Centuries of history in Tarbert Co Kerry


Tarbert House, whose new windows will arrive this week.

Set in the heart of ancient woodland that skirts Tarbert Bay is a magnificent house that dates from 1690. This is Tarbert House an internationally known heritage building, that has been home to the Leslie family since the late 17th Century. The Leslie family arrived in these parts after being on the winning side of the Battle of the Boyne and count bishops and various titled Leslies in their ancestry. Currently undergoing renovations, the three storey house over a basement is an imposing structure with lovely views of rolling countryside and of the River Shannon.

With the Shanid Historical Society, I was privileged to visit this historic home last weekend with the impressive and knowledgeable Ursula Leslie as our guide. She provided us with a wealth of information about so many aspects of the history of this place; the family, the visitors, the contents. For the purposes of this post I will concentrate on just a few of the features I loved the most – the entrance hall, furniture and some assorted beautiful things.

The entrance hall is more of a huge room than a hall in the modern sense, and through it have stepped some significant historic figures, including Charlotte Bronte, Winston Churchill, Daniel O’Connell, Jonathan Swift and Benjamin Franklin. John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy took refuge here.The Leslie family

The entrance hall with its elegant plasterwork coving had many uses. Here weapons were stored, family portraits graced the walls and entertainment was provided.


Entrance to Tarbert House. (Window shutters on the beautiful deep windows were closed as windows are being replaced )

Here is a most unusual fireplace –  one of a few in the house that are original and do not have a mantel.

An original fireplace - without a mantel

An original fireplace – without a mantel

One of the most striking features of the entrance are the armour racks above the doors and on the walls.

There are some excellent examples of original Irish furniture here – typified by being made from solid wood and not veneered. My favourite pieces are the chairs which were reversed and used when watching entertainment such as cock-fighting!

Some examples of solid Irish furniture in the hall – a wonderful couch with very solid feet and a very elegant table!

The next room  had stunning views of the Shannon


and an eclectic collection of items from silverware to furniture to household items. At each end of the room is a beautifully carved mirror.

I loved these two pieces – a ‘campaign’ chair  that predates Ikea and flat pack furniture by some time, and a campaign  chest

And how about some curtains that date from 1870…..that’s right, 1870! The pattern has been copied, most famously by Nancy Regan, and is known as the Tarbert Rose. The fabric is not heavy and seems to be possibly silk , and is very beautiful

Three more images that will stay with me

There is also  an extensive collection of artwork in this house, including many portraits of members of the Leslie family and a parchment dating from 1813, petitioning the British House of Commons for Catholic Emancipation.

imageThe house is crammed full of beautiful objects,each having a history and/or a story to tell. They are also very clearly part of a family, part of a home.

This house is open for visiting by appointment, in May, July and August each year and is well worth a visit, for Ursula Leslie will charm every one of her guests with stories,knowledge and facts that are truly astounding!




Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Living in Ireland

19 responses to “Centuries of history in Tarbert Co Kerry

  1. SV, this is a great post. Thanks so much for bringing us on the tour with you. Just love that fireplace!

  2. Another place I would love to see… so great that so much of the original decor has survived.

  3. I noticed the horse shoes under the gun rack. Wonderful place!

  4. Lyn

    Just wonderful – love the curtains! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Thanks you for taking me on a lovely tour of a place I probably will never visit! Loved the pictures and the history!

  6. This is a little late but there is a sheep station in the middle of what sometimes is the driest place on earth in central Queensland Australia but the haven is the property homestead called ‘Dunraven’ still in the same family since the 1880s.

    • Oh how interesting, Maree. I am sorry that I am only seeing this comment now! (The mysteries of the internet!) As far as I know the Dunraven name has Welsh connection as well as Irish. I wonder what the connection could be? Thank you for dropping by!

  7. Marilyn Rickards

    Visited here 5 years ago . My Great Grand Fathers home. So interesting for my New Zealand cousin and me . His Family farm is now the famous Kauri Cliff golf course in North land New Zealand.

    • How very interesting Marilyn to see where we Irish ended up! It’s a long, long way from Tarbert to New Zealand! I do hope that you enjoyed your visit and that you can come back again! Thank you for visiting my site!

  8. William Day did very well, raised 11 children , 2 who died same day at Flanders . His great Grand Children have many successes in New Zealand particularly in farming on a large scale.

  9. Marilyn Rickards

    Just saw this as looking up info for another cousin who is visiting Ireland from NZ in November. John George Leslie and James Francis Leslie . Died 1917 Flanders.

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