Office of Public Works Properties: Connacht

Continuing my posts about Office of Public Works sites, we visited several last year. The five counties of Connacht are Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.

I will be writing of more Section 482 properties soon! We visited the lovely Ballysallagh House in County Kilkenny last weekend. The 2022 Section 482 list should be out this month, in February, but it is not available yet.

Galway:

1. Athenry Castle, County Galway

2. Aughnanure Castle, County Galway

3. Dun Aonghasa, County Galway

4. Ionad Culturtha an Phiarsaigh (Pearse’s Cottage), County Galway

5. Portumna Castle, County Galway

Leitrim:

6. Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim

7. Sean MacDiarmada Cottage, County Leitrim

Mayo:

8. Ceide Fields, County Mayo

Roscommon:

9. Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon

10. Rathcroghan, County Roscommon

Sligo:

11. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo

12. Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, County Sligo

13. Sligo Abbey, County Sligo

Galway:

1. Athenry Castle, County Galway:

Athenry Castle 1938, from Dublin City Library and Archives. [1]

General information: 091 844797, athenrycastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Guarding a strategic ford on the Clarinbridge River is the monumental bulk of Athenry Castle. The imposing three-storey hall-keep survives from the mid-thirteenth century. It is solidly impressive from the outside, although the interior was simply built, containing only a hall at first-floor level and dark storerooms below.

Despite the simplicity of the layout, fine carvings bear witness to the hall’s eminence. The doorway and two of the window openings are decorated with floral motifs in the remarkable local School of the West style. The battlements, through whose tall arrow-loops the castle was defended against various attackers across the centuries, are original.

Visitors come to Athenry Castle to soak up the authentic atmosphere of medieval power that the mighty fortress still exudes”. [2]

The castle Keep was built in 1253 by Meiler de Bermingham [ancestor of the Lords of Athenry] and after an attack in 1316 the large town wall were added [in 1316 Richard “of the Battles” 4th Lord of Athenry defeated Felim O’Connor in the Battle of Athenry]. Not long after the completion of the walls, one of Ireland’s bloodiest battles was fought outside the town between the King of Connaught and the Normans. Until that time the area and castle were of great importance but the story changed after the battle. 

Meiler’s son raised the height of the first floor; he also embellished the entrance with a fine arched door at the south east end of the castle which was reached by a wooden staircase. During the reordering the banqueting hall was also enhanced with narrow trefoil headed windows; very rare in Irish castles. 

In the 15th century the tower was raised by two floors to include an attic and two gable ends and battlements were added. The basement only previously accessible by a trap door and ladder also benefited from having a new entrance. 

In 1596 the castle fell into the hands of the O’Donnell clan and never recovered from the great damage it sustained during the battle for its title and it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the National Monuments branch of the Office of Public Works in Ireland started work on its restoration.” [3]

I found a wonderful history on the website The Standing Stone by Dr. Thomas P. Nelligan:

The area had been conquered by the Normans in the early 13th century and following the death of the King of Connacht, Cathal Crovderg O’Conor, the province was granted to Richard de Burgo by the King of England who invaded and area and subdued it. He, in turn, granted the area around Athenry to Peter de Bermingham. The castle was subsequently built between 1235 and 1240 by Meiler de Bermingham, Peter’s son. It is often called King John’s Castle, despite being built some 20 years after his death. Meiler was granted, in 1244, the right to hold a market at the town, and an annual 8-day fair. He is also responsible for the founding of the nearby Dominican Friary in 1241. As the Connacht region didn’t receive a large influx of Norman settlers at this time, there was resistance to the de Bermingham’s rule. In 1249, an Irish army was defeated by the de Berminghams at Athenry. 

The castle was attacked in 1316 and following this the town walls were constructed. This attack was led by the Irish Felim O’Conor, the Gaelic king of Connacht. He fought the Lord of Connacht, William Liath de Burgo, and the 4th Lord of Athenry, Richard de Bermingham. The Irish king was killed during the battle and thousands of Irish were killed owing their custom of not wearing armor and the Normans heavy use of the bow.  

The de Berminghams stopped using the castle as their primary residence in the 15th century and moved elsewhere in the town [Richard de Bermingham who died in 1580 moved to Dunmore, County Galway]. In 1574 the town was burned to the ground by the sons of the Earl of Clanricarde, Ulick and John Burke, who rebelled. The town was rebuilt in 1576 only for it to be attacked again a year later by the Burkes. Further rebuilding works were carried out in 1584, but during the Nine Years’ War the town was captured and burnt by Red Hugh O’Donnel, and the castle fell into his hands.” [4] 

2. Aughnanure Castle, Oughterard, County Galway:

Aughnanure Castle, County Galway, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [5]

General information: 091 552214, aughnanurecastle@opw.ie

It is a 15th century tower house. Aughnanure translates in Irish to “the field of the yews.” The OPW website tells us:

The fearsome O’Flaherty family, whose motto was ‘Fortune favours the strong’, ruled west Connacht for 300 years from this fine six-storey tower on the shores of Lough Corrib.

In 1546 the O’Flahertys joined forces with the Mayo O’Malleys when Donal an Chogaidh O’Flaherty married Grace O’Malley, later known as Granuaile, the formidable pirate queen. The O’Malley motto, ‘Powerful by land and by sea,’ showed the awe in which that family, too, was held.

At Aughanure today you can inspect the remains of a banqueting hall, a watch tower, an unusual double bawn and bastions and a dry harbour. Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of the three species of bat that now live in the castle.

It was captured in 1572 by Sir Edward Fitton, then president of Connacht, but later reclaimed by the O’Flahertys. In 1618 King James I granted the castle to Hugh O’Flaherty but shortly after it fell into the hands of the Marquis of Clanrickarde who used it as a base against Cromwell’s forces. In 1687 the castle was back in the hands of the O’Flaherty clan for a rent of 76 per annum. In 1719 Bryan O’Flaherty bought the castle with the help of a mortgage of 1,600 which he borrowed from Lord Saint George but was unable to keep up the repayments and so the castle was lost again. [6] The Commissioners of Public Works obtained the castle in 1952 before declaring it a National Monument and undertaking restoration of the parapet, chimney and roof in 1963. 

3. Dun Aonghasa, County Galway:

Dun Aengus, Inishmore, Aran Islands, County Galway, by Gareth McCormack, 2019 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 5]

General information: 099 61008, dunaonghasa@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Dún Aonghasa is about 1km from the Visitor Centre and is approached over rising ground. The last section of the path is over rough, natural rock and care is needed, especially when descending. Boots or strong walking shoes are recommended. There is no fence or barrier at the edge of the cliff.

