Places to visit and stay: Connacht: Galway and Roscommon

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

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.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Galway

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

2. Ardcarrig Garden, Oranswell, Bushypark, County Galway

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  – gardens

9. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

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

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

12. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

13. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – gardens open 

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

15. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

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

Places to stay, County Galway

1. Abbeyglen Castle, Galway €€

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

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

4. Ballindooly Castle, Co Galway – accommodation 

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

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

7. Castle Hacket west wing, County Galway

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

9. Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, Co Galway – Airbnb 

10. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway

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

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

13. Emlaghmore Cottage, Connemara, County Galway

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, County Galway

19. Oranmore Lodge Hotel (previously Thorn Park), Oranmore, Co Galway

20. The Quay House, Clifden, Co Galway 

21. Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway – hotel

22. Rosleague Manor, Galway – accommodation  

23. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway

24. Ross Lake House Hotel, Oughterard, County Galway 

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

Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:

1. Carraigin Castle, County Galway – sleeps 10

2. Cloghan Castle, near Loughrea, County Galwaywhole 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

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, Eircode: H65 AX27 – section 482

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

13. 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.

14. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

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

15. 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.

16. 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])

17. 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.

18. 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, County 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. Ardilaun House Hotel (formerly Glenarde), Co Galway – 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.

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

4. Ballindooly Castle, Co Galway – accommodation 

https://www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/

5. 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.” 

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.”

12. 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]).

13. 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.

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
(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]

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 Inagh Lodge Hotel, County Galway €

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. Oranmore Lodge Hotel (previously Thorn Park), Oranmore, Co Galway  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.

20. The Quay House, Clifden, Co Galway €€

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]).

21. 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.

22. 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.”

23. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – see above

www.rosscastle.com 

24. 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.

25. 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.

Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:

1. Carraigin Castle, County Galway – sleeps 10

https://www.carraigin.net

The website tells us:

Surrounded by seven acres of lawns, park and woodland, Carraigin Castle is an idyllic holiday home in a beautiful setting on the shores of Lough Corrib, one of Ireland’s biggest lakes, famous for its brown trout and its multitude of picturesque islands. From the Castle one can enjoy boating and fishing on the lake, walking, riding and sightseeing all over Galway and Mayo, or just relax by the open hearth and contemplate the charm and simple grandeur of this ancient dwelling, a rare and beautiful example of a fortified, medieval “hall house”.

Family groups or close friends will love the relaxed atmosphere of this authentic 13th-century manor house, which has been restored by the present owner after languishing for more than two centuries as a crumbling, roofless ruin.  Carraigin’s church-like structure sits on a rise reached by an avenue across the tree-lined Pleasure Ground.

The History:

Despite its massive, castellated walls, Carraigin was never a mere fortress, but rather, an elegant home where a land-owning family could live securely in turbulent times. For some ten generations, the castle housed the descendants of its founder, Adam Gaynard III, grandson of a Norman adventurer who had taken part in the colonisation of the neighbourhood by the great de Burgo conquerors in 1238. 

Towards 1650, another military adventurer, George Staunton, acquired “the castle and lands of Cargin”, which his descendants continued to own until 1946. By, then, the castle had long been
abandoned. Stripped of its roof in the early 18th century, Carraigin’s relatively recent upper storeys and finer stonework were demolished and burned to make lime for the construction of the nearby Georgian mansion which replaced it.

However, the solid masonry core of the original 13th Century building had been constructed with such skill that it weathered centuries of neglect, surviving as a romantic, ivy-covered ruin until, in 1970, the castle was restored to its original form and purpose.

The Interior: “The ancient-looking, nail-studded front door on the ground floor, often mistaken for an authentic antiquity, was actually made by the owner during the building’s restoration in the 1970s.  Round the corner, an imposing stone staircase leads to another grand entrance, into the lofty, oak-beamed Great Hall featuring a wide, stone-arched fireplace that provides a comforting aroma of turf and wood-smoke.

The Great Hall is the central living and dining area of the castle. It features a mix of old oak and comfortable modern furniture surrounding the welcoming hearth. Its white walls are extensively decorated with art including tapestries, brass rubbing portraits of ancient kings and knights and a magnificent triptych featuring a Galway galleon (as on that city’s coat of arms). There is a tiny but well-equipped kitchen next door with a view over the tall trees of the Pleasure Ground.

On the same level as the Hall is an oak-beamed double bedroom with a king-size bed and bathroom.  A stone staircase winds upwards over this master bedroom to a family loft room overlooking the Great Hall. Another winding stairs leads up to a little single bedroom in the corner tower.  From both of these second-floor rooms you can stroll out onto the castle parapets with fabulous views of Lough Corrib and the hills of Connemara and Mayo, and even those of Clare, on the other side of Galway Bay. 

The rest of you sleep in the four cosy ‘Vaults’ on the ground floor below, their walls also lined with tapestries and other artworks. The Vaults have much picturesque charm with their oak-timbered partitions, arches and vaulted ceilings, and they work if you know each other well as the rooms lead one into the other. Vault I, the largest of the four, sleeps two in bunk-beds and features a fair-sized work table and chairs for busy teenagers and a mini-sofa for one or two in the window embrasure. Vault II (off No. 1) has a double bed and a similar window seat. Vault III (also off No.1) has one double and one single bed and a window seat. Vault III in turn gives access to Vault IV, a small single room with a three-light gothic window looking out at the standing stone sundial on the lawn.

2. 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/

Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny

Just to finish up my entries about Office of Public Works properties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

Carlow:

1. Altamont Gardens

[Dublin 2-21]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House, County Kildare

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny – site currently closed

25. Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

26. Kells Priory, County Kilkenny

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny – site currently closed

Carlow:

1. Altamont House and Gardens, Bunclody Road, Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow:

Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [1]

General information: (059) 915 9444

altamontgardens@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.

For example, there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air.

With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.” [2]

Altamont, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

From Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018:

Altamont House was constructed in the 1720s, incorporating parts of an earlier structure said to have been a medieval nunnery. In the 1850s, a lake was excavated in the grounds of the house, but it was when the Lecky-Watsons, a local Quaker family, acquired Altamont in 1924 that the gardens truly came into their own.

Feilding Lecky-Watson had worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he nurtured his love of exotic plants, and of rhododendrons in particular. Back in Ireland, he became an expert in the species, cultivating plants for the botanical gardnes at Glasnevin, Kew and Edinburgh. So passionate was he about these plants that when his wife, Isobel, gave birth to a daughter in 1922, she was named Corona, after his favourite variety of rhododendron.” [3]

Altamont House and Gardens lake, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Around the lake are mature conifers that were planted in the 1800s, including a giant Wellingtonia which commemorates the Battle of Waterloo. [3] Corona continued in her father’s footsteps, planing rhododendrons, magnolia and Japanese maples. Another feature is the “100 steps” hand-cut in granite, leading down to the River Slaney. There are red squirrels, otters in the lake and river, and peacocks. Before her death, Corona handed Altamont over to the Irish state to ensure its preservation.

The Temple, Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House and Parklands, Celbridge, County Kildare.

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photo by Mark Wesley 2016, Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General Information: castletown@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Castletown is set amongst beautiful eighteenth-century parklands on the banks of the Liffey in Celbridge, County Kildare.

The house was built around 1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, to designs by several renowned architects. It was intended to reflect Conolly’s power and to serve as a venue for political entertaining on a grand scale. At the time Castletown was built, commentators expected it to be ‘the epitome of the Kingdom, and all the rarities she can afford’.

The estate flourished under William Conolly’s great-nephew Thomas and his wife, Lady Louisa, who devoted much of her life to improving her home.

Today, Castletown is home to a significant collection of paintings, furnishings and objets d’art. Highlights include three eighteenth-century Murano-glass chandeliers and the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in the country.

It is still the most splendid Palladian-style country house in Ireland.

This photo was taken probably by Robert French, chief photographer of William Lawrence Photographic Studios of Dublin, National Library of Ireland flickr constant commons.

William Conolly rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.

The Archiseek website tells us:

“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” [4]

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photograph from macmillan media for Tourism Ireland 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

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

The centre block, of three storeys over a basement, has two more or less identical thirteen bay fronts reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty  and serenity. The centre block is joined by curved Ionic colonnades to two storey seven bay wings; the wings and colonnades having been designed by Pearce, who also designed the impressive two storey entrance hall, which has a gallery supported by Ionic columns. Apart from the hall, the long gallery upstairs and some rooms with simple wainscot, the interior of Castletown was still unfinished at the time of Speaker Conolly’s death, and remained so until after his great-nephew, the popular Irish patriot Tom Conolly, married Lady Louisa Lennox (daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond and sister of Emily, Duchess of Leinster) 1758.” [5]

William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754) via his brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James died just two years after Katherine nee Conyngham, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).

Thomas Conolly (1738-1803) by Anton Raphael Mengs, painted 1758. The German painter Mengs captured Conolly as a 19 year old on his Grand Tour. He is shown posting in front of a Roman sarcophagus, the “Relief of the Muses,” now in the Louvre. He is wearing a rich satin suit with gilt braid, portraying a young cultured aristocrat. In reality he displayed little interest in ancient civilisation, and brought back no souvenirs from Rome save for this portrait. Portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Thomas’s wife, Lady Louisa Lennox, was one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster) where she was exposed to the fashionable idea of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. [6]

Carton House, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” [4]

Interior view of Castletown. Country Life 27/07/2016 
Image Number: 5499871  
Photographer: Will Pryce. In the niches are a pair of marble busts of the Earl and Countess of Dartrey by Lawrence McDonald carved in Rome in 1839. They came from Dartrey in County Monaghan which has been demolished (bequeathed to the Irish Georgian Society by Lady Edith Windham of Dartrey). The eighteenth-century organ was originally in the chapel of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin (restored by the Cleveland Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society). 

Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 4]

The staircase at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873959  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Country Life Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E.Henson.

 
Castletown House, June 2015. ‘The Boar Hunt’ by Paul de Vos (1596-1678) is framed by Lafranchini plasterwork.

Mark Bence-Jones continues:

In the following year, Tom Conolly and Lady Louisa employed the Francini to decorate the walls of the staircase hall with rococo stuccowork; and in 1760 the grand staircase itself – of cantilevered stone, with a noble balustrade of brass columns – was installed; the work beign carried out by Simon Vierpyl, a protégé of Sir William Chambers. The principal reception rooms, which form an enfilade along the garden front and were mostly decorated at this time, are believed to be by Chambers himself; they have ceilings of geometrical plasterwork, very characteristic of him. Also in this style is the dining room, to the left of the entrance hall. It was here that, according to the story, Tom Conolly found himself giving supper to the Devil, whom he had met out hunting and invited back, believing him to be merely a dark stranger; but had realised the truth when his guest’s boots were removed, revealing him to have unusually hairy feet. He therefore sent for the priest, who threw his breviary at the unwelcome guest, which missed him and cracked a mirror. This, however, was enough to scare the Devil, who vanished through the hearthstone. Whatever the truth of this story, the hearthstone in the dining room is shattered, and one of the mirrors is cracked. The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776. The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers. Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly. It eventually passed to 6th and present Lord Carew [William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994)], whose mother was a Conolly of the Pakenham line. He sold it 1965; the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. Then, in 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres as the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. The house is open to the public.” 

Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015. In the stair hall, in the rococo plasterwork, Tom and Louisa Conolly are represented in plaster, along with shells, masks and flowers. 
Castletown House, June 2015.
My Dad Desmond and Stephen in the Dining Room of Castletown House, June 2015. The portrait, on the west wall, is of William Conolly in his robes as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons by Stephen Catterson Smith the elder (1806-1872) (donated by Mr and Mrs Galen Weston). This posthumous portrait was based on Jervas’s portrait of the Speaker in the Green Drawing Room. Note the vase on the side table, one of a pair of large Meissen gilt and white two-handled campana vases with everted rims and entwined scrolling serpent and acanthus handles. This pair of vases is reputed to have been given to Thomas Conolly (1823–1876) as a gift by the future French Emperor, Napoleon III.
The portrait over the fireplace in the dining room is a half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. 

The Dining Room, description from Archiseek:

This room dates from the 1760s redecoration of Castletown undertaken by Lady Louisa Conolly and reflects the mid-eighteenth century fashion for separate dining rooms. Originally, there were two smaller panelled rooms here. It was reconstructed to designs by Sir William Chambers, with a compartmentalised ceiling similar to one by Inigo Jones in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The chimney-piece and door cases are in the manner of Chambers. Of the four doors, two are false. 

Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms. The three elaborate pier glasses are original to the Dining Room. The frames are carved fruiting vines, symbols of Bacchus and festivity. These are probably the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809) who, with the firm of Thomas Jackson of Essex Bridge, Dublin, was paid large sums for carving and gilding throughout the house.

Cranfield Mirror, the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809).
Castletown House, June 2015.

The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

It is one of a series of State Rooms that form an enfilade and were used on important occasions in the eighteenth century. This room was redesigned in the mid 1760s in the manner of Sir William Chambers. The chimney-piece, ceiling and pier glasses are typical of his designs. 

The walls are covered in red damask which is probably French and dates from the 1820s. Lady Shelburne recorded in her journal seeing a four coloured damask, predominently red, in this room. The Aubusson carpet dates from about 1850 and may have been made for the room. Much of the furniture has always been in the house and Lady Louisa Conolly paid 11/2 guineas for each of the Chinese Chippendale armchairs which she considered very expensive. The chairs and settee were made in Dublin and they are displayed in a formal arrangement against the walls as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The bureau was made for Lady Louisa in the 1760s.

Castletown House, June 2015. A Chinese gilt and polychrome lacquer cabinet on Irish stand, with a pair of doors later painted with vignettes of romantic landscapes and birds on floral sprays. The landscapes on this lacquered cabinet are said to have been painted by Katherine Conolly as a gift for her great-niece, Molly Burton, in about 1725. Katherine, who had no children herself, looked after Molly after her father died. [7]
Chinese Chippendale sofas, Irish, c.1770.
The Green Drawing Room, Castletown House, June 2015. Portrait of the woman and child is Mrs Katherine Conolly with Miss Molly Burton, by Charles Jervas. The man on the other side of the door is Speaker William Conolly.

