Places to visit in Dublin: Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, County Dublin

Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, Dublin

Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, February 2022.

You approach Ardgillan Castle from the back, coming from the car park, facing down to the amazing vista of Dublin bay.

The approach to Ardgillan Castle with the view of Dublin Bay, February 2022.
The view of Dublin Bay from the front of Ardgillan Castle, March 2020.

The website tells us:

In 1658, the “Down Survey” records that Ardgillan was owned by a wine merchant, Robert Usher of Tallaght, Dublin and by 1737, the property had been acquired by the Reverend Robert Taylor, one of the Headfort Taylors [of Headfort House, County Meath – of which later part became a school and part kept as a residence, and the east wing was advertised for sale in November 2019. The Dining Hall has particularly fine stucco work by Scottish born architect Robert Adam (1728-1792), one of the family from which the term “Adamesque” takes its name], whose grand-father had collaborated with Sir William Petty on the mid 17th century “Down Survey of Ireland”. 

Ardgillan remained the family home of the Taylors (later changed to Taylour) for more than two hundred years up until 1962 when the estate was sold to Heinrich Potts of Westphalia, Germany. In 1982, Dublin County Council purchased Ardgillan Demesne and it is now managed by Ardgillan Castle Ltd. under the auspices of Fingal County Council. “

Originally named “Prospect House”, built on Mount Prospect (you can see why it was so called, with such a view!), the central section was built in 1738 by Robert Taylor, with the west and east wings added in the late 1800s. 

Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, County Dublin with the Dublin and Drogheda Railway 1844, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

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

p. 9. [Taylour, sub. Headfort, M/PB]. A C18 house consisting of a 2 storey bow-fronted centre with single-storey overlapping wings, mildly castellated either towards the end of C18 or early C19. The central bow has been made into a round tower by raising it a storey and giving it a skyline of Irish battlements; the main roof parapet has been crenellated and the windows given hood mouldings. Over each of the windows was thrown, literally speaking, a Gothic cloak of battlements and pointed arches; below which the original facade, with its quoins and rectangular sash windows, shows in all its Classical nakedness. Battlemented ranges and an octagon tower were added on the other side of the house.” [1]

Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, February 2022.
Ardgillan Castle, June 2020.

The website informs us:

Initially the site was heavily wooded, the name Ardgillan being derived from the Irish “Ard Choill” meaning High Wood. It was cleared out by service soldiers and itinerant workers in return for one penny a day, sleeping accommodation and one meal. 

The house consists of two storeys over a basement which extends out under the lawns on the southern side of the building. When occupied, the ground and first floors were the living accommodations while the west and east wings were servants’ quarters and estate offices. The basement comprised of the service floor, the kitchen and stores.

The back of Ardgillan Castle, Dublin, June 2020.

Robert was the son of Thomas, the 1st Baronet of Headfort House in Kells. Robert (1689-1744), a younger son, joined the clergy and according to the Ardgillan website, was a recluse and spent his time writing sermons. He became Dean of Clonfert, County Galway. He died unmarried and the estate passed to his brother Thomas Taylour, the 2nd Baronet of Kells, County Meath. His sister Salisbury married a Bishop of Clonfert and secondly, Brigadier General James Crofts, son of James Scott the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of King Charles II!

The 2nd Baronet married Sarah Graham of Platten, County Meath. Their son Thomas was MP for Kells, County Meath, and was created 1st Earl of Bective, of Bective Castle, Co. Meath. He wedded, in 1754, Jane, eldest daughter of the Rt Hon Hercules Langford Rowley, from Summerhill, County Kilkenny. Their younger son, Henry Edward Taylour (1768-1852) joined the clergy and he and his wife, Marianne St. Leger from Doneraile in County Cork, settled at Ardgillan.

By the front door, a bell pull, I think.

We returned to Ardgillan in February 2022 and were able to see inside the castle.

Entrance Hall of Ardgillan, with shop and visitor’s desk. There are lovely plasterwork scrolls of foliage along the inside of the arches and a gothic arches pattern around the ceiling which matches the glass door and window arch. The ceiling and wall arch contain flanking rounded pillars. The fine ceiling rose is of acanthus leaves.
The Drawing Room of Ardgillan Castle.
I’m amused by the fact that the family could stop any train on the line for their personal use!

The dining room is the piece de resistance, with intricately carved oak panelling by Italian brothers Guardocici dated 1889 featuring Taylor Family crest. It also features a real stuffed bear!

The door to the dining room is carved with the family crest and detailed pattern.
The door frame features a head, and lion heads, which are continued in the wall panelling and the large cabinet.
The carved wall panelling in the dining room at Ardgillan Castle, by Italian brothers Guardocici dated 1889 featuring Taylor Family crest.
The matching cabinet in the dining room at Ardgillan Castle.

The fireplace in the dining room is also intricately carved.

