practice of the ancient Irish Brehon law. Only seven families in medieval Ireland practised and studied this ancient legal system. Most of these served only one master, whilst the Mac Egans served at least thirteen lords and chieftains, giving them a virtual monopoly over medieval Irish law. They founded a school of history and law here at Redwood, and some of Ireland’s foremost medieval thinkers had close links to this centre. Michael O’Cleary led a team of historians which compiled the famous Annals of the Four Masters, an enormous and comprehensive text which gave an account of all recorded Irish history up until the early seventeenth century. Upon its completion, Michael O’Cleary brought the text to some of the most influential men in the country, including the Archbishop of Dublin and the Bishop of Tuam. However, the first approval he sought was from a Flann Mac Aoghain, one of his former teachers and the lord of Redwood Castle.

However, by this time, Redwood Castle had reached its apex, and its decline began with a tide of political and religious unrest which culminated with Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland in 1649. The development of artillery effectively ended the reign of castles and towerhouses in Ireland, which had previously only had to deal with the occasional uprising by poorly armed peasants. Nearby Lackeen Castle was forfeited to Cromwell’s troops in 1653, whilst records of 1654 state that by that date, the castle at Redwood was nothing more than a ruin. It therefore seems likely that Redwood was besieged sometime in 1653. There are no obvious signs of damage from heavy artillery on the outside of the castle, and therefore it seems likely that the castle was forfeited without a fight once the Mac Egans saw what they were facing. Whatever the circumstances of the castle’s seizure, we do know that once it was in the possession of Cromwell’s troops, it was fired and practically burnt to the ground. The roof and most of the floors were wooden, and so only the walls and the spiral stone stairway were left standing.

The castle remained in ruins for over 300 years. At the turn of the twentieth century, a local farmer cut a second opening into the ground floor, just wide enough to let through a horse and cart which could be sheltered from the elements under the stone-barred vaulted arch. It is believed that it took three men a fortnight to cut through the 11 foot thick western wall. In 1972, a lawyer from Castlebar, County Mayo by the name of Michael Egan bought Redwood Castle and undertook its restoration. He was a descendant of the Mac Egans of Redwood, and so was determined to restore his family seat to its former glory. The government refused to support the project with any grants, believing the ruins to be beyond redemption. Michael Egan therefore funded the entire restoration project out of his own pocket. His ultimate goal was to have the castle as a second family home, which could also be used for important family occasions. To avoid tax burdens, the castle was opened to the public for sixty days a year as a site of historical interest, beginning in the early 1980s.

To this day, Redwood Castle continues to host the Clan Egan Rallies, and to educate the public.

14. The Rectory, Cashel Road, Cahir, Co. Tipperary – section 482

The Rectory, Cahir, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Richard Fahey
Tel: 087-2601994
(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: May 1-Oct 31

The National Inventory describes the house: “A substantial former rectory with an attractive bowed bay which dominates the principal elevation and creates interest in an otherwise austere design. The placement of the entrance doorway in an end elevation is unusual. Of significance also is the range of outbuildings to the north, with an attractive arched entrance and retaining much interesting fabric.” [20]

15. Roscrea Castle and Damer House, County Tipperary

See my OPW write-up: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

16. Silversprings House, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary – section 482

Silversprings House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Jim Gilligan
Tel: 086-2539187
Open: May 1-31, June 1-30, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student€3, child €2

The National Inventory tells us: “Detached nine-bay two-storey former charter school with projecting pairs of end bays, built 1747, with projecting barrel-roofed porch addition…Patronised by Sir Charles Moore and John Dawson, this former charter school retains much of its original form and is a notable feature in the urban landscape. In the nineteenth century it was occupied by Charles Bianconi, who ran a coach transport enterprise throughout Ireand from his headquarters in Clonmel. It displays evidence of fine stonework in the window surrounds and eaves course which contrast with the limestone of the walls to enliven and offer textural variety to the façade.

17. Swiss Cottage, County Tipperary – OPW

See my OPW write-up: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

Places to stay, County Tipperary

1. Ashley Park, Nenagh, Co Tipperary – accommodation

 https://hiddenireland.com/stay/bed-breakfast-guesthouses/

Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.
Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.

The Hidden Ireland website tells us:

“Ashley Park House has a magical quality that is particularly appealing. The avenue winds along the shore, through deep woods of oak and beech, until–suddenly–you reach the Georgian house, surrounded by tall trees, with beautiful views over a private lake. Inside, the rooms are large, comfortable and well equipped so offering a truly relaxing break away from the busyness of modern life.

Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.
Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.
Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.
Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.

The owners, Margaret & David McKenzie  run their home in a relaxed and informal way in the style of the traditional Irish country house, ideal for family and friends taking a break to celebrate a special occasion. Guests like nothing more than losing themselves in the woods and gardens, or rowing around the lake and exploring the ruins of the ancient fort on the island.

Ashley Park House sits peacefully in the middle of 76 acres of beech woodland and formal gardens in the heart of County Tipperary, in the centre of Ireland six miles north of the busy market town of Nenagh with its famous circular keep, on the road to Borrisokane and Birr. This beautiful 18th century country house, with its sweeping Edwardian verandas overlooking the lake, is approached through a rusticated stone arch, down a long tree-lined avenue with lovely views across Lough Ourna (‘the lake of the barley’), framed by ancient ring-forts on the shore, towards Keeper Hill in the distance

Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.

Ashley Park House retains many of its original Georgian fittings and has been faithfully restored to its original appearance, with fine period furniture and all modern comforts, giving visitors the opportunity to appreciate truly authentic Irish country house accommodation. The main rooms are spacious and relaxing, while the large bedrooms either overlook the lake in front, or have views over a series of walled courtyards at the rear where there are hens, ducks and peafowl. Recent renovations have created stylish new rooms in the Coach Houses next to the main house where modern comforts link with traditional styling.

Ashley Park House has a fantastic in house culinary team who prepare delicious suppers using fresh local ingredients to the highest standard. Enjoy a romantic break away with four course dinner in the Main House dining room overlooking the lake and then move into the luxurious drawing room to enjoy a digestif from the residents bar. Wake up refreshed to enjoy a delicious breakfast, which is Highly Recommended by the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards.

Our wonderful bedroom suite at Ashley Park, December 2016.
Our wonderful bedroom suite at Ashley Park, December 2016.
Our wonderful bedroom suite at Ashley Park, December 2016.
Our wonderful bedroom suite at Ashley Park, December 2016.
Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.
Ashley Park, County Tipperary, December 2016.

2. Ballinacourty House, Co Tipperary – guest house and restaurant

The original house has been demolished, but the stables has been converted into a guest house and restaurant. https://www.ballinacourtyhouse.com/bed-breakfast

The website tells us:

Mary and family look forward to welcoming you to Ballinacourty House. Whether you are coming to explore the local walking or hiking that Aherlow has to offer, visiting the ancient historical sites of Tipperary, or perhaps just passing through on a flying visit- you will be most welcome in our home.

We strive to ensure that your stay in the Glen of Aherlow is a memorable one. We offer our Guests comfortable overnight accommodation, hearty home-cooked breakfasts and personal attention, offering local expertise if required, all part of the unique Irish Home B&B experience you will receive at Ballinacourty House.

3. Birdhill House, Clonmel, County Tipperary

https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/birdhill-house-gardens/

Birdhill House & Gardens offers the ultimate mix of homeliness and grandeur. The perfect place to reflect and re-energize. Enjoy the welcoming warmth of this mid 1700’s Georgian country house. Nestled in the Suir valley with panoramic views of Knockmealdown and Comeragh mountains.

Explore the tranquil and breathtaking beauty of the gardens. Take the time to relax on one of the many terraces. Sip a glass of wine or dine al fresco around the fire pit. If you feel like a little exercise you might stroll along the river bank, be tempted to take out the rowing boat/kayak. Or maybe enjoy an energetic game of tennis. On a chilly day sit by a roaring fire in the drawing room or gather friends and family around the kitchen table to play games. Hide away in the library for a quiet read surrounded by relaxed elegance. Retire to the delightfully decorated bedrooms and snuggle down for sweet dreams, but be warned: the morning chorus here at Birdhill House & Gardens is quite spectacular. Oh! And watch out for Millie and her daughter Hettie, the sweetest of dogs.

Birdhill House and Gardens offers guests luxury accommodation with the option to add breakfast and dinner if you wish.

The west wing of the house also can be exclusively rented where guests can enjoy the freedom of self-catering and is an ideal house for family breaks. Contact the house directly to check availability for the exclusive rental of Birdhill House & Gardens.”

4. Cahir House Hotel, Cahir, County Tipperary

https://www.cahirhousehotel.ie/en/

The website tells us:

Cahir House Hotel is a Historical Town House and the leading hotel in Cahir, County Tipperary. This former manor house offers luxury  hotel accommodation in Cahir and is the ideal base for your hotel break in the South East of Ireland.

Situated centrally in Cahir, Co. Tipperary, with views of Cahir Castle, Cahir Main Square. Cork, Waterford & Shannon Airport and Cities such as Kilkenny, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, a mere 1 hour drive away.

Cahir House Hotel is the perfect location at the crossroads to the south.

The National Inventory tells us that it was built c. 1770: “This impressive townhouse, designed by William Tinsley on a prominent corner site, which became the residence of the Earls of Glengall when the family ceased to live in Cahir Castle [The first Earl of Glengall was the 10th Baron Cahir, Richard Butler (1775-1819). He married Emilia Jefferyes, daughter of James St. John Jefferyes of Blarney Castle]. Although it has undergone many alterations and a change of use, it retains much character and interesting fabric, such as the stone to the window and door dressings.

5. Cashel Palace Hotel, Cashel, County Tipperary – €€€

https://www.cashelpalacehotel.ie

The website tells us it is: “A Palladian manor, in the heart of Ireland, Cashel Palace is a luxury hideaway, meticulously restored and exquisitely reimagined. Spectacularly located by the Rock of Cashel in picturesque Co. Tipperary, the hotel is enveloped in nature and overlooked by ancient history.

Cashel Palace hotel, County Tipperary, photograph by Brian Morrison 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

The website tells us of the history:

Built in 1732, as the home of Church of Ireland Archbishop Theophilus Bolton, Cashel Palace was designed by the eminent architect Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. Lovett Pearce was one of the most celebrated architects of the time, and would go on to design Dublin’s impressive Parliament House – now the Bank of Ireland in College Green.

Palladian in style, Cashel Palace’s handsome red brick facade contrasts with its limestone rear. While the rear façade mirrors the front, the use of different materials makes it exceptionally rare for this period. Carved limestone dressings enhance the house’s symmetry, with the triple-opening Venetian – or Serlian – windows a typical feature of the Palladian style.

If you look closely at the front elevation, you will spot a crowned harp over the entrance. A fire mark issued by the Hibernian Insurance Company of Dublin, they were in business from 1771 to 1839 and were the first company in Ireland to offer fire insurance.

No expense was spared in the Palace’s construction, with dozens of skilled craftsmen hired to complete the ornate and capacious interiors. Thanks to generations of mindful custodians, many of the house’s original features were well preserved. Described as ‘a place of notable hospitality’ in Loveday’s Tour of 1732, it is clear the residents enjoyed the finest comforts of the day.

The large entrance hall retains its original wood panelling, and two imposing fluted Corinthian columns. Off the hall, stands the remarkable staircase, an early Georgian style carved from red pine and featuring hundreds of intricately hand-turned ‘barley sugar’ banisters.

Occupying 25 acres, with an impressive driveway and gardens, a private walkway, ‘The Bishops Walk’ was constructed, to give residents private access to the Rock of Cashel, ancient seat of the Kings of Munster and home to a 13th century Cathedral. Cashel Palace was not impervious to political upheaval, and suffered damage during the turbulent Wolfe Tone Rebellion of 1798. The 1st Earl of Normanton, then Archbishop of Cashel, oversaw the room repairs, with the modifications reflecting the fashionable Regency style of the time.

To the rear of the Palace beautiful gardens were planted, including two ancient mulberry trees. Predating the house, these striking trees stand tall today, planted in 1702 to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Anne.

During the construction and excavation the builders stumbled upon the opening of an ancient well. Perfectly formed and completely intact, the 15-foot well was historically used to provide water to the Main House of the Cashel Palace during the period when the Archbishops occupied the house from the 1730’s to the 1900’s.

Every period house in this time had a land agent who would brew beer for the owners, and it was Richard Guinness, who was the land agent for Archbishop Arthur Price, who used hops from the Palace Garden and water from this well to brew ale for Cashel Palace. His son Arthur Guinness, who was the Archbishop’s godson, was left £100 in his godfather’s will – the same £100 he used to secure the lease on the site of St. James’s Gate brewery in Dublin. This same well can be seen in The Glass Well at our sister property, Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen adjacent to the hotel.

101 years after it was built, the last Archbishop left Cashel Palace. In 1833, under the Church Temporalities Act, the dioceses of Cashel and Emly were merged with Waterford and Lismore. This act saw the then present resident, Archbishop Richard Lawrence, relocate to Waterford, where he and future successors would make their home. Without an Archbishop in residence, Cashel Palace was divided for use by the Dean of Cashel and a Canon of the Church of Ireland.

For more than 200 years, the Palace had found itself at the heart of religious life, hosting many powerful families and their guests. That all changed in 1959, when the Church of Ireland sold Cashel Palace to Lord Brockett, a man of some means. Opened as a luxury hotel in May 1962, Lord Brockett also owned the Wicklow Hotel in Dublin and Benner’s Hotel in Tralee at the time.

Over the years, Cashel Palace hosted many glamorous guests, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Ronald Reagan, Diana Spencer and Prince Joachim of Denmark.

The hotel has enjoyed a long association with the horse-racing community and was once owned by the legendary horse trainer Vincent O’Brien before being sold to local entrepreneurs Pat and Susan Murphy who took stewardship and operated the hotel until its closure in 2014.

Then, in 2016, the iconic house was purchased by the Magnier Family, also owners of Coolmore, the world’s largest and most successful thoroughbred breeding operation. Since then, the house as undergone an incredible transformation which will see it transformed a magnificent five-star Relais & Châteaux property.

The doors of Cashel Palace opened more on 1st March 2022 after a long slumber, ready to welcome guests from across the globe, thus ushering in a new era in the legacy of a building already steeped in such incredible history.