The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

The Conollys formally received important visitors to the house in the Green Drawing Room which was the saloon or principal reception room. The room was redecorated in the 1760s and like the other state rooms reflects the neo-classical taste of the architect Sir William Chambers. The Greek key decoration on the ceiling is repeated on the pier glasses and the chimney-piece. Originally these were pier tables with a Greek key frieze and copies of these may be made in the future. The chimney-piece is similar to one designed by Chambers for Lord Charlemont’s Casino at Marino.”

Upstairs, The Long Gallery, Castletown House, June 2015.

The Long Gallery, description from Archiseek:

measuring almost 80 by 23 feet, with its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s. Originally there were four doors in the room and the walls were panelled in stucco similar to the entrance Hall. In 1776 the plaster panels and swags were removed but traces of them were found behind the painted canvas panels when they were taken down for cleaning during recent conservation work. 

In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland). The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

The three glass chandeliers were made for the room in Venice and the four large sheets of mirrored glass came from France. In the 1770s the Long Gallery was used as a living room and was filled with exquisite furniture. Originally in the room, there were a pair of side tables attributed to John Linnell, with marble tops attributed to Bossi, a pair of commodes by Pierre Langlois, that were purchased in London for Lady Louisa by Lady Caroline Fox and a pair of bookcases at either end of the room. 

In 1989 major conservation work was carried out on the Long Gallery. The wall paintings that had been flaking for many years were conserved. The original eighteenth-century gilding has been cleaned and the chandeliers restored. The project was funded by the American Ireland Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and by private donations.

The gallery at Castletown House, as decorated for Lady Louisa Conolly circa 1790. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873951  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017. A set of three 18th-century Venetian coloured and plain glass 24-light chandeliers, decorated with flower heads and moulded finials. These three Murano glass chandeliers are unique in Ireland and rare even in Italy. It is believed that Lady Louisa ordered them from Venice between 1775 and 1778 for the redecorated Long Gallery. The chandeliers were wired for electricity in the mid-1990s; they were cleaned and restored by a Venetian firm of historic glass-makers in 2009. [see 7]
The Print Room, Castletown House, June 2015.

Print rooms were fashionable in the 18th century – ladies would collect their favourite prints and paste the walls with them – and Lady Louisa’s remains the only intact 18th century print room in Ireland. Those featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline. [see 6]

The State Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015. In the 1720s, when the house was first laid out, this room, along with the rooms either side, probably formed William Conolly’s bedroom suite. It was intended that he would receive guests in the morning while sitting up in bed or being dressed in the manner of the French court at Versailles. In the nineteenth century, the room was converted into a library and the mock leather Victorian wall paper dates from this time. Sadly, the Castletown library was dispersed in the 1960s and today the furniture reflects the room’s original use.
The library at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873961  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
The Blue Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
The Boudoir, Castletown House, July 2017.

From the website: “The Boudoir and the adjoining two rooms formed Lady Louisa’s personal apartment. The Boudoir served as a private sitting room for Louisa and subsequent ladies of the house. The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner. The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery. Amongst the items inside the built-in glass cabinet are pieces of glass and china featuring the Conolly crest.

In the adjoining room, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room.

Castletown House, July 2017.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017.
Lady Kildare’s Room is named after Lady Louisa’s sister Emily, Countess of Kildare and later Duchess of Leinster, who had raised Louisa and the two younger sisters Sarah and Cecilia at nearby Carton House after their parents’ death. She bore her husband, James FitzGerald, nineteen children, but when her younger sister Louisa suffered a miscarriage that put an end to her hopes of ever having children, Emily came to stay with her in Castletown until she had recovered.
As members of the aristocracy in eighteenth-century Ireland, Louisa and Emily garnered much attention. Emily described herself and her sister as ‘women of fashion’, a term that emphasised not only their social position, but their knowledge and love of fashion. This room now displays five remarkable eighteenth-century gowns worn for formal ceremonies from the Berkeley Costume Collection. Made in France, Italy, and England, the dresses on display consist of rich embroidered bodices and full skirts made from silk and gold thread.
Statue taken from the grave of Speaker William Conolly, of him reclining next to his wife.
Statue of Lady Catherine Conolly, from the grave (see above), by Thomas Carter.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.
When we went to find the Wonderful Barn, we discovered there is not just one but in fact three Wonderful Barns!
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The smaller Wonderful Barn.

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare:

Maynooth Castle, photograph by Gail Connaughton 2020, for Faitle Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General information: 01 628 6744, maynoothcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This majestic stone castle was founded in the early thirteenth century. It became the seat of power for the FitzGeralds, the earls of Kildare, as they emerged as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Garret Mór, known as the Great Earl of Kildare, governed Ireland in the name of the king from 1487 to 1513.

Maynooth Castle was one of the largest and richest Geraldine dwellings. The original keep, begun around 1200, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Inside, the great hall was a nerve centre of political power and culture.

Only 30 kilometres from Dublin, Maynooth Castle occupies a deceptively secluded spot in the centre of the town, with well-kept grounds and plenty of greenery. There is a captivating exhibition in the keep on the history of the castle and the family.

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, Mothel, Ballyfoyle, Castlecomer Road, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 776 7726, dunmorecaves@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Dunmore Cave, not far from Kilkenny town, is a series of limestone chambers formed over millions of years. It contains some of the most impressive calcite formations found in any Irish underground structure.

The cave has been known for many centuries and is first mentioned in the ninth-century Triads of Ireland, where it is referred to as one of the ‘darkest places in Ireland’. The most gruesome reference, however, comes from the Annals of the Four Masters, which tells how the Viking leader Guthfrith of Ivar massacred a thousand people there in AD 928. Archaeological investigation has not reliably confirmed that such a massacre took place, but finds within the cave – including human remains – do indicate Viking activity.

Dunmore is now a show cave, with guided tours that will take you deep into the earth – and even deeper into the past.

25. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

Jerpoint Abbey, May 2016.

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Founded in the 12th century, Jerpoint Abbey is one of the best examples of a medieval Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. The architectural styles within the church, constructed in the late twelfth century, reflect the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The tower and cloister date to the fifteenth century.

Jerpoint is renowned for its detailed stone sculptures found throughout the monastery. Dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries these include mensa tombs from the O’Tunney school, an exquisite incised depiction of two 13th century knights, the decorated cloister arcades along with other effigies and memorials. 

Children can explore the abbey with a treasure hunt available in the nearby visitor centre. Search the abbey to discover saints, patrons, knights, exotic animals and mythological creatures.

A small but informative visitor centre houses an excellent exhibition.

26. Kells Priory, Kells, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Kells Priory owes its foundation to the Anglo-Norman consolidation of Leinster. Founded by Geoffrey FitzRobert, a household knight and trusted companion of William Marshal the priory was one element of Geoffrey’s establishment of the medieval town of Kells. 

Although founded in c. 1193 extensive remains exist today which include a nave, chancel, lady chapel, cloister and associated builds plus the remains of the priory’s infirmary, workshop, kitchen, bread oven and mill. The existence of the medieval defences, surrounding the entire precinct, underline the military aspect of the site and inspired the priory’s local name, the ‘Seven Castles of Kells’.

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny:

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by macmillan media 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. It sits on the banks of the River Nore. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National Inventory describes: Random rubble stone walls with sections of limestone ashlar construction (including to breakfront having full-height Corinthian pilasters flanking round-headed recessed niches with sills, moulded surrounds having keystones, decorative frieze having swags, moulded course, modillion cornice, and blocking course with moulded surround to pediment having modillions), and limestone ashlar dressings including battlemented parapets (some having inscribed details) on corbel tables. The classical frontispiece was designed for James Butler, Second Duke of Ormonde possibly to designs prepared by Sir William Robinson. 

General information: 056 770 4100, kilkennycastleinfo@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Built in the twelfth century, Kilkenny Castle was the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. Under the powerful Butler family, Kilkenny grew into a thriving and vibrant city. Its lively atmosphere can still be felt today.

The castle, set in extensive parkland, was remodelled in Victorian times. It was formally taken over by the Irish State in 1969 and since then has undergone ambitious restoration works. It now welcomes thousands of visitors a year.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kilkenny Castle has been standing for over eight hundred years, dominating Kilkenny City and the South East of Ireland. Originally built in the 13th century by William Marshall, 4th Earl of Pembroke, as a symbol of Norman control, Kilkenny Castle came to symbolise the fortunes of the powerful Butlers of Ormonde for over six hundred years. [8]

1n 1967 James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde sold the Castle to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. Two years later it went into state ownership.

William Marshall (about 1146-1219) was married to the daughter of “Strongbow” Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. With the marriage, he gained land and eventually, the title, Earl of Pembroke. The daughter of Strongbow, Isabel, inherited the title of 4th Countess of Pembroke “suo jure” i.e. herself (her brother, who died a minor, was the 3rd Earl). Hence William Marshall became the 4th Earl through his wife, but then then was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke himself ten years after their marriage. They seem to have settled in Ireland and created place for themselves, beginning with setting up the town of New Ross and then restoring Kilkenny town and castle – a castle had pre-dated them, according to the Kilkenny Castle website. It tells us that the present-day castle is based on the stone fortress that Marshall designed, comprising an irregular rectangular fortress with a drum-shaped tower at each corner. Three of these towers survive to this day.

By 1200, Kilkenny was the capital of Norman Leinster and New Ross was its principal port. The Marshalls also founded the Cistercian abbeys at Tintern in County Wexford and Duiske in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, as well as the castles at Ferns and Enniscorthy. He died and was buried in England. [9]

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

In 1317, the de Clare family sold the Kilkenny castle to Hugh Despenser. The Despensers were absentee landlords. In 1391 the Despensers sold the castle to James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, 9th Chief Butler of Ireland (1360–1405). The first Butler to come to Ireland was Theobald Walter Le Botiller or Butler, 1st Baron Butler, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland (1165–1206). He was called “Le Botiller” because he received the monopoly of the taxes on wines being imported into Ireland (which The Peerage website tells us was eventually purchased back by the Crown from the Marquess of Ormonde for £216,000 in 1811.)

The Butlers were an important family in Ireland. They fought for the king in France and Scotland, and held positions of power, including Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the monarch’s representative in Ireland.

The castle now forms a “u” shape, because in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion, the fourth wall fell.[10] After the Restoration of 1660, there was a major rebuilding of the old castle. In 1826, another remodelling of the castle began. In 1935, the Butler family held a great auction, selling all of the castle’s furnishings.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National inventory describes the newer wing: Renovated, 1858-62, with eight-bay two-storey range to north-east reconstructed having canted oriel windows to first floor, and pair of single-bay single-stage corner turrets on octagonal plans
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by me in May 2018.

Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond (d. 1515) lacked a male heir, and on his death, the Earldom was contested between Sir Piers Butler and his grandchildren led by Sir Thomas Boleyn. Thomas was favoured by King Henry VIII when Henry married his daughter Anne Boleyn. Piers Butler (1467-1539) was a descendant of the 3rd Earl of Ormond. Piers relinquished the claim to the title Earl of Ormond to Boleyn and was created Earl of Ossory by Henry VIII. The lands of the 7th Earl were divided between both parties. After a rapid escalation of disputes with rural Fitzgeralds and Boleyns, Piers regained his position and was recognised Earl of Ormond in February 1538.

The Crown hoped Piers would improve the Crown’s grip over southern Ireland. Piers the 8th Earl of Ormond gained much from Crown, including suppressed monasteries. He married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of the 8th Earl of Kildare, in marriage arranged for the purpose of ending the long-standing rivalry between the two families. They lived in Kilkenny Castle and greatly improved it. Margaret urged Piers to bring over skilled weavers from Flanders and she helped establish industries for the production of carpets, tapestries and cloth. Margaret and her husband commissioned significant additions to the castles of Granagh and Ormond. They also rebuilt Gowran Castle, which had been originally constructed in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Roselinde Bon 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Mark Wesley 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Finn Richards, 2015 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

The 10th Earl of Ormond, “Black Tom,” had no direct heir so the Earldom passed to his nephew, Walter, a son of Sir John Butler of Kilcash. Unlike his uncle, who had been raised at Court and thus reared a Protestant, Walter the 11th Earl of Ormond was a Catholic. See my entry about the Ormond Castle at Carrick-on-Suir for more on “Black Tom.”

Walter Butler’s claim to the family estates was blocked by James I. The latter orchestrated the marriage of Black Tom’s daughter and heiress Elizabeth to a Scottish favourite Richard Preston. This gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond, and awarded his wife most of the Ormond estate, thus depriving Walter of his inheritance. Walter refused to submit and was imprisoned for eight years in the Fleet, London. He was released 1625. Thomas’s nine-year-old son, James, became the heir to the titles. Plans were made for a marriage between James and Elizabeth, only daughter of the Prestons, to resolve the inheritance issue.

James Butler (1610-88) 1st Duke of Ormond, 12th Earl of Ormond was the eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and his wife Elizabeth Poyntz. Following his father’s death in 1619, 9-year-old James became direct heir to the Ormond titles. He was made a royal ward and was educated at Lambeth Palace under the tutelage of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1629 he married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates, as she was the sole heiress of her mother Elizabeth, daughter of the 10th Earl of Ormond, who had married Theobald Butler, 1st Viscount Tulleophelim, and secondly, Elizabeth’s father Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond.  

James succeeded to the Ormond titles in 1633 on the death of his grandfather, Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond.

