Places to visit and stay in County Galway, Connaught

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

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

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

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

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

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

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

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

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

Galway

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

2. Athenry Castle, County Galway  – open to public 

3. Aughnanure Castle, County Galway (OPW)

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

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

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

7. Gleane Aoibheann, Clifden, Galway  – gardens

8. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

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

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

11. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

12. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – gardens open 

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

14. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

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

Places to stay, County Galway

1. Abbeyglen Castle, Galway €€

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

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

4. Ballindooly Castle, Co Galway – accommodation 

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

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

7. Castle Hacket west wing, County Galway

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

9. Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, Co Galway – Airbnb 

10. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway

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

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

13. Emlaghmore Cottage, Connemara, County Galway

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

15. Kilcolgan Castle, Clarinbridge, Co Galway  

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

17. Lough Cutra Castle, County Galway, holiday cottages

18. Lough Ina Lodge Hotel, County Galway

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

20. The Quay House, Clifden, Co Galway 

21. Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway – hotel

22. Rosleague Manor, Galway – accommodation  

23. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway

24. Ross Lake House Hotel, Oughterard, County Galway 

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

Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:

1. Carraigin Castle, County Galway – sleeps 10

2. Cloghan Castle, near Loughrea, County Galwaywhole castle accommodation and weddings, €€€ for two.

Galway

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

Ardamullivan Castle County Galway photograph courtesy of SA 2.0 Mike Searle cc, Sept 2009, file 1543253

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

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

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

2. Athenry Castle, County Galway  – open to public 

Athenry Castle, County Galway, photograph courtesy of OPW website.

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

3. Aughnanure Castle, County Galway (OPW)

Aughnanure Castle County Galway, photograph courtesy of OPW website

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

4. Castle Ellen House, Athenry, Co. Galway, Eircode: H65 AX27 – section 482

contact: Míceál P. O’Cionnaith and Diarmuid
Tel: 087-2747692, 087-8137058
http://www.castleellen.ie/
Open: June 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, July 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, Aug 7-11, 13- 25, 28-31, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-4pm
Fee: Free

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

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

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

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Architectural Features of Castle Ellen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €4

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.coolepark.ie/

The website tells us:

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

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

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

7. Gleane Aoibheann, Clifden, Galway  – gardens

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

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

8. Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

https://www.kylemoreabbey.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Display board from exhibition in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is compiling a Garden Survey.

From “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oranmore Castle, photograph from flickr creative commons Johanna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Portumna Castle, County Galway (OPW)

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

12. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – gardens open 

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

www.rosscastle.com 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

Thoor Ballylea 1984 Dublin City Library Archives [12]

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places to stay, County Galway

1. Abbeyglen Castle, County Galway €€

www.abbeyglen.ie

Abbeyglen Castle, County Galway, photograph courtesy of http://www.abbeyglen.ie

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

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

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

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

https://www.theardilaunhotel.ie

Ardilaun House Hotel, 1962, photograph courtesy of http://www.theardilaunhotel.ie

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

Ardilaun House Hotel, photograph courtesy of http://www.theardilaunhotel.ie
Ardilaun House Hotel, aerial view of garden, photograph courtesy of http://www.theardilaunhotel.ie

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

4. Ballindooly Castle, Co Galway – accommodation 

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

Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/
Ballindooley Castle, photograph courtesy of www.visitgalway.ie/explore/heritage-and-history/castles/ballindooley-castle/

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

https://www.ballynahinch-castle.com

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, County Galway, 2014 Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [2])
Ballynahinch Castle, photograph courtesy of hotel website.

The website tells us:

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

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

Ballynahinch Castle, photograph courtesy of hotel website.

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

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

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

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

Ballynahinch Castle, photograph courtesy of hotel website.

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

https://cashelhouse.ie/cms/

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

Cashel House Hotel, County Galway, courtesy of hotel website

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

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

The website continues the history:

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

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

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

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

7. Castlehacket west wing, County Galway

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

Castlehacket, photograph courtesy of airbnb Castlehacket entry.