6. Croc an Oir, Mullinahone, County Tipperary € for 4-15

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/6651715?adults=1&children=0&infants=0&check_in=2023-04-18&check_out=2023-04-25&federated_search_id=06207691-0de5-49ec-8323-71f088df9e7c&source_impression_id=p3_1654355901_X6OQQUqoSRlCkOnM

Crocanoir is a home away from home tucked away down a leafy boreen. This beautifully restored house offers a truly relaxing holiday where hospitality and a traditional Irish experience is offered in abundance. It enjoys stunning views of Slievenamon mountain and there are lovely countryside walks only a stroll from the doorstep. Guests are welcome to wander the woodland paths and leave the world behind. The Old House has oodles of character and is ideal for large families or groups of friends.

7. Dundrum House, County Tipperary – hotel is temporarily closed but there are self-catering cottages. €€

https://www.dundrumhousehotel.com

8. The Rectory, Cashel Road, Cahir, Co. Tipperary – section 482

The Rectory, Cahir, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Richard Fahey
Tel: 087-2601994
(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: May 1-Oct 31

Whole house rental County Tipperary

1. Bansha Castle, County Tipperary – whole house rental €€€ for 2; € for 7-16

Bansha Castle, County Tipperary by Kerry Kissane 2021 for Tourism Ireland (see [7]).

https://www.banshacastle.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 30. “(Butler/IFR) A two storey Victorian house with a round tower at one end, a square tower at the other and a gabled porch. Odd-shaped windows and a few blind loops; but no castellations or other pseudo-medieval features.” 

The website tells us: “If you’ve ever dreamed of staying in an Irish castle, then 300-year old Bansha Castle is exactly what you’ve been looking for. This gracious castle with elegant period features is beautifully positioned amid mature private parkland by the Glen of Aherlow, framed by the famous Galtee mountains. Built in 1760 and recently lovingly restored to full former glory, Bansha Castle is the perfect location for a private family gathering, birthday celebration or friendly get-together.

It tells us of the history also:

Bansha Castle was built circa 1760 on the site of the original 11th century castle. Extensively remodelled around 1830 and also in the early 1900s, it originally consisted of a late Georgian wing attached to a medieval tower house. The castle was the home of the O’Ryan family until late 1800s, when it was acquired by the British Government as a grace and favour house for General Sir William Butler on his retirement following the Boer war.

General Butler was born in Ballycarron, about three miles from Bansha village. After joining the British Army he saw service initially in Burma and India and was subsequently posted to Canada where he was responsible for submitting the report which led to the setting up of the North Western Police- the Mounties. Although a brilliant soldier, Butler hated war. As Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in South Africa in the 1890s, he tried to dissuade the British Government from taking on the Boers, knowing it would be a long and costly war, whereas the Government thought they were only up against inexperienced farmers. In 1899 he was forced to resign having been accused of having pro-Boer sympathies. He was made the scapegoat for the bloody war which followed and suffered intense humiliation.

Butler retired to Bansha Castle and happily was able to clear his name before he died in 1910. He carried out a number of alterations to the house – removing the castellations around the roof, demolishing the early tower, and replacing it and re-roofing the house. He was buried in Kilaldriff cemetery, not far from Bansha.

If General Sir William Butler was famous then his wife, Elizabeth Thompson was equally distinguished. She became Lady Butler, The Battle Artist. Never having witnessed war at first hand, her battle scenes won her the popularity and critical success that no other female British painter has ever approached. Among her most famous paintings are The Roll Call, Scotland Forever, and The Charge. Many of her paintings were completed in Bansha Castle. She used the top room of the North tower as her studio.

She continued to live on in Bansha Castle after her husband’s death. During the troubles in 1922, the house was occupied by the IRA. In great indignation Lady Butler walked out of the house, leaving everything behind. She was never to return. It was left to her son, a colonel in the British Army, to retrieve her paintings. One of her paintings, The Camel Corp, is rumoured to have a bullet hole in it,
received in Bansha Castle. She went to live with her daughter, Lady Gormanstown, at Gormanstown Castle where she died in 1932. An account of this episode can be read in her book A Little Kept.

Bansha Castle then became the property of Mr.Tom Givens, retired Chief of Police in Shanghai, before it was acquired in the early fifties by Dr.James Russell He ran it as a stud farm and bred the famous 1970s racehorse Rheingold on the lands. In 1975 there was a major fire and the house was closed for a number of years.

In 1982 John and Teresa Russell decided to renovate the house to provide luxury accommodation in Ireland. As can be observed, this renovation has become an ongoing labour of love.

2. Cloughjordan House, Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary – section 482, wedding venue

Cloughjordan House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.cloughjordanhouse.com/accommodation

The website tells us: “Cloughjordan House has a variety of colourful accommodation options for guests. There is on-site accommodation for up to 86 guests. The attention to detail leaves each finished room with a sense of its own personality and flair, meaning every lodger has a unique experience of the venue. The bathrooms are stocked with The Handmade Soap Company toiletries and the property is littered with Nespresso machines so that guests can take a break during their stay to sit back and smell the coffee.

There are four double bedrooms with ensuites in the beautifully elegant main house. The bedrooms have all the glamour of period features but with modern adjustments for a more comfortable stay. Guests staying here are steeped in luxury with; super king sized beds, crisp Egyptian Cotton sheets, soft cashmere blankets from Hanly Woollen Mills and under floor heating in the bathrooms. They also have use of the sitting room in the main house for relaxing and tea/coffee facilities with homemade cookies. Sleeps 8.

There are two double bedrooms with ensuites above the cookery school in the Coach House. These rooms are an extension of the accommodation available in the main house. Guests have access to the living rooms there for relaxation. This building was originally a store for horse-drawn carriages, hence its name The Coach House. Sleeps 4.

There are four double bedrooms with ensuites located in the Dairy. The structure was the original milking parlour for 150 dairy cows which is why each room; Daisy, Bluebell, Buttercup and Primrose are named after the animals. The décor here is rustic with unique features making use of Cloughjordan farm wood and other farmyard materials like galvanised sheeting. The beds are traditional farm structures with super comfortable mattresses. The handcrafted nature of these rooms means you are guaranteed to have never stayed anywhere like this. Sleeps 8.

There are 18 bedrooms with ensuites located in the Cowshed. The bedrooms are farmyard inspired with wood used from the Cloughjordan House forest and wooden sinks and rugs from South Africa, where both Sarah and Peter love spending time. The beds are large and luxurious and the showers are powerful. The common room is like something out of a novel, spacious and bright with an Argentinian feel. The veranda opens out onto the property with big, comfortable couches complete with blankets for the ultimate in chilling-out and when the sun is shining this is the best spot in the house (or shed)! Sleeps 45.

The glamping area in the walled garden has 11 newly arrived wooden “pod” cabins offering Scandinavian comfort and style. Mattresses and bedding are the same as any of the other rooms in the house. In order to keep our guest’s stay as premium as possible, we have built a Pamper Room so that ladies can get ready in comfort for the day ahead. This Girlie Room is bright and spacious and comes complete with mirrors and plugs for appliances. Glamping guests have access to The Cowshed lounge for relaxing and chilling-out. Sleeps 22.

3. Inch House, Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland – whole house rental €€€ for 2; €€ for 7-10

http://www.inchhouse.ie

The website tells us:

The Egan Family are proud owners of Inch House since 1985. The family bought the house & farm that surrounds it with no idea as to the real treasure that lay inside this Georgian mansion. John, a farmer, and Nora, a nurse, along with their eight children have worked tirelessly to bring their dreams for Inch House to fruition and opened their home to guests in 1989 following a major restoration project.

Having run an  award winning restaurant for some 25 years since then, John and Nora now embark on a new journey and for the first time this year are offering their magnificent house to holiday makers for their exclusive hire. this is an exciting new venture for the Egans’ and given their extensive experience in the hospitality and food sector they aim to bring their experience into this new venture and bring their plans to fruition.

Inch House was built in 1720 by John Ryan on the site of a previous structure. John, who had inherited extensive lands from his father, Daniel, married Frances Mary Mathew of Thurles in 1723. Frances was daughter of George Mathew, and granddaughter of Lady Thurles (1587-1673), formerly Elizabeth Poyntz.

Lady Thurles was married twice, firstly to Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles (who, had he lived would have succeeded to the Earldom of Ormonde), and secondly to George Mathew. Her eldest son by the Butler marriage was the remarkable James, 1st Duke of Ormonde and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Her daughter was an ancestor of the late Princess of Wales. The descendants of her Mathew alliance were equally notable for they included the saintly Nano Nagle, Foundress of the Presentation Sisters in the 18th Century.

Nano Nagle was a daughter of Garnet Nagle and Anne Mathew granddaughter of Thomas Mathew of Anfield, a mere stone’s throw from the Ryan seat at Inch. The Capuchin priest, Rev. Theobald Mathew, the renowned “Apostle of Temperance” also descended from this Stock.

Ryans of Inch were one of the few landed Catholic families in Tipperary and in the late 18th Century and owned up to 5,000 acres of land. Inch remained the property of the Ryan family until 1985 when it was sold to the present owners, John and Nora Egan.

4. Killaghy Castle, Mullinahone, Tipperary – whole house rental €€€ for 2; € for 11-14

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/41229269?source_impression_id=p3_1646849021_iHJka1F69OaEkVKZ

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 169. “An old tower-house of the Tobin family, with a two storey five bay C19 castellated wing attached. Doorway with segmental pointed arch, mullioned windows with hood mouldings, bartizan. Forfeited by the Tobins 1653, passed to the Greene family, from whom it passed through marriage to the Despards; it was garrisoned by Lieut Despard 1798. It then passed by inheritance to the Wright family, by whom it was sold. Since then, it has been owned successively by the families of Watson, Fox, Naughton and Bradshaw.” 

The National Inventory describes it: “Detached T-plan five-bay two-storey country house, built c.1760, façade remodelled and octagonal turret added to southwest corner c.1825, and having four-storey tower house, built c.1550, adjoining to east. Lower two-storey extension to north gable of return. Adjoining outbuildings to rear….The turret, crenellations and label-mouldings applied to this building are a witty reference to the original defensive nature of the tower house to which it has been added. This combination of structures of various eras is familiar in large rural houses in Ireland. The later parts form an interesting horizontal counterpoint to the very tall tower house. The house forms an interesting group with the outbuildings and walled garden. “

5. Kilshane, Tipperary, Co Tipperary – whole house rental:

Kilshane, County Tipperary, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.kilshanehouse.ie

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 299. “(Low/LGI1912) A Classical house of ca 1830; two storey, 6 bay front with single storey Ionic portico; solid roof parapet with central die. A very large and handsome conservatory with curvilinear roofs, in the style of th Dublin ironmasters Richard and William Turner, was added to one end of the house ca 1880; it has an interior of cast-iron columns supporting delicate fan-like arches with. Central fountain. The seat of the Low family; afterwards owned by a religious order, which made some institutional additions to the house. Now owned by Mr and Mrs Ian Horst.

The National Inventory tells us this impressive country house was built by the architect C.F. Anderson for John Lowe. 

Kilshane, County Tipperary: the impressive conservatory – see the website for a better picture, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

6. Kilteelagh House, Dromineer, Lough Derg, County Tipperary – whole house €€€ for 2; €€ for 10-12

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/16299584?source_impression_id=p3_1646849122_v85eLlk0Y7hZDOYc

Kilteelagh House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 176. “(Gason/IFR) A house rebuilt in High Victorian style 1863 by Lt-Col W.C. Gason. Two storey; steep gables with bargeboards; rectangular plate glass windows and large two storey Perpendicular window in centre. High-pitched polychrome roof. Fine demesne along the shore of Lough Derg. Sold 1962 by Col A.W. Gason to Lt-Col J.A. Dene.” 

Kilteelagh House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Kilteelagh House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

7. Lisheen Castle, Thurles, County Tipperary €€€ for two, € for 11-14

airbnb https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/337170?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-05-16&check_out=2022-05-21&federated_search_id=e5acaa55-1906-41d1-92c4-e1dcc2012c70&source_impression_id=p3_1652454843_bH11BQ6b7Xq9YDK0

Lisheen Castle, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The entry tells us: “In 1996, Michael and Joan undertook the complete restoration and renovation of the Castle, their son Zane now runs and manages the castle since 2009. This has been a real labour of love for them, as they have a wonderful appreciation of history and things beautiful. It was specially pleasing to Michael and Joan that all the craftsmen needed to carry our this momentous task were available locally. They have left no stone unturned to ensure that Lisheen Castle would be restored to its former glory, a residence fit for a Lord.

During your Irish castle vacation you will enter the beautiful hallway, through the Great Oak Door,you will be immediately impressed by the opulance of the diningroom, reception rooms and library. At the end of the long corridor visitors will see a beautiful Ash Carved Stairs. Upstairs, there are currently 9 luxury bedrooms, 8 of which are en-suite. While the emphasis in Lisheen Castle is historical, the facilities are up to today’s standard with wi-fi and pc/printer available for use by the guests.

One of the two kitchens is fully fitted to the highest catering standard. Of interest to the guests will be the “old-style kitchen”, which is furnished with pine furniture and terracotta floor.

Even though the Castle is centrally heated throughout, you can still experience the special ambience of the “open turf fires” which are in all the reception rooms.

Lisheen Castle is available for your Irish castle vacation on a weekly or monthly basis. So, go on, if you would like to experience the wonderful opulance of past times, while still having all the modern conveniences.

8. Lismacue House, Bansha, Co. Tipperary – section 482

Lismacue House, County Tipperary, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Katherine Nicholson
Tel: 062-54106
www.lismacue.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility) Open: Mar 18-Oct 31

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/21813051/ash-hill-stud-ash-hill-kilmallock-co-limerick

[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/21803033/brackvoan-bruff-limerick

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/21902807/glenville-house-glenville-ardagh-co-limerick

[5] https://www.limerick.ie/discover/eat-see-do/history-heritage/historic-attractions/glenquin-castle

[6] https://theirishaesthete.com/2021/09/13/glenquin-castle/

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

[8] https://www.countrylifeimages.co.uk/Search.aspx?s=glenstall

[9] https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/search/label/Ireland?updated-max=2020-04-02T14:59:00%2B01:00&max-results=20&start=5&by-date=false

[10] p. 171, O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of  Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998. 

[11] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/property-list.jsp?letter=K

[12] https://archiseek.com/2009/king-johns-castle-limerick/

[13] http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Limerick/King-Johns-Castle.html

[14] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/21903717/odell-ville-ballynarooga-beg-limerick

[15] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/property-list.jsp?letter=M

[16] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2014/12/mount-trenchard-house.html

[17] https://archiseek.com/2009/adare-manor-co-limerick/

[18] p. 160. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of  Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998. 

