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Durrow, Laois, Ireland

Castle Durrow Grounds Guide

A leisurely stroll around a castle with a rich history.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 0.8 miles / 1.3 km
Duration: 1 hour or less
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: Built in 1712, Castle Durrow has been called 'a piece of Irish history embodied in stone'. Approximately 90 minutes from Dublin on the Dublin-Cork M8 motorway in County Laois, the magnificent building stands in a commanding position in the centre of Durrow village overlooking the beautiful river Erkina. Following Castle Durrow's purchase in 1998 by Peter and Shelley Stokes, the castle has been transformed into an elegant 48-bedroomed country house hotel unlike any in Ireland.

Set amid 30 acres of manicured gardens, woodlands, orchards and paddocks, Castle Durrow is a unique fusion of Queen Anne, Victorian and Georgian styles. We invite you to take a walk around its grounds taking in the best that the castle has to offer with the walk passing by the river, the 'kissing tree', the herb garden and the 'Good South' garden. Coupled with this fine scenery is a compelling story of the previous owners and of the area itself.

On the audio pieces of the guide, hear from Peter and Shelly Stokes, Ann Lanigan and Sean Conroy and not forgetting the wonderful turn of phrase of head gardener, Bart Howard.

There is plenty more on offer in the locality for the energetic among you. Within a twenty-mile radius of Castle Durrow, there are five golf courses and the hotel is keen to organise golf and any other arrangements for guests. If that's not enough, there is fishing, hiking/walking, clay-pigeon shooting, canoeing, archery, and High Nelly vintage cycling which are available locally and on the estate.

If you've enjoyed this walk, please let the reception desk staff at the castle know about it.


Tips: A sturdy pair of boots and raingear are recommended for this walk which is on grass a lot of the time. Best enjoyed in late Spring when the garden is alive with colour.

PLEASE NOTE: each guide needs to be downloaded separately in order to work offline with the EveryTrail Pro app. Best to download only the ones you are likely to be using during your stay. If downloading when at Castle Durrow, make the most of the foyer area WiFi and download your chosen tour/s once you've reviewed the material. All guides are subject to acceptance of the navigatour™ Licence Agreement, the link of which is on the right hand column.

Points of Interest

Hotel
map

Down the lane

Coming out of the hotel's main entrance, turn right and make your way down the lane towards Durrow village. Halfway down the lane, look out for the turn off to the left by the church and a large wooden gate.

On the audio piece, listen to castle owner Shelly stokes welcome you in both English and in her native Dutch.
Audio
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Shelly welcome
Junction
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Starting gate

Make your way past the wooden gate to start this walk in earnest. You are about to take a walk that has been enjoyed for close on 300 years.

Built by earlier generations of Durrow inhabitants, the legacy of Castle Durrow is its unique sense of proportion, restrained good taste, and a spaciousness that has largely disappeared from present-day living. Complex traditions unite at Castle Durrow; it was built and lived in during a period of high taste and high culture.

Formerly the home of the Flower family, Barons Castle Durrow and Viscounts Ashbrook, it was built in the early 18th century (1712-1715) when domestic architecture in Ireland was developing an independence of the need for defence and economy that had characterised earlier construction.
Audio
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Laois resurgence
Viewpoint
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First view of river

You should be coming into view of the Erkina river. The Erkina is the second largest river in the Durrow area, flowing from the northwest past the village and then the castle, joining the Nore about one mile east of Durrow. The river has many deep pools and is good for fishing stocked trout, natural wild brown trout and pike.

All waters in the Durrow area require a permit. Fishing permits can be arranged by contacting the Durrow and District Angling Club's officer Michael Walsh, 18 Erkindale Drive, Durrow on (057) 9736437 or Lawlors Gala Shop, The Square, Durrow on (057) 8736234.

Durrow is a town with a rich angling culture. With five rivers within a mile of the town and Grantstown Lake located four miles away, the visiting angler is truly spoiled for choice. Typically the fishing season opens on March 1 and runs until September 30 each year, though in recent years the season has opened later. Please check with the Angling Club's officer about the season dates each year.
Audio
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Weddings at Castle Durrow
Animals/Wildlife
map

Kissing tree

As you walk along by the banks of the Erkina river, you'll come across a very unusual oak tree that has markings on it - this was where courting couples came and wrote their names into the tree to celebrate young love.The tree stands as a tribute to these young romantics and in our accompanying audio piece, Ann Lanagan reminds us that it is just as well the tree cannot talk!

A new addition to the castle are some beautiful mares. They're very friendly and more so if you should come with apples! Ask at reception if interested in doing horse riding nearby.
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Kissing tree
Building
map

The Castle

You are now in a prime place to appreciate the structure of the castle. The construction began after the Cromwellian and Williamite wars; this resulted in a new Protestant aristocracy that was beginning to enjoy the lands that they had inherited. The fashion of this new era dictated that inherited land should now separate the burden of agriculture from that of class, and create elegant mansions that could not in any way resemble the farmhouse type buildings of the previous age.

