3. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits:
Open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26)
We visited Castle Bellingham in November 2022, and Mr. Corscadden gave us a tour. It’s a beautiful castle venue, for weddings or events, and is sometimes available for accommodation.
It was a rainy November day and the castle is long so I didn’t capture the whole front facade in one shot, so I include to older photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
The Castle is owned by the Corscadden family, who also own Cabra Castle in County Cavan, Markree in County Sligo, and the other we have yet to visit, Ballyseede in County Kerry.
“At Bellingham Castle, the welcome is warm, the facilities luxurious and the memories, eternal. Nestled in the medieval village of Castlebellingham in County Louth along Ireland’s Ancient East, Bellingham Castle is an elegant and spacious 17th Century authentic Irish Castle available for exclusive hire, to allow you become King or Queen of your very own castle for a truly memorable experience. The Castle opens for overnight stays on select dates throughout the year, but is predominantly a venue for spectacular Weddings, conferences or events.
Set at the gateway to the Cooley mountains and on the banks of the glistening River Glyde, Bellingham Castle is the centrepiece of a 17-acre estate that includes a weir and man-made river island where you can create memories that last a lifetime. The opulent 17th Century Irish castle is bursting with rich history, splendour and old-world luxury.
Fully refurbished, yet retaining all of its character and charm, Bellingham Castle prides itself on elegance and sophistication, intimacy and cosiness, luxury and exclusivity – all just 50 minutes from both Dublin and Belfast.
We wanted to create something different at Bellingham Castle, an exquisite combination of a welcoming atmosphere and luxury castle experience. From dreamy and palatial bedrooms, to magnificent reception rooms and meticulously manicured gardens, we ensure each guest enjoys high-quality, bespoke service in an idyllic and inspirational location.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Bellingham (1988):
p. 62. “The original castle here, called Gernonstown, which was acquired by Henry Bellingham [1622-1676] mid C17, was burnt by King James’s soldiers before the Battle of the Boyne, when its then owner, Colonel Thomas Bellingham [1645-1721], was fighting for King William. Col Bellingham built a new house 1690/1700 [the National Inventory says 1712] and named it Castle Bellingham; it had a high-pitched roof and is said to have resembled Beaulieu, in the same county. Mrs Delany described it (1745) as “one of the prettiest places I have seen in Ireland.”
The house was remodelled in later C18, when a third storey was added, and again in early C19, when it was given a battlemented parapet, some turrets and a few other mildly medieval touches. The final result was not so much a castle as a castellated house, with plain Georgian sash windows. The nine bay entrance front, which appears to be only of two storeys owing to the higher ground on this side; the entrance, through a Gothic porch not centrally placed, is, in fact, on the first floor, where the principal rooms are situated. The opposite front, which also just misses being symmetrical – with three bays on one side of a shallow, curving bow and two bays and a turret on the other – also has a curved bow. Simple, pleasant rooms; a small staircase in a narrow hall at right angles to the entrance. Garden with terraces overlooking the river Glyde, formerly adorned with statues brought from Dubber Castle, the seat of another branch of the Bellinghams; vista to shrine of the Virgin Mary, erected by Henry Bellingham, a convert to Catholicism during the later years of the Oxford Movement. Straight avenue aligned on the entrance front of the house, terminated at the opposite end by a castellated gatehouse facing the village green. Having been sold by the Bellinghams ca 1956, Castle Bellingham is now an hotel.” 
The website gives a further history of the castle:
“Bellingham Castle served as one of the ancestral homes for the Bellingham family from the 17th Century until the 1950s. The original castle was built around 1660 by Sir Henry Bellingham [1622-1676], who was a cornet in the Army during the Civil War.
He purchased the lands of Gernonstowne, Co. Louth, from a fellow soldier who had been granted them in lieu of arrears of pay. The purchase was confirmed by King Charles II.
There is some variation on the spelling of Gernonstowne. On various maps and other documents, it is spelled Gernonstowne, Gernonstown, Gernon’s-Town, Gormanstown, Germanstown, Garlandstown and Garland.
Irish road signs show the English as Castlebellingham, while the Irish translation still refers to Baile an Ghearlanaigh – or Gernonstown. It was not called Castlebellingham for at least 40 years after the purchase. The name does not appear on any document before the year 1700. Around 1710, it began to appear in journals and other sources as Castlebellingham.
The castle was occupied by troops and burned down in the autumn of 1689 by King James II, in revenge for Colonel Thomas Bellingham [1645-1721] being a guide for William III, prior to the Battle of the Boyne. It is said that King William’s armies camped the night before the Battle of the Boyne in the grounds of the castle.“
Thomas Bellingham had a son, Henry. The estate passed Henry’s son Henry, but he had no children so when he died in 1755 it passed to his brother Alan Bellingham (1709-1796).
Alan’s son O’Bryen Bellingham (d. 1798) set up a brewery on site around 1770. The website tells us:
The website continues: “Over time, Castlebellingham became an important gathering point in the county. Fairs were held there every year and a church was constructed next door to the castle, along with a graveyard that houses the Bellingham family vault. The Bellinghams became one of the most powerful and influential families in the county; for over 100 years, a Bellingham held the seat in Parliament for County Louth.
Records also note Castlebellingham for having ‘the best malt liquor’ in Ireland. A brewery was built on site about 1770 and belonged to an O’Bryen Bellingham [d. 1798, a son of Alan Bellingham]. For a number of years, a brewery partnership ran their liquor business. The brewery is still there but now houses the ‘button factory’ or Smallwares Ltd. The brewery was the main supplier of drink to the Boer War troops.“
Alan’s son William married Hester Frances Cholmondeley, daughter of Reverend Robert Cholmondeley and was created 1st Baronet Bellingham, of Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth. He did not have any children and the title passed to his brother Alan’s son, another Alan (1740-1800), who became 2nd Baronet Bellingham of Castle Bellingham, County Louth.
The website continues: “A history of the parish, dated 1908, states that the impressive Calvary standing at the entrance to Bellingham Castle was erected by Sir [Alan] Henry Bellingham [4th Baronet]as a monument to the memory of his first wife, Lady Constance.
A collection of inset religious panels can be seen on the upper facades of many of the village buildings. These are also a reflection of Sir Henry’s religious sentiments, and they are unique in Ireland. In addition to the many panels, there are biblical quotations cut into the stone window sills of some buildings. North of the castle is a carefully preserved group of ‘widows’ dwellings’, built from charitable motives by Sir Henry.
In 1905, Bellingham Castle was the venue for the romantic wedding celebrations of Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham, daughter of Sir Alan Bellingham [1846-1921], 4th Baronet to the 4th Marquis of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart.
The Marquis, who was one of the wealthiest men in the British Isles at the time, spared no expense and treated his bride and guests to a lavish celebration, including chartering the Princess Maud steamer to take their guests and the Isle of Bute pipe band across the Irish Sea to Bellingham Castle for the wedding. As the society event of the year, the wedding attracted worldwide media attention, from California to New Zealand.
