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Dromoland Castle | Ashford Castle | Photos of Irish Countryside | Irish National Horse Farm

 

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On my trip to Ireland in September, 2004, I visited two castles, Dromoland Castle, and Ashford Castle. Both were unique, and stylistically different in terms of architecture, ambience, and physical setting; and both were also full of history.

Dromoland Castle title with fancy green scroll design and medieval style font capitals


fancy capital "D" with scroll design romoland Castle is located in County Clare, Newmarket-on-Fergus in Ireland. It is considered one of the finest examples of a baronial style castle in Ireland.
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It has an elegant and regal atmosphere, surrounded by a huge golf course, on rolling hills, with scenic woodlands, and a lake.

According to Irish history, the original castle on the site is said to have dated back to the eleventh century, and was more rustic in nature than the existing castle of today, similar in style to the Bunratty castle. Dromoland was originally owned by the O’Brien Clan, who were:

“...an ancient, Gaelic family of royal blood, whose ancestry dates back to the time of Brian Boroimhe (Boru), one of the High Kings of Ireland during the eleventh century. Like other castles of the times, it served as a defensive stronghold. In 1543, the chief of the O’Brien Clan, who was also known as Morrough, the Prince of Thomond, was forced to surrender his royalty to King Henry VII, after which he became known as the Baron and Earl of Inchiquin. From the time of Morrough O’Brien, (the original owner of Dromoland) until the 17th Baron of Inchiquin — who still owned the castle in the 1960’s — the Inchiquin Family (had) lived at Dromoland Castle for more than one thousand years.” 2

“In 1736, a second castle was built in the design of the Queen Anne period with a wing enclosing a central courtyard. 3 This wing of the castle remains today and is almost a century older than the other sections of the castle. The rest of the castle was completed in 1826 in a gothic style, with four large towers made of a dark blue limestone that was cut from a nearby quarry, and built at great expense for the times. During the latter portion of the 19th century, the Inchiquin family wealth dwindled due to a series of Land Acts, until Ireland had won its independence from British rule in 1921. Landlords during this time were forced to sell their farmlands, and so the Inchiquins lost their main source of income. However, they were able to still hold onto their castle. At one point, IRA leaders in Dublin tried to destroy Dromoland castle during the revolutionary war against Britain, but it was spared due to the generosity of its current owner, Smith O’Brien, who, in spite of his artistocratic background fought for the rights of oppressed Irish peasant farmers, leading the rebellion against the British authorities at this time. Although the loss of income suffered by the Inchiquins made the castle difficult to keep, they managed to do so, and the castle was maintained by the personal wealth of the 15th Baron of Inchiquin’s wife, and after her son, Sir Donough O’Brien, until 1948 when they began to take in tourists as paying guests. Finally, in 1962, the castle was sold by the present Lord of Dromoland (Inchiquin), to an American industrialist by the name of Bernard McDonough, whose family was also of Irish descent. Over a period of six months, the castle underwent major renovations and was eventually reopened as a luxury hotel. The original style and atmosphere of the castle are said to have been preserved, and the rooms “look very much today, like they did when the Inchiquin family lived there... including its stately, baronial country house atmosphere.” 4

The original wing is very elegant inside. Guests enter into a two-story stone lobby (made from the dark blue limestone) that is complete with suits of armor, a large dark wood carved table, elegant rose tapestry covered chairs, and dark red drapes. On one side, a stone passage and hallway leads to the main drawing room of the castle. The hallway and drawing room have a high ceiling, and are wallpapered with a deep red and gold striped paper, while the walls are lined with portraits of the barons and former noblemen and women of the Inchiquin family. At the other end of this hallway is an octagonal-shaped library enclosed in one of the castle turrets, which serves today as a cocktail bar and a sitting room. It has a very high ceiling with walls that have built-in bookshelves, which now hold the bar’s wine bottles. The sitting room walls are covered in an elegant gold wallpaper, and are home to a collection of charming Staffordshire porcelain dogs, each perched on its own individual shelf, spaced randomly at different heights in between the drapes and bookshelves. The drapes are made of an elegant gold and gray striped fabric with large tassles. A dark, carved wooden doorway leads to the adjacent dining hall known as the “Earl of Thomond” Dining Hall, which is decorated in a gold and olive green velvet wallpaper, with matching drapes similar in style to the library and drawing room drapes. The drapes and wallpaper in the dining hall merge at the top with an intricate gold and white ceiling molding (which is also found in the library as well) that finishes off the two rooms of the dining hall. Throughout the castle there are white, carved marble fireplaces. The walls of the dining hall are also covered with distinguished-looking portraits of the Inchiquin family, and completed with Waterford crystal chandeliers, and huge fireplaces, all lending to its regal atmosphere.

* History of the Dromoland Castle Crest:
Back in the drawing room, which adjoins to the hallway at the opposite end from the library, is a huge, carved wooden staircase that goes to the upper level of the castle. On each of the bannisters of the staircase are the three carved lions representing the castle’s coat of arms and crest. They are the same lions which also appear on the front exterior of the castle’s original entrance, carved in stone. The symbolic meaning of the lion in medieval times, was its loyalty and courageousness, even in the face of death. To learn more about the O’Brien clan’s coat of arms and its meaning, you can visit the Clan’s official website genealogy page, where you can see a picture of the original Brian Boroimhe Boru, the High King of Ireland in the 11th century as well, and read about the evolution of the heraldry. There is also a famous medieval harp, one of the oldest surviging Gaelic harps, which was found and said to have belonged to Brian Boru, but has since been determined to be from a later era, more around the 14th or 15th centuries. The harp is also a traditional and ancient symbol of heraldry in Ireland, and the Brian Boru harp at Trinity College, was used as a model for coat of arms of Ireland.

As a visitor to the castle, you feel as though you are immersed in the history of a bygone era, reinforced by the rural landscape, woodlands, and vistas that surround it.

To see more photos of the castle, and read more on its history, visit: www.dromoland.ie.

Historical facts on Dromoland Castle and the Inchiquin Family borrowed/compiled from: "A Brief History of Dromoland Castle," a two-page essay published by Dromoland Castle.



DROMOLAND CASTLE
Location: Newmarket-on-Fergus
County Clare, Ireland
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The road leading into Dromoland with a golf course and lake on the right.

 

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The original wing and front entrance of the 2nd, more refined Baronial style castle built on the site.
(The second wing added 100 years later, can be seen over to the far left of the picture.)

 

The castle Coat of Arms— three lions with outstreteched forepaws —
found carved in stone on the outside of the original front entrance to the castle,
and are also found carved into the bannisters of the hall staircase.

 

A side view of the castle grounds.

The main wing of the castle, central courtyard and grounds, showing the dining hall covered with ivy (center), and
the library, which is located in one of the octagonal-shaped turrets to the right.


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The present-day main entrance to the castle/hotel.

 

The entrance on to the Dromoland Castle lobby is shown below.

Dromoland Castle lobby

The Dromoland Castle lobby, with suits of armor against the stone wall,
and carved wood furnishings.

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Shots showing part of the other wing of the castle.

 

 

Some of the Inchiquin Family portraits in the main hallway, left.
The large, carved staircase going to the upper level of the castle, at right.

 

The dining hall with royal family portraits and Waterford Crystal chandeliers,
was
as they say, "fit for a king."

 

Royal portraits of family members - a former king or baron , and lady of the Inchiquin family.
(For some reason, the King reminds me of George Washington.)

 

Me standing in the lobby by one of the suits of armor.

 

 

The Walled Garden

 

 

Continue to Ashford Castle ...

 

All photos © by, Jackie Apel