Get into some great houses for Heritage Week

Go on, go on: play ‘Game of Thrones’ at Castle Ward, or have a cup of tea at Father Ted’s House. Some of Ireland’s finest big houses are open to the public this week

 

My favourite moment in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice comes when Elizabeth Bennett gets her first look at Mr Darcy’s gaff – the enormous and beautiful Pemberley: “To think I could have been mistress of all this,” she muses and promptly starts to think better of the man she formerly considered odious.

If Mr Darcy is surprised to find her rooting through his ancestral rooms, he hides it well; but possibly he isn’t. Visiting big houses was as common and enjoyable a holiday occupation in the 19th century as it is today.

In the 2005 film of the book, with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, Chatsworth House took on the role of Pemberley. If you happen to find yourself in Derbyshire, you too can “do a Lizzie Bennett” and visit. It’s open to the public until November 4th this year, and while it is absolutely lovely, before anyone carries their fantasies too far, the Devonshire heirs of marriageable age are spoken for (chatsworth.org).

Closer to home, a number of great Irish houses are opening their doors for Heritage Week, starting today.

Alongside the obvious places such as Castletown House (castletown.ie), Russborough House (russborough.ie) and Malahide Castle (malahidecastleandgardens.ie), here are a few to whet your appetite for greatness.

Huntington Castle, Clonegal, Co Carlow

Belvedere House, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Wells House, Gorey, Co Wexford

Daniel Robertson

Swiss Cottage, Cahir, Co Tipperary

EuropeJohn NashRichard Butler

it has a thatched roof, spiral staircase and elegantly decorated rooms, including some of the first commercially produced Parisian wallpaper. Open until November 1st. €4/€2. swisscottage@opw.ie

Castle Ward, Downpatrick, Co Down

Lord BangorAnn BlighGame of Thrones

Glebe House, Letterkenny, Co Donegal

ParkWilliam MorrisTory Island Painters

October 1st. €4/€2. glebegallery.ie

Drishane House, Skibbereen, Co Cork

Thomas SomervilleEdith SomervilleCork

€10. drishane.com

Dunsany Castle, Co Meath

IrelandAbbey

. €15/€10 /under-12s free, but phone ahead to confirm, 046-9025169. dunsany.com

Bantry House, Bantry, Co Cork

Richard White

who made the most of the temperate Gulf Stream climate and took inspiration from their European travels to develop the gorgeous terraced gardens. There’s a special Heritage Week event on August 28th, as part of the Ellen Hutchins Festival, celebrating Ireland’s first female botanist. One wing has been opened as a salubrious B&B. Open daily throughout August, and Tuesday to Sunday until October 31st, but check in advance as the house closes for private events. €11/€8. bantryhouse.com

And from the sublime to the deliciously ridiculous, what about taking tea at Father Ted’s House? It’s actually the home of Cheryl and Patrick McCormack in the Burren, Co Clare. Advance booking essential. fathertedshouse.com

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