The house passed to Thomas Edward Taylor (d. 1883).

It was his son, Edward Richard Taylor (1863-1938), who employed the Italian woodcarvers. He also had the library shelves installed by the Dublin firm Pim Brothers Ltd.

Edward Richard had no children so was succeeded by his brother Captain Basil Taylour’s son, Basil Richard Henry Osgood Taylour. He sold Ardgillan.

The next room is the lovely library.

The library of Ardgillan Castle.
We entered the library through a jib door of pretend books.
I couldn’t resist putting on the armour.
Stephen in The Butler’s Pantry at Ardgillan Castle.

The stairs to the upper storey are modest for such a house. Upstairs there are artists’ studios – how lucky they are, to have such a wonderful setting for their work!

The staircase of Ardgillan Castle – modest for such a house.

The website tells us:

Ardgillan park is unique among Dublin’s regional parks for the magnificent views it enjoys of the coastline. A panorama, taking in Rockabill Lighthouse, Colt Church, Shenick and Lambay Islands may be seen, including Sliabh Foy, the highest of the Cooley Mountains, and of course the Mourne Mountains can be seen sweeping down to the sea.

The park area is the property of Fingal County Council and was opened to the public as a regional park in June 1985. Preliminary works were carried out prior to the opening in order to transform what had been an arable farm, into a public park. Five miles of footpaths were provided throughout the demesne, some by opening old avenues, while others were newly constructed. They now provide a system of varied and interesting woodland, walks and vantage points from which to enjoy breath-taking views of the sea, the coastline and surrounding countryside. A signposted cycle route through the park since June 2009 means that cyclists can share the miles of walking paths with pedestrians.

The Walled Garden was originally a Victorian-styled kitchen garden that used to supply the fruit, vegetables and cut ower requirements to the house. It is 1 hectare (2.27 acres) in size, and is subdivided by free standing walls into five separate compartments. The walled garden was replanted in 1992 and through the 1990’s, with each section given a different theme.

The walled garden at Ardgillan, February 2022.
The website tells us: “The Vegetable Potager demonstrates the variety of vegetables that can be grown in shaped beds to create an attractive display. The Fruit Garden The Fruit Garden includes raspberries, red, white and black currants, gooseberries and fan-trained stone fruit on the walls. A collection of 30 old Irish varieties of apples, espalier-trained on wires, were planted in the year 2000. Varieties include: Scarlet Crofton (1500), Ballyfatten (1802) and Allen’s Everlasting (1864).”

The Victorian Conservatory was originally built in 1880 at Seamount, Malahide, the home of the Jameson family, who became famous for their whiskey all over the world. It was built by a Scottish glasshouse builder McKenzie & Moncur Engineering, and is reputed to be a replica of a glasshouse built at Balmoral in Scotland, the Scottish home of the British Royal Family. The conservatory was donated to Fingal County Council by the present owner of Seamount, the Treacy family and was re-located to the Ardgillan Rose Garden in the mid-1990s by park staff.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DAHG) approached Fingal County Council in early 2014 to participate in a pilot project to develop and enhance skill sets in built heritage conservation, under the Traditional Building Skills Training Scheme 2014. The glass house/ conservatory at Ardgillan was selected as part of this project. The glass house has been completely dismantled because it had decayed to such an extent that it was structurally unstable. All parts removed as part of this process are in safe storage. This work is the first stage of a major restoration project being undertaken by the Councils own Direct Labour Crew in the Operations Department supervised by David Curley along with Fingal County Council Architects so that the glasshouse can be re-erected in the garden and can again act as a wonderful backdrop to the rose garden. This is a complex and difficult piece of work which is currently on going and we are hopeful to have the glasshouse back to its former glory as a centrepiece of the visitor offering in Ardgillan Demesne in the near future.

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

Places to Visit and Stay in County Cavan, Ulster

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 province of Ulster contains counties Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone.

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:

County Cavan

1. Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan (Hotel) – section 482

2. Castle Saunderson, Co. Cavan – a ruin 

3. Clough Oughter, County Cavan 

4. Corravahan House & Gardens, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan – section 482

Places to stay, County Cavan

1. Cabra Castle, on section 482 – hotel €€

and lodges

2. Clover Hill Gate Lodge, Cloverhill, Belturbet, Cavan

3. Farnham Estate, Farnham Estate, Cavanhotel €€

4. Killinagh House, McNean Court, Blacklion, County Cavanwhole house rental and lodge €

5. Lismore House, Co Cavan – was a ruin. Place to stay: Peacock House on the demesne €

6. Olde Post Inn, Cloverhill, County Cavan €€

7. Ross Castle, Co Cavan (address is in Mountnugent, County Meath) whole castle plus self-catering accommodation whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

8. Slieve Russel Hotel, Cavan 

Whole house rental County Cavan:

1. Killinagh House, McNean Court, Blacklion, County Cavanwhole house rental 

2. Ross Castle, Co Cavan (address is in Mountnugent, County Meath) whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

3. Virginia Park Lodge, Co Cavanweddings only

I set out today to do a write up of County Cavan the way I did of Dublin, of all the big houses to visit or that offer accommodation. There are only two listings in Section 482  for County Cavan and one is a hotel. It turns out that, despite multiple beautiful historic houses, there are not many to visit. I researched places to stay in Cavan as Stephen and I travel through there regularly on our way to Donegal where his mum lives.

