Places to visit and stay: Connacht: Galway and Roscommon

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

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

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.

Galway

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

2. Ardcarrig Garden, Oranswell, Bushypark, Galway, IE 

3. Athenry Castle, County Galway  – open to public 

4. Aughnanure Castle, County Galway (OPW)

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

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

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

8. Gleane Aoibheann, Clifden, Galway, IE  – gardens

9. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

10. Lisdonagh House, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway – section 482

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

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

13. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

14. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – gardens open 

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

16. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

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

Places to stay, County Galway

1. Abbeyglen Castle, Galway €€

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

3. Ballindooly Castle, Co Galway – accommodation 

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

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

6. Castle Hacket west wing, County Galway

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

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

8. Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, Co Galway – Airbnb €

9. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway

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

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

12. Emlaghmore Cottage, Connemara, County Galway

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

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

15. Kilcolgan Castle, Clarinbridge, Co Galway  

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

17. Lough Cutra Castle, County Galway, holiday cottages

18. Lough Ina Lodge Hotel

19. The Quay House, Clifden, Co Galway 

20. Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway – hotel

21. Rosleague Manor, Galway – accommodation 

22. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway

23. Ross Lake House Hotel, Oughterard, County Galway 

24. Screebe House, Camus Bay, County Galway

25. Thorn Park, Oranmore, Co Galway – now the Oranmore Lodge Hotel  

Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:

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

Roscommon:

1. Castlecoote House, Castlecoote, Co. Roscommon – section 482

2. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon – section 482

3. King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon – section 482

4. Shannonbridge Fortifications, Shannonbridge, Athlone, Co. Roscommon – section 482

5. Strokestown Park House, Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon – section 482

Places to stay, County Roscommon:

1. Abbey Hotel, Abbeytown, Ballypheasan, Roscommon, Co Roscommon 

2. Castlecoote, County Roscommon (also Section 482) – see above

3. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co Roscommon – accommodation and 482 – see above

4. Edmondstown (Bishop’s Palace or St. Nathy’s), Ballaghaderreen Co Roscommon – airbnb 

5.  Kilronan Castle (formerly Castle Tenison), Ballyfarnan, County Roscommon – hotel 

Galway

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

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

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

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

2. Ardcarrig Garden, Oranswell, Bushypark, Galway, IE 

https://www.gardensofireland.org/directory/22/ardcarrig/

Ardcarraig is created on a rocky hillside with a natural stream, a hazel woodland, glacial boulders and has acidic soil.

Divided into 17 sections it includes water gardens, Japanese sections, dwarf conifer area and a formal herb garden.

Plants from the Asian, Australasian, American, African and European continents all thrive thanks to our high rainfall and mild winters.

3. Athenry Castle, County Galway  – open to public 

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

4. Aughnanure Castle, County Galway (OPW)

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

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

contact: Míceál P. O’Cionnaith and Diarmuid
Tel: 087-2747692, 087-8137058

Eircode: H65 AX27
http://www.castleellen.ie/
Open: June 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, July 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, Aug 7-11, 13- 25, 28-31, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-4pm
Fee: Free

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

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

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

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Architectural Features of Castle Ellen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €4

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Coole Park, County Galway – house gone but stables visitor site open https://www.coolepark.ie/

The website tells us:

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

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

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

10. Gleane Aoibheann, Clifden, Galway, IE  – gardens

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

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

11. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

https://www.kylemoreabbey.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12. Lisdonagh House, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway – section 482

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

Email: cooke@lisdonagh.com

Lisdonagh House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [8]

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

The National Inventory tells us that Lisdonagh is a:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oranmore Castle, photograph from flickr creative commons Johanna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

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

16. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – gardens open 

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

www.rosscastle.com 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

Thoor Ballylea 1984 Dublin City Library Archives [12]

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places to stay, County Galway

1. Abbeyglen Castle, Galway €€

www.abbeyglen.ie

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

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

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

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

3. Ballindooly Castle, Co Galway – accommodation https://www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/

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

https://www.ballynahinch-castle.com

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, County Galway, 2014 Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [2])

The website tells us:

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

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

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

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

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

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

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

 https://cashelhouse.ie/cms/

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

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

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

The website continues the history:

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

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

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

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

6. Castlehacket west wing, County Galway

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

The entry tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

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

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

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

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

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

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

The space

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

8. Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, Co Galway – Airbnb

Tower house of 1648 at centre of Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.

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

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

Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

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

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

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

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

Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.

The National Inventory describes it:

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

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

9. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway

http://www.crocnaraw.ie/

The website tells us:

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

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

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

https://www.currarevagh.com

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 https://delphilodge.ie

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

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

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

12. Emlaghmore Cottage, Connemara, County Galway

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

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

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

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

https://www.theardilaunhotel.ie

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

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

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

 https://www.glenloabbeyhotel.ie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

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

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

contact: John & Finola Cooke
Tel: 093-31163, John, 086-0529052, Finola, 086-0546565
www.lisdonagh.com

17. Lough Cutra Castle, County Galway, holiday cottages

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

info@loughcutra.com

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

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

https://www.loughcutra.com/

The website gives us a detailed history of the castle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. Lough Ina Lodge Hotel

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

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

19. The Quay House, Clifden, Co €€

https://thequayhouse.com  

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

20. Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway – hotel https://www.renvyle.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21. Rosleague Manor, Galway – accommodation €€

 https://www.rosleague.com

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

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

22. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – see above

www.rosscastle.com 

23. Ross Lake House Hotel, Oughterard, County Galway

http://rosslakehotel.com/

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

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

https://www.screebe.com/

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

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

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

25. Thorn Park, Oranmore, Co Galway – now the Oranmore Lodge Hotel   https://www.oranmorelodge.ie

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

The National Inventory tells us:

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

Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:

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

https://www.cloughancastle.ie/

The website describes it:

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

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

The Visit Galway website tells us:

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

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

The aim of the restoration work was to recreate what it was like to live in a medieval castle, but without having to suffer the deprivation of 13th century living. The meticulous and historically accurate restoration programme was completed in the December of 1996 and the castle now plays host and venue to numerous weddings each year.

Roscommon:

1. Castlecoote House, Castlecoote, Co. Roscommon – section 482

contact: Kevin Finnerty
Tel: 087-2587537
www.castlecootehouse.com
Open: July1-31, Aug 1-31
Garden-guided tours, 2pm-6pm
Home of the Percy French Festival, www.percyfrench.ie 

July 20,21,22, 10am-4pm Fee: €5

2. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon – section 482

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/16/clonalis-castlerea-county-roscommon/
contact: Pyers O’Conor Nash, Richard O’Connor Nash
Tel: 094-9620014, 087-3371667
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
April 1-September 30
www.clonalishouse.com
Open: Jun 1-Aug 31, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, guided tours,11am-4pm
Fee: adult €10, child €5, group rates available

3. King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon – section 482

contact: Majella Hunt
Tel: 090-6637100

www.visitkinghouse.ie

Open: April 1-Sept 30, National Heritage Week Aug 13-21, Mon-Sat 11am-5pm, Sunday 11am-4pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student /child €5, Family €20

4. Shannonbridge Fortifications, Shannonbridge, Athlone, Co. Roscommon – section 482

contact: Fergal Moran
Tel: 090-9674973 

www.shannonbridgefortifications.ie 

Open: May 1-Sept 30, 10am-6pm

Fee: Free

5. Strokestown Park House, Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon – section 482

contact: Ciarán
Tel: 01-8748030
www.strokestownpark.ie www.irishheritagetrust.ie
Open: Mar 17-Dec 20, Mar, Apr, May, Sept, Oct, 10am-5pm, June, July, Aug, 10am- 6pm, Nov, Dec 10.30am-4pm

Fee: adult €14, €12.50, €9.25, OAP/student €12.50, child €6, family €29, groups €11.50

Places to stay, County Roscommon:

1. Abbey Hotel, Abbeytown, Ballypheasan, Roscommon, Co Roscommon 

https://www.abbeyhotel.ie

The website tells us: “The 4* Abbey Hotel located in the heart of the Irish Midlands town of Roscommon is considered by many as one of Ireland’s last few remaining authentic family-run hotels.

The National Inventory tells us it is a five-bay two-storey house, built c. 1800, now in use as a hotel, with advanced two-bay tower with entrance and with recessed two-bay gable-fronted block to south end of façade and modern single-storey extensions to east and south.

This Georgian House was remodelled as a miniature Gothic castle possibly by Richard Richards. Though the form of this building has been altered with many extensions added to facilitate its new function as a hotel, it still maintains many original materials. The elaborate entranceway, turrets and castellated parapet combine to make this a very striking building. The landscaped grounds with castellated turrets offset the ruins of the medieval Abbey located to the south of the hotel.

2. Castlecoote, County Roscommon (also Section 482) – see above

www.castlecootehouse.com

3. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co Roscommon – accommodation and 482 – see above

4. Edmondstown (Bishop’s Palace or St. Nathy’s), Ballaghaderreen Co Roscommon – airbnb

 https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/27927866?source_impression_id=p3_1580207144_IGlnwq6lh1FFj9pW

The Bishop’s Palace (aka Edmondstown House) was built in 1864 by Captain Arthur Robert Costello. The house was designed by John McCurdy, who also remodelled the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. It is built in the High Victorian Gothic style. 

For 100 years the house was the residence of the Bishop of Achonry.  

A historically interesting building with beautiful grounds (and a full Irish breakfast!) 

The National Inventory tells us:

Edmondstown House, otherwise known as Saint Nathy’s, is a rare example of High Victorian Gothic in County Roscommon. The construction of such an architecturally expressive structure was an ambitious project for the original owner, Captain Arthur Costello. Edmondstown House exhibits many features typical of High Victorian architecture, famously employed by architect such as Deane and Woodward, and J.S. Mulvany. These architectural elements include the octagonal tower and the string courses of red brick framing the pointed-arch window openings, and the decorative cast-iron roof finials.

5.  Kilronan Castle (formerly Castle Tenison), Ballyfarnan, County Roscommon – hotel €

Amazingly, when this was photographed for the National Inventory, it was a ruin! It has now been completely renovated. https://www.kilronancastle.ie

The website tells us:

Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa should be on your list of castles to stay at in Ireland. The luxury 4 star castle hotel is situated in County Roscommon in a secluded corner of the idyllic West of Ireland. Built in the 18th century, the Kilronan Castle resort welcomes its guests through a set of magnificent medieval gates at the top of a meandering driveway through an ancient forest which is surrounded by fifty acres of lush green estate and next to a beautiful lough making the castle look like something straight out of a fairytale.

Kilronan Castle Estate is also a site that is full of history as it was lovingly transformed from the ancestral home of a royal family into a luxurious Irish castle hotel with a spa. The castle hotel seamlessly mixes the elegance, sophistication and tradition of the past with the luxury and comfort of the modern era. This makes Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa one of the most luxurious castle hotels in Ireland to stay in. Kilronan Castle’s location and surroundings include breathtaking views as well as peace and quiet which makes a break at Kilronan Castle feel like time is standing still.

The name Kilronan comes from the Gaelic ‘Cill Ronain’, meaning Ronan’s Abbey. According to tradition, St. Ronan and his daughter St. Lasair established a church here on the banks of Lough Meelagh in the 6th century. However, it is the building of a home for a famous land-owning family, that has made this part of Roscommon famous the world over. That said, it wasn’t always known as Kilronan Castle.

During the era of Edward I in the late 13th century, there was a family known as the Tenisons. Although they originated from Oxfordshire, their descendents eventually settled in the north of Ireland in the mid-17th century. Down through the ages, they would fight with the Irish Brigade in France, Spain and Portugal and then serve as members of The Irish Guards during the Boer Wars. Although valiant soldiers, generation after generation of Tenison heirs would famously squander their inheritances, only to reimburse themselves by marrying wealthy heiresses.

Marrying into majesty

One such advocate of this technique was Thomas Tenison. Initially an MP for Boyle in 1792, he later became a lieutenant colonel in the Roscommon Militia. In 1803, he married the Lady Frances Anne King, daughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Kingston. As a result, this branch of the family became known as the King-Tenisons. At this stage the King-Tenisons held extensive estates, with over 17, 726 acres to their name in Roscommon alone. Within the year, Colonel King-Tenison and his new bride would demolish their humble house and build a residence fit for a family of their great stature – Castle Tenison.

At the end of a short tree-lined avenue, on the banks of the beautiful Lough Meelagh, their new home consisted of a magnificent three storeys, with three bay-symmetrical castellated blocks and slender corner turrets. The well-proportioned rooms and delicate fan-vaulting plaster work on the stairs and landing made it a spacious and costly modern-built edifice and one worthy of their name.

From extension to destruction

In 1876, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward King-Tenison, the 12th Earl of Kingston, and his wife Lady Louisa, extended the castle to five storeys. They also added a magnificent over-basement baronial tower and battlements. The Earl and Countess of Kingston enjoyed the estate immensely and the quality of the shooting available on their grounds drew people from across Ireland to share in their incredible home.

Unfortunately, the political and social change that was happening in Ireland at that time ensured their stays in their home became less and less frequent. Although fully furnished, the castle was seldom occupied and was eventually closed and sold along with many other great country estates in Ireland at that time. While religious orders and, at one time the Free State Military, ensured the castle remained unoccupied, the contents of the castle were sold by auction in 1939 and the roof was even removed in the 1950s in an attempt to mitigate taxation.

A labour of unrivalled love

By 2004, all that remained was the perimeter walls and a huge challenge for the new owners, the Hanly Group. In 2006, Irish Father & Son Albert and Alan Hanly undertook a significant restoration project to rejuvenate Kilronan Castle into the luxury castle estate and spa. Combined with the painstaking sourcing and procurement of many antique fixtures and fittings, original paintings of some of the extended members of the Tenison family were also acquired. What’s more, historians and curators were also commissioned to ensure faithful attention to detail including the sensitive selection of interior design and materials from a bygone era. A secluded location, standard-setting craftsmanship, breathtaking views and the perfect blend of old-world elegance and new-world luxury, has turned Kilronan Castle from a forgotten ruin into a truly magical destination once again.

[1] https://visitgalway.ie/ardamullivan-castle/ 

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/30408401/castle-ellen-castle-ellen-galway

[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]

To read a fantastic summary of the history of Castle Ellen and more information on the house, read David Hicks blog here.

There has also been some fantastic work carried out by Patricia Boran (and her colleagues) at NUIG where they compiled a Landed Estates Database, which is a searchable, online database of all Landed Estates in Connacht and Munster. This database is maintained by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway. The Lambers (of Castle Ellen) can be found here.
A detailed genealogical study of the Lambert family can be found at Andy Lambert’s Lambert Family 

Homepage.

