Lambay Castle

School visits or programmes Holiday cottages for rent Available for functions or corporate events Available as a film location

Lambay Castle, Lambay Island, Rush, Dublin, Ireland


e: info@lambayisland.ie

The House

Lambay is a small island in the Irish Sea, a square mile in extent, less than three miles off the coast of north County Dublin and inhabited since ancient times. After a long association with Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral the island changed hands with increasing frequency after the Reformation. The most important owner during this period was the remarkable James Ussher (1581-1656), theologian, Protestant Archbishop of Armagh and responsible for returning the Book of Kells to Ireland.

Cecil Baring (1864-1934), a scion of the London banking dynasty and subsequently the 3rd Lord Revelstoke, purchased Lambay in 1904. While working in America he fell in love with Maud, daughter of the tobacco millionaire Pierre Lorillard. She divorced her husband, the couple married and together they chose Lambay as their refuge from the world.

From 1907 onwards they restored and enlarged the small ruined fort as their principal residence, transforming the building  “into a romantic castle” and placing it in the centre of a majestic circular enclosure beneath a canopy of Sycamore trees.  The result is one of the few important Edwardian country houses in Ireland and the only Irish country house by the distinguished architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

The three-bay centre of the northwest front, which faces a bastioned gateway in the Rampart Wall, is flanked by two full-height projecting bays, each with crow-stepped gables and tall chimneys. Lutyens attached a wing to provide guest accommodation at the northeastern corner and "regarded the link between the two buildings as one of his most brilliant architectural coups" since the castle, which appears single storied on this front, continues to dominate the two-storey wing.  Along with the enlarged garden and farm buildings these additions were built in grey-green Lambay stone with grey pantile roofs to form a sequence of courts, walled gardens and enclosed yards that give the impression of a small hamlet nestling for protection beneath the castle’s walls.

Lambay is exposed to the elements and the castle is “constructed with small doors and small casements so that the inhabitants seem, on rough days, to be sheltering like monks.” The interior has vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and a curved stone staircase, while much of the furniture and fittings chosen by Lutyens is still arranged just as he intended.

He also adapted and enlarged a number of other early structures and integrated them into an ingenious layout for the whole island estate, including the farm, gardens and plantations, all designed in collaboration with the horticulturalist and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.  

The walled kitchen garden pierces the Rampart Wall to the south with the mausoleum in memory of the Revelstokes, designed by Lutyens in 1930, on the opposite side of the enclosure. He also designed The White House, overlooking the harbour on the western shores of the island, as a holiday home for the couple’s two daughters.  Alongside is a row of old Coastguard cottages and an open-air Real Tennis court, one of only two still in existence.

In the mid 1900s Lambay was home to more than eighty islanders but today it is maintained by a handful of hardy individuals. Cecil and Maud’s numerous descendants still own the island where their great-grandson Alex, the 7th Lord Revelstoke, is the resident guardian and curator, making this the only one of Lutyens’ and Jekyll’s joint collaborations that still belongs to the family that first commissioned the work.

Lambay Island is a haven for wildlife and a National Bird Sanctuary. Resident fauna includes a herd of fallow deer, a thriving colony of Atlantic grey seals, which pup on Lambay’s sheltered beaches, and, most unusually, a troop of wild wallabies. The diverse bird life is of far greater significance, for this is an important seabird colony and their cries can be heard throughout the island. Nesting birds include Fulmars, Guillemots, Herring Gulls, Kittiwakes, Manx Shearwaters and Puffins, while Greylag Geese are common winter visitors. 

Information

School visits or programmes

Holiday cottages for rent

Available for functions or corporate events

Available as a film location

Opening Hours

Access to Lambay Island is by prearranged ferry from Rush.

All tours are based on a group of 12 (the complement of one boat). 

Lambay Castle and The White House are also available for rent.

And the whole island can be rented as a single unit. 

All booking arrangements must be made well in advance.