[19] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22401510/beechwood-park-graigue-upper-ardcrony-pr-tipperary-north

[20] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22111012/cashel-road-townparks-caher-pr-cahir-tipperary-south

Places to visit and stay in Leinster: Offaly and Westmeath

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

Accommodation is in red. Section 482 properties are in purple.

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;

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

Whole house accommodation is for more than 10 people.

Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly

7. Corolanty House, Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

8. Crotty Church, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly section 482

9. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

11. Leap Castle, County Offaly

12. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

13. Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

14. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

15. Woodland Cottage Garden, Birr, Offaly, IE 

Places to stay, County Offaly

1. Kinnitty Castle (formerly Castle Bernard), Kinnity, Co Offaly

2. Loughton House, County Offaly

3. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Whole house rental, County Offaly:

1. Ballycumber, County Offaly – whole house rental

Westmeath:

1. Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath – ruin, open to visitors 

2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath

3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

4. St. John’s Church, Loughstown, Drumcree, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath – section 482

5. Tullynally Castle & Gardens, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

6. Turbotstown, Coole, Co. Westmeath – section 482

7. Tyrrelspass Castle, Co Westmeath – restaurant and gift shop 

Places to stay, County Westmeath: 

1. Annebrook House Hotel, Austin Friars Street, Mullingar, Co.Westmeath, Ireland, N91YH2F.

2. Lough Bawn House, Colllinstown, Co Westmeath – accommodation €€

3. Mornington House, County Westmeath – accommodation 

Whole House Rental/wedding venue, County Westmeath:

1. Bishopstown House, Rosemount, Westmeath – whole house rental https://www.bishopstownhouse.ie

2.  Middleton Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath – available to rent http://mph.ie

Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Rudolf Prosoroff
Tel: 0043 676 5570097
Open: April 4-8, 19-28, May 2-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26, 30-31, June 1-2, 6-9, 13-16, 20- 23, 27-30, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €10, student /OAP/child €5

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

An article in the Irish Times by Gemma Tipton in March 2014 tells us that Ballindoolin near Edenderry is the old demesne of the Bor family. The Humphrey Bor family lived on the estate from 1620 untill the 1890s brought them financial difficulty and their land agent William Tyrell took over the demesne when they vacated it. The house was built in 1822.  

When Robert Moloney inherited it in 1993, he and his wife Esther began a huge project of renovation and restoration, including reroofing, replumbing and rewiring.  

Outside, with the help of Fáilte Ireland and some EU funds, the original large walled gardens were returned to their exact and former glory, as one of 26 chosen under the Great Gardens Restoration Scheme.

The house was again on the market in 2021. Gemma Tipton writes tells us a bit more about the house in the August article in the Irish Times: The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie. Tipton tells us that the gate lodge is designed originally by  William Morrison for the Duke of Abercorn.
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

Tipton writes:

Robert and Esther used documents and diaries to ensure the restoration, inside and out, was in-keeping, later donating 40 boxes of account books, ledgers and records to the archives at NUI Maynooth for safe-keeping.  

These reveal a wealth of stories about the day-to-day running of the house, although it is just as easy to imagine them coming alive as you wander through the rooms. There is the wide, stone-flagged hallway, and the cosier, but still imposing back hall. The drawing room has its original wallpaper and chandelier; the marvellous fireplaces are intact. ”

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie. Gemma Tipton writes that The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.

Tipton tells us:

Ballindoolin last sold in 2017, to an Austrian businessman, who fell in love with the house, its enviable position (less than an hour’s drive to Dublin city centre) and its stories. His plan was to lavish it with care and attention, and ultimately move over with his family. The first part worked out beautifully – Ballindoolin is in showpiece condition, but the family’s plans changed, and so it is now on the market.

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

Ballybrittan Castle, County Offaly, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Rosemarie
Tel: 087-2469802 

www.ballybrittancastle.com

Open: Jan 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 21-30, 2pm-6pm.
Fee: Free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.

The National Inventory describes it: “Detached four-bay two-storey house, built c.1750, with return and extension to rear and adjoining outbuildings to north. Set within own grounds…Modest in design, this fine house retains its original character with minimal intervention. The simple well proportioned façade is enhanced by the survival of its sash windows and door, while the finely executed door surround forms a subtle adornment. The outbuildings to rear, along with the iron-mongery to the front, complete this appealing domestic complex.” [1]

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Alicia Clements Tel: 057-9120056

www.birrcastle.com

Open: May 17-Aug 31, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-2, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €20, child free

Birr Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [2]

Our tour guide was young but thoroughly knowledgeable. He walked a group of us over to the castle, across the moat, which he told us had been created, along with the walls surrounding the castle demesne, and the stone stable buildings, which are now the reception courtyard, museum and cafe, in 1847 when the owners of Birr Castle provided employment to help to stave off the hunger of the famine. 

Gates made by Lady Rosse, Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse, with the family motto, “For God and the Land to the Stars.” The motto was originally for God and King but, unhappy with the monarch’s response to the famine, the family changed their motto.

I was intrigued to hear that the gates had been made by one of the residents of the castle, Lady Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse. She was an accomplished ironworker!! She brought a fortune with her to the castle when she married the Earl of Rosse, which enabled him to build his telescope. But more on that later. 

Birr Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

More on Birr Castle soon!

Birr Castle, photograph by Liam Murphy, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website tells us:

In Anglo Norman Times, the Castle was built on the motte. The gate tower of this led into the castle bawn (courtyard) which is now the centre of the present building. The Central Gate Passage with its 12 foot walls can be seen in the lower floor of the present building.

The castle or fortress of Birr was re occupied by the O’Carroll’s who held it until the 1580s when it was sold to the Ormond Butlers. In 1620 the now ruined castle was granted to the Parsons family by James I.  Rather than occupy the tower house of the O’Carrolls, the Parsons decided to turn the Norman Gate Tower into their ‘English House’. Building on either side and incorporating two Flanking Towers.  Sir Laurence Parsons did a large amount of building and remodelling including the building of the two flanking towers, before his death in 1628. This is all accounted for in our archives.

The castle survived two sieges in the 17th century, leaving the family impoverished at the beginning of the 18th century. This led to little was done to the 17thcentury house.  However, sometime between the end of that century and the beginning of the 19th century, the house which had always faced the town, was given a new gothic facade, which now faces the park.  The ancient towers and walls, now the park side of the castle, were swept away, including the Black Tower (The Tower House) of the O’Carroll’s, which had stood on the motte. Around 1820 the octagonal Gothic Saloon overlooking the river was cleverly added into the space between the central block and the west flanking tower.

After a fire in the central block in 1836 the centre of the castle was rebuilt, with the ceilings heightened, a third story added and also the great dining room. In the middle of the 1840s a larger work force was employed during the famine times in Ireland. The old moat and the original Norman motte were flattened, and a new star-shaped moat was designed, with a keep gate. This was financed by Mary, Countess of Rosse. This period of remodelling was also overlapped with the construction of the Great Telescope, The Leviathan. Which was completed in 1845.

The final work on the castle was completed in the 1860s when a Square Tower at the back of the castle on the East side was added. This now contains nurseries on the top floor which have a great view over the town of Birr.”

Birr Castle gardens, photograph for Tourism Ireland, 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website also gives us a good history of the family:

The Parsons family arrived at Birr in 1620. They acquired the ruined fortress of Birr. It had been an O’Carroll castle, but had for some twenty years belonged to the Ormond Butlers. Sir Laurence [1576-1628], one of four brothers living in Ireland at the beginning of end of the 16th century, had been working with his cousin Richard Boyle the great Earl of Cork,(to whom he was related through the Fenton family, in Youghal). Laurence died suddenly in 1628 and was succeeded by his second son, William, ably supported by his mother, Anne, née Malham, a Yorkshire woman related to the Tempest family.

Sir Laurence’s elder brother, also William, became Surveyor General of Ireland and founded the elder branch of the family, living in Bellamont, Dublin. This branch died out at the end of the 18th century.

The 17th century was a turbulent one for the Parsons family in Birr. The castle was involved in two sieges, the first in the 1640s where the family moved for a time to London, before returning at the end of the Cromwellian period. In 1690 the castle was besieged again, by Sarsfield [Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan].This time the Castle held out and Sarsfield moved on.

The 18th century was a quiet period for the family who were left with little money and returned to improving their estates at Birr and living off the land. Towards the end of the century Sir Laurence, [1758-1841] 5th baronet, became a politician and friend of Flood and Grattan. He was praised for his honesty. He opposed the Act of Union. He became 2nd Earl of Rosse in 1807 when he inherited the title from his Uncle [Lawrence Harman Parsons-Harman, 1st Earl of Rosse, who had inherited Newcastle, County Longford].”

Birr Castle, this is the only photograph I can find of the inside as one cannot take photographs! photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website history of the family continues:

The 19th century saw the castle become a great centre of scientific research when William Parsons, 3rd Earl built the great telescope. (See astronomy).His wife, Mary, whose fortune helped him to build the telescope and make many improvements to the castle, was a pioneer photographer and took many photographs in the 1850s.  Her dark room – a total time capsule which was preserved in the Castle – has now been exactly relocated in the Science Centre.

Their son the 4th Earl also continued astronomy at the castle and the great telescope was used up to the beginning of the 2nd world war. His son the 5th Earl was interested in agriculture and visited Denmark in search of more modern and successful methods. Sadly he died of wounds in the 1st world war.

His son, Michael the 6th Earl and his wife Anne created the garden for which Birr is now famous. (see the gardens and trees and plants) Anne, who was the sister of Oliver Messel the stage designer, brought many treasures to Birr from the Messel collection and with her skill in interior decoration and artist’s eye, transformed the castle, giving it the magical beauty that is now apparent to all.  Michael was also much involved in the creation of the National Trust in England after the war.

Their son Brendan, the present Earl, spent his career in the United Nations Development Programme, living with his wife Alison and their family in many third world countries.  He returned to Ireland on his father’s death in 1979.  Brendan and Alison have also spent much time on the garden, especially collecting and planting rare trees.  Their three children are all passionate about Birr and continue to add layers to the story for the future.

Patrick, Lord Oxmantown currently lives in London and is working on plans to bring large scale investment into Birr which will enable him and his family to move back to Ireland.

Alicia Clements managers the Birr Castle Estate and lives in the sibling house of Tullanisk.

Michael Parsons, works in London managing a portfolio of properties for the National Trust and is a board member to The Birr Scientific and Heritage Foundation.”

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Martin O’Rourke
Tel: 086-2594914
Open: June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €2, student/child free, family €5

Boland’s Lock, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Designed by Michael Hayes of Tullamore Harbour.

The National Inventory describes it: “Oval-shaped four-bay two-storey lock keeper’s house, built c.1800, with a projecting bow to the front and rear. Located at the 26th lock on the Grand Canal.”

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

Charleville Castle, August 2018.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 82. “(Bury/IFR) The finest and most spectacular early C19 castle in Ireland, Francis Johnston’s Gothic masterpiece, just as Townley Hall, Co Louth, is his Classical masterpiece. Built 1800-1812 for Charles William Bury, 1st Earl of Charleville, replacing a C17 house on a different site known as Redwood. A high square battlemented block with, at one corner, a heavily machicolated octagon tower, and at the other, a slender round tower rising to a height of 125 feet, which has been compared to a castellated lighthouse. From the centre of the block rises a tower-like lantern. The entrance door, and the window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch. The entire building is cut-stone, of beautiful quality. To the right of the entrance front, and giving picturesque variety to the composition, is a long, low range of battlemented offices, including a tower with pinnacles and a gateway. The garden front is flanked by square turrets. The interior is as dramatic and well-finished as the exterior. In the hall, with its plaster groined ceiling carried on graceful shafts, a straight flight of stairs rises between galleries to piano nobile level, where a great double door, carved in florid Decorated style, leads to a vast saloon or gallery running the whole length of the garden front. This is one of the most splendid Gothic Revival interiors in Ireland; it has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle; two lavishly carved fireplaces of grained wood, Gothic decoration in the frames of the windows opposite and Gothic bookcases and side-tables to match. The drawing room and dining room, on either side of the hall, are also of noble proportions, the dining room  has a coffered ceiling and a fireplace which is a copy of the west door of Magdalen College chapel, Oxford. Staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls. Small octagonal library in octagon tower; charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star. Very heavily oak-wooded demesne, with grotto and serpentine walks; castellated entrance gateway. With the death of 5th Earl of Charleville 1875, the title became extinct; Charleville Forest passed to a sister of 4th Earl [Emily Alfreda Julia Bury, who married Kenneth Howard who added Bury to his surname], then to her son [Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury], and then to the grandson of another of 4th Earl’s sisters. After standing empty for many years, the castle has been let to Mr M.G. McMullen, who has restored it.” [3]

The entrance door, and the window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch.

Sean O’Reilly tells us in rish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life: “Bury’s intention, as he wrote in his own unfinished account of the work, was to ‘exhibit specimens of Gothic architecture’ adapted to ‘chimneypieces, ceilings, windows, balustrades, etc.’ but without excluding ‘convenience and modern refinements in luxury.’ This recipe for the Georgian gothic villa had already been used at Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in London, and Bury’s cultivated lifestyle in England certainly would have made him aware of that house and its long line of descendants.” [4]

My camera battery died before I had time to take photographs when I visited so please excuse these blurry pictures taken on my old phone. For much better pictures and more information, see the website of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne, https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/10/14/charleville/

In the hall, with its plaster groined ceiling carried on graceful shafts, a straight flight of stairs rises between galleries to piano nobile level, where a great double door, carved in florid Decorated style, leads to a vast saloon or gallery running the whole length of the garden front.

O’Reilly tells us: “Charleville Forest’s patron, Charles William Bury, from 1800 Viscount and from 1806 Earl of Charleville, was a man well versed in contemporary English taste and style. He inherited lands in Limerick, through his father’s maternal line, and in Offaly. His great wealth, lavish lifestyle and generous nature allowed him simultaneously to distribute largesse in Ireland, live grandly in London and travel widely on the continent…[p. 139] Charleville’s lack of success in his search for a sinecure proved ill for the future of the family fortunes for, continuing to live extravagantly above their means, they advanced speedily towards bankruptcy. On Charleville’s death in 1835, the estate was ‘embarrassed’ and by 1844, the Limerick estates had to be sold and the castle shut up, while his son and heir, ‘the greatest bore the world can produce’ according to one contemporary, retired to Berlin.

