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]. I must write to our Minister for Culture and Heritage to complain.
1. Ennis Friary, County Clare
2. Scattery Island, County Clare
3. Askeaton Castle, County Limerick
4. Desmond Castle, Adare, County Limerick – currently closed
5. Desmond Banqueting Hall, Newcastlewest, County Limerick
6. Lough Gur, County Limerick
1. Ennis Friary, Abbey Street, Ennis, County Clare:
General Enquiries: 065 682 9100, firstname.lastname@example.org
“The O’Briens of Thomond, who once ruled much of north Munster, founded this medieval Franciscan friary. It grew quickly into a huge foundation, with 350 friars and a famed school of 600 pupils by 1375. It was the very last school of Catholic theology to survive the Reformation.
The building contains an exceptional wealth of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century sculptures carved in the local hard limestone, including one of St Francis himself displaying the stigmata. An arch between the nave and transept bears a remarkable image of Christ with his hands bound.
Don’t forget to visit the sacristy, an impressive structure with a ribbed, barrel-vaulted ceiling. Take especial note of the beautiful east window, with its five lancets, as it lights up the chancel.” 
“Off the northern bank of the Shannon Estuary lies Scattery Island, the site of an early Christian settlement founded by an extraordinary man.
St Senan, who was born in the area, built his monastery in the early sixth century. It included a mighty round tower, which at 36 metres is one of the tallest in Ireland.
There are six ruined churches on the site too. The Church of the Hill stands on a high spot, the very place where, legend has it, an angel placed Senan so that he could find – and then banish – the terrible sea-monster called the Cathach. It is believed that Senan is buried beside another of the medieval churches.
Scattery was invaded many times over the centuries. The Vikings in particular believed that the monastery held many riches and returned several times to ravage it.
A short boat trip will take you to the island, where you can explore its multi-layered, 1,500-year history.“
3.Askeaton Castle, County Limerick:
General information: 087 113 9670, email@example.com
“In the very heart of this County Limerick town stand the impressive remains of a medieval fortress. Askeaton Castle dates from 1199, when William de Burgo built it on a rock in the River Deel.
Over the centuries, the castle proved itself key to the history of Munster. It was the power base of the earls of Desmond after 1348. In 1579 it held out against the English general Sir Nicholas Malby, an incident that helped spark the second Desmond Rebellion.
The banqueting hall is one of the finest medieval secular buildings in Ireland. The tower is partly ruined, but some fine windows and an exquisite medieval fireplace have remained.
The early eighteenth-century building nearby was used as a Hellfire Club. These clubs were rumoured to be dens of excess in which wealthy gentlemen indulged in drink, mock ritual and other nefarious activities.“
The Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond, held the castle for over 200 years and ruled Munster from it.
4. Desmond Castle, Adare, County Limerick:
General information: 061 396666, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Desmond Castle Adare epitomises the medieval fortified castle in Ireland. It is strategically situated on the banks of the River Maigue, from where its lords could control any traffic heading to or from the Shannon Estuary.
The castle was built for strength and security. A formidable square keep forms its core; the keep stands within a walled ward surrounded by a moat.
Desmond Castle Adare changed hands several times before becoming a key bastion of the earls of Desmond in the sixteenth century. During the Second Desmond Rebellion, however, it fell to the English after a bloody siege. Cromwellian forces laid waste to the building in 1657, although restorers have since helped to recall its former glory.
Guided tours are now available for anyone who wants to walk in the footsteps of the FitzGeralds and experience their courageous spirit.“
This castle belonged to the Earls of Kildare for nearly 300 years until the rebellion in 1536, when it was forfeited and granted to the Earls of Desmond who gave the castle its present name.
5.Desmond Banqueting Hall, Newcastlewest, County Limerick:
General information: 069 77408, email@example.com
An inquisition of lands in 1298 describes the manor of Newcastle as containing the New Castle with buildings inside and outside the walls and the mill of Newcastle.
“Many of Ireland’s surviving medieval halls are in west Limerick. The Desmond Banqueting Hall in Newcastle West is one of the most impressive among them.
It was begun in the thirteenth century by Thomas ‘the Ape’ FitzGerald, so named because of the story that an ape took him from his cradle to the top of Tralee Castle – and delivered him safely back again.
However, most of the spacious, imposing structure was created in the fifteenth century, at the height of the Desmond earls’ power, and used as a venue for frequent and lavish banquets.
The oak gallery, from which musicians would provide a raucous soundtrack for the revelry below, has been fully restored.“
The prefix “Fitz” is taken from the Norman-French “fiz” son of. Early members of the family were known by their father’s name, ie. Fitzmaurice or Fitzthomas, but eventually the name settled to be Fitzgerald.
The Fitzgeralds were Anglo-Norman and came to Ireland at the time of King Henry II in 1169. After the initial colonisation of Ireland in the southwest and east, the Fitzgeralds and some others pushed into the southwest, the information boards tell us.It was only after the death of Donal Mór Ó Brien, King of Thomond, in 1194 that the Fitzgeralds and other Normans took over most of Limerick. By 1215 they held the towns of Cork, Limerick and Waterford and had built a castle in Dungarvan.
The surviving buildings are Desmond Hall and Halla Mór. This is possibly the site of the earliest castle foundations and remnants of the early walls are found underground today. The Desmond hall shows more than one phase of development. Embedded in the exterior of the south wall are vestiges of four early thirteenth century sandstone lancet windows. The fifteenth century development of the hall by the 7th Earl of Desmond introduced many changes including the addition of a projecting tower with small chambers and a stairwell to the Northwest corner.
The lower level of the banqueting hall has an excellent display of boards telling us more about the history of the Fitzgerald Earls of Desmond. An old fireplace is set in one wall, it seems to be from 1638.
The visitor centre lies in a building across the courtyard, and another building is being refurbished.
