As a youngster back in the 80's, I visited Lissadell House (http://lissadellhouse.com/) in Co.Sligo with my parents. If my memory doesn't let me down, I remember Lissadell house in the 80's as being a house with dark and damp rooms which had seen better days. Roll the clock 30 years forward, and the house which is now owned by Constance Cassidy, Edward Walsh and their kids has been lovingly restored. Arriving around 2pm, I parked the car in the car park and walked the short distance to the restored coach house where you will find the ticket office, exhibitions and tea rooms.
As I was an hour early for the guided tour of the house, I decided to visit first the exhibitions on Countess Markievicz, the Voice of women and the 1916 rising. The many pictures, letters and books are a rare collection which is nicely displayed within the fabulous restored first floor of the coach house.
The 1916 rising exhibition has fabulous ceiling paintings by the talented Gareth Boyle. The many historical memorabilia nicely display information around the Easter Rising, from Countess Markievicz's military plans for the Easter rising to an early replica of the Irish flag, it is an educational exhibition in Irish history.
As I still had some time before the tour of the house commenced, I decided to have a coffee and slice of carrot cake in the Marine tea room. The name is aptly chosen, many paintings of boats and boat models are on display. An interesting aspect of this room is the horse bath at the back of the tea room. The bath was used for washing the horses after a day in the saddle.
It was time to head to the house, walking along the path , the display of the many daffodils and the views towards the bay where just fantastic. And there it was in all it's glory, Lissadell house, a dark grey block of a building in the middle of beautiful landscaped gardens. The exterior of the house is very simple and grey, but the simplicity and greyness are in stark contrast with the colourful background of green grass, yellow daffodils, azure blue water of the Atlantic and majestic Knocknarea looming in the background.
At the door of the house, we were welcomed by our guide for the day . Walking into the entrance hall, it becomes apparent that this house has been lovingly restored by it's current owners. Walking from the hall into the billiard room, we were introduced to the Gore-Booth family.
From here, it was onwards to the gallery, an oval room which was used for parties and events. Within the room is a fabulous marble fire place and 2 huge gasoliers, 2 gas fired chandeliers which are suspended from the 65 foot high ceiling. From this room, we entered the drawing room and the bow room, two beautiful restored rooms which have fabulous views towards Benbulben and Knocknarea..
A marvelous selection of paintings and books can be found in these rooms. It is interesting to know that these 2 rooms were the rooms where the Gore-Booth siblings lived in near poverty during the 1960's and 70's, trying to keep these 2 rooms heated where the remainder of the house was un-lived in.
The grandeur of this stately home can be found back in the dining room, a room which has a huge dining table as it's center piece. Nearby the lift, which was used to bring the food from the basement kitchen to the dining room, is a stuffed bear brought back by the Gore-Booth family after one of their many trips .
After the dining room, it was down to the basement where the kitchen and servant rooms were located. Interesting about Lissadell house is that it's servants quarters were large and bright. The kitchen, which was also large and bright, was used to prepare the family it's meals. Within the basement is an old communications system which was used through the house to indicate if anybody in the living quarters above required food, a drink or anything else.
At the end of the tour, we were shown the exit from the servant's quarters, a long sparingly lit tunnel which was used in the days by the household staff. The tunnel brought me towards Lissadell's gardens. From here, I walked towards the lovingly restored Alpine gardens. The gardens are fully walled offering protection from the strong Atlantic breeze. The garden is fabulous, and although it was early in the growing season, some colourful flowers had appeared already between the many rocks.
Walking back towards the coach house, I passed the walled victorian kitchen garden which had young lettuce plants already planted for the season ahead. Huge fruit trees lined the center path through the garden. This is Sligo's number one tourist attraction, one which has been kept quiet for a long time, and it must be said that the current owners have made Lissadell house the way it is, a premier tourist attraction. But there is even more to Lissadell House than I have seen today, glamping, Lissadell adventure, clam and oyster farm,..... but more about those at a later stage.