The website tells us: “A staunch royalist, Ormond was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland in 1641.  He served his first term of three as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1648 to 1650.  Following the defeat of the royalists in Ireland, Ormond went to exile and spent most of the years 1649 to 1660 abroad, moving about Europe with the exiled court of Charles II.  After the restoration of the monarchy in England, Ormond was rewarded with a dukedom and several high offices by a grateful king.  Though he enjoyed the king’s favour, Ormond had enemies at court and as a result of the machinations of the Cabal, which included powerful figures such as the Earl of Shaftesbury, he was dismissed from his post as Lord Lieutenant in 1669.  When he was raised to a dukedom in the English peerage in 1682, Ormond left Ireland to reside in England. During his last term as Lord Lieutenant (1677-85), he played a major role in the planning and founding of the Royal Hospital for old soldiers at Kilmainham, near Dublin.  The last decade of his life was marked by tragedy: all three of his sons and his wife died during that time. He died at his residence at Kingston Lacy in Dorset was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond, Viceroy 1703-1707 and 1710-1713. Artist: Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680). He is wearing robes of the Order of the Garter, Ormond holds the wand of office of Lord Steward of the Household in his right hand.

The 1st Duke of Ormond had three sons: Thomas (1634-1680), 6th Earl of Ossory; Richard (1639-1686), 1st and last Earl of Arran; and John (1634-1677), 1st and last Earl of Gowran. He had two daughters, Elizabeth (1640-1665) and Mary (1646-1710). Mary married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire.

During the 1st Duke of Ormond’s tenure the castle underwent improvements. Mark Bence-Jones describes:

The Great Duke transformed the castle from a medieval fortress into a pleasant country house, rather like the chateau or schloss of contemporary European princeling; with high-pitched roofs and cupolas surmounted by vanes and gilded ducal coronets on the old round towers. Outworks gave place to gardens with terraces, a “waterhouse” a fountain probably carved by William de Keyser, and statues copied from those in Charles II’s Privy Gardens. The Duchess seems to have been the prime mover in the work, in which William (afterwards Sir William) Robinson, Surveyor-General and architect of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, was probably involved; supervising the contruction of the Presence Chamber 1679. Robinson is also believed to have designed the magnificent entrance gateway of Portland and Caen stone with a pediment, Corinthian pilasters and swags which the second Duke erected on the street front of the castle ca 1709. Not much else was done to the castle in C18, for the Ormondes suffered a period of eclipse following the attainder and exile of the 2nd Duke, who became a Jacobite after the accession of George I.” [11]

James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond painted by John Michael Wright (1617-1694), and in centre, Elizabeth Poyntz (1588-1673), mother of the 1st Duke of Ormond, painted by John Michael Wright, and Elizabeth Preston (1615-1684), wife of the 1st Duke of Ormond, with her son Thomas, who became the 6th Earl of Ossory.

Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory, was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was also Lord Butler of Moore Park and Lord Deputy of Ireland, and was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, he was the second but eldest surviving son of the Duke of Ormonde. His childhood was spent at Kilkenny until he went with his father and brother Richard to England in 1647. They then went to France, where he was educated at Caen and Paris at Monsieur de Camps’ Academy. In Holland he married Amelia of Nassau, daughter of Lodewyk van Nassau, Heer van Beverweerd, a natural son of Prince Maurice of Nassau. Ossory was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.

Ossory enjoyed the favour and support of both King Charles II and his queen. Because of his wife’s Dutch connections he was frequently sent on royal missions to that country. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend, who referred to him as ‘a good natured, generous and perfectly obliging friend’. He died suddenly in 1680, possibly from food poisoning, at Arlington House in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey

James Butler 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665-1745), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory. First married Anne Hyde and then Mary Somerset; below, Mary Somerset (1665-1733), daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. In middle, Thomas Butler (1634-1680), Earl of Ossory, Lord Butler of Moore Park, Lord Deputyof Ireland. Second son of the Duke and Duchess of Ormond and father of 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Mary Somerset’s father top right, Henry Somerset (1629-1700), 1st Duke of Beaufort, 3rd Marquess of Worcester; below Anne Hyde (1669-1685), the 2nd Duke’s first wife, daughter of Lawrence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester, artist: William Wissing (1656-87).

James Butler (1665-1745) 2nd Duke of Ormonde, 13th Earl of Ormonde, was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and his wife Amelia van Beverweerd. Following his father’s death in 1680, James became the heir to his grandfather, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, whom he succeeded in 1688.

Following his involvement in a Jacobite rising, he was impeached and a year later a Bill of Attainder was passed against him. His English and Scottish honours and his English estates were seized. Ormonde fled to France. He lived out his life in exile, and died at Avignon in France and was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.

Christopher Butler (d. 1758?), Catholic archbishop of Cashel and Emly, son of Walter Butler of Garyricken and brother of Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash, portrait by James Latham (1696-1747); Charles Butler (1671-1758) 2nd Earl of Arran, youngest son of Thomas Butler Earl of Ossory and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde; Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738) by James Latham. He was the son of Walter Butler and Garyricken and Mary Plunket. He inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard, youngest brother of the Duke of Ormond. His wife was Margaret Burke. Portrait attributed to Hans Hysing (1678-1753).

Charles Butler (1671-1758), 2nd Earl of Arran, de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde, de jure 14th Earl of Ormonde was born on 4th September 1671, the youngest son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and Amelia of Nassau and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Arran was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates.

A younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond was Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary. His son was Walter Butler of Garyricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are the sons of Walter Butler: Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).

Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738), son of Walter Butler of Garryricken and Lady Mary Plunket, inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler, youngest brother of James, 1st Duke of Ormond.  A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, he married Margaret Bourke, widow of Viscount Iveagh and daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde. They had three sons: Richard (d.1711), Walter who died in Paris and John Butler of Kilcash, who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as de jure 15th Earl in 1758 on the death of his cousin Amelia, sister of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde. The couple also had five daughters: one, Honora married Valentine Brown, Lord Kenmare.

A son of Thomas became the 15th Earl of Ormond, John Butler (d. 1766), because the 14th Earl (the 2nd Earl of Arran) had no children.

The title then passed to a cousin of the 15th Earl, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He was the only son and heir of John Butler of Garryricken and Frances, daughter of George Butler of Ballyragget. He inherited the Ormonde titles in 1766 which he did not assume but took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, who remained a Roman Catholic, exercised no political role but undertook the restoration of the Castle and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre, and the Dower House, today Butler House.

Walter the 16th Earl of Ormonde carried out various repairs, decorating some of the rooms with simple late C18 plasterwork.

He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary, and of Susanna, daughter of Richard Talbot of Malahide Castle. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved  into the Dower House, today Butler House, across the road from the Castle.

Their son John (1740-1795) became known as “Jack of the Castle” and was the 17th Earl. Jack’s sister Susannah married Thomas Kavanagh of Borris House in County Carlow (see my entry about Borris House). Jack married Anne Wandesford, pictured below.

John Wandesford (1725-1784), Earl of Wandesford, father of Anne; below, Susan Frances Elizabeth (Anne) Wandesford (1754-1830), Countess of Ormonde, wife of 17th Earl of Ormonde and mother of 18th Earl, Artist: Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1739-1808); Landscape with Waterfall from the Italian school of 18th century and below, Before the Hunt. To right, Gilbert Clarke (d. 1725), by Sir Godffrey Kneller (1646-1723) and below, possibly Susanna nee Boun, wife of Gilbert Clarke.

Their son Walter (1770-1820) became the 18th Earl and 1st Marquess of Ormonde. He had no sons so his brother James Wandesford Butler (1777-1838) inherited the title and was recreated at 1st Marquess of Ormonde and became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was created Marquess of Ormonde in 1825 and officiated as Chief Butler of Ireland at the Coronation of George IV. He married Grace Louisa Staples in 1807, they had ten children.

James Wandesford Butler the 1st Marquess undertook more renovations. Mark Bence-Jones describes:

Ca. 1826, the Kilkenny architect, William Robertson, when walking in the castle courtyard with the Lady Ormonde of the day, noticed that a main wall was out of true and consequently unsafe. One suspects it may have been wishful thinking on his part, for it landed him the commission to rebuild the castle, which he did so thoroughly that virtually nothing remains from before his time except for the three old towers, the outer walls and – fortunately – the 2nd Duke’s gateway. Apart from the latter, the exterior of the castle became uncompromisingly C19 feudal; all the 1st Duke’s charming features being swept away. Robertson also replaced one of two missing sides of the courtyard with a new wing containing an immense picture gallery; the original gallery, on the top floor of the principal range, having been divided into bedrooms. Robertson left the interior of the castle extremely dull, with plain or monotonously ribbed ceilings and unvarying Louis Quinze style chimneypieces.” [see 11]

The 1st Marquess died in Dublin in 1838 and was succeeded by his eldest son John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland (see his portrait below).

John the 2nd Marquess travelled extensively. His journals (now in National Library of Ireland) record his many journeys across  Europe to Italy and Sicily. He published an account of his travels, Autumn in Sicily, and he also wrote an account of the life of St. Canice. He married Frances Jane Paget in 1843. He continued the work of rebuilding Kilkenny castle that was started by his father. His journals show him to have a deep interest in art, and there are careful descriptions of several of the great galleries in Italy to be found in his writing. Although he continued to write in his journals during the years 1847 to 1850, no mention of the Irish famine is made. He died while bathing in the sea near Loftus hall on Hook Head, Co. Wexford. A marble tomb was erected in his memory in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.

The second eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, Anne Wandesford Butler married in 1838, the Right Honourable John Wynne of Hazelwood, Co. Sligo, which is now a distillery.

Another daughter, Louisa Grace Butler (1868-1896), the third eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, married Thomas Fortescue of Ravensdale, Co. Louth,  1st Baron Clermont in 1840.

The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess. His brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943), 4th Marquess, 22nd Earl of Ormonde, was the brother and heir to James Edward Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde. He was educated at Harrow and joined the army becoming a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards. He was state steward to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1887 he married Ellen Stager, daughter of American General Anson Stager.

As I mentioned earlier, it was James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, youngest son of James Arthur, 4th Marquess of Ormonde, who in 1967 sold the Castle.

John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess of the 3rd creation, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland. He died while bathing; Frances Jane Paget in middle (1817-1903), with her son James, Earl of Ossory. She was the daughter of General E. Paget and niece of Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquis of Anglesey, and wife of 2nd Marquess of Ormonde. Following the death of her husband, she managed the Ormonde estates and continued the rebuilding of Kilkenny Castle.  On top of the three,  over her father and uncle, is France Jane Paget again, with her dog. Below is her father General the Honourable Edward Paget (1775-1849), soldier and Governor of Ceylon. He was second in command under the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wards. He lost his right arm in Spain. Below him is Field Marshall Henry William Paget (1768-1854), 1st Marquis of Anglesey, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, brother of Edward, above.

You can take an online tour of the castle on the website https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

Tapestry Room, in the North Tower. There are two tapestries from the “Decius” suite in the Tapestry room: The obsequies of Decius Mus. The Story of ‘Decius Mus’ is a heroic tale of a Roman Consul who foretold his own death at the Battle of Veseris (Vesuvius) in the Latin War (340BC). The tapestries are attributed to the workshop of Jan Raes, after designs by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The ‘Decius’ suite had been in the ownership of the Ormonde family for over 300 years and was displayed in several of their residences before being acquired by OPW for display in Kilkenny Castle. Tapestries were an important feature of the interior decoration of large houses in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and helped provide interior interest, warmth, and colour. You can read more about these tapestries on the Kilkenny Castle website.
Tapestry Room, in the North Tower: Desius Mus and Manlius Torquatus leave to fight the Latins.
The 12 foot thick walls of the Tapestry Room in the North Tower.
The Nursery. Boys were usually sent away to boarding school in England at a young age. The Butlers traditionally sent their sons to Harrow. Girls however generally received less formal education at home including sewing, drawing, etiquette and instruction on running a household. 
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. On the walls are remnants of hand painted Chinese wallpaper original to the room with monochrome infill carried out by the studio of David Skinner. This delicate paper was probably ordered as part of the redecorations done to the castle by the 18th Earl, Walter Butler. During the 19th century ladies withdrew here from the dining room leaving the men to enjoy their port and cigars after dinner, as was the social convention.
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. A tulipiére is an ornate vessel in which to grow tulips. They are typically constructed to accommodate one bulb per spout with a larger common water reservoir base. It is usually made of hand crafted pottery, classically delftware. This tulipiére was hand-made in Delft in 2009 as a one off.
The Ante Room.

From the website: “Today the first floor space is occuppied by three rooms: Anteroom, Library and Drawing Room, as it was in the 19th century. The processional lay out of the rooms, each opening into the next is characteristic of the Baroque style of the 17th century and was know as an ‘ enfilade’ suite of rooms. Baroque protocol dictated that visitors of lower rank than their host would be escorted by servants down the enfilade to the nearest room that their status allowed. In the 16th and 17th century the State Rooms were situated on this floor. 17th century history records that it was in these state apartments that James Butler 1st Duke of Ormonde received the Papal Nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini during the Irish Confederate Wars of that century. An Anteroom was a small room used as a waiting room, that leads into a larger and more important room. The Anteroom and the room below,  today the Serving Room, were constructed in the area where an earlier stone staircase was situated.” The anteroom features a reproduction poplin wallpaper and bronze figurines in niches.

The anteroom leads to the library. “The interior decoration is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th century. Thanks to a salvaged fabric remnant found behind a skirting board, it was possible to commission the French silk poplin on the walls in its original pattern and colour from the firm of Prelle in Lyons in France. The claret silk damask curtains are also based on the originals were made in Ireland. One of the nine massive curtain pelmets is original and an Irish firm of Master Gilders faithfully reproduced matching gilt reproductions. The bookcases were also reproduced based on one original bookcase acquired by the OPW in the 1980s, this original with its 19th century glass stands in the right end corner of the library. The matching pair of pier mirrors over the mantelpieces was conserved and re gilded.”

The Moorish Staircase: Created by the architects Woodward & Deane to allow better access to the Picture Gallery and provide another staircase in this awkwardly shaped building. It is a rising half-turn stairs around a sky-lit well. Charles Harrison (1835-1903), the stone carver, is credited with the carved naturalistic foliage and small animals which adorn the stairs.

The magnificent Picture Gallery is situated in the east wing of Kilkenny Castle.This stunning space dates from the 19th century and was built primarily to house the Butler Family’s fine collection of paintings.

