We visited here on a Newmarket Coach Holiday while staying in Letterkenny. It was lovely scenic ride to get there through the remote and rugged Glenveagh National Park. It was drizzling when we arrived but we walked through the Orangery into the walled garden, ablaze with colour, and strolled up and down the little paths admiring all the flowers, fruit trees and vegetables growing so profusely. We were given a map of the various gardens with a suggested trail and enjoyed a leisurely stroll through them all, particularly admiring the Pleasure Grounds, Himalayan Gardens and Italian Terrace. Along the lakeside walk we reached the former boat house and the old heated swimming pool.
Inside the castle our young guide gave us a potted history as we toured the rooms on the ground floor and then upstairs. He explained how Glenveagh Estate was created by the millionaire John George Adair by purchasing several smaller holdings but in he was a ruthless landlord and in 1861 evicted 244 tenants. Some were able to stay with relatives or make their way to Australia but many were forced to enter the workhouse. Apparently he built the castle to resemble Balmoral. After his death, his widow, a much kinder person, made lots of improvements to the gardens and during the First World War she housed wounded Belgian soldiers in the castle. In 1921 the castle was bought by another millionaire, Arthur Kingsley Porter, a Harvard Professor of Fine Arts and after he mysteriously disappeared in 1933 yet another American millionaire bought it. This was Henry McIlhenny, whose grandfather had originally emigrated to the US from just near Glenveagh and made his fortunate out there by inventing the gas meter.
As we stood in the music room admiring the furnishings the guide told us that in earlier years guests there had included George Melly, Greta Garbo and Yehudi Menuin. It was a very interesting tour and having caught the minibus back to the Visitor Centre we spent quite a while looking round the exhibits there too.
All in all, it’s an excellent attraction and in such wonderful landscape – even better if it wasn’t drizzling no doubt!