Engaging Ireland News

Current news and information about Ireland and Irish travel

At the Foot of the Sperrins: Springhill

The house at Springhill. Photo by Kenneth Allen (2006) in the Creative Commons.

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.

The Tearoom at Springhill.

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/.

A portion of the walled garden and barn.


Posted 5 years, 11 months ago at 11:44 am.

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A visit to Florence Court, County Fermanagh

Florence Court

On our most recent trip to Ireland (June 2011), we decided to spend the majority of our time in Northern Ireland, starting our trip in the Lough Erne area of County Fermanagh. One of the first sites we visited in the area was Florence Court, which is managed by the National Trust.

Depending upon what you choose to do there, you could spend a few hours, an afternoon, or a full day at the Florence Court demesne. In addition to a guided tour of the house, visitors may also stroll through the Pleasure Garden and the Walled Garden, or take one of the many forest park walks (the demesne is part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark complex).

The main house at Florence Court was built in the early to mid-18th century and was the owned by the Coles, Earls of Enniskillen, until the home was turned over to the National Trust in 1954. The agreement between the National Trust and the family ensured the Cole lineage the right to continue to live in the house and also allowed them to retain ownership of the furniture in the house. (The family ceased residence in the home and the furniture was dispersed a few decades ago; however, the National Trust was able to reacquire some of the original pieces – when they came up at auction – due to the generosity of some donors.) A tour of the house takes about an hour, with the last tour beginning about one hour before closing (which is 5 p.m.).

The property also includes a tearoom, which offers a variety of flavors of local ice cream, sandwiches and soup, and a variety of baked goods. For a few pounds, you can also purchase a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds. Other amenities include a gift shop, bathrooms, and Tracker Packs (cute little ladybug or frog backpacks) for kids to use temporarily while they’re at Florence Court (a £5 refundable deposit is required). Dogs on leash are allowed in the gardens and grounds but not in the house itself.

The Pleasure Garden

Admission fees for 2011 are as follows:

Garden/Grounds entry (paid when you enter the gate of the grounds) -

Adult £3.25, Child £1.75, Family £7.75

House Tour (purchase tickets at Reception in the Tearoom) -

Adult £5, Child £2, Family £12

If you would be interested in wandering the grounds on your own after everyone has left for the evening, you might consider renting one of the self-catering accommodations located on the Florence Court demesne: Men’s Way is an apartment located above the old rooms used in the laundry yard (formerly the area of the servants’ quarters), and Rose Cottage is the former home of the Florence Court Groundskeeper/Gardener. You may obtain more information or check availability of this property by visiting the National Trust Holiday Cottages website for the Rose Cottage at http://www.nationaltrustholidays.org.uk/holiday-cottage/rose-cottage-enniskillen-county-fermanagh/.

Rose Cottage

Posted 6 years, 8 months ago at 1:01 pm.

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