Footage from the wedding celebrations still exists. This remarkable film is believed to be the one of the earliest wedding films in the world. Bellingham Castle is clearly depicted in the footage, together with scenes at nearby Kilsaran Church and the village of Annagassan, from where the wedding party and their guests arrived and departed by steamer.
Castlebellingham was the ancestral home of the Baronetcy until the late 1950s. The last Bellingham to live there was Brigadier General Sir Edward Bellingham [5th Baronet], born in 1879, who was the last Lord Lieutenant and Guardian of the Rolls (Custos Rotulorum).
It was purchased by Dermot Meehan in 1958 from the Irish Land Commission for £3,065.00. Mr Meehan spent several years converting the house into a hotel. The Meehan family sold the hotel and 17 acres in 1967 for £30,636.61 to Mr John Keenan and under the Keenan family stewardship, the castle prospered over the following four decades.
In December 2012, the castle – including the 17 acres – was acquired by the Corscadden family. The family also own Ballyseede Castle in Tralee, Co. Kerry; Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, and Markree Castle, Co. Sligo.
The next chapter in the history of Bellingham Castle has begun, as an exclusive venue for private weddings, civil ceremonies, conferences, meetings and corporate events.
Bellingham Castle is a building of intrinsic historical and architectural interest and is open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26).“
House & garden tour with tea/coffee & cake… €20 per person
Lunch for larger parties is available as is a more formal 5 course evening dinner, for more information please contact us.
Telephone +353 87 2355645
The website tells us:
“Collon House, steeped in history, is full of character and charm; its gracious rooms are exquisitely furnished with period antiques and paintings, retaining the atmosphere of early Georgian living, making this a rare opportunity to experience less than one hour from Dublin City Centre, thirty minutes from Dublin Airport and just five miles from historic Slane.
Collon House is a perfect location from which to enjoy the wonderful treasures of the Boyne Valley. Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) prehistoric megalithic sites, The Battle of the Boyne visitors centre at Oldbridge, Slane Castle, Old Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice High Crosses are all less than twenty minutes drive from Collon House.“
The Historic Houses of Ireland (HHI) website tells us:
“Anthony Foster [1705-1778], Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, purchased the Collon estate in 1740 and chose to build in the centre of the County Louth village, now a market town on the road from Dublin to Derry. His early Georgian house was extended in the 1770s to form a substantial L-shaped dwelling, set back from the street at the central crossroads. The original dwelling is long and low but the later building is taller and more generous in scale with more elaborate interiors and a “handsome half-turn stair” that gives access to the upper floors.” 
“Anthony’s son John [1740-1828] was elected to the family borough of Dunleer and became the member for Louth in 1768 at the age of twenty-one. Considered ‘the best informed man in the house’ he was briefly Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer before his election as Speaker of the Irish Commons. He held office from 1785 until 1800, when Parliament was dissolved for ever under the Act of Union, a measure which Foster had strenuously opposed. As Speaker he pronounced the final words at the closing session, choosing to retain his official mace ‘for future contingencies’. Mr. Speaker Foster was returned to Westminster after the Union and was finally rewarded with a UK peerage in 1821 (his wife had previously been granted two Irish titles) after an illustrious political career that spanned more than sixty years.
In ‘A Tour of Ireland‘published in 1780, the agronomist Arthur Young mentions Foster whose improvements on the Collon estate “were of a magnitude that I have never heard of before.” These included Oriel Temple, an elaborate and chastely classical lakeside folly, which was subsequently enlarged to form the principal family seat. Foster’s son Thomas married an heiress, Harriet Skeffington, and the family moved to Antrim Castle when she succeeded as Viscountess Massereene.”
The HHI website continues: “Collon House has been altered over the intervening years but the building retains many fine Georgian interiors, now greatly enhanced by sympathetic restoration, fine furniture, glass, porcelain, pictures and objects. Their rich decoration makes a striking contrast with the plain exterior.
The gardens have also been restored with inspired and authentic planting. The entrance overlooks a sunken garden with an intricate box parterre, while the herbaceous border in the ornamental garden leads to a classical summer house in the Grecian style.” 
The National Inventory tells us it is a: “Corner-sited attached five-bay three-storey house, built c. 1770. Rectangular-plan, extended by two-bays into two-storey terrace to east, three-bay two-storey wing to north, extended former mews buildings surrounding courtyard to north, single-storey flat-roofed entrance porch to west elevation…This imposing house, the principal home of the Foster family, at the heart of Collon, has historical associations with John Foster, the last man to speak in the Irish House of Commons. It contains many details of interest, such as stone window dressings. Its prominence at the heart of the village is of intrinsic importance to the architectural heritage of Collon.” (see )
We treated ourselves to a stay in Ballymascanlon House hotel in November 2022.
The website tells us: “The Ballymascanlon House is set on 130 acres of beautiful parkland, this impressive Victorian House forms the heart of this Hotel. It is one of the most remarkable historical estates in Ireland dating back to 833 A.D. Steeped in history, Ballymascanlon estate is located in Ireland’s North East on the Cooley Peninsula in close proximity to the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains. Less than 1 hour from Dublin and Belfast, and 20 minutes from the medieval town of Carlingford. We are delighted to welcome you to our beautiful luxurious venue, ideal for both Business and Leisure.”
Ballymascanlon means the town of the son of Scanlan, and was part of the ancient Sept of Scanlan. I noticed that locals call it “Ballymac” and it would seem the “mac” would be correct if it’s “son of” though the name now skips that “c” – it’s not named “Ballymac scanlan” any longer. A document in the front hall tells us of its history. The area is full of ancient archaeological features including the Proleek Dolmen which dates to approximately 4000 BC. The information tells us that a chieftain, MacScanlan, expelled a Danish incursion into the area, before the Anglo-Normans came to Ireland.
When the Anglo-Normans came, Hugh de Lacy gave this area to the Cistercian Mellifont Abbey. After the dissolution of the monastery by King Henry VIII the land was given to Edward Moore (1540-1601), ancestor of the Marquess of Drogheda.
The document also tells us that the Duke of Schomberg camped here before the Battle of the Boyne, and that a field hospital was set up. Later the Irish Volunteer branch, the Ballymascanlon Rangers, were led by Robert MacNeale of Ballymascanlon, father of James Wolf MacNeil, who built the building we see today.
Ballymascanlon House is a multiple-bay two-storey over basement with attic Tudor-Revival house, built in 1863 for James Wolfe MacNeil, incorporating fabric of earlier building which had been built for Frederick Foster, with gables, mullioned windows, hood-mouldings and a recessed doorway.  MacNeil owned the nearby corn mills. There may be been a house previously located on the site, David Hicks tells us in Irish County Houses, A Chronicle of Change. 
Hicks tells us that the house was sold and further improved by architect P.J. Byrne for Frederick Foster. The red brick gate lodge was added at this time. Frederick Foster (1799-1888) married Isabella Vere. He was the son of John William Foster (1745-1809). Frederick had no children. His sister Louisa Jane married Thomas Span Plunkett, 2nd Baron Plunket of Newton.