[5] http://davidhicksbook.blogspot.com

[6] https://visitgalway.ie/claregalway-castle/

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

[8] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/30404211/lisdonagh-house-lisdonagh-co-galway

[9] https://visitgalway.ie/lisdonagh-house/

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

[11] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/30315003/yeats-college-college-road-townparksst-nicholas-parish-galway-co-galway

[12] Dublin City Library and Archives. https://repository.dri.ie

[13] https://visitgalway.ie/abbeyglen-castle/

Places to visit and to stay: Leinster: Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois

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.

Kildare:

1. Blackhall Castle, Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare – section 482

2. Burtown House and Garden, Athy, Co. Kildare – section 482

3. Castletown House, County Kildare – OPW

4. Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co. Kildare – section 482

5. Donadea Forest Park and ruins of Donadea Castle, County Kildare (former home of the Aylmer family up to 1935)

6. Farmersvale House, Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare – section 482

7. Griesemount House, Ballitore, Co Kildare – section 482

8. Harristown House, Brannockstown, Co. Kildare – section 482

9. Kildrought House, Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare – section 482

10. Larchill, Kilcock, Co. Kildare – section 482

11. Leixlip Castle, Leixlip, Co. Kildare – section 482

12. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare – OPW

13. Millbrook House, County Kildare: House and limited garden access for groups only

14. Moone Abbey House & Tower, Moone Abbey, Moone, Co. Kildare – section 482

15. Moyglare Glebe, Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare – section 482

16. Steam Museum Lodge Park Heritage Centre, Lodge Park, Straffan, Co. Kildare – section 482

Places to stay, County Kildare:

1. Balyna, Moyvalley, Co Kildare – Moyvalley Hotel 

2. Barberstown Castle, Kildare – hotel 

3. Batty Langley Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare

4. Burtown House holiday cottages

5. Carton House, Kildare – open to public, hotel 

6. Castletown Gate Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare

7. Castletown Round House, Celbridge, County Kildare : Irish Landmark

8. The Cliff at Lyons, County Kildare

9. The K Club, Straffan House, County Kildare

10. Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, Kildare – hotel 

11. Martinstown House, Kilcullen, Co Kildare – accommodation http://martinstownhouse.com/wordpress/ 

12. Moone Abbey, County Kildare holiday cottages

13. St. Catherine’s Park, Leixlip, Co Kildare – now Leixlip Manor hotel 

Whole house accommodation in County Kildare:

1. de Burgh Manor, Kilberry, County Kildare – whole house rental 

2. Griesemount House, County Kildare, whole house rentals

Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

2. Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny

https://blanchville.ie/

3. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

4. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

5. Leyrath (or Lyrath House), near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel 

6.  Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel 

7. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny

8. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

Whole House Rental County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house rental 

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

http://www.ballyburcastle.com/

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny whole house rental

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkenny – €€ for two, € for 3-8

5. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – open to public  https://www.discoverireland.ie/laois/ballintubbert-gardens-house

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

4. Clonohill Gardens, Coolrain, Portlaoise, Laois

5. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

6. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

7. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Places to Stay, County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballyfin House, Co. Laois – hotel €€€

3. Castle Durrow, Co Laois – a hotel 

4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois

5. Roundwood, Mountrath, Co Laois – guest house https://roundwoodhouse.com 

and the forge and writer’s cottage at Roundwood

Whole House Rental County Laois:

1. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois

Kildare

1. Blackhall Castle, Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare

Blackhall Castle, County Kildare.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/05/14/blackhall-castle-calverstown-kilcullen-county-kildare/
contact: Jeffrey & Naomi White
Tel: 087-6771661
Open: May 1-31, Aug 13-22, Sept 1-15, Dec 1-20, 2pm-6pm Fee: Free

2. Burtown House and Garden, Athy, Co. Kildare – section 482

Burtown House, County Kildare, June 2021.

contact: James Fennell
Tel: 059-8623148
www.burtownhouse.ie
Open: May 4-7, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, June 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, July 6-9, 13-16, 19-23, 27-30, August 3-6, 10-21, 24-27, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child under €5 free

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

Ballytore, in County Kildare, was a stronghold of the Irish Quakers and the centre of a sizeable Quaker community. One of their members, Robert Power, built Burtown House as the hub of a two thousand acre farming enterprise in the 1720s. His Georgian villa, shown on early maps as “Power’s Grove,” was only one room deep so wings were added later in the century. These were subsequently removed, though their faint outlines can still be identified and Burtown was further extended in the early nineteenth century when a full height bow was added on the garden front. 

The new extension provided a bow ended room on the garden front, a large bedroom above and a grand staircase, lit by a tall round-headed window. Pretty plasterwork in the manner of James Wyatt was also introduced at the time, most notably in an arched alcove in the bow-ended room, which is likely to have been the original dining room. The alcove is filled with a shallow fan, and delightfully cursive sprays of vine leaves, and is flanked by a pair of classical vases on pilasters of foliage with naive Corinthian capitals.

Burtown has never been sold in all its three hundred years. The house passed from the Power family to the Houghtons and thence to the Wakefields, who gave it a new roof with widely projecting eaves in the early nineteenth century. They also lengthened the sash windows, installed a new front door with a fanlight in a deep recess, and carried out a number of other alterations.

When Mr. Wakefield was killed playing cricket Burtown passed to his sister, who had married a fellow Quaker from County Tipperary, William Fennell. Their son, William James was a keen horseman but “was asked to leave the Quaker congregation because of his fondness for driving a carriage with two uniformed flunkeys on the back”.

Today Burtown is in the midst of two hundred acres of parkland, including ten acres of lush flower, vegetable and woodland gardens with many fine walks. The house has now been home to five generations of the Fennell family, and to the acclaimed botanical artist and illustrator, Wendy Walsh. Coincidentally, the leading Irish botanical artist of the early twentieth century, Lydia Shackleton, also came from the same small Quaker community.” [1]

3. Castletown House, County Kildare – OPW

The Print Room, Castletown House, County Kildare.

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

4. Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co. Kildare – section 482

Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, September 2019.

See my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/05/31/coolcarrigan-house-and-gardens-coill-dubh-naas-county-kildare/
contact: Robert Wilson-Wright
Tel: 086-2580439
www.coolcarrigan.ie
Open: Feb 1-4, 21-25, Mar 1-4, April 23-29, May 9-17, Aug 13-31, Sept 1-9, 14-16, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €8, OAP/student €5, child free

5. Donadea Forest Park and ruins of Donadea Castle, County Kildare (former home of the Aylmer family up to 1935)

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

https://www.coillte.ie/site/donadea-forest-park/

The website tells us:

Donadea Forest Park includes Donadea Castle and estate, the former home of the Aylmer family up until 1935. There are many historical features including the remains of the castle and walled gardens, St. Peter’s church, an ice house and boat house. The Lime tree avenue planted in the 19th century formed the original entrance to the estate. Another feature of the park is the 9/11 Memorial, a scaled replica of the twin towers carved in limestone. The small lake is brimming with ducks, waterhens and has a beautiful display of water lilies in the summer. There is a café open throughout the year.

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.
It has looked much the same for over fifty years: Donadea County Kildare by James P. O’Dea Circa 1958 National Library of Ireland on flickr

In 1581 Gerald Aylmer, (1548-1634), Knight, of Donadea, son of George Aylmer, of Cloncurry, and grandson of Richard Aylmer, of Lyons, built a new tower in Donadea, not fully completed until 1624 and it is now the oldest part of the Castle. [2]

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

In 1626, he repaired the medieval Church in Donadea and built a new extension in which he established his family burial plot. In the extension he also constructed an Altar Tomb monument as a burial memorial for his family. Gerald was titled by the Crown and became the first Baronet of Donadea.  
 
The Aylmers were connected with the various conflicts and rebellions over the next two centuries. During the wars of the 1640s, Sir Andrew, 2nd Baronet (c. 1610-c. 1671), supported the rebels and was imprisoned at the beginning of the war. 
 
Although he was a brother-in-law of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, there were no favours granted to him. The Aylmers rebuilt the castle after it was burned by James Butler’s troops. 

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

In 1689, after the battle of the Boyne, Lady Helen Aylmer, widow of the 3rd Baronet, (born Plunkett, daughter of Luke Plunkett 3rd Earl of Fingall) was in charge of the Castle. She was outlawed due to her support for James II, but she managed to hold on to the Castle and lands under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick. 

In 1736, Sir Gerald, 5th Baronet, died leaving an only son FitzGerald who became the 6th Baronet. 

He was only one year old when his father died and was subsequently raised by his mother (Ellice or Ellen, daughter of Gerald Aylmer, 2nd Baronet of Balrath, County Meath) and her relatives who were members of the established church. FitzGerald subsequently conformed to the established religion. In 1773, he built a new house in front of the Castle and incorporated the Tower in his new residence. 

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

Gerald, 8th Baronet, held the lands of Donadea between 1816 and 1878 and he is accredited with most of the construction work that is visible in Donadea demesne today. He began his building program in the 1820s by re-routing the roads away from the Castle and the construction of a high wall enclosing the demesne. Gate lodges were then built at all the entrances. 

He also built a new grand entrance known as the Lime Avenue. 

In 1827 he completely remodelled the front of the Castle which gave it an attractive bow shaped appearance. It has been suggested that he employed the renowned architect Richard Morrison to design this new structure. 

The older cabin-type dwellings close to the castle were demolished and new estate houses built at the Range. To the west of the Castle he built an eight acre area of gardens and paddocks, surrounded and sub-divided by walls. In the Castle yard he built dwellings for staff and elaborative farm buildings. He also constructed the artificial lake and the Ice House. Large areas of the demesne were planted and, by the time of his death, Donadea demesne was listed as one of the finest parkland settings in the county. 

Outside the demesne he was involved in numerous construction projects including the famous ‘Aylmer Folly’, viz. the Tower on the summit of the hill of Allen. (see [2]) Sir Gerald’s grandson Justin, 10th Baronet, died unmarried in 1885. His sister Caroline inherited the castle and much of the demesne, while the baronetcy passed to a cousin. Caroline Maria Aylmer, who was the daughter of Sir Gerald George Aylmer, 9th Baronet, was the last Aylmer to live at Donadea. She died in 1935, leaving the estate to the Church of Ireland who, in turn, passed it bequeathed to the Irish state. 

The castle remained unoccupied and its roof was removed in the late 1950s. 

For more on the Aylmer family, see The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare by Turtle Bunbury & Art Kavanagh (published by Irish Family Names, 2004). 

6. Farmersvale House, Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare – section 482

Farmersvale House, County Kildare, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Patricia Orr
Tel: 086-2552661
Open: May 1-18, Aug 1-22, Dec 1-20, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: adult €5, student/child/OAP €3, (Irish Georgian Society members free)

7. Griesemount House, Ballitore, Co Kildare – section 482

contact: Katharine Bulbulia
Tel: 087-2414556
www.griesemounthouse.ie
Open: April 4-8, 25-29, May 3-17, June 7-10, 13-26, July 4-8, 11-15, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child €3

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

In 1685, the village of Ballitore on the river Griese in the southern corner of County Kildare became the first planned Quaker village in England and Ireland. The Shackleton family from Yorkshire settled here some decades later and besides establishing wool and corn mills, founded the famous village school in 1726. Thanks to an entry by Mary (née Shackleton) Leadbetter in her ‘Annals of Ballitore’, we know that the first stone of Griesemount House (also known as Ballitore Hill House) was laid on Midsummer Day in 1817. While the three-bay side elevation is symmetrical, the two-bay front façade with the front door under the left window is quite modest, as was often the case with Quaker houses. It was built by George Shackleton, who had grown up in Griesebank House beside the now-ruinous Ballitore Mills on the river just below. He married Hannah Fisher and they raised 13 children in the new house, including the noted botanical artist Lydia Shackleton, the first artist-in-residence at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin. One of her first recorded sketches is of the house. The family lived here until the early 20th century; the house then changed hands several times. It was briefly owned and restored by the mother of mezzosoprano Frederica von Stade, and has recently come into new ownership.” [3]

8. Harristown House, Brannockstown, Co. Kildare – section 482

Harristown House, County Kildare, August 2019.

See my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/27/harristown-brannockstown-county-kildare/
contact: Hubert Beaumont
Tel: 087-2588775
https://www.harristownhouse.ie/
Open: Jan 3-14, Feb 21-28, Mar 1-4, May 3-13, June 13-26, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-9, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €10, child €5

9. Kildrought House, Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: June Stuart
Tel: 01-6271206, 087-6168651
Open: Jan 15-31, Feb 1-3, May 16-31, June 1-3, Aug 11-31, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3, child under 5 years free, school groups €2 per head

Kildrought, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us it is a detached three-bay two-storey over raised basement house with half-dormer attic, c.1720, on a symmetrical plan retaining early aspect with pediment to centre, single-bay two-storey lean-to lower recessed end bay to right (south-west) and five-bay three-storey rear elevation to south-east.

Kildrought, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Kildrought, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Kildrought, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The assessment states:

Kildrought House is a fine, substantial gentleman’s residence that is one of the earliest remaining private houses in the locality, having been begun prior to commencement of work on Castletown House. The house is of social importance, having been built by a patron of high status in the locality, as evidenced by the scale and fine detailing of the house. Built on a symmetrical plan that is interrupted only by a recessed end bay to right (south-west), the house is composed of graceful Classical proportions and centred to both primary elevations about fine door openings. The inclusion of a pediment to the entrance (north-west) front serves to articulate the skyline and is an unusual feature on Main Street. The construction of the house in rubble stone is of interest, and the unrefined quality suggests that it was originally rendered (possibly in a manner matching the outbuilding to north-west). The use of early red brick to the dressings is an attractive feature of the composition and reveals a high quality of craftsmanship in the locality, notably to the profiled courses to the eaves. The house presents an early aspect, although it is probable that some of the original features have been replaced over the years. Nevertheless, replacement materials have been inserted in keeping with the original integrity of the design and include multi-pane timber sash fenestration and glazed timber doors. Set back from the line of the street, the house is an unusual feature on Main Street, being the only building on the street that is fronted by a forecourt, and adds variety to the established streetline of the streetscape. The house is announced on the side of the road by a fine gateway that reveals a high quality of stone masonry, and which retains early iron work to the gates and railings – the repointing is very prominent, however, and future renovation works ought to follow traditional practises. The formal gardens to the south-east are of particular interest in terms of their landscape design qualities, and reflect the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fashions for formal landscaping. The house is complemented by a range of outbuildings that are individually of architectural heritage merit – the outbuilding to north-west is an attractive long range that is dominated by a graceful curvilinear gable. The building retains most of its original form and replacement materials have been inserted in keeping with the integrity of the original design. The summer house to south is also a picturesque feature in the grounds, constructed entirely of early brick with dressings including pilasters that appear to bulge, despite having no considerable weight over, together with a profiled eaves course. The Kildrought House estate is an important component of the architectural heritage of Celbridge, representing an almost-intact early eighteenth-century middle-size urban estate.” [4]

10. Larchill, Kilcock, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: Michael De Las Casas
Tel: 087-2213038
www.larchill.ie
Open: May 1-20, 23-31, June 1-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, Aug 13-21, 27-28, 10am- 2pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €8, child €4, concession for groups

The website tells us:

Created between 1740 and 1780 Larchill Arcadian Garden is a ‘Ferme Ornée’ or Ornamental Farm and is the only surviving, near complete, garden of its type in Europe. The Ferme Ornée gardens of the mid 18th century were an expression in landscape gardening of the Romantic Movement. 