Perilously perched on a sheer sea-cliff, Dún Aonghasa defiantly faces the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands.

The fort consists of three massive drystone defence walls. Outside them is a chevaux-de-frise – that is, a dense band of jagged, upright stones, thousands in number. A devastatingly effective way to impede intruders, the chevaux-de-frise surrounds the entire fort from cliff to cliff.

Dún Aonghasa is over 3,000 years old. Excavations have revealed significant evidence of prehistoric metalworking, as well as several houses and burials. The whole complex was refortified in AD 700–800.

The visit involves a short hike over rising ground and rough, natural rock, so come prepared with boots or strong walking shoes. Be careful, too, when walking near the cliff – there is no fence or barrier at the edge of the 87-metre drop.

4. Ionad Culturtha an Phiarsaigh (Pearse’s Cottage), County Galway:

Ionad Culturtha an Phiarsaigh (Pearse’s Cottage), County Galway, photograph by Christian McLeod, 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 5]

general information: 091 574292, icpconamara@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh is located in Ros Muc, in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht. It was here that Patrick Pearse, leader of the 1916 rebellion against British rule, built a summer cottage for himself.

In the state-of-the-art visitor centre you can explore the things that drew Pearse to Connemara – the area’s unique landscape and the ancient Gaelic culture and language which is still alive today. You will get a warm welcome from our local guides, who are steeped in the local culture and take great pride in it.

A short stroll across the bog will take you to the cottage itself. You will find it just as it was when Pearse left for the last time in 1915.

Ionad Culturtha an Phiarsaigh (Pearse’s Cottage), County Galway, photograph by Stephen Duffy, 2019 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 5]

5. Portumna Castle and Gardens, County Galway: 

Portumna Castle, County Galway, July 2021.

General information: 090 974 1658, portumnacastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Built by [Richard Bourke 1572-1635] the fourth earl of Clanricarde, Portumna Castle was the de Burgo family power base for centuries.

The castle is a unique example of the transitional Irish architecture of the early 1600s. Its bold design combines elements of medieval and Renaissance style that complement each other perfectly.

A major fire in 1826 left the castle a roofless shell, but the state began to bring it back from ruin in the 1960s. Restoration work continues to this day.

The dramatic walk up to the building includes charming formal gardens, which create an enchanting sense of the original seventeenth-century setting. The walled kitchen garden is particularly memorable.

The castle enjoys a sensational view of Lough Derg. The ground floor is open to the public and houses an exhibition that brings the story of the castle and the de Burgo family to life. It is right beside the River Shannon and Portumna Forest Park, which makes it a great choice for a delightful day out.

Ashlar limestone Morrison, or Gothic Entrance gates, Portumna Castle. They are attributed to Richard Morrison, built about 1805, flanked by “octagonal piers with reeded colonettes on moulded plinths, with moulded bands and cornices, carved crocketed reeded pyramidal capstones with fleur-de-lys finials, vegetal detail to friezes, and supporting decorative cast-iron double-leaf and single-leaf gates.” [7]
A gate lodge, probably designed by Richard Morrison.
The castle is a three-storey semi-fortified Jacobean house with raised basement and dormer attic, built c.1618, facing north and comprising rectangular block having four-bay long sides and three-bay short sides, flanked by square-plan projecting corner towers with one-bay sides. The machicolation over the main entrance has an oculus opening and pedestals with ball finials, and is supported on stone corbels. There are paired ashlar limestone chimneystacks to the middle of the roof which have a plan of five stacks by three parallel to axis. I thought these chimneystacks look rather modern and am not sure they look as they would have back in the 1600s and 1700s. The windows have stone mullioned windows with leaded glazing. Dormer windows have pitched slate roofs and two-light timber casement windows.

Richard Bourke 4th Earl of Clanricarde was brought up and educated in England. He fought on the side of the English against Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and was knighted on the field at the battle of Kinsale. He was a protege of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and married Frances Walsingham, who was the widow of the poet Philip Sydney (1554-1586) and of Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex (1566-1601), favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.

Portrait of Frances Walsingham, along with her husband Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and in the small picture, Sir Philip Sydney.

The castle was built around 1616 and is a mixture of defensive Elizabethan/Jacobean building and a manor house, marking the transition in building styles. In this is it similar to Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin, which was built around 1583. It retains defensive structures such as machicolations (floor openings in the battlements, through which stones, or other objects, could be dropped on attackers), shot holes, and strong corner towers, and surrounding walls with gunloops and crenellated towers.

Georgian Gothic gateways lead to the avenue up to the house. The seventeenth century Tuscan gateway, contemporaneous with the castle, is one of the earliest examples of the use of classical orders in the country and is the superb work of a skilled craftsman. Its decorative scheme reflects the details of the castle.
Doorway entrance with round headed door opening in a carved limestone doorcase with side pilasters and and a scroll keystone, framed in square recess surmounted by moulded cornice on corbels, having scroll brackets to each end and supporting obelisks flanked by strapwork to each side of glazed elliptical oculus with carved finial. [8] Entrance is up limestone steps with carved balustrade.

The back is similar to the front, except for the addition in around 1797 of a curved porch of Jacobean style in the middle of the garden front (probably in the time of the 12th Earl of Clanricarde who died in December 1797 and was elevated to be a Marquess). I loved the curving steps up to this round door entrance.

The National Inventory describes the addition: “Curved porch to south elevation added c.1797 and having roughcast rendered walls with moulded string course to battlements, latter having carved ball finial to middle, square-headed two-light window openings having chamfered limestone surrounds, window to basement having chamfered mullion and that to ground floor having mullion and transom. Glazed elliptical oculus over ground floor window. Pointed arch door openings to east and west faces, with chamfered limestone surrounds, moulded cornices and timber doors, accessed by flights of limestone steps.”
This board tells us that William de Burgo (d. 1205) came to Ireland with Prince John in 1185, and was granted lands stretching from Cashel to Limerick. In 1193 he married the daughter of Donal Mor O’Brien, King of Thomond, thus securing a good relationship with the native rulers. His son Richard (d. 1241) suceeded him and was known as Lord of Connaught. Richard began the feudalisation of Connaught after military conquest. Richard was suceeded by his son Richard (d. 1248) and then Walter, who was created 1st Earl of Ulster.

Before building Portumna Castle, the principal seat of the Earls of Clanricarde was a castle in Loughrea. As well as building Portumna, the 4th Earl refurbished the castles at Aughnanure and Athenry, amongst others. The Clanricarde earls also owned Clarecastle, Oranmore and Kilcolgan castles.