Further building works were carried out in 1904 and 1919 for Katherine Plunkett, daughter of Louisa Jane and Thomas Span Plunkett, who then owned the house. The house has high pitched gables and projecting bays. The Plunkett coat of arms over the front door depicts and horse and the Plunkett motto, Festina Lente, or Make Haste Slowly.
Hicks continues his description:
“Inside, a spine corridor leads past the various reception rooms that overlook the gardens through mullioned windows. This corridor provided ample space for family portraits and landscapes that once decorated the walls. One of the most interesting features of the interior is the glazed dome that provides light to the inner hall at the centre of the house where the hotel reception is. The various reception rooms of the house are tastefully decorated and have retained much of their old world charm.“
The house was offered for sale in 1943 and purchased by George Noble Plunkett, a Papal court who received his title from Pope Leo XIII for donating money to Catholic charities. He was the father of Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising.
George Noble Plunkett and his wife Josephine Cranny were children of Pat Plunkett and Pat Cranny, two successful property developers who built many of the red brick Victorian houses in Dublin. Count Plunkett began his professional life as the director of the National Museum. After his son was killed he entered politics. After his wife died, he sold the house to the Quinn family, who turned it into a hotel.
2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth – see above
3. Darver Castle, County Louth
Darver Castle by Barry McGee 2016 courtesy of Flickr constant commons.
“The Castle, dating from the 15th century is situated in a fine parkland setting and surrounded by mature trees. The courtyard, approached through a medieval arched gateway has lofted stone faced buildings while the outer yard has very impressive stone faced buildings with stabling for 20 horses. Also included is an outdoor manège, partly walled garden and orchard. The lands, all in old pasture, have excellent road frontage and are renowned for their fattening qualities.In the early 12th Century a man named Patrick Babe was given 500 acres of land in the parish of Derver by King James II. He built a castle for himself and his family to live in on the grounds formerly owned by the church. The castle was built on the north side of the hill north of the cave and on the edge of the deep slope that led to the banks of two rivers, which provided fish and eels for the family food.The rivers acted as security from the enemy advancing from the north. With a large yard wall to the east 12 feet high and 20 acres of woodland to the west helped keep the enemy out. But a problem arose on the southside of the hill as it sloped to a deep valley and joined the high hill of newtown Darver. As the top of this hill is just 4 feet higher than the level of the top of the castle. So the soldiers were unable to see the enemy approaching from the south. Patrick Babe had a round tower built on the very top of the hill and placed soldiers into this garrison which gave them a clear view for 40 miles away so no enemy ever got near Darver Castle Estate during all the wars.
The church was never reached by Cromwell because of the protection from the hilltower. When the wars were over, Patrick Babe had wings put on the front of the tower and converted it into a windmill, and used it to ground corn for himself and his tenants. This continued for 150 years until large mills were built on the edge of the rivers, powered by the water, so that the use of the towermill ended and it was later demolished and the land around made arable. The hill is still known as windmill hill. 12thC Patrick Babe built the castle. Later he built 14 tenant houses. 1385 John Babe was given the advocasy of the church 1655 The Babes rented the castle to Abraham Ball. He died in 1742. 1740 James Babe sold the castle and 500 acres of land to Richard Fiscall Dublin for $4,000 1777 According to a survey done by Taylor and Skinner. The castle was idle. 1789 John Booth bought the castle. He died in 1840. 1840 Joseph Booth appears. He added the new wing and porch. 1857 John Filgate Booth died there. 1890 Frances Rutherford died there. 1894 Elizabeth Booth died there. 1906 Charles Rutherford died there. 1921 Zane Booth died there. 1980 John Booth died there. 1993 McCormack family took over and shortly afterwards Aidan and his wife Mary took ownership. Through a lot of hard-work and love for the castle, they have transformed it into the castle wedding venue it is today. The Carville family still continue to care for the castle, with improvements happening endlessly.“
The National Inventory tells us: “Built in 1727 by William Stannus, this building, with its unadorned façade and finely-balanced elegant classical proportions, is a handsome representative of architectural developments during the Georgian era. It retains a large amount of original and early fabric, including handsome boundary walls, corner tower and carriage arch.”
Whole House Rental, County Louth:
1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, see above, €€€ for two, € for 6-12
2. Bellingham Castle, Co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits
 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.
Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.
I have noticed that an inordinate amount of OPW sites are closed ever since Covid restrictions, if not even before that (as in Emo, which seems to be perpetually closed) [these sites are marked in orange here]. I must write to our Minister for Culture and Heritage to complain.
1. Emo Court, County Laois – house closed at present
2. Heywood Gardens, County Laois
3. Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, County Longford
4. Carlingford Castle, County Louth
5. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – closed at present
6. Battle of the Boyne site, Oldbridge House, County Meath
7. Hill of Tara, County Meath
8. Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath – guides on site from June 16th 2022
9. Newgrange, County Meath
10. Trim Castle, County Meath
11. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly
12. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath
13. Ballyhack Castle, County Wexford – closed at present
14. Ferns Castle, County Wexford – closed at present
15. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford
16. Tintern Abbey, County Wexford
17. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow – closed at present
18. Glendalough, County Wicklow
19. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow
“Emo Court is a quintessential neo-classical mansion, set in the midst of the ancient Slieve Bloom Mountains. The famous architect James Gandon, fresh from his work on the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, set to work on Emo Court in 1790. However, the building that stands now was not completed until some 70 years later [with work by Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and Arthur & John Williamson, from Dublin, and later, William Caldbeck].
The estate was home to the earls of Portarlington until the War of Independence forced them to abandon Ireland for good. The Jesuits moved in some years later  and, as the Novitiate of the Irish Province, the mansion played host to some 500 of the order’s trainees.
Major Cholmeley-Harrison took over Emo Court in the 1960s and fully restored it [to designs by Sir Albert Richardson]. He opened the beautiful gardens and parkland to the public before finally presenting the entire estate to the people of Ireland in 1994.
You can now enjoy a tour of the house before relaxing in its charming tearoom. The gardens are a model of neo-classical landscape design, with formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks just waiting to be explored.” 
Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the 1st Earl of Portarlington was interested in architecture and was instrumental in bringing James Gandon to Ireland, in order to build the new Custom House. The name Emo is an Italianised version of the original Irish name of the estate, Imoe. 
The Emo Court website tells us of the history:
“John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington [1744-1798] commissioned the building of Emo Court in 1790 although the house was not finally completed until 1870, eighty years later. Emo Court is one of only a few private country houses designed by the architect James Gandon. Others were Abbeyville, north Co. Dublin for Sir James Beresford [or is it John Beresford (1738-1805)? later famous for being the home of politician Charles Haughey] and Sandymount Park, Dublin for William Ashford. In addition, Gandon built himself a house at Canonbrook, Lucan, Co. Dublin.” 
