By Fran Brady
Ardgillan Castle, near Skerries in North County Dublin, is set on a 79-hectare demesne overlooking the Irish Sea.
Its name ‘Ardgillan’ is derived from the Irish language ‘Ard Choill’ meaning High Wood. In 1658, the ‘Down Survey’ recorded that Ardgillan was owned by a wine merchant, Robert Usher of Tallaght, Dublin. In 1737, it was bought by the Reverend Robert Taylor, Dean of Clonfert. His family owned the castle and lands until 1962 when it passed into the ownership of Heinrich Pott of Westphalia. Dublin County Council purchased the estate in 1982 and three years later it was opened to the public as a regional park. Footpaths were created by opening old avenues and constructing new paths. These footpaths now provide a labyrinth of woodland walks.
The vast estate is believed to have once been densely forested. That was before service soldiers and itinerant workers were given accommodation, one penny per day and a tot of whiskey, to clear the wooded area.
The demesne, now mostly rolling meadows, sweeps down towards the sea. Here a bridge, known as the Lady’s Stairs, was constructed over both the railway line and the road to allow access to Barnageera Beach. There is some mystery and intrigue attached to the history of Lady’s Stairs. Legend has it that a lady pined away on the bridge as she waited for her husband to return from a swim. The bridge, or stairs, was damaged by a truck in 2006 and was replaced and re-opened in 2007.
Because of its magnificent views, the original building was once known as ‘Prospect House’.
Interestingly, it started out as a big country house rather than a castle. It was re-modelled into the present castellated structure during the ownership of Robert Taylor’s family. Twenty Yew trees now stand sentry in front of the stately building.