Covid-19 lockdown, 20km limits, and places to visit in Dublin

I have a bigger project than this section 482 houses blog. It helps, when writing about big houses, to know what is out there. So I have studied Mark Bence-Jones’s 1988 publication in great detail, A Guide to Irish Country Houses, and have conducted research with the help of the internet.

For my own interest, and I am sure many of my readers will appreciate, I am compiling a list of all of the “big house” accommodation across Ireland – finding out places to stay for when Stephen and I go on holidays, especially when we go to see the section 482 houses!

I am also discovering what other houses are open to the public. There are plenty to see which are not privately owned or part of the section 482 scheme. In fact many of the larger houses are either owned by the state, or have been converted into hotels.

This Monday, 8th June 2020, Ireland moves to the next phase of the government’s Covid-19 prevention plan, and we are allowed to travel 20km from our home, or to places within our county. Big houses won’t be open for visits, but some will be opening their gardens – already my friend Gary has been to the gardens of Ardgillan Castle for a walk. Stephen and I went there before lockdown, meeting Stephen’s cousin Nessa for a walk. The castle was closed, but we were blown away by the amazing view from the garden, and walked down to the sea.

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Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, County Dublin, and its view
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Nessa at the sea on our visit to Ardgillan Castle
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Ardgillan Castle
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Ardgillan Castle


Here is my list of houses/castles to visit in Dublin. Some are on section 482 so are private houses with very limited visting times; others are state-owned and are open most days – though not during Covid-19 restriction lockdown – they might be open from June 29th but check websites. Some have gardens which are open to the public now for a wander.

  1. Airfield, Dundrum, Dublin https://www.airfield.ie
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Airfield House

2. Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan https://ardgillancastle.ie

3. Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park, Dublin http://phoenixpark.ie/what-to-see/

4. Belvedere House, 6 Great Denmark Street, Dublin  https://www.oreillytheatre.com/belvedere-house.html

Open House, Belvedere House, Belvedere College, Dublin
Belvedere House

5. Cabinteely House [formerly Clare Hill, or Marlfield], Cabinteely, Dublin https://www.dlrcoco.ie/en/heritage/heritage

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Cabinteely House

6. Casino Marino, Clontarf, Dublin http://casinomarino.ie

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Casino at Marino, Dublin

7. Charlemount House, Parnell Square, Dublin – Hugh Lane gallery https://www.hughlane.ie

Charlemount House. Photograph from flickr constant commons, National Library of Ireland.

8. Colganstown, Newcastle, Co Dublin – section 482 [1] Colganstown House, Hazelhatch Road, Newcastle, County Dublin

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Colganstown, Newcastle, County Dublin

9. Dalkey Castle, Dublin – heritage centre https://www.dalkeycastle.com

Believe it or not, I did my Leaving Certificate examinations in this building!! I was extremely lucky and I loved it and the great atmosphere helped me to get the points/grades I wanted!

Dalkey Castle in Dalkey in the suburbs of south Dublin, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2014, from Tourism Ireland. [2]

10. Drimnagh Castle, Dublin https://www.drimnaghcastle.org

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party in Drimnagh Castle

11. Dublin Castle, Dublin https://www.dublincastle.ie

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part of Dublin Castle, including Royal Chapel

12. Fahanmura, Foxrock, Dublin 18 – section 482 [1]

13. Farm Complex, Toberburr Road, Killeek, St Margaret’s, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

14. Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin http://farmleigh.ie

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Farmleigh, Phoenix Park

15. Fern Hill, Stepaside, Dublin – gardens open to public https://www.dlrcoco.ie/en/parks-outdoors/fernhill-park-and-gardens

16. Georgian House Museum, 29 Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Merrion Square, Dublin 2 http://www.numbertwentynine.ie

17. Geragh, Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

18. 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin – tenement museum https://14henriettastreet.ie

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from 2013 visit to 14 Henrietta Street

19. Knocknagin House, Delvin Bridge, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

20. Lambay Castle, Lambay Island, Rush, Dublin  p. – island open to public, groups of 12 https://www.lambayisland.ie

Lambay Castle, Lambay Island. Photograph from Country Life, volume XXXI, 1912. [3] The north court of Lambay Castle. The medieval castle was remodelled by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1905.
Lambay Castle, Lambay Island. Photograph from Country Life. The east court of Lambay Castle.
Lambay Castle, Lambay Island. Photograph from Country Life. The castle and west forecourt of Lambay Castle.

