near Emo, County Laois, Ireland
The entrance to Emo Court is via a driveway lined with beech trees and giant sequoias; it is situated just over a mile from the village of Emo in the centre of Ireland.
Emo Court is a neo-classical mansion house set in formal gardens leading to a lake and the woodland beyond. The front of the house has four Ionic pillars and heraldic tigers guarding the door. The building was symmetrically designed over two floors and surmounted by a dome extending above the roof line. There are also a coach house and servants quarters.
The inside of the property can only be seen with a guide. The areas on display are the octagonal entrance hall with is ‘false doors’ which were built for symmetry and are not real and the main attraction the Rotunda which rests on pilasters of Siena marble.
The garden and woodlands have also been restored with many of the original statues having been salvaged from the lake. The garden has many rare trees which are features of the arboretum walk, particularly spectacular in autumn.
The gardens can be visited year round during daylight hours and the house is open from Easter until the end of October 10:00 – 18:00. There is a restaurant/tea room open between February and the end of October.
Emo Court was designed for the Earl of Portarlington by James Gandon in 1790. Unfortunately the Earl died before the house was finished. The court was inherited and remained unfinished some 47 years later on the death of the 2nd Earl. The 3rd Earl however eventually finished the property in 1860, 70 years later.
During the First World War the family left for England leaving the house empty and in 1920 the estate was purchased by the Land Commission who distributed the land for farming and left the house vacant.
In the 1930’s the house was acquired by the Jesuits who turned what remained of the estate into farmland and orchards. They also remodeled the house adding a chapel and assembly room.
The Jesuits sold the house to Major Cholmeley Harrison who restored the house in a Georgian style. In 1994 the Major presented the house over to the state and continued to live there until his death in 2008. The estate is now under the care of the Office of Public Works.
Other Castles in the Area
Ballycowan Castle, County Offaly
Carbury Castle, County Kildare
Charleville Castle, County Offaly
Kilkea Castle, County Kildare
Rock of Dunamase, County Laois
White's Castle, County Kildare