From my research I have a list of forty historic houses in County Cavan. Of those, at least eleven no longer exist or are in ruins, and most of the rest are private. Ballyhaise House is now an agricultural college. Farnham Estate and Virginia Park’s hunting lodge are now hotels. Owendoon House is now the Jampa Ling Buddhist Centre and Dromkeen is a Loreto College. Kilnacrott House also appears to belong to a religious order.


Help me to fund the maintenance and update of this website. It is created purely out of love for the subject and I receive no payment so any donation is appreciated!


1. Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan – section 482

This is a hotel but unlike some heritage house or castle hotels, they do allow visitors to view the building: the website states that they are open between 11am to 4pm for visitors for viewing all year round, except at Christmastime.

Cabra Castle, County Cavan, December 2020.

see my write-up:
Open: all year, except Dec 24, 25, 26, 11am-4pm
Fee: Free

2. Castle Saunderson, Co. Cavan – a ruin 

Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
The castle, which dates from 1840, was destroyed by fire in 1990.

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

p. 75. “(Saunderson/IFR) A large castellated mansion combining both baronial and Tudor-Revival elements, built ca 1840; from its close stylistic resemlance  to Crom Casle, about five miles away in County Fermanagh, it can be attributed to Edward Blore. Entrance front symmetrical, with a battlemented parapet, square end turrets and a tall central gatehouse tower which is unusual in having the entrance door in its side rather than in its front. The adjoining garden front is more irregular, with a recessed centre between two projecting wings of unequal size and fenestration, each having a Tudor gable; the two wings being joined at ground floor level by a rather fragile Gothic arcade. To the left of this front, a lower “L”-shaped wing with a battlemented parapet and various turrets, ending in a long Gothic conservatory. Castle Saunderson has stood empty for years and is now semi-derelict.” [1]

The land belonged to the O’Reilly clan in the 16th century, rulers of Breifne, which covered much of modern County Cavan. Scottish mercenatry Alexander Sanderson (the ‘u’ was added later), was first granted lands in Cavan and Tyrone in 1618. The estate passed to his son Robert, the first recorded Sanderson to live here, in 1633. The castle that was there at that time was burned to the ground in 1641 during the Rebellion. Robert Sanderson helped Oliver Cromwell’s troops to reconquer, and he was awarded with more land.
Castle Saunderson.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
In 1828, Alexander Saunderson, MP for Cavan, married Sarah Maxwell, daughter of Reverend Henry Maxwell 6th Baron Farnham, head of another of Cavan’s powerful Anglo-Irish families (Farnham Estate is now a hotel). Through marriage, the Maxwells are reputed to be able to trace their lineage back to the High King Brian Boru, and to the Scottish Robert Bruce. Alexander was a kind landlord, suspending rent collection from 1845-51 due to the famine.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
In the late 19th century, Colonel Edward Saunderson opposed Charles Stewart Parnell. Saunderson was the founder of Irish Unionism, a movement to preserve British rule in Ireland.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
The last Saunderson, Alexander, or “Sandy,” was a prisoner of war in WWII, sharing a cell with Sir John Leslie of Castle Leslie. In prison he studied law and later worked at the Nuremburg Nazi war crimes trials.
A Scout centre nearby has been established, and is a World Peace Centre for the Scouts.

3. Clough Oughter, County Cavan

Clough Oughter Castle, County Cavan, photograph by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [2]

Clough Oughter Castle is a ruined circular castle, situated on a small island in Lough Oughter, four kilometres east of the town of Killeshandra in County Cavan.

The castle is located in what was once the historic Kingdom of Breifne. In the latter part of the 12th century, it was under the control of the O’Rourkes, but it seems to have come into the hands of the Anglo-Norman William Gorm de Lacy. While the exact date construction began is unknown, it is estimated to have started in the first quarter of the 13th century.  
In 1233, the O’Reilly clan took possession of the area and completed the castle. They retained it for centuries in the midst of their ongoing conflicts with the O’Rourkes and with members of their own clan. It was there that Philip O’Reilly was imprisoned in the 1360s. 
Lough Oughter is regarded as the best inland example of a flooded drumlin landscape in Ireland and has rich and varied wildlife. The number of whooper swans which winter in the area represents about 3% of the total European population, while the lake also houses the largest concentration of breeding great crested grebes in the Republic of Ireland. 

