Castletown House | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Castletown House

County Kildare, Ireland

Sarah Roller

14 Apr 2021
Image Credit: DiggingSpace / CC

About Castletown House

Castletown House is an 18th century Palladian house in County Kildare, Ireland.

History of Castletown House

William Conolly, the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, had Castletown built in 1722 – the centrepiece for his 550 acre estate. He died shortly after the house’s completion, leaving it to his wife Katherine. The pair had no children, so it passed to their nephew, William Conolly, and then to his son Tom. Tom’s wife was Lady Louisa Lennox, grand-daughter of King Charles II (through an illegitimate line).

Lady Louisa devoted large amounts of time and money to ‘completing’ Castletown’s interior and landscape, employing William Chambers to help with interior design and creating carefully designed landscapes which gave views across to her childhood home, Carton House. The pair also had no children, but devoted much of their life to good works and overseeing the welfare of young children, even opening one of Ireland’s first industrial schools.

Branches of the Conolly family continued to live at Castletown until 1965, when the house, contents and land were sold for £133,000 to a Major Wilson. Shortly after this, the house was sold again – this time to Guinness family. The Guinnesses turned the house into the flagship of the Irish Georgian Society, opened it to the public for the first time and sold much of the land they had originally bought – keeping only 120 acres in the immediate vicinity of the house.

By this stage, Castletown was in a state of decay and disrepair: major work was needed to save the house from ruin. The Castletown Foundation was established in 1979 to take over the running and maintenance of the house, and eventually the Office of Public Works (OPW) took over the house as the costs of repair proved too much to bear. A huge – an ongoing – restoration project was undertaken, particularly to ensure the structural stability of the house and roof.

Castletown House today

Castletown’s grounds are open to the public 365 days a year – the gates close at varying times depending on the season so it’s worth double-checking so you don’t get locked in! Dogs need to be kept on leads for the benefit of wildlife. The house is open for access via guided tour only, again, check times in advance of visiting.

Getting to Castletown House

Castletown is located just outside the town of Celbridge, 20km west of Dublin. Bus 67 from Dublin’s city centre (or Maynooth) will get you here easily. Castletown itself is down a 1km gravel drive, which is an easy walk.