Thursday, June 24, 2010

Killyleagh Castle in Ireland

Killyleagh Castle is located in northern Ireland and is believed to be the oldest inhabited castle in the country. For protection for Vikings, it was built by a Norman knight, John de Courcy. Although the castle has been restored in parts, some areas date back to 1180. 

During the early 1600's the castle owner was Chieftain Con O'Neill of Clandeboye. As a result of a quarrel, he sent his men to attack some English soldiers and was imprisoned. His wife made a deal with Hugh Montgomery, a Scottish aristocrat to help her husband obtain a Royal pardon and he would receive a portion of O'Neill's lands, including the keep of Killyleagh Castle. King James I granted the pardon, but divided the land three ways, the portion containing Killyleagh Castle going to James Hamilton, who later became the first Viscount of Clandeboye. 

Originally, Killyleagh Castle was built with one stone tower, but Viscount Clandeboye's son, James Hamilton, who later became the first Earl of Clanbrassil, built the second tower. The gatehouse was destroyed during a siege in 1649 by Oliver Cromwell's forces. Jame's son, Henry Hamilton, the second Earl of Clanbrassil, rebuilt the castle in 1666. He married Lady Alice Moore.

While Killyleagh Castle has been in the Hamilton family since the 17th century and currently belongs to the family today, the ownership of the keep has caused its share of internal strife within the family. James Hamilton wrote a will stating that if his son, Henry Hamilton, should die without issue, the estate should be divided among the Hamilton cousins. His wife, Lady Alice, destroyed the will and had her husband, Henry, rewrite the will leaving the estate to her. 

Needless to say, Henry Hamilton died of poisoning in 1675, without issue. His wife, Lady Alice, died two years later in 1677. During this time, the cousins knew about the original will and had been trying to pursue their inheritance rights. Twenty years later, a copy of the original will was finally discovered, but by then, all the cousins had died. The court then divided the estate among the living descendants of the last living cousin. 

There are three apartments available in the towers of Killyleagh Castle. Each one has a private rooftop terrace with spectacular views of the countryside.

Irish Secrets: History of Killyleagh Castle
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