Lough Oughter is a popular angling lake and is also popular with canoeists and boating enthusiasts. The Lough Oughter complex, along with Killykeen Forest Park, is a designated Natura 2000 habitat, Special Area for Conservation (SAC), and Special Protection Area (SPA) under EU legislation. 
Canoes and kayaks are available for hire from Cavan Canoe Centre, which also offers guided boat trips around the lake and out to the castle.” [3]

On the Discover Belturbet website, we are told the history of Clough Oughter:

Clough is the Gaelic word for stone, so literally this is Castle of Stone. The island was made by man, and the castle which sits upon it was also made by man and one can only speculate as to what a marvellous feat of engineering it took to accomplish such a build.  

The castle would have been part of the historical kingdom of Breifne, and specifically a part of  East Breifne, (Roughly speaking the same borders as modern day Cavan).  It is likely that the Crannog itself came sometime before the castle, and in the latter part of the 12th century, it was under the control of the O’Rourke clan, but with the invasion of the Anglo Normans, the crannog came to be controlled by the Anglo-Norman  William Gorm De Lacy. No concrete dates exist for the construction of the castle, but architectural elements from the lower two storeys suggest it was begun during the early 13th century.  

In 1233, the O’Reilly clan gained possession of the castle. They seem to have retained the castle for centuries throughout ongoing conflicts with the O’Rourkes, and indeed with members of their own clan. Philip O’Reilly was imprisoned here in the 1360’s with “no allowance save a sheaf of oats for day and night and a cup of water, so that he was compelled to drink his own urine”.  

After the Ulster Plantation, the castle was given to servitor Hugh Culme. Philip O’Reilly who was a Cavan MP and leader of the rebel forces during the Rebellion of 1641  seized control of the castle and kept it as an island fortress for the next decade. During this period it was mainly used as a prison. Its most notable prisoner would have been the Anglican Bishop of Kilmore, William Bedell, who was held here and is said to have died because of the harsh winter conditions in the prison.  

Clough Oughter castle became the last remaining stronghold for the rebels during the Cromwell era, but sometime in March of 1653 the castle fell to Cromwells canons. The castle walls were breached by the canon and the castle was never rebuilt after this point.  

Visitors will be astounded to note the thickness of the walls which can now be seen because of the canon bombardment. The island and the castle have received considerable refurbishments since 1987, making it safe to visit, and well worth the visit.” [4]

4. Corravahan House & Gardens, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan H12 D860 – section 482

Corravahan, County Cavan, photograph from Ian Elliot.

see my write-up:
Open dates in 2023: 9th to 24th January (Mon-Tue only)
13th February to 28th March (Mon-Tue only)
7th to 31st May (Sun-Wed only)
11th to 20th Jun (Sun-Wed only)
12th to 20th August (daily) Heritage Week
21st August to 12th September (Mon-Tue only)
Opening times:
9.00am to 1.00pm (except Sundays 2.00 pm to 6.00pm)
Tours on the hour, or by appointment.
Last admission 1 hour before closing time.

Entry fees: €10.00 Adults; €5.00 children/students/OAPs.

Groups, and other dates, by appointment.
Restricted parking during restoration works.
Phone for details, 087 9772224.

No dogs, please. CCTV in operation

Places to stay, County Cavan

1. Cabra Castle, on section 482 – hotel €€

see above

and lodges

2. Clover Hill Gate Lodge, Cloverhill, Belturbet, Cavan

Cloverhill House is now a ruin. Mark Bence-Jones tells us the house was built 1799-1804 for James Saunderson [1763-1842] to the design of Francis Johnston. Robert O’Byrne adds that it was in fact extended in 1799, but built originally in 1758 [thus was built for James’s father Alexander, who married Lucy Madden of the Hilton Park House Madden family, another Section 482 property. A date stone gives us the date of 1758]. [5] Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the house passed by inheritance to the Purdons, and was sold by Major J.N. Purdon ca 1958. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us that the Sanderson family were instrumental in the development of Cloverhill village with the building of the Church of Ireland church and estate workers’ houses.

The house is featured in Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Mansions of Ireland, Collins Press, Cork, 2010. 

The house passed down through the Sanderson family until James Sanderson (1763-1842), and then passed down through the female line since the son, also named James, had no heirs. It passed first to Mary Anne, who was unmarried, and then to her sister’s son, Samuel Sanderson Winter (1834-1912), whose parents were Lucy Sanderson and Samuel Winter (1796-1867) of Agher, County Meath. Samuel Sanderson Winter married Ann, daughter of John Armytage Nicholson of Balrath Bury, County Meath (we came across this family as Enniscoe in County Mayo was inherited by Jack Nicholson, of the Balrath Bury family). Samuel Sanderson Winter’s son died young so Cloverhill passed to the son of his sister, Elizabeth Ann Winter, who married George Nugent Purdon (1819-1910). This is how the house passed to the Purdon family.

