Killyleagh, County Down, Northern Ireland
The castle is situated in the village of Killyleagh 11 miles east of Ballynahinch
Killyleagh Castle was built to resemble a French Chateau from the Loire Valley with round corner turrets, a steeply sloping grey slate roof and a gate lodge.
Today Killyleagh Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland, with the main part of the castle being home to Gawn Hamilton and his family.
The Hamilton's have now opened two of the towers as self catering accommodation. Guests can have use of tennis courts and swimming pool as well as the roof top patio. The towers can sleep up to 15 people and offer modern facilities including central heating.
King James I gave the land to a Scott called James Hamilton, later honoured with the title Vicount Claneboye. He built a single towered castle and courtyard walls; his son James, 1st Earl of Clanbrissil added a second tower.
In 1649 the castle was attacked by Cromwell's forces from the Lough, the Earl escaped leaving his wife and family behind. His son the 2nd Earl, Henry, rebuilt the castle in 1666 restoring the protective wall and adding a tower to the north. In 1667 the 2nd Earl married Lady Alice Moore. She soon discovered that if they didn't produce an heir the estate would be inherited by five other family members so she arranged for her father in laws will to be destroyed. In 1674 she persuaded her husband make a will of his own leaving the castle and estate to her, a year later he died of poisoning. After the death of Lady Alice in1677 the cousins became aware of the 1st Earl's will and pursued their rights to the estate from Lady Alice's brother.
The matter took twenty years to resolve and it was only after a copy of the original will was found that the castle was rightfully theirs. By this time all the cousins had died but one of them; James of Neilsbrook, had been confident that justice would be done and in his will had left the estate to his relatives. In 1697 his two nephews William and Gawn gained the main house and his daughter Anne was awarded the gatehouse.
William and Gawn made a new entrance to the castle and on their death's the castle passed to Gawn's descendents as William died childless. From 1849 the current owner Archibald Hamilton employed Sir Charles Lanyon to renovate and redesign elements of the castle which included adding the turrets.
The gatehouse passed through marriage to the Baron's of Dufferin and Claneboye, and it was the 5th Baron Fredrick Temple Blackwood who in 1860 gave the gatehouse back to the Hamiltons.
During the 1920's the castle was attacked by the IRA but remained with the family and has done ever since.
The castle in the past has hosted concerts for Glen Hansard, Bap Kennedy and Van Morrison
Other Castles in the Area
Audley's Castle, County Down
Bangor Castle, County Down
Belfast Castle, County Antrim
Castle Ward, County Down
Castlewellan Castle, County Down
Clough Castle, County Down
Dundrum Castle, County Down
Jordans Castle, County Down
Kilclief Castle, County Down
Kirkistown Castle, County Down
Portaferry Castle, County Down
Quintin Castle, County Down
Quoile Castle, County Down
Sketrick Castle, County Down
Stormont Castle, County Antrim
Strangford Castle, County Down