The descendents of William de Burgo adopted Irish customs and clothing. Ulick Burke of Clanricarde (d. 1544) became Earl of Clanricarde and Baron of Dunkellin, and was one of the earliest Irish Chiefs to accept Henry VIII’s policy of “surrender and regrant,” accepting Henry VIII as his sovereign.

Ulick’s son Richard, 2nd Earl of Clanricarde, fought the Irish for the British crown.

The castle passed to the 4th Earl’s son Ulick and then to a cousin, Richard, who became 6th Earl of Clanricarde.

Portrait of Ulick, 5th Earl of Clanricarde (d. 1657). He was created Marquess of Clanricarde. He was Lord Deputy and Commander in Chief of Royalist forces against Cromwell in 1649. His Irish estates were lost but then recovered by his widow after the restoration of Charles II to the throne.

The 6th Earl only had daughters so the title passed to his brother William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde.

The 7th Earl’s son Richard the 8th Earl (died 1708) succeeded his father and despite marrying several times had no male heirs, so was succeeded by his brother John, 9th Earl (d. 1722). John was created Baron Burke of Bophin, County Galway, by King James II. He fought on the Jacobite side and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Aughrim in 1691. He was declared an outlaw and the Clanricarde estates were forfeited to the King, but the outlawry was reversed twelve years later on the payment of a whopping £25,000. His son Michael the 10th Earl succeeded him (d. 1726) and fortunately he married well, to Anne Smith daughter of John Smith, Chancellor of the Exchequer, widow of Hugh Parker of Meldford Hall, Sussex, whose income helped to restore the family fortunes.

The 11th Earl, John Smith de Burgh changed his surname from Bourke to De Burgh. The 13th Earl, John Thomas De Burgh (1744-1808) was created 1st Earl of Clanricarde, an Irish Peer, on 29 December 1800, with special remainder to his daughters, if he had no male heir. One daughter, Hester, married Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo, and the other, Emily, married Thomas St Lawrence, 3rd Earl of Howth. His son, Ulick, became the 1st Marquess Clanricarde (of the 3rd creation), and also Baron of Somerhill, Kent. It was during his tenure that the fire occurred. He married Harriet Canning, daughter of Prime Minister George Canning. Ulick was described as being immensely rich.

John Thomas De Burgh (1744-1808) 13th Earl of Clanricarde was created 1st Earl of Clanricarde, co. Galway.
Ulick John De Burgh, 14th Earl and 1st Marquess of Clanricarde (1802-1874).
Harriet Canning, Countess of Clanricarde (1804-1876), married to Ulick John De Burgh, 14th Earl and 1st Marquess of Clanricarde (1802-1874).

Amazing work has been done to reconstruct the castle after the fire. The Commissioners of Public Works acquired the castle in 1968 for preservation as a national monument.

Portumna Castle 1946, photograph from Dublin City Archives and Library. [see 1]

After the fire the family built a Ruskinian Gothic mansion by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane at the opposite end of the park. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the new house was not much lived in by the family, for 2nd and last Marquess of Clanricarde, who succeeded 1874, was “the notorious miser and eccentric who spent his life in squalid rooms in London and dressed like a tramp.” The 2nd Marquess, Hubert George De Burgh-Canning, who died 1916, left Portumna to his great-nephew, Viscount Henry George Charles Lascelles, afterwards 6th Earl of Harewood and husband of Princess Mary (daughter of King George V), because it was said that he was the only member of his family who ever went to see him. The 1862 house was burnt 1922; after which Lord Harewood, when he came here, occupied a small house on the place. Portumna was sold when he died in 1947. [9]

The 2nd Marquess, Hubert George De Burgh-Canning, “the notorious miser and eccentric who spent his life in squalid rooms in London and dressed like a tramp.”
Elizabeth de Burgh, who married Henry Thynne Lascelles, 4th Earl of Harewood. She was the sister of the 2nd Marquess, Hubert George De Burgh-Canning.
Pictured, the marriage of Princess Mary to Viscount Lascelles.

The castle had a long gallery on the second storey, similar to that in the Ormond Castle in Carrick-on-Suir. Long galleries originated in Italy and France and became fashionable in England after 1550. They were often sparsely furnished and were used for indoor exercise.

The view from the front of the castle towards the gates.
Inside Portumna Castle, so far the ground floor has been restored and it houses an informative exhibition about the castle.

The exhibition tells us about various positions of servants in a castle. I was amused by the description of the job of a footman. We are told that they were kept largely for “ornamental” purposes and had to be fairly tall and good-looking, and their wages even rose with their height! Some padded their silk stockings to make their calves look more shapely!

Work is still being carried out on the castle, as you can see from the scaffolding on the side.

The side has a round-arched door and a small oculus window above.

The stables have been renovated into a cafe.

There’s also a walled garden at Portumna Castle.

Leitrim:

6. Parkes Castle, Fivemilebourne, County Leitrim:

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.

General information: 071 916 4149, parkescastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Parke’s Castle occupies a striking setting on the northern shores of Lough Gill in County Leitrim.

A restored castle of the early seventeenth century, it was once the home of English planter Robert Parke. There is evidence of an earlier structure on the site, a tower house once owned by Sir Brian O’Rourke, lord of West Breifne. O’Rourke, whom one English governor described as ‘the proudest man this day living on the earth’, resisted crown rule and fled Ireland, but ended up in the hands of Queen Elizabeth’s forces. He was thrown into the Tower of London, tried and finally hanged at Tyburn.

Sir Brian O’Rourke was indicted and hanged at Tyburn, London, in 1591 for sheltering Francsico de Cueller, an officer of the shipwrecked Armada in 1588, who later wrote about his time in Ireland. The Kingdom of Breifne, or Breffny, was what is now Leitrim and parts of Cavan and other neighbouring counties. Brian O’Rourke assumed the leadership of Breifne after assassinating his older brothers, apparently! By the 11th century it was ruled by the O’Rourke or Ua Rairc dynasty. The land was then given to Robert or Roger Parke. It passed to his son Robert.

The OPW website continues: “Tragedy struck in 1677, when two of Parke’s children drowned on the lake. The castle then fell into disrepair. Only in the late twentieth century was it restored, using traditional Irish oak and craftsmanship.” Robert Parke’s daughter Anne married Francis Gore of Ardtarmon, County Sligo, a brother of Arthur Gore, ancestor to the Earls of Arran.

Parkes Castle, which was also called Newtown Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.

The OPW did a terrific job of renovation, as you can see from former photographs – look at 1926!

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.

Unfortunately although we visited during Heritage Week in 2021, the castle was closed due to Covid restrictions. We were able to enter the courtyard and courtyard buildings, and to wander around the castle, but did not get to go inside, which is normally open to the public.

