A lakeside Victor ian castle in County Leitr im
with a colourful past is enjoying a new lease
of life as a contempor ar y hotel.
Built in the 1830s for the Earls of Leitrim, the present owners of Lough Rynn
Castle recruited the Cotton Box Design Group to revamp the Gothic building,
which now extends deep into the old stable wing. Catriona Hanly, daughter of
the house and well-known jeweller, has designed the interiors of a number of
new estate houses in the nearby meadows.
Honeymooners who spend a few days at Lough Rynn Castle may thank their lucky
stars that the 3rd Earl of Leitrim did not stay on in this world as a ghost. Legend
has it that the randy old cad was an advocate of droit de seigneur, the ancient
feudal right by which the lord of an estate is entitled to deflower any virgins. Such
was his devotion to the sport that an irate father eventually assassinated him in
1878. True or not, there can be no doubting the magnificence of the Earl’s home
- a Tudor-revival manor house on the shores of Leitrim’s Lough Rynn.
170 Words Turtle Bunbury Photography Studio 77
Built in the 1830s, Lough Rynn Castle was once the headquarters of a
vast 96,000-acre estate that stretched from the banks of the River Liffey
westwards into Galway and north into Donegal. The lakeside mansion
belonged to the Clements family until 1990 when it was sold to Mike
Flaherty, an Irish-American businessman.
The 300 acre property was subsequently purchased by the Hanly family
who spent a significant fortune converting the castle, by then on the
brink of ruin, into a 21st century hotel. Lough Rynn Castle opened for
business in September 2006. The hotel now has twenty-nine bedrooms,
eleven in the original house and eighteen deftly placed in the stable wing
running directly off the house. A further wing of twenty-five deluxe
bedrooms, 300-seater conference room and leisure spa is under
The principle rooms in the house were restored, furnished and designed
by Kevin Mullarkey, Amy Cooney and Jane Dywer of Cotton Box Design
Group, Clarinbridge, Galway. When the Cotton Box team first arrived,
they found the builders frantically gutting the old rotted timber. They
duly restored whatever could be salvaged, such as the existing parquet
floor in the baronial hall and the oak panelling which was carefully
stripped, cleaned and rebuilt. A specialist conservation team from
Letterfrack restored all woodwork while award-winning plaster
conservator Seamas O hEocha (www.soheochateo.com) repaired and
restored the original cornicing and plasterwork.
Robert Genders (Tel: 071-9639175) a family friend of the Hanlys, acquired much
of the furniture and art at auction. Some pieces have a colourful provenance such
as the engagement portrait of Lady Caroline Clements (niece of Lord Leitrim) by
Sir Francis Grant and the black and white photographs, sourced by Amy Cooney
of Cotton Box from the Architectural Archives in Dublin. An oak sideboard
beneath a painting of Lady Caroline Clements is also original, while the church
pews set into the huge walk-in marble fireplace are in perfect condition.
The Piano Room is particularly remarkable for its hand-painted Parisian wallpaper,
reinforcing the oriental ambience crated by the carpet of blue flowers. Each panel
was hand painted in the UK by De Gournay. Two sofas, one antique, the other
custom-made, were reupholstered by Warwick (a diamond fabric) and Nobilis
respectively. They possess a seductive charm, luring one to sink back and listen
while a nearby angel lets her fingertips ripple along the keys of the piano. Hot
flames crackle within a hypnotic Kilkenny marble fireplace. A sideboard sourced by
Jane Dywer of Cotton Box is surmounted by statuary of horses and dogs whilst
the wall above features a Martin Reisner painting sourced by Robert Genders.
Lavish curtains are held in place by poles and holdbacks from Edward Harpley.
A corridor lined with Georgian prints and Clements family memorabilia leads
towards the new wing. A discreet entrance to the left leads to the original wine
cellar, now the Cellar Bar. Another doorway opens into the John McGahern
Library, named for the late Leitrim scribe considered by many to have been the
most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett. The room was originally the
larder and still has the meat-hooks embedded into its rich French red ceiling.
