Glin Castle

School visits or programmes Park or garden open Open only to pre-booked groups (minimum 6) Cultural activities or events Available for functions or corporate events Available as a film location

Glin Castle, Glin, Limerick, Ireland

t: +353 68 34173

The House

The Knights of Glin are a branch of the FitzGerald family, Earls of Desmond, who were granted lands in County Limerick in the fourteenth century.

In 1600 Sir George Carew besieged Glin and confiscated the family lands. Before the siege he captured the Knight’s son, tied him to the mouth of a cannon and threatened to blow him to pieces unless the castle surrendered. The Knight replied that he was virile and his wife would have no difficulty in producing another heir.

The lands were restored in 1615 and, by the late seventeenth century, the family had moved into a thatched long house, now the wing of the present castle. This was extended in the early eighteenth century with some double-height rooms, since this is the only way the full-length portrait of John FitzGerald could have fitted into the house.

A famous duellist, he is depicted being handed a challenge in a painting now hanging in the hall, part of the next phase of building undertaken by his nephew with Corinthian columns and an elaborate neoclassical ceiling. Beyond is the finest feature of the house, the double-ramped bifurcated staircase.

The drawing room and library were part of this extension. The library has a superbly crafted broken-pediment bookcase, with a door concealed behind the oval trellis.

These sophisticated rooms seem at odds with earlier Knights, wild, horse-loving smugglers, famous for debt and debauchery. They resulted from Colonel John FitzGerald’s marriage to a rich heiress, Margaretta Mary Fraunceis Gwynne, of Forde Abbey in Dorset and Combe Florey in Somerset. The rustic house at Glin must have seemed a far cry from the superb Stuart interiors of Forde, with its saloon hung with magnificent Mortlake tapestries after Raphael. Clearly Margaretta required a more commodious residence.

Colonel John inherited a sea of debts from his rackety uncles, so Margaretta’s fortune paid for the building work and her family arms are impaled with his on the hall ceiling. The plasterwork symbolises the spirit of the age with military trophies, shields sprouting shamrocks and plaques representing Peace, Justice and War. This ceiling, in the style of James Wyatt, dates from the 1790s.

Margaretta’s money was insufficient to complete the work and she soon returned to the protection of her half brother at Forde. Colonel John died in 1812 and the household furniture, library and “a superb service of Indian china” (though not the pictures or sliver) were sold to pay his debts.

Their son, John Fraunceis, was an only child, which enabled the estate to survive until his majority. He restored the family fortunes by successful gambling and further land sales. He built three Gothic lodges, the walled garden and the battlemented farmyard, he further landscaped the park and hid the newly built road along the River Shannon beneath a massive ha-ha (a ditch with a retaining wall).

In 1816, Nash’s pupil James Pain built the new church beside the entrance, and he probably gingered-up the house with mullioned windows and battlements as well. From then on the house became known as Glin Castle once again.

Money was scarce in Victorian times, which may have been a blessing in disguise for there were few nineteenth century ‘improvements’ to blight the house’s character.

When Desmond FitzGerald and his wife Veronica came to Glin in the 1930s the castle was dilapidated, largely because his father was an invalid. Desmond also had poor health and, after his death, Victoria married the Canadian magnate Ray Milner, and together they put the place to rights.

Desmond’s son, another Desmond, the 29th and ultimate Knight of Glin, was a conisseur and art historian of international renown. He restored the house and wing, and decorated them with his splendid collection of Irish furniture and paintings. Today, Glin Castle is the home of his wife Olda and their children and grandchildren, and entertains people from all over the world.


School visits or programmes

Park or garden open

Open only to pre-booked groups (minimum 6)

Cultural activities or events

Available for functions or corporate events

Available as a film location

Opening Hours