O’Reilly continues to tell us of the history of ownership: “The 3rd Earl [Charles William George Bury (1822-1859)] returned to the house in 1851, but with a much reduced fortune; the property was then inherited by his grand-daughter Lady Emily Howard-Bury, after whose death in 1931 it remained unoccupied.”

Charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.
Charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.
It has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle.
The ceiling, with its coffered panels, sports family emblems of the Moores and the Burys, all supported on a light Gothic crested frieze, dating to 1875 and a remnant of William Morris’s only Irish commission. (see [5]) The oak forest and lands were gifted by Queen Elizabeth I to Moore, Earl of Charleville in 1577. Due to the lack of male heirs in the Moore family the land was inherited by Charles William Bury who was the grand nephew of the last Earl [Charles Moore (1712-1764), 1st Earl of Charleville] just six months old.
Staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls.

6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly

https://www.visitoffaly.ie/Things-to-do/Culture-Heritage/Clonony-Castle/

The website tells us:

Clonony Castle, built in the 1490’s by the Coghlan Clan, was seized by Henry VIII during the war of dominion by England. He ceded it to Thomas Boleyn, making him the Earl of Ormond, his daughter, the ill-fated Ann, a countess and marriageable by a king. When Henry tired of Ann and the Boleyns fell from grace, two ladies, Mary and Elizabeth, were sent back to Clonony and remained for the rest of their lives. Their tombstone lays beneath a tree in the castle bawn.

Following the ladies demise, a merchant, Sir Matthew de Renzi, wrote to Queen Elizabeth of the great significance of the castle and begged to be awarded it. These DeRenzi letters have become very important as they tell us what life was like in the 16th Century in the midlands. Possessing a great facility for language, speaking and trading with many countries, he wrote the first English/Irish dictionary.

Today the castle has been sensitively restored to reflect the way of life through this historical period and now is open to the public casually from 12 to 5 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through summer and anytime by appointment on 0877614034. There is no fee, but donations toward the maintenance of the castle is greatly appreciated. In June, the castle will open on weekends for glamping (glamourous camping). Early booking is essential.”

7. Corolanty House, Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

Corolanty House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Siobhan Webb
Tel: 086-1209984
Open: Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm Fee: Free

The National Inventory tells us it is: “Detached five-bay three-storey over basement country house, built c.1730, with two-storey addition to north. Set within its own grounds….Corolanty House displays some of the characteristics of a typical eighteenth-century Irish country house, which include its form and scale, the finely tooled Gibbsian door surround and the curiously concealed tooled limestone architrave surrounds to the window openings. The symmetrical form of the house is maintained by the inclusion of blind windows to the rear elevation, but this is somewhat disrupted by the two-storey addition to the north-facing side elevation. The retention of many original features, including the staircase, decorative plasterwork to the ceilings of the principal rooms and the interior joinery, contribute to the character of the house and its architectural and artistic significance. The remains of Corolanty Castle to the yard contributes an archaeological interest.” [5]

8. Crotty Church, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly section 482

contact: Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277
Open: all year, 1pm-5pm Fee: Free

9. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Tom & Mary Alexander
Tel: 087-2342135
Open: Jan 3-28, Mon-Fri, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student/child/OAP €7

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

Just east of the road between Birr and Roscrea, Gloster is County Offaly’s most important remaining eighteenth century house. The formal facade, overlooking the steeply terraced garden, is unusually long and low, and is very grand. Thirteen bays wide and two stories high, the house is constructed in blue-grey limestone with a wealth of early architectural details in warm contrasting sandstone. The interior is equally splendid, especially the two principal rooms; the richly decorated double-height entrance hall and the great barrel-vaulted hall, or landing, on the piano nobile. 

The Lloyd’s ancestor came to Ireland from Denbighshire, to serve in the army of King Charles I, and he acquired the estate in 1639 through  marriage with an heiress, Margaret Medhop. Presumably they and their descendants lived in an earlier dwelling, of which no trace remains, until the present house was completed sometime after 1720. The architectural historian Maurice Craig, who edited the book of Pearce’s drawings, observed that, “Gloster has features which can hardly derive from anyone other than Sir Edward Lovett Pearce” (c.1699-1733). Craig also believed that, while Pearce may well have provided a design for his cousin, Trevor Lloyd, he almost certainly left the execution to others since “for all its charm, it is provincial in almost every respect”.

The central breakfront is relatively plain, apart from the typically 1700s hooded door case with pilasters to either side, while two recessed bays at either end of the facade are treated as wings, with Pearcean blind niches in place of windows on the upper storeys. Meanwhile the three intervening bays to either side are further divided by vertically paired pilasters, Doric below the string course and Corintian above, and their positions are reflected in the cornice, the parapet and in the intervals of the balustrade.

Inside, the elaborate double-height entrance-hall has a series of bust-filled niches while there is very grand upper hall on the piano nobile. This is approached by twin staircases and overlooks the entrance-hall though a series of round-headed openings with a profusion of architectural detail.

Samuel Chearnley may have had a hand in designing the gardens, which contain a canal, a lime avenue and a pedimented arch, flanked by obelisks in the manner of Vanburgh, while a series of later terraces in front of the house descend to a small lake.

Gloster was sold in 1958 and became a convent and nursing home, with a new school complex built on the site of the former stables. The school closed shortly after 1990 and the house fell into considerable disrepair. Happily Tom and Mary Alexander purchased the house and have carried out a thorough and sympathetic restoration.

Famous visitors to Gloster include John Wesley, who preached here in 1749, while the famous Australian “diva” Dame Nellie Melba sang from the gallery in the upper hall early in the 20th century.” [6]

10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: George Ross
Tel: 086-3831992

www.no6highstreet.com

Open: Jan 4-31, Mon -Fri, May 1-18, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-24, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student €5, OAP €4, child under 12 free

11. Leap Castle, County Offaly

https://www.visitoffaly.ie/Things-to-do/Culture-Heritage/Leap-Castle/

Sean Ryan of Leap Castle, insisted that he doesn’t fabricate when telling the story of what he and his wife see and hear at their home. Where most would refer to these apparitions as ghosts, Sean prefers to call them spirits. He describes the regular visions as people with a haze around them. Sometimes there is a lot of activity; other times less so. The sounds they hear are footsteps, doors opening and closing and crowds talking. However, on occasions that he has gone in the direction of the noise, nothing is apparent there, with the location of the spirits always out of reach. There is spirit, though, a lady, who touches off people. A lot of guests to the castle have also felt her presence. The remarkable thing Sean told us was that this experience never seems to alarm his guests, rather they always remain very calm, something that surprises them! Sean doesn’t regard his home as haunted and, as far as he is concerned, the spirits he sees and hears have as much right to live there as he does. Sean is happy to continue to live alongside them as he has done since 1994, when restoration on the castle began.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The Leap Castle website gives us more information: http://leapcastle.net

Built in the early 1500’s under the supervision of the powerful and warring O’Carroll clan, Leap Castle has been the centre of much bloodshed.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The O’Carrolls were a fierce and brutal clan, continually struggling for power and supremacy. They were known to be particularly violent and cunning in the attempts for domination. John O’Carroll was thought to be the first Prince of Ely who lived at Leap Castle. It is very probable that it was he who was responsible for the construction of the earliest sections of Leap Castle. John O’Carroll died at Leap Castle, suffering from the plague. John O’Carroll was succeeded by his son named Mulrony O’Carroll.
Mulrony O’Carroll was renowned for his strength, bravery and valour and was considered a great leader. The Great Mulrony as he was known died (most likely) at Leap in 1532 after a rulership of forty two years. Mulrony was succeeded by his son Fearganhainm.

The website continues with the history of one brother after another killing each other for supremacy.

The website tells us:

In 1629 John O’Carroll, nephew of Charles O’Carroll was given the official ownership of the Leap Estate.
The year 1649 the property of Leap Castle was handed over to the first of the Darby line, Jonathon. He was a soldier of the Cromwellian forces and was handed the property and land in lieu of pay.

1664 saw the property handed back to John O’Carroll due to his continued loyalty to Charles the 1st. This arrangement was unfortunately reversed in 1667 due to the differing views of Charles the 2nd. The Leap Castle was once again back in the hands of the Darbys.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

Jonathon Darby the 2nd, a Cromwellian soldier obtained Leap Castle in 1649. This was lieu of payment for his services. Jonathon and his wife Deborah had a son also named Jonathon.

The estate was passed through a line of Jonathan Darbys.

“Jonathon Darby the 5th maintained the Leap Estate until his death in 1802. As Jonathon fathered no male children, Leap Castle was passed on to his younger brother Henry. 

Henry d’Esterre Darby, born in 1750 climbed through the Naval ranks to become Admiral Sir Henry d’Esterre Darby in 1799. Henry died in 1823 bearing no children of his own. Upon Henry’s death, the Leap Castle estate was inherited by his brother John Darby. 

John Darby married Anne Vaughan and died in 1834. He was succeeded by their sons William Henry, Christopher, George, Susan, Jonathon, Horatio d’Esterre, John Nelson and Sarah Darby.

William Henry Darby inherited Leap Castle died in 1880.  His eldest son had died in 1872 aged 45 so the Leap Estate was passed on to his grandson Jonathon Charles Darby.

Jonathon married Mildred Dill aka Mildred Darby in 1889.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

In the early hours of Sunday morning, 30 July 1922 a party of eleven raiders set fire to the Leap totally destroying the North and larger wing and its valuable contents.  Giving evidence in the claims court Richard Dawkins said that on 30 July 1922, he was living in the Castle as caretaker with his wife and baby. They were the only persons in the castle that night. Richard Dawkins stated that at 2.20am there was a knock on the door. He opened the window, put out his head, and saw men outside who stated that they wanted a night’s lodging. They ordered him to open the door. He went down and opened the door and was subsequently held at gunpoint. The raiders then stated that they were going to burn the castle.  Dawkins asked for time to get his wife and child out and was given twenty minutes to do so. The raiders then went into the castle and poured petrol over the rooms, and set them on fire. They kept the family outside from 2.30am to 5.00am. Each of the men had a tin of petrol, and all were armed. Some had trench coats and other had bandoleers over their civilian clothes. The men broke furniture before setting the castle on fire.

In a newspaper report Jonathan Darby said that it looked as if there were explosives used in the destruction of the castle he had found some dynamite in the cellar where the raiders got so drunk they could not explode it.  He said that it was the locals who burned the castle.” 

–          Noel Guerin

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

13. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

Loughton House, County Offaly, May 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/01/loughton-house-moneygall-county-offaly/
contact: Michael Lyons 
Tel: 089-4319150
www.loughtonhouse.com
Open: May 10-June 30, Tue-Sunday, Aug 2-7, 9-21, 11am-3.30pm
Fee: adult €5, OAP/student €4, child €3 (under 12 free), family (2 adults & 2 children over 12) €15

14. Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Muireann Noonan
Tel: 087-2204569
www.springfieldhouse.ie

Open: Jan 1-9, 1pm-5pm, April 15-19, May 21-29, June 10-12, 17-19, July 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, Aug 13-28, 2pm-6pm, Dec 26-31, 1pm-5pm
Fee: Free

Write-up coming soon!

15. The Maltings

Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277 

www.canbe.ie

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

16. Woodland Cottage Garden, Birr, Offaly, IE 

https://www.gardensofireland.org/directory/42/woodland+cottage+garden/

Contact: Anne Ward 

Tel: +353 (0) 57 912 1215 

Mobile: +353 (0) 86 305 1697 

Email: nanoward@eircom.net 

Web: www.loughderggardens.com 

Places to stay, County Offaly

1. Kinnitty Castle (formerly Castle Bernard), Kinnity, Co Offaly https://www.kinnittycastlehotel.com/index.html

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his 1988 book of Kinnitty Castle, formerly named Castle Bernard: p. 62. [Castle Bernard]: “[Bernard 1912; De la Poer Beresford, Decies] A Tudor-Revival castle of 1833 by James and George Pain [built for T. Bernard]. Impressive entrance front with gables, oriels and tracery windows and an octagonal corner tower with battlements and crockets; all in smooth ashlar. Subsequently the home of 6th Lord Decies [Arthur George Marcus Douglas De La Poer Beresford (1915-1992)], by whom it was sold ca. 1950. Now a forestry centre.” 

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website used to include a history, which told us:

The present building was originally built by William O’Carroll on the site of the old Abbey in 1630.  The English Forces, as part of the plantation of Offaly, or “Kings County” as it was renamed, confiscated this in 1641.  In 1663 Colonel Thomas Winter was granted 2,624 acres by King Charles II for military services rendered.  The Winter family sold the building in 1764 to the Bernards of County Carlow.  This building was reconstructed as a castellated mansion in 1811 by the famous Pan Brothers at the commission of Lady Catherine Hutchinson, wife of Colonel Thomas Bernard.  The building was burned in 1922 by Republican forces and rebuilt by means of a Government grant of £32,000 in 1927.  The building became the property of Lord Decies in 1946.  He in turn sold it and the estate to the Government of Ireland on 12th December 1951.  The State used the castle as a Forestry Training centre from 1955 until it was purchased in 1994 and turned into a 37 bedroom luxurious hotel for all guests both locally and internationally to enjoy.

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

2. Loughton House, County Offaly – see above

https://loughtonhouse.com

3. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

contact: Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277 

www.canbe.ie

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

Whole house rental, County Offaly:

1. Ballycumber, County Offaly – whole house rental

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/21064152?source_impression_id=p3_1646848147_zcYarfp2zhDKFdHo

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us about Ballycumber:

Originally built as a castle in 1627 and remodelled at a later date, the regular from of this well proportioned house is enhanced by architectural detailing such as the finally executed doorcase and attractive, steeply-pitched hipped roof. The building retains many notable features and materials such as the timber sash windows with the date plaque, which adds historical interest to the site. The related outbuildings and walled garden create an interesting group of agricultural structures, while the folly and landscaped tree-lined river walk make a positive contribution to the setting of the house, reflecting the era of the large country estate.

The Offaly history blog tells us more about the occupants of Ballycumber:

Ballycumber House was bought by Francis Berry Homan Mulock in 1899 from the Armstrong family who had been in possession of the estate for successive generations. Originally built as a castle in 1627 by the Coghlan family, it was extensively remodelled by the Armstrongs in the eighteenth century into a detached five-bay two storey over basement country house, much as it is today.” [7]

I would love to stay at Ballycumber because the Bagot family of County Offaly intermarried with the Armstrong family who owned Ballycumber. I’m not sure if my own Baggot family is related to the Bagots of Offaly but there is a good possibility!