The first claim to the land of Desmond was obtained by the Fitzgeralds when John Fitzthomas married the co-heiress Margery FitzAnthony and was granted in 1251 a share in her father’s lands described as “all the lands of Decies and Desmond and custody of the castle of Dungarvan.” This land was added to the Fitzgerald landholdings in Limerick and North Kerry. In 1292 King Edward I (d. 1307) granted Thomas Fitzmorice (Fitzgerald) and his wife Margaret Berkeley, who was a cousin of the king, “joint custody of Decies and Desmond.” It’s interesting that the wife was given joint custody, and that daughters could be heirs, which as we know was not always the case.
A leaflet from the castle tells us that by 1298, a strong stone castle stood overlooking the Arra River in Newcastle West. Curtain walls with defensive towers surrounding the main buildings, a variety of simple thatched houses and byres for cattle as well as fishponds. The Normans immediately began to consolidate their position by negotiating with the local Gaelic families, while driving the poorer Gaelic peasants into the mountains. By the time of Maurice Fitzthomas Fitzgerald (abt. 1293-1356), the O’Briens to the north had become firm allies of the Fitzgeralds. In 1329, Maurice was created 1st Earl of Desmond, the term “Desmond” being derived from the Irish Deas mnumhain meaning south Munster. By this time the Fitzgeralds were using the Irish language in their daily lives and had taken on many of the values and habits of the Irish culture.
The 1st Earl plotted against the King of England, and allied himself with the Gaelic lords. They pillaged many settlements in the south of Ireland. He is said to have written to the Pope to say that King Edward III of England had no right to the lordship of Ireland. It is also claimed that he wrote to the kings of France and Scotland to form an alliance. During a campaign against him he lost his castles at Askeaton and Castleisland. However, the King pardoned him and made him Chief Justiciar of Ireland in 1355.
Gearóid Iarla (c. 1338-1398) became the 3rd Earl of Desmond in 1356. He was an expert mathematician and apparently, the leaflet tells us, a magician! He was also a poet and introduced the idea of courtly love into Gaelic poetry. He also served as Justiciar. He married Alianore, or Eleanor, Butler, daughter of James 2nd Earl of Ormond.
Despite the marriage alliance between the Desmonds and the Ormonds, they still battled. A fifteen day conference at Clonmel in 1384 led to a treaty between the families.
Thomas the 8th Earl of Desmond (c. 1426-1468) was made Lord Deputy of Ireland 1464-67. During his time the Desmonds fought again with the Ormonds, including during the War of the Roses when they took opposing sides. The Ormonds supported the victorious Lancasters.
The 8th Earl was however thought to side with the Irish still and was executed by the next Lord Deputy.
The information boards give us more history about Desmond family. The Earls of Desmond fell out of favour after the 8th Earl was executed in 1468.
After the execution of the 8th Earl of Desmond in 1468, the later Earls withdrew from contact with England. The leaflet from the site tells us that the arrival of new settlers in Munster as well as Catholic mistrust of the Protestant state set off risings by the Earls in 1567-73 and 1579-83. Earl Gerald (15th Earl) was declared an outlaw and Munster was laid waste by Crown forces. The rebellion was a failure and Gerald was captured and killed during a cattle raid. The Desmond lands were taken and distributed to English settlers.
This takes us up to the fifteenth century and the time when the Hall would have been used, as we see it today. The information board tells us that the Hall was where the Lord held court, and that this has two meanings: it was the court of judgement as well as the court of entertainment and dining.
The Banqueting Hall was restored in the early 19th century, the ruined battlements were taken down and a new pitch pine roof was put on. The original hooded stone fireplace had collapsed and a seventeenth century replacement, the one we now see in the lower vault, was installed, taken from a house in Kilmallock. The Banqueting Hall was used as a Masonic lodge and later as a general purpose hall for the community.
The leaflet tells us that when the 17th century fireplace was taken down for repair and cleaning, enough of the original hooded fireplace remained that it could be reconstructed with reasonable accuracy.
There was evidence for a timber screen at the west end of the hall, and this has been replaced by a musician’s gallery made of oak.
I was surprised to hear that the windows facing the village would have had glass in the fifteenth century. The other side, away from public view, would not have had this expensive luxury.
The later history of Desmond Hall is after the lands of Gerald the 15th Earl of Desmond were seized.
After the Earls of Desmond has lost their land, it was given to some prominent and wealthy Englishmen who would develop the Munster Plantation. These men, called “Undertakers,” would undertake to establish English families on the land they were given. Sir William Courtenay (or Courtney) (1553-1630), 3rd Earl of Devon, was granted 10,000 acres at Newcastle. He was originally from Devon in England, and he was given land on condition that eighty English colonists would be housed on his property.
Newcastle passed to William Courtenay’s son George Courtenay (d. 1644), who in 1621 became 1st Baronet Courtenay of Newcastle, County Limerick. The sign boards tell us that in 1641 English settlers crowded into the protection of the walled castle, but after a long seige it fell to General Purcell of the Confederate forces. The Confederates where an amalgamation of Gaelic Ulster families and Anglo-Norman families who were dissatisfied with assurances given to them by King Charles I about their freedom to practice their Catholic faither, and they feared the militant intolerance of the English Parliament.
The Courteney’s built an mansion to replace the destroyed castle. George’s son Francis inherited, but as he had no offspring, Newcastle passed to his cousin, William Courtenay (1628-1702) 5th Earl of Devon and 1st Baronet Courtenay. The property remained in the family but they did not live there, and finally it was sold in 1910.
In 1777 William 2nd Viscount Courtenay (1742-1788) built a Church of Ireland church between the Banqueting Hall and the main square of the town. It was demolished in 1962 as it had fallen into disrepair. The 2nd Viscount was 8th Earl of Devon and 4th Baronet Courtenay.
In 1922 the main building, then known as Devon Castle, burnt, and was replaced by a house nearby. The Desmond Hall was sold to the Nash family, and finally the Land Commisson took over the land. Desmond Hall was used for town social events and the Halla Mór as a cinema. The Hall became a National Monument in 1981. Restoration began in 1989.
6.Lough Gur, County Limerick:
The Irish Homes and Gardens website tells us that Ireland’s first settlers arrived around 8000BC. The introduction of farming in 4000BC saw a move to a more settled lifestyle and the building of farmsteads, with both circular and rectangular house styles being used. The first rectangular house and the largest concentration of Neolithic structures were found in Lough Gur dating back to 3500BC.