21. Lissen Hall, Lissenhall Demesne, Swords, Dublin – open by appointment http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Lissen%20Hall

22. Malahide Castle, Malahide, County Dublin https://www.malahidecastleandgardens.ie

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Malahide Castle
The Great Hall, Malahide Castle. Photographed for Country Life magazine in October 1946 by Westley, Future Publishing Ltd.

23. Marlay House, Co Dublin https://www.dlrcoco.ie/en/heritage/heritage

24. Martello Tower, Portrane – section 482 [1]

24. Meander, Westminister Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18 – section 482 [1]

25. Newbridge House, Donabate, Co Dublin https://www.newbridgehouseandfarm.com

26. Newman House, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin – MOLI, open to public https://moli.ie

27. 11 North Great George’s Street, Dublin – section 482 [1]

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interior of 11 North Great Georges Street, Dublin

28. 81 North King Street, Dublin – section 482 [1]

29. Old Glebe, Main Street, Newcastle, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1] The Old Glebe, Newcastle-Lyons, County Dublin

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Old Glebe, Newcastle

30. Pearse Museum and St. Enda’s Park, formerly Hermitage, and formerly called Fields of Odin), Rathfarnham, Dublin http://pearsemuseum.ie

31. Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin 2 – section 482 Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2

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Powerscourt Townhouse

32. Primrose Hill, Very Top of Primrose Lane, Lucan, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

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Primrose Hill

33. Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin http://rathfarnhamcastle.ie

34. St. George’s, St. George’s Avenue, Killiney, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

35. 10 South Frederick Street, Dublin – section 482 [1]

36. Swords Castle, Dublin  https://swordscastle.events

37. Tibradden House, Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16 – section 482 [1]

[1] 2020 list update

[2] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en/media-assets/media/100792

[3] https://www.countrylifeimages.co.uk/Image.aspx?id=e18a45dd-8693-4d92-826a-84092b97d935&rd=1|3df3b2a9-1248-4719-bd66-091149000a8a||9|20|492|150 

Dardistown Castle, County Meath

On Sunday July 14th Stephen and I went to see Dardistown Castle, in County Meath. I contacted the owners beforehand, Ken and Lizanne Allen, 086 277 4271.

dardistowncastle.ie

Open dates in 2021 but check due to Covid restrictions: Jan 9-31, Feb 11-21, May 15-21, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-2pm 

Fee: adult €6, child free, student/OAP €5.

It has some links to our most recent visit, to Dunsany Castle, as it was enlarged by Dame Jenet Sarsfield, who was the widow of Robert Plunkett, the 5thBaron of Dunsany.

She is worth writing about, but first let me backtrack.

During the Hundred Years War, 1337-1453 (that’s more than one hundred!), in which the English fought the French for the right to rule France, the English military were mostly withdrawn from Ireland. To compensate for their military absence, a limited number of government grants of £10 each were made available to landowners in the “The Pale” for the building of fortified houses. John Cornwalsh (or Thomas? Drogheda Museum blog writes that it was built by Thomas Cornwalsh, and that Thomas Cornwalsh was related to the Talbot family of Malahide Castle by marriage, which explains how the castle came into the Talbot family later [1]) obtained a £10 grant in 1465 for the building of Dardistown Castle. According to wikipedia, John Cornwalsh was Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.

Driving up the driveway, one cannot see the tower. We drove up in front of the house, which has a lovely square trellis outside.

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Ken was sitting outside waiting for visitors. He took us around to the back of the house. We went around the side, and only then saw the impressive tower.