Westmeath:

1. Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath – ruin, open to visitors http://www.athlonecastle.ie/ 

Cruising by Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Fennell Photography 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

The website tells us: “Trace the footprints of the generations who shaped this place. From early settlements and warring chieftains to foreign invaders and local heroes. This site on the River Shannon is the centre of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

Over the centuries it has been the nucleus of the Anglo-Norman settlement; a stronghold of the rival local families the Dillons and the O’Kelly’s; the seat of the Court of Claims; the residence of the President of Connaught and the Jacobite stronghold during the sieges of Athlone.  After the Siege of Athlone it became incorporated into the new military barrack complex.  It remained a stronghold of the garrison for almost three hundred years.

In 1922 when the Free State troops took over the Barracks from their British counterparts, they proudly flew the tricolour from a temporary flagpole much to the delight of the majority of townspeople.

In 1967 the Old Athlone Society established a museum in the castle with a range of exhibits relating to Athlone and its environs and also to folk-life in the district.  Two years later when the military left the castle it was handed over to the Office of Public Works and the central keep became a National Monument.

In 1991 to mark the Tercentenary of the Siege of Athlone the castle became the foremost visitor attraction in Athlone.  Athlone Town Council (then Athlone UDC) made a major investment in the castle creating a multi-faceted Visitor Centre as it approached its 800th Anniversary in 2010. A total of €4.3million euro was invested in the new facility by Fáilte Ireland and Athlone Town Council and was officially opened by the then Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring T.D. on Tuesday 26th February 2012.

Athlone Castle Visitor Centre is now a modern, engaging, fun and unique family attraction which harnesses most significant architectural features, such as the keep, to act as a dramatic backdrop to its diverse and fascinating story.

It houses eight individual exhibition spaces, each depicting a different aspect of life in Athlone, the Castle and the periods both before and after the famous Siege. Fun, hands-on interactives, touchable objects and educational narratives immerse visitors in the drama, tragedy and spectacle of Athlone’s diverse and fascinating story. 3D maps, audio-visual installations, illustrations and artefacts bring the stories and characters of Athlone to life and The Great Siege of Athlone is dramatically recreated in a 360-degree cinematic experience in the Keep of the castle.

As part of Westmeath County Council’s commemoration of Ireland’s world-renowned tenor, John Count McCormack, a new exhibition dedicated to the celebrated singer was opened at Athlone Castle in October 2014.

Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Ros Kavanagh 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

Archiseek tells us about Athlone Castle: “Towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification here. This was superceeded by a stone structure built in 1210, on the orders of King John of England. The Castle was built by John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich. The 12-sided donjon dates from this time. The rest of the castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged upon. In the early 1800s, during the Napoleonic Wars, the castle was rebuilt as a fortification to protect the river crossing, taking the form we largely see today. The machicolations of the central keep are all nineteenth century. In the interior is an early nineteenth century two-storey barrack building. The modern ramp up to the castle has a line of pistol loops. The castle was taken over by the Irish Army in 1922 and continued as a military installation until it was transferred to the Office of Public Works in 1970.” [8]

Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Ros Kavanagh 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Sonder Visuals 2021 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Belvedere in his 1988 book:

p. 39. “(Rochfort, sub Belvedere, E/DEP Rochfort/LGI1912; Marlay/LGI1912; Howard-Bury, sub Suffolk and Berkshire, E/PB; and Bury/IFR) An exquisite villa of ca 1740 by Richard Castle, on the shores of Lough Ennell; built for Robert Rochfort, Lord Bellfield, afterwards 1st Earl of Belvedere, whose seat was at Gaulston, ca 5 miles away. Of two storeys over basement, with a long front and curved end bows – it may well be the earliest bow-ended house in Ireland – but little more than one room deep.”

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.
Robert Rochfort (1708-1774) 1st Earl of Belvedere.

Bence-Jones continues: “The front has a three bay recessed centre between projecting end bays, each of which originally had a Venetian window below a Diocletian window. Rusticated doorcase and rusticated window surrounds on either side of it; high roof parapet. The house contains only a few rooms, but they are of fine proportions and those on the ground floor have rococo plasterwork ceilings of the greatest delicacy and gaiety, with cherubs and other figures emerging from clouds, by the same artist as the ceilings formerly are Mespil House, Dublin, one of which is now in Aras.

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021: “The house contains only a few rooms, but they are of fine proportions and those on the ground floor have rococo plasterwork ceilings of the greatest delicacy and gaiety, with cherubs and other figures emerging from clouds, by the same artist as the ceilings formerly are Mespil House, Dublin, one of which is now in Aras.
Hallway, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.
The portrait is of Charles Howard-Bury, who was one of the owners of Belvedere.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath. The Dining Room occupies one end bow of the house, and has a Venetian window overlooking Lough Ennell.

In Belvedere, dining was an opportunity to impress guests not only by the room bu tby the sumptuous meals, presented by immaculately dressed servants. The rococo ceiling of puffing cherubs and fruits and foliage is attributed to Barthelemji Cramillion, a French stuccodore.

The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath: The rococo ceiling of puffing cherubs and fruits and foliage is attributed to Barthelemji Cramillion, a French stuccodore.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.

Bence-Jones continues: “The staircase, wood and partly curving, is in proportion to the back of the house.

The Venetian window that lights the stairs, on the back facade of the house. The wooden porch below is an entrance into the basement of the house.
Drawing Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath. The drawing room occupies one of the bows of the house, and has a Venetian window overlooking the terrace and Lough Ennell.

Information boards tells us that the Drawing Room was the place for afternoon tea, after-dinner drinks, music and conversation. Belvedere’s last owners, Charles Howard-Bury and Rex Beaumont would have passed many happy hours relaxing and reminiscing about their wartime experiences and travels across the world, as well as planning trips to Tunisia and Jamaica.

Ceiling of the Drawing Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The kitchen is in the vaulted basement of Belvedere and has an interesting ghostly display of servants.

Bence-Jones tells of the house’s occupants; “Soon after the house was finished, Lord Bellfield’s beautiful wife [Mary Molesworth, daughter of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth of Swords, Dublin] confessed to him that she had committed adultery with his brother; whereupon he incarcerated her at Gaulston, where she remained, forbidden to see anyone but servants, until his death nearly thirty years later; while he lived a bachelor’s life of great elegance and luxury at Belvedere. Another of his brothers lived close to Belvedere at Rochfort (afterwards Tudenham Park); having quarrelled with him too, Lord Belvedere, as he had now become, built the largest Gothic sham ruin in Ireland to blot out the view of his brother’s house; it is popularly known as the Jealous Wall. In C19, the Diocletian windows in the front of the house were replaced with rectangular triple windows; and the slope from the front of the house down to the lough was elaborately terraced. Belvedere passed by inheritance to the Marlay family and then to late Lt-Col C.K. Howard-Bury, leader of the 1921 Mount Everest Expedition; who bequeathed it to Mr Rex Beaumont.” (see [3])

“The Jealous Wall,” Belvedere.

The jealous wall is rather disappointingly attached to the visitor centre of Belvedere at the entrance to the park.

Visitor centre attached to the Jealous Wall, Belvedere.
Visitor centre attached to the Jealous Wall.

Robert Rochfort managed to have children despite his antipathy toward his wife. George Rochfort (1738-1814), 2nd Earl of Belvedere inherited Belvedere and other estates when his father died in 1774. He also inherited debts, and sold Gaulston House, the house where his mother had been imprisoned by his father. Unfortunately Gaulston House was destroyed by fire in 1920. George Rochfort built an extension onto the rear of Belvedere but spent most of his time in his townhouse, Belvedere House in Great Denmark Street, Dublin.

The 2nd Earl of Belvedere had no children. His wife inherited his Dublin property but his sister Jane inherited Belvedere. Jane married Brinsley Butler, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough. She inherited Belvedere when she was 77 years old! She had married a second time and the income from the estate allowed herself and her second husband to live in fine style in Florence. The male line of the Earls of Lanesborough died out after two more generations. Jane’s son Robert Henry Butler (1759-1806) 3rd Earl of Lanesborough married Elizabeth La Touche, daughter of David La Touche and Elizabeth Marlay, whom we came across when we visited Harristown, County Kildare (see my entry) and Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, Dublin. The estate passed down to their son, Brinsley Butler, 4th Earl of Lanesborough. The estate then passed through the female line. The 3rd Earl’s sister Catherine married George Marlay (1748-1829), the brother of Elizabeth who married David La Touche.

Catherine and George Marlay had a son, George, who married Catherine Tisdall, and the estate passed to his son, Charles Brinsley Marlay (1831-1912). He was only sixteen when he inherited Belvedere from his cousin the Earl of Lanesborough. It was Charles Brisley Marlay who built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later. He spent many hours planning the 60 metre long rockery to the side of the terraces, and also built the walled garden. He was known as “the Darling Landlord” due to his kindness to tenants, and for bringing happiness and wealth back to Belvedere. He was cultured and amassed an important art collection, as well as improving the estate.

Charles Brisley Marlay built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later. The terraces are said to have been inspired by the terraces at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, the home of his sister.
Charles Brisley Marlay built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later.

The inheritance of Belvedere continues to be even more complicated. It passed via Catherine Tisdall’s family. Her mother Catherine Dawson had married twice. Catherine’s second husband was Charles William Bury (1764-1835), the 1st Earl of Charleville. We came across him earlier, as an owner of Charleville Forest, in Tullamore, County Offaly. Belvedere passed to his descendent, Lt. Col Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1963). The 3rd Earl of Charleville, Charles William George Bury (1822-1859) had several children but the house passed to the fourth child as all others had died before Charles Brinsley Marley died. It was therefore the son of Emily Alfreda Julia Bury (1856-1931) who inherited Belvedere. She married Kenneth Howard, who added Bury to his surname. Their son was Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury.

Charles Howard-Bury brought a bear back from Kazakhstan!

Charles Howard-Bury left Belvedere to his friend, Rex Beaumont. Eventally financial difficulties caused Mr Beaumont to sell the property, and it was acquired by Westmeath County Council. Two years previously, in 1980, Mr Beaumont sold the contents of the house – I wonder where those things ended up?

The estate is a wonderful amenity for County Westmeath, with large parklands to explore with several follies, as well as the walled garden.

Belvedere garden folly, Courtesy of Westmeath County Council (www.visitwestmeath.ie), photograph by Clare Keogh,2019.
The Octagonal Gazebo, Belvedere. It was once panelled with wood on the walls, floor and ceiling adn was used for summer picnics, where guests would be waited on by servants.
Lough Ennell.

3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

contact: Liam O’Flanagan
Tel: 044-9661226
Open: Mar 16-22, Apr 15-18, May 1-4, June 1-7, July 14-24, Aug 1-7, 13-22, Sept 1- 7, Oct 28-31, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €4

4. St. John’s Church, Loughstown, Drumcree, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath – section 482

contact: Billy Standish
Tel: 044-9666570
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult €4, child/OAP/student €2

5. Tullynally Castle & Gardens, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

Tullynally, County Westmeath, August 2021.

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/19/tullynally-castle-and-gardens-castlepollard-county-westmeath/
contact: Octavia Tullock
Tel: 044-9661856 

www.tullynallycastle.com
Open: Castle, May 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28, June 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30, July 1- 2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, Aug 13-21, 25-27, Sept 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 10am-2pm Garden: Apr 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, May 1-2, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-6, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, Aug 1, 4-7, 11-21, 25-28, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29-30, 11am-5pm

Fee: adult, castle/garden €16, garden €8.50, child, castle/garden €8, garden €4 (over 10 years only admission to castle) families (2+2) garden €22

6. Turbotstown, Coole, Co. Westmeath – section 482

contact: Peter Bland
Tel: 086-2475044
Open: July 22-31, Aug 1-31, Dec 1-20, 9am-1pm Fee: adult/student €8, child/OAP €4

7. Tyrrelspass Castle, Co Westmeath – restaurant and gift shop https://www.facebook.com/tyrrellspasscastle/ 

Places to stay, County Westmeath: 

1. Annebrook House Hotel, Austin Friars Street, Mullingar, Co.Westmeath, Ireland, N91YH2F.

https://www.annebrook.ie/gallery.html

The family run Annebrook House Hotel Mullingar opened its doors February 2007.  Originally an Old Georgian residence for the local county surgeon, Dr O’Connell, the historic Annebrook House Hotel was purchased by the Dunne family in 2005. With his experience in hospitality and construction Berty Dunne set about creating a hotel as unique as the man who owns it. The Annebrook’s central location, its diverse range of accommodation from 2 bedroomed family suites to executive doubles has made it a very popular location for those coming to experience all that the midlands has to offer.

Situated in the heart of Mullingar overlooking 10 acres of parkland, the Award Winning 4 star Annebrook House Hotel presents a modern day styling coupled with 17th century heritage.  As a family run hotel the Annebrook prides itself on quality and high standards of customer service, working as part of one team to ensure all guests of their best and personal attention at all times. Annebrook House Hotel is steeped in history and enjoys the enviable advantage of being one of the most centrally located hotels in Mullingar town. This unique venue mixes old world charm with modern comfort and has established itself as one of Westmeath’s top wedding venues and was recently voted Best Wedding Venue Ireland by Irish Wedding Diary Magazine. With accommodation ranging from executive hotel rooms, family suites, luxurious champagne suites and apartments, the Annebrook has much to offer those visiting Mullingar. Offering a range of dining options from Berty’s Bar to fine dining in the award winning Old House Restaurant.  The four star Annebrook House Hotel offers an excellent service to both its corporate & leisure guests. The hotel is accessible by car just 50 mins from Dublin and is only 10 minutes from the local Train Station.

2. Lough Bawn House, Colllinstown, Co Westmeath – B&B accommodation €€

http://loughbawnhouse.com

A classic Georgian house in a unique setting. Lough Bawn house sits high above Lough Bane with amazing sweeping views. Nestled in a 50 acre parkland at the end of a long drive, Lough Bawn House is a haven of peace and tranquillity.

The house and estate has been in the same family since it was built in 1820 by George Battesby, the current occupier, Verity’s, Great Great Great Grandfather. The house is being lovingly restored by Verity, having returned from England to live in the family home. Verity ran her own catering and events company in Gloucestershire for over 20 years. Her passion for cooking & entertaining shines through. Guests enjoy an extensive and varied breakfast with much of the ingredients being grown or reared by Verity herself, and delicious dinners are on offer. Breakfast is eaten in the large newly restored dining room, with wonderful views over the lough and of the parading peacocks on the rolling lawns.

