Clonegal Castle - Guide, Grounds, Trees and Fields

Castle from the South:

Ballustrated entrance to the Temple of Isis, right.

Left to right: The Revs: Morgan Benedict, U.S.A., Baron Strathloch,

Olivia Robertson, Karin Aziz, London, newly ordained

and Shasta Zaring, U.S.A.

The Grounds

The garden is counted to be the second oldest garden in Ireland. The terraces were laid out by Alexander (ii) Durdin in about 1860. Much of the Wilderness was tilled, for root crops. The terraces were dug down about 4 feet and the bank removed by the Rev. Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, who also filled in the path on the South East side of the Castle and the path running from the house to the Centre Walk. The tennis court on the N. East front of the Castle was removed. In front of the Castle the site of the old Bawn was excavated; a lot of pottery fragments, clay pipes and oyster shells were dug up. The front avenue was continued through the front lawn as far as the Bawn.

The old ruins to the North of the Castle has always been known as he “Abbey”. It may have been used by Franciscan monks, or it may have been part of the Augustinian Abbey of Abbeydown, two miles to the East. There are no records (written); it is thought to be over 600 uears old. It was kept as a Kennel for harriers, by William Durdin. It has two very old cells, which may have been oratory chapels. They have 3’6” roofs and date back to the 15th Century. The Yew Walk at the S. East of the Castle, is thought to have been planted by monks. It is a line of 120 English Yew Trees 130 yards long. An old summer house known as ‘the Temple’ was in the North East of the terrace and was thatched; the belvedere was built from fragments in 1986 by Lawrence and David Durdin-Robertson. The corners of the Yew Walk, in the East and Southern were cut down by H. Robertson to give a view from the Castle. The Florence Court Yews on the lawn were originally in the shape of coffee cups, then balls, and then allowed to grow in their natural shape. About 20 fan palms (chamerops) were planted from 1903 onwards by Manning Robertson, who also planted the Pinus Insignis, above the horse pond, and the grove of cypresses.

Mr. Manning Robertson planted the witch hazel Hammamelis Mollis in front of the Tapestry Room window, in palce of the monkey puzzle (Araucaria), the flowering cherry to the left of the Abbey wall, the Mahonia to the right of the Conservatory, the white tree Heather opposite the Tapestry Room window.

Lawrence Durdin-Robertson put in the circular flower bed opposite the Tapestry Room, and then two at the S.W. of the terrace and at the N.E. in place of the old fountain. He also excavated the front terrace, digging down about 4 feet to some foundation walls of the old Bawn, immediately in front of the Castle. The Bawn originally had 11 foot high walls. The wall at the North East of the terrace is thought to be a continuation of the Old Abbey.

Baron Robertson of Strathloch and the Hon. Olivia Robertson,

Priest and Priestess of Isis, with a newly ordained Priestss of Isis,

the Rev. Gayle Mack from Atlanta, U.S.A.

Statue of Atalanta behind her.


The Yew Walk is a line of 120 yew trees which bend over forming an arch. It is thought to be over 600 years old, being part of the Old Abbey grounds. It forms three sides of a rectangle. The corners were cut out by H. Robertson, to allow a vista to the east and the south. The largest tree is at the N. West ed by the arcaded wall, measuring 41 feet high; in width 12 feet and 9 inches. The branches of different trees join together. The 18 Florencecourt Yews were planted over the lawns. The trees forming the Front Avenue are mainly Lime trees with a few Sycamore; they were planted in 1680 from France. In 1933 Mr. Fitzpatrick, of the Forestry Department, included some of these for measurement. Two of them, on the right side, looking down from the castle were found to be 110 feet, the tallest recorded lime and sycamore in Ireland at that time. The fine deodar cedar was probably planted in 1890. In 1882 Sir Thisleton-Dyer, the Curator of Kew garden visited the place and brought with him some young trees, in order to see how they grew here. Quite a few were planted near the turbine house, including some Picea Normanica, and many varieties of Abies and creeping Yew, along the Inch, thujas, juniper; in the Wilderness a tulip tree. In the paddock there is a fern-leafed beech, a fern-leafed oak, an ailanthus, three hickories (Caryas) at the top of the Paddock. Manning Robertson planted the weeping birch in about 1939, the atlas cedar in about 1930, the plane trees and Canadian maples.

The lower left (looking from Castle) part of the Wilderness was planted by Lawrence in about 1944. The lower right by Esmonde in the 1950’s. The two silver poplars in the Kennel Park by the tail race, recently blown down, sent up suckers, which David planted on the Derrybank from the Bridge House down and in the Haggard. In the yard a birch tree was planted in 1987 in place of a larger birch tree cut down, and a pink flowering Hawthorn tree to the left of the garage, an Escallonia and a Philadelphus were also planted in 1987 - 88. The Magnolia and Wisteria were planted about 1900, the white Hawthorn, to the North-East of front lawn by Robert Currey, about 1970; to the North-Westfo the Yew Walk the Red Tree Peony by Mrs. Herbert Robertson, from Paris in 1910. The Ginkgo to the right of the Central Walk (Salisburia Adiantifolia) by Manning in about 1930 and the Amelenchior by Melian in 1968. Limes we planted by Ulrich Rukhriem in 1989, along the path leading to the installation.

The Fields

The Kennel Park, the Brick Field and Browns Field were originally a 35 acre park without fences between them. The Brick Field is so named because they burnt bricks there. Some of them were used in the construction of the Castle, some in the arcaded wall, some in the Barrel vault and the dungeon. Brown’s and the High Field were called after a Mr. Brown. He used to lean over the gate leading to the back avenue and used to admire the view there, particularly of Mount Leinster; it is said he came for a short visit and stayed 37 years. The Triangle was so called because of its shape. The Cottage Field originally consisted of many smaller fields (the Long Field, the Square Field) which, by the help of a bull-dozer became one. Hickey’s Island used to be a very small farm belonging to people named Hickey, with a car road between it and the High Field.

The Arboretum is in the Paddock and Haggard and contains Hickories (Caryon) on the N.W. side and Scots pines to the N.E. In the middle is a Wellingtonia, a Larch, an Atlas Cedar, some Limes, a Canadian maple, a fern-leaved Beech and a fern-leaved Oak.

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