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It’s a four storey medieval tower, extended with the addition of a Victorian frontage. The tower is square with sides about 44 feet long and a square turrret at each corner. The turrets are of different sizes.  The main arched entrance to the tower is now blocked and the main entrance is now on the south side. The tower is fifty feet high.

Ken led us in to the ground floor, which was originally the basement. This room is quite empty, and has been used for parties and gatherings so has a bar installed. It is described on the website as a games room. It is surprisingly large – this is by far the largest most spacious tower I have seen. There are vaulted smaller rooms in three of the four turrets off the main ground floor room. One turret would have been the toilet, where everything dropped down to the ground. There is a fireplace in the west wall of each main room on every level.

This room has the remains of a very unusual looking ceiling, “barrel vaulted.” [2] We can still see the sticks, in what looks like a wattle and daub type construction. I had never seen anything like it in a tower, but it is part of the original tower! The website states:

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“Following a native Irish technique, woven wicker mats resting on timber beams were used to support the vaults during their construction and at Dardistown bits of the wickerwork may still be seen embedded in the undersides of the vaults.”

We went up the original stone staircase in the southwest turret, unusual because it spirals to the left, or anticlockwise, rather than the right – Stephen is fascinated how the direction in most towers was determined to give the advantage to the owner, so that on descent, he (it was usually a male, I presume, wielding the sword, although surely not always!) could more easily wield his sword than an intruding coming up the stairs. Perhaps the person who designed these stairs was left-handed, Stephen speculated.

The rooms above are furnished beautifully, in a style to fit the medieval origins but with all the comforts of a modern home. They have wooden ceilings. It is tasteful and elegant and I would love to stay there! The Allens rent the rooms for accommodation. The first floor above is the dining room, furnished with a large heavy table. A chandelier graces the room, and many pieces of antique furniture, plus comfortable couches and armchairs in front of the wood-burning stove in the fireplace. The original stone walls are exposed and have been repointed.

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A fully outfitted kitchen has been installed in one turret. It is modern and luxurious.

The third turret has a large bathroom, which contains a lovely free-standing bath. At all levels above the ground floor the southeast turret contains a small chamber with an even smaller garderobe chamber opening off it.

The fourth turret on the first level contains a second, wooden, staircase, for fire escape safety. We looked up to see the top of the turret, which has a ceiling of overlapping flagstones, much like the tower ceiling which we saw in the Moone Abbey ten pound tower, and also in Newgrange.

The two upper floors of the turret have been decorated as luxurious bedrooms. There is a corridor off the third floor that leads into the main house, and which has been converted with two more beautiful bedrooms that can be hired for accommodation, plus bathroom.

I would love to stay! There is more accommodation in the yard.

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The Granary, which can be rented [3].
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There is more accommodation for rental called “the Stables” [4].
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There is a walled garden, which now is the back garden of the Allen family, and contains a tennis court. After our tour, we wandered into the lovely garden.

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According to the website, fifty years after the castle was built, the Castle and lands were rented for £4 a year by John and Thomas Talbot, who supplied three armed horsemen for the royal army.

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The Talbot family remained in Dardistown Castle until 1690, when they lost possession of the Castle and lands at Dardistown after the Battle of the Boyne. The castle became the residence of the Osborne family, who remained there until 1970. Francis Osborne of Dardistown was M. P. for Navan Borough in 1692 and 1695, and the Osborne family continued to occupy Dardistown until the death of the last member of the family. Henry Osborne (died May 10, 1828) also owned Cooperhill Brickworks. The castle passed via Samuel Henry Osborne to Henry St. George Osborne, who died in 1899, and then to his son Henry Ralph Osborne, who died in the 1970’s.

It was then taken over by the Armstrong family until 1987, and then the Allen family, who are from the Drogheda area, and it was Ken Allen who showed us around. He has restored the castle tower beautifully.

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The tower was a ruin when the Allens acquired the castle and attached house.

The first extension to the Castle, forming part of the present house, was built before 1582, when Dame Genet (or Jenet) Sarsfield came to reside here, and made a new entrance doorway and built a further addition (commemorated by two stone tablets on the house).

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back of the house, where you can see the house extended from the castle.

