The Beautiful Borris House, County Carlow

Borris House County Carlow

Updated On: June 03, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

One of Ireland’s most beautiful houses, Borris House, is in County Carlow. Morgan Kavanagh built the house in 1731. For many years, it was the home of the MacMorrough Kavanagh family, who were Celtic Kings of Leister.

The house was severely damaged in the late 1700s and brought back to life in the early 1800s by Richard and William Morrison, a father-son duo.

Nowadays, visitors can visit the beautiful houses and picturesque gardens that complete the estate. They can also see what the countryside of Carlow has to offer, including views across Mount Leister, the Blackstar Mountains, and Barrow Valley.

Borris House County Carlow
Full view of Borris House in County Carlow

Historical Background

Borris House has been the ancestral home of the McMorrough Kavanagh family for over 800 years. The Kavanaghs, one of the great Irish dynastic families, have played a significant role in Ireland’s history, particularly during the medieval period. The family’s lineage can be traced back to Dermot MacMurrough, the 12th-century King of Leinster, whose invitation to the Normans marked a pivotal moment in Irish history.

The current structure of Borris House dates back to the 18th century, with significant modifications and expansions made in the 19th century. Designed in the Tudor Revival style, the house blends Gothic and Elizabethan architectural elements, creating a distinctive and elegant aesthetic. The McMorrough Kavanagh family’s commitment to preserving their heritage is evident in the meticulous maintenance and restoration efforts that have kept the house in pristine condition.

Architectural Features

Borris House is a splendid example of Tudor Revival architecture, with its steeply pitched roofs, ornate chimneys, and mullioned windows. The house’s exterior is adorned with intricate stone carvings and decorative details that reflect the era’s craftsmanship. Flanked by imposing towers, the grand entrance sets the tone for the luxury that awaits within.

Upon entering Borris House, visitors are greeted by a magnificent hall, a focal point of the interior design. The hall features a grand staircase adorned with elaborate woodwork and an impressive collection of portraits that chronicle the history of the McMorrough Kavanagh family. The attention to detail in the wood panelling, ceiling mouldings, and decorative plasterwork is a testament to the skill of the artisans who contributed to the house’s construction.

The drawing rooms and dining areas of Borris House are equally splendid, furnished with period pieces that enhance the historical ambience. The library, with its extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts, offers a glimpse into the intellectual pursuits of the Kavanagh family. Each room in Borris House tells a story, with furnishings, artwork, and decorative items carefully curated to reflect the house’s rich heritage.

Gardens and Grounds

Borris House

The splendour of Borris House extends beyond its walls to the beautifully landscaped gardens and grounds. The estate covers over 650 acres, encompassing formal gardens, woodlands, and parklands that offer a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The gardens are a masterpiece of horticultural design, featuring a variety of plants, flowers, and trees that provide a changing tapestry of colour throughout the seasons.

One of the garden’s highlights is the walled garden, a serene enclave that combines ornamental planting with productive vegetable beds and fruit trees. The walled garden is a testament to the estate’s self-sufficiency and the traditional gardening practices that have been maintained over the centuries. The gardens also feature a stunning yew walk, a shaded avenue lined with ancient yew trees that creates a sense of timeless elegance.

In addition to the formal gardens, Borris House’s grounds include a deer park, a river walk, and extensive woodlands home to diverse wildlife. The estate’s natural beauty is complemented by carefully placed sculptures and garden features that enhance the overall aesthetic. For visitors, the gardens and grounds of Borris House offer a serene and enchanting environment to explore and enjoy.

Cultural and Historical Significance

Borris House is a beautiful building and a symbol of Ireland’s cultural and historical heritage. The house and its estate have witnessed many significant events in Irish history, from medieval conflicts to the struggles for independence in the 20th century. The McMorrough Kavanagh family’s resilience and commitment to their heritage have ensured that Borris House remains a vital link to Ireland’s past.