The house passed to their son, John James Purdon, who died childless so it passed to his nephew, John Nugent Purdon, son of Charles Sanderson Purdon. John Nugent Purdon sold Cloverhill demesne ca 1958 to Mr Thomas Mee. [6] 

3. Farnham Estate, Farnham Estate, Cavan €€

Farnham House, photograph from National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

David Hicks tells us in his Irish Country Houses, A Chronicle of Change, that the wing of Farnham House that survives today is the truncated section of a much larger mansion. Dry rot led to demolition of a substantial section of the Maxwell ancestral home. The family’s connection was severed in 2001.

The estate was granted by King James I to the Waldron family in 1613. Henry Waldon named the estate after his wife’s family. The Waldrons built a castle here in 1620.

The website gives us a history of the estate:

“1664- The Waldrons of Dromellan Castle (early name of Farnham House) were forced to sell the estate to settle gambling debts. Bought by Bishop Robert Maxwell, thus beginning the Maxwell family connection that was to continue for more than 330 years (family motto is Je suis prêt – I am ready’).”

Mark Bence-Jones adds in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988, p. 123):

“…A few years later the estate was sold to Robert Maxwell [1598-1672], Bishop of Kilmore, whose cathedral was nearby. The Bishop’s son, John Maxwell, built a new house here ca 1700, which was improved ca 1780 by Barry Maxwell, 3rd Lord Farnham and first Earl of Farnham of 2nd creation, who added a library designed by James Wyatt.

John Maxwell died childless in 1713 so the estate passed through his brother Henry to Henry’s son John Maxwell (d. 1759).

See also the wonderful book by Melanie Hayes, The Best Address in Town: Henrietta Street, Dublin and its First Residents 1720-80, published by Four Courts Press, Dublin 8, 2020. She has a chapter on John Maxwell, (1687-1759)1st Baron Farnham.

Photograph of Farnham House from Country Life, A Chinese Chippendale chair in the hall at Farnham House. Pub Orig CL 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker. 

The website continues: “1756- John Maxwell (d. 1759) was ennobled, created Baron Farnham of Farnham, conferring prestige and social status.” He married Judith Barry from Newtownbarry, County Wexford. The website continues the timeline with their son:

“1761- Robert, Earl of Farnham [1720-1779, son of the 1st Baron Farnham], was a keen agriculturalist and agent of improvement who put the most technologically and scientifically advanced agricultural methods into action.

In 1777, noted agricultural scientist and topographer Arthur Young said of Farnham; “…upon the whole Farnham is one of the finest places that I have ever seen in Ireland; the water wood and hill are all in great stile and abound in a variety of capabilities. The woodland plantations of Derrygid coupled with the lakes of Farnham and Derrygid were noted by Young who described them as being ‘uncommonly beautiful; extensive and have a shore extremely varied.” In the 1770’s, approximately 100 labourers were employed in maintaining the landscape at Farnham.

Walk on Farnham Estate, Cavan, Sept 2013

Robert’s son John (1761-1778) predeceased his father. When Robert died his title died with him but his brother Barry (1723-1800) was created 1st Earl Farnham, of second creation in 1781. Before that, in 1771 his name was legally changed to Barry Barry, I am not sure why but it must have had to do with inheritance, as his mother Judith Barry died in the same year. In 1779 his name was legally changed back to Barry Maxwell, the year that he became 3rd Baron Farnham, of Farnham, Co. Cavan after his brother Robert died. He served as MP and Privy Counsellor.

He married, first, Margaret King. She gave birth to their heir, John James Maxwell (1759-1823). She died and he married, secondly, Grace Burdett. The website tells us of the building of Farham:

“In 1795, Earl of Farnham Barry [Barry Maxwell (1723-1800), who was 3rd Baron Farnham then created 1st Earl of Farnham asked James Wyatt, one of the most fashionable architects of that time, to draw designs for three ceilings. Although there is no evidence of them being installed at Farnham, these plans are now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Some work was undertaken by Wyatt though around the 1795 timeframe and to this day, a library case where his design has been noted stands inserted in an alcove on the staircase landing.

In the early 1800’s, a coat of arms was incorporated onto the façade of the house. Comprised of the arms of the Maxwell and Barry family, they are supported by two bucks, with a buck’s head on top of the Baron’s coronet as the crest.

The South Front of Farnham House. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Barry’s son James John Barry 2nd Earl engaged Francis Johnston to build. The website tells us:

In 1802 Francis Johnston, architect for Dublin’s famous GPO building, was engaged to complete an extension of the existing house to provide an edifice to the southwest garden front. This is the latter day surviving Farnham House, which is now incorporated as the centrepiece of the hotel complex design.