Emulating Arcadia, a pastoral paradise was created to reflect Man’s harmony with the perfection of nature. As is the case at Larchill, a working farm with decorative buildings (often containing specimen breeds of farm animal) was situated in landscaped parkland ornamented with follies, grottos and statuary.  Tree lined avenues, flowing water, lakes, areas of light and shade and beautiful framed views combined to create an inspirational experience enabling Man’s spirit to rejoice at the wonder of nature. 

At this time in Versailles, Marie Antoinette enjoyed extravagant pastoral pageants, housed specimen cattle in highly decorated barns, while she herself is said to have dressed as a milk maid complete with porcelain milk churns.  Freed from the restrictions of the 17th century formal garden, the Ferme Ornée represented the first move towards the fully fledged landscape parkland designs of Capability Browne. 

The inspiration for the Ferme Ornée garden at Larchill,  in rural Ireland,,is believed to have come directly  from the Prentices, a Quaker merchant family who owned the land which was to become Larchill within their estate of Phepotstown from the early 1700’s.  This was their country residence where they farmed flax for the production of linen, a highly prized fabric of the time. 

The Prentice family had trading connections throughout Europe and would have been aware of the new fashion in garden design.  In particular the famous gardens of Leasowes and Woburn Farm in England.  In Ireland the Prentice’s townhouse was adjacent to the home of Dean Swift in Dublin where he had developed his orchard and garden, ‘Naboth’s Vineyard.  Dean Swift and his great friend Mrs Delaney (known today for her exquisite floral collages) were most closely associated in Ireland with knowledge of the new movement in garden design.  Larchill was only 10 miles from Dangan Castle, often visited by Mrs Delaney,  where from 1730 an extravagant 600 acres of land was embellished  with a 26 acre lake, temples, statuary, obelisks and grottos by Richard Wellesley, Earl of Mornington and Grandfather of the Duke of Wellington.  This is entirely contemporary with the Prentice’s period of garden development on their estate. 

Thus there were many sources of reference for the Prentice family as they  created their own pastoral paradise before falling on hard times and bankruptcy due to failure in their trading enterprises.  The Ferme Ornée gardens were, as a result, leased separately from Phepotstown House and became known as Larchill after a boundary of Larch trees was planted around the farm and garden in the early 1800’s. 

It was after this time that the local Watson family leased Larchill and the famous connection was made, to this day, between Robert Watson, Master of the Carlow and Island Hounds and the Fox’s Earth folly.  Although the Fox’s Earth would certainly predate the Watson’s tenure at  Larchill, and the fact that Robert Watson was only a distant relative of the Watsons at Larchill, still it is believed that the Fox’s Earth was constructed in response to Robert Watson’s guilt at having killed one too many foxes and his fear of punishment in reincarnation as a fox. 

Although described in the notes to the 1836 Ordnance Survey as ‘the most fashionable garden in all of Ireland’ over the decades knowledge of the Larchill Ferme Ornée faded.  The parkland returned to farmland, the lake was drained and the formal garden was lost and used to graze sheep.  Although the follies became semi derelict and obscured by undergrowth and trees, the mystery and beauty of Larchill was still recognised.   Folklore stories of hauntings and the ‘strange’ nature of Larchill ensured its continued notoriety. 

In 1994 the de Las Casas family acquired Larchill.  Paddy Bowe, Garden Historian, visited Larchill and was the first to realise that Larchill was indeed a Ferme Ornée and an important ‘lost’ garden.  Four years of restoration followed with the aid of a grant from the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Program and a FAS Community Employment Project. 

In recognition of the quality and sensitivity of the restoration program Larchill Arcadian Garden has been awarded the 1988 National Henry Ford Conservation Award, the 1999 ESB Community Environment Award and the 2002 European Union Environmental Heritage Award. 

Follies: 

The Shell tower: 

At the north west corner of the restored Walled Garden the Shell Tower is a three storey, battlemented tower with single arched Gothic windows. 

The lower rooms are decorated with shells laid in geometric patterns – presumably by the hand of a gifted lady of the house following the fashionable pastime of the 18th century.   There are anecdotal tales of cart loads of shells being collected from Irish beaches to facilitate the inlay of such shell grottoes.  The Shell Cottage at nearby Carton House under the design of Emily, Duchess of Leinster, is a wonderful example. 

In the case of the Larchill Shell Tower, the shells appear to be mostly native varieties, many are cockles with some exotic exceptions such as conches – perhaps sourced via the trading connections of  the 18th century Prentice family who created the Ferme Ornée at Larchill. 

The Statue of Meleager: 

Now at the head of a water feature in the Walled Garden, this 18th century statue originally stood in the middle of the lake between the island fort of Gibraltar and the Lake Temple. 

For many years the statue was believed to be a representation of Nimrod the mighty hunter described in the Book of Genesis.  Larchill has many associations with the hunt through stories of the famous Mr Robert Watson and the Fox’s Earth.  However it is now known to be a statue of Meleager, hero of  the epic Greek mythological tale of the Calydonian boar hunt. Meleager is always represented with his hunting dog and the head of the slain boar as he is here. 

During the garden restoration the statue was not returned to its original position in the lake as it is protected from the elements in the Walled Garden.

Feuille: 

This is a circular mound planted with a spiral of beech trees to the side of the lake. 

It would appear to have been a practical and ornamental use for the soil excavated to create the lake itself.  Feuillé is an appropriate name as the word ‘folly’ is an archaic English term for a lush and overgrown area of bushes and trees and was likely to have derived from the French ‘la feuillé’ meaning leaf.”

11. Leixlip Castle, Leixlip, Co. Kildare – section 482

Leixlip Castle, County Kildare, June 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/04/leixlip-castle-county-kildare-desmond-guinnesss-jewelbox-of-treasures/
contact: Penelope Guinness
Tel: 01-6244430
Open: Jan 31, Feb 1-4, 7-11, Mar 28-31, Apr 1, 4-8, May 9-20, June 7-17, Aug 13-22, Sept 5-11, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €4, concessions no charge for school groups

12. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare – OPW

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

13. Millbrook House, County Kildare:

House and limited garden access for groups only

Minimum 4, maximum 8 visitors

May to September: 

Monday-Thursday, 11 am to 3 pm

Open during Heritage Week. The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

The forebears of the Greenes of Millbrook House in the far south of County Kildare lived at Kilmanaghan Castle and Moorestown Castle [now a ruin] in County Tipperary. A great grandson of the family patriarch Captain Godfrey Greene moved up to settle near Carlow. William Nassau Greene (1714-1781) was a businessman and magistrate, and built a residence known as Kilkea Lodge (c. 1740) adjacent to the ancient Fitzgerald seat at Kilkea Castle, where his descendants are still resident. A younger son, John (1751-1819), who became High Sheriff of Kildare and Captain of the Castledermot Yeomanry, built a neighbouring house at Millbrook with the help of his father. It was completed in 1776 with its attendant mill and millrace off the River Griese, which had replaced an earlier mill in the nearby Kilkea Castle demesne. The house passed through generations of the family until finally the mill ceased operating under Thomas Greene (1843-1900), a poet and author who was made High Sheriff of Kildare in 1895. The house was left by inheritance to one of the cousins from Kilkea Lodge, father of the present owner. Throughout WWII, he had served as a frontline doctor in the 4th Indian Division in North Africa, Italy and Greece, and returned with his wife in 1950 to an utterly neglected house. Millbrook is still in the process of being restored to its former state.” [5]

14. Moone Abbey House & Tower, Moone Abbey, Moone, Co. Kildare – section 482

Moone Abbey House, County Kildare, May 2019.

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/06/13/moone-abbey-house-and-tower-moone-county-kildare/
contact: Jennifer Matuschka
Tel: 087-6900138
Open: May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-20, 12 noon- 4pm Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €4

15. Moyglare Glebe, Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: Joan Hayden
Tel: 01-8722238
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 8.30am-12.30pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

16. Steam Museum Lodge Park Heritage Centre, Lodge Park, Straffan, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: Robert C Guinness
Tel: 01-6288412
www.steam-museum.com
Open: June 1-6, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29-30, July 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-31, Aug 1, 3-7, 10-21, 24-28, 31, 2pm-6pm,
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/child/student €5, concession by negotiation

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us about Lodge Park:

Lodge Park, overlooking a fine stretch of the River Liffey, was built by Hugh Henry who had married his cousin, Lady Anne Leeson from Russborough [daughter of Joseph Leeson 1st Earl of Milltown]. Completed in about 1776, the centre block forms the core of an unusual composition with curved quadrants leading to a pair of two-storey wings, both attached to two further pavilions by curtain walls to form a unique elongated ensemble of five interconnected buildings, “perhaps the most extreme example of the Irish Palladian style.”

Henry’s father was the merchant banker Hugh Henry, who had purchased the entire Straffan estate with 7,000 acres. Lodge Park was long thought to be the last building by Nathaniel Clements, who died in 1777, but has now been attributed to John Ensor. The hipped roof is surrounded by a granite-topped parapet, and the walls are finished in rough cast, with ashlar block quoins and granite window surrounds with detailing. It is Ireland’s best exampe of concatenation, having curtain walls attached to the main house, leading to two pavilions, attached by two gateways to two further buildings. Hugh’s son Arthur built the Victorian walled garden, now beautifully restored and open to the public, as well as the fine gate lodge. The house was bought by the Guinness family in 1948. 

The walled garden has been beautifully restored while a disused Victorian church has been re-erected in the grounds to house a magnificent Steam Museum with early inventor’s models, scientific engineering models and historic works of mechanical art. The Power Hall displays six huge stationary steam engines, which are run on special occasions.https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Lodge%20Park

Places to stay, County Kildare:

1. Balyna, Moyvalley, Co Kildare – weddings, accommodation 

Now called Moyvalley Hotel. https://www.moyvalley.com/aboutus.html

The website tells us:

Balyna House lies to the south of Moyvalley Bridge over the Grand Canal, about half way between Enfield and Kinnegad on the old Dublin — Galway road. The house lies in the centre of the estates 500 acres. Balyna Estate was granted in 1574 by Queen Elizabeth I to the O’Moore family because they had lost their land in Laois and were reinstated in Balyna.

Major Ambrose O’Ferrall married Letitia More in 1796. Their  eldest son Richard More O’Ferrall was born in 1797. [ I don’t think this is correct. I believe that Letitia More married Richard O’Ferrall (1729-1790) and that their son was Ambrose More O’Ferrall who married Ann Baggot daughter of John Baggot of Castle Baggot, Rathcoole. Richard More O’Ferrall (1797-1880) was their son]. He is reputed for having been responsible for the erection of the Celtic cross which now stands to the rear of the house. It is said that this Cross, along with another was  transported from Europe, the two being encased in wooden crates and towed behind the ship on a barge. Legend has it that one was lost at sea, but its twin survives to this day.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 30. [More O’Ferrall] “The ancestral home of the O’More family, the land having been granted to them by Eliz I as a small compensation for their forfeited territories in Laois… A new house was built 1815, which was burnt 1878; this was replaced by the present house, built 1880s. It is slightly Italianate, with a Mansard roof carried on a bracket cornice; of 2 storeys with a dormered attic. Entrance front with two 3 sided bows and a single-storey Ionic portico, 5 by garden front with pediment, the windows on either side being larger than those in the centre. Imposing staircase with handrail of decorative ironwork; ceiling of staircase hall has modillion cornice. Chapel in garden. Sold 1960s, subsequently owned by Bewleys Oriental Cafe Ltd” [6]

The website continues: “The first real record of any house dates from 1815 when Ambrose built a large mansion. That Georgian house was burned down and replaced in the 1880’s by the present Italianate mansion.

The estate was a refuge for bishops and priests for centuries and Dr. Forstall, Bishop of Kildare, ordained priests here in the year 1678 — 1680. For this loyalty, the family was granted Papal permission to build a private Chapel on the estate (located to the rear of the house) and up to approximately 1914 Sunday Mass was offered. It was only used intermittently after that, with the last occasion being in the summer of 1959.

The estate remained in the More O’Ferrall family until May 1960 when it was sold to the Bewley family (of Café fame). The wonderful milk and cream in the Cafes came from the pedigree Jersey herd at Balyna. In 1984 the estate was sold to Justin Keating; it was sold again in 1990-1991 to George Grant. Moyvalley was developed into a Hotel & Golf Resort in 2007.

Balyna House consists of 10 luxurious ensuite bedrooms, 3 reception rooms to cater for up to 100 guests, Balyna Bar and Cellar Bar. The house is available exclusively for private events and weddings.

In 2014 the resort was purchased by the late Oliver Brady (well-known horse trainer from Co. Monaghan) with his business partner a well know entrepreneur Rita Shah owner of Shabra Recycling Plastic’s Group, Thai business woman Jane Tripipatkul and her son Mark McCarthy who are based in London.

It is likely that several Irish and European military campaigns were discussed and argued over at Balyna, as apart from the fierce-some O’More’s and the well documented Irish battles in which they took part, several later generations saw service in European armies. All three sons of Richard and Letitia O’Ferrall saw service abroad. The eldest, Ambrose, and his youngest brother, Charles, rose to the rank of Major in the Royal Sardinian Army, while the middle brother, James attained the rank of Major General in the Austrian Hohenzollern Army.

Incidentally, there was a Bagot family of “Castle Baggot” in Rathcoole, and neither son had children so all the Bagot property, which included land around Smithfield in Dublin and extensive property in County Carlow, passed to the daughter, Ann, who married the above-mentioned Ambrose More O’Ferrall.

As a digression, it is worth noting that Rory O’ More’s eldest daughter, Anne, married Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan and famous military leader. His father in law was the man behind the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

King James had adopted the policy of remodelling the Irish army so as to turn it from a Protestant-led force to a Roman Catholic led one, and Sarsfield, whose family were Roman Catholics, was selected to assist in this reorganisation. Colonel Sarsfield went to Ireland with Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell , who was appointed commander-in-chief by the king.

2. Barberstown Castle, Kildare – hotel 

www.barberstowncastle.ie

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 31. “A tower-house with a long plain 2 storey wing attached. In 1814, the residence of Jos Atkinson, in 1837, of Capt Robinson.” 

The website gives a timeline:

“1288: Nicholas Barby built the original Castle towards the end of the 13th Century on the land which was originally owned by the Great Norman family the Fitzgerald’s.

