Monday, 29 April 2013

Dromoland Castle, Co.Clare

A castle has stood on the site near Dromoland since the fifteenth century. Dromoland was traditionally the seat of the O'Brien family, a powerful Gaelic Irish family, who had retained status and wealth at the time of the Protestant Reformation by confirming to the state sponsored Church of Ireland. The family was granted the title 'Baron Inchiquin'; in return they vowed to renounce their Gaelic Irish titles and culture, and pledge allegiance to the Crown. The present castle at Dromoland dates from the early nineteenth century, the brainchild of Edward O'Brien, Lord Inchiquin. Inchiquin chose the English brothers, George and Richard Pain as architects. The Pains had already erected the magnificent castle neo-Gothic castle at Mitchelstown, and at Dromoland Inchiquin sought the increasingly popular Gothic for his new home. 

Building on the castle was completed c. 1835. It was mostly completed in local cut limestone, adorned with crenelations, corbles, and gothicised chimney stacks, while a tudor style porch was added at the front. Before the erection of the new castle, the O'Brien's principle home was at nearby Leamanagh Castle. Leamanagh contained a monumental entrance, dating from the seventeenth century. In 1907 Lord Inchiquin had part of this removed an re-erected at Dromoland. This  memorial highlighted the O'Brien family's links with Brian Boru, the one time ancient 'high king' of Ireland. When the sixteenth Lord Inchiquin sold the property in 1962, the castle was subsequently redeveloped as a luxury castle and golf complex. Significant additions were made, but in a sympathetic and harmonious way. The castle's opulence and prestige has attracted celebrities and politicians from all over the world. 

The castle viewed from across the lake 

Friday, 26 April 2013

New Facebook page launched

I've recently started a Facebook page. The address is
The page's aim is to bring together the three blogs that I currently compile. The page will bring you news of new posts on all three blogs. It would be wonderful if you could check it out and maybe 'like' it or even add as a friend. Feel free to comment on entries and pictures; feed back and discussion is always appreciated. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Mount Juliet, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny

One of Ireland's truly great country houses, Mount Juliet sits proudly along the meandering banks of the River Nore, in the south-eastern county of Kilkenny. Now internationally renowned for its golf course and luxury hotel, the house and estate was once owned by James, duke of York (later James II), eventually becoming home to the earls of Carrick, relations of the Butler earls of Ormonde, in the 1750s. The first earl of Carrick, Somerset Hamilton Butler (1718-74) orignally settled there in the 1750s. In 1745 he had married Lady Juliana Boyle, daughter of the first earl of Shannon, Henry Boyle. Upon taking up residence at their estate, the couple lived at nearby Ballylinch Castle. Butler decided, however, a more fitting home was needed, and work commenced on a new house on the opposite bank of the River Nore, sometime in the early 1760s. 

Construction on the new house was completed c.1770, and was named in honour of Butler's wife, commonly known as Juliet. The house occupies a prominent raised site overlooking the River Nore, lending to an overall sense of impressiveness. The house exhibits aspects of the Classical style but was quite distinct from the popular Classical houses erected at the same time; its pitched roof and high chimneys almost harping back to an earlier architectural era. 

The view above shows the close proximity of the house to the river. In the background is visible the bridge erected by the first earl in 1762. The bridge allowed the earl and his wife easy access from Ballylinch House to their new home on the opposite side of the river. The estate now provides the setting for a championship golf course of international renown, having hosted the World Golf Championship in 2002 and 2004, as well as the Irish Open for many years.

One of the house's drawing rooms

Monday, 15 April 2013

Myrtle Grove, Youghal, Co. Cork

The seaside town of Youghal (in Irish 'Eochaill', meaning 'yew wood') is situated on Cork's eastern reaches, flanking the border with Waterford. The town has a long illustrious and history, with Vikings. Normans, and English all taking advantage of its strategic setting at the mouth of the River Blackwater. In the sixteenth century, the Catholic led Desmond Rebellion in Munster was defeated by forces loyal to Elizabeth I. In the wake of the victory, New English settlers were introduced to large parts of Munster. Youghal and the surrounding areas was one such area to see an influx of new settlers. One of these was an English adventurer, Sir Walter Raleigh, who received some 40,000 acres in the area.  Raleigh held a number of properties in east Munster, including for a time, Lismore Castle. However, it was at Youghal that he left his greatest mark, where he resided whilst serving as the town's mayor in the 1580s at a fine Elizabethan style house known as Myrtle Grove. In the twentieth century the house was home to Sir Henry Arthur Blake, the one time Governor-General of Hong Kong.

The house at Myrtle Grove is said to date from the 1550s, and predates Raleigh's taking up of residence by some thirty or so years. The house is a detached six bay gabbled, three storey building  and is one of the very few examples of an unfortified Tudor house in Ireland. One of the main characteristics of Tudor architecture was the use of steep gables and tall chimneys, both features evident in the image below. 

View of the rear showing the steep gables and prominent tall chimneys 

Reception room

A number of myths have sprung up due to Raleigh's association with Myrtle Grove. One of the most well-known is that which says the first potatoes in Ireland were planted there, Raleigh having planted them upon his return from the New World. Another popular tale recalls a servant of Raleighs dousing him with water, mistaking the never before seen tobacco smoke for a fire! There is said, however, to be some truth in the legend that Myrtle Grove was where the Elizabethan poet, Edmund Spenser first penned the poem 'the Faerie Quuene'. Spenser had acquired land as part of the Munster Plantation, and was a close friend of Raleighs.