Lough Rynn Castle

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Lough Rynn Castle (Irish: Caisleán Loch na Reanna) is a luxury castle hotel on the shores of Lough Rynn in County Leitrim, Ireland situated on the historic grounds of the medieval castle and estate of the Mac Raghnaill family of Muintir Eolais.

Location[edit]

Lough Rynn Castle and estate is located on an isthmus between the lakes of Lough Rynn and Lough Erril.[1] It is some 4 km from Mohill, 145 km from Dublin City on the N4 and 155 km from Galway City.[2][better source needed] The nearest airport is at Knock, 99 km away.

View towards Lough Rynn

History[edit]

Mac Raghnaill family ( –1621)[edit]

The current Lough Rynn estate is built on the ancestral lands of Clan Maelsechlainn-Oge Mac Raghnaill, the pre-Conquest rulers of this part of County Leitrim known as Muintir Eolais.[1] The Annals of Loch Cé and Annals of Connacht refer to "the crannóg of Claenloch" (Lough Rynn) in the High Middle Ages, 1247AD,[3][4] with the structure marked on some maps as "Crannoge" [5] or "Crane Island",[6] while the medieval Mac Raghnaill's Castle is mentioned in 1474AD.[7]

The remains of Mac Raghnaill Castle

The ruins of the Mac Raghnaill's Castle are located close to the lake and some 500 metres from the existing Lough Rynn Castle. The historian, Fiona Slevin, describes the structure of the Mac Raghnaill castle as "fairly standard for the time, but it did have a few unusual - and clever - features. Although a square shape, the castle had rounded corners that made it more impervious to artillery attacks and it had a straight stairway carved into the hollow of a wall, rather than the more usual spiral stair in one corner."[1][8]

The remains of Mac Raghnaill Castle

The Mac Raghnaill family had played an important role in the Nine Years War on the side of Aodh Mór Ó Néill resisting the English conquest of Ireland.

Crofton family (1621–1750)[edit]

In the English Plantation of 1621, the Mac Raghnaill lands in Lough Rynn were confiscated and granted to an English family named Crofton.[1] The Croftons brought British Protestant settlers with them and in the 1620s and 1630s the native Irish were gradually removed from the land.[1]

Clements family (1750–1970s)[edit]

In 1750 the Croftons were replaced by another English family named the Clements. Daniel Clements, an officer in Oliver Cromwell's army, had been granted land in County Cavan which had been confiscated from the Irish following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.[9] In 1750 Nathaniel Clements acquired the Lough Rynn estate, while remaining on his lands in Cavan.[10] Nevertheless, the Clements started to become more involved in political life in Leitrim with Robert Clements becoming sheriff for the county in 1759.[11] In 1795 Robert Clements became the first Earl of Leitrim.[11] In 1833, Robert Bermingham, Viscount Clements, built a mock Tudor revival house overlooking Lough Rynn.[12] It is this property which is the basis for the current Lough Rynn Castle.

William Sydney Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim[edit]

Upon Robert's death in 1839, management of Lough Rynn estate passed to his brother, William Sydney Clements. In 1854, when their father Nathaniel Clements, 2nd Earl of Leitrim, died William Sydney Clements became the 3rd Earl of Leitrim. He inherited an estate of a massive 90,000 acres which stretched across four counties.[10] From around this time Sydney Clements asserted his control over the estate in an authoritarian manner which won him many opponents among the tenantry. The inability of tenants to pay rent during and after An Gorta Mór provided him with an opportunity to clear his estate and introduce more productive farming practices. The change in attitude towards tenants by this new Lord Leitrim is seen four years after he assumed his father's title. In 1858, in a nationally reported event, Clements assembled one thousand armed military and police to repossess the local Gortletteragh Church for non-payment of rent, rent which his liberally-minded father had refused to take. However, some six thousand men turned up from Longford, Westmeath, Roscommon and across Leitrim on the day to defend the church, forcing Clements to back down.[13] The Nation noted at this time that Lord Leitrim was `already famous for such proceedings towards his tenantry as not many even of his own order dare imitate'.[13] By 1860 Sydney Clements had firmly abandoned the liberal cause which his brother and father had supported and had become a staunch supporter of the Conservatives. He became more reactionary against the many calls for land reform which dominated post-Famine Ireland. In 1870 he spoke out vehemently against William Gladstone's first Irish Land Act, believing it to be an encroachment on the rights of property owners.[13]

During the 1860s hatred towards Sydney Clements grew in the surrounding area and stories began to be told of his mistreatment of the wives and daughters of local men. In September 1860 James Murphy from Mohill fired a loaded pistol at him, two days after sending him a note challenging him to a duel to 'take satisfaction for your ruffianly conduct towards my wife'.[13] An additional attempt to shoot him followed in the 1860s. By the 1870s Lord Leitrim was arguably the most infamous landlord in Ireland, symbolising 'evil at its worst'.[14] In Donegal in particular Sydney Clements was the object of deep resentment and had to travel under armed military escort. In 1878 Sydney Clements engaged in a wholesale eviction of his tenants there, many of whom were starving as a result of the famine which hit northwest Ireland in 1878/79. On 2 April 1878 three men, Michael Heraghty, Michael McElwee and Neil Sheils, ambushed and killed William Sydney Clements, 3rd Lord Leitrim, at Cratlagh Wood near Milford, County Donegal.[14]

Leitrim's assassination received widespread publicity in Ireland and abroad, with proponents of land reform using it as evidence of the need to protect tenants from the abuses of tyrannical landlords. His funeral in Dublin was marked by further riots, while none of the three assassins were convicted of his death.[14]