1310: The Castle was built as a fortress to protect the village and people of Barberstown from the attack of the rebellious Ui Faolain tribesmen who tried to burn the town (among others) in 1310. It has traditionally found itself in the middle of political struggle and local wars which generally resulted in change of ownership.

Retaining Ownership: Some of its previous owners have gone to extreme lengths to retain ownership. Just how far some went is illustrated by the story of the body that is said to be interred in the tower of the Castle Keep (the original part of the Castle). His fate can be explained by reading the lease on the Castle at the time in which was written that the lease would expire when he was buried underground (ie. his death). The ending of a lease normally resulted in an increase in rent so after the man’s death he was buried in the tower above the earth which ensured the family continued to hold the lease to the Castle!

The walls of the Castle Keep walls slope inwards so as to prevent an enemy getting out of range by closing up to the building. Ironically however the rooms on the upper floors of the Castle are larger than those on the ground level as their walls are somewhat thinner.

Penal Times: The neighbouring village of Straffan is named after St. Straffan, one of the early sixth century missionaries. Its close linkages with the local town and people were proven when an underground tunnel from the Church in Straffan to the Castle was found in 1996 during renovations. A ‘Priest’s Hole’ can be also found in the Castle which was originally made to protect the priests of the town during Penal Times.

1630: William Sutton of one of the most important families in the area owned the property. The population of Barberstown at the time was 36!

1689: Lord Kingston [I’m not sure who they mean here – Robert King (d. 1693) was the 2nd Baron of Kingston at the time] had his ownership confiscated by Earl of Tyrconnell after the accession to power of James 11 of England. It was around this time that it fell into the less glamorous hands of the Commissioners of the Revenue who let it out to a Roger Kelly for £102 annual rent in the late 1600s.

1703: It was purchased by Bartholomew Van Homreigh in 1703 for £1,033 the sixth owner in six years. At the time the property was 335 acres. Van Homreigh had been mayor of Dublin in 1697 and his greatest ‘claim to fame’ lies in the fact that he was the father of Vanessa of whom Swift wrote so passionately about. He sold it to the Henrys who were prone to excessive spending at the time….

1830: The Henry’s had no option but to sell it to Mr. Hugh Barton [1766-1854] who completed the last wing of the house in the 1830s which added to the present day unique architectural status of Barberstown. He is also famed for constructing Straffan House known today at the K-Club.

1900: As the property became too expensive to retain as a residence, the Huddlestons who owned Barberstown Castle in the 1900s sold it to Mrs. Norah Devlin who converted it into a hotel in 1971. Barberstown was one of the first great Irish country houses to display its splendour to the outside world when it opened as a hotel in 1971. It has maintained the elegance of design over the centuries by sympathetically blending its Victorian and Elizabethan extensions with the original Castle Keep.

1979: The acclaimed Musician, Singer, Songwriter & Record Producer Mr. Eric Clapton CBE purchased the property in 1979 and lived in the property until 1987. Music sessions took place in the Green Room and original Castle Keep during the time Eric lived here with many famous Rockstars from all over the world coming here to stay.

1987 to Present Day: Upon purchasing Barberstown Castle from Eric Clapton in 1987, this beautiful historic house has since been transformed from a 10-bedroom property with three bathrooms to a 55-bedroom Failte Ireland approved 4 Star Hotel. They are a proud member of Ireland’s Blue Book of properties and Historic Hotels of Europe.

Since 1288 Barberstown has had 37 owners all of whom had the foresight to protect its heritage and character. Look out for the names of all the owners of Barberstown Castle painted on the bedroom doors of the hotel!”

3. Batty Langley Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare

https://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/cottages-and-houses/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApL2QBhC8ARIsAGMm-KFInICcRSxwLSiDxfFNk5WFytNcVrLvOQYhzJbIBes4V-M65iXz0gYaAln_EALw_wcB

Batty Langley Lodge, Castletown, County Kildare.

One of the entrances to the Castletown demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley (1696-1751) 1741. Batty Langley was an English garden designer who produced a number of engraved “Gothick” designs for garden buildings and seats. He was named “Batty” after his father’s patron, David Batty. He also published a wide range of architectural books.

4. Burtown House holiday cottages – see above

www.burtownhouse.ie

5. Carton House, Kildare – open to public, hotel 

The north front of Carton House. The house was built in 1739 to designs by Richard Castle and remodelled in 1815 by Richard Morrison. Not Used Country Life archives, for 18/02/2009 . Photographer Paul Barker. [7]
Carton, Photograph for Tourism Ireland 2014, Ireland’s Content Pool. [7]
Carton House 2014, for Failte Ireland (see [7])

The Archiseek website tells us:

In 1739, the 19th Earl of Kildare employed Richard Castle to build the existing house replacing an earlier buildng. Castle (originally Cassels) was responsible for many of the great Irish houses, including Summerhill, Westport, Powerscourt House and in 1745, Leinster House, which he also built for the FitzGeralds. 

In 1815 the 3rd Duke decided to sell Leinster House to the Royal Dublin Society and make Carton his principal residence. He employed Richard Morrison to enlarge and re-model the house. Morrison replaced the curved colonnades with straight connecting links to obtain additional rooms. At this time, the entrance to the house was moved to the north side. 

Carton remained in the control of the FitzGeralds until the early 1920s when the 7th Duke sold the estate and house to pay off gambling debts of £67,500. In 2000, Carton was redeveloped as a “premier golf resort and hotel”. A hotel was added to the main house, and the estate’s eighteenth-century grounds and landscaping were converted into two golf courses.” [8]

The garden front of Carton House. The house was built in 1739 to designs by Richard Castle and remodelled in 1815 by Richard Morrison. Not Used Country Life archives, 18/02/2009.  Photographer Paul Barker.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Carton (1988):

p. 60. “(Talbot de Malahide, B/PB; Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB; Nall-Cain, sub Brocket, P/BP) The lands of Carton always belonged to the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, whose chief castle was nearby, at Maynooth; in C17, however, they were leased to a junior branch of the Talbots of Malahide, who built the original house there. After the attainder of Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnel. James II’s Lord Deputy of Ireland, Carton was forfeited to the crown and sold 1703 to Major-Gen Richard Ingoldsby, Master-General of the Ordnance and a Lord Justice of Ireland; who added a two storey nine bay pedimented front to the old house, with wings joined to the main block by curved sweeps, in the Palladian manner. In 1739 Thomas Ingoldsby sold the reversion of the lease back to 19th Earl of Kildare [Robert FitzGerald (1675-1744)], who decided to make Carton his principal seat and employed Richard Castle to enlarge and improve the house. Castle’s rebuilding obliterated all traces of the earlier house, except for a cornice on what is now the entrance front and the unusually thick interior walls. He added a storey, and lengthened the house by adding a projecting bay at either end; he also refaced it. He gave the entrance front a pediment, like its predecessor; but the general effect of the three storey 11 bay front, which has a Venetian window in the middle storey of each of its end bays, is one of massive plainness. As before, the house was joined to flaking office wings; but instead of simple curved sweeps, there were now curved colonnades

Carton House, photograph not used Country Life archives, 18/02/2009.  
Carton, Image for Country Life, by Paul Barker.
The coat of arms in the pediment on the garden front of Carton House Image by Paul Barker for Country Life, CCIII, 2009.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The work was completed after the death of 19th Earl for his son, 20th Earl, who later became 1st Duke of Leinster and was the husband of the beautiful Emily, Duchess of Leinster [Emily Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond] and the father of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the United Irish Leader.

3rd Duke, Lord Edward’s nephew, [Augustus Frederick Fitzgerald (1791-1874)] employed Sir Richard Morrison to enlarge and remodel the house ca 1815, having sold Leinster House in Dublin. Morrison replaced the curved colonnades with straight connecting links containing additional rooms behind colonnades of coupled Doric columns, so as to form a longer enfilade along what was now the garden front; for he moved the entrance to the other front, which is also of 11 bays with projecting end bays, but has no pediment. The former music room on this side of the house became the hall; it is unassuming for the hall of so important a house, with plain Doric columns at each end. On one side is a staircase hall by Morrison, again very unassuming; indeed, with the exception of the great dining room, Morrison’s interiors at Carton lack his customary neo-Classical opulence.”

The Chinese Room at Carton House, decorated by Emily, Countess of Kildare in the mid 18th century. Above the chimneypiece is a Chippendale mirror erupting into a series of gilded branches, some of which are sconces. Pub.  Orig Country Life 18/02/2009  vol CCIII

” Beyond the staircase, on the ground floor, is the Chinese bedroom, where Queen Victoria slept when she stayed here; it remains as it was when decorated 1759, with Chinese paper and a Chinese Chippendale giltwood overmantel. The other surviving mid-C18 interior is the saloon, originally the dining room, in the garden front, dating from 1739 and one of the most beautiful rooms in Ireland. It rises through two storeys and has a deeply coved ceiling of Baroque plasterwork by the Francini brothers representing “the Courtship of the Gods”; the plasterwork, like the decoration on the walls, being picked out in gilt. At one end of the room is an organ installed 1857, its elaborate Baroque case designed by Lord Gerald Fitzgerald, a son of the 3rd Duke.

The Gold Saloon at Carton House, which was originally known as the Eating Parlour. The organ case was designed by Lord Gerald FitzGerald in 1857. Not Used Country Life archives 18/02/2009,  Photographer Paul Barker.
The Gold Saloon at Carton House, which was originally known as the Eating Parlour. Country Life archives, for 18/02/2009 [not used] 
The Courtship of the Gods in the Gold Saloon at Carton House. It dates from 1739 and was executed by the Lafranchini brothers. Cupids hang from wreaths and further putti sit on the cornice. Beneath this is a frieze with pairs of creatures and a series of masks and scallop shells. Not Used Country Life archives 18/02/2009 , photograph by Paul Barker. 

The door at this end of the saloon leads, by way of an anteroom, to Morrison’s great dining room, which has a screen of Corinthian columns at each end and a barrel-vaulted ceiling covered in interlocking circles of oak leaves and vine leaves.

The Saloon at Carton neg. 11423 Country Life archives, 14/11/1936  
Carton, From Country Life 14/11/1936  

The demesne of Carton is a great C18 landscape park, largely created by 1st Duke and Emily Duchess; “Capability” Brown was consulted, but professed himself too busy to come to Ireland. By means of a series of dams, a stream has been widened into a lake and a broad serpentine river; there is a bridge by Thomas Ivory, built 1763, an ornamental dairy of ca 1770 and a shell house. Various improvements were carried out to the gardens toward the end of C19 by Hermione, wife of 5th Duke, who was as famous a beauty in her day as Emily Duchess was in hers; she was also the last Duchess of Leinster to reign at Carton, for her eldest son, 6th Duke, died young and unmarried, and her youngest son, 7th Duke, was unable to live here having, as a young man, signed away his expectations to the “50 Shilling Tailor” Sir Henry Mallaby-Deeley, in return for ready money and an annuity. As a result of this unhappy transaction, Carton had eventually to be sold. It was bought 1949 by 2nd Lord Brocket, and afterwards became the home of his younger son, Hon David Nall-Cain, who opened it to the public. It was sold once again in 1977.” 

A shell cottage in the grounds of Carton House begun in the second half of the 18th century. A passage leads into a domed shell room embellished with coral and stained glass. Not Used Country Life archives 18/02/2009. Photographer Paul Barker.
Shell Cottage Carton, Photographer Paul Barker, for Country LIfe. Not used.
Shell Cottage Carton, Photographer Paul Barker, for Country LIfe. Not used.
Tyrconnell Tower in grounds of Carton House, photograph 2014 for Tourism Ireland. (see [7])

6. Castletown Gate Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare

https://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/cottages-and-houses/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApL2QBhC8ARIsAGMm-KFInICcRSxwLSiDxfFNk5WFytNcVrLvOQYhzJbIBes4V-M65iXz0gYaAln_EALw_wcB

7. Castletown Round House, Celbridge, County Kildare : Irish Landmark https://www.irishlandmark.com/property/castletown-round-house/

8. The Cliff at Lyons, County Kildare

www.cliffatlyons.ie

Robert O’Byrne writes about the Cliff at Lyons:

The Village at Lyons, County Kildare is often described as a restoration but to be frank it is more a recreation. By the time the late Tony Ryan bought the estate in 1996, the buildings beside the Grand Canal, which had once included a forge, mill and dwelling houses, were in a state of almost total ruin. Therefore the work undertaken here in the years prior to his death in 2007 involved a great deal of architectural salvage, much of it brought from France, although some Irish elements were incorporated such as a mid-19th century conservatory designed by Richard Turner, originally constructed for Ballynegall, County Westmeath. Today the place primarily operates as a wedding venue, providing an alluring stage set for photographs but bearing little resemblance to what originally stood here.”[9]

The entrance front of Lyons House, designed by Oliver Grave for Nicholas Lawless, 1st baron Cloncurry circa 1786 and remodelled by his son Richard Morrison in 1802-05. Pub Orig Country Life 16/01/2003, vol. CXCVII by Photographer Paul Barker. (see[7])

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Lyons:

p. 196. “(Alymer/IFR; Lawless, Cloncurry, B/PB1929; Winn, sub St. Oswalds, B/PB) Originally the seat of the Aylmer family. Sold 1796 by Michael Aylmer to Nicholas Lawless,the 1st Lord Cloncurry, son of a wealthy blanket manufacturer, who had a new house built in 1797, to the design of an architect named Grace. 

Three storey block with a curved bow on either side of its entrance front, joined to two-storey wings by curved sweeps. About 1801, shortly after his release from the Tower of London, where he had been imprisoned for two years on account of his advanced political views and friendship wiht some of the United Irishmen, the 2nd Lord Cloncurry hired Richard Morrison to undertake improvements and alterations to his father’s house, work continuing till 1805. 

During this period, Lord Cloncurry was in Italy, collecting antiques and  modern sculpture for the house; he also acquired three antique columns of red Egyptian granite from the Golden House of Nero, afterwards at the Palazzo Farnese, which were used as three of the four columns in a single-storey portico at Lyons, with a triangular pediment surmounted by a free-standing coat-of-arms.The other notable alteration made to the exterior of the house at this time was the substitution of straight colonnades for the curved sweeps linking the main block to the winds, a change similar to that which Morrison made a few years later at Carton. Also the main block and wings were faced with rusticated ashlar up to the height of one storey on the entrnace front. The hall was given a frieze of ox-skulls and tripods based on the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome, doorcases with fluted entablatures and overdoor panels with classical reliefs; a pair of free-standing antique marble Corinthian columns were set against one wall, and vaarous items from Lord Cloncurry’s collection fo sculpture disposed around the other walls. The walls of the dining room and music rom were painted with Irish waterfalls – and other enchanting decoration by Gaspare Gabrielli, an artist brought by Lord Cloncurry from Rome. The bow-ended dining room was also decorated with a wall painting, of Dublin Bay; and was adorned with reliefs of the story of Daedalus.” 