The last member of the Parke family left the castle in 1691.

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
The Forge, Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
I loved this chart of shoes, for horses and also donkeys.
Stephen entering the Sweathouse, which may date back to the 12th century!
Stephen in the Sweathouse, which may date back to the 12th century!
This tunnel leads down to the water, for a quick escape.

7. Sean MacDiarmada Cottage, County Leitrim:

From the OPW website:

The homestead of the 1916 leader Seán Mac Diarmada in Kiltyclogher, County Leitrim is the jewel in the county’s historic crown.

The cottage is the only original existing homeplace of any of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It offers an unparalleled insight into the origins of a key figure in one of the most explosive episodes of Irish history. It is also an authentic traditional Irish cottage and as such gives us a glimpse of what life was like for ordinary people a hundred years ago.

The cottage has been maintained in its original condition for decades. Regular tours allow visitors to experience the authentic atmosphere of this incredible historical resource.

Mayo:

8. Ceide Fields, Glenurla, Ballycastle, County Mayo:

Ceide Fields, photograph by Alison Crummy, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 5]

General Information: 096 43325, ceidefields@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Beneath the wild boglands of north Mayo lies a system of fields, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs which together make up the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world.

The stone-walled fields, extending over hundreds of hectares, are the oldest known globally, dating back almost 6,000 years. They are covered by a natural blanket bog with its own unique vegetation and wildlife.

The award-winning visitor centre is set against some of the most dramatic rock formations in Ireland. A viewing platform on the edge of the 110-metre-high cliff will help you make the most of the breathtaking scenery. Come prepared with protective clothing and sturdy footwear, though. The terrain – and the weather – can be challenging.

Day break over the Visitors centre overlooking the Ceide Fields and the Atlantic Coast County Mayo Ireland, photo from Ireland’s Content Pool by Failte Ireland. [see 5]

Roscommon:

9. Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon:

General information: 071 966 2604, boyleabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This Cistercian monastery was founded in the twelfth century by monks from Mellifont Abbey under the patronage of the local ruling family, the MacDermotts. It was one of the most powerful of the early Cistercian foundations in Ireland and among the foremost in Connacht.

Cromwellian forces wreaked devastation when they occupied the abbey in 1659. It was further mutilated during the following centuries, when it was used to accommodate a military garrison. Despite all the violence it has suffered over the centuries, Boyle Abbey is well preserved and retains its ability to impress.

A sixteenth/seventeenth-century gatehouse has been restored and turned into an interpretive centre, where you can learn more about the abbey’s gripping history.

10. Rathcroghan, Cruachan Ai, Tulsk, Castlerea, County Roscommon:

General information: 071 963 9268, info@rathcroghan.ie

From the OPW website:

Tightly packed into a few square kilometres of the Roscommon landscape at Rathcroghan lie over 240 archaeological sites. These include Stone Age tombs and royal burial mounds, great ringforts and places of ceremonial inauguration.
The legendary Oweynagat (Cave of the Cats), for example, is regarded as the origin-place of the festival of Samhain. Fearful Christian scribes described Oweynagat as Ireland’s Gate to Hell. A two-metre standing stone, meanwhile, is said to mark the grave of King Dathi, the last pagan king of Ireland, who died when he was struck by lightning in the Alps.
Perhaps most impressively, the great warrior Queen Medb ruled all of Connacht from her home at Rathcroghan.
Experience Rathcroghan’s rich archaeology, mythology and history through our interpretive rooms and expertly guided tours. The Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, the home of our museum, is located in the medieval village of Tulsk, Co. Roscommon.
(This is a Communities Involvement Initiative Project, supported by the OPW.)

Sligo:

11. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo:

Ballymote Castle, County Sligo, August 2021.

The OPW information board at the site tells us that Ballymote, taken from an Irish word meaning “town of the mound,” was built by the Norman Richard de Burgo, the “Red Earl” of Ulster in around 1300. It was probably the strongest castle in Connacht, but was captured by the O’Connor family in 1317 and from then on it changed hands many times. In 1598 it was sold for £400 and 300 cows to Red Hugh O’Donnell (1572-1602) and it was from here that he assembled his army for the Battle of Kinsale (1601). He was beaten in this battle by Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy (who served as Lord Deputy of Ireland under Queen Elizabeth I and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under James I), and he left for Spain to seek support from King Philip III, but died abroad in 1602.

Nearly 100 years later it was surrendered to Lord Granard after an artillery attack, and fell into ruin. The information board also tells us that the Book of Ballymote was partly compiled at the caste in around 1400. It is a manuscript including sections on the invasions of Ireland, the creation of the world and a study of the old Irish Ogham style of writing.

Runic writing on a deer antler from the 11th century! It was found in Fishamble Street, Dublin, and is kept in the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street in Dublin. See the key for the ogham alphabet below the antler.
Ballymote Castle, County Sligo, August 2021.

12. Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, County Sligo:

General information: 071 916 1534, carrowmoretomb@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Carrowmore – the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland. It lies just south-west of Sligo town, right at the heart of the Cúil Írra Peninsula, an area alive with prehistoric significance.

Packed together at Carrowmore are more than 30 stone tombs, many of which are still visible. Most are passage tombs and boulder circles. There are various forts and standing stones in the area too. The origins of these monuments reach far into prehistory – the most ancient among them is close to 6,000 years old.

A restored cottage houses an exciting new exhibition that will satisfy the curiosity of even the most demanding visitors. Come prepared for a hike across rugged terrain.

13. Sligo Abbey, Abbey Street, County Sligo:

General information: 071 914 6406, sligoabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This Dominican friary has dominated Sligo town centre since the mid-thirteenth century, when it was created by Maurice FitzGerald, the founder of the town itself. Some of the building from that period has survived the next nine centuries of turmoil.

The abbey was partially destroyed by burning in 1414, when it fell foul of an unattended candle, and suffered further mutilation following the Rebellion of 1641. According to legend, worshippers salvaged the abbey’s silver bell at that time and threw it into Lough Gill. You can hear it peal even now – provided, that is, that you are wholly free from sin.

Despite the ravages of history, the abbey contains a great wealth of carvings, including Gothic and Renaissance tomb sculpture, a well-preserved cloister and a sculptured fifteenth-century high altar – the only such altar to survive in an Irish monastic church.

[1] https://repository.dri.ie/catalog?f%5Broot_collection_id_ssi%5D%5B%5D=pk02rr951&mode=objects&search_field=all_fields&view=grid

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

[3] http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Galway/Athenry-Castle.html

[4] http://www.thestandingstone.ie/2021/02/athenry-castle-co-galway.html

See also Mohr, Paul. The De Berminghams, Barons Of Athenry: A Suggested Outline Lineage, From First To Last. Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. Vol. 63 (2011), pp. 43-56, on jstor. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41429931?read-now=1&seq=8#page_scan_tab_contents

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

[6] http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Galway/Aughanure-Castle.html

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/30343036/portumna-castle-portumna-portumna-demesne-portumna-co-galway

[8] p. 233, Bence-Jones, Mark.