Extension and refurbishment of the castle (1889)[edit]

The inheritor of the Lough Rynn estate was Sydney Clements' English-educated cousin who lived in Cavan, Colonel Henry Theophilus Clements, rather than the heir presumptive to the title who lived in England. This Colonel Clements embarked on an extensive expansion and refurbishment of the castle. He added a new wing, built a Baronial Hall designed by Thomas Drew with heavy plaster cornices, a large ornate Inglenook fireplace, and a fretted ceiling and walls wainscoted in solid English oak.[15] Upon its completion in 1889, the principal floor of the house contained a main hall, Baronial Hall, chapel, reception room, living room and dining room. Two pantries, a kitchen, study, smokehouse and store were accessed by a separate entrance. In the basement there were stores and a wine cellar. There were fourteen bedrooms and four bathrooms upstairs.[15]

By 1952, when Marcus Clements took over the Lough Rynn estate, most of it had been sold off to former tenants under the land acts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Clements lived there until the 1970s. The estate remained largely empty until 1990 when it was purchased by an Irish-American investor, Michael Flaherty.[15] In the early twenty-first century Lough Rynn estate was purchased by the current owners, the Hanly family. They invested substantially in overhauling and modernising the house and estates. In September 2006 when Lough Rynn Castle finally opened as a hotel, the estate extended to three hundred acres. [16]

Hotel[edit]

Castle[edit]

Lough Rynn Castle Hotel now has forty-two bedrooms, a baronial hall, a library named after John McGahern, drawing room, piano room, bar, the award-winning Sandstone restaurant, as well as conference, bar and wedding facilities for up to three hundred guests in an adjoining function room. It is fully wheelchair accessible.[17][third-party source needed]

Cúirt na Bainise (Wedding Courtyard)
Front Courtyard
Front Courtyard

Gardens[edit]

A four-hundred-year-old oak tree still exists on the grounds of the estate, as does a Bronze Age tomb named Cloch an Draoi ('Druid's Altar') on The Druid's Hill between Lough Erril ("Lough Errew") and Lough Rynn, which can be dated between 1900BC and 300BC.[18]

Cloch an Draoi (Druid's Altar)
Ha-ha wall sign

There are also sawmills, a farmyard, arboretum, green house, French stable yards, nature trails, and terraced gardens. There are two bridges across the Rynn river which connects Lough Erril and Lough Rynn, the Red Bridge and the Blue Bridge. The principal walkway across the estate starts at the Castle, veers left by the 'Ha-ha wall and Blue Bridge on your left-hand side.

Turn right with the path and you pass the crannóg in Lough Rynn as you walk towards the Boathouse.

Site of the ancient Lough Rynn crannóg
Lough Rynn Boathouse

Beyond the Boathouse is the remains of the Mac Raghnaill medieval castle at another shore of Lough Rynn. A left after the castle will bring you to the Rockery and Wishing Chair next to the lake. A right along the shore at this point will lead to the back entrance of the estate's centerpiece, the enormous three-tiered walled gardens which overlook the lake.

Originally constructed between 1855 and 1860,[19] upon their reopening on 5 August 2008 Lough Rynn Castle's walled gardens were the largest privately owned walled gardens in Ireland.[16]

Photo gallery[edit]

Lower walled garden
Lower walled garden
Lower walled garden
Steps from lower to upper walled garden
Upper walled garden
Upper walled garden
Upper walled garden
Upper walled garden
Lough Rinn/Rynn river joining Rynn and Erril lakes
View of Lough Rynn Castle from wedding courtyard/walled garden side
View from the Ha-ha wall/Boathouse side
Boathouse
Path along the lakeshore
View of the castle from Lough Rynn
Pathway from Castle to walled gardens
Nineteenth-century estate sawmill
Walled gardens from far side of Lough Rynn (taken in January)
Walkway to wishing chair and rockery

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Lough Rynn - 1200–1621 AD". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  2. ^ AA Routes
  3. ^ "Annals of Connacht, 1247.5".
  4. ^ "Annals of Loch Cé, LC1247.4".
  5. ^ "Map identifying "crannóg of Claenloch (Lough Rynn)" as 'Crannoge'".
  6. ^ "Map identifying "crannóg of Claenloch (Lough Rynn)" as 'Crane Island'".
  7. ^ "Annals of Connacht, 1474.16, 'Rinn Castle' or 'Caslen in Renna'".
  8. ^ By Hereditary Virtues: a History of Lough Rynn. ISBN 0-9553883-0-9
  9. ^ "Lough Rynn - The arrival of the Clements family". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Ballinamore Tourism: a history of Lough Rynn". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Lough Rynn - Robert Clements, 1st Earl of Leitrim 1732–1804". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  12. ^ "Lough Rynn - Robert Bermingham, Viscount Clements 1805–1839". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  13. ^ a b c d "Lough Rynn - After the famine". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  14. ^ a b c "Lough Rynn - Assassination". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  15. ^ a b c "Lough Rynn - After Lord Leitrim". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  16. ^ a b "Tánaiste to unveil Lough Rynn walled gardens". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  17. ^ "Manor House Hotels: Lough Rynn Castle". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  18. ^ "Druid's Altar Portal Tomb". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  19. ^ "Lough Rynn Walled Gardens, County Leitrim". Retrieved 18 March 2012.

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 53°53′35″N 7°50′49″W / 53.89306°N 7.84694°W / 53.89306; -7.84694