The garden front of Lyons House, The new orangery and pool house are the single-storey buildings flanking the central block. Pub Orig Country Life 16/01/2003, vol. CXCVII by Photographer Paul Barker. (see [7])

Bence-Jones continues: “The seven-bay garden front was left fairly plain, but before it a vast  formal garden was laid out, with abundant statuary and urns and an antique column supporting a statue of Venus half way along the broad central walk leading from the house to what is the largest artificial lake in Ireland. Beyond the lake rises the wooded Hill of Lyons. 

The Grand Canal passes along one side of the demesne, and there is a handsome Georgian range of buildings beside it which would have been Lord Cloncurry’s private canal station. A daughter of 3rd Lord Cloncurry was Emily Lawless, the poet, a prominent figure in the Irish Revival of the early yars of the present century. Her niece, Hon Kathleen Lawless, bequeathed the Lyons estate to a cousin, Mr G M V Winn, who sold it about 1962 to University College, Dublin, which has erected a handsome pedimented arch from Browne’s Hill, Co Carlow at one of the entrances to the demesne.” 

Art Kavanagh’s book on the Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, volume 1, tells us more about the Aylmers of Balrath. During the reign of Henry VI, Richard Aylmer of Lyons was a Keeper of the Peace for both Dublin and Kildare. He was in charge of protecting the settler community from attack by the neighbouring O’Toole and O’Byrne septs. The family rose to become one of the most prominent families in Meath and Kildare and key figures in the Dublin administration. Before the end of the 16th century they had established two independent branches at Donadea in Kildare and Dollardstown in County Meath.

The first Aylmer of real significance, Art Kavanagh tells us, was John Aylmer (c. 1359 – c. 1415) who married Helen Tyrell of Lyons, an heiress, at the end of the 14th century, and so the family acquired Lyons. [p. 1, Kavanagh, published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005]

9. The K Club, Straffan House, County Kildare

The Straffan estate formed part of the original land grant bestowed upon Maurice Fitzgerald by Strongbow for his role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169. In 1679, the property was purchased by Richard Talbot, the Earl of Tyrconnell who commanded the Jacobite army in Ireland during the war between James II and William of Orange. Tyrconnell’s estates were forfeited to the crown in the wake of the Williamite victory. In about 1710, the property was purchased by Hugh Henry, a prosperous merchant banker, who also owned Lodge Park. He married Anne Leeson, a sister of Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown. Straffan passed to their son, Joseph, who travelled in Europe and collected art. In April 1764 he married Lady Catherine Rawdon, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Moira.

Their son John Joseph (1777-1846) married Lady Emily Fitzgerald, the 23-year-old daughter of the 2nd Duke of Leinster. He was an extravagant spender and had to sell Straffan in 1831.

Hugh Barton (1766-1854) acquired Straffan House from the Henry family in 1831 and his descendents remained there until the 1960s. The Barton family were part of the Barton & Guestier winemakers. Hugh soon commissioned Dublin architect, Frederick Darley, to build a new house, based on Madame Dubarry’s great Château at Louveciennes to the west of Paris. [10] The house passed through many hands subsequently.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Straffan House (1988):

p. 266. “(Barton/IFR)  An imposing C19 house in a style combining Italianate and French chateau. Main block of two storeys with an attic of pedimented dormers in a mansard roof; seven bay entrance front, the centre bay breking forward and having a tripartite window above a single-storey balustraded Corinthian portico. Entablatures on console brackets over ground-floor windows; triangular pediments over windows above and segmental pediment of central window. Decorated band between storeys; balustraded roof parapet; chimneystacks with recessed panels and tooth decoration. The main block prolonged at one side by a lower two storey wing, from which rises a tall and slender campanile tower, with two tiers of open belvederes. Formal garden with elaborate Victorian fountain. Capt F.B. Barton sold Straffan ca 1949 to John Ellis. It was subsequently the home of Kevin McClory, the film producer, and later owned by Mr Patrick Gallagher, who restored the main block to its original size.” 

10. Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, Kildare – hotel https://www.kilkeacastle.ie/

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 167. “(Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB) A medieval castle of the FitzGeralds, Earls fo Kildare, especially associated with C16 11th Earl of Kildare, the most famous “wizard Earl.” After Carton became the family seat in C18, it was leased to a succession of tenants; one of them being the Dublin silk merchant, Thomas Reynolds, friend of Lord Edward Fitzgerald through whom he became a United Irishman, only to turn informer when he realised the full aims of the movement. His role as informer did not prevent the unhappy Reynolds from having the castle, which he had only recently done up in fine style, sacked by the military; who tored up the floorboards and tore down the panelling on the pretext of searching for arms. Subsequent tenants caused yet more damage and there was a serious fire 1849; after which the third Duke of Leinster resumed possession of the castle and restored and enlarged it as a dower-house for his family. The work was sympathetically done, so that the tall grey castle keeps its air of medieval strength with its bartizans and its massively battered stone walls; though its battlements and its rather too regularly placed trefoil headed windows are obviously C19. AT one side of the caslte a long, low, gabled office range was added, in a restrained Tudor Revival style. The interior is entirely of 1849, for the lofty top storey, where the principal rooms were originally situated, was divided to provide a storey extra. The ceilings are mostly beamed, with corbels bearing the Leinster saltire. In 1880s the beautiful Hermione, Duchess of Leinster (then Marchioness of Kildare) lived here with her amiable but not very inspiring husband; finding the life not much to her taste, she composed the couplet “Kilkea Castle and Lord Kildare/are more than any woman can bear.” After the sale of Carton 1949, Kilkea became the seat of the 8th and Present Duke of Leinster (then Marquess of Kildare), but it was sold ca 1960 and is now an hotel.” 

11. Martinstown House, Kilcullen, Co Kildare – accommodation http://martinstownhouse.com/wordpress/ 

featured in Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitzGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

p. 232. “Martinstown House is one of the finest cottage ornee style buildings in Ireland today. Originally part of the huge estates of the Dukes of Leinster, this fine house was commissioned by Robert Burrowes and completed by the Burrowes family between 1832 and 1840, when decorative effects such as thatched roofs, undressed stonework and verandahs made of free growing branches were being incorporated into rural Irish dwellings. While experts feel the house was built in 1833, it may have been started years earlier, with many of the outbuildings including stables and also the walled gardens dating to some time between 1815 and 1820.” The book’s authors add that Decimus Burton was involved in the creation of this house.

12. Moone Abbey, County Kildare holiday cottages – see above

13. St. Catherine’s Park, Leixlip, Co Kildare – Leixlip Manor hotel , formerly Liffey Valley House hotel http://www.leixlipmanorhotel.ie/about-us/the-manor-kildare

The house that stood before the current Manor House was taller and was tenanted by the Earl of Lanesborough. Then in 1792, it was occupied by David La Touche, of the Huguenot banking family. It shortly thereafter burned to the ground and in around 1798 a new house, also called St Catherine’s Park, was built in the same townland to the design of Francis Johnston; it is now Leixlip Manor Hotel & Gardens.

Whole house accommodation in County Kildare:

1. de Burgh Manor (or Bert), Kilberry, County Kildare – whole house rental 

https://www.deburghmanor.ie

Beautiful self catering, Georgian Manor centrally located in the hearth of Kildare in a very private setting. De Burgh Manor comprises of 15 bedrooms all ensuite. The ground floor consists of a double reception room, drawing room, dining room, bar, library , breakfast room and kitchen. Situated on c. 6 acres of grounds overlooking the River Barrow.

The website also tells us about the history:

De Burgh Manor was built circa 1709 [the National Inventory says it was built around 1780] by Thomas Burgh [1670-1730] of Oldtown [built ca 1709 by Thomas Burgh (1670-1730), MP, Engineer and Surveyor-General for Ireland, to his own design. The centre block was burned 1950s. a house has now been made out of one of the wings. He also designed Kildrought house, a Section 482 property] for his brother William Burgh later known as Captain William De Burgh and who became Comptroller and Auditor General for Ireland. Thomas Burgh was Barracks Overseer for Ireland from 1701 and was also responsible for [building] – the Library at Trinity College Dublin, Collins Barracks Dublin – now a museum – and Dr Steeven Hospital Dublin.

William De Burgh was born in 1667 and had a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Elisabeth. Thomas, born in 1696, eventually became a Member of Parliament for Lanesboro, Co. Longford. Freeman of Athy Borough and Sovereign of Athy, in 1755 he married Lady Ann Downes, daughter of the Bishop of Cork & Ross. Her mother was a sister to Robert Earl of Kildare. Her brother, Robert Downes, was the last MP for Kildare in 1749 and was Sovereign of Athy.

Thomas had two sons, William and Ulysses [Ulysses was actually the grandson of Thomas]. William born in 1741 went on to represent Athy as an MP in Parliament between 1768 and 1776. A monument to his memory by Sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott, a statue of faith, which depicts him with a book in one hand and a scroll in the other and stands in York Minster. He wrote two books on religion and faith.

Ulysses, born in 1788 [son of Thomas, grandson of Thomas who married Ann Downes] succeeded to the title of Lord Downes [2nd Baron Downes of Aghanville] on the death of his cousin William Downes who was made Lord Chief Justice in 1803 and created Lord Downes on his retirement in 1822. It was Ulysses De Burgh who presented the Town Hall Clock to Athy in 1846 and it was he who had the wings added to Bert House. [Mark Bence-Jones writes of Bert: “enlarged early in C19 by the addition of two storey Classical overlapping wings, of the same height as the centre block; which is of three storeys over basement with two seven bay fronts.”]

Ulysses’ daughter Charlotte was the last of the De Burgh’s to call Bert House home with her husband Lt. General James Colbourne [2nd Baron Seaton of Seaton, co. Devon]. Charlotte and James came to Bert House in 1863 as Lord and Lady Seaton after the death of Lord Downes. It was sold by them in 1909 to Lady Geoghegan who then sold it onto her cousin, Major Quirke.

2. Griesemount House, County Kildare, whole house rentals – see above

Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Nicholas & Mary Kelly
Tel: 051-880464, 087-2567866
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 9am-5pm Fee: adult €5, OAP €3, child/student free

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

Ballysallagh House, County Kilkenny, February 2022.

contact: Geralyn & Kieran White
Tel: 087-2906621, 086-2322105
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student €5, child free, groups by arrangement

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

contact: John Comerford
Tel: 056-4400080
www.creameryhouse.com
Open: May 14-Sept 30, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-5pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 18 free

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

Kilfane, County Kilkenny, August 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/12/16/kilfane-glen-waterfall-kilfane-thomastown-co-kilkenny/
contact: Susan Mosse
Tel: 056-7727105, 086-7919318 

www.kilfane.com

Open: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student €6.50, child €6, family €20

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

Kilkenny Castle, May 2018.

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

contact: Aaron Quill
Tel: 064-6623331
www.kilkennydesign.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day and St Stephens Day, 10am-7pm Fee: Free

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

William Robertson (1777 – 1850) was a native of Kilkenny where the patronage of Lord Ormonde stood him in good stead, since most of his work can be found in Kilkenny and the neighbouring counties of Laois, Tipperary and Waterford. When Richard St. George wished to move from his medieval castle at Kilrush near Freshford in 1820, Robertson was the obvious choice. His work is less exuberant than that of his namesake Daniel but he was a talented architect and produced an interesting early nineteenth century reinterpretation of the typical late-Georgian country house. 

The St Georges are a Norman family who ‘came over to England with the Conqueror’ and arrived in Ireland in the sixteenth century. They quickly became established here, with several branches in County Kilkenny and others in Galway, Leitrim and Roscommon.

The St Georges of Kilrush were active in political and cultural circles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Richard St George was an M.P. in the Irish Parliament, with a town house at No. 8 Henrietta Street, while his cousin St George Ashe was the Provost of Trinity College and a close friend of Dean Swift. St. George was also a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, which encouraged his numerous publications of scientific and national interest.

Richard considered moving out of his tower-house at Kilrush in the middle of the eighteenth century but this decision was left to his heirs, who built the existing house in the early nineteenth century. Kilrush has a three bay façade, a five bay garden front, a hipped roof with widely overhanging eaves, a single very large, central chimney-stack into which all the flues are diverted, and an interesting ground plan.

The cut-stone door case is a handsome arrangement of Doric half-columns and pilasters, supporting a deep entablature with swags beneath a semi-circular leaded fanlight. The ground floor windows to either side are set in shallow recesses with elliptical heads; otherwise the elevations are quite plain.

The most interesting internal space is the landing, a perfect Doric rotunda supporting a delicately glazed dome. This partly lights the inner hall below through a circular well in the floor. The dining and drawing rooms are both finely proportioned apartments, with many original fittings and furnishings, and their original wallpaper.

Kilrush looks out over mature parkland to a large mill, almost half a mile off.  The gardens contain a stupendous collection of snowdrops, there is a tower house, the former residence of the family in the attached yard, while an interesting early garden layout with connected canals has recently been identified and is currently in the course of restoration.” [11]

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

Rothe House, Kilkenny, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland (see[7])

Rothe House is a treasure, older than any house in Dublin! It was built around 1594-1610, by John Rothe FitzPiers (1560-1620) for his wife Rose Archer, and is the last merchant’s townhouse in Kilkenny surviving from the early post-medieval period. [12] The house, purchased by Kilkenny Archaeological Society in 1962, is open to the public as a museum displaying a selection of the historic artefacts collected by the Society since its founding in 1947.  The artefacts relate to Kilkenny heritage throughout the ages and some date from prehistoric times.  The adjoining garden has since 2008 been open to the public and is a faithful reconstruction of an early seventeenth-century urban garden. 

Garden at Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The National Inventory describes it:

Terraced five-bay two-storey over basement house with dormer attic on a U-shaped plan about a stone cobbled (east) courtyard with two-bay two-storey gabled central bay having jettied box oriel window to first floor, series of five round-headed openings to ground floor forming arcade, single-bay three-storey linking range to north-west, and three-bay three-storey parallel range to west (completing U-shaped plan about a courtyard) originally three-bay two-storey having round-headed carriageway to right ground floor. In use as school, c.1750. Restored, 1898, to accommodate use as Gaelic League house. Converted to use as museum, 1963-5. Restored, 1983. Restored, 1999, to accommodate use as offices.”

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The Archiseek website tells us:

In 1594 a wealthy merchant called John Rothe built this magnificent Tudor mansion. Second and third generation houses were built around the cobelled courtyards and a well dating to 1604. The façade houses shops, one of them was John Rothe’s own. During the Confederation of Kilkenny, many dignitaries were entertained here by John Rothe and his cousin, the Bishop of Ossory. The building has been restored magnificently and is now home to Kilkenny Archaeological Society.” [13]

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Plague Doctor! In 1348 there was Plague in Kilkenny. Friar John Clyn in the Franciscan Abbey across the road  recorded the effect of the plague on the town and the friary. He himself fell victim to the epidemic. 
Artefacts from the Confederation of Kilkenny.
Viking Sword.
“Pattens” – wooden shoes worn by women over their regular shoes to protect from mud.