The entry tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

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

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

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

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

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

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

The space

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

9. Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, Co Galway – Airbnb

Tower house of 1648 at centre of Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle and its demesne.

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

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

Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Photograph from myhome.ie of Cregg Castle.
Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

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

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

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

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

Cregg Castle, Corrandulla, County Galway, July 2021.

The National Inventory describes it:

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

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

10. Crocnaraw County House, Moyard, County Galway

http://www.crocnaraw.ie/

The website tells us:

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

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

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

https://www.currarevagh.com

Currarevagh House, photograph from house website.
Currarevagh House, photograph from house website.

The website tells us:

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

Currarevagh House, photograph from house website.

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

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

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

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

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

 https://delphilodge.ie

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

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

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

13. Emlaghmore Cottage, Connemara, County Galway

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

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

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

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

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

 https://www.glenloabbeyhotel.ie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

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

Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.
Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.
Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.
Kilcolgan Castle, photograph courtesy of airbnb castle entry.

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

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

Email: cooke@lisdonagh.com

Lisdonagh House, photograph from website.

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

The National Inventory tells us that Lisdonagh is a:

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

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

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

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

It has two cottages, a coach house and gate lodge accommodation also.

Lughnasa Villa at Lisdonagh House, photograph from website.
Coach House at Lisdonagh House, photograph from website.
Gate Lodge at Lisdonagh House, photograph from website.

17. Lough Cutra Castle, County Galway, holiday cottages

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

info@loughcutra.com

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

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

https://www.loughcutra.com/

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

The website gives us a detailed history of the castle:

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

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

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

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

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

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

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

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

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

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

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

Colonel Charles Vereker, M.P., (1768-1842), Constable of Limerick Castle, later 2nd Viscount Gort Engraver James Heath, English, 1757-1834 After John Comerford, Irish, 1770-1832, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

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

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

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

Lough Cutra castle, photograph from Lough Cutra website.

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

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

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

18. Lough Inagh Lodge Hotel, County Galway €

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

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

19. Oranmore Lodge Hotel (previously Thorn Park), Oranmore, Co Galway  https://www.oranmorelodge.ie

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

The National Inventory tells us:

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

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

https://thequayhouse.com  

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

21. Renvyle, Letterfrack, Co Galway – hotel

https://www.renvyle.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22. Rosleague Manor, Galway – accommodation €€

 https://www.rosleague.com

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

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

23. Ross, Moycullen, Co Galway – see above

www.rosscastle.com 

24. Ross Lake House Hotel, Oughterard, County Galway

http://rosslakehotel.com/

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

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

https://www.screebe.com/

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

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

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

Whole House Accommodation and Weddings, County Galway:

1. Carraigin Castle, County Galway – sleeps 10

https://www.carraigin.net

The website tells us:

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

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

The History:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.cloughancastle.ie/

The website describes it:

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

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

The Visit Galway website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homepage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drishane House, Castletownshend, Co. Cork

contact: Thomas Somerville. t: +353 28 36126, 083-8574589

Contact: Thomas Somerville
Tel: 028-36126, 083-574589
www.drishane.com
Open dates in 2022: May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Oct 2-21, 11am-3pm Fee: adult €10, OAP €8, student/child €6

e: info@drishane.com

Edith Somerville, of Somerville and Ross Some Experiences of an Irish RM fame (which has been made into a television series), said “If I am ever allowed to return to earth it will be to Drishane that I shall come,” and I can see why. The estate is situated with a magnificent view over the Atlantic ocean.

Stephen overlooking Castletown Bay from Drishane.

Edith’s ancestor Reverend William Somerville fled persecution in Scotland in the 1690s and moved to Ireland. [1] He was an Episcopalian Minister who feared for his life following the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland in 1690. The Drishane House website tells us that Reverend William rowed his family twenty miles across rough water to Ulster, where they found refuge with family connections. 

