It’s true what they say, the old ones really are the best. Thanks to the Irish Landmark Trust, some of Ireland’s oldest and most historic buildings have been tenderly restored so we can bed down for a night or two in these fascinating places! We’ve cherry-picked a few romantic hideaways where we know we’d like to stay a while. How about you?
SALTERBRIDGE GATELODGE: We all know that first impressions are important. A firm handshake, a bright smile, a handsome gatelodge… Okay, so gatelodges aren’t as popular as they used to be but they certainly had a purpose back in 1849 when the charming Salterbridge Gatelodge in County Wexford was built by the Chearnly family. The idea with gatelodges was that they gave an impression of grandeur and taste before you’d even stepped out of the horse-drawn carriage. You’ve got to ask yourself though: if the gatelodge looks this good, what was the main house like?
ANNAGHMORE SCHOOLHOUSE: Okay, so the idea of going back to school isn’t everyone’s idea of a break, but rest assured – you won’t leave Annaghmore with homework! Located in lovely County Sligo, the house was owned by Hughie Savage who rarely stayed here and spent most of his time on the other side of the Owenmore River farming cattle. It’s debatable whether he would recognize this luxury spot now, as when he did stay here he did so without running water or electricity (yes, the house now has both!). Hughie also went through his life without ever owning a bank account, instead choosing to keep all his money in a tin box. The box is still buried somewhere at Annaghmore and remains hidden to this day!
BARBICAN GATELODGE: Back in the days when property and estates were only passed on to male offspring, Randal William McDonnell, the sixth Earl of Antrim, was blessed with three daughters. So, with no strapping lads to pass his fortune to, in stepped his eldest daughter Anne-Catherine. Her father’s memory was well served and between her and her husbands (Anne-Catherine was married twice) she made this 19th Century miniature castle in County Antrim a unique and splendid home.
BATTY LANGLEY COTTAGE: In 1747, the wonderfully named Batty Langley published Gothic Architecture. The book was a bit of a hit, it seems, so much so that Thomas Connolly and Lady Louisa remade the façade of their Casteltown House Lodge into somewhat of a Batty Langley shrine (it was locals who named the site Batty Langley Cottage). The County Kildare cottage is quite a distance from the main house, which made it a perfect place for the lords and ladies to hide when they were tired of bowing, curtseying and discussing the price of eggs.
HELEN’S TOWER: If you have a Rapunzel in your life, she’d love Helen’s Tower in County Down. While she’s unravelling her hair she might even be able to spot the shores of Scotland off in the distance. The surrounding demesne was used by the 36th (Ulster) Division to train before they left for France to take part in WWI. And should you feel inspired by the sight of Helen’s Tower, you’ll be in good company as Alfred Tennyson dedicated one of his poems to this stunning sight.
BLACKHEAD LIGHTHOUSE: There’s something wonderfully romantic about lighthouses, perched out there on some craggy scrap of coastline with its light illuminating a choppy sea. Wouldn’t all of this would be even more romantic if you were snuggled up in an attic bedroom with moonlight streaming in the window? Interestingly, County Antrim’s Blackhead Lighthouse nearly never existed because the Northern Lighthouse Board thought the light wouldn’t benefit a wide enough area. They persevered, though, and along with the Giant’s Causeway, the Lighthouse is one of the prettiest jewels on Antrim’s coast.
GALLEY HEAD LIGHTHOUSE: Life for a lightkeeper at Galley Head Lighthouse in County Cork would have been an interesting little posting. From the windows here, lightkeepers would have witnessed the tragic loss of the Lusitania as well as British destroyers chasing German ships up St George’s Channel. They also would have been asked to alter the light because the Sultan of Turkey, who was staying nearby at Castle Freke, wanted to be able to see it from his room. The light now shines in an unusual landward arc, making the lighthouse that little bit quirky – as if it needed it!
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