Charleville Castle, County Offaly
Charleville Castle, near Tullamore, County Offaly is considered by many to be the best example of neo-gothic architecture in Ireland, having being designed by Francis Johnston for the Earl of Charleville, Charles William Bury in 1798, an eventful and turbulent year in Irish history. Located in the heart of what is still today one of the last surviving primordial oak woods of Ireland, it took 14 years to build, with each addition becoming more elaborate than the last. With dual grand staircases and fabulously ornate plaster ceilings including a William Morris stenciled ceiling in the diningroom which luckily survive to this day, but more about that later. In its heyday Charleville Castle was the finest castle in Offaly on a par with nearby Birr Castle, although the present Lord Rosse commented only recently that the stand of yew trees at Charleville were far superior to those at Birr, and so the one-upmanship continues...
The fact that Charleville Castle survives at all is a miracle? Some 40 years ago it was practically derelict having been ransacked over the years since the it was abandoned in the early 1900's by the last descendent of the Earls of Charleville, Colonel Howard Bury (the famous explorer) who inherited Belvedere House nearby in Mullingar. As luck would have it an inquisitive fellow, Graham Gordon climbed in the back window one day while on holidays in Ireland and fell in love with the place deciding there and then in the midst of all the grime and decay to restore the castle as best he could to its former glory albeit on a shoestring...
Without an ounce of sense and with a steady stream of international volunteers and craftsmen over the years since, under the direction of Bonny and Dudley who are curators at the castle, it has slowly come to life again. It is open daily to the public for tours (please phone in advance to let them know you are coming) which evolve into history lessons and great story telling sessions of the Knights Templar activities that have taken place there ‘sub rosa’ and the little girl Harriet who haunts the castle...
Their current project is to restore a 20'x 10' reproduction of an original canvas of the King Henry VIII at the baptism of the future Queen Elizabeth of England which once hung in the diningroom, but somehow found its way to Canada, but that's another (long) story...
For more information about Charleville Castle please click here 10 Hidden Gems near Charleville Castle
1 Stop on your way out to view the oldest oak woods in Ireland.
2 Visit Tullamore a midland market town that is still a hive of activity.
3 Stay or have lunch in the Bridge House Hotel in Tullamore, it has a very good deal midweek for 2 nights B&B including dinner for €99 pps.
4 Take a walk along the Grand Canal as far as the Round House (which is open during the summer) at Boland’s Lock.
5 Visit the Tullamore Dew Centre , also on the canal where Irish Mist was invented and Irish whiskey was distilled which brought great wealth and work to the town when it was needed.
6 Visit Durrow Abbey just north of Tullamore to see the High Cross there which depicts scenes for the old and new testaments.
7 There is a hot air balloon festival every July to commemorate the original disaster which burned down half of the town in 1785.
8 The Tullamore Show one of the largest agricultural shows takes place here every August with pedigree animals coming from all over Ireland to compete for best in show.
9 Similarly the Game & Country Fair at Birr Castle, is another excellent family day out with plenty of animals and medieval jousting, hawking demonstrations etc.
10 Visit Birr Castle the Gardens and Science museum and the see the largest tree house in Ireland.