The Reverend’s younger son, Thomas, attended Trinity College Dublin and was ordained in the Church of Ireland. He married Anne Neville, of Furnace, County Kildare, a prosperous and well-connected family. Thomas obtained the position of Rector of Castlehaven and the family moved to Cork. He set up house in the old O’Driscoll castle next to the church at Castlehaven Strand. Both are now ruins. His portrait, his stick and his 1685 edition of Bedel’s Irish Bible remain in the possession of his descendants.

Three of Reverend Thomas’s sons moved to America and prospered. The eldest son hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps as a clergyman but lost an eye in university, so instead became a successful shipping merchant. He’d send butter and salted provisions to the West Indies and bring back rum, sugar and timber. [2] He built his house at Drishane, on the edge of the village of Castletownshend, where he had a view of his ships in Castlehaven Bay. Among items he imported from the West Indies was the mahogany which was used to make the doors of the reception rooms in Drishane.

He married Mary Townsend, daughter of Captain Philip Townsend who lived in Derry, County Cork, great-granddaughter of Richard Townsend who was an officer in Cromwell’s army and who built the castle at nearby Castletownshend (it was only in 1860 that the family changed the spelling of their name from Townsend to Townshend [3]).

Castle Townshend. photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [4]
Drishane House.

Drishane house is two storeys, six bays across, with a fanlighted doorway. This tripartite limestone doorcase, with Tuscan demi-columns, now serves as a garden entrance doorway. The newer entrance doorway, built in 1820, is on the more sheltered two bay end of the house, which is prolonged by a lower two storey wing.  The house is covered with purple Benduff weather-slating.

the newer entrance door, with the lower two storey wing. Frank Keohane describes this new entryway: an unusual rock-faced limestone doorcase with a scrolled pediment of vaguely Chinese appearance.” [5]

Stephen and I visited the house during Heritage Week in 2020. The current owner, another Thomas Somerville, welcomed us, and introduced us to his two sons, who gave us the tour of the house and the museum in the outbuilding which used to be Edith Somerville’s painting and writing studio. As there was already someone on a house tour, we visited the museum first.

The grey door leads into the studio. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside, but that is all the more reason for you to visit! Inside the door is a sign identifying the room as the studio, painted by Edith.

Edith Oenone Somerville (1858-1949) was given her unusual middle name because she was born in Corfu where her father was serving in the British military. She met her cousin Violet Martin (1862-1915) when they were both in their twenties, when Violet paid a visit to Drishane. They were both great-granddaughters of Lord Chief Justice Charles Kendal Bushe. Edith painted a portrait of Violet in 1886 during this visit, and the painting is now in the National Portrait Gallery in London. She painted the portrait in her studio, which at the time was inside the house – it was only later that she moved to the outbuilding. The chair in the painting is still in the studio. Violet’s first holiday at Drishane was a long one, as it was only after a month that Edith began her portrait. Violet brought the portrait with her back to Dublin when she left Drishane ten months later.

Violet’s family lived in County Galway in a three storey house called Ross House (now called Ross Castle). She was the youngest of eleven daughters. Her family had fallen into debt in the time of the Great Famine, due to the help they had given their tenants, and when her father died when she was just ten years old, her brother inherited the house and decided to let it out.

Ross House, or Castle, photograph care of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
photograph from Internet Archive Book Images. From the book Irish Memories by Edith Somerville, 1919. Publisher: New York, Longmans, Green & Co. It is interesting that the picture is signed a “Martin Ross,” rather than “Violet Martin.” A small silver case given as a gift to Edith from Violet is engraved “To Edith, Love Martin.”

She moved with her mother to Dublin and was educated at Alexandra College, where Edith also studied but as she was four years older than Violet, where they never met. Violet would have felt like a poor relation when she visited her cousins in Cork, but she was warmed by the generous welcome. Edith was surrounded by cousins: the Townshends and the Coghills lived nearby, and at first the quiet Violet must have been overwhelmed with the sociability of the house.

Violet had begun writing when she was in school and hoped to make a living by journalism. Edith studied art in London, Dusseldorf and Paris, and sold some paintings and drawings in order to finance her own art training and hoped to make a living in graphic art. When they first collaborated, Violet wrote the text which Edith illustrated, but soon they were writing the novels together. They did not want to publish under their own names, so chose “Somerville and Ross,” Violet taking the name of her home.