Both of the large, en-suite rooms have fine views down the length of Lough Bane and over the wooded hills while the single room and the twin/double room have sweeping views of the surrounding parklands. Guests are warmly welcomed and encouraged to relax in the homely drawing room in front of a roaring fire or to explore one of the many local historical sites, gardens, walks or cultural entertainments on offer.

Several areas of the estate have been classified as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC‘s) due to the incredibly varied and rare flora. Wild flowers can be found in abundance and a charming fern walk has been the created amongst the woodland near the house.

3. Mornington House, County Westmeath – B&B accommodation 

https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/mornington-house/

Mornington House, a historic Irish Country Manor offering luxury country house accommodation located in the heart of the Co. Westmeath countryside, just 60 miles from Ireland’s capital city of Dublin. Tranquility and warm hospitality are the essence of Mornington, home to the O’Hara’s since 1858.

Mornington House is hidden away in the midst of a charming and dramatic landscape with rolling hills, green pasture, forests with ancient, heavy timber and sparkling lakes, deep in an unexplored corner of County Westmeath. Nearby are ancient churches, castles and abbeys, and delightful small villages to explore, away from all hustle and bustle of 21st century life, yet just 60 miles from Dublin.

There has been a house at Mornington since the early 17th century but this was considerably enlarged in 1896 by Warwick’s grandparents. It is now a gracious family home with a reputation for delicious breakfasts which are prepared in the fine tradition of the Irish Country House and really set you up for the day ahead.

A special place to stay for a romantic or relaxing break Mornington House’s location in the centre of Ireland just an hour’s drive from Dublin and Dublin Airport makes it ideal for either a midweek or weekend country break. Guests can walk to the lake or wander round the grounds. Excellent golf, fishing, walking and riding can be arranged. The Hill of Uisneach, the Neolithic passage tombs at Loughcrew and Newgrange and the early Christian sites at Fore and Clonmacnoise are all within easy reach, as are the gardens at Belvedere, Tullynally and Loughcrew.

Whole House accommodation, County Westmeath:

1. Bishopstown House, Rosemount, Westmeath – whole house rental https://www.bishopstownhouse.ie

The website tells us of the history:

Bishopstown House is a three-storey Georgian house built in the early 1800s by the Casey family. After he passed away, the original owner, Mr. J Casey left Bishopstown to his two daughters, who then sold the house to Mr Richard Cleary in 1895.

Mr Richard Cleary, formally from the famed lakeside Cleaboy Stud near Mullingar, planned and erected Bishopstown House and Stud. In his younger days he rode horses at Kilbeggan, Ballinarobe, Claremorris and other Irish meetings with varying degrees of success, but as a trainer he knew no bounds. In his later years he devoted his time to breeding and training, and in time he became one of Ireland’s most famous trainers, breeding some excellent horses, including the winner of the 1916 Irish Grand National, Mr James Kiernan’s All Sorts!

Other famous horses from the Bishopstown stud include Shaun Spada and Serent Murphy who both won the Aintree Grand National in England. Another horse called Dunadry won the Lancashire Steeple Chase. Other stallion winners include Sylvio III, Lustrea and Irish Battle who frequently had their names in the limelight throughout Irish and English racecourses.

After being left fall into a dilapidated state, the stud farm and house was purchased by Paddy and Claire Dunning, the owners of the award-winning Grouse Lodge Recording Studios and Coolatore House and members of the Georgian society. It was restored to its former glory in 2009 and is now available for rent.

2.  Middleton Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath – available to rent http://mph.ie

Middleton Park House featured in The Great House Revival on RTE, with presenter (and architect) Hugh Wallace. The website tells us:

Carolyn and Michael McDonnell, together with Carolyn’s brother Henry, joined together to purchase this expansive property in Castletown Geoghegan. Built during the famine, the property was last in use as a hotel but it had deteriorated at a surprisingly fast rate over its three unoccupied years.

Designed by renowned architect George Papworth, featuring a Turner-designed conservatory, Middleton Park House stands at a palatial 35,000sq. ft. and is steeped in history. Its sheer scale makes it an ambitious restoration.

The trio’s aim is to create a family home, first and foremost, which can host Henry’s children at the weekends and extended family all year-round. Due to its recent commercial use, the three will need to figure out how to change industrial-style aspects to make it a welcoming home that is economical to run.

Henry will be putting his skills as a contractor and a qualified chippy to use, and Michael will be wearing his qualified engineer’s hat to figure out an effective heating system. Carolyn will be using her love of interiors to work out the aesthetic of the house, and how to furnish a property the size of 35 semi-detached houses in Dublin.

The trio have now made the house available for accommodation and as a wedding venue.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14911023/ballybrittan-house-ballybrittan-co-offaly

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

[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] p. 136. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998. 

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14942001/corolanty-house-curralanty-offaly

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

[7] https://offalyhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/sun-too-slow-sun-too-fast-ethel-and-enid-homan-mulock-of-ballycumber-house-by-lisa-shortall/

[8] https://archiseek.com/2009/athlone-castle-co-westmeath/

Castle Leslie, Glaslough, County Monaghan

contact: Samantha Leslie
Tel: 047-88091
www.castleleslie.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: all year, National Heritage Week events 2022: August 13-21, 9am-1pm.
Fee: Free

photo by Chris Hill of Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
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“A brooding pile of rock faced limestone and russet sandstone, the exterior blends the irregular massing and elongated proportions typical of the High Victorian era with details inspired by the Renaissance and Tudor periods.” [1]

As a treat for Stephen’s birthday we booked ourselves in to Castle Leslie for two nights at the end of November. What luxury! I assumed we could not afford it as I only heard of it when Paul McCartney married there in 2002. But it is amazingly reasonable! In Christmas regalia, its beauty and opulence took my breath away, as did the generosity of the owners, allowing us to wander every nook and cranny and to sleep in a bed that was made in the year 1617!

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The Drawing Room: “Among the suite of lavish reception rooms, each one a showcase for the skill of the carpenter and stuccadore, is the Italian Renaissance-style drawing room where polygonal bay windows give unsurpassed views overlooking manicured terraces and the wooded Glaslough Lake.” (see [1])

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Above, our bed from 1617.

DAY 1: Our Castle Tour and the history of the Leslies

We had to make sure we left Dublin in time for the tour at 1pm, which does not run every day but several days a week. Our tour guide, Enda, shared only the tip of the iceberg of his knowledge of the castle and family in a tour that lasted an hour. We were able to mine him for even more tidbits later and still I felt we only scratched the surface!

The castle is a relative youngster at just 130 years old, a “grey stone Victorian pile” as Mark Bence-Jones calls it [2], or in Scottish Baronial style, according to Maurice Curtis and Desmond Fitzgerald [3]. It was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon and William Henry Lynn, built ca. 1870 for John Leslie, MP, incorporating part of an earlier house. William Henry Lynn (1821-71) was a Belfast based architect and the Castle is considered to be his masterpiece. It is set in a 1000 acre estate (much reduced from its original size) overlooking a lake, and the castle is near another residence, the Lodge (formerly the Hunting Lodge), which houses the bar and restaurant. The Lodge was designed by one of the Leslies, Charles Powell Leslie II and was built before the present castle. The hotel includes an excellent Equestrian centre on its grounds – a perfect way to explore the huge estate of lakes, forest, parkland and streams. The Estate has three lakes, Glaslough (Green Lake), Kilvey Lake and Dream Lake. [4] There is more accommodation in the restored Old Stable Mews, or in holiday cottages in the village.

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the Lodge

We drove through the picturesque village of Glaslough to reach the “crow stepped gabled gate lodges” marking the entrance to the Castle Leslie estate. (see [1])

Our tour began in the front hall of the Castle, soon after we arrived, so we left our suitcases at the front desk, to check into our room afterwards. The front hall contained arms from the Leslie family.

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The bust is of Charles Powell Leslie III. The animal heads, which you can barely see at the top of the photograph, were shot by Norman Leslie, whose bedroom we slept in!

Originally Hungarian, the first of the family moved to Ireland in 1633. They have lived at Castle Leslie since 1665. Our guide traced the family back to 1040. Their genealogy reaches even further back to Attila the Hun (he died in the year 453).

According to the Castle Leslie website, Bartholomew Leslie, a Hungarian nobleman, was the chamberlain and protector of Margaret Queen of Scotland, who was wife of King Malcolm III (he lived 1031-1093). One day, fleeing from enemies, Queen Margaret rode behind Bartholomew on his horse. When fording a river, the queen fell off and Bartholomew threw her the end of his belt and told her to “grip fast” the buckle. He saved the Queen’s life and from that day onwards she bestowed the motto “Grip Fast” on the Leslies. [5]

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Our guide told us that King Malcolm’s sister Beatrice married Bartholomew Leslie. They moved to Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

Five hundred or so years later a descendent John Leslie was born in 1571 in Aberdeenshire. He received his Doctorate of Divinity from Cambridge and was Privy Councillor to Kings James I and Charles I. He was promoted to become Bishop of the Scottish Isles, and in 1633 transferred to Donegal to the Bishopric of Raphoe.

When Oliver Cromwell came to Ireland, John Leslie, friend of the monarchy, raised a private army to battle against Cromwell, as so he earned the moniker “The Fighting Bishop.” His troops beat Cromwell in the Battle of Raphoe. When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, he rewarded the Bishop with £2000 – note that the Bishop was ninety years old by this time! Despite his age, he became Bishop of the Diocese of Clogher in 1661.

With the £2000, in 1665 Bishop Leslie bought the estate at Glaslough with an existing castle which had been built in 1608 by Sir Thomas Ridgeway. Bishop Leslie died at the age of one hundred, and left the estate to his wife, Catherine Cunningham (or Conyngham) of Mount Charles in Donegal (an ancestor of the present Lord Henry Mount Charles of Slane Castle), and children. He had married at the age of 67 the 18 year old Catherine and sired five (according to our guide) or 10 (according to Wikipedia, [6]) children! Only two of his children survived to adulthood and only one has descendants.

Due to the limitation of the tour’s length our guide jumped forward to the 1880s. I am guessing that it was he who wrote the history of the Leslies on the Castle’s website, so I will defer to that to fill in the gaps. We moved from the front hall into the hallway of the grand staircase, where our guide told us about the people in the various portraits. We then moved through a room with a large table, to the drawing room and the dining room, where the guide spoke about more of the family and their portraits.

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the Drawing Room

Below is the throne of Bishop John Leslie, the “fighting Bishop.” He also built the church on the estate, in 1670.

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the Drawing Room, with the throne of Bishop John Leslie, the “fighting Bishop.”
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the Dining Room

The Bishop’s son John, another cleric, the Dean of Dromore, inherited the estate. He never married so when he died, the estate passed to his brother, Charles, at 71 years of age. Charles was a theologian and defended the Catholics, opposing the penal laws which prevented Catholics from participating in political life. King William III had him arrested for high treason, but he escaped to France. The next king, George I, pardoned him, saying “Let the old man go home to Glaslough to die.” (see [5], which provides most of my narrative)

Charles married Jane Griffith, daughter of the Very Reverend Richard Griffith, Dean of Ross [7] had three children: Robert, Henry, and the unusually named “Vinegar” Jane. Robert and Henry were friends with Jonathan Swift, who wrote the following about the family:

“Here I am in Castle Leslie

With rows and rows of books upon the shelves

Written by The Leslies

All about themselves.”

I’m not sure what was written at that stage, but certainly when we stayed, there were plenty of books by the Leslies! I had a good browse through them – more on them later.

Robert wedded, in 1730, Frances, daughter of Stephen Ludlow. Their son Charles Powell Leslie (c. 1738-1800), took over the Estate in 1743. He devoted himself to the improvement of farming methods in the district. He was elected MP for Hillsborough in 1771 and MP for Monaghan in 1776. Like his grandfather, he supported the Catholics. At the time, due to Poynings Law, all Irish legislation had to be approved by the British Privy Council. Henry Grattan and others, including Charles Powell Leslie, sought legislative independence. Once this was achieved, Grattan fought in parliament for Catholic Emancipation from the Penal Laws, so that Catholics could be treated as equal citizens of Ireland. In his election speech of 1783, Charles Powell Leslie stated ”I desire a more equal representation of the people and a tax upon our Absentee Landlords”.

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portrait of Charles Powell Leslie I

In 1765 Charles Powell married Prudence Penelope Hill-Trevor, daughter of Arthur Hill-Trevor, 1st Viscount Dungannon. They had two sons, Charles Powell II and John. After his first wife died, Charles Powell Leslie I married, in 1785, Mary Anne Tench, and had a third son. The heir, Charles Powell II, also represented Monaghan in parliament.

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Charles Powell Leslie II

Arthur Hill-Trevor’s elder daughter, Anne, married Garret Wesley, the 1st Earl of Mornington, of Dangan Castle County Meath, and their son grew up to be the Duke of Wellington who defeated Napolean at Waterloo. According to the website, Charles Powell Leslie gave his impoverished brother-in-law, Lord Mornington, the money to educate his son Arthur, in Eton and then military school in France (Stephen and I found it ironic that the Duke of Wellington, who beat Napoleon, hence France, received his military training in France!). Arthur, the Duke of Wellington, married Kitty Pakenham of Tullynally, County Westmeath.

Charles Powell Leslie II, an amateur architect, designed the present farm buildings and the gate lodge. (see [8] for more about Charles Powell Leslie II). He died in 1831 and his wife Christiana took over the running of the estate. She managed to feed the needy during the great famine of 1845, setting up soup kitchens, and gave employment by having a wall built around the estate. The population of County Monaghan was 208,000 before the Famine. It went down to 51,000 during and after the Famine and is now only 61,000 – still far less than its pre-Famine population. It is said that nobody perished on the Leslie estate. As well as the soup kitchen, Christiana suspended rents.

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Farm buildings: perhaps these are ones designed by Charles Powell Leslie II.

Her son Charles Powell III (1821-71) also enjoyed architecture, and had flamboyant taste. He designed the entrance lodges at the main gates of the estate. He had many other grand building plans but died, choking on a fishbone, and it was his brother John (1822-1916) who built the new castle – to a much more modest design than Charles’s. Charles never married so John succeeded to the estate, in 1871.

John Leslie married Constance Dawson Damer, the daughter of Mary Seymour who was allegedly George IV’s daughter by Mrs. Fitzherbert.

