We visited Tullynally Castle (also known as Pakenham Hall Castle), during Heritage Week. The castle is located 1.5 kilometres from the town of Castlepollard in County Westmeath, in the midlands of Ireland. It featured on RTE’s TV cooking show ‘Lords and Ladles’.
After the English civil wars (1642 – 1651), Henry Pakenham, a Captain in Oliver Cromwell’s army, was granted land by the King and built a plantation-style house on the estate. This is still part of the castle – over the years the house was extended, each Earl added to the castle architecture with towers, a clock tower and courtyards, which has resulted in the magnificent fine castle present today.
With it being Heritage Week there was a special tour of the castle (usually visitors only enjoy the tearooms and gardens).
Our tour guide Bartle D’arcy was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic which made for a very interesting and humorous tour of the castle. Irish TV was filming at the castle during our visit and it will feature on the Westmeath Matters TV show.
We were shown the Great Hall – where concerts take place, organised by the Derravaragh Music Association, see their website for the next concert. We were then brought into the dining room, which has large windows with beautiful views over the Westmeath countryside. In the dining room, there are portraits of the Pakenham ancestors hanging on the wall, which is referred to as ‘dining with your ancestors’.
We also got to see the drawing room and library, which are off the dining room through secret wall panelling. The castle, which has 100 rooms, was kitted out with the latest modern conveniences during Victorian times including a large kitchen and laundry rooms, which we got to view.
Interestingly, the castle was the first private house to install a central heating system which was designed by the inventor from nearby Edgeworthstown, Richard Lovell Edgeworth. The Edgeworth family, including Richard’s daughter, the author Maria Edgeworth were frequent visitors to the castle, which she praised for being very warm.
The castle is still lived in today by custodians Valerie and Thomas Pakenham, whose full title is the 8th Earl of Longford, which he prefers not to use. Thomas Pakenham is an Anglo-Irish historian and arborist, he is responsible for transforming and renovating the 18th-century gardens on the estate.
After the tour, we had a walk around the extensive estate gardens, which are open from Easter to October. There are a few different trails you can do that are dotted around two ornamental lakes and plenty to see including the kitchen garden, a stone grotto, the Chinese garden and even a Llama paddock! The trails on the lower lake go over some farmland so best to wear old shoes. We also got some Afternoon tea in the rustic cafe housed in the former stables in the courtyard.
Tullynally Castle and gardens are well worth the visit, a hidden gem in Westmeath.