A remarkable transformation awaits visitors to Ireland’s most historic exhibition center and home when it reopens this week for the first time in 32 months.
Lissadell House, the childhood home of 1916 hero Countess Constance Markievicz, opened to the public on Friday, June 17. While the estate was closed since October 2019 an unbelievable amount of refurbishment was carried out by its owners, the Walsh Cassidy family.
Some cottages on the estate were rented with strict Covid regulations during the pandemic but the break has also been used to upgrade them to a state-of-the-art rural splendor.
Cottages that now hold a five-star tourism accommodation standard include one, the head gardener’s house, which was so hidden by foliage and shrubbery that it was not even included in the auction brochure when lawyers Eddie Walsh and his wife Constance Cassidy bought Lissadell in County Sligo 19 years ago from the Gore-Booth family.
Walsh recalled, “It was entirely overgrown with briars, brushwood and sycamore. We cut a path through and we went at it with slash-hook and chainsaw for about three or four weeks after the purchase.”
Eventually, he found a building under the foliage which he thought might be an old gasometer. He was told that previous owner Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth was unaware anything was beneath the undergrowth, but a former footman remembered that more than 30 years earlier before the estate declined, there was a building there.
Now it’s a beautiful Edwardian-style three-bedroom residence, rightly described by its owners as a “sleeping gem,” beside a forest on one side and a walled Victorian kitchen garden built in the 1840s on the other.
The Garden House is surrounded by lawns and faces a glorious 3,000-square-foot sun terrace.
With glass and light fittings by Tiffany, and wood fires in the study and living room and paintings from the Lissadell collection, the Garden House is a dream getaway spot beside Drumcliffe Bay and beneath the shadow of Benbulben.
Other attractive rental cottages include Lissadell on the Beach and Lissadell on the Sea. The owners plan to renovate and open more cottages next year. Current rates range from €500 to €570 per night for a minimum of four nights, and a free night for a week’s stay.
Guests can enjoy the comforting country sounds of birds in the woods and hedges or listen to the braying of donkeys and the clucking of llamas on the farmland.
They can even purchase oysters from an oyster farm on the edge of the estate which exports across the world.
Day-trippers can look forward to guided tours and exhibitions featuring Countess Markievicz and her sister the poet Eva Gore-Booth, a dedicated 1916 display and presentations of the works of poet WB Yeats, his brother the painter Jack Yeats and other members of their family.
Before the pandemic shut down the estate there were up 45,000 visitors each season. The exhibitions are in the huge converted coach house which also has a shop and a tearoom.
The Yeats brothers were regular visitors to Lissadell and WB wrote in tribute to the Gore-Booth sisters, “Two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful, one a gazelle.”
It was a love of Yeats that attracted Leonard Cohen to sing outdoors for two nights at Lissadell in 2010. Now a garden overlooking the site where he played has been named in his memory.
Details can be found at Lissadellhouse.com.
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