Although none of these houses remain, the lasting legacy from this period on the Irish landscape is the megalithic tomb: the Dolmen or Portal tomb with its huge capstone or lintel, balanced on smaller stones and the Passage tombs, with their dry-stone passages leading to corbelled ceilings (circular layers of flattish stones closed with a single stone at the top). [ https://www.irishhomesandgardens.ie/irish-architecture-history-part-1/ ]
“Lough Gur is a site of international significance due to the area’s rich archaeology and environment. It is home to Ireland’s oldest and largest stone circle and the only natural lake of significance in South East Limerick. Lough Gur also has an abundance of ancient monuments in State care with a reported 2,000 archaeological monuments in a 5km radius. Visitors to Lough Gur Lakeshore Park will find a hillside visitor centre where you can take part in a guided or self guided tour of the exhibition. There is also an option to take a full outdoor guided tour of the archaeological monuments. Tours are tailor made and can range from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The Lakeshore Park and tours are run by Lough Gur Development Group.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) of Ballynatray:
“[Holroyd-Smyth; Ponsonby and sub Bessborough] A house of 2 storeys over a basement and 11 bays, built 1795-97 by Grice Smyth [1762-1816], incorporating some of the walls of a much earlier house which itself was built on the foundations of an old castle; refaced in stucco and its principal rooms re-decorated early in the C19 by Grice Smyth; some work having been done ca 1806 by Alexander Deane. Entrance front with 3 bay recessed centre between 4 bay projections joined by single-storey Ionic colonnade with a statue in a niche at either end. Balustraded roof parapet with urns. Garden front, facing down the Blackwater estuary, with 3 bay pedimented breakfront and 4 bays on either side. 5 bay side elevations. Early C19 interior plasterwork. Frieze of bulls’ heads – as distinct from the neo-Classical ox-skulls or bucrania, a demi-bull being the Smyth crest – in hall. Unusual frieze of cues and billiard balls in billiard room. Wide arched doorways between most of the principal rooms. By means of these arches, the library runs right through the house, with windows facing both the river and the park. The house is gloriously situated at a point where the river does a loop. Woods sweep outwards and round on either side and continue up and downstream for as far as the eye can see. On the landward side of the house is a hill, with a deer park full of bracken. There is an extraordinary sense of peace, of remoteness from the world. A short distance from the house is a ruined medieval abbey on an an island which was joined to the mainland by a causeway built 1806 by Grice Smyth, who put up a Classical urn within the abbey walls in honour of Raymond-le-Gros, Strongbow’s companion, who is said to be buried here. Also within the abbey walls is a statue of its founder, St. Molanfide, which Grice Smyth’s widow erected in 1820. The second daughter of Grice Smyth was the beautiful Penelope Smyth, whose runaway marriage with the Prince of Capua, brother of King Ferdinand II of Two Sicilies, caused an international furore in 1836. On the death of Mr Horace Holroyd-Smyth 1969, Ballynatray passed to his cousins, the Ponsonby family, of Kilcooley Abbey, Co. Tipperary.” 
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us Ballynatray is:
“A very fine, substantial late eighteenth-century Classical-style house, built by Grice Smyth (n. d.), composed on a symmetrical plan, which has been very well restored in the late twentieth century to present an early aspect, with important salient features and materials intact, both to the exterior and to the interior. Fine reserved detailing applied shortly after completion of construction to designs prepared by Alexander Deane (c.1760 – 1806) enhances the architectural and design qualities of the composition, and is indicative of high quality craftsmanship. Incorporating the fabric of an earlier house, and reputed to incorporate the foundations of a medieval castle, the house continues a long-standing presence on site, and is of additional importance in the locality for its historic associations with the Smyth (Holroyd-Smyth) family. The house forms the centrepiece of an extensive planned estate that contributes significantly to the visual appeal of the locality, while the gardens overlooking the River Blackwater are of some landscape design interest.” (see )
2. Ballysaggartmore Towers, County Waterford
Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988): p. 27. “(Keily, sub Ussher/IFR, Anson, sub Lichfield, E/PB) A late-Georgian house built round a courtyard, on the side of a steep hill overlooking the River Blackwater, to which a new front was subsequently added… A seat of the Keily family. Arthur Keily [1777-1862], who assumed the name of Ussher 1843, built two remarkable Gothic follies in the demesne, to the design of his gardener, J. Smith; one of them a turreted gateway, the other a castellated bridge over a stream. The house was bought at the beginning of the present century by Hon Claud Anson, who sold it 1930s. It was subsequently demolished. The follies remain, one of them being now occupied as a house.”
The National Inventory describes this bridge and its towers:
“Three-arch rock-faced sandstone ashlar Gothic-style road bridge over ravine, c.1845, on a curved plan. Rock-faced sandstone ashlar walls with buttresses to piers, trefoil-headed recessed niches to flanking abutments, cut-stone stringcourse on corbels, and battlemented parapets having cut-stone coping. Three pointed arches with rock-faced sandstone ashlar voussoirs, and squared sandstone soffits. Sited in grounds shared with Ballysaggartmore House spanning ravine with grass banks to ravine…Detached five-bay single- and two-storey lodge, c.1845, to south-west comprising single-bay single-storey central block with pointed segmental-headed carriageway, single-bay single-stage turret over on a circular plan, single-bay single-storey recessed lower flanking bays, single-bay single-storey advanced end bay to right, single-bay single-storey advanced higher end bay to left, and pair of single-bay two-storey engaged towers to rear (north-east) on square plans….Rock-faced sandstone ashlar walls with cut-sandstone dressings including stepped buttresses, battlemented parapets on corbelled stringcourses having cut-stone coping, and corner pinnacles to central block on circular plans having battlemented coping. Pointed-arch window openings with paired pointed-arch lights over, no sills, and chamfered reveals. Some square-headed window openings with no sills, chamfered reveals, and hood mouldings over. Square-headed door openings with hood mouldings over….Detached five-bay single- and two-storey lodge, c.1845, to north-east comprising single-bay two-storey central block with pointed segmental-headed carriageway, single-bay single-storey flanking recessed bays, single-bay two-storey advanced end bay tower to right on a square plan, single-bay two-stage advanced higher end tower to left on a circular plan, and pair of single-bay two-stage engaged towers to rear (south-west) elevation on circular plans…Although initial indications suggest that the lodges are identical, individualistic features distinguish each piece, and contribute significantly to the architectural design quality of the composition. Well maintained, the composition retains its original form and massing, although many of the fittings have been lost as a result of dismantling works in the mid twentieth century. The construction in rock-faced sandstone produces an attractive textured visual effect, and attests to high quality stone masonry.”
