On a cliff near the Blackwater river, rises the ancient, charming and impressive Lismore castle, one of Ireland’s finest, and home over the years to many famous dwellers. The castle has a splendid view of the Blackwater Valley and the Knockmealdown Mountains, and is less than a kilometre from the Heritage Town of Lismore, County Waterford. The castle is privately owned and is generally not open to the public -- except for groups willing to rent it for short vacation stays, for an eye-watering sum (tens of thousands of euros). However, the castle gardens are accessible to the public, for a fee of 8 euros for adults, which some visitors feel is a little high, since you don't actually get to visit the castle, although they are enjoyable (see details and video below). Those uninterested in visiting the gardens / paying a fee may take photos of the magnificent castle exterior from the nearby bridge, or go for a picnic on the riverbank. There is a small, free playground for children near the carpark.
The castle gardens are split on two levels, one being in bloom mostly in spring and the other in summer. A tour of the gardens usually takes around 40 minutes. The staff are very friendly and helpful and tea and coffee are available, in paper cups, in a small tea room. The gardens are well landscaped and some of the attractive features include a walled vegetable garden, an orchard and great views of the castle. A small art gallery (usually around 10 or so paintings at a time) in the garden displays works of local artist. For kids, the gallery has a sculpture trail and art materials to play with.
Visitors explore Lismore Castle Gardens
Fee for entry to Lismore Castle Gardens
- Adults: 8 euros
- Seniors: 5 euros
- Students: 5 euros
- Children over 5: 5 euros
- Groups of 20+: 5 euros
- Children under 5: Free
History of Lismore Castle
While the Gaelic name Lios Mor means “big fort”, the original seventh-century dwelling was in fact an ecclesiastical seat of learning, and still had this function when England’s King Henry II stayed here in 1171. In 1589, Sir Walter Raleigh -- the British adventurer who infamously introduced both tobacco and the potato to these isles -- bought the castle, having leased it for some time. When imprisoned in the Tower of London for high treason in 1602, Raleigh sold Lismore along with 42,000 acres for £1,500 to Richard Boyle, who had arrived in Ireland with only twenty-seven pounds, but was eventually to become one of the country’s richest men – and Earl of Cork.
His son, Robert Boyle, father of modern chemistry, was born in Lismore in 1626. The castle passed to the Cavendish family, Dukes of Devonshire in 1753, when the daughter and heiress of the fourth Earl of Cork married the fourth Duke of Devonshire. Their son, the fifth Duke (1748-1811), carried out many improvements, and successive renovations and embellishments have sine been undertaken out by the Dukes of Devonshire, who still own the castle.
In 1932, Adele Astaire, sister of American dancer / actor Fred Astaire, married Lord Charles Cavendish and lived in the Castle until 1944, when her husband died. Adele returned to America but continued to visit Lismore during summers, often with Fred accompanying her. The current owner is Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire, and the castle now provides holiday accommodation – to those who can afford it! Unfortunately, the castle is not open to other visitors, save for its gardens, for which there is an entry fee (see above).
Lismore Castle. Image by staticgirl
Portrait of Robert Boyle. Image: Wikipedia
Adele Astaire in 1919. Image: Wikipedia