Glebe House, Donegal 

Glebe House, a beautiful early Georgian rectory was bought by Derek Hill, an English artist who fell in love with Donegal when he came to paint the portrait of Henry McIlhenny who owned nearby Glenveagh Castle. With an artist's eye for colour and composition he set about furnishing it in the Arts & Crafts style which was popular at the time. Several of the rooms are papered in original William Morris papers that compliment his own acquisitions, collected on his travels throughout Europe and the Far East. Elegant rooms with tall sash window look out over the extensive gardens which lead down to Gartan Lake. Each little tableau whether it's a colourful collection of glasses or a small bowl of shells is a delight in itself. Framed black and white photos of the his friends, Seamus Heaney, Prince Charles, Yehudi Menuhin, Ian Fleming et al grace side tables and mantel pieces but pride of place goes to  portraits of his nearest and dearest friends Eddie, the gardener, Gracie, his housekeeper of 35 years and his beloved dog Caesar...

Glebe House, Donegal by Susan Byron of

Derek Hill in his wisdom insisted that his house and the contents, over 300 works of art by 20th century artists, which he generously left to the Irish nation where not to be rearranged, broken up or sold off, a fate that sadly became of other bequests. So here, you have in one beautiful house an exquisite collection of Irish, modern and International art and sculpture exactly where they were placed by Derek Hill himself. I mean where else would you find a Renoir hanging in the spare bedroom or a Paul Henry gracing the bed post in the master bedroom. My favourite room though, was the kitchen which apart from feeling that you could easily pull up a chair and have a cup of tea, pays homage to the Tory Island school of painters of which Derek Hill instigated on behalf of the islanders....

Glebe House Kitchen by Susan Byron of

Which all came about following a chance encounter with the lighthouse keeper from Tory Island who encouraged Derek to visit which he did  and fell in love with the island (you can’t help yourself) its rugged landscape and people. One day an islander glancing over Derek's shoulder as he was painting a landscape commented (in true Irish style) that he 'could do better than that if he tried’. Which is how the bold James Dixon came to take up painting at the age of 72 with Derek’s guidance, selling his first painting for £15 a small fortune back in those days. News spread fast, with many other farmers and fishermen from Tory following suit, their love and closeness to the land and sea inspired them to produce (with Derek’s encouragement) some of the most endearing portrayals of island life ever produced. Many of which hang in this colourful country kitchen and tearooms.

Open from Easter to October you can visit the gallery in the converted outhouses for free or take a guided tour of the house for €4.

For more information re Glebe House please click here.

To find out more about the Top 10 Galleries in Ireland please click here.

For more Things To Do and See in Donegal please click here.


Tour Scotland in 2024 with Susan Byron