From the website: “The Picture Gallery was built during the early nineteenth century building programme carried out by the architect William Robertson. It was constructed on earlier foundations. Robertston’s Picture Gallery, in keeping with his work on the rest of the castle, was in a Castellated Baronial style. Initially the gallery was built with a flat roof that had begun to cause problems shortly after its completion. The distinguished architectural firm of Deane and Woodward was called in during the 1860s to make changes to the overall design of the Picture Gallery block, and other corrections to Robertson’s work. These changes included the insertions of four oriels in the west wall and the blocking up of the eight windows, while another oriel added to the east wall…. The entire ceiling was hand painted by John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902), then Professor of Fine Arts at Newman College, Dublin, using a combination of motifs ranging from the quasi-medieval to the pre-Raphaelite, with interlace, gilded animal and bird heads on the cross beam.

The Marble Fireplace is made of Carrara marble and was designed by J. H. Pollen also in a quasi-medieval style. It was supplied by the firm of Ballyntyne of Dorset Street, Dublin. Foliage carving attributed to Charles Harrison covers the chimneypiece and a frieze beneath is decorated with seven panels, showing the family coat of arms and significant episodes from the family’s long history. Starting on the left, the first panel shows the buying the castle by the first Earl of Ormond in 1391 from the Despenser family – money changing hands is shown. The second panel depicts Theobald Fitzwalter acting as Chief Butler to the newly crowned King of England highlighting their ancient royal privilege and upon which their surname of Butler is based. On the third panel, you see King Richard the Second acting as godfather for one of the infants of the Butler family in 1391. The centrepiece is the family crest which can also be seen over the arch and gateway, with the family motto “comme je trouve”- “as I find”, as well as the heraldic shield guarded, the falcon, the griffin (a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) and the ducal coronet. In the fifth panel, the 1st Duke of Ormond can be seen entering the Irish House of Lords still bearing his sword. Indeed, he refused to hand his weapon over as were the protocols in case it was used inside during an argument; this became known as The Act of Defiance. The sixth panel next to this symbolizes the charity of the Butler family showing Lady Ormonde giving alms to the poor. Finally, the sixth and last panel portrays the First Duke of Ormond’s triumphant return to Dublin from exile on the Restoration of Charles the Second in 1662, when he also established the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and founded the Phoenix Park.”

From the Poole photographic collection, National Library of Ireland. Royal visitors to the Picture Gallery of Kilkenny Castle: the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary with James Butler the 3rd Marquess of Ormond and his wife Elizabeth Grosvenor, also Two other Ormondes (likely the Marquess’ daughter & brother), Marshal & Lady Roberts (Frederick Roberts & Nora Bews), 4th Viscount & Viscountess De Vesci (John Vesey & Evelyn Charteris), Lady Eva Dugdale (later Lady of the Bedchamber), Earl of Ava (Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood d.1900), Sir Charles Leopold Cust (baronet), Sir Francis De Winton, Mr J. T Seigne JP (officer of Ormonde’s estate – we came across him when we visited Kilfane, as he lived in the house there), and “Mr Moncrieffe” 
King Charles II (1630-85); Artist: attributed to John Michael Wright (1617-1694)
Son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. During the civil war in England, Charles played an active role and fought with the army. After the defeat of the royalist, he left England for France to join his mother. In 1649, after the execution of his father, he was proclaimed king of Edinburgh and later in parts of Ireland by Ormond. In 1660 the monarchy was restored.
Full-length, standing in robes of the Garter in a pose frequently used in the studio of Sir Peter Lely. The portrait has suffered severe paint loss, and it is difficult to be certain about the attribution. The carefully delineated folds of linen, and the treatment of textures in general, are similar to those featured in the work of John Michael Wright. Other than the pose, it does not resemble the work of Sir Peter Lely. It may be one of a group of portraits which were undertaken by Wright when he painted several works for Ormond in the early 1680s.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the interior was largely redecorated and wood-carvings in the manner of Grinling Gibbons were introduced into some of the family rooms in the South Tower after the castle suffered damage 1922 during the Civil War, when, having been occupied by one side, it was attacked and captured by the other; the Earl of Ossory (afterwards 9th Marquess) and his wife being in residence at the time. In 1935 the Ormondes ceased to live in the castle, which for the next thirty years stood empty and deteriorating. It is now a wonderful place to visit, and has fifty acres of rolling parkland, a terraced rose garden, playground, tearoom and man-made lake, for visitors to enjoy.

28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 6894, breda.lynch@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This church was built in the late thirteenth century as a collegiate church and was served by a college – clerics who lived in a community but did not submit to the rule of a monastery. 

The church was patronised by the Butler family and many early family members are commemorated here with elaborate medieval tombs. The impressive ruins were decorated by the Gowran Master whose stone carvings are immortalised in the poetry of Nobel Laureate Séamus Heaney. 

The once medieval church was later partly reconstructed in the early 19th century and functioned as a Church of Ireland church until the 1970’s when it was gifted to the State as a National Monument. Today the restored part of the church preserves a collection of monuments dating from the 5th to the 20th centuries.

[1] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com

[2] https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/altamont-gardens/

[3] p. 8, Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.

[4] https://archiseek.com/2011/1770s-castletown-house-celbridge-co-kildare/

[5] p. 75. 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.

[6] p. 129. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitgGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

[7] https://castletown.ie/collection-highlights/

[8] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

[9] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/characters-of-kilkenny-castle/

[10] http://www.stevenroyedwards.com/kilkennycastle-timeline.html

[11] p. 167. 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.

Office of Public Works properties: Munster: Cork, Kerry and Waterford

Munster’s counties are Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.

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].

Cork:

1. Annes Grove, County Cork

2. Barryscourt Castle, County Cork – currently closed (June 2022)

3. Charles Fort, County Cork

4. Desmond Castle, Kinsale, County Cork – currently closed

5. Doneraile Court, County Cork – house currently closed

6. Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens, County Cork

7. Ilnacullin, Garanish Island, County Cork

Kerry:

8. Ardfert Cathedral, County Kerry

9. The Blasket Centre, County Kerry

10. Derrynane House, County Kerry

11. Listowel Castle, County Kerry

12. Ross’s Castle, Killarney, County Kerry

13. Skellig Michael, County Kerry

Waterford:

14. Dungarvan Castle, County Waterford – closed at present

15. Reginald’s Tower, County Waterford

Cork:

1. Annes Grove, Castletownroche, County Cork:

Annes Grove, County Cork, 1981 from Dublin City Library and Archives. [1]

Tel: 022 26145, annesgrove@eircom.net

This is due to be open soon by the OPW. It does not have a website yet. In December 2015 Annes Grove House and Garden were donated to the state by the Annesley family.

Nestled into an eighteenth century ornamental glen, adjacent to the River Awbeg, the demesne of Annes Grove in north County Cork is the setting for the most exquisite Robinsonian-style gardens in Ireland….

The Gardens at Annes Grove were largely the creation of Richard Grove Annesley in the first half of the twentieth century.” [2]

Annes Grove, County Cork, 1981 from Dublin City Library and Archives. [see 1]

The estate was previously known as Ballyhimmock, and it was acquired by William Grove around 1626.

In 1792 it was inherited by Arthur Grove Annesley (1774-1849) from an aunt by marriage, heiress to the Grove family, after which it was renamed by merging the two family names. [3] Arthur Grove Annesley’s uncle Francis Charles Annesley, 1st Earl Annesley of Castlewellan, County Down, married Mary Grove who inherited the estate from her father.

At the centre of the garden is a restored Gothic style summerhouse. The main house is of Queen Anne design, from the 18th century. Pergolas, a lily pond, Victorian stone fernery, a woodland walk and river garden, a rockery and wild water garden create an atmospheric setting.

2. Barryscourt Castle, County Cork:

From the OPW website:

Barryscourt Castle was the seat of the great Anglo-Norman Barry family and is one of the finest examples of a restored Irish Tower House. Dating from between 1392 and 1420, the Castle has an outer bawn wall and largely intact corner towers. The ground floor of the Tower House contains a dungeon into which prisoners were dropped via the ‘drop-hole’ located on the second floor.

The Barrys supported the Fitzgeralds of Desmond during the Irish rebellions of the late sixteenth century. To prevent it being captured by Sir Walter Raleigh and his army, the Barrys [David Barry, 5th Viscount Barry (1550-1617)] partially destroyed the Castle.

During the Irish Confederate War of the seventeenth century Barryscourt Castle was once again successfully attacked.  Cannon balls lodged in the wall above the Castle entrance bear witness to this conflict. The last head of the Barry family was Lord David Barry.

Barryscourt Castle has been extensively restored. The Main Hall and Great Hall have been completed and fittings and furnishings reinstated. Within the Castle grounds, the herb and knot garden and the charming orchard have been restored to their original sixteenth century design.

After David Barry’s death in 1617 the family made Castlelyons their principal seat (now a ruin). The castle was restored by the OPW and the Barryscourt Trust between 1987-1993, with reproduction furniture made by Victor Chinnery. [4]

An article in the Irish Examiner by Padraig Hoare published 22nd May 2021 tells us that the site is closed and will be for some time:

A reopening date must be established for one of East Cork’s most historic landmarks after languishing in the midst of safety works for five years.

That is according to Cork East TD Séan Sherlock, who said Barryscourt Castle in Carrigtwohill has to be a priority for the Government body in charge of the facility, the Office of Public Works (OPW).

History enthusiasts and families alike were disappointed in the summer of 2020, when it emerged that Barryscourt Castle would remain closed for another 18 months.

The latest update from the OPW given in response to a parliamentary question from Mr Sherlock suggests it may be even longer than the date anticipated a year ago.

The Department of Public Expenditure said restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic “has disrupted the good progress” of works being done to make the facility safe.

It is not possible at this time to give a precise date for reopening to the public,” the department said.

3. Charles Fort, Summer Cove, Kinsale, County Cork:

The Soldiers Quarters, the Hospital ward, the Lighthouse (by Robert Reading) and Magazine of the 17th Century Charles Fort, Kinsale, Co. Cork, Munster, Ireland. Photograph from Ireland’s Content Pool, photograph by Cahir Davitt, 2016, for Failte Ireland. [5]

General Enquiries: 021 477 2263, charlesfort@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

As one of the country’s largest military installations, Charles Fort has been part of some of the most momentous events of Irish history. During the Williamite Wars, for example, it withstood a 13-day siege before it fell. Later, in the Civil War of the early 1920s, anti-Treaty forces on the retreat burned it out.

Charles Fort is a massive star-shaped structure of the late seventeenth century, well preserved despite its history. William Robinson, architect of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin, is credited with designing it. Its dimensions are awe-inspiring – some of the outer defences are 16 metres high.

The view from the ramparts looking out over Kinsale Harbour is spectacular.

The Soldiers Quarters, and Magazine of the 17th Century Charles Fort, Kinsale, Co. Cork, Munster, Ireland. Photograph from Ireland’s Content Pool, photograph by Cahir Davitt, 2016, for Failte Ireland. [see 5]
The seaward Devils Bastion and lighthouse of the 17th Century Charles Fort, with Kinsale boatyard in the background, Kinsale, Co. Cork, Munster, Ireland; Photograph from Ireland’s Content Pool, photograph by Cahir Davitt, 2016, for Failte Ireland. [see 5]

4. Desmond Castle (also known as the French Prison), Kinsale, County Cork:

Desmond Castle Kinsale 1941, photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 1]

General Enquiries: 021 477 4855, desmondcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Desmond Castle in Kinsale dates from around 1500. It is a classic urban tower house, consisting of a three-storey keep with storehouses to the rear.

Maurice Bacach Fitzgerald, the earl of Desmond, originally built the castle as the customs house for the town. [I think this must be the 9th Earl of Desmond – JWB] It served as a prison in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Because it usually held French inmates, as well as Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutch and Americans, it became known locally as the French Prison and carries that name to this day. The building was co-opted as an ordnance store during the momentous Battle of Kinsale (1601) and served as a workhouse during the Great Famine.

Desmond Castle certainly had a colourful history and this continued into the twentieth century. In the early 1900s it was used as a venue to host local Gaelic League meetings. Finally, in the 1930s, a thriving undertaking business operated from within the National Monument.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us:

Freestanding three-bay three-storey tower house, commenced c.1500, abutting earthen terrace to rear. Attached cell blocks and exercise yards to rear (north-west) and platform to side (north-east). Historically used as magazine (1600-1601), as prison for foreign prisoners (1601-1790) and as borough jail (1791-1846). Restored in 1938 currently in use as museum.

5. Doneraile Court, County Cork:

Doneraile Court, County Cork, August 2020.
Doneraile Court, County Cork, August 2020. Tooled limestone porch with deep entablature, Ionic pilasters and columns, a heavy balustraded parpapet and swan neck doorcase. Oval heraldic motif to centre of parapet has curvilinear, foliate and wreath-swag decorative surround. Frank Keohane tells us that the porch is probably designed by G. R. Pain, added in the 1820s.

General enquiries: 046 942 3175, donerailecourt@opw.ie

From the website:

Doneraile Court towers majestically over the glorious Doneraile Park, a 160-hectare landscaped parkland and wildlife estate.

The house was built by the St Leger family around 1645 on the site of a ruined castle. By the time it was refurbished in the mid-eighteenth century it had become an outstanding example of Georgian architecture. Its associations range from links to the famous St Leger Stakes in horse racing and literature, with famous Irish writers such as Elizabeth Bowen. [A horse race took place in 1742 in which Edmund Burke and Cornelius O’Callaghan met a bet as to whose horse could cover the distance fastest between the church steeples of Buttevant and Doneraile. This gave rise to the term “steeplechasing.”]

Thirteen generations of the St Leger family lived at Doneraile over three centuries. The family had some extraordinary members. For example, Elizabeth St Leger made history when she became the first woman Freemason in the world in 1712.” Elizabeth (1695-1772) was the daughter of Arthur, 1st Viscount Doneraile. He was an active Freemason and sometimes hosted lodge meetings at his home. The story has it that Elizabeth fell asleep in the library, and woke to hear a secret Masonic ceremony taking place. When the Freemasons discovered that she had heard their secret, she had to be sworn in as a member in order to protect their privacy! She remained a member, as can be seen wearing Masonic symbols in portraits. She married Colonel Richard Aldworth, High Sheriff of County Cork.

