Featured image for Portumna Castle

A Family Power Base – Portumna Castle

Portumna Castle is a stunning building with a sensational view of Lough Derg. Surrounded by charming gardens which create an intense and memorable adventure throughout the original seventeenth-century setting, this castle is simply magnificent. Perhaps one of the most memorable parts of the castle is its dramatic driveway that leaves an impact on all those who visit.

Another exquisite part of the castle is the walled kitchen garden.

The history of Portumna Castle

Portumna Castle is one of the most unique examples of traditional Irish architecture from the 1600s. There is no denying that there is something truly spectacular about this castle. It was a family power base for over two hundred years and was a beloved home. Even with a short history, there is so much to know about this beautiful castle.

Close up of Portumna Castle
Portumna Castle was built in the 17th century. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The early history

When Portumna Castle was built, there was no other castle like it in Ireland. It stood out due to its style, grandeur, and general distinction which other castles simply did not have. Construction began in 1610 and it was then completed in the year 1617 at the grand cost of £10,000. At the same time, the Earl also built a rather large mansion, Somerhill House, Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

A Renaissance-style castle

Portumna Castle was built in a Renaissance style which was already prevalent in Italy and France for over a century beforehand. However, it was not commonly found in Ireland or England at the time the castle was built. The beautiful and unique Renaissance features of the exterior are, strictly speaking, limited to the doorcase at the front entrance as well as the Tuscan gateway of the innermost courtyard.

The gated entrance to Portumna Castle
The North gate of the castle. Source: Flickr.

However, the entire layout resembles an expression of Renaissance ideas. The castle is also symmetrical in shape and ranges over three stories over a basement with square corner projecting towers. Portumna Castle measures roughly 29.7m by 21.2m and the corner towers are 6.5m square with gunports. Within the castle, there is also a 3m wide central corridor supported by stone walls that contain numerous fireplaces and recesses.

Current day

The castle was abandoned after 200 years as a family home after it was ruined by fire in 1826. It then fell into the hands of the Office of Public Works in the 1960s. The Office of Public Works undertook the rebuilding of the property. First of all, they worked on re-building the huge chimney stacks. Now, the estate grounds contain stunning walled gardens, gate lodges, gateposts, and a yard.

You may be interested in other Irish castles such as Dunlough Castle.

Portumna Castle on a gloomy day
A fire ruined the castle in 1826. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Portumna Castle Timeline

  • 1610-Construction begins at Portumna Castle
  • 1617- The castle is finally complete for the grand cost of £10,000
  • 1826- The castle is abandoned after 200 years as a family home after it is ruined by fire
  • 1960s- The castle falls into the hands of the Office of Public Works

Portumna Castle facts

  • When Portumna Castle was built, there was no other like it in Ireland
  • It cost only £10,000 to build
  • The castle was a family home and power base for over two hundred years
  • Portumna Castle measures roughly 29.7m by 21.2m
  • Portumna Castle was built in a Renaissance style which was already prevalent in Italy and France but never seen in England or Ireland
Restored gardens at Portumna Castle
The beautiful gardens at Portumna Castle. Source: Geograph.

Books on Portumna Castle

  • Portumna Castle and Its Lords by Michael Mac Mahon (2000)

Who owns Portumna Castle?

Nowadays, Portumna Castle is still in State care under the Office of Public Works. The Office of Public Works does a great job in preserving the castle and performing rebuilding services when needed. It was vital that they secured the castle to ensure that it enhances the tourist offering and its history is shared.

Tourism

These days, the beautiful Portumna Castle and gardens are open to the public. You can enjoy a lovely walk around the castle and the surrounding estate to gain a great insight into what life may have been like at the castle. There are basic facilities on site such as toilets and wheelchair access. Children do need to be supervised at all times to ensure nothing is damaged or broken.

It is recommended that you spend 1-1.5 hours here to ensure that you get the best out of your visit. The grounds are open from 10:00 to 18:00 and last admittance is at 17:15. There are also tea rooms onsite open for takeaway only at this point. Admission to the castle is completely free, however, donations are accepted to afford the upkeep of the castle.

The ground floor of Portumna Castle houses a beautiful exhibition that truly brings the castle’s story alive. It also honours the history of the De Burgo family. It is situated right beside the River Shannon and the Portumna Forest Park. So, after you check out the castle’s interior, it is recommended that you enjoy a wander outside in the fresh air.

To enjoy a delightful day out, nearby, you can also visit Clonmacnoise, Athenry Castle, and Roscrea Heritage Centre.

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