Johnstown Castle – This jewel of Gothic architecture is just a 10-minute drive from Wexford city center.
The history of this castle dates back to the 11th century when the Esmonde English family from Lincolnshire settled in this area after the Normandy invasion of Ireland in 1169. The family initially built there two houses with towers: Jonhstown and Rathlannon – which ruins can be seen in the gardens.
These towers had 3-4 floors, of which the family lived on the highest level and the employees and service below. These solid, stone buildings were designed to protect their inhabitants from potential invaders.
These properties were then taken over by the Grogan family in 1682, which extended the castle, gardens and surrounded the whole area (initially about 4 acres) with a stone wall. In 1798, the owner of the estate, Cornelius Grogan, was hanged at Wexford Bridge for participating in the rebellion and after his execution the estate in Jonhstown was taken over by the royal family. It was not until twelve years later that his younger brother was able to regain his fortune after he paid a large fine.
During the First World War, the Zeppelin aircraft of the British Royal Naval Air Service were stationed here, which had the task of destroying German U-bot submarines (unfortunately unsuccessfully) that still sniffed around the southern coast of Ireland.
In 1945 Maurice Victor Lakin – a descendant of John Grogan, handed over the property as a gift to the Irish people, and a few years later the Department of Agriculture took control of the castle and gardens.
The present appearance and size of the gardens is about 1000 acres and it has been divided into: a deer park in the north, a castle, recreational areas, a farm and two lakes in the south.
These magnificent and lush gardens are criss-crossed with many alleys where there are many sculptures or a waterfall and are popular as a place for family walks or picnics. This landscape is additionally strengthened by two lakes with fabulous towers and various waterfowl.
The gardens themselves were designed by a famous architect – Daniel Robertson, who is famous for such gardens as the Powerscourt Gardens in Wicklow.
The castle’s gardens are open to visitors 7 days a week all year round, and there is also the Irish Museum of Agriculture, which has been in existence for 40 years,
In 2019 it’s planning to open the castle itself for visitors.