Huntington Castle,
County Carlow

The first view of the attractive grey-rendered castle of Huntington leaves one in no doubt that this is a building of great character and antiquity. Approached from the village of Clonegal down a straight 17th-century lime avenue, its front seems hardly to have a straight line anywhere - the side walls gently leaning to one angle and the sash windows lying askew. Additions, alterations and a mixture of styles accumulated over the centuries add enormously to Huntington's charm, while a treasure trove of varied contents reflects family ownership spanning three and a half centuries. The old core of Huntington Castle is a tower house built between 1625 and 1630. A remarkable yew walk nearby possibly belongs to the 17th century, though claims that these trees were planted as early as the 15th century cannot be entirely discounted. Other formal garden features include a canal and the impressive avenue of lime trees.

The castle remained largely unaltered until 1860 when Alexander Durdin began additions to the rear of the castle. He also embarked on a disastrous attempt to enlarge the castle's basement windows, causing subsidence in the walls and the collapse of the drawing-room ceiling, which he replaced with a strapwork plaster design. Aside from the bathrooms with plumbed water - a great rarity in those days - as well as central heating, electricity was also installed in 1888, power for which was generated from a water turbine on the River Derry. Huntington was one of the first country houses in Ireland to have electricity, and in order to satisfy local interest a light was kept burning on the front lawn so that the curious could come up and inspect it. With its marvellously atmospheric rooms, Huntington is indeed a house of profound character, filled with the spirits of the past. Among the most memorable rooms are the library, the tapestry room and the conservatory, which houses an old vine - a cutting from a plant at Hampton Court dating around 1900. The cheerful drawing-room contains a collection of porcelain including a large famille verte bowl looted by a soldier from the Imperial Palace in Peking.

Clonegal village. NGR: S 913607.