The fine parklands are designed in the naturalistic style of the famous Capability Brown. They include many beautiful water features, plus a parterre walled garden and gardeners’ cottages. There are numerous pathways and graded walks. Lucky visitors might just spot some of the red deer, fallow deer, sika deer and Kerry cattle that live on the estate.” [6]

The house remained in the hands of the St Leger family until 1969. Following decades of care by the Irish Georgian Society, it passed to the OPW in 1994.

Doneraile Court, County Cork, August 2020.
Doneraile Court, County Cork, August 2020.
Doneraile Court, County Cork, August 2020.
Doneraile Court, County Cork, August 2020.

From the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage:

“Detached three-storey over half basement country house, built c. 1730, containing fabric of earlier house, built c. 1645. Possibly also incorporating fabric of medieval castle. Extended 1805, conservatory added 1825, extended 1869, and also incorporating other nineteenth-century additions.” The 1730s work on the house was carried out for Arthur St Leger, 2nd Viscount Doneraile (1694-1734). Mark Bence-Jones suggests that it was the work of architect Isaac Rothery, but Frank Keohane suggests it could have been Benjamin Crawley. [7] The bow-ended block on the left of the garden front was added 1756-58, payment was made for this to architect Thomas Roberts.

National Inventory Appraisal: “The artist who created the ornate plaster work to the interior is unknown, but was clearly highly skilled. Doneraile Park is associated with Edmund Spenser the poet, who refers to the River Awbeg which flows through the park as the ‘gentle mulla’. The lands were bought by William St Ledger from the Spensers [William St. Leger (1586-1642), Privy Counsellor, Lord President of Munster, 1627, MP for Cork County, 1634, who was appointed, in that year, Sergeant-Major-General in the Army, employed to fight against the rebels in Ireland – JWB]. The timber panelled room to the interior is original to the earliest incarnation of the house. It is thought that it was here that Elizabeth St Ledger [(1695-1772) She went on to marry Colonel Richard Aldworth, High Sheriff of Cork] was initiated as one of only three female members of freemasons in history after eavesdropping on a meeting. Added to this association with important historical characters, Doneraile Court represents more than three hundred years of construction and alteration, with different architectural features representing each phase.”

The bow ends on the front facade were built when improvements were made by the Hayes St. Leger 2nd Viscount of the second creation (1755-1819), between 1804-1808. At this time a new kitchen was added to the back of the house along with a now-lost Gothic conservatory.

The Hall was remodelled in the 1820s, when it was extended into the new porch. It has a screen of paired Ionic pillars, a frieze decorated with rosettes and an acanthus ceiling rose.

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

“…On the other side of the house, a wing containing a new dining room was added 1869 by 4th Viscount Doneraile of the later creation. At the back of the hall is an oval late-Georgian staircase hall in which a staircase with slender wooden balusters rises gracefully to the top of the house beneath of ceiling of Adamesque plasterwork. To  the right of the staircase hall is one of the rooms of the original house, with a corner fireplace and fielded panelling; it was possibly in here that, ca 1713, Elizabeth St Leger was initiated as one of the only three women Freemasons in history, after she had been caught spying on a Lodge meeting held by her father. Behind this room was the vast and splendid dining room of 1869 which formerly had an immense mahogany sideboard in a mirrored alcove confronting a full-length portrait of the 4th Viscount with his favourite hunter. He was one of the greatest Victorian hunting men; ironically, he died of rabies through being bitten by a pet fox.  The three drawing rooms on the other side of the house are early C19 in character and probably date from the reconstruction after the fire; they have simple but elegant friezes, overdoors with volutes and windows going right down to the floor.  The long connection of the St Legers with Doneraile ended when Mary, Viscountess Doneraile died 1975. The garden, which boasts of a Lime Walk and a long “fishpond” or canal surviving from the original C18 layout, is now maintained by the Dept of Lands; as is the park, in which there is still a herd of red deer. The house, after standing empty for several years and becoming almost derelict, is in the process of being restored by the Irish Georgian Society, with a view to finding someone who would be willing to take it on. The 1869 dining room wing has been demolished.” [8]

From the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Floating elliptical winder staircase with curved newel post and turned timber banisters. Timber treads with carved timber panels to side. Decorative render roses under stair. Ornate Adam-style ceiling with central ceiling rose and decorative fluted surround to stair ceiling.”

The staircase hall is lit by a tall round-arched window above an elliptical window.
The ceiling of Adamesque plasterwork, over the elliptical floating staircase (ie. Neoclassical interior design like the work of Scottish architect William Adams and his sons, most famous of whom are Robert and James).
Memorial to Lady Elizabeth St Leger, Viscountess Doneraile (d. 1761), in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, wife of Hayes St Leger, 4th Viscount Doneraile (1702-1767), daughter of Joseph Dean, Lord Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer and of Margaret Boyle, daughter of Roger Boyle of Castlemartyr in County Cork.
The landscape of Doneraile is laid out in “Capability” Brown style, which is characterized by a natural flowing appearance rather than more formally patterned gardens.

6. Fota Arboretum and Gardens, Carrigtwohill, County Cork

General enquiries: (021) 481 5543

fota.arboretum@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Fota House was designed by 19th century architects Richard and William Morrison. From the beautifully proportioned rooms with exquisite plasterwork, to the preserved service wing and kitchens, Fota House offers visitors an intimate look at how life was lived in the past, for the cooks, butlers, footmen and maids who supported the lavish lifestyle of the gentry. Our painting collection is considered to be one of the finest collections of landscape painting outside the National Gallery of Ireland and includes works by William Ashford PRHA, Robert Carver, Jonathan Fisher and Thomas Roberts.” [9]

Front porch of Fota House. Fluted baseless Green Doric columns support a weighty entablature in which wreaths alternate wiht the Barry crest in the metopes.

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

(Smith-Barry (now Villiers)/IFR) After Barry’s Court had been abandoned by the Barrymores, a hunting box was built on the nearby Fota Island, in Cork Harbour, by Hon John Smith-Barry [1725-1784], a younger son of 4th Earl of Barrymore, to whom Fota and some of the other Barrymore estates were given 1714. This house, of three storeys and seven bays, was greatly enlarged ca 1820 by John Smith-Barry [d.1837, grandson of his earlier namesake] to the design of Sir Richard Morrison, so that it became a wide-spreading Regency mansion of stucco with stone dressings. The original house, given a single-storey Doric portico with fluted columns and acroteria beneath a pedimented Wyatt window, remained the centre of the composition; flanked by two storey projecting wings with pedimented ends on the entrance front and curved bows on the garden front. A long two storey service range was added at one side. In 1856, a billiard room wing, in the same style as the Morrison wings but of one storey only, was added on the entrance front, projecting from the end of the service range. The space between this and the main building was filled in ca 1900 by Arthur Smith-Barry, 1st (and last) Lord Barrymore of a new creation [(1843-1925), grandson of John Smith-Barry], with a single-storey range containing a long gallery.” [10]

Frank Keohane tells us that the later John Smith-Barry settled here after his marriage to Eliza Courtenay of Ballyedmond, Midleton, County Cork. He was illegitimate, so perhaps he built the home to establish his reputation. [11] Smith-Barry hired John and William Vitruvius Morrison to enlarge the hunting lodge which had been built by his grandfather. He also built sea walls around the island and re-routed the public road to form a deer park and carriage drives around the shore.

Fota House facing onto the Pleasure Garden, photo by George Munday, 2014, Ireland’s Content Pool. [12]

Bence-Jones continues:“The exterior simplicity of Fota is a foil to the splendours within; for the interior has that richness which Sir Richard Morrison and his son, William Vitruvius, were so well able to create. The hall, which runs the entire length of the front of the original house, is divided by screens of paired Ionic columns with yellow scagliola.” The long gallery was designed by William H. Hill.

Fota House, County Cork, August 2020. The hall, which runs the entire length of the front of the original house, is divided by screens of paired Ionic columns with yellow scagliola. The floor is paved with Portland stone with inset iron grilles that served the old central-heating system. The entablatures of plasterwork have the repeating pattern of wreaths and Smith-Barry crests the same as on the porch.
The central compartment of ceiling plasterwork has heavy swagged laurel garlands and lyres.
The ceiling rose in the long hall, with oak leaf wreath entwined with snakes.

To the right of the long hall are the Drawing Room and Library. The Drawing Room is entered via a small ante-room.

The ante-room at Fota.
The ante-room at Fota, with stencilwork by Sibthorpe & Son of Dublin.

The Drawing Room Ceiling has deep borders with floral wreaths containing doves, alternating with lozenges of bay leaf containing Apollonian trophies of musical and hunting instruments. The drawing room and ante-room ceilings were added to in the 1890s with stencilwork and gilding by Sibthorpe & Son of Dublin.

The Drawing Room, Fota.
The Drawing Room, Fota. The fireplaces throughout Fota are of Neoclassical statuary marble, with Ionic columns and friezes enriched with wreaths and garlands.
The Drawing Room, Fota. The ceiling of the drawing room, which entends into one of the bows on the garden front, has a surrounding of foliage, birds and trophies in high relief, similar to that in the library, and late C19 stencilled decoration and panels of pictorial paper in the centre.
The Drawing Room, Fota.
The ceiling of the drawing room, which entends into one of the bows on the garden front, has a surrounding of foliage, birds and trophies in high relief, similar to that in the library, and late C19 stencilled decoration and panels of pictorial paper in the centre.
The Drawing Room, Fota.
The library, Fota.

To the left of the hall is the Dining Room. It has a screen of grey scagliola Corinthian columns at the sideboard end, and rich plasterwork with a ceiling border of vines on a trellis ground and a frieze of bucrania draped with garlands.

There are elaborate plasterwork ceilings in the library and dining room, which are in the Morrison wings, at either end of the hall; the dining room has a screen of grey marble Corinthian columns.
The chimneypiece in the dining room is garlanded with vines and flowers.

Also on display in the main reception rooms is a fine collection of art work described as the most significant of its type outside the National Gallery of Ireland.  Masterpieces of the eighteenth-century Irish Landscape School include works by William Ashford (1746-1824); George Barret (1730-84); Robert Carver (c.1730-91); and Thomas Roberts (1748-78).  Nineteenth-century art is represented by Daniel Maclise (1806-70); Erskine Nicol (1825-1904); and James Arthur O’Connor (1792-1841).  An entire room is dedicated to Irish watercolours and features the work of Mildred Anne Butler (1858-1941); Hugh Douglas Hamilton (c.1740-1808); and George Petrie (1790-1866).” [13]

At the back of the house is the study, which extends into one of the bows. It has a simple frieze of wreaths.

The Study, Fota.

Bence-Jones continues: “A doorway opposite the entrance door leads into the staircase hall, which is of modest size, being the staircase hall of the original house; but it has been greatly enriched with plasterwork. The ceiling is domed, with wreaths on the pendentives and eagles in the lunettes; there is a frieze of wreaths and at the head of the stairs two fluted Tower of Winds columns frame an enchanting vista to a second and smaller staircase, leading up to the top storey.” The stairs are of cantilevered Portland stone, with brass balusters and a mahogany handrail.

The staircase hall, which is of modest size, being the staircase hall of the original house; but it has been greatly enriched with plasterwork. The ceiling is domed, with wreaths on the pendentives and eagles in the lunettes; there is a frieze of wreaths and at the head of the stairs two fluted Tower of Winds columns frame an enchanting vista to a second and smaller staircase, leading up to the top storey. 

At the top of the stairs is a small recess, leading up to the secondary stair, with a pair of shell-headed niches, a Greek-key border and a pair of Tower of the Winds columns. A cross-corridor gives access to the bedrooms, the differing levels resulting in various little lobbies and landings.

The principal bedroom suite is placed over the Dining Room and communicates directly with nurseries in the service wing. The suite contains a boudoir with barrel-vaulted ceiling and a half-dome decorated with doves trailing garlands. Plaster drapery fills the lunette to the vault with a little top-lit skylight at the apex of the dome with amber and blue coloured glazing.

The Boudoir.
The Boudoir.
The Boudoir.

Fota passed to John Smith-Barry’s great-granddaughter Mrs Dorothy Bell (1894-1975), the last of the clan to live on the Barry estates. It was sold to University College Cork and in 1983, Richard Wood took a lease of the house and restored it with John O’Connell as architect, to display his collection of Irish art to the public. It was then sold and the pictures removed, and in 1991 the house and arboretum passed to the Fota Trust and in 1999 extensive conservation work was carried out under the direction of John Cahill of the Office of Public Works. [14]

The Nursery.
The servant’s bedroom.
The game store larder.
The Kitchen.
The back stairs in Fota.

Bence-Jones writes: In mid-C19, James Hugh Smith-Barry laid out formal gardens behind the house, with lawns and hedges, wrought-iron gates and rusticated piers, a temple and an orangery. He also began to plant the arboretum, which has since become world-famous. The planting was continued for more than a century after his death by his son, [Arthur Hugh Smith-Barry (1843-1925)] Lord Barrymore [1st Baron Barrymore], and by Lord Barrymore’s son-in-law and daughter, Major [William Bertram] and Hon Mrs [Dorothy] Bell; in the mild climate of Fota many rare and tender species flourish. The demesne of Fota extends over the entire island, which is skirted by the road and railway from Cork to Cobh; there are impressive Classical entrance gates by Morrison similar to those at Ballyfin, Co Laois and Killruddery, Co Wicklow. On the point of the island is an early C19 castellated turret, by John Hargrave of Cork. Fota was sold 1975 to University College Cork.” 

Arthur Hugh Smith-Barry (1843-1925), 1st Baron Barrymore.

The OPW website tells us:

The arboretum and gardens on Fota Island, just 16 kilometres from Cork city centre, are an essential destination for any one of a horticultural bent.

