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Castles of Ireland
Ballyhack Castle, Co. Wexford

Ballyhack Castle Ballyhack Castle is located on a steep slope in a commanding position overlooking Waterford estuary. The castle, a large tower house, is thought to have been built c.1450 by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John, one of the two great military orders founded at the beginning of the 12th century at the time of the Crusades.

Ballymore Castle, Co. Galway

Ballymore Castle, Co. Galway Ballymore Castle in Lawrencetown was originally a Madden tower house of the 15th century, to which a house was added in 1620. There has been major alterations since.

Ballymore Castle was built by John Lawrence in year 1585 on the land he acquired through his marriage to the daughter of O'Madden. The castle was damaged in subsequent wars and repaired by his son, Walter, in 1620.

John Lawrence Jnr. was dispossessed by Cromwell in 1614. he having espoused the royalist cause in the war of that time. The castle and much of his estate was given to Sir Thomas Newcomen. He leased the castle to the Lawrences for many years. On his death it passed to Nicholas Cusack of Cushinstown, Co. Meath. who sold it to John Eyre of Eyrecourt about 1720. The Seymour family settled in the castle around 1700.

The castle was modernised and a large house added in 1815. Thomas Seymour purchased the castle and lands outright from Giles Eyre around 1824. This family were to remain in possession of the castle until the early part this century. Mrs. Hale, a relative of the Seymours, inherited the estate, which was somewhat reduced with a large portion having been acquired by the Irish Land Commission.

Bantry House, Co. Cork

Bantry House This marvellous house, formally the seat of the Earls of Bantry, has an incomparable setting overlooking Bantry Bay. It is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Egerton Shelswell-White, whose family came there in 1739. The Earls of Bantry travelled extensively in Europe collecting treasures and objects d'art which were brought back to furnish and enhance the great house. In one room hang four panels of Royal Aubusson tapestry which was made for Marie Antoinette on her marriage to the Dauphin: there is a Gobelin tapestry which is reputed to have been the property of Louis Phillipe, Duc d'Orleans. There is wainscoting of 17th century Spanish leather, brightly painted and embossed, chests from the Indies, urns from the Orient. The effect is one of an exuberance and enthusiasm which is infectious. Open every day throughout the year. In the courtyard of Bantry House, an Exhibition Centre has been developed. This features the ill-fated French Armada invasion of December, 1796.

Barberstown Castle, Co. Kildare

Barberstown Castle Barberstown Castle was one of the first great Irish country houses to open up its splendour to the outside world. The Castle was built in the early 13th century by Nicholas Barby, a heritage that embraces over 750 years of Irish history. The restaurant at Barberstown is renowned for its creative food and has received the RAC Restaurant Award for 1996/97 and also two Rosettes from the AA for 1996/97. Each of the en suite bedrooms has been decorated in an individual style and dedicated to the ordinary and extraordinary people who have lived within its walls. The Castle received Hospitality and Comfort Awards from the RAC for 1995. Golf can be arranged at The Kildare Country Club and at several other courses nearby. Expert equestrian tuition as well as hunting, racing, tennis, gym, squash and clay pigeon shooting are all available in the area. Coarse, trout and salmon fishing on the River Liffey, ghillies available. For the less active, relax in an atmosphere of pure calm and tranquillity, deep in the heart of County Kildare. Directions: Barberstown Castle is 30 minutes drive from Dublin City centre and 30 minutes drive from the airport. It is an ideal first or last stop on your country house tour of Ireland. South on the N7 take the turn for Straffan at Kill. Travelling west on N4 take the turn for Straffan at Maynooth. Price guide: Single IR65-IR85; double/twin IR121-IR130; suite IR175.

Benburb Castle, Co. Tyrone

Benburb Castle, Co. Tyrone The Benburb Estate has a long history', stretching back to the time of theO'Neills , Kings of Ulster. At the height of his power, Shane O`Neill had his main residence at Benburb, the site of which can still be identified, overlooking the river Blackwater.

In the early 1600s' at the time of the Plantation, Sir Richard Wingfield, laterVicount Powerscourt, was granted 9000 acres of land in and around Benburb, including the village itself, in recognition of his services to the British Crown. The Wingfield / Powerscourt family were also granted another estate near Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, where they mainly lived and where the Powerscourt Estate still exists, though unfortunately the house was destroyed by fire in the1970's.

