Castle Saunderson

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Castle Saunderson
Belturbet, County Cavan in Ireland
Castle Saunderson
Castle Saunderson
Area34 acres
Site information
OwnerScouting Ireland (CSI)
Open to
the public

Castle Saunderson (Irish: Caisleán Shandarsan) is a castle near Belturbet, County Cavan, Ireland. It was the former family seat of the Saunderson family, it is now in ruins.

The Castle Saunderson International Scouting Centre is a Scouting Ireland facility, opened in 2012 within the grounds of the castle[1]. The centre provides indoor accommodation and campsites covering 34 acres (14 ha). It is open to Scouts year round, as well as to non-Scouts for most of the year. It currently acts as a World Scouting Centre for the Scouts, alongside Cairo International Scout Centre in Egypt and others.


Family home[edit]

The Saunderson family acquired the original castle during the Ulster plantation. The original castle was inhabited by the O'Reillys of Breffni and formerly known as Breffni Castle since the 14th century. Robert Sanderson, who fought on the side of William of Orange inherited the castle from his father in 1676. James II's troops burned the castle in 1689. Months later, 400 of King James's soldiers were ambushed here while on retreat from the battle at Newtownbutler. They were driven toward the river Finn and many drowned.[2]

The present castle dates to 1840 and was destroyed by fire in 1990[2]. A notable member of the family born there was Edward James Saunderson, a founder of the Ulster Unionist Party.[3] Barry Maxwell, eldest son of Somerset Maxwell, and Baron Farnham heir apparent, died in cycling accident on the estate in 1879.[4]

The last Saunderson who owned the castle was Edward's grandson, Captain Alexander "Sandy" Saunderson[2][5]. He was a prisoner of war in WWII and was later present at War Tribunal at Nuremberg as the legal advisor to Lord Justice Lawrence[6]. He sold the property to a businessman in 1977. He had planned to use it as a residence[citation needed], but this never transpired. It later served as a hotel,[7] but was damaged by fire, the third fire to occur at the Castle.

The Saunderson Castle estate, currently only 103 acres (42 ha),[citation needed] has entrances in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The grounds include a church with crypt and family grave yard.

International Scout Centre[edit]

In 1997 the castle and its grounds were acquired by Scouting Ireland (CSI). The subsequent formation of Scouting Ireland, and financial difficulties, delayed its development, and put the campsite project in doubt.[8] With support from the American Ireland Fund and Cavan County Council, substantial progress occurred, with the announcement in November 2008 of EU funding for the project, amounting to over €3 million.[9][10][11]

Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, opened the €3.7 million European-funded Castle Saunderson International Scouting Centre in Cavan on 18 August 2012. The President was joined by dignitaries from both sides of the Border, including Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Jonathan Bell, Nelson McCausland and Jennifer McCann and Minister of State in the Republic Fergus O’Dowd.[1]

In February 2015, Minister Heather Humphreys announced the approval of the restoration by Waterways Ireland of a canal, part of the Ulster Canal, connecting the site to the Erne basin.[12]

The site delivers programme which compliments the Messenger of Peace Award.[13]

The first camp chief of Castle Saunderson is local Fermanagh Scouter Tony Smith.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Scouts' honour: President cuts ribbon at €3.7m scouts' centre". The Irish Times. 20 August 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Information sign outside the caste, 2018
  3. ^ Maume, Patrick (1995). "Colonel Edward Saunderson: Land and Loyalty in Victorian Ireland". Irish Economic and Social History. 22: 147–149. doi:10.1177/033248939502200121. JSTOR 24341477.
  4. ^ Mórdha, P. B. Ó. (1992). "Notes and Comments". Bits and Pieces. Clogher Record. 14 (2): 132. JSTOR 27699347.
  5. ^ "Alexander".
  6. ^ "Interview with Sandy Saunderson. Film available for download". 1988.
  7. ^ "Castle Saunderson". 23 October 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Conclusion of Castle Saunderson Project". Scouting Ireland. 2006. Archived from the original on 30 October 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Castle Saunderson". American Ireland Funds Golf Classic 2005. American Ireland Fund. 2005. Archived from the original on 16 February 2006. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Castle Saunderson". American Ireland Funds Golf Classic 2004. American Ireland Fund. 2004. Archived from the original on 11 April 2005. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Campsite Locator". Scouting Ireland. Archived from the original on 2014-10-19. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  12. ^ "Minister Humphreys secures Government approval to restore Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson" (Press release). Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 24 February 2015. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  13. ^ "CASTLE SAUNDERSON PEACE AWARD". Castle Saunderson International Scout Centre. Archived from the original on 2016-03-24. Retrieved 2016-05-16.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°07′30″N 7°21′07″W / 54.125°N 7.352°W / 54.125; -7.352