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Geoffrey Cope,
Tel: 087-2437125
www.shankillcastle.com
Open: Feb 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Apr 2-3, 9-10, 16- 17, 23-24, 30, May 1, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-16, 21-24, 28-31, Aug 3-6, 10-21, 24-27, 31, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29- 30, Oct 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30, 31, Feb- Apr, 11am-4pm, May- Oct, 11am-5pm Fee: house & garden, adult €10 garden €5, OAP/student €8, gardens €4

The website tells us:

Situated near the ruins of an old church, Shankill Castle began life as a tower-house built by the powerful Butler family during the medieval period. In 1708, the house was rebuilt by Peter Aylward who bought the land from his wife’s family. The new Shankill Castle was constructed as a Queen Anne house, set in a formal landscape, vista to the front and canal to the rear.

In the 1820s, the house was enlarged and castellated. Serpentine bays were added to the canal and an unusual polyhedral sundial given pride of place on a sunken lawn. A gothic porch bearing the Aylward crest and a conservatory were other additions. 

The stableyard and the castellated entrance to the demesne were built in 1850 and are attributed to Daniel Robertson.

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

contact: Louis Dowley
Tel: 087-2313106
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-4pm Fee: adult €5, student €3, child/OAP free

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Woodstock (1988):

p. 286. “(Fownes, Bt/EDB; Tighe/IFR) A house by Francis Bindon [for William Fownes, 2nd Baronet], probably dating from 1740s, which is unusual in being built round a small inner court, or light-shaft. Three storeys; handsomely rusticated entrance front of six bays with a central niche and statue above the entrance doorway…In 1770s Sarah Ponsonby lived here with her cousins, Sir William and Betty Fownes [born Elizabeth Ponsonby]; her friend, Eleanor Butler, having escaped from Borris, co Carlow, where she was being kept in disgrace, was let into Woodstock through a window, hiding herself in Sarah’s room for 24 hours before being discovered; shortly afterwards, the two friends left for Wales, where they subsequently became famous as the “Ladies of Llangollen.” Woodstock passed to the Tighes with the marriage of the daughter and heiress of Sir William Fownes to William Tighe, whose daughter-in-law was Mary Tighe, the poet, author of Psyche; she died at Woodstock 1810 aged 37, and Flaxman’s monument to her is in a small neo-Classical mausoleum behind the Protestant church in the village of Inistioge, at the gates of the demesne. There was also a statue of her in one of the rooms in the house. Woodstock was burnt ca 1920, and is now a ruin, but the demesne, with its magnificent beechwoods, still belongs to the Tighes.” 

The information board tells us that in 1804 flanking wings were added to designs by William Robertson (1770-1850). The house was burned in 1922 after being occupied by the Black and Tans.
The gardens at Woodstock, County Kilkenny, August 2021. The gardens at Woodstock, gloriously situated above the River Nore, were conceived on a grand scale by Colonel William Tighe (d. 1878) and Lady Louisa Lennox (d. 1900) as the centrepiece of a great estate.

The estate passed to the daughter, Sarah, of William Fownes and Elizabeth Ponsonby, and Sarah married William Tighe of Rossana, County Wicklow.

This information board tells us about the Arboretum at Woodstock, where a number of exotic trees were planted in the nineteenth century.
Entrance to walled garden at Woodstock.
Gardens at Woodstock, with reproduction Turner glasshouse.
“Turner bench” which matches the glasshouse at Woodstock.
The longest and oldest Monkey Puzzle Walk in Europe, at Woodstock.

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

http://ballyduffhouse.ie/booking-enquiries/ 

The website tells us:

Ballyduff House is a classic Georgian country house with a 14th century castle, steeped in Irish history and full of the warmest of welcomes.

The River Nore sparkles as it runs along Ballyduff’s riverbank while sheep and cattle graze the pasture either side.

Open fires, the book lined library and the comfortable bedrooms furnished with Irish antiques capture an early 18th century experience tempered by discreet 21st century comfort.

This is real Ireland – calm, green and beautiful, set alongside the picturesque village of Inistioge with Dublin only an hour away.

2. Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny

https://blanchville.ie/

The Coach Houses & Gardener’s Cottage are, as the name suggests, part of the beautiful old stone building that was originally the Coach House at Blanchville. The building has been sensitively and extensively refurbished and now offers guests comfortable and inviting Self-Catering Accommodation in three self-contained Holiday Homes.

These Heritage Holiday Lets feature a cosy woodburning stove or open fire, fully fitted modern kitchen and relaxing bedrooms – the perfect requisite for an enjoyable weekend break or holiday in Kilkenny.

3. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

https://www.butler.ie

View to Butler House and Garden, Kilkenny Leo Byrne Photography 2015. (see [7])

The National Inventory tells us about Butler house: “Semi-detached three-bay three-storey over basement house, built 1786, with pair of three-bay full-height bowed bays to rear (east) elevation. Extended, 1832, comprising two-bay three-storey perpendicular block to right. Renovated, 1972. Now in use as hotel. One of a pair…An elegantly-composed Classically-proportioned substantial house built either by Walter Butler (1713-83), sixteenth Earl of Ormonde or John Butler (1740-95), seventeenth Earl of Ormonde as one of a pair of dower houses…Distinctive attributes including the elegant bowed bays to the Garden (east) Front contribute positively to the architectural design value of the composition while carved limestone dressings with particular emphasis on the well-executed doorcase displaying high quality stone masonry further enliven the external expression of the house in the streetscape.”

The house was home to Lady Eleanor Butler who lived here after the death of her husband Walter in 1783. Lady Eleanor Butler was the mother of John, the 17th Earl of Ormonde and her daughter, also Eleanor, was one of the famous “Ladies of Langollen”.

James, Earl of Ormonde resided in the house while the Castle was under reconstruction in 1831.
A soup kitchen was run from here during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

The Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland held their meetings in Butler House in 1870. Kilkenny Design, the state design agency, restored Butler House in 1972. The decor and furnishings reflect a certain 1970s Art Deco style, which because of the muted colours and natural fabrics used, proved sympathetic to the original features of the house. In 1989, the Kilkenny Civic Trust acquired both Butler House and the Castle Stables. 

4. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

http://grangemanorkilkenny.com

The website tell us: “Located in the heart of the Kilkenny countryside, this beautiful Georgian manorhouse is set into 26 acres of lush landscaped grounds. With the medieval city of Kilkenny just 20 mins drive, experience Irish culture at your own pace in in Grange Manor.”

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes the doorcase: “Classically-detailed doorcase not only demonstrating good quality workmanship in a deep grey limestone, but also showing a pretty overlight.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tell us: “Interior including (ground floor): central hall retaining carved timber surrounds to window openings framing timber panelled shutters on panelled risers with carved timber surrounds to opposing door openings framing timber panelled doors, and plasterwork cornice to ceiling on “bas-relief” frieze centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 145. “(Lannigan, Stannard and Dowdall, sub Bancroft/IFR) An old farmhouse to which Georgian reception rooms were added, producing a house of two storeys and nine bays, with a three bay breakfront centre higher than the bays on either side. Fanlighted doorway; high-pitched roof. Room with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval painted medallions.” 

It was occupied (1751) by Captain James Warren (d. 1758). It was advertised for sale in 2021.

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes: “double-height staircase hall (north) retaining carved timber surrounds to door openings framing timber panelled doors, moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling, staircase on a dog leg plan with turned timber “spindle” balusters supporting carved timber banister terminating in volute, carved timber Classical-style surround to window opening to half-landing framing timber panelled shutters, carved timber surrounds to door openings to landing framing timber panelled double doors having overlights, and decorative plasterwork cornice to coved ceiling centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. Staircase hall with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval medallions.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tells us about the gate lodge: “A gate lodge erected by John Stannard (né Lannigan) (d. 1836) contributing positively to the group and setting values of the Grange House estate with the architectural value of the composition suggested by such attributes as the compact square plan form centred on a featureless doorcase; and the openings showing pretty lattice glazing patterns.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

5. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel

 https://www.lyrath.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 184. “(Wheeler-Cuffe, Bt/PB1934; Tupper/LGI1958) Originally a Tobin castle, acquired by the Wheeler family C17. By 1826, the house here consisted of a simple two storey five bay pedimented front facing west, with two wings running back from it to enclose a small three sided office court; the entrance door being on the south side; under a Regency veranda. In 1861, Sir Charles Wheeler-Cuffe, 2nd Bt, married Pauline Villiers-Stuart, daughter of Lord Stuart de Decies [of Dromana House, County Waterford – see my entry], whose parents did not regard this house as grand enough for her; so in that same year he rebuilt the main western block on a larger scale and in a rich Italianate style, while leaving the two storey wings more of less as they were.; his architect being John McCurdy. The entrance was moved from the south side to the new west front, which is pedimented and of five bays like its predecessor, but not entirely symmetrical; having a pair of windows on the ground floor to the left of centre, but a single window on the right. Entrance door framed by Ionic columns carrying a balustrade, above which is a Venetian window framed by an aedicule with a segmental pediment. All the ground floor windows have semi-circular heads, while the heads of the windows of the upper storey – apart from the central Venetian windows – are cambered. The garden front to the north has two single-storey balustraded curved bows, the windows of which are treated as arcades supported by Romanesque columns of sandstone. There is another Romanesque column separated the pair of windows in the centre of the front. The windows in the bow are glazed with curved glass. The roof is carried on a deep bracket cornice and there are prominent string courses, which give the elevations a High Victorian character. Hall with imposing imperial staircase, the centre ramp of which rises between two fluted Corinthian columns. There is a similarity between the staircase here and that at Dromana, Co Waterford, Pauline Lady Wheeler-Cuffe’s old home; except that the Dromana staircase was of stone, whereas that at Leyrath is of wood, with ornate cast-iron balustrades. On the centre ramp of the staircase there is still a chair with its back legs cut down to fit the steps; this was put there in 1880s for Pauline when she became infirm. Hall has a ceiling cornice of typical C19 plasterwork in a design of foliage, and door with entablatures which still have their original walnut graining. To the left of the hall, in the garden front, are the drawing room, ante-room and dining room, opening into each other with large double doors’ they have ceiling cornices similar to that in the hall, and good C19 white chimneypieces, enriched with carving; the drawing room and ante-room keep their original white and gold wallpaper. In the south wing there are smaller and lower rooms surviving from before the rebuilding; while first floor rooms in this wing have barrel ceilings throughout and contain some C18 chimneypieces of black marble.” 

The website tells us more about the history:

The name Lyrath is thought to date back to Norman times when “Strongbow” settled in Ireland during the Norman invasion. The area was originally called Le Rar or Le Rath by the French speaking De Ponte family who during the 12th century lived in the Monastery which was once located within the grounds. There is also a mention of a castle which was once said to have been situated within the grounds.

Prior to 1653 the lands were owned by the Shortall family, who then rented the ‘old castle in repair’ and land to Thomas Tobin, Constable of the Barony of Gowran. In 1664, a gentleman named Thomas Mances, paid a sum of 4s ‘hearth money’ for the old castle.

Later in the Seventeenth Century the property was acquired by Richard Wheeler through his kinship to Jonah Wheeler the Bishop of Ossary. By then the original ‘Tobin’ castle had been demolished.

Richard Wheeler’s son, Jonah Wheeler, married Elisabeth Denny-Cuffe, a descendant of the Desart-Cuffe family who had extensive landed property in the Counties of Carlow and Kilkenny, on his marriage Jonah decided to adopt the name Cuffe.

In 1814 the grandson of Jonah, also named Jonah, was living in the house with his with Elisabeth Browne, from Brownes Hill in neighbouring Carlow. Sir Jonah died in 1853 and his elder son, Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe succeeded him.

To redesign the house Sir Charles engaged the services of John McCurdy, a Dublin born Architect, whose other commissions with his partner, William Mitchell, include Kilkenny’s Knocktopher Abbey, Dublin’s famous ‘Shelbourne Hotel’ and the South City Markets.

The current house is one of the most important surviving country houses built by John McCurdy.

Sir Charles and Pauline had no children, so on the death of Sir Charles, his nephew Sir Ottway Forteque Luke Wheeler-Cuffe inherited the baronetcy and demesne of Lyrath and became the primary resident. Sir Ottaway married Charlotte Isabel Williams in 1897. Lady Charlotte was the earliest known botanical explorer to reach the remote areas Burma and it was during these trips that she discovered several plants including two new species of Rhododendrons, Burmanicum, and Cuffianum (named after her). Cuffianum, the white rhododendron is extremely rare and has not been collected by any botanist since Lady Wheeler-Cuffe found in 1911.

Sir Ottway and Lady Charlotte stayed in Burma until Sir Ottway’s retirement in August 1921 when they finally returned to live at Lyrath. On her return to Lyrath, Lady Charlotte redesigned the gardens. The Conservatory adjacent to Tupper’s Bar in the new Hotel overlooks the Victorian garden designer by her which has been carefully restored to her original design (based on family records and drawings), they are also home to the ancient yew trees which are now protected by a preservation order.

Lady Charlotte lived in the house until her death in 1966 in her 100th year.

Following the death of Lady Charlotte, in 1967 the property was inherited by Lieutenant-Colonel G.W. Tupper whose grandfather had married Sir Charles’ sister in 1846. Reginald’s great nephew, Captain Anthony Tupper and his wife moved into the house and ran it as a traditional estate farm with a herd of Jersey cows, hens, and geese in the yard, calves in the haggard field and a big old-fashioned kitchen with dogs and cats which rambled in and out at will.

The Tuppers remained in the house until 1997.

When the Tuppers left, there was an auction at the house of all the furniture and the bits and pieces accumulated over several lifetimes laid out and labelled for sale. Fortunately, Xavier McAuliffe managed to obtain many of the items on auction that day, these items are now on display in the house and include to original large portraits hanging in the hallway and other paintings on display.

Xavier purchased the Estate in 2003 and developed the house into Lyrath Estate Hotel and Convention Centre, which opened its doors to the public in 2006.

6. Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel

Mount Juliet Gardens, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, photograph by Finn Richards 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Mount Juliet:

p. 214. “(Butler, Carrick, E/PB; McCalmont/IFR) A mid to late C18 house built by the 1st Earl of Carrick [Somerset Hamilton Butler, 8th Viscount Ikerrin and 1st Earl of Carrick (1719-1774)] across the River Nore from the former family seat, Ballylinch Castle on an estate which he had bought ca 1750 from Rev Thomas Bushe [1727-1795], of Kilmurry; traditionally named by him after his wife [Juliana Boyle, daugher of the 1st Earl of Shannon]. Of three storeys over basement, front of seven bays between two shallow curved bows, each having three windows. One bay central breakfront, with Venetian windows in the two upper storeys above tripartite pedimented and fanlighted doorway. Centre window in two lower storeys of bows roundheaded. Perron and double steps in front of entrance door, with iron railings. High pitched roof and massive stacks. Sold 1914 by 6th Earl of Carrick to the McCalmonts who had leased the house for some years. Major Dermot McCalmont made a new entrance in what had formerly been the back of the house, where the main block is flanked by two storey wings, extending at right angles from  it to form a shallow three sided court, and joined to it by curved sweeps. The interior of the house was richly decorated by 2nd Earl of Carrick 1780s with plasterwork in the manner of Michael Stapleton. The hall, which is long and narrow, is divided by an arcade carried on fluted Ionic columns, beyond which rises a bifurcating staircase with a balustrade of plain slender uprights; the present entrance being by way of a porch built out at the back of the staircase. The rooms on either side of the hall in what was formerly the entrance front and is now the garden front have plasterwork ceilings; one with a centre medallion of a hunting scene, another with a medallion of a man shooting. One of these rooms, the dining room, also has plasterwork on the walls, incorporating medallions with Classical reliefs. One of the wings flanking the present entrance front contains a ballroom made by Major Dermot McCalmont 1920s, with a frieze of late C18 style plasterwork; it is reached by way of a curving corridor. The demesne of Mount Juliet is one of the finest in Ireland, with magnificent hardwoods above the River Nore ; it includes the Ballylinch demesne across the river. There is a series of large walled gardens near the house Mount Juliet is famous for its stud, founded by Major Dermot McCalmont 1915. Sold 1987.” 

7. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny – see above

8. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

https://www.watersideguesthouse.com

This is set in a beautiful old mill on the river in Graiguenamanagh.

Whole House rental, County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house rental 

https://annamultcountryhouseestate.com/terms-and-conditions/

The National Inventory describes Annamult: “Detached four-bay two-storey double gable-fronted Tudor-style country house, c.1825, incorporating fabric of earlier house, pre-1771, with three-bay single-storey flat-roofed projecting open porch to centre ground floor, three-bay two-storey side elevations, and five-bay three-storey lower wing to left having single-bay (two-bay deep) two-storey connecting return to east.

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

http://www.ballyburcastle.com/

The website tells us:

Ballybur Castle is the ancient seat of the Comerford clan, built by Richard Comerford around 1588. Despite the violent times, it seems to have maintained a fairly peaceful existance. It was one of the seats of the powerful Comerford family, the only one remaining.

Ballybur Castle is typical of the single family castles of that period, built primarily for protection against warring groups travelling the countryside. They were usually surrounded by more temporary structures where the farm labourers lived and livestock were kept.

When trouble was brewing, a roofwatch was kept and at the sight of any hostile group, labourers and livestock were gathered into the castle.

The Comerford castles flourished in the 1500s and well into the 16th century, all three castles were clustered in this area. (There were two more castles near Ballybur Castle belonging to the Comerford clan).

One can imagine the social standing of the Comerfords, the entertainment and grand parties that took place in their castles were renowned. The Comerfords occupied Ballybur Castle during the confederation that took place in Kilkenny in 1641.

“And so it happened that the papal Nunco, Cardinal Rinnuncini on his way to Kilkenny stopped at Ballybur Castle where a reception was held in honour of him and many important personages came to pay their respect.”

The cardinal presented a very ornate rosary to Richard and Mary Comerford. This rosary was passed on through generations of the castle’s owners at Ballybur. It was presented to Rothe House by father Langton Hayward who said he was given the rosary by the Marnell sisters in 1970, who still occupied the castle.

John Comerford, son of Richard Comerford, was the last Comerford to reside at Ballybur Castle. He was banished to Connaught in 1654 and forfeited his castle and lands to Brian Manseragh during the Cromwellian distribution survey of that period. Interestingly, this Brian Manseragh is a forefather of Martin Manseragh, the present T.D. from Tipparary who was the Taoiseach’s special advisor for the north during the current peace negotiations.

We know little about the period between 1655 until 1841 when it is stated that Thomas Deigan was the occupier of Ballybur.

Locally it is known that the Marnell sisters married into the Deigan family. They occupied Ballybur until Frank and Aifric Gray bought it in 1979.

The Grays at Ballybur By Ruan Gray

When mum and dad bought Ballybur in 1979, there was no roof on the castle as it is said that; “Cromwell blew it off with a cannon at the end of Ballybur lane.”

At the time when my parents bought the castle, it was in a very poor state of repair. It was their intention to spend five years on it’s restoration. They received grant aid from the Kilkenny County Council to replace the windows, some help towards the rebuilding of the roof from the Heritage Council and from Barrow Suir Development to complete the renovation.

It is now 25 years since the work began, and it has been mostly accomplished by dad and some local builders. Now it is completely refurbished and open to visitors. It truly has been a labour of love.

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny whole house rental

hhiref@castleblunden.com

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

A few miles from the cathedral city of Kilkenny, Castle Blunden stands on an elevated site in the midst of mature parkland. Dating from the 1750s, and still owned by the Blunden family, this pretty seven-bay building is typical of County Kilkenny houses from the mid-Georgian period. The house is rendered, with a profusion of cut limestone decoration and details, and a handsome sprocketed roof, while the later Doric porch compliments the symmetry of the facade. The basement is concealed by a ramped gravel approach, which makes the house appear both lower and wider than is actually the case, while the small lakes to either side add to the overall air of enchantment.” [14]

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkenny – accommodation, whole house on airbnb: €€ for two, € for 3-8

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29346656?federated_search_id=050f383f-6e5e-45b5-9989-b166bfe7e70d&source_impression_id=p3_1650104926_er%2FjFSqCgEWzQLW5

The National Inventory tells us it is a farmhouse erected by John Shortal (d. 1857) or Patrick Shortal (d. 1858) representing an integral component of the mid nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Kilkenny with the architectural value of the composition, one occupying the site of a hall adjoining the fifteenth-century Clomantagh Castle.

Clomantagh Castle - was home to the [8th] Earl of Ormond, Pierce Ruadh (1467-1539). When he died in 1539 the castle along with other properties was passed to his son Richard Butler, first Viscount Mountgarret (1500-1571). The castle and its estate stayed in the Butler family until it was forfeited during the war with Cromwell to Lieutenant Arthur St. George [ancestor of the Kilrush family]. After the war the castle changed hands twice more and a farmhouse was added by the Shortall family, the owners in the 1800’s, before its last owner  Willie White a local vet. The property is now owned by a non profit making charity called the Landmark Trust who preserve historic buildings. 

The Landmark site tells us:

The name Clomantagh comes from the Irish “cloch mantaigh”, meaning missing tooth or gappy smile. Locals gave this name to the castle as the irregular castellation reminded them of someone smiling with missing teeth.  

It has been established that the tower and bawn were built in the 15th century (c.1430). The tower house has been modified and extended over the centuries, and in the early 19th century a farmhouse was added providing accommodation with comfort, rather than defence, in mind. In recent times, the bawn walls have sheltered the buildings of a 20th century working farm. It also has a rare clochán (small dome-roomed structure) knit into the bawn walls. Five other tower houses can be seen from the roof of Clomantagh Castle, and they were all strategically aligned for defence purposes.

Clomantagh followed mainstream castle design, emerging as an almost square building, six storeys high, with massive walls built from local limestone, and a corner staircase. Inserted high on the south wall is a Sheela-na-Gig. This pagan symbol was adopted by medieval builders and incorporated as the building was erected. High up the remains of the stepped battlement walls, the merlons can be seen – a specifically Irish feature whose inspiration is considered to be Venetian. Inside the battlements a wide walkway gave access to all sides of the building. In the north east corner, a high watchtower has been built. This is knows as Moll Gearailt’s Chair, after the particularly ferocious original mistress of the house, Maighréad nhee Gearóid, who used to sit watching over her fields to ensure that her labourers were not slacking at their work. The walkway, or Alure, was sloped outward to allow run off water through drainage holes and stone spouts. Generally, battlement walls have not survived well, their thinner construction and unstable sloping bases have contributed to their disappearance from tower houses.  [15]

5. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29598290?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-06-05&check_out=2022-06-10&federated_search_id=6eebbe51-3470-4008-be61-4228d4019473&source_impression_id=p3_1652359358_O%2F1m3ENyNNeiOZ%2Bf

The entry tells us:

Tubbrid Castle is a unique 15th-century tower house, uninhabited for the last century and now restored to its former glory. We’ve highlighted original features to let you step back in time and added luxury touches so you can indulge your inner prince or princess.

Heritage
In 942 AD, Muircheartach, King of modern-day Ulster, marched his army of 1000 Leather Cloaks south to avenge his allies, who had been attacked by Callaghan, King of Cashel. Muircheartach’s bard, Colmanach, recorded the journey in an epic poem, Circuit of Ireland, in which he praised the beauty of Osraí (now Kilkenny), and the hospitality of its people. At the edge of enemy territory and on the cusp of battle, Muircheartach’s army set up camp in Tubbrid, on a plain that a millennium later is still called Bán an Champa (the Field of the Encampment). The King himself is thought to have slept at the fort where Tubbrid Castle now stands. A thousand years later, the people of Kilkenny still pride ourselves on our warm hospitality and from the top floor bedroom of Tubbrid Castle you can survey Bán an Champa and enjoy lodgings befitting a king.

Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

contact: Grace Pym
Tel: 0505-21453
www.castleballaghmore.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day, 10am-6pm Fee: adult €5, child/OAP/student €3, family of 4, €10

The website tells us:

Ballaghmore Castle was built in 1480 by the Gaelic Chieftain MacGiollaphadraig (now called Fitzpatrick), meaning son of the servant of Patrick. Lords of Upper Ossory. They defended North Munster, strategically placed as they were on the old Irish Road. A Sheela-na-Gig carved in stone is on the front facing wall, a pagan fertility symbol to ward off evil.

Ballaghmore was partially destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1647. It was restored in 1836 by a Mr. Ely who found a hoard of gold on the land. Ely was shot by an angry tenant and never lived in the castle. The castle was then used as a granary and afterwards fell into disuse, until the present owner Gráinne Ní Cormac, bought it in 1990 and restored it. Now furnished.

Gráinne (Grace) will delight you with stories of the history of the MacGiollaphadraigs (changed to Fitzpatrick by order of Henry 8th of England) which goes back to 500 B.C.

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – open to public  https://www.discoverireland.ie/laois/ballintubbert-gardens-house

The gardens at Ballintubbert have been described as ‘An enchanting work of art – intimate and extraordinarily peaceful”. 

The historic gardens at Ballintubbert have been expanded with an Arts & Crafts influence to include an impressive variety of over 40 ‘garden rooms’ and pedimented yew cloisters within 14 acres. 

Of particular note is the Sir Edwin Lutyens design water garden complimented by Gertrude Jekyll style planting schemes. 

There are wild flower meadows and woodlands influenced by William Robinson’s approach to ‘wild gardening’ in contrast to the formal lime walks that flank a hundred meter canal in the more classical gardening tradition. 

Opening Hours 

The gardens are open to view every Thursday from 10am to 5pm 
(April to September) 

Very occasionally the gardens may be closed with a private event – please check our Facebook page for details 

Admission €5 (children under 8 free) 
Guided tours available by appointment 

Allow 2 hours and please feel welcome all day. Relax & savour what lies ahead – this is a rich experience of the senses 

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

www.castledurrow.com 

4. Clonohill Gardens, Coolrain, Portlaoise, Laois

https://www.gardensofireland.org/directory/31/clonohill+gardens/

5. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

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

Emo Court, County Laois.

6. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

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

7. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Stradbally Hall, County Laois, June 2021.

contact: Thomas Cosby
Tel: 086-8519272
http://www.stradballyhall.ie
Open: May 1-31, June 1-9, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-14, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child free

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/10/14/stradbally-hall-stradbally-co-laois/

Places to Stay, County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482 – see above.

There is the tower house castle, a farmhouse or a cottage to stay in.

2. Ballyfin House, Co. Laois – hotel 

https://ballyfin.com

Ballyfin, photograph by Tony Pleavin 2018 for Tourism Ireland (see [7]).

The website tells us: “Steeped in Irish history, the site of Ballyfin has been settled from ancient times and was ancestral home in succession to the O’Mores, the Crosbys, the Poles, the Wellesley-Poles (the family of the Duke of Wellington) and later the Cootes.”

The east front of Ballyfin, dominated by the grand Ionic portico. The house was built in the 1820s for Sir Charles Coote to designs by Sir Richard and William Morrison. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

The website continues:

The Coote family was descended from Sir Charles Coote, an Elizabethan adventurer who came to Ireland in 1601. The Coote coat-of-arms is prominently displayed above the entrance to Ballyfin.

The house itself was built in the 1820s for another Sir Charles Coote to designs by the great Irish architects Sir Richard and William Morrison. The Cootes enjoyed the house for exactly one hundred years employing a large team of servants to preserve the life of refined leisure that is documented in Edwardian photographs showing tea on the terrace or skating in the walled garden. As the political situation changed with the dawning of the Irish Independence, the Cootes sold the estate to the Patrician Brothers who, for much of the twentieth century, ran a much-loved school at Ballyfin. After many years of restoration Ballyfin reopened its doors in May 2011.

The restoration project took nine years – significantly longer than it took to build the house in the first place. Every single aspect of the house from the roof down required remedial attention. Skilled craftsmen worked on the elaborate inlaid floors, repaired the gilding and the stucco work or treated the stone work of the house which was disintegrating. After this emergency work, a process of redecoration could begin with carefully selected paint finishes, papers and textiles bringing the interiors back to life. The house has been furnished with a collection of Irish art and antiques from around the world, fine Irish mahogany, French chandeliers and mirrors by Thomas Chippendale. The result was spectacular, and one of Ireland’s most endangered great houses emerged ready for the current century, a place of grandeur, yet warmth, providing the kind of welcome envisaged when the house was first built.”

Ballyfin, photograph by Tony Pleavin 2018 for Tourism Ireland (see [7]). Wrought-iron curvilinear Victorian conservatory, c.1855, on a rectangular plan with apsidal ends and glazed corridor linking it to Ballyfin House. Designed by Richard Turner.

