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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Huntington Castle

Co Carlow

Huntington Castle

The Yew Walk at Huntington Castle
Huntington Castle and grounds c.1900.
Source: eBay Seller
Huntington Castle
Source: Google Maps
Huntington Castle
Source: Circle of Isis
Far to the left are the slopes of Aghold, where St. Fiac had his monastery, and nearer, the spires of the church of St. Fiac in Clonegal. The turrets of Huntington Castle can be picked out in a loop of the Derry at Clonegal, with the Spire of St. Brigid’s Church keeping a watching brief over the village.
Just beyond Clonegal is Ballinastraw Hill, on top of which was one of the garrison houses left by the Cromwellians. On the far left we can pick out Newry Hill, where lived the mother of Bagenal Harvey the ‘98 leader. When Harvey was captured on the Saltee Islands he surrendered his sword to the Officer in charge of the Yeomen, and a young captain asked for it. He was none other than Ralph James Harvey’s own brother-in-law. He brought the sword back to Newry where it was kept for many years. The sword was given to another brother-in-law, named Donohoe who kept it safe, and it remained in the family for generations. The sword passed on to Thomas Donohoe‘s grandson, Richard Murphy of Coolruss, who with the consent of the family presented it to the Wexford museum on permanent loan. (Source: Carloviana 1987/88)

Huntington Castle (also known as Clonegal Castle) was built on the site of an old manor house by the Esmonds in 1625. It is one of the few castles still lived in by direct descendants of the builder. In 1588 Queen Elizabeth Ist forces had captured the area and it was given to the Netterville family who in turn gave it to the Esmonds. (Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Huntington Castle as it stands today, is a Jacobean gesture in architecture. It was built in 1625 by the First Lord Esmonde, and replaced an earlier stronghold that had been built in the 15th century on the site of an ancient monastery. Approached via a long avenue of majestic limes, it casts a long finger of shadow across its surroundings, and possesses a spellbinding quality. Its interior of dark, creaking corridors and atmospheric rooms, crammed with an eclectic mix of tapestries, suits of armour, dusty old books, stuffed animals and family portraits, has a decided otherworldly feel, and it comes as little surprise to learn that this truly mysterious castle, which for over two hundred years has been home to the Durdin-Robertson family, is haunted.

Outside is the 600-year old Yew Walk, one of the few survivors from the days of the monastery. Its’ curled and entwined branches form a long and mysterious tunnel that could so easily be a gateway into another time. On several occasions, monks manage to transcend the centuries, and their ghostly forms are seen walking up and down beneath the interlocking canopy. Elsewhere in the gardens, the restless wraith of Ailish O’Flaherty, the first wife of Lord Esmonde is sometimes seen standing by the “Spy Bush”, combing her long hair by moonlight and wailing in grief-stricken anguish. Her husband and son went off to the wars, and here she would stand, anxiously awaiting their return.

A spectral soldier has been known to knock on the castle door. He is thought to have lived in the 17th century, when Cromwell’s forces were riding rough shod over the land. Having disguised himself in the uniform of the opposition, he set off to gather information about the enemy. But on his return, his comrades failed recognise him and shot him dead through the grille of the door where his ghostly face is now sometimes seen. Crossing the threshold, a portrait of Barbara St. Lege (1748-1820) hangs on one of the walls inside.

She married into family and was, apparently, so taken with Huntingdon Castle, that her spirit still walks the corridors, jangling her keys as she goes. She is closely followed by her maidservant, Honor Byrne, pauses to polish door handles with her hair. Bishop Leslie of Limerick, who stayed at the castle when he retired in the 18th century, haunts the “Four Poster Room”. Several guests have woken in the dead of night to find his genial phantom standing at the foot of the bed. A portrait of a Spanish flower girl gazes from the wall of the room and, from time to time, the Bishop’s face has been known to replace hers.

Huntingdon Castle is a magical and timeless place that possesses a unique atmosphere. It is a tranquil time-capsule that is truly one of Irelands most historical and fascinating treasures.


Clonegal Castle

 [ Huntington Castle 1796 ] [ Clonegal 1798 ]

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© 2001 County Carlow Genealogy IGP

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