Image from page 164 of Irish Memories by Edith Somerville – I assume this is a photograph of Edith herself. Photograph care of Internet Archive Book Images.

Violet, a sister and her mother moved back to Ross House in 1888, and Violet set about trying to restore the house and gardens to their former glory. At the end of 1888, Violet and Edith received news that their first book, An Irish Cousin, was to be published. At first they had to correct proofs separately, until Edith visited Violet at Ross House. It is believed by the current owners of Ross Castle that the ladies worked on the book under the Venetian window on the first-floor landing, which now has a table and chair set up with some of their books. One can stay in the house: either whole house rental, or self-catering in cottages which are converted stables, carriage house and servants’ quarters. Drishane House is also available for whole house rental and also has holiday cottages). [6]

I imagine that Edith Somerville, when she illustrated their book, Through Connemara in a Governess Cart (published 1893), had herself and her cousin in mind when she drew this picture. Photograph care of the British Library.

The Museum contains copies of some of Edith’s paintings, as well as letters, drawings and photographs relating to her life. I was excited to see correspondence and music by the composer Ethel Smyth, who was a good friend of Edith and also of Virginia Woolf. Like Ethel and Virginia, Edith was also a feminist. Edith wrote: “It will be acknowledged that sport, Lawn Tennis, Bicycling, and Hunting played quite as large a part as education in the emancipation that has culminated in the Representation of the People Bill. The playing fields of Eton did not as surely win Waterloo as the hunting-fields and tennis grounds of the kingdom won the vote for women.” [quoted in the introduction by Gifford Lewis, 1999, of Somerville and Ross’s The Real Charlotte]. Edith was an enthusiast for hunting and became Master of her local hunt. She also became President of the Munster Women’s Franchise League. [7]

After Violet died, Edith wrote a further fourteen books, all published under their joint names. Edith felt that Violet continued to help to write the books after her death. Edith took to a sort of “automatic writing” to include Violet’s input. Examples of this are in the museum. Edith claimed that stormy weather made it more difficult for her to tune into Violet’s messages. [8]

There was another museum in Drishane before Edith’s studio, a collection of Indian items which Edith and her brother Jack called “Aunt Fanny’s Museum.” There is also another item which I forgot to ask about when visiting. Mark Bence-Jones tells the story of its origins:

Drishane’s most famous possession, the Fairy Shoe, was sent away to the bank for safe keeping and bad luck followed, it was wisely decided to bring the Shoe back and it has remained in the house ever since. The Shoe, which came to the Somervilles from the Coghills, was picked up on an Irish mountain early in the nineteenth century; it is exactly like the shoes worn by adults at that time and shows signs of wear, but it is only about two inches long. [9]

Edith had the French doors installed in 1901.

Thomas the merchant’s son, also named Thomas (born about 1765), inherited Drishane from his father. Unfortunately he “was foolish enough to back a bill,” according to Mark Bence-Jones in Life in an Irish Country House, meaning he must have acted as guarantor for someone who was not able to pay their debt, and subsequently when Thomas died in 1811, the bailiffs came and stripped the house of its contents. [10] Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth Henrietta Becher Townsend, was in bed giving birth to their tenth child. According to the story, the children brought everything they could carry to their mother’s bedroom to hide it, as there was a law forbidding  bailiffs from entering the room of the lady of the house.

When we entered the house with young Hal, Tom Somerville’s son who was giving us the tour, he pointed out that there is no chandelier in the dining room, as it was taken by the bailiff, way back in 1811!

We entered through the garden door with the fanlight directly into what is now the library but was originally the entrance hall. It interlinks the staircase hall with its grand sweeping staircase and lovely striped wallpaper, dining room and drawing room. In the dining room we saw a portrait of Edith’s brother Cameron (1860-1942), along with other portraits. Hal also pointed out to us where Edith had scratched her initials into the glass of the dining room, “EOES.” Swags above the tall curtained windows date to the 1820s.

