By Gemma Grant
Situated in the Royal County of Meath, Castle Ross occupies some fifty-five acres on the shores of Lough Sheelin, famous among anglers for its trout, perch and pike. Today’s guests can enjoy B & B in modern day medieval splendour in the sixteenth century Ross castle.
The castle still retains many of its original features and for antique connoisseurs, furnishings dating back some three hundred years is sure to please. Those, seeking the paranormal, won’t be disappointed. Castle Ross has the distinction of being one of the most haunted places in the world.
The castle is built on ancient Celtic land, evident from the remains of ring forts and dolmens. Overlooking it all is the Hill of Tara, where the High Kings of Ireland were crowned and had their seat of power.
The castle saw its fair share of excitement, when native and newcomer fought for dominance over an ancient land. The English, eager to maintain control over lands taken from the Irish, encouraged their faithful lords to build strong fortifications against the local chieftains.
So it was in the early 1500s, the Crown granted the sum of 10 Pounds Sterling for every castle and tower house erected on land given to their subjects.
One such lord was of the family de Nogent of French stock, whose name was anglicised to Nugent. In 1533, loyal to the Crown, he began the construction of Ross Castle. The tower he completed in 1537, with the great hall and further extensions completed in 1539.
The castle itself was unable to keep its inhabitants in splendid isolation. Over time, the Nugents allied with the O’Reilly clan, one of several major Irish clans in the region. The castle stood its ground until 1644 when Myles ‘the Slasher’ O’Reilly, spent a night there before joining forces to fight against Cromwellian and Scottish troops at the battle of Feinnaugha, The Hounds Ford, later shortened to Finea.
Myles, one source claims, fell at the battle defending Ireland against the Cromwellian onslaught. Another source cites that he survived the battle and returned to the castle where he stayed another night before leaving.
In 1913, a memorial was unveiled in the village of Finea, to the memory of the O’Reilly. Whether Myles survived or not may be uncertain, but the fate of Ross Castle was not. The English army reduced much of it to ruins.
The castle came back to some of its former glory in the 19th century, when the tower and some outbuildings were rebuilt. In 1864, Ann Marie O’Reilly installed a large plaque in honour of her historic ancestor, Slasher, in the tower hall. A century following, David Nugent turned the historic castle into a family estate, complete with modern conveniences.