OPW Heritage Sites are free to visit on the first Wednesday of every month and I love to take advantage of the offer. What’s not to like about a free visit to one of Ireland’s beautiful heritage sites? It’s a great incentive to get out and discover places and learn a bit about them, and a friend and I usually head to one of the sites and have our lunch out somewhere nearby. Last Wednesday we opted to visit the fabulous Ormond Castle, a beautifully restored manor house in Carrick-on-Suir which had been closed for three years for renovations and was reopened in July last year (2017). It’s been on my list of places to visit for ages.
Ormond Castle in the Sun
We timed our visit well as we had about ten minutes to walk around the courtyard inside the castle walls before the next scheduled guided tour. We were lucky with the weather too as the tour began on the lawn outside the castle.
The renovation works cost approximately €750,000 (see Tipperarytown.ie for further info), and involved an impressive makeover – new render on the outside of the building, restoration of the ornate plaster ceilings inside, roof repairs, as well as electrical, security and other additional features. Looking at older photos of the place, the transformation is huge. Below is a photo from Abarta Audio Guides from the TimeTravelIreland blog:
This next photo is from the Waterford Museum website:
Sitting outside in the bright afternoon sunshine, listening to Seamus, our excellent tour guide, I couldn’t help but notice that the left hand side of the house seemed to be ‘warped’ for want of a better word. If you look at the photos above you can see that on the left hand side of the building the windows are uneven, and the roof seems to slope downwards in the middle. This, we were told, was as a result of subsidence that had begun to take place years previously.
What has this got to do with wine? Well, the subsidence was due to a wine cellar built below the house with inadequate foundations which was subsequently covered in. I just hope they took all the wine out before they filled the cellar in. The thought of a few hundred bottles of wine buried in there might tempt me to carry out my own bit of ‘historical excavation works’.
Windows, windows everywhere
One of the most striking features of the manor house is the mullioned windows constructed with hundreds of small square panes of glass. There’s a really interesting History of Irish Windows with a reference to Ormond Castle on Lambstongue.ie and it’s worth a read.
A partial excavation of the grounds during the renovation works revealed this 16th century cobblestone area of ground which has been left exposed for visitors to view. There are no plans to uncover any more of the cobblestone, but plans are afoot to landscape the garden, and also to add an interpretive centre inside which it is hoped will open in 2019.
Access to the castle is by guided tour only and details of opening times and prices can be found on the Heritage Ireland website. With the site due to close for the winter on October 31st, it’s as well to organise a visit there soon.
At the far end of the courtyard is a blocked up archway. It’s really interesting to think that in ‘times of yore’, the River Suir flowed right up to the gate, and goods and people were transported in and out of the castle that way. Over the years the river has changed course and moved further away from the gate.
The photo below from the Irish Waterways website shows the distance of the river from the Castle today.
How impressive must Ormond castle have been when it was constructed? After James Butler ‘The Great Duke of Ormond’ died, the Butlers seem to have concentrated their efforts on Kilkenny Castle with the result that Ormond Castle fell into disrepair. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, in the 1800s, John Wogan who was a tenant in the castle, demolished a lot of the older buildings and sold off the stone to locals who would have built follies or walls with it.
Photographs aren’t permitted inside the castle although a Google search will turn up a few photos of the long hall (gallery) and the fireplaces.
Lunch at Lily Mai’s Dovehill
I hadn’t been to Dovehill for a while. It’s handy for parking, and the food at Lily Mai’s is delicious. We arrived a little bit too late for the hot lunches so we had to choose from the salad counter but there was a good range of food to be had.
The goat’s cheese frittata did not disappoint.
This massive meringue with whipped cream also did not disappoint. We halved it between us.
Lily Mai’s always have the most amazing selection of fabulous desserts so if you like your coffee and chocolate and haven’t tried it here, then I recommend it. You can always combine it with a bit of Christmas gift or decoration shopping as they’ve started stocking the Christmas stock already!