The Historic Castle Saunderson, County Cavan

Castle Saunderson

Updated On: April 07, 2024 by   Shaimaa OlwanShaimaa Olwan

Castle Saunderson is located near Belturbet, County Cavan, Ireland. The Saunderson family formerly owned it.

The O’Reillys of Breffni inhabited the original castle formerly known as Breffni Castle. The Saunderson family acquired the original castle during the Ulster plantation.

In 1977, it was sold by Captain Alexander Saunderson to a businessman who planned to use it as a residence. The estate was sold again in 1990 to be developed as a hotel, but a fire gutted and destroyed most of its interior.

In 1997, the castle was acquired by Scouting Ireland (CSI).

Castle Saunderson, County Cavan Ireland – Castles in Ireland

Family Tree

Alexander Sanderson of Scotland was made a Denizen of Ireland in 1613 and was appointed High Sheriff of County Tyrone in 1622 and twice subsequently.

He was granted Tullylagan, County Tyrone, and other lands to the extent of 1,000 acres, the whole being erected into the manor of Sanderson in 1630.

Mr Sanderson died in 1633, leaving three sons, the second of whom settled at Portagh, and Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, was built there.

Evolving Through the Ages

As the centuries passed, the castle underwent several renovations and expansions, each adding to its grandeur and architectural significance. In the 19th century, the castle was extensively renovated in the Gothic Revival style, with turrets, battlements, and ornate decorations adorning its exterior. The interiors were also refurbished, featuring opulent furnishings, intricate woodwork, and elaborate plasterwork ceilings that reflected the Victorian taste for luxury and elegance.

During this time, the Saunderson family played a prominent role in Irish society, with many members serving in political and military positions. The castle served as a centre of social life, hosting lavish gatherings, hunting parties, and cultural events that attracted guests from far and wide. Its picturesque setting amidst lush greenery and tranquil lakes made it a popular destination for artists, writers, and nobility seeking inspiration and relaxation.

Modern-Day Renaissance

In the 20th century, Castle Saunderson faced challenges as changing economic and social conditions led to its decline. The once-thriving estate fell into disrepair, and the castle stood empty and neglected for many years. However, in the late 20th century, efforts were made to preserve and revitalize this historic landmark, leading to the formation of the Castle Saunderson International Scout Centre.

Today, the castle has been transformed into a vibrant hub of activity, welcoming visitors from across the globe to explore its rich heritage and natural beauty. The castle and its surrounding estate now serve as a premier scout centre, offering various outdoor activities, educational programs, and accommodation facilities for scouts and youth groups.

Visitors can embark on guided tours of the castle, discovering its fascinating history and architectural features while marvelling at its impressive restoration. The surrounding grounds provide ample opportunities for outdoor adventures, including hiking, camping, and water sports, allowing visitors to connect with nature and experience the beauty of the Irish countryside.

A Haven for Nature Enthusiasts

Beyond its historical significance, Castle Saunderson is also a haven for nature enthusiasts, boasting lush woodlands, tranquil lakes, and meandering trails that beckon visitors to explore the great outdoors. The estate’s diverse ecosystems support many plant and animal species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Nature lovers can spend hours wandering through the castle grounds, discovering hidden groves, picturesque ponds, and meadows carpeted with wildflowers. The estate’s extensive network of walking and cycling trails offers outdoor recreation and relaxation opportunities, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Irish countryside.

Legends and Lore

Like any ancient castle, Castle Saunderson is steeped in legends and folklore passed down through generations. Tales of ghostly apparitions, secret passageways, and hidden treasures add to the mystique of this historic landmark, captivating the imagination of visitors, young and old.

One of the most enduring legends surrounding the castle is the story of the White Lady, a ghost who is said to roam the castle grounds in search of her lost love. According to local lore, she was a noblewoman who tragically died before she could be reunited with her betrothed, and her spirit has since been unable to find peace.

While the existence of such spectral entities remains a matter of debate, the allure of these tales adds an extra layer of intrigue to the castle’s allure, drawing thrill-seekers and paranormal enthusiasts from far and wide.

