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Castle Coole Review

In the 18th century and through most of the 19th, the Loughs of Erne and their environs were remote places far from Ireland's bustling cities. But it was just this isolated green and watery countryside that attracted the Anglo-Irish gentry, who built grand houses. This "uncommonly perfect" mansion (to quote the eminent architectural historian Desmond Guinness) is on its own landscaped oak woods and gardens at the end of a long tree-lined driveway. Although the Irish architect Richard Johnston made the original drawings in the 1790s, and was responsible for the foundation, the castle was, for all intents and purposes, the work of James Wyatt, commissioned by the first Earl of Belmore. One of the best-known architects of his time, Wyatt was based in London but visited Ireland only once, so Alexander Stewart was drafted as the resident builder-architect. The designer wasn't the only imported element; in fact, much of Castle Coole came from England, including the main facade, which is clad in Portland stone and hauled here by bullock carts. And what a facade it is—in perfect symmetry, white colonnaded wings extend from either side of the mansion's three-story, nine-bay center block, with a Palladian central portico and pediment. It is perhaps the apotheosis of the 18th century's reverence for the Greeks.

Inside, the house is remarkably preserved; most of the lavish plasterwork and original furnishings are in place. On its completion in September 1798, the construction had cost £70,000 and the furnishings another £22,000, compared with the £6 million cost of a restoration in 1995–96. The saloon is one of the finest rooms in the house, with a vast expanse of oak flooring, gilded Regency furniture, and gray scagliola pilasters with Corinthian capitals. Life Below Stairs features tours of the servants' rooms and service quarters; above stairs, so to speak, is the present Earl of Belmore, who still lives on the estate. In 2012, the elegant Tallow House Tearoom was extended and a secondhand bookshop was opened.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Dublin Rd., A4, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh BT74 6JY
  • Phone: 028/6632–2690
  • Cost: House £5; grounds £3; car (per adult): £2
  • Hours: House Mar.–May and Sept., weekends 11–5 (open daily Easter wk); June–Aug., daily 11–5. Grounds Nov.–Feb., daily 10–4; Mar.–Oct., daily 10–7
  • Website:
  • Location: Castle Coole
Updated: 04-10-2013

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