The National Inventory describes the gateway: “Gateway, c.1845, comprising ogee-headed opening, limestone ashlar polygonal flanking piers, and pair of attached two-bay single- and two-storey flanking gate lodges diagonally-disposed to east and to west comprising single-bay single-storey linking bays with single-bay two-storey outer bays having single-bay three-stage engaged corner turrets on circular plans…Limestone ashlar polygonal piers to gateway with moulded stringcourses having battlemented coping over, and sproketed finial to apex to opening with finial. Sandstone ashlar walls to gate lodges with cut-limestone dressings including stepped buttresses, stringcourses to first floor, moulded course to first stage to turrets, and battlemented parapets on consoled stringcourses (on profiled tables to turrets) having cut-limestone coping. Ogee-headed opening to gateway with decorative cast-iron double gates. Paired square-headed window openings to gate lodges with no sills, chamfered reveals, and hood mouldings over. Square-headed door openings with chamfered reveals, and hood mouldings over. Pointed-arch door openings to turrets with inscribed surrounds. Trefoil-headed flanking window openings with raised surrounds, and quatrefoil openings over. Cross apertures to top stages to turrets with raised surrounds. All fittings now gone. Interiors now dismantled with internal walls and floors removed.
An impressive structure in a fantastical Gothic style, successfully combining a gateway and flanking gate lodges in a wholly-integrated composition. Now disused, with most of the external and internal fittings removed, the gateway nevertheless retains most of its original form and massing. The construction of the gateway attests to high quality stone masonry and craftsmanship, particularly to the fine detailing, which enhances the architectural and design quality of the site. The gateway forms an integral component of the Ballysaggartmore House estate and, set in slightly overgrown grounds, forms an appealing feature of Romantic quality in the landscape.“
3. Bishop’s Palace Museum, Waterford
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 282. “The Palace of the (C of I) Bishops of Waterford; one of the largest and – externally – finest episcopal residences in Ireland. Begun 1741 by Bishop Charles Este to the design of Richard Castle. The garden front, which faces over the mall and new forms a magnificent architectural group with the tower and spire of later C18 Cathedral, by John Roberts, is of three storeys; the ground floor being treated as a basement and rusticated. The centre of the ground floor breaks forward with three arches, forming the base of the pedimented Doric centrepiece of the storey above, which incorporates three windows. In the centre of the top storey is a circular niche, flanked by two windows. On either side of the centre are three bays. Bishop Este died 1745 before the Palace was finished, which probably explains why the interior is rather disappointing. The Palace ceased to be the episcopal residence early in the present century, and from then until ca 1965 it was occupied by Bishop Foy school. It has since been sold.”
Archiseek adds: “It has now been extensively restored to showcase artefacts and art from Waterford’s Georgian and Victorian past. The two main facades are quite different: one having seven bays – the central bay having an more elaborate window treatment and a Gibbsian doorway; the other facade has eight bay with a more elaborate entrance and shallow pediment with blank niches.” 
The National Inventory explains about the designs of Richard Castle and John Roberts:
“An imposing Classical-style building commissioned by Bishop Miles (d. 1740) and subsequently by Bishop Charles Este (n. d.), and believed to have been initiated to plans prepared by Richard Castle (c.1690 – 1751), and completed to the designs prepared by John Roberts (1712 – 1796). The building is of great importance for its original intended use as a bishop’s palace, and for its subsequent use as a school. The construction of the building in limestone ashlar reveals high quality stone masonry, and this is particularly evident in the carved detailing, which has retained its intricacy. Well-maintained, the building presents an early aspect while replacement fittings have been installed in keeping with the original integrity of the design. The interior also incorporates important early or original schemes, including decorative plasterwork of artistic merit. Set on an elevated site, the building forms an attractive and commanding feature fronting on to The Mall (to south-east) and on to Cathedral Square (to north-west).”
4. Cappagh House (Old and New), Cappagh, Dungarvan, Co WaterfordX35 RH51– section 482
contact: Charles and Claire Chavasse Tel: 087-8290860, 086-8387420 www.cappaghhouse.ie Open dates in 2023: April, June, Aug, Wed & Thurs, May & Sept, Wed, Thurs & Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 12-20, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/OAP/student/€5, child under 12 free
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 56. [Ussher; Chavasse] “A 2 storey Victorian house built 1875 by R.J. Ussher [Richard John Ussher (1841-1913)] to the design of the engineer who constructed the railway from Cork to Rosslare [ the National Inventory tells us the designs were by James Otway (1843-1906) and Robert Graeme Watt]; replacing an earlier house, which was subsequently used as outbuildings. Camber-headed widows cutting through string-courses; 3 sided bow on principal front; roundheaded staricase window with Romanesque tracery; highish roof. Sold 1944 by Mr Arland Ussher, the writer, to Col Kendal Chavasse.”
The National Inventory tells us it has historical connections with historic connections with the Ussher family including Beverley Grant Ussher (1867-1956) and Percival Arnold “Arland” Ussher (1899-1980); and Colonel Kendal George Fleming Chavasse DSO (1904-2001). 