One of the most notable aspects of Borris House is its connection to the Brehon laws, an ancient system of Irish law that predates the Norman invasion. The Kavanagh family played a crucial role in administering these laws, and their legal tradition is reflected in the historical documents and artefacts preserved within the house. The library at Borris House contains many important manuscripts and legal texts that provide insight into Ireland’s legal and cultural history.

The house also has a rich artistic heritage, with a collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts that reflect the tastes and interests of the Kavanagh family over the centuries. The art collection includes works by notable Irish and European artists, as well as pieces commissioned specifically for the house. This artistic legacy adds another cultural significance to Borris House, making it a repository of Ireland’s artistic and historical treasures.

Borris House Today

Borris House Events Venue – Hilary Mullen

Today, Borris House is more than just a private residence; it is a vibrant cultural and historical venue that welcomes visitors worldwide. The house and its grounds are open for guided tours, offering a unique opportunity to explore this remarkable estate’s history, architecture, and natural beauty. The tours are led by knowledgeable guides who provide detailed insights into the house’s history and the stories of the people who lived there.

In addition to tours, Borris House hosts various cultural events, including concerts, literary festivals, and art exhibitions. These events celebrate the house’s rich cultural heritage and provide a platform for contemporary artists and performers to showcase their work. The house’s beautiful setting and historic ambience make it an ideal venue for these cultural activities, attracting visitors and participants from near and far.

Borris House is also a popular venue for weddings and private events, offering a romantic and picturesque setting for special occasions. The house’s elegant interiors and stunning gardens provide a perfect backdrop for weddings, while the estate’s extensive grounds offer ample space for outdoor ceremonies and receptions. The dedicated events team at Borris House ensures that each event is meticulously planned and executed, creating unforgettable guest experiences.

Preservation and Conservation

The preservation and conservation of Borris House are paramount to the McMorrough Kavanagh family. Over the years, significant efforts have been made to maintain the house and its grounds, ensuring they remain in excellent condition for future generations. These efforts include regular maintenance, carefully restoring historical features, and implementing sustainable practices to protect the estate’s natural environment.

One of the vital conservation projects at Borris House has been restoring the house’s historic fabric, including its stonework, roofing, and windows. This work has been carried out with great care to preserve the authenticity and integrity of the original structure. The restoration of the gardens has also been a significant focus, with efforts to revive traditional planting schemes and maintain the estate’s biodiversity.

In addition to physical conservation, the McMorrough Kavanagh family has made significant contributions to the documentation and study of the house’s history. This includes preserving archival materials, publishing research on the estate’s history, and collaborating with historians and scholars to deepen our understanding of Borris House’s heritage. These efforts ensure that future generations recognise and appreciate Borris House’s history and significance.

Visit Borris House

Borris House is open to the public throughout the summer months. Visitors can take a guided tour of the house and grounds.

During open days, visitors can get a taste of the great Irish countryside and Irish history. The tour covers much of the history of the house and the stories which surround the history of the house.

A must-see is the guided tour of Borris House, which features many unique features, including the house’s art, architecture, and furniture.

The gardens include many exotic trees and shrubs from around the world.

Events and Celebrations

Borris House is a fantastic place to host parties and ceremonies. Many people choose to hold their weddings there, and other events hosted there include blessings and parties.

The estate hosts various events throughout the year, including wedding showcases, festivals, and high-profile visitors.


Borris House is a shining example of Ireland’s architectural and cultural heritage, where history, art, and nature converge to create a truly magical experience. The house’s grandeur and elegance are matched by the natural beauty of its gardens and grounds, making it a captivating destination for visitors. The dedication of the McMorrough Kavanagh family to preserving their heritage ensures that Borris House remains a vital link to Ireland’s past. At the same time, its vibrant cultural activities keep it firmly rooted in the present.

Visiting Borris House is an unforgettable journey through time for those seeking to explore the rich tapestry of Ireland’s history. It is where the stories of the past come alive, the beauty of architecture and nature blend seamlessly, and where the legacy of one of Ireland’s great families is preserved and celebrated. Whether you are a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat in a stunning setting, Borris House offers an enriching and inspiring experience.

Have you ever visited Borris House? If so, please share your experience and whether you attended an event in the comments.

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