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a portrait of Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert, which Stephen and I discovered upstairs on our way to the cinema room in the castle!
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Maria, born Smythe, was a Catholic. She married a wealthy Catholic landowner when she was just 18 years old. He died tragically, and she married a second time, but her second husband died when she was just 24! Her uncle decided to bring her out into society, and brought her to the opera. There, she met King George IV. He pursued her, and a marriage between them is recognised by the Catholic church, but not by the Monarchy. He moved her to Brighton and the Royal family took care of her, although George was married off to European Royalty, Princess Caroline.

Maria had two children, reputedly, with George IV. The daughter was adopted by a friend of George IV, Hugh Seymour. It was this Mary Seymour who married George Dawson Damer, and her daughter Constance married John Leslie. Constance burned all the evidence of her background, as it was not approved by the Royal Family. It is therefore not a definitive history, just, shall we say, rumour. Her descendant Shane Leslie wrote a biography of Mrs. Fitzherbert.

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a portrait of Lady Constance in later life.

It was the portrait above, of Lady Constance, which a nurse, who had been attending the dying Leonie (wife of Constance and John’s heir, John), recognised as the lady who had visited Leonie’s deathbed – despite Constance having been dead for nearly twenty years!

Before his brother died, John brought Constance to live in the old castle. Constance must have wanted a place of her own so in 1860, they moved into the Hunting Lodge in order to live separately from Charles Powell III and his mother.

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a room inside the Lodge
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front hall and welcoming room of the Lodge
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a small private dining room in the Lodge

However, once they inherited the old castle, not content with her Lodge or the old castle, it was Constance who insisted that John build the new castle. While it was being built she and her husband went on a Grand Tour and collected much of the present furniture in the house including the blue and white Della Robbia chimneypiece in the drawing room, and a mosaic floor in the hall which is a replica of a two thousand year old Roman villa floor. Constance was a connoisseur of fine art and antiques.

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Della Robbia chimneypiece in Drawing Room, purchased by Constance and John Leslie

Their travels influenced the style of the Castle, built by Sir Charles Lanyon and William Henry Lynn. An Italian Renaissance cloister (said to have been copied from Michaelangelo’s cloister at Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, according to Mark Bence Jones (see [2]) joins the main block of the castle to a single-storey wing containing the library and former billiard-room.

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The Italian Renaissance style Cloister
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Behind the cloister runs a long top-lit gallery divided by many arches, with pre-Raphaelite style frescoes of angels and other figures, including portraits of members of the family, painted by John Leslie, a talented artist. One of his paintings was hung in the Royal Academy in the same year. He later become 1st Baronet of Glaslough.

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Frescoes painted by Sir John Leslie.
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I think it was this painting that hung in the Royal Academy

The next to inherit the estate was the 2nd Baronet, Sir John Leslie (1857–1944). He married Leonie Jerome, one of the three beautiful daughters of Leonard Jerome of New York. Her sister Jenny married Lord Randolph Churchill and was the mother of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Winston did not get on well with his mother but was very close to his aunt Leonie. The young Winston Churchill paid visits here to his uncle and aunt, except when he was temporarily banished by his uncle on account of his espousal of Home Rule! Leonie’s correspondence with Winston is in Blenheim Castle in England, the estate of the Churchills. When his beloved aunt died in August 1943, Winston couldn’t attend the funeral due to the war, but he telephoned Eamon de Valera to request permission for the flyover of an Royal Air Force Spitfire plane. It was her son, Desmond Leslie, who was in the RAF, who flew the Spitfire and dropped a huge wreath from Winston Churchill to the funeral.

I was touched by the presence of Winston Churchill’s christening robe in the drawing room:

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Sir John Leslie died in 1944 and was succeeded by his son Sir Shane Leslie (1885–1971). Shane was one of four brothers: he was christened John, and changed his name to Shane in 1921 when he embraced Irish nationalism; the other brothers were Lionel, Norman and Seymour. Shane grew up to be an ardent nationalist (he joined the Irish Volunteers, a group founded in response to the Ulster Volunteers in Northern Ireland who opposed Home Rule – he thus rejected the support his father gave to the Ulster Volunteers!) and Irish speaker, and converted to Catholicism, under the influence of Cardinal Henry Newman, when he was in Cambridge. He hoped to retreat to a Monastery but instead married another American beauty, Majorie Ide of Vermont. According to the history of the Leslie family recounted on the website, Majorie’s father, Henry Clay Ide, was Chief Justice of Samoa, a tropical paradise where he and his daughters became great friends of fellow islander Robert Louis Stevenson. He was also Governor General of the Philippines. Later in our stay, our guide told us that before she married, Majorie and her sister accompanied U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter on a trade mission to China. The President considered the women to be suitable ambassadors because the current monarch of China was an Empress (the last Empress of China). There are many Chinese objects in Castle Leslie which Majorie brought with her.

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Sir Shane, as a poet and Nationalist, was not fond of running the estate so transferred it to his son John Norman Leslie (1916-2016), who became 4th Baronet. Shane Leslie travelled to London when Michael Collins was negotiating the Treaty granting Ireland its independence from the United Kingdom. Shane’s brother Norman on the other hand fought in the British army, and was killed by a sniper. The bedrooms in the Castle are now named after the family, and Stephen and I stayed in “Norman’s Room”!

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Shane had three children: Anita, John (Jack) and Desmond. Jack transferred the estate over to his sister Anita, owing to ill health after five years in a prisoner of war camp. He had been Captain in the Irish Life Guards in WWII. He moved to Rome where he lived for forty years, finally returning to Castle Leslie in 1994. He died only a few years ago, at 99 years old, inheriting the hardy genes of the Fighting Bishop, and is obviously much missed in the castle which houses many of his mementos and memorabilia.

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“Jack’s bed,” in which he used to sleep, now in pride of place on the upper landing, although the bed would have been a squeeze for his over six foot frame!
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portraits of the family including several of Jack. Jack wrote of his life in Never a Dull Moment.

Later in our stay, Enda the guide told us more about Anita, as we were admiring the paintings of Anita, Jack and Desmond at the bottom of the grand staircase (see the staircase in the photograph below).

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Anita married Pavel Rodzianko, a dashing soldier from Russia, Equerry to Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra. Anita was just 23 years old but bowled over by the 47 year old Pavel. The marriage lasted only three years. This marriage explains the presence of the paintings of Nicholas and Alexandra which Stephen and I had noticed in the bar area.

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Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra
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a poignant picture of Alexandra and her children, all of whom were assassinated only two days before Pavel Rodzianko was able to rescue them.

Pavel tried to rescue the Tsar and his family. He followed with other soldiers loyal to the Tsar, as the Royal family was moved from place to place by those who had overthrown the Tsar. When they caught up with the family Pavel and his companions were too late: the family had been shot in the basement and their bodies burned. Pavel found little Alexi’s dog Joy still alive. Pavel saved the dog and brought her to his home next to Windsor Castle in England, where Pavel lived after leaving Castle Leslie, where Joy lived the rest of her life. Pavel went on to train the Irish show-jumping team, who won the Agha Khan trophy in the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) Horse Show.

During World War II Anita joined the French army as an ambulance driver and married Bill King, a submarine commander. In the 1960s she moved to Oranmore in Galway (Oranmore Castle is a Section 482 property so I hope to visit it!) and transferred Glaslough to her younger brother Desmond (the Spitfire pilot). In 1991 he handed the Estate over to his five children and Castle Leslie Estate is now run by his daughter Samantha Leslie.

I mentioned earlier that many Leslies have written books. I browsed through books by Shane Leslie and Jack. Anita Leslie wrote about her time in the army in The Train to Nowhere. Desmond’s wife Agnes Bernaur is also a published writer. I copied the family tree from Shane Leslie’s book, and notice that the sister of John Leslie 2nd Baronet, Theodisia, married a Bagot! She married Josceline Fitzroy Bagot, of Levens Hall. I may be distantly related to this Bagot, as we are rumoured to be descended from the Bagots of Staffordshire! I confess I have not found the link.

After our tour, we were shown to our room. We were thrilled with it, and especially with our 1617 four poster oak bed. The bed was so high that it required steps to get up to it:

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We had a table and chair, and a lovely wardrobe and chaise longue! I started writing this entry on the chaise longue.

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According to the website, Sammy started her ambition of bringing the Estate back to life by establishing tea rooms in the old conservatory. This had been a painting studio for John Leslie, as it was created to have lots of light.

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The website continues:

Between 1995 and 1997, Sammy refurbished fourteen of the Castle bedrooms and bathrooms, each in its own unique style, in an effort to maintain the individuality and uniqueness of the property. Dinners were served by candlelight in the original dining room, just as it had been in the old days, with pre-dinner drinks served in the Drawing Room or Fountain Garden. The Castle at Castle Leslie Estate was soon rewarded with The Good Hotel Guide Caesar Award for being ‘utterly enjoyable and mildly eccentric’.” [9]

Perhaps one of the mildly eccentric details referred to are the beautiful old fashioned porcelain toilets such as the one in our en suite:

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After the tour, we still had so much of the castle to explore! The tour had only taken in a few of the rooms! We were tired after the tour and lay on our wonderful bed for a nap before dinner. While we were reading, we heard a knock on our door. The staff had brought us a much appreciated, delicious strong cup of coffee! Perfect!

We emerged for dinner. We chose to eat in the bistro rather than the fancier restaurant. The reception staff offered us a lift over to the Lodge, but we chose to walk the short distance up the drive, as it was a beautiful crisp night.

We did a little exploring back at the castle after dinner. We discovered more beautiful rooms to sit in, and a lovely library, and it was only now that we found the bar and the long painted gallery!

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Many new features have been added to the estate, including a spa, a bar and restaurant, and a cookery school.

A new pavilion, adjacent to the long gallery of the main house, facilitates conferences, weddings and other large events – see the pathway leading to the pavilion in the photograph below.

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The website tells us that five new sub-ground floor bedrooms were added to the castle in 2005: the Desmond Leslie room, the Agnes Bernelle Room, the Helen Strong Room, Sir Jack’s Room and the only room in the castle not named after a family member, The Calm Room.

DAY 2: Horse riding! And exploring the Lodge

Stephen and I only saw the castle in daylight the next day, as we had been too tired to explore outside after the tour. It was only then that we saw the cloisters, and the lake! We wandered outside in the evening. Earlier in the day, we decided to avail of the Equestrian Centre, since Stephen confided that he had never sat on a horse!

We booked a one hour walking session, a gentle wander through woods on the estate, hand-led by a guide. I felt safe enough walking without a guide at the reins, as I endured two years of weekly riding lessons when I was young! I say “endured” as I was scared of the horses and fell often! The horses we rode during my lessons in Australia were a more cantankerous brood than those that bless Castle Leslie!

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Below shows me in Australia at my horse riding lessons with my sister when I was young!

Caballo Stables, Jen and Siobhan riding
Jen and Siobhan ready for riding lesson
me and my sister Siobhan in Perth, Western Australia, ready for our riding lesson

And now:

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Our guide, Chris, told us a bit more about the estate as we relaxed onto the hip swinging gait of our horses, and we passed one of the lodges. I knew Stephen would be imagining himself back in the 1700s, familiarising himself with the atmosphere of the former mode of transportation. We both lost our balance as we slid off our horses, Stephen doing the full topple onto the sand, but we were elated! You can see a map of the estate on the castle website. [10]

After lunch in the Lodge, we explored. I took some photographs inside the lodge.

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Dusk fell by the time I took photographs outside behind the castle.

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Sammy’s most recent project (begun in 2015) is renovating the walled garden. I’m sorry I reached it so late in the day, compromising my photographs. These were built in 1860 by Charles Powell Leslie III.

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According to information posted in the walled garden, they cover about four acres, and contain two forty metre greenhouses heated by individual underground boilers fed by rainwater collected from the glass roofs. The flues were built originally under the paths to chimneys hidden in the surrounding garden wall! Ingenious ancestors! Charles Leslie consulted with Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire’s head gardener, who created the “Crystal Palace” of the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in London for Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Alfred.

Outside the Walled Garden was a third large greenhouse, a Tropical House. Charles Powell Leslie III, according to the information boards in the garden, wooed an opera singer with weekly hampers of bananas, melons and mangoes sent from Castle Leslie to her dressing room in Covent Gardens in London!

The Pump House, built from approximately 1848, was one of the first water systems to be constructed for a village and estate. One can still see the ornate cast iron fountains in the village, along with the statue of Charles Powell Leslie III.

Day Three: A walk to the stables and goodbye to Castle Leslie!

The next day dawned bright, a crisp November day. We followed our map of the estate to see the Stable Mews, for a bit of exercise before we had to depart.

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[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/places-to-visit/monaghan/glaslough-castle-leslie/

[2] 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.]

[3] Curtis, Maurice and Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed. Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork 1970.

[4] http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Monaghan/Castle-Leslie.html

[5] https://www.castleleslie.com/life-the-way-its-supposed-to-be-2/historical-castle-ireland/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Leslie_(bishop_of_Clogher)

[7] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Monaghan%20Landowners

Note that this website states that Charles and his wife had only one child whereas the Castle Leslie website claims that they had three children.

[8] see [7]. CHARLES POWELL LESLIE II, JP (c1767-1831), Colonel, County Monaghan Militia, High Sheriff of County Monaghan, 1788, MP for County Monaghan, 1801-26, New Ross, 1830-1, who espoused firstly, Anne, daughter of the Rev Dudley Charles Ryder, and had issue, three daughters.

He married secondly, in 1819, Christiana, daughter of George Fosbery, and had further issue,

Charles Powell (1821-71);
 JOHN, his heir;
 Thomas Slingsby;
 Prudentia Penelope; Christiana; Julia; Emily.

[9] https://zs35w2fzekug05wf2mckg53k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Regeneration-History.pdf

[10] https://zs35w2fzekug05wf2mckg53k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/E-Map-Only-2017.pdf

Altidore Castle, Kilpeddar, Greystones, County Wicklow

contact: Philip Emmet
Tel: 087-7601369
Open in 2022: Mar 10-29, May 1-31, June 1-3, 1pm-5pm, Aug 13-21, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult /OAP €5, child under 12 years free, child over 12 and student negotiable, group rates.

Altidore Castle, a seven bay, two storey over basement house.
Beautiful wrought iron gates at the entrance to the farm, and square panelled pillars.