Many of Gandon’s original drawings, plus those of his successors, are currently on display in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin.  The Emo Court website continues:
“James Gandon was born in London of Huguenot descent. He studied classics, mathematics and drawing, attending evening classes at Shipley’s Academy in London. At the age of fifteen, James was apprenticed to the architect Sir William Chambers and about eight years later, set up in business on his own. His first connection with Ireland was in 1769 when he won the second prize of £60 in a competition to design the Royal Exchange in Dublin, now the City Hall. He was invited to build in St Petersburg, Russia, by Princess Dashkov, and offered an official post with military rank. However, he chose instead to accept an offer from Sir John Beresford and John Dawson, Lord Carlow, later 1st Earl of Portarlington, to come to Dublin to build a new Custom House. This was begun in 1781. The following year, Gandon was commissioned to make extensions to the Parliament House, originally designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. Here he added a Corinthian portico as entrance to the Lords’ Chamber. After the Act of Union in 1801, the building became the Bank of Ireland. In 1785, Gandon was commissioned to design the new Four Courts. The third of his great Dublin buildings was the King’s Inns, begun in 1795. His few private houses were designed for patrons and friends.” [see 4]
The website continues: “In the early 18th century, Ephraim Dawson [1683-1746], a wealth banker, after whom Dawson Street in Dublin is named, purchased the land of the Emo Estate and other estates in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois). He married Anne Preston, heiress to the Emo Park Estate and fixed his residence in a house known as Dawson Court, which was in close proximity to the present Emo Court. His grandson, John Dawson, was created 1st Earl of Portarlington in 1785. Three years later, he married Lady Caroline Stuart, daughter of the [3rd] Earl of Bute, who was later Prime Minister of England. John Dawson commissioned Gandon to design Emo Court in 1790.“
“After Gandon died in 1823, to be buried in Drumcondra churchyard, the 2nd Earl of Portarlington, also John Dawson, engaged Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and A. & J. Williamson, Dublin architects, to finish the house. In the period, 1824-36, the dining room and garden front portico with giant Ionic columns were built, but on the death of the 2nd Earl in 1845, the house still remained unfinished. It was not until 1860 that the 3rd Earl, Henry Ruben John Dawson [or Dawson-Damer, the son of the 2nd Earl’s brother Henry Dawson-Damer, who had the name Damer added to his name after the family of his grandmother, Mary Damer, who married William Henry Dawson, 1st Viscount Carlow] commissioned William Caldbeck, a Dublin architect, and Thomas Connolly, his contractor, to finish the double height rotunda, drawing room and library.” [see 4] Caldbeck also added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.
Although it was not built during Gandon’s time, most of the house is as it was designed by Gandon, wiht some additions or changes. Mark Bence-Jones describes the house:
“Of two storeys over a basement, the sides of the house being surmounted by attics so as to form end towers or pavilions on each of the two principal fronts. The entrance front has seven bay centre with a giant pedimented Ionic portico; the end pavilions being of a single storey, with a pedimented window in an arched recess, behind a blind attic with a panel containing a Coade stone relief of putti; on one side representing the Arts, on the other, a pastoral scene. The roof parapet in the centre, on either side of the portico, is balustraded. The side elevation, which is of three storeys including the attic, is of one bay on either side of a curved central bow.” [see 3]
Bence-Jones continues: “The house was not completed when the 1st Earl died on campaign during 1798 rebellion; 2nd Earl, who was very short of money, did not do any more to it until 1834-36, when he employed the fashionable English architect, Lewis Vulliamy; who completed the garden front, giving it its portico of four giant Ionic columns with a straight balustraded entablature, and also worked on the interior, being assisted by Dublin architects named Williamson. It was not until ca 1860, in the time of 3rd Earl – after the house had come near to being sold up by the Encumbered Estates Court – that the great rotunda, its copper dome rising from behind the garden front portico and also prominent on the entrance front, was completed; the architect this time being William Caldbeck, of Dublin, who completed the other unfinished parts of the house and added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.” [see 3]
The website continues: “Emo court remained the seat of the Earls of Portarlington until 1920, when the house and its vast demesne of over 4500 ha, (11,150 acres), was sold to the Irish Land Commission. After the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Emo Court was the largest enclosed estate in Ireland. The house remained empty until 1930 when 150 ha., including the garden, pleasure grounds, woodland and lake were sold to the Society of Jesus for a novitiate. The Jesuits made several structural changes to the building to suit their purposes, including the conversion of the rotunda and library as a chapel. The distinguished Jesuit photographer, Fr Frank Browne lived at Emo Court from 1930-57.  A notable novitiate was the Irish author, Benedict Kiely.
The Jesuits remained at Emo until 1969 and the property was eventually sold to Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison. He embarked upon a long and enlightened restoration, commissioning the London architectural firm of Sir Albert Richardson & Partners to effect the restoration.
In 1994, President Mary Robinson officially received Emo Court & Parklands from Major Cholmeley-Harrison on behalf of the Nation.” [see 4]
Unfortunately Emo Park house has been closed to the public for renovation for several years, and was closed on the day we visited in July 2021. I am looking forward to seeing the interior, which from photographs and descriptions I have seen, look spectacular. From the outside we gain little appreciation of the splendid copper dome.
In the meantime, you can read more about Emo and see photographs of its interiors on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne. 
There are beautiful grounds to explore, however, on a day out at Emo, including picturesquely placed sculptures, an arboretum, lake, and walled garden. Here is a link to a beautiful short film by poet Pat Boran, about the statues at Emo Park, County Laois. https://bit.ly/35uXPO1
“The entrancing eighteenth-century landscape at Heywood Gardens, near Ballinakill, County Laois, consists of gardens, lakes, woodland and some exciting architectural features. The park is set into a sweeping hillside. The vista to the south-east takes in seven counties.
The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the formal gardens [around 1906], which are the centrepiece of the property. It is likely that renowned designer Gertrude Jekyll landscaped them.
The gardens are composed of elements linked by a terrace that originally ran along the front of the house. (Sadly, the house is no more.) One of the site’s most unusual features is a sunken garden containing an elongated pool, at whose centre stands a grand fountain.
The Heywood experience starts beside the Gate Lodge. Information panels and signage will guide you around the magical Lutyens gardens and the surrounding romantic landscape.“
The gardens at Heywood were created by Michael Frederick Trench (1746-1836), at his home, Heywood House, a house which was unfortunately burnt down in 1950 (my father as a young boy was at a musical concert nearby and saw the house burning!). Heywood House was built around 1789, and was captured before it burned down in photographs in Country Life, volume XLV in 1919. The article tells us that after Michael Frederick Trench built the house in the 1770s, he landscaped the area between his house and the village of Ballinakill, moving hills, digging lakes (he made three artificial lakes), planting trees and placing follies. The house was named after his mother-in-law, Mary Heywood (daughter of a Drogheda merchant). He was an amateur architect, and designed the parish church of Swords, as well as an addition to the Rotunda in Dublin.  The garden, set within a 250 acre demesne, is, Andrew Tierney claims, the best of its kind in Ireland: a blend of the Arcadian and the Picturesque, above which Edwin Lutyens later erected his walled terraces and enclosures.  One of the follies is a window from nearby Aghaboe Abbey (my grandfather had owned this property until the land was bought by compulsory purchase by the Land Commission in 1977).
