No matter where you go in Ireland there is no shortage of impressive and historic Castles, with over 1000 unique castle found in the Country alone. Castle Coole is one of those magnificent castles found in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. It is surrounded by 1,200 acres of gorgeous landscape and wooded parklands. Castle Coole is also considered to be one of the greatest 18th-century Neo-Classical houses that has been well preserved by the National Trust.
The National Trust is a charity founded in 1895 by people who saw how valuable it was to look after our country’s heritage and open spaces. They take care of sites like Castle Coole and make sure it doesn’t lose its heritage and beauty. Many of the best Northern Ireland sites are cared for by them from our coastlines, forests, beaches, nature reserves, historic buildings and more.
The History of Castle Coole
The estate which the castle lays was first purchased in 1656 by a Belfast merchant known as John Corry. He was the grandfather of the first Earl. The name of the estate comes from Lough Coole, a lake surrounded by the hills of Killynure.
Construction of Castle Coole began between 1789- 1797. It was to be the summer home of Armar Lowry-Corry, the First Earl of Belmore. He was a member of Parliament in County Tyrone and was a very wealthy heir. The Earl of Belmore owned around 70,000 acres of land throughout Ireland that was handed down through his ancestors. The income generated from the land he owned meant he could build Castle Coole at £57,000. Incredibly that would equivalent to around 20 million-pounds today.
There were also other family residences built on the estate of Castle Coole including a dwelling of the King James period and a house for Queen Anne in 1709.
When the Act of Union passed in 1800 that united Britain and Ireland, the family decided to move from their main residence in Dublin to the Castle in Enniskillen. They lived in Dublin so that they could be close to the parliament but with the new act in place, this no longer applied.
More Castle Coole History
Then in 1951, the 7th Earl of Belmore handed over the Castle to the National Trust but the contents inside the mansion including furniture, paintings and more remained the Earl Belmore’s Property. A lot of this content can still be viewed today during tours of Castle Coole. It gives us a unique view of the style and design of what was popular during that time period. During the summer months, the National Trust opens the Castle for visitors to explore. The estate itself can be visited all year long, where you can take in the beautiful surroundings.
During the timeframe of 1980- 1988 the castle remained closed as the National Trust began major restorations. This included taking down the façade and replacing the metal anchors that held the stones in place. This was done with a lot of care and even today you wouldn’t think the stone was touched. The re-opening of Castle Coole was celebrated with the Queen Mother officially opening it back to the public.
As an agreement between The Earl Belmore and the National Trust, the Earl was to keep an apartment in the S Wing. His heir and family still currently use it today.
The Architecture of Castle Coole
The Earl of Belmore hired James Wyatt, a brilliant architect to design the castle house. Wyatt was considered one of the best during that time period. No expense was spared as the 1st Earl wanted the castle to be magnificent and to impress people. Wyatt followed closely to the Neo-Classical design which was quite popular during that period. He never actually visited the site of the castle choosing to send his designs over from his home in London.
The most notable features of the castle include the Portland stone Facades and the stunning interior. Many of the important furnishings inside were also designed by James Wyatt. The beautiful ceilings and plastering were at the hands of the brilliant artist Joseph Rose, making the castle a masterpiece both inside and out.
Different craftsmen were employed from all over Ireland and Europe to fill the interior of the castle. This included stone floors, marble fireplaces and even detailed leather door panels. The castle was not short of spectacular and was fit for a King or Queen.
The most lavish piece of furniture in the house is the State Bed which was commissioned for the visit of George IV in 1821. But he never ended up visiting Castle Coole meaning that it has stayed in perfect condition ever since.
A Grand Castle Not to be Missed
Castle Coole represents one of the best examples of Neo-classical architecture in all of Ireland. Especially since it has all of its original furniture that was commissioned for the castle. It’s like stepping back in time, you get an idea of the style and luxury enjoyed by those who lived there.
Castle Coole is an unmissable visit in County Fermanagh not only can you explore the castle, but the basement has also been opened up where visitors can experience the life of servants back then. Or enjoy the beautiful parkland and scenery that surrounds the castle and fill up on its history. A trip to Castle Coole will leave you in awe after exploring.
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