Discovering Castle Oliver, Limerick, Ireland

Castle Oliver – where’s that?  A couple of Facebook posts made me wonder – thank you, Bridget Elliott and Seamus Quaide! And so on a balmy day last summer I headed off to discover this beautiful building, nestled under the Ballyhoura Mountains near Ardpatrick, County Limerick.

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Entrance to Castle Oliver

The entrance is guarded by a pair of fearsome looking griffons. This a relatively recent entrance, lacking the grandeur of the original gate lodges, but is nevertheless pleasant and certainly not your average gate!

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One of the original entrances to the Castle Oliver Estate

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Another of the older entrances to Castle Oliver, no longer in use

Crossing in front of the very spectacular house, veritable herds of rampant griffons protect the magnificent structure!  The setting is stunning  with an uninterrupted view of the Ballyhoura Hills in the ‘front yard’ so to speak, with the immediate area around the house  laid out in manicured terraced lawns, fringed by woodland near the house. A carp lake, sunken garden and fountains complete the picture.

Imposing  house, made from local sandstone

Imposing house, made from local sandstone, beautifully located

This house bears testament to two women – sisters Isabella and Elizabeth Oliver Gascoigne, talented artists who designed stained glass windows and  glass panels. Isabella was also an accomplished woodturner. They built this house in 1843 mainly for lavish country entertaining. Many locals were engaged in the building of the house during the Famine, and so avoided the ravages of hunger. Ownership of  the estate  changed several times over the decades, and it was eventually divided up into lots and sold off to pay bank debts. The house  fell into decay and  at one stage had a large tree growing out through the roof. All but 15 acres or so surrounding the house were sold off . It was almost a total ruin when it was purchased by the current owners, the Cormacks, in 2006.  Roofless  and windowless, they set about turning the shell into a beautiful home for themselves and their three young children. 

I love the elegance of the house with all its architectural detail – I have a passion for interesting chimneys  and had lots of them to look at here !

In the large entrance hall there is a beautiful stained glass window. Some  of the original panes had survived and thanks to old surviving photographs it was possible to recreate the window in its entirety.  Isabella and Elizabeth had designed this feature.

Working from old photographs it has been possible to create an interior that reflects many of the  features of the original house. Some small portions of original decoration  survive as on the dining room ceiling below.

The most beautiful room in the house, in my opinion, is the ballroom, with stunning views of the countryside and a magnificent ceiling. Here too can be seen some of the original artisan work at the fireplace.

Lavishly furnished bedrooms fitted out with carefully sourced period pieces, many with a history all of their own, add to the ‘sense of place’ of this lovely house.

All great houses had a wine cellar. Castle Oliver is no exception and it boasts one of the largest ever built in these parts, with room for tens of thousands of bottles!

Castle Oliver is a gem in the Limerick countryside. How wonderful to see beautiful houses such as this being loving restored and  open to the public, so we can share the splendour and grandeur that was such an integral part of our society in days gone by.

Further reading:

For opening times see http://www.castleoliver.ie/

http://www.abandonedireland.com/Castle_Oliver.html

22 Comments

Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Social History Ireland

22 responses to “Discovering Castle Oliver, Limerick, Ireland

  1. Like many others in South Limerick I had never heard of it either. Until few years back when Santa visited in the weeks leading up to the holiday to take the orders from the children. Suddenly we all knew where CO was. Thank you Santa!!!

  2. Wonderful, informative post, as always, SV. I hadn’t heard of this place but will look out for it next time I’m in Limerick. I hear Ballyhoura itself is special too.

  3. What are you doing to me, add this to the list… now how many months am I up to up now? What a fascinating place… …Thank you..

  4. Stunningly beautiful… thanks for sharing :-)

  5. A gem indeed, and happily saved. It could so easily have gone the way of too many other grand old properties.

  6. Thank you for the tour of this castle! It is wonderful that it has been restores and shared with the public. I like the unusual chimneys and wine cellar. Great photos!

  7. Your blog is SO delightful, enlightening, and this is an example of why I wish there were more hours in a day … so I could visit you blog more often. History … You are into history? Is that a safe assumption? And these pictures … Wow. Okay, I’m out. Peace, T

  8. These pictures and this castle brought the memories of my recent trip to Limerick flooding back. So beautiful and serene. I hope I can back and explore places like this that I missed.

  9. Lyn Nunn

    I could happily play “ladies” in such a wonderful castle. The stories the walls could tell, even though it is not that ancient.:)

  10. Hi- enjoying your blog very much- but as the person who owned the castle before selling it to the Cormacks, I’d like to set the record straight! They didn’t save it from ruin, I did- and it’s an insult that they pretend otherwise. They lavished money on it, replacing important historical features, installing heating, bringing it up to current standards, but when they bought it the roof was 98% intact, all the important rooms had been saved, the ruined main stairwell had been entirely renewed, with a solid oak staircase costing 40,000 euros, and the castle was a much-loved and very liveable home- not the ruin they pretend it to have been. The grounds were also expensively restored and maintained. If anyone is interested they can read about the pre-Cormack restorations in Castle Oliver & the Oliver Gascoignes, by Nicholas Browne.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    Sincerely, Nick Browne

    • Hello there! Thank you very much for the information. I am happy to place a link to your book Castle Oliver and the Oliver Gascoignes here. http://www.lulu.com/shop/nicholas-browne/castle-oliver-the-oliver-gascoignes/hardcover/product-2650624.html.
      Thank you for dropping by – glad you enjoy the blog. Merry Christmas! Angela

      • Hi Angela- that’s so kind of you, thank you!

        I wrote the book as a way of preserving all the information, anecdotes and photos I gathered while I lived at the castle, to preserve it all for posterity and to hand on to the next owners. But people kept asking for copies, so I donated them to schools and libraries in the region, plus I’ve sold about 300, some as downloads, some as hardback or paperback, to people all over the world.

        The most important thing is that regardless of who was responsible for the saving of it, this amazing castle’s future seems assured.

        Best wishes, Nick Browne

  11. Stephen Mills

    I have some photos of Castle Oliver from around 1982..

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