Heywood House was inherited by the Domvile family in the mid 19th century (Michael Frederick’s daughter Helena married Comptom Pocklington Domvile, 1st Baronet Domvile, of Templeogue and Santry, Dublin), and later enlarged by Lt-Col William Hutchison-Poë, 1st Baronet Hutchison-Poë, in 1875, who had married Helena’s granddaughter Mary Adelaide Domvile. It was then bought by the Salesian Fathers in 1923. It was transferred to State ownership in November 1993 from the Salesian Fathers.
It was only in around 1906 that Lutyens added to the gardens. Sean O’Reilly describes his addition:
“Lutyens worked on the gardens from about 1906. He complemented the strong architectural framework with an informal planting style, following the same combination of structure and nature developed at Lambay and made popular with his associate – and Country Life author – Gertrude Jekyll. Laying out the garden in a series of terraces and stepped passageways exploding east and west from the falling southern terraces of the house itself, the architect shaped these spaces with a bewildering variety of retaining walls – vertical and battered, stepped and sheer – screen walls – straight and curved, large and dwarf – columns, steps and architectural artifacts.” 
Tierney describes the garden: The gardens stretch from the principal gates for almost a kilometer and a half, incorporating a sequence of three adjoining lakes and a fourth, further east, and areas of rolling parkland skirted by woodlands. Trench named each part of his garden after Alpine scenery. Trench’s Gothic follies include the Abbeyleix gate, an arrangement of octagonal towers joined by a Tudor-arched gateway. The Trench coat of arms is visible to the right of the gateway arch. From this gate the winding drive opens to Trench’s valley. Nearby, marking a split in the road, is the Spire, a shaft raised in memory of Trench’s friend Andrew Caldwell. Further along is a sham castle. High up behind that isa bridge, and a ruin, on the other side, with the Aghaboe windows. Up the pathway is the Gothic Greenhouse, a brick construction with five lancets with hood mouldings. On the east side of the lake is a grotto or bath house. On the east side of the demesne is the Trench mausoleum. [see 10]
The Lutyens garden descends to a sunken garden, with terraced borders leading down to a pool surrounded by bronze tortoises perched on stone balls. On the east side of the pond Luytens created a Pavilion with Portland stone dressings, terracotta tiled roof and saucer-domed interior, containing two Corinthian capitals rescued by Trench from the Parliament House in Dublin, which he was involved in remodelling. The north wall had busts of philosphers in oval niches, now replaced by urns.
For more on the gardens, see the blog of the Irish Aesthete, Robert O’Byrne. 
3.Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Kenagh, County Longford:
“Hidden away in the boglands of Longford, not far from Kenagh village, is an inspiring relic of prehistory: a togher – an Iron Age road – built in 148 BC. Known locally as the Danes’ Road, it is the largest of its kind to have been uncovered in Europe.
Historians agree that it was part of a routeway of great importance. It may have been a section of a ceremonial highway connecting the Hill of Uisneach, the ritual centre of Ireland, and the royal site of Rathcroghan.
The trackway was built from heavy planks of oak, which sank into the peat after a short time. This made it unusable, of course, but also ensured it remained perfectly preserved in the bog for the next two millennia.
Inside the interpretive centre, an 18-metre stretch of the ancient wooden structure is on permanent display in a hall specially designed to preserve it. Don’t miss this amazing remnant of our ancient past.“
“Carlingford lies in the shade of Slieve Foye, a mountain that in legend takes its form from the body of the sleeping giant Finn MacCumhaill. The castle dominates the town and overlooks the lough harbour. It was a vital point of defence for the area for centuries.
Carlingford Castle was built around 1190, most likely by the Norman baron Hugh de Lacy. By this time Hugh’s family had grown powerful enough to make King John of England uneasy. John forced them into rebellion and seized their property in 1210. He reputedly stayed in his new castle himself. It is still known as King John’s Castle.
The Jacobites fired on the castle in 1689; William of Orange is said to have accommodated his wounded soldiers there following the Battle of the Boyne.
Carlingford Lough Heritage Trust provides excellent guided tours of this historic Castle from March to October.“
By 1778 the building was ruinous. The task of repair and preservation was begun by the Henry Paget the 1st Marquess of Anglesey in the later nineteenth century (he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1848, and as Master General of the Ordinance), and has been continued by the OPW. 
5. Old Mellifont Abbey, Tullyallen, Drogheda, County Louth:
General enquiries: 041 982 6459, email@example.com. Mellifont means “fountain of honey.”
“Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. St Malachy of Armagh created it in 1142 with the help of a small number of monks sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux [and with the aid of Donough O’Carroll, King of Oriel – see 14]. The monks did not take well to Ireland and soon returned to France, but the abbey was completed anyway and duly consecrated with great pomp.
It has several extraordinary architectural features, the foremost of which is the two-storey octagonal lavabo [the monk’s washroom].
The monks at Mellifont hosted a critical synod in 1152. The abbey was central to the history of later centuries, too, even though it was in private hands by then. The Treaty of Mellifont, which ended the Nine Years War, was signed here in 1603, and William of Orange used the abbey as his headquarters during the momentous Battle of the Boyne.“
The ruins contain the medieval gatehouse, parish church, chapter house and lavabo. The octagonal lavabo was designed as a freestanding structure of two storeys, with an octagonal cistern to supply the water located at the upper level over the wash room. Wash basins were arranged around a central pier, now gone, which supported the weight of the water above.  The entire monastery was surrounded by a defensive wall. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Mellifont was acquired in 1540 by William Brabazon (died 1552), Vice Treasurer of Ireland, and passed later to Edward Moore (Brabazon’s wife Elizabeth Clifford remarried three times after Brabazon’s death, and one of her husbands was Edward Moore), who established a fortified house within the ruins around 1560. His descendents (Viscounts of Drogheda) lived there until 1727 (until the time of Edward Moore, 5th Earl of Drogheda), after which the house, like the abbey, fell into disrepair.
Garret Moore, 1st Viscount of Drogheda, hosted the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603.
6. Battle of the Boyne site and visitor centre, Oldbridge House, County Meath.
General Enquiries: 041 980 9950, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Battle of the Boyne museum is housed in Oldbridge Hall, which is built on the site where the Battle of the Boyne took place.
From the website:
“Oldbridge House was built in the 1740’s by either John Coddington or his nephew Dixie Coddington. [John Coddington purchased the land in 1724 from Henry Moore the 4th Earl of Drogheda.]
It is believed to have been designed by George Darley, a local mason architect who also designed the renovated Dunboyne Castle, Dowth House and The Tholsel in Drogheda, Co. Louth.
To the left of the house there is a cobble stone stable yard with fine cut stable block. This originally contained coach houses, stables, tack and feed rooms.
To the right of the house is a small enclosed courtyard which contains the former butler’s house which is not open to the public.” 
Oldbridge House was purchased by the state in 2000, and renovation began.