[9] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/30343048/portumna-castle-portumna-demesne-portumna-co-galway

Happy New Year!

I love starting a new year. The new listing for Section 482 properties won’t be published until February or March, so at the moment we will have to rely on 2021 listings (January listings below).

I had an amazing 2021 and visited lots of properties! As well as those I’ve written about so far, I am hoping to hear back for approval for a few more write-ups. Last year Stephen and I visited thirteen section 482 properties, thirteen OPW properties, and some other properties maintained by various groups.

The Section 482 properties we visited were Mount Usher gardens and Killruddery in County Wicklow; Killineer House and gardens in County Louth; Salthill Gardens in County Donegal; Stradbally Hall in County Laois; Enniscoe in County Mayo; Tullynally in County Westmeath; Kilfane Glen and Waterfall in County Kilkenny; Killedmond Rectory in County Carlow; Coopershill, Newpark and Markree Castle in County Sligo and Wilton Castle in County Wexford.

Mount Usher Gardens, County Wicklow (June 2021).
Killruddery, County Wicklow (we visited in April 2021).
Killineer House and Gardens, County Louth (visited in June 2021).
Salthill Gardens, County Donegal (visited in July 2021.
Stradbally Hall, County Laois (visited in June 2021).
Enniscoe, County Mayo (visited in August 2021).
Tullynally, County Westmeath (visited in August 2021).
Kilfane Glen and Waterfall, County Kilkenny (visited in August 2021).
Gardens at Killedmond Rectory, County Carlow (visited in August 2021).
Coopershill, County Sligo (visited in August 2021).
Newpark House, County Sligo (visited in August 2021).
Markree Castle, County Sligo (visited in August 2021).
Wilton Castle, County Wexford (visited in November 2021).

The OPW properties we visited were Dublin Castle, the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, National Botanic Gardens, Rathfarnham Castle, St. Stephen’s Green, Iveagh Gardens, Phoenix Park and Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin; Emo Court, County Laois; Portumna Castle, County Galway; Fore Abbey in County Westmeath; Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim; and Ballymote Castle, County Sligo.

Inside Dublin Castle (visited in September 2021).
Irish National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin, designed by Lutyens (we go walking here all the time!).
National Botanic Gardens, Dublin (visited in September 2021).
Inside Rathfarnham Castle (visited in September 2021).
The Iveagh Gardens, Dublin (visited in October 2021).
The Gardens at Royal Hospital Kilmainham (visited in January 2022).
Emo Park, County Laois (visited in June 2021).
Portumna Castle, Galway (visited in July 2021).
Fore Abbey, County Westmeath (visited in August 2021).
Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim, maintained by the OPW (visited in August 2021).
Ballymote Castle, County Sligo (visited in August 2021).

We also visited Duckett’s Grove, maintained by Carlow County Council; Woodstock Gardens and Arbortetum maintained by Kilkenny County Council; Johnstown Castle, County Wexford maintained by the Irish Heritage Trust (which also maintains Strokestown Park, which we have yet to visit – hopefully this year! it’s a Section 482 property – and Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens, which we visited in 2020); Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, which is maintained by Shannon Heritage, as well as Newbridge House, which we also visited in 2021. Shannon Heritage also maintains Bunratty Castle, Knappogue Castle and Cragganowen Castle in County Clare, King John’s Castle in Limerick, which we visited in 2019, Malahide Castle in Dublin which I visited in 2018, GPO museum, and the Casino model railway museum. We also visited Belvedere House, Gardens and Park – I’m not sure who maintains it (can’t see it on the website).

Duckett’s Grove, County Carlow (visited in August 2021).
Woodstock House, County Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council (visited in August 2021).
Johnstown Castle, County Wexford, maintained by the Irish Heritage Trust (visited in November 2021).
Dunguaire Castle, County Clare (visited in July 2021).
Newbridge House, County Dublin (visited in June 2021).
Belvedere House, County Westmeath (visited in August 2021).

We were able to visit two historic properties when we went to view auction sales at Townley Hall, County Louth and Howth Castle, Dublin.

The domed rotunda in Townley Hall, County Louth (visited in October 2021).
Howth Castle, County Dublin (visited in September 2021).

Finally some private Big Houses that we visited, staying in airbnbs, were Annaghmore in County Sligo and Cregg Castle in Galway.

Annaghmore, County Sligo, where we stayed as airbnb guests with Durcan and Nicola O’Hara (in August 2021).
Cregg Castle, County Galway (in July 2021).

Here are the listings for January 2021:

Cavan

Cabra Castle (Hotel)

Kingscourt, Co. Cavan

Howard Corscadden.

Tel: 042-9667030

www.cabracastle.com

Open dates in 2021: all year, except Dec 24, 25, 26, 11am-12 midnight

Fee: Free

Cabra Castle, County Cavan.

Corravahan House & Gardens

Corravahan, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan

Ian Elliott

Tel: 087-9772224

www.corravahan.com

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, Mar 1-2, 8-9, May 4- 5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31, June 1-4, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-2, 9am-1pm, Sundays 2pm- 6pm
Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €5 

Corravahan, County Cavan.

Clare

Newtown Castle

Newtown, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Mary Hawkes- Greene

Tel: 065-7077200

www.newtowncastle.com , www.burrencollege.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-May 31, Mon-Fri, June 1-30 Mon-Sat, July 1-Aug 31 daily, Sept 1-Dec 17 Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm
Fee: Free 

Newtown Castle, County Clare. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Cork

Blarney Castle & Rock Close

Blarney, Co. Cork

C. Colthurst

Tel: 021-4385252

www.blarneycastle.ie

Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, Jan-Mar, Mon-Sat, 9am- sundown, Sun, 9am-6pm 

Apr-May, 9am-6pm, June-Aug, Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm, Sun, 9am-6pm, Sept, Mon-Sat, 9am-6.30pm, Sun, 9am-6pm,
Oct, Nov, Dec daily 9am-6pm,
Fee: adult €18, OAP/student €15, child €10, family and season passes 