The National Inventory tells us of Old Cappagh: “Detached seven-bay single-storey split-level country house, extant 1768, on a quadrangular plan with single-bay (two-bay deep) two-storey flush end bays; five-bay two-storey rear (north) elevation centred on single-bay two-storey breakfront on a bowed plan…A country house erected by Arthur Ussher (1683-1768) of Camphire House (Dean 2018, 229) representing an important component of the domestic built heritage of County Waterford with the architectural value of the composition confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on scenic vistas overlooking “The American Ground” and a wooded lake with a hilly backdrop in the distance; the quadrangular plan form centred on a Classically-detailed doorcase showing a pretty fanlight; the somewhat disproportionate bias of solid to void in the massing; the definition of the principal “apartments” by Wyatt-style tripartite glazing patterns; and the “book end” crow stepped gables embellishing the roofline. A prolonged period of unoccupancy notwithstanding, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; an elegant staircase; and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition.” 
The website tells us: “Fairbrook House garden and museum, Kilmeaden, Co.Waterford, Ireland X91FN83 A romantic walled garden at the river Dawn laid out between ruins of the former Fairbrook Mill (since 1700). OPEN MAY – SEPTEMBER”
p. 186. “(Boyle, Cork and Orrery, E.PB; Cavendish, Devonshire, D/PB)…Now predominantly of early C17 and C19; but incorporating some of the towers of the medieval castle of the Bishops of Lismore which itself took the place of a castle built by King John [around 1185] where there had formerly been a famous monastery founded by St. Carthagh and a university which was a great centre of civilisation and learning in the Dark Ages. The first Protestant Bishop, the notorious Myler McGrath, granted the castle and its lands to Sir Walter Raleigh; who, however, seldom lived here, preferring his house in Youghal, now known as Myrtle Grove.”
Mark Bence-Jones continues the history of the castle: “In 1602, Raleigh sold Lismore and all his Irish estates to Richard Boyle, afterwards 1st Earl of Cork, one of the most remarkable of Elizabethan adventurers; who, having come to Ireland as a penniless young man, ended as one of the richest and most powerful nobles in the kingdom. From ca 1610 onwards, he rebuilt Lismore Castle as his home, surrounding the castle courtyard with three storey gabled ranges joining the old corner-towers, which were given Jacobean ogival roofs; the principal living rooms being on the side above the Blackwater, the parlour and dining-chamber in a wing projecting outwards to the very edge of the precipice, with an oriel window from which there is a sheer drop to the river far below. On the furthest side from the river Lord Cork built a gatehouse tower, incorporating an old Celtic-Romanesque arch which must have survived from Lismore’s monastic days. He also built a fortified wall – so thick that there is a walk along the top of it – enclosing a garden on this side of the castle; and an outer gatehouse with gabled towers known as the Riding House because it originally sheltered a mounted guard. The garden walls served an important defensive purpose when the castle was besieged by the Confederates 1642, the year before the “Great Earl’s” death. On this occasion the besiegers were repulsed; but in 1645 it fell to another Confederate Army and was sacked.”
Mark Bence-Jones continues the fascinating history: “It was made habitable again by the 2nd Earl of Cork – James II stayed a night here in 1689 and almost fainted when he looked out of the dining room window and saw the great drop – but it was neglected in C18 and became largely ruinous; the subsequent Earls of Cork, who were also Earls of Burlington, preferring to live on their estates in England. Through the marriage of the daughter and heiress of the architect Earl of Burlington [Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle (1731-1754), daughter of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, 4th Earl of Cork] and Cork to the 4th Duke of Devonshire [William Cavendish (1720-1764], Lismore passed to the Cavendishes. The 4th and 5th Dukes took no more interest in the castle than the Earls of Burlington had done; but the 6th Duke [William George Spenser Cavendish (1790-1858)] – remembered as the “Bachelor Duke” – began work at Lismore as soon as he succeeded his father 1811.”
I love the story of the Bachelor Duke: “By 1812 the castle was habitable enough for him to entertain his cousin, Lady Caroline Lamb [nee Ponsonby], her husband William, and her mother, Lady Bessborough, here. Caroline, who had been brought to Ireland in the hope that it would make her forget Byron, was bitterly disappointed by the castle; she had expected “vast apartments full of tattered furniture and gloom”; instead, as Lady Bessborough reported, “Hart handed her into, not a Gothic hall, but two small dapper parlours neatly furnished, in the newest Inn fashion, much like a Cit’s villa at Highgate.” Hart – the Bachelor Duke [He succeeded as the 6th Marquess of Hartington, co. Derby [E., 1694] on 29 July 1811] – had in fact already commissioned the architect William Atkinson to restore the range above the river in a suitably medieval style, and the work actually began in that same year. Battlements replaced the Great Earl of Cork’s gables and the principal rooms – including the dining room with the famous window, which became the drawing room – where given ceilings of simple plaster vaulting.“
Display board from exhibition in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is compiling a Garden Survey.
“The Bachelor Duke, who became increasingly attached to Lismore, began a second and more ambitious phase of rebuilding 1850, towards the end of his life. This time his architect was Sir Joseph Paxton, that versatile genius who designed the Crystal Palace and who, having started as the Bachelor Duke’s gardener, became his close friend and right hand man. During the next few years, the three remaining sides of the courtyard were rebuilt in an impressive C19 castle style, with battlemented towers and turrets; all faced in cut-stone shipped over from Derbyshire. The Great Earl’s gatehouse tower, with its pyramidal roof, was however, left as it was, and also the Riding House. The ruined chapel of the Bishops, adjoining the range containing the Great Earl’s living rooms, was restored as a banqueting hall or ballroom of ecclesiastical character; with choirstalls, a vast Perpendicular stained glass window at either end, and richly coloured Gothic stencilling on the walls and the timbers of the open roof. The decoration of the room was carried out by John Gregory Crace, some of it being designed by Pugin, including the chimneypiece, which was exhibited in the Medieval Court at the Great Exhibition. The banqueting hall is the only really large room in the castle, the interior of which is on a much more modest and homely scale than might be expected from the great extent of the building; but in fact one side of the courtyard was designed to be a separate house for the agent, and another side to be the estate office. Subsequent Dukes of Devonshire have loved Lismore as much as the Bachelor Duke did, though their English commitments have naturally prevented them from coming here for more than occasional visits. From 1932 until his death 1944, the castle was continuously occupied by Lord Charles Cavendish, younger son of the 9th Duke, and his wife, the former Miss Adele Astaire, the dancer and actress, who still comes here every year. The present Duke and Duchess have carried out many improvements to the garden, which consist of the original upper garden, surrounded by the Great Earl’s fortified walls, and a more naturalistic garden below the approach to the castle; the two being linked in a charming and unexpected way by a staircase in the Riding House.”
