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