Stephen and I visited Altidore Castle on a grey Saturday, June 1st 2019. I contacted Philip Emmet beforehand and he suggested we come at 3pm for a tour of the house. Philip Emmet is a descendent of the family of the Irish rebel Robert Emmet, who was hung for treason in 1803. We arrived early and Philip’s wife Vicky suggested we look around the gardens until the other couple who were coming for the tour arrived. We had spied a pond to our left on our way up the long driveway, and there were stone steps up from the driveway across from the front of the house to a large rectangle of a lawn, edged by huge rhododendrons, so we headed off to explore.

We only had about fifteen minutes, so after looking at the lawn above, we went down toward the pond and the gardens directly outside the house. We found a lovely sunken garden with two lions guarding it, containing a “wishing well.”

steps down to the sunken garden
Lions flank the steps to the sunken garden.
Stephen at the wishing well. I could not make out what was on the top of the well.
The well has Corinthian columns and a crest on top with two heads, and a cast iron embellishment.

We walked around the back, I was conscious that we could look in the windows and not wanting to disturb or pry, I carefully kept my back to the windows and gazed at the impressive view of the wide valley below. What a view!

We headed back to the front of the house then. It is a most odd-looking home. It’s quite small but has imposing castellations. This must be why it is called a “toy fort” (by Mark Bence-Jones) or a “toy castle” (National Inventory of Historic Architecture).

Mark Bence-Jones describes it in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses [1]:

A charming late-Georgian “toy fort,” with four octagonal corner turrets; of two storeys on the entrance side and three on the other sides, where the ground falls away. Despite the battlements on the turrets, the house is more Classical than Gothic; it is symmetrical and has a central Venetian window over a pillared porch.

The Venetian (tripartite) window over a single-storey pillared porch.
The back of the house is three storeys whereas the front is two, due to the slope of the ground. The basement forms the ground floor in the back.

The house was built for General Thomas Pearce around 1730. It may have been designed by his nephew, Edward Lovett Pearce. General Thomas Pearce (ca. 1670-1739) was a British Army officer, a privy councillor and member of Parliament. He was appointed to Ireland in 1715, ultimately becoming General of His Majesty’s Forces in Ireland. He represented Limerick in Parliament from 1727 until his death. He married Mary daughter of William Hewes of Wrexham, and they had three sons and two daughters. His daughter Anne married her first cousin, Edward Lovett Pearce. [2]

Edward Lovett Pearce was a young Irish architect, born in 1699. He favoured the Palladian style of architecture and studied initially under his cousin the English Baroque architect John Vanbrugh. Lovett Pearce is best known for his work on Castletown House and the Irish Houses of Parliament, which later became the Bank of Ireland on College Green in Dublin. In Italy he met the Florentine architect Alessandro Galilei who was making plans for Castletown. Pearce seems to have taken over the work on Castletown based on Galilei’s plans.

Pearce was also commissioned by his uncle-in-law Thomas Coote (Coote married Edward Lovett Pearce’s aunt Anne Lovett – she was Thomas Coote’s third wife) to build Bellamont House in Cootehill, County Cavan (around 1730). He also designed two houses on Henrietta Street in Dublin, including number 9, for his cousin Mrs. Thomas Carter, and he designed Summerhill, County Meath. He died of an abscess at the young age of 34 in his home The Grove in Stillorgan, Dublin, and is buried in St. Mary’s Graveyard, now a closed graveyard in Donnybrook, which I was lucky enough to see in a tour a couple of years ago.

Archway from the sunken garden to the back of the house.

We followed the other couple in through the porch to meet Philip Emmet, who welcomed us. We stepped into a large, high ceilinged hall, hung with impressive tapestries. These, Philip told us, were copies of tapestries which Louis XIV may have had. There was a set of tapestries with an Oriental tone, meant to be from China but with a mish-mash of European features, Indian and Chinese elements, with a pagoda in the background and picturing the Empress and Emperor in separate tapestries, sitting under tented pavilions tended by their servants and courtiers. One of the tapestries is in the drawing room, along with some other intricate mounted tapestries, as it couldn’t fit in the hall.

The inside of the front hall and staircase is odd as the windows don’t look as if they fit the plans, or else the staircase has been moved. Philip does not know a lot about the background of the house. The Irish Historic Houses website states that Altidore was enlarged and modified for a subsequent owner, Major Henry Brownrigg. [3] We did not go upstairs, but Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the staircase is “of stout but elegant joinery with a scrolled end to its balusters.”

By 1773 the house was owned by Reverend William Blachford, Librarian of Marsh’s Library in Dublin. Philip has a portrait of Reverend Blachford’s daughter Mary Tighe, a poet who was famous in her time and was grouped with the Romantic writers Byron and the revolutionary Mary Wollestonecraft. The poet John Keats admired her work. I must borrow her book, Psyche or the Legend of Love from the library! Mary, nee Blachford, had a severely religious upbringing. William Blachford died in 1773 leaving his wife Theodosia (daughter of William Tighe of Rossana, County Wicklow), a son John and daughter Mary. Theodosia converted to Methodism, founded by John Wesley, [4] and was involved in many charitable works including supporting the Leeson Street Magdalen Asylum for unmarried mothers, and the Female Orphan House on Prussia Street in Dublin. Mary married, at the young age of 21, her cousin Henry Tighe, who served as an MP in the Irish Parliament representing Inistioge, County Kilkenny. She lived her final months as an invalid in her brother-in-law William Tighe’s estate, Woodstock in County Kilkenny (the house is now a ruin but the gardens are open to the public), where she died of tuberculosis at the age of 37. A marble statue of her carved by Tuscan Lorenzo Bartolini, commissioned by her son after her death, stood in the hall of Woodstock before the house was burnt in 1922. However, there is another life-size sculpture of her by English sculptor John Flaxman in her mausoleum in the graveyard attached to the former Augustinian priory in Inistioge, County Kilkenny. [5]

Mary Blachford Tighe (1772-1810) as sculpted by Lorenzo Bartolini ca. 1820, photograph from National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons. Note that although the original statue was destroyed in the fire at Woodstock House, the plaster orginial of Lorenzo’s statue of Mary Tighe is in the Museo de l’academica in Florence!
Woodstock, County Kilkenny, where Mary Tighe spent her final years.

Reverend Blachford’s son John inherited Altidore and lived there with his wife Mary Anne, daughter of Henry Grattan MP, from nearby Tinnehinch [6].

There was another fascinating portrait in one of the beautifully decorated rooms, this time of an Indian military man, who was a servant of an ancestor of Philip’s wife. This ancestor, named Dennehy, worked in India under Queen Victoria, and introduced Victoria to Indian servants – and through him she met her beloved Indian servant, about whom, and their relationship, there was a movie a few years ago, “Victoria and Abdul”! Philip’s wife was in Osbourne, Victoria’s home on the Isle of Wight, and noticed that there is a series of these pictures, matching her own, of Queen Victoria’s other Indian servants. Stephen and I also loved the tv series about young Victoria.

The most fascinating piece of furniture in the house was Lord Cornwallis’s travelling trunk from his time in the War of Independence in America. When he lost the War of Independence he surrendered the trunk to Washington. It is suitable that the family of someone who would have supported the rebel colonists – i.e. Robert Emmet – ended up with the trunk! It’s like a chest of drawers, and has wonderful compartments – one holds his shaving bowl, another is a board which can be pulled out to be a desk surface, another has cubbies for his toiletries. In a bottom drawer is a discreet commode!

Before the Emmets purchased the house in 1944, the Dopping-Hempenstals owned the house, from 1834 – 1918. They owned extensive lands in County Wicklow. They rarely lived in Altidore and instead, leased it out. At one stage it housed a tuberculosis sanatorium. According to the Irish Historic Houses website, Altidore changed hands many times over the next decades and was owned by two different banks on separate occasions. Finally, in 1945, James Albert Garland Emmet (who went by “Garland”) purchased the house on three hundred acres from Percy Burton, a bachelor. The Emmets carried out extensive restoration and created a large new garden, centred on a pair of canals from the early 18th century garden layout. These are the bodies of water we saw on the way in. The present owners, Philip (grandson of Garland Emmet) and his wife Vicky, have farmed the estate organically for nearly 20 years.

One of the “canals.”

We moved from the drawing rooms to the dining room. The walls are adorned with fine medallions of Classical figures in stucco relief. They were uncovered when the walls were being redone, under layers of paint and wallpaper! The Irish Aesthete writes about them, and has beautiful photographs on his website:

“One of the past year’s most fascinating personal discoveries was the dining room at Altidore Castle, County Wicklow …. Much of the interior decoration dates from that period [ca. 1730], including the dining room’s panelling. In the last quarter of the 18th century, however, additional ornamentation was added with the introduction of oval and circular plaster medallions featuring female classical deities and graces: this would have been around the period that Altidore was owned by Rev William Blachford … During the same period the interiors of nearby Mount Kennedy – designed by James Wyatt in 1772 but only built under the supervision of Thomas Cooley the following decade – was being decorated by the celebrated stuccadore Michael Stapleton. The medallions are not unlike those seen in Lucan House, County Dublin where Stapleton also worked: might he have had a hand in the plasterwork at Altidore?” [7]

Michael Stapleton (1747-1801) was a famous Irish stuccodore, known as the “Dublin Adam,” referring to the Scottish architect and interior designer Robert Adam (1728-1792), who worked in the neo-Classical style of plasterwork characterised by its delicacy and use of motifs copied from recently discovered paintings at Pompeii and Herculaneum, along with James Wyatt. [8] 

side view of the house

Philip told us that his ancestors, the Emmets, had to leave Ireland after Robert and his brother Thomas Addis Emmet rebelled. Thomas Addis Emmet moved to the United States. Thomas Addis Emmet (1764-1827) was a lawyer and politician, from a wealthy Anglo-Irish Protestant family, and fought to end discrimination against Catholics and Protestant Dissenters such as Presbyterians. He acted as a legal advisor for the Society of United Irishmen. He tried to find a peaceful way of introducting a non-sectarian democracy to Ireland. However, the United Irishmen were declared illegal, so efforts for a peaceful Catholic emancipation were abandoned. Instead, the United Irishmen sought  independence from Britain by armed rebellion. Thomas Addis Emmet advocated waiting until the French had arrived for the rebellion, but Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798) was more impatient and decided to go ahead with the rebellion in 1798. British intelligence infiltrated the United Irishmen and arrested most of the leaders, including Thomas Addis Emmet, on the eve of their rebellion on March 12, 1798. On his release in 1802 he went to Brussels, where he was visited by his brother Robert in October that year, who informed of the preparations for a fresh rising in Ireland in conjunction with French aid. However, at that stage France and Britain were briefly at peace, and the Emmets’ pleas for help were turned down by Napoleon.

Thomas received news of the failure of Robert Emmet’s rising in July 1803 in Paris. Robert was hung for treason in front of St. Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street in Dublin on September 20th 1803. Thomas Addis then emigrated to the United States and joined the New York bar where he had lucrative practice.

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Memorial in front of St. Catherine’s church, Thomas Street, Dublin
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plaque in front of St. Catherine’s church, Thomas Street, Dublin

In the United States the Emmet descendents went into, amongst other occupations, banking, and became wealthy. Philip’s great great grandfather did the European tour and became an art and object collector.

Thomas Addis Emmet’s grandson, also named Thomas Addis Emmet, visited Ireland in 1880. He hoped to move to Ireland but unfortunately he was not allowed by the government to live in Ireland, although he was a gynaecologist by profession, because it was thought that, like his ancestors, he may harbour rebellious tendencies. He requested that he be buried in Ireland so he could “rest in the land from which my family came.” Dr Emmet was interred according to his wishes, in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, in 1922. His grave marker was designed by the father and brother of the revolutionary Padraig  Pearse (they also sculpted the statues adorning St. Augustine and St. John church on Thomas Street).

It was the son of this Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, James Garland Emmet, who returned to Ireland and purchased Altidore Castle in 1944. He set up his home as the base the Irish branch of the Emmet family and gathered objects for a collection of Emmet memorabilia. Altidore still hosts an Emmet Museum. Fascinated, Stephen lingered in the museum room and traded stories with Philip. There are lovely miniatures of the Emmet family, and a sketch of Emmet done from his time in court, by – oh, who was it? Someone famous! [9] They also have Robert Emmet’s college books, with his sketches of uniforms – he was a good artist! He was thrown out of Trinity for being a revolutionary. The house also has some artifacts from Thomas Addis Emmet, and also Robert Emmet’s final letter from prison – written not to his fiance, Sarah Curran, as Stephen and I had believed, but to a politician, to urge him to excuse himself for not anticipating the rebellion. Robert Emmet was reknown for his secrecy.

A memorial plaque in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, to the Emmet family. It tells us that this plaque is in the place which held the Emmet family vault, and that Thomas Addis Emmet MD of New York and other members of his family placed the plaque in 1908.

We wandered back out to the ponds, which are divided into three, and are part of a canal running down the mountain. We found the old walled garden – not in use currently – and looked around the farm and the beautiful old farm buildings.

Above the arch is a half-circle oculus.

[1] Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses published by Constable and Company Limited, London, 1988, previously published by Burke’s Peerage Ltd as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses, vol. 1 Ireland, 1978.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pearce_(British_Army_officer)

[3] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Altidore%20Castle

[4] Mary Delany (1700-1788) whose letters are published, was Godmother to a musician in the Wesley family, and explains how the Methodist Wesleys were cousins of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington – who is honoured in the Wellington obelisk in the Phoenix Park.

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/05/13/of-wonderous-beauty-did-the-vision-seem/

The Irish Aesthete also notes: A new biography of Mary Tighe by Miranda O’Connell has been published by the Somerville Press.

[6] Tinnehinch was presented to Grattan, according to Mark Bence-Jones, in gratitude for  the part he played in obtaining freedom from British control in 1782. The house has been destroyed by fire but one storey of the ruin still stands and has been made into a feature of the garden of the present house, which is in the former stables.

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/01/02/getting-thoroughly-plastered/

[8] Other work by Michael Stapleton can be seen in Marlay House in Dublin, several houses in North Great George’s Street including Belvedere House, Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2 and in Trinity College Dublin, especially in the Exam Hall and the Chapel. Note that Stapleton was the executor of Robert West’s will, and may have trained with Robert West. We came across Robert West’s characteristic stucco work in Colganstown.

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Examination Hall, Trinity College Dublin.

[9] Perhaps the artist was John Comerford, who sketched Robert Emmet during his trial, and a miniature has been made from the sketch. The miniature is now in the National Gallery.