Have you ever fancied yourself as much more than a Lord of the Dance? Perhaps even Lord of your own Manor? Or even…dare you hope…and king or queen of your own castle? Why be the dirty rascal when this fine pile is currently on the market!
This fine stack of blocks is called Cloghan Castle Estate. It is in Banagher, in Offaly. And if you have €995,000 then it is as good as yours. And if you don’t have nearly a million euro, then start lapdancing or waiting tables or whatever the hell you have to do to own this gaff.
This Historic Irish Castle, dating from the 14th Century, is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland. Imagine if the walls could speak. They would tell some racy stories here, I’m sure.
This gaff is out in the sticks, let’s be honest here. However if you like words like “tranquillity” and “peace” that make city-slickers shudder in alarm, then you’ll love it here. Real estate agents say things like, “It is located on about 157 acres of rural splendour in the heart of Ireland.” But if you can feel splendour in the “rural” then start talking to your bank manager and fast.
The history of this gaff is damn impressive. Artefacts as far back as a Bronze Age dagger have been found in its grounds. It actually started out as a monastery, built by St. Crónán in 600. It was then taken over by the Normans. But after that things get interesting. An indigenous Irishman got hold of the gaff, a Gaelic Chieftain called Eoghan O’Madden. He built the original castle in 1336 thus making it one of the first Castles in the country actually built by an Irishman and not a Norman. Eoghan was the greatest chief the O’Maddens ever had and his kingdom stretched to the west as far as Loughrea. His wife, however was a Norman. So in her name, he went to the Crusades with his father where he learned much about the advantage of fortified dwellings.
The Castle was attacked and burned in a well-documented assault in 1595 and confiscated by the Crown. Thus it slipped out of Gaelic hands. It was granted, together with 6,000 acres to Sir John Moore in 1601 and he was responsible for the existing oak beamed roof. Sir John was sacked from his Government post when it was discovered that he was and remained a Catholic.
The Castle remained in the Moore family until it was taken by Cromwellian soldiers who remained in residence until thrown out on the orders of King Charles II in 1683. The Castle was garrisoned by Jacobites in 1689 and 1690. Jacobitism was the political movement in Great Britain and Ireland to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. They made a lasting impression on the castle: the remains of their gun emplacements can still be seen in the grounds. But the Jacobites were expelled by forces loyal to King William after the Battle of Aughrim. In fact, the present owner still has some of the Jacobite “gun money” fallen from the pockets of soldiers dating from 1689.
The Moores returned only to lose the castle again in 1852 as a result of a family lawsuit which lasted over 100 years. And it is a pity too, because the Moores were good landlords and tried their best to alleviate the suffering of their tenants in the Great Famine of 1845 to 1847. As a result of the Famine, the Moores became bankrupt and had to sell the lands.
The next incumbent was Dr. Robert Graves, the famous Dublin Doctor who discovered “Graves Disease” of the thyroid. He purchased the castle at the insistence of his wife. He died a year after purchasing the castle. After his death, his widow evicted up to 100 tenants from the property. She sounds nice. His grandson sold the castle in 1908 before emigrating to Australia, where his descendants still live.
Other interesting families followed including some dude who had expected to become a Lord but lost the title due to an unregistered marriage. Unlucky.
In 1972 Cloghan Castle was still lived in but was much dilapidated before being purchased by the present owners. They immediately commenced a major restoration which was well researched and stayed faithful to the original plans for the castle. Down through the years parts of the Castle were remodelled, including the addition of the Great Hall in the late 18th Century. This double height room has two Galleries supported by old exposed beams and partially exposed stone walls and dominated by a large raised carved Oak fireplace. In addition there is an even more imposing Court Room on the third floor which dates back to the 14th century.
And if you want to stay true to the feel of the castle, you can buy some of the furniture in it as well. Because of the Cromwellian and Georgian extensions to the Keep it is easy to live in without incessant stair climbing. So forget about climbing the tower and letting down your golden hair (or otherwise).
And how’s this for posh…there are also 3 private gardens protected by high stone walls including a herb garden and a gravelled terrace. Trees dot the grass and there are some 80,000 more trees surrounding the grounds which are grazed by a large flock of rare Jacob sheep. In winter the rivers Shannon and Little Brosna flood to create a wildlife sanctuary, a seven-mile long lake, upon which nearly 40,000 wild birds come to feed.
And now for the tax breaks. Owing to its historical significance this property qualifies for favourable tax exemptions providing it is open to the public on occasions. As it is listed as a national historical monument it also enables improvements and maintenance to be set off against income tax and it can be passed upon death without incurring death duties.
And here’s the grisly/good bit: the owner has shooting rights! You can blow birds right out of the sky to your heart’s content! But you don’t have as much room as previous posh owners have enjoyed. Four hundred years ago the estate consisted of over 6000 acres but was gradually reduced over the years to less than 160 acres by 1972 when the present owner purchased it together with 1500 acres of shooting rights. In winter when the River Shannon floods, the waters back up the Little Brosna River creating a seven mile lake at the back of Cloghan Castle and into that Winter Lake come over 30,000 wild birds from white fronted Greenland geese and swans to ducks of many varieties.
On some days it is possible to walk to the waters edge to view the birds feeding, only to have as many as 5,000 birds fly overhead in alarm. You’ll be alarmed if all of them poop on you at the same time. So in theory, you HAVE shooting rights… but why shoot little birdies if you can get a chicken from Tesco for a fiver? No. Realising that it would be prohibitively expensive to keep shooters out, the current owner decided to hand the shooting rights over to the Irish Government who made a 2,000-acre bird sanctuary out of it. It is now one of the finest in the country.
This castle holds the wildlife wildcards too – roaming around are herons, ducks, deer, badgers, foxes, hawks, hares and countless small birds.
Because of its historical significance – it figured in the Elizabethan, Cromwellian and Jacobite wars – Cloghan Castle qualifies for special tax exemptions provided that you let the grubby public commoners in every now and again.
So, cease being a peasant and be the king or queen of your own castle. And invite us for a party!
Update: This castle has now sold. But keep seeking your palace, dear princes and princesses!