Springhill, located just outside Moneymore in County Londonderry, may not be the most well-known attraction in Northern Ireland, but it is well worth a visit. We weren’t sure we were going to be able to fit a visit into our schedule, but the day we had planned to hike in the Sperrins started out soft and turned quite rainy before too long. Not wishing to risk getting injured or lost in the mist and fog, we headed out to take in some sights that included indoor elements.
We arrived on the grounds of Springhill well before the noon opening time and took advantage of that time to stroll around the grounds and the walled gardens. The grounds are open daily, with the exception of Christmas Day, from dawn to dusk. Admission to the house is only allowed by guided tour, and, since tour sizes are limited, tickets are provided by the attendant at the kiosk when you enter the grounds. The ticket will indicate your assigned tour time.
Springhill is a late 17th century Plantation House built by William (“Good-Will”) Conyngham for his new bride, Ann. Its design and style are a mix of traditional Irish architecture and more modern (for the time) elements. Though the house doesn’t maintain much of its original look, the grounds, gardens, and outbuildings remain much as they were when they were developed.
The tour of the Springhill house takes you on a fascinating journey into the lives of the Lenox-Conyngham family, who lived in the house for over 300 years. As with any family, the Lenox-Conynghams have experienced times of great prosperity and times of strife, and our tour guide deftly led us through some of the highlights of the generations who lived in the home. We wouldn’t be giving away any secrets if we told you that one of the stories involves the ghost of Olivia, second wife of George Lenox-Conyngham, which is said to haunt the house to this day. It is said that Olivia was distraught over not being able to prevent George’s suicide in 1816 and was unable to leave the house behind upon her death.
In addition to the house tour, be sure to head over to the East Pavilion (the old laundry) to view the Costume Collection, featuring clothing from the 18th century to the present. The items on display rotate from year to year.
And drop into the Tearoom and Gift Shop, located in the Servants’ Hall to the rear of the house. Its opening hours mirror those of the main house. Though the Tearoom does not serve meals, they do have a selection of beverages and treats for you to enjoy.
The grounds of Springhill also include several short walking paths, a picnic/play area, the previously-mentioned walled gardens, and the Well Read Bookshop, which is a second-hand bookshop run by volunteers. It is located near the Coach Exit in a charming little cottage, but the opening hours vary depending upon the availability of volunteers.
The house and grounds have been in the care of the National Trust since 1957. More information on the house, opening times, admission prices, and special events that take place at Springhill each year can be found on the Springhill page at the National Trust website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/springhill/.