Light pours through rich Nobilis curtains, rebounding off a striped sofa and lively
carpet. A burgundy wallpaper from Zoffany is divided by bookcases, groaning
under the weight of valuable originals - Joyce, Behan, O’Casey and McGahern
himself. The bookcases are an ingenious collaboration of old and new, with the
latter designed by Amy Cooney of Cotton Box to compliment a pair of antique
cases from Robert Genders. An archway from the library leads back into the
drawing rooms and bar area.
A bay window, broken only by classic Jim Dickens curtains, beholds
Lough Rynn’s verdant lawns stretching out to the looking glass waters
and leafy green woodland beyond. An 18-hole golf course, designed by
Nick Faldo, will be twisting and turning around these same shores by
March 2008. Sprawl upon a beach of sofas and armchairs, designed by
Cotton Box and upholstered by Monkwell, and consider your location.
As the fire crackles, for instance, you might spare a thought for Mary
Clements, one of the early members of the family arrested for
witchcraft during the Salem Trials and very nearly burned at the stake.
Her youngest brother Daniel, a soldier in Cromwell’s army, was
rewarded with a thousand acres near Cootehill, Co. Cavan. Daniel’s
descendents rapidly scaled the heights of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy,
gaining the Earldom of Leitrim in 1795. Nathaniel Clements, great-
grandfather to the 3rd Earl, was one of the finest amateur architects of
Georgian Ireland, perhaps best known for Arás an Uachtaráin, the Irish
President’s residence in Phoenix Park. The family’s strong creative genes
continue to this day - another Nat Clements, raised at Lough Rynn, is
one of this country’s foremost experts in architectural restoration, most
recently with his work at Carton House.
At the west end of the house, a contemporary looping glass ceiling gently curls
over to link the original house to the stable block. Constructed by the Hanly’s
architect, this simple design nimbly brings the entire stable wing of eighteen
bedrooms into the main house. Guests wander down a long corridor - glass-
fronted on one side, the original stable walls on the other - believing they are
still in the original house. The old grain store, for instance, has been completely
rebuilt as the Sandstone Restaurant, named for the impressive internal stone
cladding which was selected and specified by Amy Cooney.
The 3rd Earl was, without question, a raving lunatic but, like many a lunatic, he
was also a genius. As well as building a sturdy coach house, lovely walled gardens,
ample stables, dairy and stores on the estate, he invented a kiln that produced
the highest quality lime in Ireland. He also devised an ingenious system involving
a horse, a boy and a gravel-filled channel that pumped filtered water from the
river into the castle. Perhaps you might contemplate this while stewing in the
splendid stand-alone bathtub of the rambling O’Carolan Suite, named for the
celebrated Blind Harper of nearby Mohill.
In the sumptuous Clements Suite, an Italian four-poster bed is set into a stunning
bedroom with all wallpaper, armchairs, cupboards, side tables, side lamps, bed
fabrics, curtains and cushions selected by Cotton box. Of particular note are the
large elegant framed wall mirrors which unexpectedly turn into Phillips plasma
screens at the click of a switch. The Clements bathroom features a large oval
Villeroy & Boch Jacuzzi with room for all the family and stunning views out bay
windows towards the walled gardens.
Perhaps half a mile from the castle, a field is presently under construction. It will
soon reopen as a small development of thirty one new-build gable-fronted
dormer houses. Four show-houses in this development have had their interiors
designed by another member of the Hanly family. Catriona Hanly, opposite, is
already a well-known figure in Irish jewellery and design circles.This April, she will
be opening her flagship store for interiors and accessories at the new
Whitewater Shopping Centre in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Her vision is to create
‘an essential lifestyle boutique with a warm welcome and uplifting mood’.
