Loughcrew History and Stories
Loughcrew History – Loughcrew is rich in historical, archaeological, religious and natural interest. One of ancient Ireland’s major roads passes through Loughcrew, crossing the great Road of the Chariots nearby. The lakes abound with cranógs and the drumlins are topped with innumerable motte and bailey forts. The Loughcrew Cairns (prehistoric passage graves), some 5,000 years old, are perhaps the oldest calendar known, and may even be the world’s oldest existing dwellings.
The heartland of Loughcrew belonged to the Plunkett family. St. Oliver Plunkett, Ireland’s most recent saint, was born and reared here. His heroic defence of the Faith as Archbishop of Armagh led to his martyrdom and recent canonisation. His family church still stands in Loughcrew and is the focus of devotion to St. Oliver. The oldest part of the church building was formerly a Tower House, the seat of the Plunketts until Sir William Petty installed his brother-in-law, William Naper, in about 1655.
The magnificent c19 gate (right) was created for the altered entrance from the Pleasure Gardens into the Walled Garden. The entrance was probably altered to accommodate the neoclassical pillars and arch which are believed originally to have framed the entrance to the c17 longhouse. If this is the case, then this stone frame is the only surviving remnant of the c17 Longhouse, except the foundations. Perhaps the superstructure was used in the foundations of the 1823 Loughcrew House nearby.
A landscape of inspiring beauty and intriguing history.
Take an extended walk to Charles Cockerel’s vast portico, restored as a ruined “Temple of the Rains,” and through a rockery and woodland pleasure walks to Lough Creeve with its legendary cranóg.
In 1821 Charles Cockerel, a neo-classical architect, designed a new Loughcrew House as part of a fundamental relandscaping of the demesne. While Cockerel’s design contributed many of the current garden’s features, his original mansion was ruined by a series of fires, reputedly the result of a family curse.
The garden’s most recent revival dates from 1997, when Charles and Emily Naper began respectfully restoring Loughcrew’s beautiful features and bringing its dynamic past back to life. Their work has sought to emphasise Loughcrew as a site of unfolding history – a masterpiece developed by generations of designers using resources of great wealth and a landscape of extraordinary beauty to create gardens and grounds that to this day remain exceptional.
Take a walk through centuries of garden and landscape fantasy.
Generations of the Naper family have been creating Loughcrew Gardens since 1660. The result is a stunning garden comprising water, trees, vistas and archaeology rather than flowerbeds. A host of enchanting features are displayed in a setting steeped in atmosphere and history: the prehistoric Loughcrew Cairns crown nearby hills; and within the gardens stand a mediæval moote and St. Oliver Plunkett’s family church and Tower House.
The surviving 17th century features include a magnificent yew walk, foundations of a longhouse and a walled garden from which a canal and a parterre have been relocated in replica. The yew walk trees are exceptional, of remarkable form and girth. Other trees are mound-planted, leaving the root system exposed as an extension of the impressive contorted trunks.
In the 19th century these earlier elements were enveloped in a comprehensive development of parkland, watergardens, specimen trees, follies, rockeries, woodwalks and magnificent vistas. The central area of approximately six acres now includes a lime avenue, extensive lawns and terraces, magnificent herbaceous border and physic border. Don’t miss the grotesque rockery and grotto, the Rootery, Hellfire garden, watermill, fountain, and symbolic statues and sculptures… and more.
For more history and stories visit Ireland’s Ancient East.