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 21. “(Wellesley-Pole, sub Wellington; D/PB; Coote, Bt/PB)The grandest and most lavishly appointed early C19 Classical house in Ireland; built between 1821 and 1826 by Sir Charles Coote, 9th Baronet [1794-1864. He married Caroline Whaley, granddaughter of “Burn Chapel” Whaley whom we came across when we visited the Museum of Literature of Ireland in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin]; replacing a long, plain house of 1778 which had been the seat of William Wellesley-Pole [1763-1835], afterwards 1st Lord Marlborough and 3rd Earl of Mornington, a brother of the Duke of Wellington. Coote, the Premier Bt. of Ireland, who bought the estate from Wellesley-Pole ca 1812, seems originally to have employed an architect named Dominick Madden, who produced a design for a 2 storey house with a long library at one side running from front to back, and extending into a curved bow in the centre of the side elevation; a room very similar to the library at Emo Court, a few miles away. When this end of the house – which also contained a top-lit rotunda, another feature doubtless inspired by Emo – had been built, Coote switched from Madden to Richard Morrison, who, assisted by his son William Vitruvius Morrison, completed the house according to a modified plan, but incorporating Madden’s library wing which forms the side elevation of Morrison’s house, just has it would have done of Madden’s; it is of one bay on either side of the central curved bow, which is fronted by a colonnade of giant Ionic columns.”

The south front of Ballyfin, with the grand bow window for the library. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Victorian conservatory at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: “The side elevation is now prolonged by a gracefully curving glass and iron conservatory of ca 1850. The principal front is of 13 bays with a giant pedimented Ionic portico; the 2 end bays on either side being stepped back. The interior, almost entirely by the Morrisons, is of great magnificence and beautifully finished, with exciting spatial effects and a wealth of rich plasterwork, scagiola columns in Siena porphyry, green and black; and inlaid parquetry floors; originally the rooms contained a fine collection of pictures and sculpture and furniture said to have been made for George IV as Prince of Wales. A rather restrained entrance hall, with a coffered ceiling and a floor of mosaic brought from Rome, leads into the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end.

The upstairs top-lit saloon reminds me of that at Stradbally Hall. The first son of Charles Coote and Caroline Whaley died unmarried, the second son predeceased the first son, after marrying Margaret Mary Cosby of Stradbally. The third son, Algernon, became 11th Baron Coote and also joined the clergy. He died in 1920 and afterwards the house was sold.

The hall at Ballyfin, built in the 1820s for Sir Charles Coote to designs by Sir Richard and William Morrison. The mosaic centrepiece on the floor came from Rome in 1822. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin, the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin top-lit saloon. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin, the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Detail of the ceiling in the saloon at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: The saloon is flanked by the rotunda, which is surrounded by Ionic columns and has a coffered dome, and the staircase hall, which has pairs of engaged and recessed columns round its upper storey; the balustrade of the stairs and gallery being of brass uprights.

The rotunda at Ballyfin, which is encircled by eight Siena scagliola columns. The coffered dome is ornamented with hexagonal panels containing decorative stars set in an emphatic geometrical lattice. Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The staircase hall at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The staircase hall at Ballyfin. Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The doorway in the saloon at Ballyfin, looking through to the staircase hall. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: “There is a splendid vista through the centre of the house, from the staircase hall to the library, which lies at right angles to this central axis, beyond the rotunda; it is divided by screens of Ionic columns. The drawing room has characteristic Morrison ceiling and gilt Louis XV decoration on the walls dating from 1840s and by a London decorator. Classical entrance gates with piers similar to those at Kilruddery, Co Wicklow and Fota, Co Cork; and a folly castle in the park. Ballyfin was sold by the Coote family 1920s and is now a college run by the Patrician brothers.” 

The library at Ballyfin, with screens of Scagliola columns. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The library at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The library at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Gold Drawing Room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Gold Drawing Room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The dining room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
A bedroom at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

The Ballyfin website tells us:

At Ballyfin, stone walls enclose 614 acres of parkland, a lake and ancient woods, delightful garden buildings, follies and grottoes. The landscape, laid out in the mid-eighteenth century, is among the finest examples in Ireland of the natural style of gardening inspired by ‘Capability’ Brown.

There are many highlights that will keep garden lovers and outdoor enthusiasts exploring for days. These include the medieval-style tower, built as a folly in the 1860’s, the walled garden with its formal borders and kitchen gardens, the abundant wildlife to be seen on early morning walks and the restored Edwardian rock garden.”

Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The new cascade and classical temple at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The south front of Ballyfin, with the grand bow window for the library. Beyond is the lake made in the 1750s. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.

3. Castle Durrow, Co Laois – a hotel 

https://www.castledurrow.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Durrow (1988(:

p. 66. “(Flower, Ashbrook, V/PB) An early C18 house of an attractive pinkish stone, with a high-pitched roof and tall stacks’ built 1716-18 by Col William Flower [b. 1685], MP, afterwards 1st Lord Castle Durrow, who employed a builder named Benjamin Crawley or Crowley. Of two storeys – originally with a dormered attic in the roof – and nine bays; the front being divided into three groups of three bays by giant Doric pilasters and entablature with urns; now erected on the front of a C19 enclosed porch. Alterntive triangular and segmental pediments over ground floor windows. Originally the house was flanked by single-storey outbuildings with mullion-and-transom windows; but these have since been replaced by other outbuildings; while the front has been extended by the addition of two projecting bays at one side. The interior was originally panelled, the hall and dining room in oak; but the panelling now survived only in two rooms. Subsequent generations of the family, who from 1751 held the title of Viscount Ashbrook [Henry Flower (1712-1752)], adorned the house with C18 plasterwork and C19 stained glass; as well as building the impressive castellated entrance gate in the square of the little town of Durrow. Castle Durrow was sold by 9th Viscount Ashbrook 1922 and is now a convent school.In recent years, the attic dormers have been removed.” 

The 4th Viscount, Henry Flower, married Deborah Susannah Freind. Their son the 5th Viscount, Henry, married Frances Robinson, daughter of John Robinson, who became 1st Baronet Robinson, of Rokeby Hall, Co. Louth, a section 482 property (see my entry). He was born John Freind, and changed his name to Robinson when he inherited Rokeby. The 6th and 7th Viscounts had no male heirs and the 8th Viscount, Colonel Robert Thomas Flower, was the son of the 5th Viscount. It was his son, the 9th Viscount, who sold Castle Durrow.

The website tells us:

Colonel William Flower commenced with the construction of the Manor in 1712. The Flower family assumed residence of Castle Durrow in 1716 and continued to expand and improve their estate on various occasions during their 214 year reign. Past research indicates that the Ashbrook family were generally regarded as benevolent landlords and of course the largest employer of Durrow Village.

In 1922 the banks finally foreclosed and the Flower family were forced to relocate to Britain. The castle was sold to Mr Maher of Freshford, County Kilkenny who was primarily interested in the rich timber reserves of the Estate and sold of most of the beautiful old oak trees to Britain, by 1928 the old hard wood forests of Durrow were scarce.

The Land Commission divided up the arable portions of the property and the Forestry department took over many of the woods for further plantation. During this time the great manor house remained entirely empty. The Bank of Ireland acquired the town and consequently for the next 40 years house property in Durrow was purchased from that bank.

In 1929 with the Bishop’s approval the Parish of Durrow acquired the Estate for the purchase price of £1800 and Castle Durrow was transformed into a school, St. Fintan’s College and Convent. The establishing of a school at Castle Durrow was testimony to the fact that beautiful buildings of the past could be used in the modern world. The Presentation order ran the castle as a closed convent before they opened up the castle as a primary and secondary school which stayed open until 1987.

In the 90’s, Peter and Shelly Stokes purchased Castle Durrow and began the castle’s renovations. The works took over 3 years to complete. The renovations were a bigger job than originally was thought; the roof had to be completely replaced, new wiring and plumbing was put in through the whole castle. When the roof was renewed the original black oak beams were exposed and they are now a feature in the oriental rooms. Irish oak floors with underfloor heating were put in. New wooden sash windows were made for the castle to replace the old rotten ones. The stained glass windows, fire places and magnificent plastered ceilings were all restored. Furniture for the entire house was handpicked from Irish and European auction houses and many family heirlooms and antiques can be found dotted around the grounds. The Stokes family manage the daily running of the castle and they are an intricate part of the charming homely feel.

4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois

http://www.coolanowle.com

The website tells us:

Coolanowle Country House is a multi award winning County House B&B offering an inviting and welcoming stay for all its guests. It also offers two tastefully restored  self catering holiday cottages as well as a cosy log house self catering chalet. In total it can accommodate up to 38 guests. 

Coolanowle is the perfect venue for small parties & events.  Set on 3 acres of natural woodland with historic flax ponds, it’s the perfect place to experience country living. Famous for organic traditional food and personal attention to detail, a stay here at Coolanowle will rejuvinate, regenerate and revive!  

5. Roundwood, Mountrath, Co Laois – guest house https://roundwoodhouse.com 

and the forge and writer’s cottage at Roundwood

The website tells us: “Nestled in 18 acres of native woodland, just over an hour from Dublin, Roundwood House is a B&B and restaurant with six bedrooms in the Main House, four in the older restored Yellow House, two self-catering cottages, a wonderful library, a dog that gives walking tours, two little girls, some hens and ducks to greet you on arrival and a rooster named Brewster.”

The website tells us a little of the history of the house: “Built in 1731 for a prosperous Quaker family of cloth makers by the name of Sharp, it retains much of its charm and feel from its early days.

Most of its original features remain intact including chimney pieces of Black Kilkenny marble, carved timber architraves, sash windows and Rococo plasterwork.The 1970s were a particularly colourful time in Roundwood’s history. Then, under the ownership of the Irish Georgian Society, Roundwood became a party house for a young, upper-class, bohemian setSome individuals stand out during the 1970s in Roundwood, including Brian Molloy, who abandoned his law degree in favour of working on restoring houses with the Irish Georgian Society. Molloy brought the derelict Roundwood back to life and guests remember his hospitality, with candlelight, bouquets of wild flowers and “music floating out from somewhere”.

Hannah’s parents, Frank and Rosemary Kennan, bought Roundwood in 1983, after it had been rescued by the Irish Georgian Society from the fate of demolition. A decade of restoration by the Society followed, after which Hannah’s parents opened their home to guests and lovingly ran it for 25 years.

Just over a decade ago, Hannah & Paddy took the reins. Paddy Flynn, a musician from Canada, met Hannah in Galway where she was studying Classical Civilization. They decided that a life as live-in hosts in a Georgin Country House was an appealing prospect and so left their city life behind to do just that. They and their two girls, Amélie and Lucie, look forward to welcoming you into their beautiful home.

An added feature of Roundwood is a special library:

Frank’s Library is situated in the old Coach House on the grounds of Roundwood House. It is an English language library with approximately two thousand volumes.

The library is intended to facilitate a general understanding of the development of civilisation & to celebrate those individuals who successfully climbed onto the shoulders of millions to give us something new & beautiful; a poem, a philosophy, a scientific theory, a painting, a symphony, a new kind of politics or technology. The intention is to do this within the overall picture of our history from the beginning, with our darkest periods included.

Spread over two levels, with ample desks and armchairs in cosy corners, the library is couched in exposed brick, with beautiful brass lighting fixtures, a wrought-iron gallery and spiral staircase. Its book cases are packed wall to wall with everything from Fisk’s tome on the Middle East to an impressive fine art and limited edition facsimile copy of the Book of Kells.

The Library is open to guests staying in the house and the self-catering cottages. For anyone  not booked to stay, but interested in visiting the library , please contact us in advance.

Whole House Rental County Laois:

1. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois

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

Hidden Ireland tells us:

We are delighted that you have found our beautifully restored 18th Century Georgian House, with a private courtyard and wooded garden, located on the Main Street of the picturesque Heritage Town of Abbeyleix.

Preston House is the perfect space to unite for family gatherings or private parties. Boasting the home from home comforts of a fully equipped country kitchen, a drawing room, a music parlour & two dining rooms, our six luxurious suites are individually decorated with a quirky mix of chic and antique furnishings, providing ample living space to comfortably accommodate 14 people.

Our country manor kitchen, with an Aga to boot, was originally designed to cater for up to 80 people but it’s perfect for large or small gatherings. The individual room mixes are the perfect setting for family dining, relaxing with friends or celebrations. The house as a whole can be transformed into an event or workshop space, a cultural gathering or wellness space.

With a beautiful courtyard for outdoor dining, historic curtledge and a wonderful tree lined garden Preston House is the perfect place for a family break, a celebration or a unique wedding setting.

The Lords Walk is just a short walk from Preston House, every day, there is an adventure waiting in Laois. With its mountains, canals, forest trails, rivers & lakes, Laois is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, Preston House and Abbeyleix is the perfect starting point to explore!

Each of the suites in Preston House has its own unique & fascinating story to tell. The Pembroke Suite was named after Pembroke Terrace, a group of four impressively designed houses built as part of a dowry by the 11th Earl of Pembroke & Montgomery when his daughter Emma married Thomas De Vesci the 3rd. At the turn of the century a constabulary barracks, an inspector’s house and the post office occupied Pembroke Terrace. The Preston Suite was named after a previous incarnation of this fine premises which was a post-primary school. Mr A. E. M. Charleton of Galway Grammar School was appointed Head Master in 1895. Two months later the school opened to both boarders and day pupils. It served as an excellent educational establishment until it closed in September 1966. The Heritage Suite was named after our local tourism and community centre Heritage house: It was a Boys National School until 1995, it now serves as heritage centre with a museum, meeting rooms and playground. It’s open to the public for guided tours, cultural events and exhibitions. Exhibits include ancient artifacts and recent traditional craft from Laois as well as artifacts from the Titanic Carpet factory here in Abbeyleix.

The Sexton Suite was named after Sexton House. On the retirement of the last sexton (an officer of a church), the house became somewhat derelict but as it forms a significant part of the town’s heritage its restoration was widely welcomed and it is now a notable stop on the Heritage Trails around the town. The Bramley Suite is named after Bramley’s premises on lower Main St dates back to the early 19th century. The first business was a saddlery and post office. Early in the 20th Century, the first automobile garage in Abbeyleix was opened at the rear of Bramley’s premises. The property beside Bramley’s was formerly the site of the Abbeyleix Carpet Factory, which closed in 1914. The De Vesci Suite is named after Abbeyleix House, home of the De Vesci family for over 300 years. It is a magnificent building built beside the Nore and situated in the rolling pastureland of the estate. It is now in private ownership. The estate is rich in history with the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey and the tomb of Malachy, King of Laois on its grounds.

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

[2] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Kildare%20Landowners

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

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11805062/kildrought-house-main-street-celbridge-celbridge-co-kildare

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

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

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

[8] https://archiseek.com/2014/carton-maynooth-co-kildare/

[9] https://theirishaesthete.com/2020/01/08/a-stage-set/

[10] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_barton.html

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

[12] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/12000025/rothe-house-15-16-parliament-street-gardens-st-johns-par-kilkenny-co-kilkenny

[13] https://archiseek.com/2010/1594-rothe-house-kilkenny-co-kilkenny/

and http://kilkennyarchaeologicalsociety.ie

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

[15] https://www.irishlandmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Clomantagh_castle.pdf