Oldbridge House is a three storey house with a plain ashlar frontage of seven bays, with the centre three widely spaced and set somewhat advanced from the rest of the facade. Quadrant walls link the house to its park, with rusticated doors. The house is of two dates. Originally, in around 1750 it was a three bay, three storey block with low single-storey wings, and in around 1832, two floors were added to each wing, said to be by Frederick Darley. Similarity to nearby Dowth Hall suggests the involvement of the earlier and related George Darley in the original design.  It has a centrally located tripartite doorcase with pilasters surmounted by a closed pediment, which holds a canonball from the fields of the Battle of the Boyne. It has a string course between ground and first floors and sill course to first floor, and three central windows on first floor with stone architraves. 
An ancestor of Stephen’s, Elizabeth Coddington (1774-1857), grew up in Oldbridge House! She married Edward Winder (1775-1829). The son of John Coddington who purchased the land predeceased his father so John’s nephew, Dixie (1725-1794), son of his brother Nicholas, inherited. Dixie in turn had no sons, so the estate passed to his brother Henry. Dixie is also associated with Tankardstown House, a section 482 property. Henry Coddington (1734-1816) was father to Stephen’s ancestor Elizabeth. Henry was a barrister, and served as MP for Dunleer, County Louth, and he married Elizabeth Blacker from Ratheskar, County Louth.
The Battle of the Boyne was just one of several battles that took place in Ireland when the rule of King James II was challenged by his son-in-law, a Dutch Protestant Prince, William of Orange. James II was Catholic, and he attempted to introduce freedom of religion, but this threatened families who had made gains under the reformed Protestant church. When James’s wife gave birth to a male heir in 1688, many feared a permanent return to Catholic monarchy and government. In November 1688, seven English lords invited William of Orange to challenge the monarchy of James II. William landed in England at the head of an army and King James feld to France and then to Ireland. William followed him over to Ireland in June 1690.
“On 1 July 1690 (Old Style), King William III clashed with his father-in-law, King James II, on the River Boyne at Oldbridge, County Meath.
Both kings commanded their armies in person. There were 36,000 men on the Williamite side and 25,000 on the Jacobite side. It was the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield. English, Scottish, Dutch, Danes and Huguenots (French Protestants) made up William’s army (Williamites), while James’ men (Jacobites) were mainly Irish Catholics, reinforced by 6,500 French troops sent by King Louis XIV. At stake were the British throne, French Dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland.
William’s camp was on the north side of the river. James’s was on the south side with the two armies facing each other. William’s battle plan was to trap the Jacobite army in a pincer movement. He sent 10,000 men towards Slane which drew the bulk of the Jacobities upstream in response. With 1,300 Jacobites posted in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. All the fighting took place on the south side of the river, as the vastly outnumbered Jacobites defended their position against the advancing Williamites. William himself crossed at Drybridge with 3,500 mounted troops.
The pincer movement failed. King James’s army retreated across the River Nanny at Duleek and regrouped west of the Shannon to carry on the war.
Approximately 1,500 soldiers were killed at the Boyne.” 
After winning the battle, William gained control of Dublin and the east of Ireland. However, the war continued until the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691, which led to the surrender at Limerick the following autumn. The surrender terms promised limited guarantees to Irish Catholics and allowed the soldiers to return home or to go to France. The Irish Parliament however then enacted the Penal Laws, which ran contrary to the treaty of Limerick and which William first resisted, as he had no wish to offend his European Catholic allies.
The gardens of Oldbridge House have been resotred, with an unusual sunken octagonal garden, peach house, orchard and herbaceous borders, with a tearoom in the old stable block. Throughout the year outdoor theatre, workshops and events such a cavalry displays and musket demonstrations help to recreate a sense of what it might have been like on that day in July 1690.
7.Loughcrew Cairns, Corstown, Oldcastle, County Meath:
general enquiries: 087 052 4975, email@example.com
“The Loughcrew cairns, also known as the Hills of the Witch, are a group of Neolithic passage tombs near Oldcastle in County Meath. Spread over four undulating peaks, the tombs are of great antiquity, dating to 3000 BC.
Cairn T is one of the largest tombs in the complex. Inside it lies a cruciform chamber, a corbelled roof and some of the most beautiful examples of Neolithic art in Ireland. The cairn is aligned to sunrise at the spring and autumn equinoxes and at these times people gather there to greet the first rays of the sun.“
8. Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Newgrange and Knowth, County Meath.
General Information: 041 988 0300, firstname.lastname@example.org
“The World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne is Ireland’s richest archaeological landscape and is situated within a bend in the River Boyne. Brú na Bóinne is famous for the spectacular prehistoric passage tombs of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth which were built circa 3200BC. These ceremonial structures are among the most important Neolithic sites in the world and contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe.“
37.Hill of Tara, Navan, County Meath:
General information: 046 902 5903, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“The Hill of Tara has been important since the late Stone Age, when a passage tomb was built there. However, the site became truly significant in the Iron Age (600 BC to 400 AD) and into the Early Christian Period when it rose to supreme prominence – as the seat of the high kings of Ireland. All old Irish roads lead to this critical site.
St Patrick himself went there in the fifth century. As Christianity achieved dominance over the following centuries, Tara’s importance became symbolic. Its halls and palaces have now disappeared and only earthworks remain.
There are still remarkable sights to be seen, however. Just one example is the Lia Fáil – the great coronation stone and one of the four legendary treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann – which stands proudly on the monument known as An Forradh.
Guided tours of the site will help you understand the regal history of this exceptional place and imagine its former splendour.“
9.Trim Castle, County Meath:
General information: 046 943 8619, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Few places in Ireland contain more medieval buildings than the heritage town of Trim. Trim Castle is foremost among those buildings.
In fact, the castle is the largest Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland. Hugh de Lacy and his successors took 30 years to build it.
The central fortification is a monumental three-storey keep. This massive 20-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was all but impregnable in its day. It was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and water-filled moat.
Modern walkways now allow you to look down over the interior of the keep – a chance to appreciate the sheer size and thickness of the mighty castle walls.
The castle is often called King John’s Castle although when he visited the town he preferred to stay in his tent on the other side of the river. Richard II visited Trim in 1399 and left Prince Hal later Henry V as a prisoner in the castle.” I never knew we had such a link to King Henry V and Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV!
Patrick Comerford gives an excellent history of Trim Castle in his blog.  The castle stands within a three acre bailey, surrounded by a defensive perimeter wall. The curtain wall of the castle is fortified by a series of semicircular open-back towers. There were two entrances to Trim Castle, one, beside the car park, is flanked by a gatehouse, and the second is a barbican gate and tower. 
We visited in May 2022, after visiting St. Mary’s Abbey (also called Talbot’s Castle) – more on that soon. We were late entering so the entry to inside the castle was closed, unfortunately – we shall have to visit again!
The information board tells us that in 1182 when Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath, he occupied this site bounded by the River Boyne to the north and marshy ground to the south. By 1175 his original wooden fortification had been replaced by this unusual keep, later surrounded by curtain walls with a simple gate to the north and a bridge across the moat. The south curtain wall with its D shaped buildings was completed by 1200, when new siege tactics forced a change in the design of castles. Later, the forebuildings and plinth were built, protecting the entrance and base of the keep.