Brideweir House

Conna, Co. Cork

Ronan Fox

Tel: 087-0523256

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-Dec 24, 11am-4pm 

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

Woodford Bourne Warehouse

Sheares Street, Cork

Edward Nicholson

Tel: 021-4273000

www.woodfordbournewarehouse.com

Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 1pm-11pm 

Fee: Free

Donegal

Portnason House 

Portnason, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal
Madge Sharkey
Tel: 086-3846843
Open dates in 2021: Jan 18-22, 25-29, Feb 1-5, 8-12, Aug 14-30, Sept 1-17, 20-23, 27-28, Nov 15- 19, 22-26, Dec 1-3 6-10, 13-14, 9am-1pm 

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €5 

Dublin City

Bewley’s 

78-79 Grafton Street/234 Johnson’s Court, Dublin 2

Peter O’ Callaghan

Tel 087-7179367

www.bewleys.com

Open dates in 2021: all year except Christmas Day, 

11am-7pm Fee: Free 

Hibernian/National Irish Bank

23-27 College Green, Dublin 2

Dan O’Sullivan 

Tel: 01-6755100

www.clarendonproperties.ie

Open dates in 2021: all year, except Dec 25, Wed-Fri 9.30am-8pm, Sun 11am-7pm, Sat, Mon, Tue, 9.30-7pm 

Fee: Free 

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre

59 South William Street, Dublin 2

Mary Larkin

Tel: 01-6717000

Open dates in 2021: All year except New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day & Bank Holidays, Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm, Thurs, 10am-8pm, Sundays, 12 noon-6pm

Fee: Free

Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin City.

10 South Frederick Street

Dublin 2

Joe Hogan

Tel: 087-2430334

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-24, May 1, 3-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-27, Aug 14-22, 2pm-6pm 

Fee: Free 

County Dublin 

“Geragh” 

Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin

Gráinne Casey

Tel: 01-2804884

Open dates in 2021: Jan 28-29, Feb 1-5, 8-12, 15-22, May 4-31, Aug 14-22, Sept 1-3, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €7, OAP €4, student €2, child free  

Meander

Westminister Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18,

Ruth O’Herlihy, 

Tel: 087-2163623

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, May 1, 4-8, 10-11, 17-22, June 8-12, 14-19, 21- 26, Aug 14-22, 9am-1pm 

Fee: adult €5, OAP/child/student €2 

Tibradden House

Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Selina Guinness

Tel: 01-4957483

www.selinaguinness.com

Open dates in 2021: Jan 14-17, 23-24, 28-29, Feb 4-7, 11-12, 19-21, 26-28, May 3-13,16, 18-20, 23-27, June 2-4, 8-10, 14-16, 19-20, Aug 14-22, weekdays 2.30pm-6.30pm, weekends 10.30am-2.30pm
Fee: adult/OAP €8 student €5, child free, Members of An Taisce the The Irish Georgian Society (with membership card) €5 

Galway 

Woodville House Dovecote & Walls of Walled Garden 

Craughwell, Co. Galway
Margarita and Michael Donoghue
Tel: 087-9069191
www.woodvillewalledgarden.com
Open dates in 2021: Jan 29-31, Feb 1-28, Apr 1-13, 11am- 4.30pm, June 1, 6-8, 13-15, 21-22, 27- 29, July 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 1-2, 6-8, 13-22, 27-29, Sept 4-5, 11am-5pm Fee: adult/OAP €6, child €3, student, €5, family €20, guided tours €10 

Kerry

Derreen Gardens

Lauragh, Tuosist, Kenmare, Co. Kerry

John Daly

Tel: 087-1325665

www.derreengarden.com 

Open dates in 2021: all year, 10am-6pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €8, child €3, family ticket (2 adults and all children under 18 and 2 maps) €20 

Kildare

Farmersvale House

Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare

Patricia Orr

Tel: 086-2552661

Open dates in 2021: Jan 18-31, Feb 1-6, July 23-31, Aug 1-31, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: adult €5, student/child/OAP €3, (Irish Georgian Society members free) 

Harristown House

Brannockstown, Co. Kildare

Hubert Beaumont
Tel: 087-2588775

www.harristownhouse.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 11-15, 18-22, Feb 8-12, 15-19, May 4-28, June 7-11, Aug 14-22, Sept 6-10, 9am-1pm 

Fee: adult/OAP/student €10, child €5 

Harristown House, County Kildare.

Kildrought House

Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare

June Stuart

Tel: 01-6271206, 087-6168651

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-20, May 18-26, Aug 11-31,10am-2pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3, child under 5 years free, school groups €2 per head 

Moyglare Glebe

Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

Joan Hayden

Tel: 01-8722238

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, May 1-31, Aug 14-22, Sept 4-7, 8.30am-12.30pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3 

Kilkenny

Kilkenny Design Centre

Castle Yard, Kilkenny

Joseph O’ Keeffe, Tel: 064-6623331

www.kilkennydesign.com

Open dates in 2021: all year,10am-7pm 

Fee: Free

Laois

Ballaghmore Castle

Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois

Grace Pym

Tel: 0505-21453

www.castleballaghmore.com

Open dates in 2021: all year, 9.30am-6pm
Fee: adult €5, child/OAP €3, student free, family of 4, €10 

Leitrim

Manorhamilton Castle (Ruin)

Castle St, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim

Anthony Daly

Tel: 086-2502593

Open dates in 2021: Jan 7-Dec 21, National Heritage Week, Aug 14-22, closed Sat & Sun, 10am- 5pm
Fee: adult €5, child free 

Limerick

Ash Hill 

Kilmallock, Co. Limerick

Simon and Nicole Johnson 

Tel: 063-98035

www.ashhill.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open dates in 2021: Jan 15-Oct 31, Nov 1-29, Dec 1-15, 9am-4pm Fee: adult/student €5, child/OAP free 

Glebe House

Bruff, Co. Limerick

Colm McCarthy

Tel: 087-6487556

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-29, May 10-28, Aug 13-22, Sept 13-24, Mon-Fri, 5.30pm-9.30pm, Sat- Sun, 8am-12 noon 

Fee: Free 

Mayo

Brookhill House

Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo

Patricia and John Noone

Tel: 094-9371348

Open dates in 2021: Jan 13-20, Apr 13-20, May 18-24, June 8-14, July 13-19, Aug 1-23, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €6, student €3, OAP/child/National Heritage Week free

Meath

Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane (or Stackallan)

Slane, Co. Meath

Alan Haugh

Tel: 041-9884444

www.boynehouseslane.ie

Open dates in 2021: all year, National Heritage Week, Aug 14-22, 9am-1pm Fee: Free 

Dardistown Castle

Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath

Lizanne Allen

Tel: 086 -2774271

www.dardistowncastle.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 9-31, Feb 11-21, May 15-21, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, student/OAP €5, child free 

Dardistown Castle, County Meath.