David Hicks tells us more about Drishane from Edith’s time in his book Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters:

Drishane in the 19th century could not be described as homely: it was said to be cold, damp and infested with rats, which is in total contrast to the condition of the house today. When poison was put down to fend off unwanted visitors, they usually died under the floorboards. The resulting decomposition meant sometimes the drawing room could not be used for an extended period, such as in 1878, due to the smell. The drawing room also contained a large white marble fireplace that was brought from Italy by Edith’s great-grandfather. However, over the years it became the final resting place for a number of rodents and was christened the “Mouse-oleum.” This fireplace often had to be taken out for the dead mice to be removed and it became damaged. Edith’s brother Cameron was stationed in China from 1885 to 1889 and when he returned to Drishane he brought back a black marble fireplace complete with carved dragons and Chinese symbols, together with the Somerville crest and motto. This exotic-looking fireplace was installed in the drawing room to replace its damaged predecessor. [11]

Having read Hicks’s description I was excited to see the Chinese fireplace. It is indeed very unusual. 

The oldest of the children who had hidden things in their mother’s bedroom was another Thomas (1798-1882). Mark Bence-Jones tells a lovely story about him. He was very in love with his wife, Harriet Townsend, who was a cousin who had lived up the road in Castle Townshend. [12] Bence-Jones writes:

after her death [he] would sit up for hours by his bedroom fire thinking of Harriet and grieving for her and looking for consolation in his Bible by the light of a candle in her own special candlestick. He would burn two candles every night which Mrs Kerr, the housekeeper, would leave out for him. Then he started to complain, night after night, that he could not find the second candle. Mrs Kerr told his granddaughter Edith what she believed had happened. “My dear child, the candle was there! For I always put it on the table myself! It was Herself that took it, the way your Grandpapa should go to his bed and not be sitting there all night, breaking his heart.” [13]

This Thomas inherited Drishane and died in 1882, when the estate passed to his son, another Thomas. This Thomas (1824-1898) married Adelaide Eliza Coghill, and was the father of Edith, along with six other children who survived to adulthood.

Memorial in St. Barrahane’s Church, Castletownshend, to Lt. Colonel Thomas Henry Somerville (1824-1898), who married Adelaide Eliza Coghill. Below that plaque is a memorial to his son Aylmer Coghill Somerville and Aylmer’s second wife, Emmeline Sophia Sykes.
Window in St. Barrahane’s Church dedicated to Lt. Colonel Thomas Henry Somerville (1824-1898), by Harry Clarke.
Window in St. Barrahane’s Church dedicated to the wife of Lt. Colonel Thomas Henry Somerville (1824-1898), Adelaide Eliza Coghill, by Harry Clarke.
This Harry Clarke window in St. Barrahane’s Church of Ireland depicts French Saints Louis (who was Louis IX, King of Spain) and Martin and was commissioned in memory of Colonel Kendall Josiah Coghill in 1921. He was a brother of Adelaide Eliza Coghill.
Another Harry Clarke window in St. Barrahane’s Church of Ireland in Castletownshend.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us another good story, this one taken from Somerville and Ross’s book Wheel Tracks, which was published in London in 1923:

Tom Somerville [Edith’s father] was a magistrate and when the police brought cases to be summarily dealt with by him, he would swear the deponents on the Bradshaw’s Railway Guide as though it were a bible, partly through laziness [it lay on a nearby table] and partly from ‘a certain impishness of character and a love of playing on ignorance.’ [14]

Edith had suitors, but her mother sent them packing. In any case, Edith seems to have cherished her freedom, taking full advantage of her time to paint, hunt, travel and socialise. When her mother died, she took over the management of the household for her father. When her father died, her brother Cameron inherited the estate, but he, like his brothers, served in the military, and he was mostly stationed abroad, so Edith continued to run the household. 

