Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Lough Eske Castle, Co. Donegal

Now renowned as a luxury hotel, the Lough Eske estate has a long and rich history stretching back centuries. The present castle and estate traces its heritage to the early seventeenth century and the Plantation of Ulster. The area had long been a stronghold of the O'Donnell family, one of the leading aristocratic Gaelic Irish families. In the wake of the defeat of the Gaelic Irish at the Battle of Kinsale, and the subsequent Flight of the Earls in 1607, the area was settled by a large numbers of Scots settlers, who were given large swathes of land. One of these families was the Knox family, who built a large house there, probably in the 1620s. Through marriage the estate and house passed into the Brooke family in the early eighteenth century. The Brooke's replaced the Jacobean mansion in the 1750s with a new house, which was in turn replaced in the later nineteenth century by the present Lough Eske Castle. 

In 1859 Thomas Brooke commissioned Fitzgibbon Louch (1826-1911) to design his new home. Louch, who originally hailed from Co. Tipperary, was at this time relatively unknown, but subsequently went on to design the impressive Magee College at nearby Derry. Louch's design was essentially Elizabethan with elements of Tudor, a fanciful design influenced heavily by the Romantic movement. Most fanciful was the tower, reminiscent of a medieval tower house or castle, with its turrets and crenelations. Its steep pitched roof and tall chimney stacks were more Elizabethan or Tudor than medieval, as were the large bay windows.

In 1894 the castle and estate were sold to General George White. In 1930 the castle was reinvented as a hotel, a relatively short lived incarnation which lasted only until 1939, when it was disastrously destroyed by fire.The ruined house then remained derelict until 2007, when it was restored. It now functions as a luxury five star hotel.

A view of Lough Eske 

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