The website tells us: “Mount Congreve House and Gardens situated in Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford, in Ireland’s Ancient East is home to one of “the great gardens of the World”. Mount Congreve House, home to six generations of Congreves, was built in 1760 by the celebrated local architect John Roberts.
The Gardens comprise around seventy acres of intensively planted woodland, a four acre walled garden and 16 kilometres of walkways. Planted on a slight incline overlooking the River Suir, Mount Congreve’s entire collection consists of over three thousand different trees and shrubs, more than two thousand Rhododendrons, six hundred Camellias, three hundred Acer cultivars, six hundred conifers, two hundred and fifty climbers and fifteen hundred herbaceous plants plus many more tender species contained in the Georgian glasshouse.“
The house was built for John Congreve (1730-1801), who held the office of High Sheriff of County Waterford in 1755. He married Mary Ussher, daughter of Beverly Ussher, MP, who lived at Kilmeadon, County Waterford.
Mark Bence-Jones tells us of Mount Congreve (1988):
p. 213. “(Congreve/IFR) An C18 house [the National Inventory says c. 1750] consisting of three storey seven bay centre block with two storey three bay overlapping wings; joined to pavilions by screen walls with arches on the entrance front and low ranges on the garden front, where the centre block has a three bay breakfront and an ionic doorcase. The house was remodelled and embellished ca 1965-69, when a deep bow was added in the centre of the entrance front, incorporating a rather Baroque Ionic doorcase, nd the pavilions were adorned with cupolas and doorcases with broken pediments. Other new features include handsome gateways flaking the garden front at either end a fountain with a statue in one of the courtyards between the house and pavilions. The present owner has also laid out magnificent gardens along the bank of the River Suir which now extends to upwards of 100 acres; with large scale plantings of rare trees and shrubs, notably rhododendrons and magnolias. The original walled gardens contains an C18 greenhouse.”
“The Woodland gardens at Mount Congreve were founded on the inspiration, generosity and encouragement of Mr. Lionel N. de Rothschild. He became arguably, the greatest landscaper of the 20th Century and one of the cleverest hybridists. He died in 1942. The original gardens at Mount Congreve had comprised of a simple terraced garden with woodland of ilexes and sweet chestnuts on the slopes falling down to the river. The Gardens are held in Trust for the State.
The original gardens at Mount Congreve had comprised of a simple terraced garden with woodland of ilexes and sweet chestnuts on the slopes falling down to the river. Ambrose Congreve began planting parts of these in his late teens but it was not until 1955 that he began to make large clearings in the woodlands to create the necessary conditions where his new plants would thrive. With the arrival of Mr. Herman Dool in the early sixties, the two men began the process that would lead to Mount Congreve’s recognition as one of the ‘Great Gardens of the World’. Up to the very last years of his life, Mr Congreve could be found in the gardens dispensing orders and advice relating to his beloved plants.
Mount Congreve Gardens is closed at the moment for new development works. An article by Ann Power in the Mount Congreve blog, 22nd Sept 2021, tells us
“Grand opening of the House & Gardens set for 2022.
The 70-acre Mount Congreve Gardens overlooking the River Suir and located around 7km from the centre of Waterford City will close on October 10th 2021. The closure is to facilitate the upcoming works on Mount Congreve House and Gardens as it will be redeveloped into a world-class tourism destination with an enhanced visitor experience which is set to open for summer 2022.
Funding of €3,726,000 has been approved under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund with additional funding from Failte Ireland and Waterford City & County Council for the visitor attraction, which is home to one of the largest private collections of plants in the world. The redevelopment and restoration of the Estate is set to provide enhanced visitor amenities including the repair of the historic greenhouse, improved access to grounds and pathways, and provision of family-friendly facilities. Car parking & visitor centre with cafe & retail.
The project is planned for completion in 2022 and will create a new visitor centre featuring retail, food and beverage facilities, kitchens, toilets, and a ticket desk while also opening up new areas of the estate to the public including parts of the main house which has never been accessible to the public before.
Estate Manager Ray Sinnott says, “There are exciting times ahead for the historic Mount Congreve House and Gardens and we are very much looking forward to working on and unveiling the new visitor experience in 2022.
Unfortunately for now, in order to facilitate the redevelopment of Mount Congreve House and Gardens, we will be closed for a number of months. This is to facilitate a number of restorative and construction works in the different areas of the gardens and at the main house.
We apologise for any inconvenience and look forward to welcoming all of our visitors old and new when we reopen next year.”
www.rowecreavin.ie Open: Jan 1-Dec 31, excluding Bank Holidays, 8.30am-5.30pm, National Heritage Week, Aug 12-20 Fee: Free
The National Inventory tells us it is a:
“Detached ten-bay two-storey over basement Gothic Revival convent, built 1848 – 1856, on a quadrangular plan about a courtyard comprising eight-bay two-storey central block with two-bay two-storey gabled advanced end bays to north and to south, ten-bay two-storey over part-raised basement wing to south having single-bay four-stage tower on a circular plan, eight-bay two-storey recessed wing to east with single-bay two-storey gabled advanced engaged flanking bays, six-bay double-height wing to north incorporating chapel with two-bay single-storey sacristy to north-east having single-bay single-storey gabled projecting porch, and three-bay single-storey wing with dormer attic to north…
An attractive, substantial convent built on a complex plan arranged about a courtyard. Designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812 – 1852) in the Gothic Revival style, the convent has been well maintained, retaining its original form and character, together with many important salient features and materials. However, the gradual replacement of the original fittings to the openings with inappropriate modern articles threatens the historic character of the composition. The construction of the building reveals high quality local stone masonry, particularly to the cut-stone detailing, which has retained its original form. A fine chapel interior has been well maintained, and includes features of artistic design distinction, including delicate stained glass panels, profiled timber joinery, including an increasingly-rare rood screen indicative of high quality craftsmanship, and an open timber roof construction of some technical interest. The convent remains an important anchor site in the suburbs of Waterford City and contributes to the historic character of an area that has been substantially developed in the late twentieth century.” 
p. 5. “(Palliser, sub Galloway/IFR) Rambling three storey house at right angles to the village street of Annestown, which is in fact two houses joined together. The main front of the house faces the sea; but it has a gable end actually on the street. Low-ceilinged but spacious rooms; long drawing room divided by an arch with simple Victorian plasterwork; large library approached by a passage. Owned at beginning of 19C by Henry St. George Cole, bought ca. 1830 by the Palliser family, from whom it was inherited by the Galloways.”