In 1611, as part of the terms of the grant of land in Benburb. Wingfield Powerscourt built a castle and bawn at Benburb, which is still in existenceand is now under the care of the D.O.E. (Historical Monuments) who recently opened an interpretation centre in the restored west keep.

The house inside the bawn walls was a later addition, built by one of the Powerscourt family in the 1700's. In 1877, James Bruce a wealthy distiller from Belfast and a partner in the firm of Dunville & Co bought the Benburb Estate in its entirety from the then Viscount Powerscourt, and set about establishing his country home in Benburb.

James Bruce made many changes in Benburb. In order to build his new manorhouse, now the Servite Priory, he relocated all the inhabitants on the South side of the village street, knocked down the houses and built on the cleared site. He built a new Police Station in the village, the Post Office and a number of houses, one of which the present Church of Ireland rectory. James Bruce died in 1917 at the age of eight-two. The estate passed on to his brother Samuel who lived in London. He immediately sold the entire estate. After that it passed through a series of owners without anyone taking residence until 1940 when the War Office requisitioned the manor for the use as a military hospital. The army left the manor in 1946 and Fr. Peter Moore C.C. Moy and Fr. Thomas Soraghan P.P Clonfeacle purchased the estate on behalf of the Servite Fathers in 1947.

When the Servites took over the estate, now reduced through various Land Acts to about 100 acres, it was originally used as a seminary for training student priests. At its peak, around 1960, there were as many as 100 priests and students in Benburb. In 1967 the Servites acquired premises in Dublin, and transferred the students to the city.

The estate a Benburb fell into comparative disuse, with a community of about 10 Servites still living in the main house. In the 1980's the Servites decided to release the buildings which had been used by the students, for use by the wider community.

A new community group, the Benburb Centre, came into being in 1985. The Benburb Centre is a registered charity and has become a company limited by guarantee. It is managed by a voluntary Board, composed of representatives of both communities, and its main aim is to promote good community relations between the two traditions in Northern Ireland. In the past, both communities have shared the history of the area though at different times. It is the goal of the Benburb Centre that, in the years ahead, the two communities will share the future together.

Blackrock Castle, Co. Cork

Blackrock Castle, Co. Cork It is perhaps a little ironical that the most complete building of its type in the County of Cork, and incidentally one of the city's best known landmarks, is not truly a castle at all. As is evidenced by the commemorative stone on its entrance gateway Blackrock 'Castle' was built by the Corporation in the earlier part of the 19th century.

The original 'Castle' is indicated as having been a fort, erected by Lord Deputy Mountjoy in 1604 as much to defend himself against the citizens of Cork - who had showed rebellious inclinations the year before when they refused to acknowledge King James I as their new monarch following the unlamented death of Queen Elizabeth - as against the threat of a new Spanish invasion. In fact, there was already a castle or fort on the site which Mountjoy merely renovated and put in a more defensible position. This is supported by a document which petitioned the Queen in 1585 stating that Cork had a fort called Blackrock' which the citizens maintain with artillery to resist pirates and other invaders.'

This building had a beacon light from a turf fire to guide shipping. In 1722 the old tower was destroyed by fire and a new one built by the citizens. The second building was also destroyed by a fire in 1827, and was again rebuilt by the city fathers at a cost of about 1,000 pounds.

Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare

Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare The three murder holes located in the walls of what was once the strongest castle in Munster enabled defenders to pour boiling water on attackers below.

The Vikings first set up a trading post on the castle site in 950. The MacNamara Clan built the great keep at Bunratty in 1425 and it subsequently fell into the hands of the O'Briens, Princes of Thomond.

The Anglo Irish Studdart family acquired the castle in 1720. They lived in the castle until the 19th century when they abandoned it and built Bunratty House, which stands on a hill at the opposite end from the castle.

In 1954 Lord Gort purchased the castle and restored it to its present condition. It is now part of the renowned Bunratty Folk Park and is open to the public year round. Twice nightly (subject to demand) banquets are held with a four course meal, wine and music following the tradition of hospitality surrounded by splendour at Bunratty.