Mark Bence-Jones describes the house as built by Francis Johnston:

“Johnston produced a house consisting of two somewhat conservative three storey ranges at right angles to one another; one of them, which incorporated part of the earlier house, including Wyatt’s library, having a front of eight bays, with a die over a two bay breakfront, and a single-storey Doric portico; the other having a front of nine bays with a three bay pedimented breakfront; prolonged by one bay in the end of the adjoining range. The interior was spacious but restrained, the principal rooms having simple ovolo or dentil cornices. Elliptical staircase hall, with simple geometrical design in the ceiling; stone stair with elegant metal balustrade.

The staircase at Farnham House designed by Francis Johnston. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website continues: “In the depths of the earth beneath Farnham lies a myriad of passages. These passages were constructed to allow food, supplies and heating fuels to be brought into the mansion house by the servants. Such underground passages kept the servants out of sight from Lords and Ladies Farnham and their guests and no doubt were used by the servants to enjoy some activities of their own, which they would not have wanted Lord and Lady Farnham to witness!

When James John died childless in 1823, a cousin, grandson of John Maxwell 1st Baron and his wife Judith Barry, son of Reverend Henry Maxwell, who was Bishop of Dromore and Bishop of Meath. This cousin, John Maxwell Barry Maxwell(1767-1838), became 5th Baron Farnham in 1823.

The website tells us: “In 1823, a new system of management for the Farnham estate was introduced, employing persons as inspectors of districts, buildings, bog and land and a moral agent! The main duties of the moral agent were to encourage the tenantry to adhere to the main principles contained in Lord Farnham’s address to them. These included: keeping of the Sabbath, responsibility towards the education of their children, imbuing within their children a strict moral sense and to ensure that they abstained from all evil habits, including cursing and the distillation or consumption of alcohol.

The 5th Baron Farnham died childless in 1838, so his brother Reverend Henry Maxwell became the 6th Baron Farnham. He married Anne Butler, daughter of the 3nd Earl of Carrick. Their son Henry became the 7th Baron Farnham (1799-1868). Their daughter Sarah Juliana married Alexander Saunderson of Castle Saunderson. The other sons Somerset and James became 8th and 9th Baron and then the son of their brother Richard Thomas Maxwell, Somerset Henry Maxwell, became the 10th Baron.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us: “In 1839, 7th Lord Farnham (a distinguished scholar and genealogist who, with his wife, was burnt to death 1868 when the Irish mail train caught fire at Abergele, North Wales), enlarged the house by building new offices in the re-entrant between the two ranges. Also probably at this time the main rooms were changed around; the library becoming the dining room, and losing any Wyatt decoration it might have had; Wyatt’s bookcases being moved to the former drawing room.

The drawing room at Farnham House. The portrait to the right is of thr Rt Hon John, 5th Baron Farnham by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph of Farnham House from Country Life, Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Somerset Henry Maxwell, 10th Baron, married Florence Jane Taylour, daughter of Thomas Taylour, 3rd Marquess of Headfort. Their son, Arthur Kenlis Maxwell (1879-1957), became 11th Baron in 1900.

The website continues the timeline:

“1911- Records mention a staff of 11: butler, cook, governess, nursery maid, nurse, footman, ladies’ maid and several house and kitchen maids. Some 3,000 of Farnham’s then 24,000 statute acres were sold off.

1914-1918- Lord Farnham rejoined the military; he was captured, imprisoned and released after the Armistice. His political efforts failed to prevent the exclusion of three counties from the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland.

1921-1931- Lord and Lady Farnham left for England. They emptied the house of its furniture, due to widespread burning and looting of country houses. The 1923 Land Act would ultimately end landlordism in Ireland: by 1931, Lord Farnham retained only his demesne lands at Farnham, which he operated in a more intensive fashion in order to increase much-needed revenue.

Arthur Kenlis Maxwell managed to escape from a prisoner of war camp during the first world war. He and his family returned to Farnham estate in 1926 and began to renovate the house. His son and heir died in the second world war aged just 37, and the title passed to his grandson, Barry Owen Somerset Maxwell. Barry Owen’s mother died in a plane crash when he was just 21.

1950- Economic decline had by now affected the demesne. A Farnham Tintorreto ’Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples’ was sold in 1955; the Canadian National Art Gallery in Ontario paid some $100,000. 1956- Barry Owen Somerset Maxwell, 12th Baron Farnham became the last member of the Maxwell family to reside at Farnham House.

In 1961, dry rot was discovered within the Farnham house and in an attempt to alleviate it, the oldest part of the house looking across the parkland, and the additions made to the house in 1839, were demolished.”