The house was further added to in around 1770, and an extension built in 1800, with an upper storey added around 1860.

Dame Jenet Sarsfield was the not only the widow of Robert Plunkett. She was also the widow of Sir John Plunket of Dunsoghly Castle in Dublin (that one is not on the Section 482 list so I will not be visiting it this year!). She was married six times! She was the daughter of a merchant, John Sarsfield, of Sarsfieldstown in County Meath. She was born in around 1528. Her brother William was an alderman of Dublin. She must therefore have mixed in rather elite circles, as she married Robert Shilyngford (or Shillingford), who became Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1534 for the usual one year term. They had one daughter who survived to adulthood – the only offspring of Jenet who lived into adulthood, according to Wikipedia [5]  . Jenet was also reputed to be the tallest lady living in Ireland in the 1500s, as testified by the tall door built at Dardistown! (it must be this pale green door under the balcony). [6]

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After Robert’s death, Jenet married James Luttrell. He was also prominent in Dublin administration as he was the High Sheriff of County Dublin in 1556. He died in 1557.

It was after James Luttrell’s death that Jenet married Robert Plunkett, 5thBaron of Dunsany. She was his second wife. He died only two years after her previous husband died! After that marriage, she continued to be referred to as the Dowager Lady Dunsany. She next married Sir Thomas Cusack of Cushinstown. He had previously been Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He was about thirty years older than her. She was his third wife (!), although he refused to acknowledge his first wife. His second wife was reputed to have murdered her first husband, but she had a happy marriage to Thomas Cusack. Jenet had around eleven years as Thomas Cusack’s wife before he died.

Jenet inherited most of Cusack’s personal property, which was unusual at that time. Normally the firstborn son would be the heir. Sir Robert had acquired the Abbey of Lismullen after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Sir Robert’s son Edward pursued litigation to obtain his father’s property. Lady Dunsany married Sir John Plunket then, who was an influential judge and Privy Councillor. She eventually vacated Lismullen but Edward the stepson complained that she had removed most of the valuables. Lady Dunsany lived with her husband Sir John Plunket in Dunsoghly Castle. He died in 1582.

Her sixth and final marriage was to John Bellew, and she lived for her last years in Dardistown Castle. She died in 1598 and chose not to be buried with any of her husbands, but in a tomb of her own, in Moorchurch in County Meath. Her last husband outlived her. Dardistown Castle passed to her son-in-law Thomas Talbot after her death. Her daughter Katherine Shillingford married Thomas Talbot, who lived in Dardistown Castle. Jenet Sarsfield/Lady Dunsany was John Bellew’s third wife. John Bellew (1522-1600) was of Bellewstown and Castletown. Dardistown Castle came into the family due to Katherine’s marriage to Thomas Talbot. [6]

The historic battle of Julianstown of 1641 is said to have taken place on the front lawn of Dardistown, though at that time it was separated from the House by the road [in1800 the road (main Drogheda – Dublin road at that time) was moved so that, instead of passing the front door, it now curved several hundred yards from the Castle, enclosing the area which is now picturesque parkland.] Richard Talbot was then in occupation of the Castle. The battle was fought by insurgents led by Sir Phelim O’Neill, against an English garrison on their way to Drogheda. Three new rooms were added to the Castle about this time.

In the main house, the drawing room and dining room date from around 1750. The upper floors were added in two stages, the back about 1800 and the front in 1860. We did not get to see inside the main house, as the Allen family live there.

http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Meath/Dardistown-Castle.html

[1] see http://droghedamuseum.blogspot.com/2014/09/dardistown-castle.html

[2] architectural definitions

[3] https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/15112511?source_impression_id=p3_1563534784_c%2Fw0vavEzHNtvJih

[4] https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/15113245?source_impression_id=p3_1563534911_%2BZqpeapdtE%2BY8LOT

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenet_Sarsfield

[6] https://www.pressreader.com

[7] https://www.independent.ie/regionals/argus/localnotes/bellew-clan-keep-tradition-alive-in-julianstown-31409763.html