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A very grand 4 star Castle Hotel less than an hour from Dublin Airport, Cabra Castle is a beautiful sight both inside and out, and a place where luxury and old world elegance is complimented by friendly, hospitable staff, good food and drink and the acres of ancient woodland of the surrounding Dun A Ri Forest Park.
In the castle itself there is a choice of old style luxury double/twin bedrooms, while outside in the grounds there are the cottage or courtyard rooms, which though more modern looking on the outside, on the inside they are also very nicely finished and furnished in traditional style.
All guests have access to the castle itself, and it is a truly magnificent property. You can explore the old corridors, the various drawing rooms, the wonderful gardens outside, and of course the Courtyard Restaurant and Derby Bar. The interiors are beautifully elegant, full of period fittings and furniture that lend a distinctly old world atmosphere.
Being a place of historical interest, the castle also sees a number of day visitors, being open to the public between the hours of eleven and four in the afternoon.
The bar is open all day, serves light meals and snacks, and has a good selection of drinks. It has a nice outdoor terrace too, overlooking the gardens, while the restaurant, on the first floor, opens at 19:00 and has an extensive, award winning menu with much locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, as well as a comprehensive wine list.
There are tennis courts outside and a 9 hole golf course, and the castle grounds have plenty of paths and nature trails that lead on into the Dun A Ri Forest Park. Once part of the original Cabra Estate, Dun A Ri is now a national park and a place of ancient woodlands and quiet soltitude.
There are also other activities to be enjoyed in the local area including archery, clay pigeon shooting, horse riding and fishing, just ask at reception for advice and to arrange reservations.
Cabra Castle Hotel is about one hour from Dublin City, and even less from the airport, near the town of Kingscourt Co. Cavan, and bordering the counties of Meath and Monaghan. This area is one of farmland, lakes and woodlands, which includes of course the aforementioned Dun A Ri Forest Park. The park covers nearly 600 acres and, as well as being a place of great natural beauty, it has a wealth of history relating to the local area and to the Cabra Castle and Estate itself.
Within the park there is Cromwell’s Bridge which, though dating all the way back to the first Norman conquest of Ireland, was named as such due to fact that Oliver Cromwell and his troops had crossed the bridge on their way to defeat the O’Reillys, the original owners of the Cabra Estate.
There are also the ruins of Fleming’s Castle in Dun A Ree, which records show was constructed in 1607 by a Gerald Fleming, but which is also believed to have been the site of an earlier castle built by the famous Hugh De Lacy in the 12th century. Another nice little spot to rest your feet in the woods is what locals call the Wishing Well, likely to have been the site of a holy well and a place of pilgrimage in much earlier times.
To get to Cabra Castle Hotel from Dublin, first of all ignore any signs you may see for Cavan Town, which is quite a bit away from the hotel, and take the M1 as far as Ardee, Co.Louth, then the N2 to Carrickmacross Co. Monaghan and then the R179 towards Kingscourt Co. Cavan, but turning off to the left about 3km before Kingscourt.
From Belfast take the A1 down through Newry to Dundalk, from there take the R179 from Dundalk to Carrickmacross and from there take the R179 towards Kingscourt, but turning off, as mentioned above, around 3km outside the town.
The name Cabra Castle can refer to the castle hotel you see today or to the ruins of a nearby earlier castle, both of which formed part of the Cabra Estate. The original castle was believed to have been built in the late 1500s/early 1600s by the O’Reilly clan who owned a huge amount of land in the area, including the Cabra Estate, before it was confiscated during Oliver Cromwell’s notorious conquest of Ireland in the mid 17th century and their castle destroyed.
Most of the estate was then granted to a Cromwell ally, Colonel Thomas Hooch, a Donegal man and descendent of English Protestant settlers who themselves were granted land during the Plantation of Ulster. Thomas married an Elizabeth Mervyn with whom he had one daughter, also called Elizabeth who would then be the sole heir to the Cabra Estate. In 1686 she was to marry Joseph Pratt from another family of English settlers, granted land in nearby Jaradice Co.Meath, and Cabra was from then on to become synonymous with the Pratt surname, with their son, Mervyn Pratt being the first to have the estate under his name upon the death of his grandfather Thomas Hooch.
The site of the castle hotel wasn’t actually part of today’s Cabra Estate or the Pratt lands until 1813. It had, since the 17th century, belonged to the Foster family and was the site of an earlier round tower castle, known as Cormy Castle, which had also been destroyed in Cromwellian times. In 1808 Henry Foster set about restoring the castle, though in the end the project became more building a new castle from scratch on the site of, and inspired by, the old.
The castle was a very impressive sight, built in a rather unusual for the time, Neo-Norman style, but it proved to be costly work for the already cash strapped Fosters and not long after completion, in 1813, they were forced to sell both their new castle and the 400 acres of land surrounding it. The buyers were their neighbours, the Pratts, who saw an opportunity to expand the Cabra Estate while also getting a incredible new showpiece home in the process. The head of the family Colonel Joseph Pratt moved in straight away from his existing manor house, which had, looking back, the rather confusing moniker of Cabra Castle, and then named his new castle also Cabra Castle, a name which stuck long after the original manor house had faded into obscurity.
When the last direct heir, Mervyn Pratt, a former Major in the British army, died, childless, in 1950 he passed the castle and the estate on to his nearest male heir Mervyn Sheppard. By that stage though it had been left virtually unoccupied since the turn of the century with Mervyn Pratt having spent most of his life in his mother’s, the Jackson’s, family estate in Enniscoe, Co. Mayo.
The castle was now in a state of some disrepair, and by 1964, with Mervyn Sheppard having no inclination to indulge in costly repairs nor to live there himself, it was sold. The buyers were a local family the Brennans who renovated the building and converted it into a 22 room hotel. They in turn sold it on in 1986 when it was bought by Ahmad Mansour, a politician and businessman from the U.A.E. He had plans to convert it back to a private home but, before he could even start the work, a downturn in his political and economic fortunes put paid to the idea and it effectively lay idle again for the next five years. In 1991 it was bought by the current owners, the Corscadden Hotel Group, owners of a number of other castle hotels around Ireland, who extensively upgraded the building and have been running it successfully as a hotel ever since.
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