Sometime before 1180, Hugh de Lacy replaced the timber palisade fence enclosing the keep with a stone enclosure. The fore-court enclosed stables and stores and protected the stairway and door to the keep. The new entrance was on the north side of the enclosure and had a drawbridge over the deepened ditch.
With the development of the curtain walls, the inner enclosure became obsolete.
The ditch was filled and three defensive towers – two survive – were built on its site. The drawbridge was replaced by a stone causeway leading to an arched gate and entrance stairway. A reception hall was built to accommodate visitors before they entered the Keep.
As the town and approach roads developed, the barbican gate provided a new entrance from the south. After the siege of 1224, the north curtain walls, towers and Trim gate required major repairs. During a period of prosperity in the second half of the 13th century, the great hall and solar were constructed on the site of the north curtain wall and tower. Trim and its abbeys and the Cathedral and borough of Newtown developed in the security of the castle.
The Boyne was used for transport of goods to the river gate. Stores, workshops and kitchens were built in the castle yard.
Though the castle buildings were often adapted to suit changing military and domestic needs, much of the fabric of Trim Castle has remained unchanged since the height of Anglo-Norman power in Ireland.
The information board tells us that courts, parliaments, feasts and all issues relating to the management of the Lordship were discussed at meetings in the Great Hall. After 1250, the great public rooms in the Keep were considered unsuitable for such gatherings, so this hall was built, lit by large windows with a view of the harbour and the Abbey of St. Mary’s across the river. The hall had a high seat at the west end, with kitchens and undercroft cellars to the east. Ornate oak columns rising from stone bases supported the great span of the roof.
The hall was heated from a central hearth and vented by a lantern-like louvre in the roof.
Early in the 13th century the weirs were completed on the Boyne, allowing the moat to be flooded, and the Leper River was channelled along the south curtain wall. A new gate was constructed guarding the southern approaches to the castle. This gatehouse, of a rare design, was built as a single cylindrical tower with a “barbican,” defences of a forward tower adn bridge. An elaborate system of lifting bridges, gates and overhead traps gave the garrison great control over those entering the castle. The arrangement of plunging loops demonstrates the builders’ knowledge of the military requirements of defending archers.
By the middle of the 13th century, the design of castle gates was further developed and a twin tower gatehouse with a passage between the two towers became standard.
10. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly:
General information: 090 9674195, email@example.com
“St Ciarán founded his monastery on the banks of the River Shannon in the 6th Century. The monastery flourished and became a great seat of learning, a University of its time with students from all over Europe.
The ruins include a Cathedral, two round Towers, three high crosses, nine Churches and over 700 Early Christian graveslabs.
The original high crosses, including the magnificent 10th century Cross of the Scriptures area on display in a purpose built visitor centre adjacent the monastic enclosure.
An audiovisual presentation will give you an insight into the history of this hallowed space.“
11. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath:
“Fore” comes from the Irish “fobhar” meaning well or spring.
“In a tranquil valley in the village of Fore, about a 30-minute drive from Mullingar in County Westmeath, you can visit the spot where St Feichin founded a Christian monastery in the seventh century AD.
It is believed that, before Feichin’s death, 300 monks lived in the community. Among the remains on the site is a church built around AD 900. There are also the 18 Fore crosses, which are spread out over 10 kilometres on roadways and in fields.
Seven particular features of the site – the so-called ‘Seven Wonders of Fore’ – have acquired legendary status. They include: the monastery built on a bog; the mill without a race (the saint is said to have thrust his crozier into the ground and caused water to flow); and the lintel stone raised by St Feichin’s prayers.
St Feichin’s Way, a looped walk around the site, provides an excellent base from which to explore these fabled places.“
The Benedictine Priory was founded around 1180 by Hugh de Lacy, the first Viceroy of Ireland. Before this there was a monastery in Fore, founded by Feichin in the seventh century. The Benedictines had a link with France and its first monks came from France. The Priory sufffered plundering attacks so needed defensive towers and fortification. It was built around a Cloister or courtyard.
The “columbarium” mentioned in the diagram is a house for keeping pigeons – we saw one previously at Moone Abbey tower, and there is one at Fore.
The monastery founded at Fore in the seventh century by St Feichin, a Sligo-born holy man who travelled widely in Ireland, was large and prosperous but was superceded by Fore Abbey, the nearby Benedictive abbey founded by the Norman deLacys. The remaining building of St Feichins is the church, which was built in the tenth century. A new chancel was added around 1200, and the arch leading to this was re-erected in 1934. The east window was inserted in the 15th century.
The Anchorite’s Cell is a small tower with attached chapel. The tower had two storeys and on the top floor lived a number of Anchorites, or hermits. The chapel has a vault below, the crypt of the Nugent family of nearby Castle Delvin and Clonyn Castle, Earls of Westmeath. Delvin, or Castletown-Delvin, was granted by Hugh de Lacy to his son-in-law Gilbert de Nugent. The 1st Earl of Westmeath was Richard Nugent (1583-1642). His father was Christopher Nugent, 5th Baron Delvin.
12.Ballyhack Castle, Arthurstown, County Wexford
General enquiries: 051 398 468, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Ballyhack Castle commands an imperious position on a steep-sided valley overlooking Waterford Estuary. It is thought that the Knights Hospitallers of St John, one of the two mighty military orders founded at the time of the Crusades, built this sturdy tower house around 1450.
The tower is five stories tall and the walls survive complete to the wall walk. Built into the north-east wall of the second floor is a small chapel complete with a piscina, aumbry and altar. The entrance to the castle is protected externally by a machicolation and internally by a murder hole – that is, an opening through which defenders could throw rocks or pour boiling water, hot sand or boiling oil, on anyone foolish enough to attack.
Currently on display at Ballyhack Castle are assorted items of replica armour relating to the Crusades and the Normans – guaranteed to ignite the imagination!“
13. Ferns Castle, County Wexford:
General information: 053 9366411, email@example.com
“Before the coming of the Normans, Ferns was the political base of Diarmait Mac Murchada, king of Leinster. William, Earl Marshall built the castle around 1200. Since then it has had many owners, of diverse political and military colours.
Originally, the castle formed a square, with large corner towers. Only half of the castle now stands, although what remains is most impressive. The most complete tower contains a beautiful circular chapel, several original fireplaces and a vaulted basement. There is a magnificent view from the top.
There is an extraordinary artefact to be seen in the visitor centre. The Ferns Tapestry showcases the pre-Norman history of the town via the thousand-year-old art of crewel wool embroidery. Stitched by members of the local community, the 15-metre-long tapestry comprises 25 panels of remarkable accomplishment and beauty.“
14.John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford:
General Information: 046 9423490, firstname.lastname@example.org
When John F. Kennedy died, a number of Irish-American societies expressed the wish to establish a tribute to him in Ireland. The Irish government suggested a national arboretum, and secured 192 acres surrounding Ballysop House, just six kilometres from the Kennedy ancestral home at Dunganstown, County Wexford. The arborterum is planted in two interwoven botanical circuits: one of broadleaves and the other of conifers. The Arboretum was formally opened on 29th May 1968.
“Dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy, whose great-grandfather, Patrick, was born in the nearby village of Dunganstown, this arboretum near New Ross, County Wexford, contains a plant collection of presidential proportions.
It covers a massive 252 hectares on the summit and southern slopes of Slieve Coillte and contains 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world. There are 200 forest plots grouped by continent. Of special note is an ericaceous garden with 500 different rhododendrons and many varieties of azalea and heather, dwarf conifers and climbing plants.
The lake is perhaps the most picturesque part of the arboretum and is a haven for waterfowl. There are amazing panoramic views from the summit of the hill, 271 metres above sea level. A visitor centre houses engaging exhibitions on JFK and on the Arboretum itself.“
Along the northern perimeter of the site are some 200 forest plots. Each covers an area of one acre and comprises a single species of forestry tree. These provide information on the performance of different types of plantation species in the Irish climate.
Through the garden are a number of trails, and a miniature train runs during the summer, and there is a cafe.
15.Tintern Abbey, County Wexford:
General information: 051 562650, email@example.com
“This Cistercian monastery was founded c. 1200 by William, Earl Marshal on lands held through his marriage to the Irish heiress, Isabella de Clare [daughter of Strongbow]. This abbey, founded as a daughter-house of Tintern Major in Wales is often referred to as Tintern de Voto.
The nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister still stand. In the 16th century the old abbey was granted to the Colclough family [Anthony Colclough (d. 1584) was a soldier and the land was granted to him after the dissolution of the monasteries] and soon after the church was partly converted into living quarters and further adapted over the centuries. The Colcloughs occupied the abbey from the sixteenth century until the mid-twentieth.”
The Colclough (pronounced Coakley) family lived there until 1958, when it was presented to the state by Lucy Biddulph-Colclough. Anthony’s son Thomas married Martha Loftus, daughter of Adam Loftus, Lord Archbishop of Dublin, who built Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin. Their son Adam Colclough became 1st Baronet of Tintern Abbey, County Wexford. The 3rd Baronet had no heir so the title expired and the lands passed to his sister Margaret. She married firstly, in 1673, Robert Leigh, of Rosegarland, who thereupon assumed the surname of Colclough; and secondly, in 1696, John Pigott, of Kilfinney, County Limerick, who also assumed the surname of Colclough. She was succeeded by a relative, Caesar Colclough (1696-1766), eldest son of Dudley Colclough, of Duffrey Hall. The property passed through generations until it was donated to the state.
The website continues: “Conservation works have included special measures to protect the local bat colonies. The abbey is set in a special area of conservation and is surrounded by woodland within which are walking trails. Not to be missed is the restored Colclough Walled Garden situated within the old estate.“
Following the donation of Tintern Abbey to the Irish State in 1959 the walled garden was abandoned to nature and became overgrown. The gradual restoration of the walled garden by a team of volunteers began in 2010 and the 1830s layout shown on the Ordnance Survey was reinstated. The restored garden, which opened to the public in 2012, is divided into two sections: the Ornamental Garden and the Kitchen Garden.
“This thatched and whitewashed cottage nestles in the shade of Keadeen Mountain off the Donard to Rathdangan road in County Wicklow.
Today, it seems like an unlikely site of conflict. However, in the winter of 1799 it was a different story. It was from this cottage that the famed rebel Michael Dwyer fought the encircling British. One of Dwyer’s compatriots, Samuel McAllister, drew fire upon himself and was killed. This allowed Dwyer to make good his escape over the snow-covered mountains.
The cottage was later destroyed by fire and lay in ruins for almost 150 years. It was restored to its original form in the twentieth century. Now, it contains various items of the period – both those that characterised everyday life, such a roasting spit and a churn, and those that only appeared in the throes of combat, such as deadly pikes.“
17.Glendalough, County Wicklow:
General information: 0404 45352, firstname.lastname@example.org
“In a stunning glaciated valley in County Wicklow, in the sixth century, one of Ireland’s most revered saints founded a monastery. The foundation of St Kevin at Glendalough became one of the most famous religious centres in Europe.
The remains of this ‘Monastic City’, which are dotted across the glen, include a superb round tower, numerous medieval stone churches and some decorated crosses. Of particular note is St Kevin’s Bed, a small man-made cave in the cliff face above the Upper Lake. It is said that St Kevin lived and prayed there, but it may actually be a prehistoric burial place that far predates him.“
18. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow:
General Information: 0404 48844, email@example.com
Kilmacurragh House was home to seven generations of the Acton family. It was built in 1697 by Thomas Acton, whose father came to Ireland as part of Oliver Cromwell’s army, for which he was granted the lands surrounding the ruined abbey of St. Mochorog. The five bay Queen Anne house is thought to be the work of Sir William Robinson, who is better known today for his work at Marsh’s Library in Dublin, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin Castle and Charles Fort, Kinsale, County Kerry. 
“There was a monastery at Kilmacurragh, in this tranquil corner of County Wicklow, in the seventh century, and a religious foundation remained right up until the dissolution of the monasteries. After Cromwell invaded the land passed to the Acton family.
By the time the estate came to Thomas Acton in 1854, an unprecedented period of botanical and geographical exploration was afoot. In collaboration with the curators of the National Botanic Gardens, Acton built a new and pioneering garden.
In 1996, a 21-hectare portion of the old demesne officially became part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. The following ten years were spent giving the estate’s rare and beautiful plants a new lease of life.
Kilmacurragh is now part of the National Botanic Gardens, providing a complementary collection of plants to its parent garden at Glasnevin. Arrive in spring to witness the transformation of the walks, as fallen rhododendron blossoms form a stunning magenta carpet.“
“The Gardens lies within an estate developed extensively during the nineteeth century by Thomas Acton in conjunction with David Moore and his son Sir Frederick Moore, Curators of the National Botanic Gardens at that time. It was a period of great botanical and geographical explorations with numerous plant species from around the world being introduced to Ireland for the first time. The different soil and climatic conditions at Kilmacurragh resulted in many of these specimens succeeding there while struggling or failing at Glasnevin. Kilmacurragh is particularly famous for its conifer and rhododendron collections.” 
Thomas Acton’s son William married Jane Parsons of Birr Castle. Their son Thomas Acton inherited, then his son Lt Col William and then his son Thomas (1826-1908). Along with his sister Janet, he had a passion for collecting plants. They travelled to the Americas and Asia in search of plants, and established one of the finest arboreta in Ireland, and formed a friendship with David Moore, curator of the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Thomas died unmarried in 1908 and Kilmacurragh was inhierted by his nephew, Captain Charles Annesley Acton, who had been born in Peshawar. However, he was killed fighting in World War I as was his brother Reginald. Thus in eight years, three consecutive owners of Kilmacurragh had died, inflicting death duties amounting to 120% of the value of the property. The Actons were forced to sell the estate. The house fell into ruin and the arboretum became overgrown. The state acquired Kilmacurragh in 1996 and have restored the arboretum, making it part of the National Botanic Gardens.
 p. 336. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.
 p. 119. 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.