One of Ireland’s most beautiful treasures lies near the village of Portarlington. This national gem is known as Emo Court and Gardens, and is a fine example of the traditional large country house in the neoclassical style.
Construction began in 1792 from a design by the brilliant James Gandon, celebrated architect of the Four Courts, Custom House and O’Connell Bridge in Dublin. It is said that Emo Court is his largest domestic work, and the only one to compare in scope to the contributions of his civic projects.
Work on the house continued on and off for nearly 70 years before it was completely finished. The original patron and first owner was the first Earl of Portarlington. The English owner of Emo Court, Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley Harrison, donated the house and its beautiful gardens to the Irish people in 1996. It has been exquisitely decorated and meticulously restored, to the delight of current visitors.
Notable features of the house include an ornate entrance hall; a library that contains an intricately carved Italian marble fireplace; and, visible as a large green dome on the exterior, a rotunda reminiscent of the Roman Pantheon that was designed by William Caldbeck.
The grounds are also a memorable sight; the main drive is lined with Wellingtonia trees. The grounds comprise 55 acres, and include a 20-acre lake, yew-tree studded lawns and two gardens – the Grapery and the Clucker- named so because a nunnery formerly occupied the site. The gardens contain many rare trees and shrubs, as well as Japanese maples and beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas.
Emo Court is located on the N7, the Kildare-Portlaoise Road, about 7km from Portarlington. It is about an hour’s drive from Dublin.