Colonel William Flower commenced with the construction of the Manor in 1712. The Flower family assumed residency of Castle Durrow in 1716 and continued to expand and improve their Estate on various occasions during their 214-year reign. Past research indicates that the Ashbrooks were generally regarded as benevolent landlords and of course the largest employers of Durrow Village.
Audio
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Peter and Bart outside the castle
Water
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By the Erkina river

The Erkina which has its source in an area close to the point where County Laois, Tipperary and Kilkenny meet can be navigated by kayak from Johnstown Glebe, two miles south of Rathdowney and the Golf Course, the wooden bridge, the only one of its kind still carrying traffic in this country and the bridge from where to local canoe clubs gets their names, 'the Curragh', home to bird watchers as illustrated in Don Conroy and Jim Wilson's book Bird Life in Ireland, and the beautiful Castle Durrow as you approach the town. Other local rivers of note are the Goul and the Naul rivers.
Audio
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Laois hunt
Landmark
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The Obelisk

Visitor's should be wary that the estate has two ghosts in residence. The White Lady is often seen at nightfall across the river near the Obelisk. Captain Jeremiah Grant, also known as the Highwayman, has also been seen skulking amongst the trees. He once inhabited the forests here, where he was eventually captured and hanged, and is said to have buried his loot here, which has never been found! Maybe not a good idea to do this walk at twilight.Yes, so that's ghost - the other, you'll have to find out about yourself....
Audio
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The White Lady obelisk
Viewpoint
map

Flora galore

The gardens of the castle in full resplendent bloom are a treat for all lovers the outdoors. Want to know bit more about what we do here? Bart is the castle's organic kitchen garden expert. Crop rotation, organically grown vegetables and green house management. Let us know in advance and Bart will show you how its done.
Audio
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Shelly's gardens
Junction
map

Latecomers entrance

If you're taking this walk the morning after the night before, there will no doubt be one or two post wedding stragglers on the walk. This is a good place for them to catch up with you, being beside the car park and stable quarters.

On the audi piece, hear Shelly Stokes tell how taking over and doing up an old castle was no 'bed of roses'.
Audio
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Doing up the castle
Viewpoint
map

The Good South

The rear of the castle, or the Good South as the nuns called the back garden, is where our guests can truly enjoy the opulence of Castle Durrow and see beyond to the Slieve Bloom mountains.
Audio
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Bart's garden overview
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Shelly's girls garden
Junction
map

Through the looking glass

If you're taking young ones on this walk, they will enjoy this next section which takes you down a few steps and remove you from the beady eyes of all onlookers.

On the audio piece, hear Bart tell us about the Papal tree planted by the nuns in 1979 when John Paul II came to Ireland - you can see the tree's picture in the accompanying photographs.
Audio
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Papal tree
Viewpoint
map

Trees a plenty

While you may now be surrounded by trees, their preponderance was once coveted and exploited. Durrow was once known as Darmhagh Na nDuach (Plain of the Oaks) because of the great oak forests which surrounded the village, until in Elizabethan times, when much of the timber was cut for building purposes.

In 1922 the banks finally foreclosed and the Flower family was forced to relocate back to Britain. Subsequently, the property was sold to Mr. Maher of Freshford, Co Kilkenny who was primarily interested in the rich timber reserves of the Estate. By 1928 the old hard wood forests of Durrow were scarce.

Eventually, the Land Commission divided up the arable portions of the property and the Forestry Department took over many of the woods for further plantation. During this time the great manor house which stood in a commanding position near the town overlooking the beautiful River Erkina remained entirely empty for a few years. The Bank of Ireland acquired the town and consequently for the next 40 years house property in Durrow was purchased from that bank.
Audio
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Woodland residents
Junction
map

Final turn

You could continue on and be in the village within seconds or turn left to pass by the tennis court and return to the castle.

On the audio piece, Bart tells us some more about the colours of the garden he has helped create.
Audio
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Bart's colourful garden
map

Tennis Court

What better way of enjoying an afternoon than a game of tennis? We have a clubhouse beside the court if you want to have a competition and some refreshments. Ask at reception if in need of some rackets and tennis balls.

On the audio piece, hear Bart tell how the castle tries to grow its own to have on your plate for dinner.
Audio
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Bart's vegetables
Viewpoint
map

Side view

In 1929, with the Bishop's approval, the Parish of Durrow acquired the Estate for the purchase price of £1800 and Castle Durrow was transformed into a school, St Fintan's College and Convent. The advent of a school at Castle Durrow was testimony to the fact that beautiful buildings of the past could be used in the modern world. To your right, you can see that the grounds still act as a school, albeit the village's national school.

Peter and Shelley Stokes bought the castle in 1998 and transformed it into the luxurious Castle Hotel it is today as you'll have witnessed in this memorable stroll around its grounds.

a double sampling of Bart on the audio pieces no less - feel fre to inspect if he has whetted your appetite.
Audio
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Bart's herbacious garden
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Bart's back garden
Junction
map

The folly

As you make your way up the gentle slope, you'll see the turreted folly of the castle which Peter tells us more about on the audio piece. You can turn left back to the castle and maybe a hot toddy and a game of snooker in Lord Ashbrook's billiards room, or if feeling energetic, why not have a walk around the village by turning right? Our Durrow Heritage Guide makes for great company, assuming you've downloaded it from the Wi-Fi foyer area.

The village of Durrow was developed under the patronage of the Viscounts of Ashbrook and is home to a number of historic buildings around the village green. Castle Durrow itself is one of the last large pre-Palladian houses to be built in Ireland and attracts many historians from both near and far. Durrow village has a lovely, rustic atmosphere and friendly people.

Nearby towns such as the ancient city of Kilkenny, Abbeyleix, and Cashel are among the most important heritage sites in Ireland and are a must for all touring visitors. See our Durrow and Environs Guide to find out more about them. For more guides on EveryTrail Pro, see and hear our free sister audio guide for Cashel as well as the Trail Kilkenny app .
Audio
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Folly
Pictures in this guide taken by: navigatourist

Castle Durrow Grounds Guide Map


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