Gravelmount House 

Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath
Brian McKenna
Tel: 087-2520523
Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-13, May 10-30, June 1-20, Aug 14-22, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3 

Moyglare House

Moyglare, Co. Meath

Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare

Angela Alexander

Tel: 086-0537291

www.moyglarehouse.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1, 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, May 1-21, 24-28, 31, June 1-3, Aug 14-22, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student/child €5 

St. Mary’s Abbey

High Street, Trim, Co. Meath

Peter Higgins 

Tel: 087-2057176

Open dates in 2021: Jan 25-29, Feb 22-26, Mar 8-12, Apr 12-16, May 24-30, June 21-27, July 19- 25, Aug 14-22, Sept 13-17, 20-24, 2pm-6pm 

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child €2 

Tankardstown House 

Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath

Tadhg Carolan, Tel: 087-7512871

www.tankardstown.ie

Open dates in 2021: All year including National Heritage Week, 9am-1pm

Fee: Free

Tankardstown, County Meath.

Monaghan

Castle Leslie

Glaslough, Co. Monaghan

Samantha Leslie 

Tel: 047-88091

www.castleleslie.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open dates in 2021: all year, National Heritage Week, events August 14-22 Fee: Free 

Castle Leslie, County Monaghan.

Offaly

Ballybrittan Castle

Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

Rosemarie

Tel: 087-2469802 

Open dates in 2021: Jan 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 23-24, 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, Mar 6-7,13- 14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, June 12-13,19-20, 26-27, July 3-4,10- 11,17-18, 24-25, 31, Aug 14-22, Sept 4-14, 2pm-6pm. 

Fee: free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p. 

Corolanty House

Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly

Siobhan Webb

Tel: 086-1209984

Open dates in 2021: Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm

Fee: Free

Crotty Church

Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Brendan Garry

Tel: 086-8236452

Open dates in 2021: All year, except Dec 25, 9am-5pm 

Fee: Free

High Street House

High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

George Ross

Tel: 086-3832992

www.no6highstreet.com

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, May 1-18, Aug 14-22, Sept 1-24, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student €5, OAP €4, child under 12 free 

Springfield House 

Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly Muireann Noonan
Tel: 087-2204569
www.springfieldhouse.ie 

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-14, 1pm-5pm, May 14-16, 24-28, July 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, Aug 7-29, 2pm- 6pm, Dec 26-31, 1pm-5pm
Fee: Free 

Roscommon

Strokestown Park House

Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon

Ciarán

Tel: 01-8748030

www.strokestownpark.ie

Open dates in 2021: Jan 2-Dec 20, Jan, Feb, Mar 1-16, Nov, Dec,10.30am-4pm, March 17-Oct 31, 10.30am-5.30pm,
Fee: adult €14, €12.50, €9.25, OAP/student €12.50, child €6, family €29, groups €11.50 

Tipperary

Beechwood House

Ballbrunoge, Cullen, Co. Tipperary

Maura & Patrick McCormack

Tel: 083-1486736

Open dates in 2021: Jan 4-8, 18-22, Feb 1-5, 8-12, May 1-3, 14-17, 21-24, June 11-14, 18-21, Aug 14-22, Sept 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, 10.15am-2.15pm 

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

Waterford 

The Presentation Convent 

Waterford Healthpark, Slievekeel Road,Waterford Michelle O’ Brien
www.rowecreavin.ie
Tel: 051-370057 

Open dates in 2021: Jan 1-Dec 31, excluding Bank Holidays and Sundays, Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm, Sat, 10am-2pm, National Heritage Week, Aug 14-22
Fee: Free 

Wexford

Clougheast Cottage

Carne, Co. Wexford

Jacinta Denieffe

Tel: 086-1234322

Open dates in 2021: Jan 11-31, May 1-31 August 14-22, 9am-1pm Fee: €5 

Wilton Castle

Bree, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

Sean Windsor

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Tel: 053-9247738 

www.wiltoncastleireland.com   

Open dates in 2021: all year

Wilton Castle, County Wexford.

Wicklow

Castle Howard

Avoca, Co. Wicklow

Mark Sinnott

Tel: 087-2987601

Open dates in 2021: Jan 11-13, Feb 1-5, Mar 1-3, 22-24, June 10-12, 14-15, 19, 21-26, 28, July 5-9, 19-22, Aug 13-22, Sept 6-11, 18, 25, Oct 4-6, 11-13, 9am-1pm 

Fee: adult €8.50, OAP/student €6.50, child €5 

Castle Howard, County Wicklow.

Mount Usher Gardens

Ashford, Co. Wicklow

Caitriona Mc Weeney

Tel: 0404-49672

www.mountushergardens.ie

Open dates in 2021: all year 10am-6pm

Fee: adult €8, student/OAP €7, child €4, no charge for wheelchair users

Powerscourt House & Gardens

Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Sarah Slazenger

Tel: 01-2046000

www.powerscourt.ie

Open: All year, closed Christmas day and St Stephens day, 9.30am-5.30pm, ballroom and garden rooms Sun, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: Mar-Oct, adult €11.50, OAP €9, student €8.50, child €5, family ticket €26, Nov- Dec, adult €8.50, OAP €7.50, student €7, child €4, family ticket 2 adults + 3 children €18, children under 5 free 

Powerscourt, County Wicklow.

Newpark House and Demesne, Newpark, Ballymote, Co. Sligo

contact: Christopher & Dorothy-Ellen Kitchin
Tel: 087-3706869
Open in 2022: Feb 14-18, 28, March 1-4, 28-31, April 1, 25-29, May 3-27, Aug 12-26, 9am- 1pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student €5, child free

We visited Newpark House during Heritage Week, when we went on holidays to Sligo. We were delighted to discover that the owner, Christopher, is a cousin of Durcan O’Hara, with whom we were staying at Annaghmore in nearby Collooney.

Burke’s A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland tells us that Newpark was built for Robert King Duke (1770-1836), Justice of the Peace and Deputy Governor of Sligo, but the Historic Houses of Ireland website points out that he was only a boy of ten in 1780 when the house was built, so it was probably built for his father Robert (1732-1792). The Duke family descends from John Duke, who came to Sligo at the time of Oliver Cromwell and was granted land in Sligo in 1662. One can still see traces of their presence in the decorative plasterwork in the house. [1]

In 1910, the In 1910, the Duke family left Newpark, and it was purchased by Richard O’Hara, a younger son from nearby Annaghmore and Coopershill.

The house may have been designed by John Roberts of Waterford, who also may have designed Enniscoe in County Mayo, another house we visited during Heritage Week [2].

The house has a main rectangular block of three bays and two storeys, with a basement and dormer attic, built in 1780. The house was extended in the 1870s and lost some of its original features, but the original staircase remains.