The National Inventory gives us more detail on its construction: “Detached six-bay two-storey house with dormer attic, c.1820, retaining early fenestration with single-bay two-storey gabled entrance bay, single-bay two-storey gabled end bay having single-bay two-storey canted bay window, three-bay two-storey wing to north originally separate house, c.1770, and three-bay two-storey return to west. Extended, c.1920, comprising single-bay single-storey lean-to recessed end bay to south.“
2. Ballynatray Estate, Co. Waterford– section 482 – see above
I’m not sure if this is still a hotel as it was advertised for sale in 2020. The Myhome website tells us: “Ballyrafter House was built circa 1830, on the commission of the Duke of Devonshire, one of the wealthiest men in England, whose Irish Seat is the nearby Lismore Castle. Initially intended for the Duke’s Steward, it soon became a hunting and fishing lodge for his guests.“
Mark Bence-Jones describes Faithlegg House (1988):
p. 123. (Power/IFR; Gallwey/IFR) A three storey seven bay block with a three bay pedimented breakfront, built 1783 by Cornelius Bolton, MP, whose arms, elaborately displayed, appear in the pediment. Bought 1819 by the Powers who ca 1870 added two storey two bay wings with a single-storey bow-fronted wings beyond them. At the same time the house was entirely refaced, with segmental hoods over the ground floor windows; a portico or porch with slightly rusticated square piers was added, as well as an orangery prolonging one of the single-storey wings. Good C19 neo-Classical ceilings in the principal rooms of the main block, and some C18 friezes upstairs. Sold 1936 by Mrs H.W.D. Gallwey (nee Power); now a college for boys run by the De La Salle Brothers.”
The Faithlegg website tells us that the house was probably built by John Roberts (1714-1796): “a gifted Waterford architect who designed the Waterford’s two Cathedrals, City Hall, Chamber of Commerce and Infirmary. He leased land from Cornelius Bolton at Faithlegg here he built his own house which he called Roberts Mount. He built mansions for local gentry and was probably the builder of Faithlegg House in 1783.”
The website tells us of more about the history of the house:
“Faithlegg stands at the head of Waterford Harbour, where the three sister rivers of the Barrow, Nore and Suir meet. As a consequence, it has been to the fore in the history of not just Waterford but also Ireland. For it was via the harbour and these rivers that the early settlers entered and from the hill that we stand under, the Minaun, that the harbour was monitored. Here legend tells us sleeps the giant Cainche Corcardhearg son of Fionn of the Fianna who was stationed here to keep a watch over Leinster.
A Norman named Strongbow landed in the harbour in 1170 and this was followed by the arrival of Henry II in October 1171. Legend has it that Henry’s fleet numbered 600 ships and one of the merchants who donated to the flotilla was a Bristol merchant named Aylward. He was handsomely rewarded with the granting of 7000 acres of land centred in Faithlegg. The family lived originally in a Motte and Baily enclosure the remains of which is still to be seen. This was followed by Faithlegg Castle and the 13th century church in the grounds of the present Faithlegg church dates from their era too. The family ruled the area for 500 years until they were dispossessed in 1649 by the armies of Oliver Cromwell. The property was subsequently granted to a Cromwellian solider, Captain William Bolton.
Over a century later in 1783 the present house was commenced by Cornelius Bolton who had inherited the Faithlegg Estate from his father in 1779. Cornelius was an MP, a progressive landlord and businessman. Luck was not on his side however and financial difficulties followed. In 1819 the Bolton family sold the house and lands to Nicholas and Margaret Mahon Power, who had married the year before. It was said that Margaret’s dowry enabled the purchase. The Powers adorned the estate with the stag’s head and cross, which was the Power family crest. It remains the emblem of Faithlegg to this day.”
Margaret, the website tells us, was the only daughter and heiress of Nicholas Mahon of Dublin. She married Nicholas Power in 1818 and the couple came to live in Faithlegg. It was not a happy marriage and, following a legal separation in 1860, she returned to live in Dublin where she died in 1866.
The House passed to Hubert Power, the only son of Pat & Lady Olivia Power, and in 1920 upon Hubert’s death, it passed to his daughter Eily Power, in 1935 Eily and her husband sold the House to the De la Salle order of teaching brothers after which it acted as a junior novitiate until 1986.
The last remaining gap in history is from 1980’s until 1998 when it was taken over by FBD Property and Leisure Group.“
7. Fort William, County Waterford, holiday cottages
p. 126. “Gumbleton, sub Maxwell-Gumbleton/LG1952; Grosvenor, Westminster, B/PB) A two storey house of sandstone ashlar with a few slight Tudor-Revival touches, built 1836 for J. B. [John Bowen] Gumbleton to the design of James & George Richard Pain. Three bay front with three small gables and a slender turret-pinnacle at either side; doorway recessed in segmental-pointed arch Georgian glazed rectangular sash windows with hood mouldings. Tudor chimneys. Other front of seven bays; plain three bay side elevation. Large hall, drawing room with very fine Louis XI boiseries, introduced by 2nd Duke of Westminster, Fort William was his Irish home from ca 1946 to his death in 1953. Afterwards the house of Mr and Mrs Henry Drummond-Wolff, then Mr and Mrs Murray Mitchell.”
