After we have all faced a very difficult twelve months with widely restricted travel, the Office of Public Works in Ireland has announced that there will be free admission to their heritage sites until the end of the year. This includes the impressive Palladian mansion, Castletown House (pictured) in County Kildare, which was saved from decay and vandalism by Irish Georgian Society President, the Hon. Desmond Guinness, in 1965.
The OPW Minister Patrick O’Donovan said: “As a society, we have all endured a huge amount in the past few months and I’m hoping with this measure to remind people of what’s on their doorstep here in Ireland and encourage them to help Ireland’s tourism industry to make it through 2021.
“Hopefully people will be able to discover something new or maybe they’ll be able to relive a childhood experience of visiting one of our country’s iconic monuments with their own families, but I’d encourage everyone to get out there and see what Ireland has to offer.”
Castletown House is amongst one of Ireland’s most stately country houses, designed originally for the Conolly family, it was rescued by the Hon. Desmond Guinness in 1965 after falling on hard times. Guinness, the second son of Bryan Guinness and Diana Mitford, was a passionate exponent of Irish Georgian architecture and he re-established the Irish Georgian Society in 1958 to protect Ireland’s Georgian heritage from neglect and decline.
The cost of refurbishment and restoration of the vast Castletown house was enormous, and the Trust established to deal with the restoration programme was eventually overwhelmed. In 1994 the responsibility for Castletown was, with the trusts agreement, passed to the Office of Public Works, and the house and estate opened to the public for the first time in 1999. The parkland has some intriguing features including this very unusual 18th very century cone barn – known as The Wonderful Barn- there is some debate about whether it was used as a dovecote or grain store.