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An Embellished Country House – Ardgillan Castle

Although it is officially called Ardgillan Castle, this lovely building is actually much more of a large country house. It is based near Balbriggan, County Dublin, Ireland and is set in the 200-acre Ardgillan Demesne which is a public park in the jurisdiction of Fingal County Council. It features some stunning castellated embellishments and overlooks Barnageera Beach, the Irish Sea, and Balbriggan.

The history of Ardgillan Castle

Visiting Ardgillan Castle and demesne is a simply enchanting experience. It was originally named ‘Prospect House’ or ‘Turret House’ and was the family home of the Taylors for over two hundred years. The site where the castle is now was once heavily wooded, whereas now it is far more open.

The history of Ardgillan Castle is only short, but it is certainly enchanting. Let’s take a look.

The early history

It all began when the district was controlled by the Gaelic O’Casey family. Later on, it was all owned by the Earl of Tryconnell. However, in the large period between the years 1600 and 1700, the area saw many large changes in the pattern of land ownership in Ireland. This was due to the confiscation and redistribution of land as a result of the Cromwellian and Williamite wars.

An aerial photo of Ardgillan Castle
The castle was built by Reverend Robert Taylor in 1738. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Taylor Family

The very first owner of the land itself was Robert Usher, a wealthy wine merchant from Tallaght. However, in 1737, Reverend Robert Taylor purchased the land that was situated in a wooded area. Reverend Robert Taylor was one of the Headfort Taylors, whose grandfather had worked with Sir William Petty on the mid 17th century “Down Survey of Ireland”.

Due to the property’s dense woodland, Reverend Robert Taylor employed some out of service soldiers from Bangor Co. Down. Reverend Robert Taylor paid them 1d and a meal per day. He also provided them with a comfortable bed to get a good night’s rest. On top of that, the soldiers were also given a tot of Irish whiskey from Bushmills which, at the time, was purchased for 2 shillings 2 pence a gallon.

After completing their work, the soldiers thanked Reverend Robert Taylor and left. Soon after, in 1738, Reverend Robert Taylor built Ardgillan Castle. From then on, the castle remained the family home of the Taylors (later Taylour) for over two hundred years.

Changing hands

In 1962, the estate was put up for sale and it sold within the same year. It was sold to Heir Henrich Potts of Westphalia. Then, in 1982, the estate was sold to Fingal County Council who went forth, with the help of Fás, and renovated the house. Ardgillan Castle was then officially opened to the public in the year 1992.

In 2020, the park was temporarily closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of Ireland.

Wide shot of Ardgillan Castle
The Taylors lived here for over 200 years. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The present day

Now reopened and recovering from the pandemic, Ardgillan Castle is slowly gaining more and more visitors. There are many events held on the grounds and within the castle. That means that there is something for everyone at the castle including self-guided tours.

You may be interested in reading about other Irish Castles such as Ross Castle.

Ghost of ‘The Lady’s Stairs’

No great castle is complete without a ghost story! According to folklore in the little town of Balbriggan, there is a ghost of a woman who is believed to haunt the bridge. The bridge is known as ‘The Lady’s Stairs’ to locals. The bridge sits over the Dublin to Belfast railway line at the end of the property facing the Irish sea.

It is said that the lady’s husband was a great swimmer who spent every spare moment swimming. However, one night he failed to return after the lady had sat at the bridge waiting for him. Unfortunately, she later found out that her husband had drowned, and she stayed at the bridge waiting for him until she also passed away.

Lady Langford’s ghost

Locals also tell a story that claims that if you go to the end of the bridge at midnight on Halloween, the lady will appear, catch you, and throw you to your death in the ocean. In 2006, the bridge was damaged, and a new story came to light. The story claims that Lord Langford of Summerhill House in Co Meath brought his recently wed wife to Ardgillan Castle to go hunting.

Though everyone advised her not to, Lord Langford’s wife went swimming and was drowned. Lord Langford died shortly after. Some say that the ghost seen on the bridge is Lady Langford in her wedding dress coming up to the castle to search for her husband.

Ardgillan Castle Timeline

  • 1737- Reverend Robert Taylor purchases the land that was situated in a wooded area
  • 1738- Reverend Robert Taylor builds the beautiful Ardgillan Castle
  • 1962- The estate is put up for sale and sold within the same year
  • 1982- The estate is sold to Fingal County Council who, with the help of Fás, renovated the house
  • 1992- Ardgillan Castle is then officially opened to the public
  • 2020- The park is temporarily closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of Ireland
  • 2021- The castle reopens to the public for self-guided tours

Ardgillan Castle facts

  • The castle remained as a family home for over two hundred years
  • Ardgillan Castle was first known as Prospect House or Turret House
  • The name ‘Ardgillan’ is derived from the Irish word ‘Ard Choill’ meaning ‘high wood’
  • Ardgillan Castle is actually a country house, not a castle
  • The castle features many beautiful, castellated embellishments

Featured in TV and film

  • The Dining Room (2020)

Books on Ardgillan Castle

  • Ardgillan Castle Revealed by Aidan J Herron (2018)

Who owns Ardgillan Castle?

After the castle purchased by the Dublin County Council in 1982, it was put into management. Nowadays, it is managed by Ardgillan Castle Ltd., under the auspices of Fingal County Council. They put plenty of hard work into the upkeep of this glorious country house.

Tourism

Whether you’re looking for a wedding or a simple self-guided tour, Ardgillan Castle has it all. It isn’t hard to get there at all. If you’re travelling north from Dublin, exit at Junction 5 and travelling south exit at Junction 6 which is well signposted.  There is also a bus route available to take you near the castle, then it is only a short walk. To check out the castles varying opening times, click here.

This lovely castle is very family friendly. Take your little ones along and while you relax on the grass, they can play on the great Ardgillan Castle playgrounds. You can even sit down for an Afternoon Tea event. This castle truly does have something for absolutely everyone. Nearby, you can also visit Malahide Castle and Gardens, Newbridge House and Farm, Swords Castle, Skerries Mills, and Drogheda Museum Millmount.

If you want to enjoy a beautiful day out, Ardgillan Castle is most definitely the place to be. Enjoy events, tours, and an experience to remember while exploring Ireland. If you want to make a weekend of it, you can stay nearby in the Bracken Court Hotel, Bedford House and Hall, or any of the other great accommodation options.

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