Mark Bence-Jones describes the changes: “Ca 1960, the present Lord Farnham, finding the house to be badly infested with dryrot, demolished the range where the entrance had formerly been situated, as well as the additions of 1839; and remodelled the surviving Johnston range to form a house in itself; being assisted in the work by Mr Philip Cullivan. The pedimented front is still the garden front, as it was formerly; the back of the range being now the entrance front, with the portico re-erected at one end of it; so that the entrance is directly into the staircase hall. The surviving range contains Johnston’s dining room, which has been the drawing room since 19C rearrangement; as well as the boudoir and the former study, now the dining room. One of Wyatt’s bookcases is now in the alcove of the former staircase window. The demesne of Farnham has long been famous for its beauty; a landscape of woods, distant mountain views and lakes, which are part of the great network of loughs and islands stretching southwards from Upper Lough Erne.

The entrance front of Farnham House, as remodelled in 1961. In an attempt to alleviate dry rot, the oldest part of the house was demolished. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
The dining room at Farnham House. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph of Farnham House from Country Life, Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph of Farnham House from Country Life, Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
The fireplace in Lady Farnham’s bedroom at Farnham House. The pastels of the family arranged over the chimneypiece are by Hugh Douglas Hamilton and the portrait in the centre is by Sir Francis Grant. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.

The website continues:

1995 – 2001 – Lord Farnham abandoned farming and leased the agricultural lands to local farmers. One of his last acts on the Farnham demesne was the planting of a group of trees to mark the New Millennium. Lord Farnham died in March 2001 and his wife, Diana, Baroness Farnham now resides in England where she is a current Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II. Farnham House estate was sold to a local entrepreneur who developed it into a hotel resort.

Present Day – The resort is owned by Mr. Thomas Röggla and along with his team at the resort, every effort is made to provide genuine hospitality in this new phase in the evolution of this magnificent location. Thus, the indelible-mark made by the Maxwell family, as far back as 1664 on the landscape of Farnham Estate will continue to be appreciated by future generations.”

The multimillion refurbishment and extension was headed by architect Des Mahon of Gilroy McMahon, who had previously worked on the National Museum at Collins Barracks and the Hugh Lane Gallery extension.

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
The portico that was on the original entrance front was moved to the rear of the garden front to form a new entrance when part of the house was demolished in 1942. It is now incorporated into the interior of Farnham Estate hotel. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
As former Radisson Blu, Farnham Estate, Cavan 2013.
Farnham estate.
Walk on Farnham Estate, Cavan, Sept 2013
Farnham estate.
Walk on Farnham Estate, Cavan, Sept 2013

4. Killinagh House, McNean Court, Blacklion, County Cavanwhole house rental and a lodge €

Killinagh House, built 1827, a former Glebe House, three-bay two-storey over basement. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

and Killinagh Lodge, on the grounds of Killinagh House:

Killinagh Lodge is situated within 1 mile from the village of Blacklion in the picturesque grounds of Killinagh House, a former Church of Ireland manse dating back to Georgian times.

Set in the courtyard, Killinagh Lodge offers luxurious, purpose built, self catering accommodation on the shores of Lough MacNean. Boasting its own private access to the Lough, Killinagh Lodge is set in one of the most beautiful and tranquil locations where you can enjoy the grounds of the wider Estate.

The house website tells us:

Killinagh House is a unique, Georgian Country House, situated in the heart of the Marble Arch Global Geo Park, in west County Cavan. The perfect getaway for peace and relaxation. We cater for customer comforts, special requests and reasonable prices.

The perfect retreat to unwind and recharge the batteries. Peaceful and quiet with relaxed garden views. Killinagh House is at the heart of Marble Arch Global Geo Park, ideally located for outdoor pursuits, including golf, fishing and nature walks.”

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory further describes it: “Roughcast rendered lime-washed walls with string course above basement. Three-over-six timber sash windows to first floor and six-over-six to ground floor all with stone sills and timber internal window shutters. Front door set in smooth-rendered segmental-arched recess, having four-panelled door in classical surround of slender Doric pilasters, metope frieze and cobweb fanlight above. Basement well to east, north and west side. Stone steps leading to entrance with recent metal railings.

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

5. Lismore House, Co Cavan – was a ruin. Place to stay: Peacock House on the demesne

Lismore House, Co Cavan – restored house (believed to have been the agent’s house) and a place to stay, Peacock House, available on airbnb. Of the original Lismore House, attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce (1699-1733), only the two wings and tower survive.

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. The Inventory tells us it is: “Symmetrical pair of detached six-bay two-storey flanking wings to former Lismore House, built c.1730, having advanced outermost end bays to each block, single-bay two-stage flanking tower formerly attached to south corner of house having single-bay extension to north…Rubble stone walls having red brick quoins, eaves course, and string course. Red brick surrounds to oculi at first floor over round-headed ground-floor windows and central segmental-headed door.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Blind lunette and oculus to gables facing former house.”
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Tower having mansard slate roof, rubble stone walls with cut-stone platbands, cut-stone surrounds to window openings, round-headed openings with raised keystone and impost blocks to former ground floor, and segmental-headed openings to former basement level.”