A two-bay two-storey over basement wing was added around 1920.

The house is lime rendered with a tripartite entrance: a round-headed door-case flanked by narrow rectangular sidelights. There is another door in the front in the newer section of the house.

Two storey addition to the house.
The round-headed doorcase with side windows and fanlight.
Eaved roof rests on corbels, i.e. blocks projecting from the walls supporting the roof.
The Kitchens have recently received a grant to fix their gabled windows, which are on both sides of the house, and have decorative wooden bargeboards.
Gabled windows with decorative bargeboards, seen here above the later two storey addition.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that architect and writer Jeremy Williams observed of Newtown: “What strikes one is the harmony of the whole ensemble. Entrance gates and lodge, lime avenue, house, carriage-house, farm yard and partly walled demesne are all proportionate to each other and reveal the unpretentious lifestyle of a typical west of Ireland squireen, a rare survival today.” 

The gate lodge is available for hired accommodation. [3]

The entrance gates to Newpark.
My photograph of the picturesque gate lodge of Newpark – I did not realise it is much bigger than it looks from the side facing the driveway. You can see the lower storey in my photograph below.
Photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, since I did not like to walk around the gate lodge, unsure if it had residents! In this photograph you can see the lovely arched window at the front.
The gate lodge is much larger than it looks from the photographs I took, since I did not walk around it. This photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage shows that the side of the lodge away from the driveway has another storey, lower than that facing the driveway. This extension was built in about 1960 onto the original c. 1840 cottage. [4]
Entrance drive to Newpark.

Robert Duke (1732-1792) of Newtown married Lucinda Parke, daughter of William Parke of Dunally, County Sligo. The Parkes of Dunally were a branch of the Parkes who owned Parkes Castle in County Leitrim, which we also visited during Heritage Week.

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, built in the early seventeenth century by Captain Robert Parke on the foundations on an old O’Rourke castle built by Brian O’Rourke, Prince of Breffne.

Robert King Duke (1770-1836) also married a Parke from Dunally, Anne. Newpark passed down through the family and it must have been his great-grandson, Roger Philip Duke (1874-1944), who sold Newpark.

Richard Edward O’Hara (1863-1948) who purchased Newpark in 1913 was the son of Charles William Cooper (1817-1898) of Coopershill, who took the name O’Hara when he inherited Annaghmore from his uncle, Charles King O’Hara (1784-1860) (the “King” may have been from Charles King O’Hara’s mother’s mother, whose maiden name was King). Charles William Cooper O’Hara married Anne Charlotte Streatfield, a wealthy heiress, and they lived in Annaghmore. They had many children, one of whom, Richard Edward O’Hara (1863-1948), purchased Newpark. He moved to Queensland, Australia, where he farmed, and married Ethel Fisken in 1911. They returned to live in Ireland and he purchased Newpark.

They had a daughter, Sheela, who married Finlay Kitchin, grandfather of the current owner, Christopher. Christopher’s parents moved out of Newpark only a few years ago to a house built on the property, yielding the house to their son and his wife, Dorothy-Ellen. Our week took a serendipitous turn when we learned that Dorothy-Ellen is the daughter of Mary White of The Old Rectory, Killedmond in Carlow, where we were going to be staying later that week! [5]

Dorothy and Christopher had arranged for a special event for Heritage Week, so Stephen and I purchased tickets for this: a nature talk and walk by Michael Bell of Naturelearn [6]. Christopher told us that the house would be open to visitors during the event.

Dorothy-Ellen in front of her home.
The gardens in front of the house.

Christopher greeted us and was kind enough to take time from his busy preparations for the Heritage Week event to give us a tour of the house. He pointed out that the geometrical plan is most unusual, and reminded the architectural historian Maurice Craig of a swastika, with four principal rooms of unequal size arranged around a small central hall. Another Section 482 property, Oakfield Park in County Donegal, also has this arrangement.

Front hall of Newpark, with “cobweb” fanlight.
The front hall of Newpark, with lovely plasterwork on ceiling: a decorative cornice and central ceiling rose feature.
The plasterwork on the front hall ceiling, of acanthus leaves and floral swags and a geometrical design.
Isaac Nicholson, b. 1840, a Kitchin ancestor.

The drawing room also has fine stucco work, with garlands and flowers and urns.

Above the fireplace the frieze of plasterwork has a shield with the arms of the Duke family, a chevron between three terns. The frieze also features the crest of the Dukes, a sword plunged in a plume of nine ostrich feathers. Robert O’Byrne points out that there is a cornet with plumes rising from it, and that this may represent the coat of arms of Lucinda Parke, wife of Robert Duke. [7]

The crest of the Dukes features in the cornice frieze, a sword plunged in a plume of nine ostrich feathers.

The other main reception room is the dining room.

Dorothy-Ellen took us downstairs to show us the basement, and the room in which she is creating a museum of the old things from the house.

All the heating is supplied by this passat boiler which Dorothy-Ellen showed us.

Dorothy and Christopher have converted their barns into a beautiful event space which they call the Juniper Barn. [8] They run it according to eco-conscious principals very like those of Dorothy-Ellen’s mother, a former Green party TD. We headed over to the barns to attend the nature talk.

The names of Christopher and Dorothy-Ellen’s children are carved in the swing.
I asked Christopher about the “S” shapes on the barns – they are part of the construction of the barn.
Barn with bellcote.
The beautiful interior of the barn, which is available for hire.
I was very impressed by the hanging plume pampas grass decorations, created by Dorothy-Ellen.

I was even impressed by the “decor” of the bathroom in the outbuildings, and especially like the stirrup incorporated into the chain of the cistern.

The animals and skulls brought by Michael Bell, including a huge vertebrae, and a dolphin skull.
A “death’s head” hawkmoth with what looks like a skull on its head. Michael Bell set up a moth catcher, and showed us the typical types of moths of the area.
Michael and his daughter brought us down to the lake to see what wildlife we could find. We saw different types of dragonflies, and he told us about the lonely swan, whose mate had died. I hope it won’t be lonely for long!

We then headed back to see the gardens around the house, including the herb garden and walled garden.

The herb garden, created by Christopher’s parents.
The walled garden contains a polytunnel.

[1] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Newpark

[2] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Newpark and see my entry about Enniscoe, County Mayo, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/25/enniscoe-house-gardens-castlehill-ballina-co-mayo/

[3] https://www.juniperbarn.ie/accommodation

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/32403317/newpark-house-newpark-sligo

[5] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/16/the-old-rectory-killedmond-borris-co-carlow/

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

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/01/30/frieze-it/

[8] https://www.juniperbarn.ie/venue