The Historic Houses of Ireland gives us more detail about the house, including explaining its name:
“In the early eighteenth century the Gumbleton family, originally from Kent, purchased an estate beside the River Blackwater in County Waterford, a few miles upstream from Lismore. The younger son, William Conner Gumbleton, inherited a portion of the estate and built a house named Fort William, following the example of his cousin, Robert Conner, who had called his house in West Cork Fort Robert. The estate passed to his nephew, John Bowen Gumbleton, who commissioned a new house by James and George Richard Pain, former apprentices of John Nash with a thriving architectural practice in Cork.
Built in 1836, in a restrained Tudor Revival style, the new house is a regular building of two stories in local sandstone with an abundance of gables, pinnacles and tall Elizabethan chimneys. The interior is largely late-Georgian and Fortwilliam is essentially a classical Georgian house with a profusion of mildly Gothic details.
Gumbleton’s son died at sea and his daughter Frances eventually leased the house to Colonel Richard Keane, brother of Sir John from nearby Cappoquin House. The Colonel was much annoyed when his car, reputedly fitted with a well-stocked cocktail cabinet, was commandeered by the IRA so he permitted Free State troops to occupy the servants’ wing at Fortwilliam during the Civil War, which may have influenced the Republican’s decision to burn his brother’s house in 1923.
When Colonel Keane died in a shooting accident, the estate reverted to Frances Gumbleton’s nephew, John Currey, and was sold to a Mr Dunne, who continued the tradition of letting the house. His most notable tenant was Adele Astaire, sister of the famous dancer and film star Fred Astaire, who became the wife of Lord Charles Cavendish from nearby Lismore Castle.
In 1944 the Gumbleton family repurchased Fortwilliam but resold for £10,000 after just two years. The new owner was Hugh Grosvenor, second Duke of Westminster and one of the world’s wealthiest men. His nickname ‘Bend or’ was a corruption of the heraldic term Azure, a bend or, arms the Court of Chivalry had forced his ancestor to surrender to Lord Scroope in 1389 and still a source of irritation after six hundred years. Already thrice divorced, the duke’s name had been linked to a number of fashionable ladies, including the celebrated Parisian couturier Coco Chanel.
Fortwilliam is in good hunting country with some fine beats on a major salmon river, which allowed the elderly duke to claim he had purchased an Irish sporting base. Its real purpose, however, was to facilitate his pursuit of Miss Nancy Sullivan, daughter of a retired general from Glanmire, near Cork, who soon became his fourth duchess.
They made extensive alterations at Fortwilliam, installing the fine gilded Louis XV boiseries in the drawing room, removed from the ducal seat at Eaton Hall, in Cheshire, and fitting out the dining room with panelling from one of his sumptuous yachts. He died in 1953 but his widow survived for a further fifty years, outliving three of her husband’s successors at Eaton Lodge in Cheshire. Anne, Duchess of Westminster was renowned as one of the foremost National Hunt owners of the day. Her bay gelding, Arkle, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on three successive occasions and is among the most famous steeplechasers of all time.
Fortwilliam was briefly owned by the Drummond-Wolfe family before passing to an American, Mr. Murray Mitchell. On his widow’s death it was purchased by Ian Agnew and his wife Sara, who undertook a sensitive restoration before he too died in 2009. In 2013 the estate was purchased by David Evans-Bevan who lives at Fortwilliam today with his family, farming and running the salmon fishery.“
“Gaultier Lodge is an 18th Century Georgian Country House designed by John Roberts, which overlooks the beach at Woodstown on the south east coast of Co. Waterford in Ireland. Enjoy high quality bed and breakfast guest accommodation next to the beach and Waterford Bay. Relax and unwind in the tastefully decorated rooms and warm inviting bedrooms. Enjoy an Irish breakfast each morning.”
9. Richmond House, Cappoquin, Co Waterford – guest house
“The Earl of Cork built Richmond House in 1704. Refurbished and restored each of the 9 bedrooms feature period furniture and warm, spacious comfort. All rooms are ensuite and feature views of the extensive grounds and complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access is available throughout the house. An award winning 18th century Georgian country house, Richmond House is situated in stunning mature parkland surrounded by magnificent mountains and rivers.
Richmond House facilities include a fully licensed restaurant with local and French cuisine. French is also spoken at Richmond House. Each bedroom offers central heating, direct dial telephone, television, trouser press, complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access, tea-and coffee-making facilities and a Richmond House breakfast.”
The Archiseek website tells us that Waterford Castle is: “A small Norman keep that was extended and “restored” in the late 19th century. An initial restoration took place in 1849, but it was English architect W.H. Romaine-Walker who extended it and was responsible for its current appearance today. The original keep is central to the composition with two wings added, and the keep redesigned to complete the composition.“
The National Inventory adds: “Detached nine-bay two- and three-storey over basement Gothic-style house, built 1895, on a quasi H-shaped plan incorporating fabric of earlier house, pre-1845, comprising three-bay two-storey entrance tower incorporating fabric of medieval castle, pre-1645…A substantial house of solid, muscular massing, built for Gerald Purcell-Fitzgerald (n. d.) to designs prepared by Romayne Walker (n. d.) (supervised by Albert Murrary (1849 – 1924)), incorporating at least two earlier phases of building, including a medieval castle. The construction in unrefined rubble stone produces an attractive, textured visual effect, which is mirrored in the skyline by the Irish battlements to the roof. Fine cut-stone quoins and window frames are indicative of high quality stone masonry. Successfully converted to an alternative use without adversely affecting the original character of the composition, the house retains its original form and massing together with important salient features and materials, both to the exterior and to the interior, including fine timber joinery and plasterwork to the primary reception rooms.”
The website tells us: “Tranquil historic estate accommodating guests in luxury. Glenbeg, a historic castle which has been sensitively restored, preserving its historic past, whilst catering to the needs and comforts of modern living.
Glenbeg Estate is the maternal home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who visited during his life time and wrote some of his early work while visiting with his family here. You and your party will have exclusive use of the property during your stay.“
 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.