The house was restored by Richard and Sonya Beer. [8]

It was probably built for Thomas Nesbitt, (c1672-1750), of Grangemore, County Westmeath, High Sheriff of County Cavan, 1720, MP for Cavan Borough, 1715-50 [7].

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Lismore House in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988), p. 186:

Originally the seat of the Nesbitts, passed to the Burrowes through the marriage of Mary [Mary Anne, born 1826, daughter of John Nesbitt and Elizabeth Tatam] Nesbitt to James Burrowes [1820-1860, of Stradone House, County Cavan] in 1854; Lismore passed to the Lucas-Clements family through the marriage of Miss Rosamund Burrowes to the late Major Shuckburgh Lucas-Clements in 1922.

Mary Anne and James had a son, Thomas Cosby Burrowes (1856-1925). He married in 1885 Anna 
Frances, daughter of Richard Thomas Maxwell, and grand-daughter of the sixth Baron Farnham (of Farnham Estate), by whom he has issue two daughters. One daughter, Rosamund Charlotte Cosby Burrowes, of Lismore, married, in 1922, Major Shuckburgh Upton Lucas-Clements in 1922. [9] The main house was vacated c.1870 when the family relocated to Lismore Lodge, formerly the agent’s house. 
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “Having stood empty for many years, the house fell into ruin and was demolished ca 1952, with the exception of the “tower” wings. The office wings are now used as farm buildings, and the family now live in the former agent’s house, an early house with a Victorian wing and other additions.” 

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

6. Olde Post Inn, Cloverhill, County Cavan €€

The website tells us: “The Olde Post inn was built in the 1800s. It opened as a post office in 1884, grocery & residence. It had a number of owners and was for some time derelict before it was renovated into a restaurant with accommodation in early 1990s. It has been run as a restaurant since and was taken over by Gearoid & Tara Lynch in November 2002. Since then it has gone under further refurbishment and been extended to include two Hampton Conservatories.

7. Ross Castle, Co Cavan (address is in Mountnugent, County Meath, A82HF89, on the border of Cavan) whole castle plus self-catering accommodation whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

Whole castle rental, or nearby Castle Cottage, Quarry House or Tea Rose Cottage.

The website tells us:

Ross Castle is situated on the shores of Lough Sheelin in the rolling countryside of County Meath. The Norman Tower House was strategically built in 1520 commanding views of Cavan, Westmeath, Longford, Meath and Lough Sheelin for the Nugent Family. 500 years later Ross Castle has retained its medieval charm while also providing the comforts of today’s world. The Castle is an ideal venue for conferences, small weddings, family get togethers, tour groups and private parties. 
With the new addition of the Great Room and the Bishop’s Suite bedroom at the Castle, combined with our two cottages and Farm House, you now have the option of booking the combined properties for up to 31 guests. Individual property rentals for smaller groups are also possible. While Ross Castle was a Bed & Breakfast in the past, it can now only be booked for groups and events

8. Slieve Russel Hotel, Cavan

Slieve Russel hotel, County Cavan, photograph by Geoffrey Arrowsmith, 2019 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

Stands on the site of what was once Cranaghan House, which was the Church of Ireland rectory for Tomregan parish from 1850 to 1959.

9. Virginia Park Lodge, Co Cavan


This was formerly the hunting lodge of the Taylours, Marquess Headfort, who also owned Headfort House in County Meath. It was built for the First Earl of Bective, Thomas Taylour (1724-1795), son of Thomas Taylor 2nd Baronet Taylor, of Kells, co. Meath, who served as MP for Kells and as a Privy Counsellor in Ireland. His mother was Sarah Graham from Platten, County Meath. Thomas the 1st Earl of Bective also served as Privy Counsellor. He married Jane Rowley, from Summerhill, County Meath.

It was their one of their younger sons, Reverend Henry Edward Taylour (1768-1852), who lived at Ardgillan Castle in Dublin. Their son Thomas the second earl became the 1st Marquess of Headfort, and added to Virginia Park Lodge and imported plants to create the parkland surrounding the Lodge. He married Mary Quin, from Quinsborough, County Clare. The Lodge passed through the family to the 4th Marquess, Geoffrey Thomas Taylour, son of the second wife of the 3rd Marquess. He married a music hall star, Rosie Boote, which scandalised society, but they moved to the Lodge and lived happily and had many children.

The Lodge was bought by chef Richard Corrigan in 2014, and he has undertaken much work to restore it to its former glory.


[1] 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.

[2] Ireland’s Content Pool,




[6]  see Timothy William Ferres:

[7] ibid.