Another brother, Aylmer, and his wife, lived with Edith for a time, and helped to manage the farm which was part of the estate, and her only sister Hildegarde married their cousin Egerton Coghill, 5th Baronet Coghill, and settled nearby at Glen Barrahane house in Castletownshend [this no longer exists]. Egerton was also an artist and when he died Edith and Hildegarde commissioned Harry Clarke to create a stained glass window in their local Church of Ireland, St. Barrahane’s. The window depicts St. Luke, the Patron Saint of Painters. To the left of St. Luke’s shoulder is a depiction of St. Cecelia playing the organ, which is a tribute to Edith, as she played the organ in the church for seventy years. [15]

Among her many cousins was Charlotte Townsend, the wife of George Bernard Shaw, which visited Drishane.

Violet moved to Drishane to live with Edith permanently in 1906. In the 1901 and 1911 censuses Edith signed herself as Head of Household, and in 1911 listed her occupation as “artist, author and dairy farmer” and Violet as “author.” 

Edith struggled to have enough money for the upkeep of the house. She and Violet hoped to earn money from their publications but they sold the work before they became bestsellers. Desmond’s wife describes the shabbiness of the house, and yet traditions were upheld and up until the second world war, everyone “dressed for dinner.” [16] In the summer Edith would locate to a smaller house in the town and let out Drishane to earn some extra money.

Edith’s brother Boyle lived in a house nearby, called Point House. Boyle had been an admiral in the Navy, and if someone was interested in joining the Navy, they’d go to speak to Boyle. Unfortunately, the IRA saw this as recruitment for the British Army. Tom Somerville who now lives in Drishane tells the story in Jane O’Hea O’Keeffe’s book:

Below the village at Point House, overlooking the water, lived my great-great-uncle Boyle Somerville. He was a retired admiral, and local boys who were interested in joining the Royal Navy used to go to him to ask for a chit to say he knew them and that they were fit persons to join the navy. If that was what they wanted to do, he cheerfully signed the chit for them. This was interpreted by the IRA as recruiting, so on the night of 24 March 1936 they came to the front door of Point House. The admiral picked up the oil lamp from the table and went to answer their knock. They enquired, through the glass porch, if he was Mr Somerville. He answered, “I am Admiral Somerville,” whereupon they shot him through the glass, and killed him.” 

Tom continues: “of all the Somervilles, Boyle was the most nationalist. He took a great interest in the Irish language and had always been very pro-Home Rule. He made a study of all the local archaeological sites and is written up by Jack Roberts in his book Exploring West Cork. He was a remarkable man and perhaps the most talented and interesting of all the Somervilles of that generation, besides his sister Edith.” [17] 

Cameron never married and when he died in 1942 the property passed to his nephew Desmond, the son of his brother Aylmer who had predeceased him. Desmond also served in the British Army.

Desmond and his wife Moira Burke Roche invited Edith to remain at Drishane. A memoir by Moira [Moira Somerville’s Edith OE Somerville. An Intimate Recollection. Typescript in Edith Oenone Somerville Archive] describes her first visit to Drishane, as Desmond’s fiancée, and her memory of Edith: “presiding over the tea things in the hall, her little dogs on her lap, the light of the oil lamp on her thistledown hair, her china-blue eyes, so like a child’s, fixed on my face. From that moment I loved her.” [18]

Violet had died just two years before this visit, in 1915. She and Edith had gone on a holiday to Kerry. David Hicks describes Violet’s last days:

Violet began to feel unwell and when her condition worsened she was transferred to the Glen Vera Hospital in Cork. Each day Edith sat by her bedside and wrote to her brother, Cameron. In one letter she wrote, “No one but she and I know what we were to each other.” She sketched her friend as she lay in her hospital bed for the final time before Violet died in Dec 1915. Edith wrote only one sentence in her diary that day: “Only goodnight, Beloved, not farewell.” [19]

Edith lived in the house until she was finally unable to climb the stairs. She then moved to a small house nearby in the town, Tally-Ho, to live with her sister. She died three years later, in 1949.

Plaque in St. Barrahane’s Church, Castletownshend.
The organ on which Edith Somerville played for seventy years, in St. Barrahane’s Church, Castletownshend.

