Kinnitty Castle or Castle Bernard as it is also known is a 19th century gothic revival Castle located just north of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in the heart of the midlands in Ireland.
The castle has been through some turbulent times having been destroyed and reformed numerous times throughout history. As a result, urban legend claims that Kinnity Castle is home to many ghosts, the most famous of which is the Phantom Monk of Kinnitty!
The first castle was destroyed in 1209 but 4 years later the Normans rebuilt the castle. Subsequently, the O’ Carrrolls of Ely defeated the Normans and ruled Kinnitty Castle. During the Norman period, an Augustinian Abbey (St Finnian’s) was established, of which, the famous High Cross and Abbey Wall are still in existence today.
In 1630, William O’Carroll built a new castle close by to the old abbey but this was confiscated only 11 years later as part of the English Plantation of Offaly also known as ‘Kings County’. 3 years later, the royal family gifted the castle to Col. Thomas Winter as reward for his military excellence.
In 1764, the estate was sold to the Bernard family who were amongst the wealthiest families of the time. The Bernard’s are still recognized as being one of the most influential families of Kinnitty, having also built the Egyptian inspired Kinnitty Pyramid.
In 1811, Thomas Bernard Junior’s wife, Lady Catherine Hutchinson commissioned the infamous Pain Brothers to extend the castle in a gothic style to its present size as it can be seen today. The Pain brothers were architects of the Dromedary Castle of New Market on Fergus, Co Clare, and the Adare Manor, of Adare, Co. Limerick which are arguably amongst the most famous castles in Ireland. Thomas was succeeded by his son, Colonel Thomas Bernard, Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff of King’s County in 1837.
In 1882, he died unmarried so was succeeded by his niece’s husband, Captain Caulfield French who was the High Sheriff of King’s County in 1887. However, in 1922 during the Irish civil war, the castle along with many other country homes was burned by the Irish republican army retreating from the Free State troops.
Once more, the castle was restored in 1928 and in 1946 the Bernard’s sold it to Lorde Decies who then sold the castle to the state in 1951. From 1955 to 1985, the building hosted a Forestry Training College. The state owned the castle until 1994 when it was sold to the Ryan family of Limerick, who then transformed it into an award-winning hotel. In 2008, the KBC Bank repossessed the castle.
Today Kinnitty Castle is a top tourist attraction in Ireland and attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world including many A List celebrities. Weddings in the castle are rising in popularity due to the surreal setting and landscape on the grounds. Kinnitty castle boasts 37 bedrooms in the hotel, a large Georgian influenced restaurant, a library bar which houses antique books, journals and a Louis XV style Drawing room.
There is also 2 large dining rooms where guests can wine and dine. On the grounds there is also abundant leisure facilities including equestrian activities, fishing, game and clay pigeon shooting and walking and hiking in the nearby Slieve Bloom Mountains.