The arboretum extends over 11 hectares and contains one of the finest collections of rare, tender trees and shrubs grown outdoors in Europe. The unique conditions at Fota – its warm soil and sheltered location – enable many excellent examples of exotics from the southern hemisphere to flourish.

The gardens include such stunning features as the ornamental pond, formal pleasure gardens, orangery and sun temple. James Hugh Smith-Barry laid them out in the first half of the nineteenth century. Fota House, the Smith-Barrys’ ancestral home, still stands. The house, arboretum and gardens share the island with a hotel and golf resort and a wildlife park. [15]

7. Ilnacullin, Garanish Island, Glengarriff, Bantry, County Cork: https://garinishisland.ie/plan-a-visit/

Italian garden, Garnish Island, Glengarriff, Beara, Co. Cork, Photograph by Chris Hill 2014, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 5]

general enquiries: (027) 63040

garanishisland@opw.ie

Ilnacullin is an island in the coastal harbour at Glengariff in Bantry Bay. It has an almost sub-tropical climate with mild winters and high levels of rainfall and humidity. These conditions favour the growth of exotic plants. The gardens were set out in the Arts and Crafts style and contain Italianate pavilions and follies, framed against a backdrop of beautiful views.

From the OPW website:

Ilnacullin is an island garden of diminutive size and rare beauty. Nestled in the sheltered coastal harbour at Glengarriff in Bantry Bay, the gardens display a wealth of unique horticultural and architectural gems. Bryce House is a fitting memorial to the visionary creators of this unique place. 

The gardens of Ilnacullin owe their existence to the early twentieth-century creative partnership of John Annan and Violet Bryce, the island’s owners, and Harold Peto, an architect and garden designer. The area enjoys a mild and humid micro-climate that makes for spectacular and flourishing plant life all year round.

Small ferry boats and 60-seater waterbuses take visitors to Ilnacullin regularly. The short crossing usually includes an extra treat – a visit to the nearby seal colony and an opportunity to glimpse majestic sea eagles.

The Island was bequeathed to the Irish people by the Bryce’s son, Roland, in 1953 and is cared for by the OPW. Bryce House contains material from the Bryces’s lives, including John Annan Bryce’s collection of Burmese statues, Chinese ceramics, Japanese woodblock prints, metal works and rare exotic objects. There are also Old Master drawings by Salvator Rosa, Mauro Antonio Tesi and Giambattista Tiepolo. Over the years the Bryces hosted prominent cultural figures such as George (AE) Russell, George Bernard Shaw and Agatha Christie. [16] You can see a tour of the house and gardens on the website.

Kerry:

8. Ardfert Cathedral, Tralee, County Kerry

Ardfert Cathedral, 1965, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archives. [see 1]

General Information: 066 713 4711, ardfertcathedral@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

No less a figure than St Brendan the Navigator was born in the Ardfert area in the sixth century. He founded a monastery there not long before embarking on his legendary voyage for the Island of Paradise. It was Brendan’s cult that inspired the three medieval churches that stand on the same site today.

The earliest building is the cathedral, which was begun in the twelfth century. It boasts a magnificent thirteenth-century window and a spectacular row of nine lancets in the south wall.

One of the two smaller churches is an excellent example of late Romanesque architecture. The other, Temple na Griffin, is named for a fascinating carving inside it – which depicts a griffin and a dragon conjoined.

Ardfert Cathedral, 1965, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archives [see 1]

9. The Great Blasket Island Visitor Centre, County Kerry:

Blasket Island Centre, Dingle, Co. Kerry. Photograph from Ireland’s Content Pool, photograph by Chris Hill, 2014, for Failte Ireland. [see 1]

Dun Chaoin, Dingle, County Kerry

General enquiries: 066 915 6444, blascaod@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

In Dún Chaoin, at the very tip of the Dingle Peninsula, is an utterly unique heritage centre and museum. A stunning piece of architecture in itself, the Blasket Centre tells the story of the Blasket Islands and the tiny but tenacious Irish speaking community who lived there until the mid-20th century. 

Life on the Blaskets was tough. People survived by fishing and farming and every day involved a struggle against the elements. Emigration and decline led to the final evacuation of this extraordinary island in 1953.

The island population has left a massive cultural footprint. They documented the life of their community in a series of books which are invaluable social records and classics of Irish literature. They are both a window into the past and a fascinating resource for today.

Visit Ionad an Bhlascaoid  –  the Blasket Centre – to experience the extraordinary legacy of the Blasket Islanders and delve into the heart of Irish culture, language and history.” [17]

The website has lots more information for you to learn about life on the Islands. The Great Blasket was inhabited continuously for at least 300 years. It has Ireland’s largest colony of grey seals also. During the famine, there was not a single death recorded from hunger, as fishing sustained the islanders. At its peak the population reached 160, but declined due to emigration. Two of the houses have been restored by the OPW. The visitor centre is on the mainland but one can take a privately operated passenger boat to the Island, weather permitting.

ruined village on the Blasket Islands, 1987, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archive. [see 1]

10. Derrynane House, Caherdaniel, County Kerry:

Derrynane House, County Kerry, photograph from Ireland’s Content Pool, photo by George Munday, 2014. [see 5]

General enquiries: 066 947 5113, derrynanehouse@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

At the southern tip of the Iveragh Peninsula is Derrynane House, the ancestral home of one of the greatest figures of Irish history. Daniel O’Connell, known as ‘The Liberator’, was a lawyer, politician and statesman. The demesne landscape is now included in Derrynane National Historic Park – over 120 hectares of lands rich in natural and cultural heritage with a plethora of archaeological, horticultural, botanical and ecological treasures.

Derrynane was the home of the O’Connell family for generations. The young Daniel was raised there and returned almost every summer for the rest of his life.

The house now displays many unique relics of O’Connell’s life, including a triumphal chariot presented to him by the citizens of Dublin in 1844 and the very bed in which he passed away three years later.” [18]

Derrynane comes from the Irish meaning “the oak wood of St Fionan.” [19] Throughout Daniel O’Connell’s career, Derrynane was his country residence and the place where he and his family spent most of their summers. He inherited the house in 1825. He wrote in 1829:

This is the wildest and most stupendous scenery of nature – and I enjoy residence here with the most exquisite relish…I am in truth fascinated by this spot: and did not my duty call me elsewhere, I should bury myself alive here.” [see 19]

Derrynane House, County Kerry, photograph from Ireland’s Content Pool, photo by George Munday, 2014. [see 5]

Mark Bence-Jones writes about the house:

The house, which is believed to have been first late-roofed house in this remote and mountainous part of the country, originally consisted of two unpretentious ranges at right angles to each other, probably built at various times between ca 1700 and 1745 and somewhat altered in later years; one range being of two storeys and the other mainly of two storeys and a dormered attic, which in second half of C18, became a third storey. Between 1745 and 1825 a wing was built at what was then the back of the house, this side towards Derrynane Bay; and in 1825 the great Daniel O’Connell extended this wing in the same unpretentious style with rather narrow sash windows; so that what had previously been the back of the house became the front, with reception rooms facing the sea. O’Connell also built a square two storey block with Irish battlements at right angles to his main addition, forming at attractive three sided entrance court, the other two sides being 1745-1825 wing and one of the original ranges. The battlemented block is weather-slated, as indeed all O’Connell’s additions were originally; he also weather slated some of the older parts of the house. Finally, in 1844, O’Connell built a new chapel in thanksgiving for his release from prison. It flanks the entrance court on the side furthest from the sea and is Gothic; based on the chapel in the ruined medieval monastery on Abbey Island nearby; it was designed by O’Connell’s third son, John O’Connell, MP. The interior of the house is simple, and the ceilings are fairly low. The two principal reception rooms are the drawing-room and dining-room which are one above the other in 1825 wing; they have plain cornices; the dining room has a Victorian oak chimneypiece, the drawing room an early C19 Doric chimneypiece of white marble. The benches and communion rail of the chapel are of charmingly rustic Gothic openwork. The house is now owned by the Commissioners of Public Works, who demolished one of the original ranges 1965 [due to poor structural condition]. The rest of the structure has been restored and is open to the public, the principal rooms containing O’Connell family portraits and objects related to Daniel O’Connell’s life and career.” [20]

Derrynane, photograph 1990, Dublin City Library and Archive. [see 1]
Daniel O’Connell’s table, photograph 1941, Derrynane House, Dublin City Library and Archive. [see 1]
Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), portrait from Mansion House, Dublin, 2015.

The O’Connell family gave the house to the Derrynane Trust in 1946. Despite earlier warnings that it would not be responsible for O’Connell’s ancestral home, in late 1964 the government agreed to acquire Derrynane House from the Derrynane Trust.  David Hicks writes a good summary about Daniel O’Connell:

In the 18th and 19th centuries there was a series of restrictions placed on Catholics in Ireland – the Penal Laws – which curtailed them in many avenues of life. These restrictions extended to property ownership and education, and Catholics were also barred from holding political office. As a man of the law, O’Connell became an advocate for the abolition of the last vestiges of the Penal Laws and in 1823 brought the Catholic Church into Irish politics. He used his network of acquaintances to mobilise the people to campaign for Catholic emancipation from discrimination and to gain political rights for Catholics. Collections were taken and no matter how small the donation it was for a great cause. This led to the unification of Catholics in Ireland. In 1828, O’Connell stood for the British Parliament, the first Catholic to do so in over 100 years, and won his seat easily. While he had his supporters in the British cabinet, others such as the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel opposed Catholic emancipation. They were aware, however, that not allowing O’Connell to take his parliamentary seat would result in possible rebellion in Ireland. Another probelm arose: in order for O’Connell to take his seat in Parliament, he would have to take an Oath of Supremacy which recognised the British monarch as head of the Church and state. As the Pope in Rome is head of the Catholic church, O’Connell could not and would not swear allegiance to a British monarch as head of the Church of England. Wellington and Peel convinced the King to allow the emancipation of Catholics to prevent a possible uprising of the large Catholic population in Ireland. As a result Catholics gained political rights under the Emancipation Act of 1829 and could enter Parliament without taking the oath. O’Connell had to be re-elected before he could take his seat as the Act could not be implemented retrospectively. He was finally elected in 1829 to the British Parliament and became known as the Liberator, a moniker which is still associated with his legend.

By 1837 O’Connell had grown frustrated at how little he could achieve in Ireland in a British Parliament. He now launched a new campaign: to repeal the Act of Union between Ireland and Britain. While he did not want Ireland to leave the Empire, he did want her to have her own parliament where Catholics could exercise their own political power and ambitions. Initially, this campaign garnered a lot of support. In the 1840s, O’Connell held large meetings to campaign for the repeal of the Act of Union. These meetings were usually held in a large field, racecourse or fairground and opened with a huge procession of bands in uniform, floats, carriages and carts, with thousands of local residents on foot or horseback. Crowds gathered around a makeshift platform, on which O’Connell stood to address them. One of his largest political rallies was held at the provocative spot of the Hill of Tara, site of the residence of the former high kings of Ireland, intended to inspire the attending crowd of half a million people.  

The size of this rally was relayed to the British Parliament and within three months O’Connell was charged with conspiracy, creating discontent and disaffection, for which he was arrested and jailed. When he was released from prison he made his way through the crowded streets of Dublin on a specially made chariot which still survives at Derrynane.” [21]

Daniel O’Connell’s chariot, built to welcome him and parade him through streets when he is released from prison. Photograph taken October 2012.

11. Listowel Castle, County Kerry:

General information: 086 385 7201, padraig.oruairc@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Listowel Castle stands on an elevation overlooking the River Feale, above the location of a strategic ford. Although only half of the building survives, it is still one of Kerry’s best examples of Anglo-Norman architecture.

Only two of the original four square towers, standing over 15 metres high, remain. The towers are united by a curtain wall of the same height and linked together – unusually – by an arch on one side.

Listowel was the last bastion [of the Fitzgeralds] against the forces of Queen Elizabeth in the First Desmond Rebellion in 1569. The castle’s garrison held out for 28 days of siege before finally being overpowered by Sir Charles Wilmot. In the days following the castle’s fall, Wilmot executed all of the soldiers left inside.

12. Ross Castle, Killarney, County Kerry:

Ross Castle, Killarney, August 2007.

General Enquiries: 064 6635851, rosscastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Ross Castle perches in an inlet of Lough Leane. It is likely that the Irish chieftain O’Donoghue Mór built it in the fifteenth century. 

Legend has it that O’Donoghue still slumbers under the waters of the lake. Every seven years, on the first morning of May, he rises on his magnificent white horse. If you manage to catch a glimpse of him you will enjoy good fortune for the rest of your life.

Ross Castle was the last place in Munster to hold out against Cromwell. Its defenders, then led by Lord Muskerry, took confidence from a prophecy holding that the castle could only be taken by a ship. Knowing of the prophecy, the Cromwellian commander, General Ludlow, launched a large boat on the lake. When the defenders saw it, this hastened the surrender – and the prophecy was fulfilled [in 1652].

Ross Castle, County Kerry, photograph from the National Library of Ireland.
Ross Castle, Killarney, August 2007.

The Castle came into the hands of the Brownes who became the Earls of Kenmare and owned an extensive portion of the lands that are now part of Killarney National Park. It was leased to Valentine Browne (d. 1589), ancestor of the Earls of Kenmare, who was involved with the Plantation of Munster, surveying the land. He served as MP for County Sligo in the Irish Parliament in 1585/6. The Brownes obtained ownership of the castle and lands when it could be proven that they did not play a part in the Confederate Rebellions between 1641-1653. However, Valentine Browne (1639-1994) 1st Earl of Kenmare (and 3rd Baronet Browne of Mohaliffe, County Kerry) was loyal to James II had to forfeit his estate. The title Earl of Kenmare comes originally from Kenmare Castle in County Limerick. His grandson, 3rd Viscount, recovered the estates, but could not get possession of Ross Castle, which had been taken over as a military barracks, so around 1726 he built a new house a little way to the north of the castle, closer to the town of Killarney, Kenmare House, which has been demolished when a later house was built.

Ross Castle, Killarney, August 2007.

