Lismore Castle In Waterford: One Of Ireland’s Most Impressive Castles

lismore castle
Photos via Shutterstock

The stunning Lismore Castle in Waterford is arguably one of the most impressive castles in Ireland.

Lismore Castle, the Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire, is located in the town of Lismore. It was built as a sister castle to Ardfinnan Castle in Tipperary by the soon-to-be King John in 1185.

When he became King, John passed the Castle to the Church to be used as a monastery. The Church sold the Castle in 1529 to Sir Walter Raleigh, who had to subsequently offload it in 1602 when he was arrested for treason. 

In the guide below, you’ll find out everything you need to know about Lismore Castle, from its history to how to rent it out, if you’ve cash to splash!

Some quick need-to-knows before you visit Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle
Photo by Stephen Long (Shutterstock)

So, unlike many of the other historical places to visit in Waterford, you can’t actually go inside Lismore Castle. Here are some quick need-to-knows:

1. Location

Lismore Castle is located on the outskirts of Lismore town and enjoys fabulous views over the River Blackwater and the Knockmealdown Mountains. It’s a 30-minute drive from Dungarvan, a 35-minute drive from Youghal and a 40-minute drive from Ardmore.

2. Not a tourist attraction

The Castle is the private Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire and is not open to the public. However, Lismore Castle Gardens are open 7 days a week, and Lismore Castle Arts offers several exhibitions during the year. If you really want to see inside the castle, it’s available to rent for events and family gatherings.

3. The gardens

The gardens are separated into 2 parts, the Upper Garden, a 17th-century walled garden, and the Lower Garden, from the 19th Century, which was constructed for the 6th Duke of Devonshire. Lismore gardens are open to the public every day from 10.30 am, with the last admission being at 4.30 pm.  

A brief history of Lismore Castle

lismore castle
Photos via Shutterstock

Price John built the first Lismore Castle in 1185. On becoming King, he passed it to the Cistercians to use as a monastery. They retained it until 1589, when they sold it to Sir Walter Raleigh, the fella responsible for bringing potatoes to Ireland.

However, Sir Walter was imprisoned for High Treason in 1602 and forced to sell the Castle. It was bought by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, who added gabled extensions to the courtyard, as well as a castellated wall and gatehouse.

Family life at the castle

The Earl had 15 children. Number 14, Robert Boyle, was known as The Father of Modern Chemistry. Cromwell paid the Castle a visit, and it was restored afterwards with Georgian additions.

The 4th Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish, inherited the Castle in 1753. He later became Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland. The 6th Duke, the Batchelor Duke, engaged the architect, Sir Joseph Paxton, to rebuild the castle in Gothic style in 1811.

In modern times the 9th Duke was married to Adele Astaire, Fred Astaire’s sister, and she lived in and used the castle until just before she died, in 1981. Many famous names have visited the castle, including, of course, Adele’s brother Fred Astaire, JFK, Cecil Beaton and Lucian Freud, as well as royals and the royalty of sports and music.

You can also rent Lismore Castle (but it’ll cost you!) 

Although the castle is the Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire, it can be rented out to parties of up to 30 guests while the Duke is not in residence.

You can stay in the Duke’s own living quarters, 15 bedrooms & 14 bathrooms, billiard and games room, 2 sitting rooms, drawing and dining rooms.

Wedding receptions are held in the Banqueting Hall and can accommodate up to 80 people. The rental period is usually one week. You must contact the Castle to get a rate for your specific requirements.

Things to do near Lismore Castle

One of the beauties of Lismore Castle is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best things to do in Waterford.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Lismore Castle (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Lismore Castle Gardens

lismore gardens
Photos by Paul Vowles (Shutterstock)

Lismore Castle’s historic gardens spread over almost 7 acres and are actually two gardens. The upper garden was designed by Richard Boyle in 1605 and remains nearly the same as it was then; only the plantings have changed. 

2. Ballysaggartmore Towers

Ballysaggartmore Lismore
Photo by Bob Grim (Shutterstock)

Ballysaggartmore Towers are set in beautiful woodland about 2.5km from Lismore Castle – just follow the signs for Fermoy. The Towers were built by Arthur Kiely-Ussher as the entrance to what was supposed to be a grand castle for his wife, Elizabeth. However, the family ran out of money, and the castle was never built. These days, the Towers are in excellent condition.

3. The Vee Pass

The vee drive
Photo by Frost Anna/shutterstock.com

You can see five counties from the Vee, Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Limerick and Wexford, on a fine day. The VEE is a V-shaped bend looking through a gap in the Knockmealdown mountains providing a spectacular view. In late May or early June, whole hillsides are alive with colour when the rhododendrons bloom.

3. The Waterford Greenway

waterford greenway cycle
Photo Courtesy of Luke Myers (via Failte Ireland)

The Waterford Greenway is 46km of gorgeous scenery along cycling and walking tracks, following the River Suir from Dungarvan to Waterford. It takes about 3.5 hours (cycling) but is relatively easy, and you can stop for breaks along the way. You can also take your time and stay overnight in one of the towns or villages on the way. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery and the history of the coastal route.

FAQs about Lismore Castle in Waterford

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether you can visit Lismore Castle to what there is to see nearby.

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 Lismore Castle open to the public?

No. The castle is privately owned and not open to visitors. However, Lismore Castle Gardens are, and they’re well worth a visit.

How much does it cost to rent Lismore Castle?

You need to contact the castle directly for a quote (see link above), but we’ve heard (this is rumor) that it costs upwards of €60,000 (again, this may not be accurate, so contact the castle).

How many rooms does Lismore Castle have?

There are 15 beautiful bedrooms at Lismore Castle. The castle can sleep up to 30 guests.

Norah is a writer and self-publisher of fiction and non-fiction. She adores the excitement of unknown places and together with several locations in Ireland, has, over 21 years, made her home in London, The Hague and New Zealand, returning to Ireland with her Kiwi rescue dog Barney, in tow.

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