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Visiting Johnstown Castle: Its History, Tours + Glorious Grounds

Visiting Johnstown Castle: Its History, Tours + Glorious Grounds

Johnstown Castle is arguably one of the better-known castles in Ireland and it’s a key County Wexford landmark.

There has been a castle on this site since the late 12th century and the area is steeped in history.

An imposing structure when viewed from afar and up close, Johnstown Castle has been carefully maintained and both the castle and its grounds are a joy to explore.

Below, you’ll find information on everything from tours and tickets to a speedy, 2-minute history of Johnstown Castle. Dive on in!

Some quick need-to-knows about the Johnstown Castle in Wexford

Johnstown Castle History

Photo via Shutterstock

Although a visit to Johnstown Castle in Wexford is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find Johnstown Castle a 10-minute drive from Wexford Town, a 20-minute drive from Rosslare, a 25-minute drive from Kilmore Quay and a 30-minute spin from the Hook Peninsula.

2. Opening hours

The Johnstown Castle opening hours change throughout the year. From March 17th – October 31st, it’s open from 9 – 17:00. From November 1st – March 16th, it’s open from 9 – 16:00.

3. The gardens and museum

This site is home to the Irish Agricultural Museum, featuring one of the most comprehensive displays of farming and rural life in Ireland. You will also have the chance to enjoy the 4 km (2.5 miles) long walk through the picturesque lake and ornamental gardens.

4. Prices

Tickets for the garden and museum are as follows (castle tours are separate – see below):

  • €9 for an adult
  • €4 for a child (5 – 16)
  • €7 for OAPs and students
  • €24 for a family (2 adults and 4 children)

4. The castle 

The visit to the castle features a guided tour that will teach you everything about the history of this 19th-century renovated building and will take you to the longest domestic servants’ tunnel in Ireland. The guided tour will cost you €4 for adults and €2 for kids, €3 for OAPs and students and €11 for a family (2 adults and 4 children).

A brief history of Johnstown Castle

Johnstown Castle

Photos via Shutterstock

The history of Johnstown Castle is an interesting one, and it’s told brilliantly by the guides who masterfully bring the area’s story to life.

The first structure built on this site was a tower house, dating back to the late 12th century. It was commissioned by the Esmonde family which also ordered the construction of another tower house at Rathlannan that can still be admired to this day. 

The 15th and 16th century

In 1649, Oliver Cromwell spent a night here and his army used the area around the Johnstown Castle to prepare for the Sack of Wexford.

Later in 1692, the castle became the property of the Grogan family but its owner, Cornelius Grogan, a commissary-general for the United Irishmen, lost his life during the 1798 Rebellion.

17th century to recent times

In 1810, the building was finally restored by Cornelius’ brother, John Knox Grogan, who, together with his son, renovated Johnstown Castle.

Many years later, around 1863, the grounds were said to be home to two man-made lakes, a deer park and a farm. The Grogan family then married into the ancient Fitzgerald family and, in the 19th century, Lady Maurice FitzGerald became the last owner to ever live in Johnstown Castle. 

Things to do at Johnstown Castle

Johnstown Castle Gardens

Photo via Shutterstock

One of the reasons that a visit to Johnstown Castle is one of the more popular things to do in Wexford is due to the volume of things there are to see and do there.

Here’s a handful of things to see and do when you arrive, from walks and tours to museums and more.

1. Explore the gardens

Looking for family-friendly walks in Wexford? Johnstown Castle is the perfect place to enjoy a tranquil afternoon surrounded by nature. Both the artificial lakes and the ornamental gardens were designed by Victorian architect Daniel Robertson.

In order to fully explore the area, make sure to budget at least one hour for your visit to the gardens and the lakes. Pets are allowed on the site and here you will also find a children’s woodland play area. 

2. Stroll alongside the lakes

There are a total of three artificial lakes situated around Johnstown Castle. The lower one is 12 acres in size and is the largest inland freshwater lake in the whole of County Wexford. This lake was dug by hand in 1850 and animals such as otters and waterfowl regularly seen here.

The Castle lake was the first one to be built around 1830 and 1840 and around its shores are located a fishing tower and seven statues dating back to the same period. Near the walled garden, you will find the third lake built during the 1880s when the FitzGerald family lived in the castle. 

3. Take a tour of the castle

Tours of the castle are held daily and include a visit to the 86-meter (282-feet) long servants’ tunnel. Through the tour, you will be able to explore the many rooms and corridors of this Gothic-Revival Castle and learn everything there is to know about its history.

The castle is fully accessible and your guided tour will last about one hour. 

4. Visit the Irish Agricultural Museum

The Irish Agricultural Museum is located in Johnstown Castle’s courtyard building and it opened approximately forty years ago. Here you will find 19 different exhibitions ranging from tractors to country kitchens.

The Irish Agricultural Museum hosts one of the largest displays of Irish country furniture in the whole of Ireland as well as a large collection of restored tractors, ploughs, carts, threshing machines and stationary engines.

Here you will also learn about the impact that the Great Famine had in Ireland through a dedicated exhibition, and you will be able to observe recreated workshops of traditional trades such as wheelwright and blacksmith.

Things to do near Johnstown Castle

One of the beauties of Johnstown Castle is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Wexford.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Johnstown Castle.

1. Forth Mountain (10-minute drive)

Forth Mountain

Photo © Fáilte Ireland courtesy Luke Myers/Ireland’s Content Pool

Forth Mountain is home to a 10 km (6.2 miles) long walk that can be completed in about 2 hours. There are few walks in Wexford that pack a punch view-wise like the Forth Mountain Walk on a clear day – the views are the business!

2. Irish National Heritage Park (12-minute drive)

Irish National Heritage Park

Photos by Chris Hill via Ireland’s Content Pool

The Irish National Heritage Park is situated about 3 km (5 miles) west of Wexford city. Here you will be able to choose from three different tours that will teach you everything there is to know about the ancient populations that used to inhabit these lands, from the prehistoric period to the Norman invasion.  

3. Beaches galore (15-minute drive)

Rosslare Strand

Photos via Shutterstock

There are endless beaches in Wexford. The popular Rosslare Beach is a 20-minute drive away while Curracloe Beach is a handy 25-minute spin.

FAQs about visiting Johnstown Castle in Wexford

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are the Johnstown Castle prices like?’ to ‘Is the Johnstown Castle Museum any good?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is Johnstown Castle really worth visiting?

Yes! Even if you’ve no interest in history, the grounds are glorious to walk around. The castle tours are excellent and the museum is worth sauntering around.

How much does it cost to visit Johnstown Castle?

The guided tour will cost you €4 for adults and €2 for kids, €3 for OAPs and students and €11 for a family (2 adults and 4 children).

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