13. Skellig Michael, County Kerry:

Skellig islands, photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, created for Failte Ireland, 2014. [see 5]

General Information: opwskellig@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

The magnificent Skellig Michael is one of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Republic of Ireland.

On the summit of this awe-inspiring rock off the Kerry coast is St Fionan’s monastery, one of the earliest foundations in the country. The monks who lived there prayed and slept in beehive-shaped huts made of stone, many of which remain to this day.

The monks left the island in the thirteenth century. It became a place of pilgrimage and, during the time of the Penal Laws, a haven for Catholics.

Following in the monks’ footsteps involves climbing 618 steep, uneven steps. Getting to the top is quite a challenge, but well worth the effort.

As well as the wealth of history, there is a fantastic profusion of bird life on and around the island. Little Skellig is the second-largest gannet colony in the world.

Skellig Michael, 1967, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archives. [see 1]
Skellig Michael monastery, 1958, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archives. [see 1]

Waterford:

14. Dungarvan Castle, County Waterford:

Dungarvan Castle, Waterford, photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, by Chris Hill 2006 for Failte Ireland. [see 5]

General Information: 058 48144.

From the OPW website:

This castle dates from the early days of the Anglo-Norman settlement in Ireland. It was built c.1209 to safeguard the entrance to Dungarvan Harbour. The polygonal shell keep – a rare building type in Ireland – is the earliest structure on the site.

The castle has an enclosing curtain wall, a corner tower and a gate tower. Within the wall is a two-storey military barracks, which dates from the first half of the eighteenth century. It was used by the British Army and the Royal Irish Constabulary until 1922. During the Irish Civil War Dungarvan Castle was destroyed by the Anti-Treaty IRA.  It was subsequently refurbished and served as the Headquarters of the local Garda Síochana.

Today the Barracks and Castle grounds are open to visitors. Inside you will find a revealing exhibition on the Castle’s long and intriguing history.

15. Reginald’s Tower, The Quay, Waterford, County Waterford:

Reginald’s Tower, photograph from Ireland’s Content pool, by Mark Wesley 2016 for Failte Ireland. [see 5]

General information: 051 304220, reginaldstower@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Once described as ‘a massive hinge of stone connecting the two outstretched wings of the city’ this tower has never fallen into ruin and has been in continuous use for over 800 years. 

Originally the site of a wooden Viking fort, the stone tower we see today actually owes its existence to the Anglo-Normans who made it the strongest point of the medieval defensive walls. Later it was utilised as a mint under King John, before serving various functions under many English monarchs. Weapons, gunpowder and cannons have all been stored here reflecting various periods of Waterford’s turbulent history. 

Take the spiral stairs up and en route see the remains of a 19th century prison cell, artefacts from Waterford’s Viking history, and the sword of the Chief Constable whose family were the last residents of the tower.

On two floors are housed one branch of the Waterford Museum of Treasures, concentrating on the town’s thrilling Viking heritage.

[1] https://repository.dri.ie/

[2] p. 12, Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018.

[3] p. 310, Keohane, Frank. The Buildings of Ireland. Cork City and County. Yale University Press: New Haven and London. 2020.

[4] p. 261, Keohane, Frank. Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2020.

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

[6] See also https://doneraileestate.ie

[7] p. 377. Keohane, Frank. Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2020.

Another work Keohane identifies as being by Benjamin Crawley is Castle Bernard, now a ruin in County Cork:

Castle Bernard, County Cork, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

[8] p. 105. Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[9] fotahouse.com

[10] p. 127. Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[11] p. 412. Keohane, Frank. Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2020.

[12] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en/media-assets/media/44873

[13] http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/PlacesToSee/Cork/

[14] p. 412. Keohane, Frank. Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2020.

[15] https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/fota-arboretum-and-gardens/

[16]https://garinishisland.ie/the-house-and-gardens/

[17] see the website https://blasket.ie/

[18] https://derrynanehouse.ie/the-house/

[19] p. 120. Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018.

[20] p. 102. Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[21] p. 107-119, Hicks, David. Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters. The Collins Press, Cork, 2014. 

Dromana House, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford

contact: Barbara Grubb
Tel: 086-8186305
www.dromanahouse.com
Open in 2022: June 1-12, 14-19, 21-26, 28-30, July 1-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24, 26-31, Aug 13- 21, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student, house and garden €15, house €10, garden €6, child under 12 free, groups of 100 or more house/garden €12, garden €5, house €9

On Sunday 5th May 2019, Stephen and I attended a day of talks in Dromana House on “Pursuit of the Heiress.” This is an apt topic for Dromana since the property passed down to the current generation via an heiress, Katherine FitzGerald (1660-1725). In fact, you could say that even in this generation the property was passed down through an heiress, or through the female line, as Barbara Grubb is the daughter of James Villiers-Stuart, descendent of the FitzGeralds of the Decies who originally built the house. “The Decies” is the county of Waterford west of the River Mahon.

We didn’t have a tour of the house on the day of the conference, so we returned during Heritage Week in 2020.

Parts of the house date back to the 1400s, and fortifications on the grounds date back even further. Its situation perched above the Blackwater River gives it stunning views.

the view of the Blackwater River from Dromana. During lunch at the 2019 conference we sat in the sun and chatted, and watched the Blackwater River recede. Later in the afternoon, it filled the banks again.

The house was once larger and grander than what we see today. Unfortunately, part of the house was demolished in the 1960s as upkeep and rates were too expensive (it shares the fate of Lisnavagh in County Carlow and Killruddery in County Wicklow). It retains part of the older elements, however, and remains a relatively large, comfortable home. The garden is impressive and the sun brought out its beauty – we were lucky with the weather.

This poster board prepared for the 800th anniversary of Dromana shows a photograph of the house as it was before the demolition of a large part of it.

The lectures in 2019 took place in what used to be the old kitchen. On my way in, I admired the cloakroom hallway with its old floor tiles, long mirror and row of hooks for hats and coats. I learned the following year that this mirror used to be in the Ballroom, which has been demolished. The mirror now lies on its side but originally stood vertically, so the room would have been an impressive height.

History of Dromana and the Fitzgeralds

First, a little background about the house. From the website:

Dromana House is a true gem, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the strikingly beautiful, unspoilt river Blackwater. It is surrounded by a 600 acre privately owned estate with numerous woodland and garden walks. Several interesting historic follies are also to be seen throughout the grounds including an ancient outer fortification, boathouse and slipway down to the river. This period property has been lovingly maintained by its owners whose family have lived on this location since 1200, the present owner being the 26th generation.” [1]

From the 13thcentury onwards the property was the seat of the FitzGeralds, Lords of the Decies, a junior branch of the Earls of Desmond. Information boards in the old kitchen, created with the help of University College Cork, describe the history of the estate. In 1215 King John of England granted a charter to the Norman knight Thomas fitz Anthony, giving him custody of the present-day counties of Waterford and Cork. Through the marriage of his daughter the estates came into the possession of the FitzGeralds – the first instance of the property passing through the female line. The earliest fortifications of Dromana date from this period.

The title of Lord the Decies split from the Earl of Desmond title when James FitzGerald the 6th Earl of Desmond (who died in 1462) granted the land of the Decies to his younger son Sir Gerald Mor FitzGerald, whose descendants have lived in Dromana ever since. The tower-house which forms the core of today’s Dromana was built at this time.

One can see the oldest part of the house from a balcony which overlooks the river, or from the gardens below.

We wandered up an overgrown path in the garden looking for the “lost garden” and found ourselves on the steep slopes by mistake – but fortuitously, from here we could see the oldest parts of the house – see below also, which is a continuation of the wall in the photograph above. See also the balcony, above; below are two photographs taken from the balcony.
view from the slopes below, looking up toward the balcony.
View looking down toward the slopes, from the balcony – you can see the bow in the wall. There was originally a floor above this, also bowed.
The view from the balcony looking the other direction. You can see an extremely old Gothic style window with hood moulding. The tower house structure part of the house was built in the time of Gerald Mor FitzGerald around 1462.

The Earls of Desmond asserted their claim to the Decies until the Battle of Affane in 1565, in which the Earl of Desmond’s army [that of the 14th Earl of Desmond, I think] was overthrown. In January 1569 Queen Elizabeth granted Sir Maurice FitzGerald of Decies (great-grandson of Gerald Mor FitzGerald) letters patent creating him Baron of Dromana and Viscount Decies. His titles became extinct, however, when he died three years later without a male heir.

Katherine Fitzgerald of the Decies, granddaughter of Gerald Mor FitzGerald, married her cousin Thomas, who in 1529 became the 11th Earl of Desmond (the information panel below says he was the 12th Earl but I think he was the 11th). He died in 1534 but she survived him for 70 years, dying in 1604 at the age of 140 years. She lived as a widow, as the Countess of Desmond, in Inchiquin Castle in East Cork. She died supposedly from falling out of a cherry tree, having allegedly worn out three natural sets of teeth. The current owners have planted a cherry tree in her honour. They have a bookcase supposedly made from the cherry tree from which she fell!

I found this information about Katherine FitzGerald in St. Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal, County Cork!

The website states:

“The castle of Dromana was attacked and damaged in the wars of the 1640s and 50s, though its base can still be identified from the river, and indeed is still inhabited. In about 1700, instead of rebuilding the castle, two new ranges were built at right angles to one another along the courtyard walls. Both were simple gable-ended two storey structures, possibly just intended for occasional occupation, their only decoration being a robust, pedimented block-and-start door case in the manner of James Gibbs.” This door was moved when part of the house was demolished and is still the front door.

The “robust, pedimented block-and-start door case in the manner of James Gibbs” was moved and is still the front door.

Julian Walton, one of the speakers at the “Pursuit of the Heiress” conference in 2019, has gained access to the archives at Curraghmore and is eliciting many interesting facts and details. This was great preparation for our visit to Curraghmore House the next day! [2] He told us of the heiress Katherine FitzGerald.

Stephen in the garden in 2020.

Descendants of the Fitzgeralds in Dromana

In 1673 the young heiress of Dromana, another Katherine Fitzgerald, was married against her will by her guardian Richard Le Poer, the 6th Baron of Curraghmore, to his son John. She was the only child of Sir John FitzGerald, Lord of Dromana and Decies and heir to Dromana. Her mother was Katherine Le Poer, daughter of John Le Poer 5th Baron of Curraghmore. Her mother’s brother, the 6th Baron of Curraghmore, wanted to unite the Curraghmore and Dromana estates. Both parties were underage – she was 12 and John Le Poer was only eight! Three years later Katherine escaped and married a cavalry officer named Edward Villiers (son of 4th Viscount Grandison). The courts upheld her second marriage and her first husband had to return her estate of Dromana and renounce the title of Viscount Decies. Her second husband’s father was a cousin to Barbara Villiers, mistress to King Charles II, and Barbara intervened on behalf of her cousin. When her second husband’s father, the 4th Viscount Grandison died in 1700, she was granted, in lieu of her now deceased husband, the title of Viscountess Grandison. She lived in Dromana until her death in 1725. 

History of the Development of the House, and the Villiers-Stuarts

The son of Edward Villiers and Katherine Fitzgerald, John Villiers, c.1684 – 1766, became the 5th Viscount Grandison, and later, the 1st Earl Grandison. He repaired the house in the 1730s after it was partly destroyed in the political turmoil of the 1600s. Our guide, Barbara, told us that he was an enterprising landlord: in the 1740s he brought weaving from Lurgan, County Armagh, to start the linen industry in the area, and he built the village of Villierstown for the workers. He also planted 52,000 trees.

The 1st Earl of Grandison’s sons predeceased him so the estate passed to his daughter, Elizabeth. She married Alan John Mason, an MP for County Waterford and a merchant, and on her father’s death she was created 1st Countess Grandison and and 1st Viscountess Villiers. [3] Their son became the 2nd Earl of Grandison and added the surname Villiers to become George Mason-Villiers. In 1780, he added a larger new house in front of the old one, adding an impressive staircase and ballroom. Of his building work, Mark Bence-Jones describes the back of the new block forming a third side of a courtyard with two older ranges, and a low office range forming the fourth side. The Gibbsian doorway was hidden from sight in the courtyard. [4]

A panel about the architectural evolution of Dromana states: “The second Earl Grandison, George Mason-Villiers, added on a larger new house, commencing in about 1780, directly in front of the longer 1700s range. The principal façade was of two storey and nine bays, quite plain, with a parapet and a rather curious segmental-headed armorial doorcase. The river façade contained a shallow double-height bow and was actually an extension of the smaller 1700s range. Together these three buildings faithfully followed the line of the original bawn or courtyard. There was a spacious hall with a grand staircase, and a large circular ballroom.”

In this old picture you can see the house with the bows.

George Mason-Villiers too had only a daughter as an heir: Gertrude Amelia Mason-Villiers (1778-1809). In 1800, she married Lord Henry Stuart (1777-1809), third son of the 1st Marquess of Bute, of the Isle of Bute in Scotland. Henry Stuart’s grandmother was the famous writer Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, who wrote about her experiences of travelling in Ottoman Istanbul.

Gertrude and Henry were succeeded in 1809 by their son, Henry, when he was just six years old. Henry added “Villiers” to his name in 1822, becoming Villiers-Stuart. The architect Martin Day was hired first in 1822 by trustees of Lady Gertrude – Henry didn’t come of age until 1824. Martin Day came from a family of architects in County Wexford. He designed several Church of Ireland churches for the Board of First Fruits and the Irish Ecclesiastical Commissioners between 1822-1849. In the 1820s, Day worked on the interiors of Dromana. He assisted Daniel Robertson at Johnstown Castle (now open to the public) and Castleboro House in County Wexford in the 1840s, and around the same time did more work for Henry Villiers-Stuart, adding parapets, pediments and mouldings to the windows, and an elaborate surround to the entrance doorway which incorporated the family arms. [5] He also fitted out a suite of very grand reception rooms and a massive imperial staircase.

Henry served as MP for Waterford 1826-1830 and for Banbury, Oxfordshire, England in 1830-1. He also served as Colonel in the Waterford Militia. He was admitted to the Irish Privy Council in 1837, and was created, in 1839, Baron Stuart de Decies, a title that recalled his long family connection with the region. Henry Villiers-Stuart was Lord-Lieutenant of County Waterford, 1831-74.