Catriona’s career began when she was a junior buyer for Bergdorff Goodman in
New York. They sent her all over the world to source products and keep an eye
peeled on likely trends. By the time she returned to Ireland in 2000, she had
gathered an impressive collection of elaborate jewellery which she began to
wholesale to boutiques nationwide such as Khan, Diffusion, Arnotts and Les
Jumelles. She’s also been enjoying a fruitful career in the world of accessories,
with a range of handbags launched in 2006. But interior design has always been
Catriona’s real passion. And so she was delighted to be given free rein to display
her burgeoning talents in the Lough Rynn show-houses. At her side throughout
was her friend, counsellor and project manager, Rachel Hopkins
A typical show-house has a sitting room, dining room, a kitchen and front hall on
the ground floor and four bedrooms on the upper floor. The sitting room stands
to the left of the hall and is dominated by a cream and purple silk Epoque sofa,
designed by Catriona and made in Milan. Fabrics are carefully chosen for
dramatic merit so that, for instance, the luxurious purple velvet curtains are
echoed in both the armchair and the glass top ottoman which doubles as a
coffee table. Light gushes in through triple windows, animating the botanical and
classical statuary prints adorning the walls. French style white-painted furniture
was commissioned from Willis & Gambier in London. R.V. Astley supplied the
lamps on the white sideboards while the unusual French mirror and picture
above the fireplace came from the Parisian firm of Emde. The walls were painted
with a range from Farow and Ball.
Crossing back through the hall into the dining room, a coal fire heats the
room with its merry blue pimpernel wallpaper from Laura Ashley.
Contemporary colonial rattan chairs surround a handsome cherry
wood dining table. The table is set with Mikasa silverware, glassware
from Villa Collection and delicate Chinoiserie green and white china,
designed by Jasper Conran for Wedgwood. The exotic ambience of the
dinnerware’s birds and flora are echoed in the rich curtains of taffeta,
lined with raw silk, from T.D.Q. Quilting in Dublin. All furniture is bespoke
from Willis and Gambier. A drinks cabinet looks particularly inviting
beneath a side window while lamps from R.V. Astley give the room a
gentle golden hue by night.
The kitchen stands to the back of the house, a long and splendidly white
room of polished tile floors and smooth marble surfaces, peppered with
colour splashes from prints of roses and Renoirs. Glasses and crockery
are kept in glass-fronted cupboards by Willis and Gambier.
The buttercup walls ascend a balustraded zig-zag stairwell to the landing
and bedrooms. A leafy crystal chandelier from R.V. Astley is reflected in
a full-length decorative mirror by Emde. Four charming bedrooms run
off the landing. The Master bedroom is papered in a mink embossed
paper with a metallic sheen by Edward J. McKiernan. Cream silk curtains
complement the mink and cream bedspread and cushions from Au
Maison. The French plush cream couch is from Coach House in the U.K.
and the mirror is from Emde. The white furniture is custom made by
Willis and Gambier.
One of the guest bedrooms has an impressive brass bed, dressed in French
style by Au Maison, with curtains of dusty pink raw silk. Mirrored
accessories and pictures by Laura Ashley are reflected in silver box bedside
lamps from R.V. Astley. McKiernan papered the pale green wall behind the
bed. He also applied the lilac Laura Ashley wallpaper to the next door
bedroom, picking up on the colours of the quilted bedspread and cushions
from Au Maison. The smallest bedroom has a soft mushroom hued
wallpaper, subtly repeated in both bed-linen and curtains.
Contacts: Homes/show homes: Hooke & MacDonald, Tel 00353 1 631 8402.
Lough Rynn Estate, www.loughrynn.ie. Caitriona Hanly, M: 087 6794023, E:
firstname.lastname@example.org, www.catrionahanly.com. Helen O’Dwyer. M: 086 233 2725.
Cotton Box Design Group, Clarinbridge, Galway, Tel - 091 777040. Contact –
John Mullarkey, www.interiors.ie. Cotton Box Design Group has been designing
interiors for the hotel, leisure and commercial contract sectors since 1980. Their
client list includes the K Club, The Clarion Hotel Group and the Lady Castle