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A Historical Treasure – Huntington Castle

In the picturesque village of Clonegal in Co Carlow is a gorgeous historical treasure known as Huntington Castle. This beautiful castle was originally created as a plantation castle that was used for defensive purposes. It truly is one of Ireland’s most fascinating historical castles.

Said to be haunted, it attracts many visitors every year who simply want to experience the paranormal. Those who don’t know about the hauntings, however, simply enjoy spending time there. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy spending their time at a grand castle like Huntington Castle?

Huntington Castle history

Once upon a time, Huntington Castle was the ancient seat of the Esmonde family. Nowadays, it is one of the most beloved treasures in Ireland. In fact, it was voted one of Ireland’s top 20 Hidden Gems by The Guardian. With over 400 years of history, this castle is home to many things, including ghosts.

While the castle isn’t overly big, it makes up for it in pure beauty. Let’s take a look into the fascinating history of Huntington Castle.

The front of Huntington castle
The castle has over 400 years of history. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The early history

In 1607, Richard Netterville, Corballies, Co. Dublin, owned part of Clonegal. During the same year, he entrusted the entirety of his Irish lands, including Clonegal, to a man by the name of Christopher Fleming. It was at this time, that the original structure of Huntington Castle, a plantation castle, was built in the year 1625. Though, there was an existing tower house remaining that was part of a previous stronghold built in the 15th century.

It was in the same year that Richard Netterville passed away. In turn, he was succeeded by his nephew Nicholas Netterville.

Lord Esmonde

In the year 1641, the manor of Clonegal was held by Lord Esmonde, also known as Laurence Esmonde, and his wife, Dame Ellis. At the time, Lord Esmonde was the Major General of all Royal forces in Ireland. Despite this, he still joined the Parliament cause in the year 1644 and defended the Duncannon fort during a long siege by Confederate forces. Unfortunately, he ended up surrendering.

Lord Esmonde died sometime between 1645 and 1646. and  He had no children, so his titles became extinct, and administration of his estate was granted to his nephew, Richard Esmonde. After Richard, the castle was passed to another member of the family, Patrick Esmonde. After Patrick passed in the same year, Huntington Castle (known as Clonegal at the time) passed to Katherine Gough, his wife. The daughters of Patrick Esmonde had half the revenue from the manor assigned to them.

Behind Huntington Castle
Lord Esmonde was Major General of all Royal forces in Ireland until he switched sides. Source: Flickr.

Laurence Esmond

Due to the strategic importance of the village, the castle was captured by Oliver Cromwell who was marching on Kilkenny in 1650. Lord Esmonde’s grandson, Laurence Esmonde of Ballignestragh, Co. Wexford, filed a large claim for many different properties in Counties Wexford Tipperary, and Carlow. This included the manor of Clonegal.

He went forth and renamed it, Huntington Castle.

The 17th century

Huntington Castle passed from the Esmonde family in the second half of the 17th century. It went to John Durdin who was a prosperous merchant from Essex who had moved to Ireland in the 1630s. John ended up living to the grand old age of 108. Many people attribute his long life to the beautiful, clean air in Ireland.

portrait of Oliver Cromwell
Portrait of Oliver Cromwell. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The 18th and 19th centuries

During the 18th and 19th centuries, many extensions and repairs were made around the tower house at Huntington. However, the house never figured highly in the recorded social life of the Carlow gentry. In a book written by Edward Walford in 1860, Huntington Castle is excluded from the thirty-three gentry houses mentioned.

Huntington also escaped mention in Jimmy O’Toole’s work of the Carlow gentry. In 1875, Alexander Durdin held 296 acres in Country Carlow that was valued at £269. Alexander Durdin went forth and made many improvements to the Huntington Castle gardens. There was also a spacious lake at the bottom of the wilderness garden built for ornamental purposes.

Next to it, a lovely water turbine house was built that provided the castle with its own electricity. It was said to be one of the earliest water turbine houses in Ireland. In 1880, Melian Durdin married a member of the Roberston family. The Durdin-Robertson family have kept the castle since that time.

The current day

To this day, the castle is still owned by the Durdin-Robertson family. It is a private house that is open to the public for guided tours throughout June, July, August, and September. It is most certainly one of the most historically treasured castles in Ireland. Everyone who visits cannot help but admire the sheer beauty of it.

You may enjoy reading about other Irish castles such as Carlow Castle.

Huntington Castle gardens

Along the side of the castle are the ever so beautiful Huntington Castle gardens. They include gravel paths, a delightful fountain, and are bordered by the 500-year-old Yew Walk. The lovely gardens can mainly be attributed to the Esmonde family who built most of it in the 17th century.

The gardens are a specific point of interest for most people visiting the castle and the surrounding grounds.

Huntington Castle Timeline

  • 1607- Richard Netterville entrusts the entirety of his Irish lands, including Clonegal, to a man by the name of Christopher Fleming
  • 1625- Huntington Castle is built as a plantation castle
  • 1641- The manor of Clonegal is held by Lord Esmonde and his wife, Dame Ellis
  • 1645- Lord Esmonde dies, his titles become extinct, and administration of his estate is granted to his nephew
  • 1649- The castle is captured by Oliver Cromwell who is marching on Kilkenny
  • 17th century- Huntington Castle passes from the Esmonde family to John Durdin
  • 1860- Huntington Castle is excluded from the thirty-three gentry houses mentioned in a book written by Edward Walford
  • 1875- Alexander Durdin of Huntington Castle holds 296 acres in Country Carlow that are valued at £269

Huntington Castle facts

  • The Castle is presently lived in by three generations of the Durdin-Robertson family
  • Huntington castle has been plagued by ghosts of Druids in the fields and even in the castle
  • The castle has a well that has never run dry, and it has saved the castle from sieges in many instances
  • There are ruins of a little 14th-century abbey that rests in front of the castle
  • The grounds of Huntington Castle are also home to many animals
  • The castle is around 400 years old

Featured in TV and film

  • Barry Lyndon (1975)

Who owns Huntington Castle?

Nowadays, Huntington Castle is lived in by three generations of the Durdin-Robertson family. The current owners are Alexander and Clare Durdin-Robertson. They are said to be very hands-on with the business. Some people have said that they can frequently be found giving tours, working in the gardens, or making tea in the tearooms.

Tourism

The castle offers many things to its visitors. You can even enjoy Huntington Castle weddings. It is the perfect location for an enchanting wedding. On top of that, there are many castle tours offered that take approximately 40 minutes on average. Within the tours, you will gain a deeper understanding of the castle and its history.

There are also many beautiful gardens, a playground, and gorgeous wilderness to walk through. Prices for tours are €12 for adults, €11 for concessions, and €6 for children under 12. There are also family discounts available. Nearby, you can visit Weavers Cottage, Sha-Rose Bistro, and Sugar & Spice Bakery.

Visiting the ever so beautiful Huntington Castle is highly recommended. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, add it to your bucket list and enjoy all it has to offer.

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