When Desmond died in 1976, Drishane passed to his son Christopher (Dan) Somerville. In Jane O’Hea O’Keeffe’s book, Dan explains how he obtained the display cases for the museum:

We managed to get display cases which had become obsolete from the Bodleian Library in Oxford. We bought a trailer in England and loaded the cases on and brought them to Drishane. They are lovely cases, late Victorian or Edwardian. We couldn’t get them in the front door when we arrived, so we had to remove a window to install them. [20]

It is Dan’s son Thomas, and his wife and two sons, who now live in Drishane and who welcomed our visit. The house retains many of the original features and contents and paintings that date from Edith’s time. It also contains memorabilia from overseas and military engagements.

The house is set in eighteen acres of gardens and woodland. 

[1] p. 105. O’Hea O’Keeffe, Jane. Voices from the Great Houses: Cork and Kerry. Mercier Press, Cork, 2013.

[2] p. 121. Hicks, David. Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters. The Collins Press, Cork, 2014.

[3] p. 84, O’Hea O’Keeffe.

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20836017/castle-townsend-castletownsend-castletownshend-co-cork

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

[6] https://www.rosscastle.com and www.drishane.com

[7] p. 105. Bence-Jones, Mark. Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London. 1996. 

[8] from Moira Somerville’s Edith OE Somerville. An Intimate Recollection. Typescript in Edith Oenone Somerville Archive, referred to by Mark Bence-Jones, Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London. 1996.

[9] p. 107. Bence-Jones, Mark. Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London. 1996. 

[10] p. 100. Bence-Jones, Mark. Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London. 1996. 

[11] p. 122-3, Hicks, David. Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters. The Collins Press, Cork, 2014.

[12] Yes indeed, another Somerville-Townshend marriage. The genealogy goes as follows:

Rev William Somerville (1641-1694) m. Agnes Agnew 

Drishane passed to his son, Rev Thomas Somerville (1689-1752), who married Anne Neville 

Drishane passed to their son Thomas Somerville (1725-1793), who married Mary Townsend, daughter of Philip Townsend and Elizabeth Hungerford; grand-daughter of Commander Bryan Townsend (1648-1726). 

Drishane passed to their son, Thomas Townsend Somerville (1725-1811). He married Elizabeth Henrietta Becher Townsend (1776-1832), daughter of John Townsend (1737-1810) [granddaughter of  Richard Townsend and Elizabeth Becher, great-granddaughter of Commander Bryan Townsend (1648-1726)] and Mary Morris.

Drishane passed to the son, Col Thomas Somerville (1798-1882). He married Henrietta Augusta Townshend, daughter of Richard Boyle Townsend (1756-1826), who is great-grandson of Commander Bryan Towsend (1648-1726). 

[ie. Richard Boyle Townsend (1756-1826) is son of Richard Townsend (1725-1783) and Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who is son of Richard Townsend (1684-1742) and Elizabeth Becher, who is son of Commander Bryan Townsend (1648-1726).] 

Drishane passed to son Lieut Col. Thomas Somerville (1824-1898), who married Adelaide Eliza Coghill. 

Drishane passed to their son, (Thomas) Cameron Somerville, the brother of Edith. He died, and Drishane passed via his younger brother Captain Aylmer Coghill Somerville to his son Desmond Somerville. 

[13] p. 100-01. Bence-Jones, Mark. Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London. 1996.

[14] p. 102. Bence-Jones, Mark. Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London. 1996. Stephen and I are fans of Michael Portillo’s travel shows, where he takes trains and follows his Bradshaw’s guide, so I like this detail!

[15] https://roaringwaterjournal.com/tag/church-of-st-barrahane/

[16] p. 108. Bence-Jones, Mark. Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London. 1996. 

[17] p. 113. O’Hea O’Keeffe.

https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20848098/point-house-point-road-crosshaven-crosshaven-co-cork

[18] p. 106. Bence-Jones, Mark. Life in an Irish Country House. Constable, London. 1996.

[19] p. 130. Hicks, David. Irish Country Houses, Portraits and Painters. The Collins Press, Cork, 2014.

[20] p. 109. O’Hea O’Keeffe.