Architecture of Castle Saunderson 

Castle Saunderson 
Castle Saunderson 

Castle Saunderson is similar in its general design to Crom Castle in County Fermanagh. The entrance is symmetrical, with a battlemented parapet, square and turrets. A tall central gatehouse tower has its entrance door to the side. The house features several Gothic themes, including the conservatory.

The core of Castle Saunderson was built by Francis Saunderson around 1779. In the mid-1830s, the building was remodelled to incorporate the Elizabethan Gothic style.

The national tourist board, Fáilte Ireland, provided the castle with €60,175 in funding to “enhance the visitor experience and present the story of Castle Saunderson through the ages”. The plan was to develop a new “easy to explore” heritage trail named The Castle Trail. The trail will employ various means, such as interpretative displays, visual art and written interpretation, to relate the Castle’s dramatic history.

Preservation and Restoration

In recent years, efforts have been made to preserve and restore Castle Saunderson, ensuring that future generations can continue to appreciate its historical significance. The Castle Saunderson International Scouting Centre, established in 2012, has played a crucial role in this endeavour, spearheading conservation projects and offering educational programs to raise awareness about the castle’s heritage.

Through meticulous restoration work, many of the castle’s original features have been preserved, allowing visitors to experience the ambience of a bygone era firsthand. Guided tours led by experts provide insight into the castle’s history and architecture, offering visitors a deeper appreciation for this architectural gem.

Community Engagement and Education

Castle Saunderson
Castle Saunderson

Castle Saunderson is more than just a tourist attraction; it is also a vital community hub that offers educational programs, cultural events, and outreach initiatives to enrich residents’ lives and foster a deeper appreciation for Ireland’s heritage.

School groups, youth organizations, and community clubs are invited to participate in educational workshops, historical reenactments, and hands-on activities that bring the past to life. Castle Saunderson aims to inspire future generations to become stewards of Ireland’s cultural and natural heritage through these initiatives.

Present Day Camping Site

Castle Saunderson opened its new 34-acre state-of-the-art building in August 2012. The site now includes a camping area that can take up to 1,000. The camping grounds include all the required facilities for campers to have a comfortable, exciting experience.

There are numerous places for campers to relax and socialize outdoors with a panoramic view of the campsites. All this is available for a camp fee of just €5 per person per night.

Indoor accommodation is also available at Castle Saunderson, with sleeping arrangements, shower facilities, a kitchen, a dining hall, and a standard room.

The site is also surrounded by forests containing numerous walking trails. In addition, guests can access a river and a lake suitable for water activities.

Visitor Experiences

Visitors to Castle Saunderson can enjoy a range of immersive experiences designed to showcase its rich history and natural beauty. Guided tours led by knowledgeable interpreters offer insights into the castle’s medieval origins, Georgian heyday, and modern-day significance.

For those seeking outdoor adventure, the estate offers a variety of activities, including fishing, boating, and horseback riding. Guided nature walks and wildlife tours provide opportunities to explore the estate’s diverse ecosystems and learn about its flora and fauna.

Exploring the Surrounding Landscape

Beyond its magnificent walls, Castle Saunderson is surrounded by lush woodlands, tranquil lakes, and rolling hills, offering ample outdoor exploration and recreation opportunities. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy leisurely walks along scenic trails, birdwatching in the surrounding forests, or fishing in the nearby lakes and rivers.

For those seeking more adventurous pursuits, the castle’s proximity to the Cavan Burren Park provides access to rugged terrain and ancient archaeological sites, including megalithic tombs and limestone pavements dating back thousands of years.


Castle Saunderson is a testament to Ireland‘s rich history, culture, and architectural heritage. From its humble beginnings as a fortified tower house to its current status as a beloved cultural landmark, the castle has endured the test of time, captivating all who have the privilege of visiting its hallowed halls.

As we continue to preserve and celebrate the legacy of Castle Saunderson, we honour the generations who came before us and ensure that their stories live on for future generations to cherish. Whether you’re a history buff, a cultural enthusiast, or simply someone seeking inspiration, Castle Saunderson beckons you to embark on a journey through time and immerse yourself in the timeless beauty of Ireland’s past.

We have also visited a few other Castles that might catch your eye, such as Enniskillen Castle and Castle Gardens Lisburn

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