- Old friends are best. John Selden
Visit Kilmacurragh House
Now part of Ireland’s National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh, this historic, early-Queen-Anne-style home sits in silent ruins, waiting for renovation.
In 1697 Kilmacurragh House was built just outside Glenealy on the east coast of County Wicklow. The home was one of many grand Queen Anne houses built during the late 17th century, this one by Thomas Acton II (1655-1750), who used stone from the ruins of a medieval abbey that had been left behind on the land. Acton’s father had been given the property by Oliver Cromwell, who had seized it shortly after invading Ireland in the mid-17th century.
The original house consisted of five reception rooms and eight bedrooms, and followed the designs of Sir William Robinson (1643-1712), who had the wonderful title of Surveyor General of Ireland. Before a bit of a financial scandal and some prison time, Robinson had also been famous for designing many beautiful buildings in Ireland, including Charles Fort in Kinsale, the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, St. Michan’s and St. Mary’s Churches in Dublin, and (maybe a little prophetically) Kilmainham Jail in Dublin.
Sadly, in 1976 Kilmacurragh House suffered a major fire, the flames destroying the entire interior. The house has sat derelict ever since. The OPW (Ireland’s Office of Public Works) have made some effort to maintain the structure of the building by doing minor repairs and adding steel beams to the walls for additional structural support, but time continues to tear at the structure which waits for funds and effort to be fully restored.
The ruins of the home sit on the grounds of the National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh, sister gardens to (and curated by) the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin in Dublin. According to the curators of the Gardens, Kilmacurragh – having a different microclimate and therefore different soil and underlying weather patterns – has allowed for plantings from different parts of the world than those at Glasnevin. That means you can see plants from the Himalayas and parts of the Southern Hemisphere, and “today [it is] famous for its conifers and calcifuges” - if they do say so themselves.