The Dromana website tells us that Henry Villiers-Stuart was “a Protestant aristocrat and large landowner with radical views. As a young man he defeated the Waterford establishment in the famous 1826 election to give Daniel O’Connell and the Catholic Emancipation movement their first Member of Parliament.” Daniel O’Connell signed documents in Dromana House, and the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 was drawn up at Dromana.

In 1826 Henry Villiers-Stuart married Theresia Pauline Ott. When they returned from their honeymoon, the tenants of Villierstown constructed an elaborate papier-mache archway gate for them to drive through. Martin Day may have had a hand in the original gateway, and later drew up plans to create a more permanent structure, which Stephen and I visited later in the day.

The Hindu-Gothic Bridge, over the River Finisk.
Dromana Hindu gothic gate ca. 1870 photographers Frederick Holland Mares, James Simonton stereo pairs photographic collection nli, flickr constant commons.

The Bridge is now on a public road. One used to need a ticket to enter through the gate. When King Edward VII arrived at the gate in a pony and trap, on his way to Lismore, he had no pass, so was turned away! The Gate was restored by the Irish Georgian Society in the 1960s and again by the local city council in 1990. [6] The “bishop” like structures either side of the top of the central part have been replaced by fibreglass “bishops,” as the original copper ones are too heavy, and one of the originals now sits in the garden of Dromana.

Pauline Ott has been married before, and her husband was thought to have died in the army. However, he later reappeared. Her marriage to Henry Villiers-Stuart was thus rendered invalid, and her children illegitimate. She and Henry had a son, Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart and a daughter Pauline. Pauline married into the Wheeler-Cuffe family of Lyrath, County Kilkenny (now a hotel). Their son was unable to inherit the title of Baron Stuart of the Decies and the peerage expired with his father’s death in 1874. [7]

Despite becoming illegitimate, the son, Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart (1827-1895) [the name Windsor came from his father’s maternal family], did very well for himself. He served first in the Austrian then the British Army, then went to university. He was ordained in the Church of England but later resigned Holy Orders in order to pursue a political career. He became MP for County Waterford from 1873-85, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Waterford, 1871-73, and High Sheriff of County Waterford in 1889. In 1865 he married Mary, second daughter of the Venerable Ambrose Power, Archdeacon of Lismore. He travelled extensively and wrote books, studied hieroglyphics, and did pioneering work in Egypt. He brought many artefacts back from Egypt, which have since been dispersed.

Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart (1827 – 1895) travelled extensively and wrote books, studied hieroglyphics, and did pioneering work in Egypt. He was a British soldier, clergyman, politician, Egyptologist, and author.
In the old kitchen, which houses the information boards, there was a museum case of fascinating artefacts, many from Egypt from Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart’s travels.

His eldest son, Henry Charles Windsor Villiers-Stuart (1867-1908), who served as High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1898, espoused, in 1895, Grace Frances, only daughter of John Adam Richard Newman of Dromore, County Cork. Their heir, Ion Henry Fitzgerald Villiers-Stuart (1900-48), wedded, in 1928, Elspeth Richardson, and was succeeded by his only son, James Henry Villiers-Stuart (b. 1928), of Dromana, who married, in 1952, Emily Constance Lanfear and had two daughters, Caroline and Barbara, one of whom was our tour guide and who now lives in the house. [8]

The website states that: “by the 1960s Dromana had become something of a white elephant. The estate was sold and subdivided, and the house bought by a cousin, Fitzgerald Villiers-Stuart [a grandson of Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart], who demolished the 1780s block in 1966 and reduced it to more manageable proportions.”

“James Villiers-Stuart was able to repurchase the house in 1995 he and his wife Emily moved into Dromana and began restoring the house and garden. Now a widow, Emily still lives there, along with her daughter and family.”

Back to the Conference

Barbara, heir to the house, and her husband Nicholas, attended the “Pursuit of the Heiress” conference. Nicholas gave us an impromptu lecture of sorts about how forces merged to make the upkeep of the big houses in Ireland almost impossible, with the high rates charged by the government, and the decline of salmon fishing, etc. 

We had more lectures after lunch. First up was “The Abduction of Mary Pike,” by Dr. Kieran Groeger, which interested Stephen as she too was a Quaker. [9] The last lecture was by Dr Dagmar Ó Riain-Raedel, on her research on Irish exiles to the Austrian army. [10] This was fascinating. I have much to study, to learn the history of the Habsburg empire.

Afterwards we had tea on the lawn, then Nicholas gave us an almost running tour of the garden – we had to be quick to keep up with him as he bound ahead describing the plants. The website states that “the steeply sloping riverbanks are covered with oak woods and the important mid-eighteenth century garden layout, with its follies, the Rock House and the Bastion, is currently being restored.” There are over thirty acres of garden and woodland, including looped walks.

When we visited in 2020, we had more time to explore the garden. We were given a map when we arrived. The current owners are enthusiastic gardeners and do nearly all the work themselves.

From the Conference in 2019, a view of the gardens.
The sweep of lawn in front of the house.
Looking toward the gas house wood.

We headed down to see the Bastion and Rock House.

Inside the Bastion.
The Bastion.
I had Stephen stand by the wall of the Bastion to show how tall it is!

Next we went to see the Rock House, further along the path.

It has graffiti that is 150 years old!

In 2015 there were celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the house [11].

You can see photographs taken inside the house on the Dromana website, where you can also see self-catering accommodation that is available.

[1] www.dromanahouse.com

[2] https://dromanahouse.com/2019/03/20/the-drawbacks-and-dangers-of-heiress-hunting/

[3] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Waterford%20Landowners

[4] p. 108. 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.

[5] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/1424/DAY-MARTIN#tab_biography

[6] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/09/27/bridging-cultures/

[7] See Robert O’Byrne’s recent blog entry: There is a memorial in front of the church (constructed by Lord Grandison in 1748): a High Cross erected by Henry Villiers-Stuart in memory of his parents, Henry, Baron Stuart de Decies and his Austrian-born wife Pauline. To the immediate west is a second monument, this one a public fountain in rock-faced limestone ashlar; it was erected in 1910 by the younger Henry’s children in memory of their mother Mary who had died three years earlier. https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/08/20/20689/ Robert O’Byrne tells us that the village of Villierstown, County Waterford was established in the 1740s by John Villiers, first Earl Grandison who wished to have a settlement for weavers and other personnel working in the linen industry he was then establishing in the area.

[8] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Waterford%20Landowners

[9] https://dromanahouse.com/2019/03/20/the-abduction-of-mary-pike-and-that-fateful-night-in-vernon-mount-cork/

[10] https://dromanahouse.com/2019/03/20/the-irish-wild-geese-in-search-of-fortune-in-the-habsburg-empire/

[11] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/07/01/an-octocentenary/

Tankardstown Estate & Demesne, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath

contact: Brian Conroy
Tel: 087-2888925
www.tankardstown.ie
Open: all year including National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm

Fee: Free

Stephen and I went to Tankardstown on the way to Monaghan in 2019, where we were staying a night on our drive to Donegal to visit his Mum.

Tankardstown is now a boutique hotel, although the manager Tadhg who showed us around prefers it not to be called a hotel, as it is more like an opulent modernized seventeenth century home. Unfortunately we were not staying the night!

In his Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) Mark Bence-Jones describes Tankardstown as a two storey late-Georgian house. According to wickipedia, the Georgian period is 1740-1837.

He writes that the entrance front consists of three bays and an end bay breaking forward, as you can see in the photograph above. The entrance doorway has a pediment on consoles, not in line with the window above. [1] There are steps up to the front door.

It has a three bay side elevation, with ground floor windows set in arched recesses with blocking (the use of alternating large and small blocks of stone, or of intermittent large blocks, in a doorcase, window surround or similar feature. Also known as rustication), with blocking around the first floor windows also. Bence-Jones also mentions its parapeted roof (“a low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony”).

John Coddington purchased nearby Oldbridge Estate from the Earl of Drogheda in 1729 (Oldbridge is now the Battle of the Boyne museum). It looks as though a nephew of John’s, Dixie Coddington, Sheriff, lived in Tankardstown at some point, perhaps with his wife Catherine de Burgh and seven daughters.

Oldbridge, County Meath, which was owned by the Coddington family, and which now houses the Battle of the Boyne museum.

Coincidentally, a brother of Dixie, Henry Coddington of Oldbridge (1728 – 1816) had a daughter, Elizabeth Coddington, who married Edward Winder of Bellview in 1798. This Edward Winder is an ancestor of Stephen’s! So our relatives, by marriage, owned Tankardstown!

The house, as you can see from the photographs, is incredibly opulent with many period features which I assume are original. Above, one can see the unusual black rose patterned wall panels in the inner doorway of the hall, with an arch of alternate black panelling and stuccowork. The drawing room has painted stuccowork on the ceiling and a carved marble fireplace.

The plush furnishings and decor are so overwhelming that the place that touched me most, in terms of feeling a link with the former residents, feeling the house’s history,  were some worn stone stairs:

The Coddingtons sold the house to Brabazon Morris. According to Ireland’s Blue Book [5], Brabazon Morris built a neo-Classical villa on the land in 1789, in part on the foundations of a tenth century castle, close to pre-existing stone yards which were built in 1745. The present Tankardstown house must be his neo-Classical villa so the house the Coddingtons inhabited was probably incorporated into this house.

Brabazon Morris married Anne Hamlin (she died before 1800 aged just 52) [3] and had a daughter Anne, who married Reverend Frederick Cavendish (1803-1875) in 1834, son of Frederick Cavendish and Eleanor Gore, sixth daughter of Arthur Gore the Second Earl of Arran [4].

Brabazon Morris mortgaged the house in 1791 until it was bought by Francis Blackburne in 1815, as his country residence.

According to an article in the Irish Independent newspaper by Anthony Smith, Francis Blackburne was born in 1782 and lived to be 84 years old [6]. He married Jane Martley of Ballyfallen, County Meath. [7] He was called to the bar in 1805 and became Attorney General of Ireland in 1831. He was a devout Protestant and Unionist and prosecuted Daniel O’Connell. In 1852 he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

With his new position, Francis Blackburne must have felt he needed something more grand, and purchased Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin. However his position as Lord Chancellor ended later the same year. He obtained the position again in 1866 shortly before his death. He gave Tankardstown to his second son, Judge Francis William Blackburne (d. 1921). His older son inherited Rathfarnham Castle.

Rathfarnham Castle, which was purchased by Francis Blackburne in 1852 when he was Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He had previously purchased Tankardstown in 1815 as his country residence.

Judge Francis Blackburne married Olivia Beatrice Louisa Anstruther-Thomson, and had a son Jack and two daughters, Elena and Amable. The Blackburnes carried out extensive additions, refurbishment and redecoration in the 1880s. Jack Blackburne inherited the estate and worked the farm though his first love was racing cars. (see [6])

Judge Blackburne’s daughter Elena married Charles Maurice Waddington Loftus Townshend (called Maurice) (1899-1966) of Castle Townshend, County Cork, in 1928. They moved to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) for a while, where two of his brothers as ex-British officers were granted free land, but returned to Ireland when WWII broke out. They lived in Tankardstown after Jack died in the 1940s. They had two children, Francis b. 1930 and Maurice born 1932 [8]. C. Maurice Townshend seems to have been a little eccentric as he believed he had a sort of second sight – he was able to point to a place on a map where his sister’s missing friend was located. He also pursued the art of water divination. [9]

When Maurice Townsend died in 1966, Judge Blackburne’s other daughter, Amable, moved back to Tankardstown, and she and her sister ran the farm as best they could. Anthony Smith, writer of the Irish Times article, remembers the two elderly ladies giving him treats in the kitchen while his father serviced Jack’s Aston Martin racing car. The article does not mention Elena’s sons but one moved to Australia and the other studied agriculture and farmed in Meath.

Eventually in the 1970s the sisters Elena and Amable sold the house and moved into a smaller house built at the rear entrance to the estate. I am not sure who owned the house directly after the Blackburnes. Both sisters died in 1996. Brian Conroy bought the estate when it came on the market in 2002. [see 2]

Brian and his wife Patricia spent four years restoring the mansion from complete disrepair. It was to be their dream home.

In the lead up to the Ryder Cup golf tournament which was being held in Ireland that year, a scout contacted Trish and asked if they could rent her property for the duration of the tournament. When the scout visited Tankardstown, she noticed the stable block next to the house and proposed that if it could be refurbished in time, they would rent that out for the tournament as well! The stable block now holds self-contained accommodation.

Tankardstown has a café for lunch and afternoon tea and a dining room, supplied by their own fresh farm produce.

The restaurant, the Brabazon, which was originally the milking parlour, retains the old walls and arches.

The tea rooms, Tankardstown.

It has a large function room, formerly the Orangerie, for weddings and events.

DSC_0965

The house is situated on an 80 acre estate with woodland, rolling parkland and walled gardens. There is also a pampering treatment room in a “hide-out” beside the walled garden.

Brian Conroy is an entrepreneur with a successful track record in property development, restoration of heritage buildings and operation of hospitality venues. Having grown up in Monkstown, Co Dublin, he moved to the UK and built an engineering and property business before returning with his family to Tankardstown, Co Meath. He also owns another property on the section 482 register in 2019 which is also now a hotel, Boyne House, Slane (formerly known as Cillghrian Glebe). [10]

[1] architectural definitions

[2] https://www.tankardstown.ie

[3] https://historicgraves.com/kilberry/me-klby-0037/grave

[4] http://www.thepeerage.com/p25513.htm#i255125

[5] https://www.irelands-blue-book.ie/itinerary-detail.html/hotels-history-html

[6] https://www.independent.ie/regionals/droghedaindependent/news/pink-floyd-drummer-and-the-old-aston-martin-38038851.html

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Blackburne

[8] http://www.thepeerage.com/p35219.htm#i352181

[9] http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~townsend/tree/record.php?ref=5C17

[10] https://www.boynehouseslane.ie