The great houses of Ireland’s Ancient East are monuments to the nation’s past.

Behind the Hall Door

The long corridors and great halls of Ireland’s elegant estates contain stories of splendour, adventurous art heists and strange tales, recounted by some of their own descendants. Tour the region’s magnificent big houses to discover their stories and connect with the history of Ireland’s Ancient East.

Wicklow’s Powerscourt House and Gardens is a lush treasure, bursting with architectural magnificence and landscaped beauty. The bustling estate incorporates speciality shops, a garden pavilion, interiors gallery and an exhibition on the history of the estate. Powerscourt Gardens are a sublime blend of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, statuary and ornamental lakes with secret hollows, rambling walks, and walled gardens. A visit to the Avoca Terrace Café is the perfect way to end a day at Powerscourt House and Gardens, basking in the shadow of the Sugarloaf Mountain.

A view over the lush lawns of Powerscourt House
A view over the lush lawns of Powerscourt House
Don’t leave Wicklow without Russborough House, one of the finest great houses open to the public in Ireland. This 300-year-old Palladian mansion features a fascinating art collection, while a recently-opened exhibition of film and photographs (including many 3D photographs taken by Sir Alfred Beit himself on his world tours of the 1920s and 1930s) is now on show. After lunch in the tea rooms, explore the extensive parklands, woodland rhododendron garden and the 20,000 square foot maze; children will enjoy the fairy trail and playground.
The staircase at Russborough House
Castletown House, County Kildare
Russborough House and Castletown House
Another great estate showcasing the Palladian mansion-style is Castletown House, built in the 1720s near Celbridge, Kildare.

Wander through its grand halls to discover extraordinary scale, stunning decoration and skilled plasterwork, as well as a fine collection of antiques and art. The Long Gallery is one of the most celebrated rooms in the estate, crowned with three ornate Murano glass chandeliers imported from Venice in the 1770s. Tours of the house cover the fascinating history of the Connolly family, owners and residents of Castletown House, while the recently restored 18th century designed parklands and river walks are open throughout the year.

Explorers looking for a combination of history and outdoor adventure should set their sights firmly on Oldcastle, Meath, where Loughcrew Estate and Gardens in the Boyne Valley can be found. The Megalithic mysteries of the nearby Loughcrew Cairns exert an ancient magic, and the verdant 200-acre Loughcrew parklands beckon for family walks. Built originally in the 1850s, Loughcrew House is a picturesque country estate worth exploring, while the Loughcrew Adventure Centre boasts a zipline, climbing wall and forest maze.

In Waterford, the demesne of Curraghmore Houseoffers a historic world of elegant courtyards, thick castle walls, and secret spiral staircases. The last of four great castles built by the de la Poer family, after their arrival in Ireland in 1167, the estate combines many architectural styles, from Georgian to Victorian, with the original core of the castle. Formal parterre, tiered lawns, a lake, arboretum and kitchen gardens survive to this day and welcome exploration, as do miles of beautiful river walks. Tours of the house, Shell House (a quaint decorative folly created in 1754) and gardens are available between April and September.

More exceptional gardens beckon at Tullynally Castle, a beautiful country estate in Westmeath that features lush public parklands. Still a family residence, the castle has been home to the Pakenham family (now the Earls of Longford) for over 350 years. The castle gardens date back centuries and contain many unexpected experiences and hidden delights: the walled gardens have extensive flower borders and an avenue of giant 200-year-old Irish yews is the perfect place for a stroll. For a true glimpse into the past, explore the beautiful Victorian kitchens of the Tullynally estate.

On to Wexford next, where the Victorian-designed Wells House and Gardens in Gorey boasts over 300 years of history.

Today the Wells estate features a working farm, while an elegant afternoon tea is offered in the beautiful surrounds of the dining room, overlooking a Victorian terrace. The Living Victorian House Tour gives visitors the chance to experience life in a Victorian estate through the eyes of Lady Frances and other historical residents of Wells House and Mrs Stone’s Tea Rooms offer delicious refreshments. Ramble through the lands on two peaceful walking trails—the Lady Frances Woodland Walk and Mogue’s Woodland Walk—to immerse yourself in this landmark property.

On the southern edge of Ireland’s Ancient East sits Fota House, a Regency-style country house in East Cork. In summer the estate provides the perfect backdrop for music festivals, open air garden theatre and summer recitals. In autumn and spring, wrap up warm for an invigorating walk around the arboretum and gardens, then take shelter inside with a guided tour. A range of seasonal events happen across the year, and the Frameyard Christmas Fair is a consistent favourite with visitors of all ages.
The library at Russborough House

The library at Russborough House
Diners at the Terrace Café, Powerscourt Estate

Diners at the Terrace Café, Powerscourt Estate
Fota House Arboretum

Fota House Arboretum
The grounds of Wells House

The grounds of Wells House
Triton Lake in Powerscourt Gardens

Triton Lake in Powerscourt Gardens

For more attractions and activities check out the See & Do section


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