Westport House & Grounds
One of Ireland’s Best Loved Heritage Attractions
Westport House is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s best loved heritage attractions - and is rightly called the most beautiful house in Ireland.
With over 30 rooms on show, visitors can immerse themselves in life as far back as the 16th century when Grace O’Malley the Pirate Queen of Connacht ruled the land and seas around the estate. Built upon the foundations of one of her many castles which can still be toured in the dungeons today, the original Westport House was built in 1650 by Colonel John Browne and his wife Maud Burke, Grace O’Malley’s great-great-granddaughter. Since then it has undergone a number of developments under the direction of the celebrated architects Richard Cassels (of Carton and Leinster House architectural fame), James Wyatt and Thomas Ivory, progressing from a smaller, one room deep residence with a central open court yard to the stately square house complete with balustraded terraces that we recognise today.
From the moment you step into the Front Hall with its breath-taking barrel vaulted ceiling and soft, rose coloured hues, the magnitude of the home’s historical and architectural significance becomes clear.
The majestic Sicilian marble staircase, made by Italian workmen and imported specially for Westport House by George (3rd Marquess of Sligo) in 1858 beholds the mythological Angel of Welcome centrepiece, where family tradition was to shake the angel’s hand upon returning from trips or visiting.
Waterford cut glass chandeliers, marble open fireplaces, bog oak furnishings and an exquisite hand painted 19th century ceiling featuring soft, wispy clouds in a periwinkle blue sky are just some of the lavish interiors on display. The intriguing Chinese Room on the first floor features a delicately hand painted wallpaper known as the Willow Pattern Story, depicting the tragic love story of a young Chinese maiden in one large, continuous painting.
Explore Westport House a little further to uncover even more of the fascinating relics of more than 300 years of Irish history including the 1850’s stained glass doors in the south corridor depicting the family crest, a bog oak bowl with a silver filigree lid resting on a silver potato ‘ring’ (unique to the West of Ireland) in the small dining room, and a magnificent collection of family portraits and local landscapes by artists such as James Arthur O’Connor, Chalon, Barret, Gibson, Opie, Brooks and Lavery.
Currently there are six absorbing exhibitions on display throughout the house including a wax work exhibition of ten notable contributors to Irish literature, music and the arts, and the inspiring story of Howe Peter, 2nd Marquess of Sligo and Governor General of Jamaica who led the emancipation of slaves and had the first ‘free village’ in the world, Sligoville, named in his honour. And our newest exhibition was compiled by the Great Hunger Institute of the University of Quinnipiac in the USA and tells of the family’s significant efforts to alleviate the suffering of their tenants during the Great Famine.
Discover Westport House through guided and self-guided tours, fascinating exhibitions and a range of reading materials available at the entrance hall.
The grounds surrounding Westport House are an eclectic fusion of natural wonders, architectural grandeur and fascinating antiquities. The vast expanse of Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick in the distance provide an idyllic backdrop to the Estate’s tumbling waterfalls, terraces, promenades and lofty ancient oaks. Whispers of the past are evident at each turn from the large soup pots used to feed the hungry during the Great Famine, a Spanish Armada cannon and the 3000 year old Greek sarcophagus brought back from Howe Peter’s excavations at Mycenae in Greece. Proud and graceful, a bronze casting of Grace O’Malley is a highlight amongst the grounds’ features, one of only two likenesses of the great Pirate Queen.
Apart from the generous contributions made by the Heritage Council of Ireland in re-roofing the house,
it is solely the hard-work, passion and commitment of the Browne family to Westport House and its grounds that successfully preserves and maintains one of Ireland’s most cherished cultural and historical gems for future generations.
Access to Westport House
At this time buggies are not permitted inside Westport House due to the delicate nature of the antique parquet floors. Please park your buggy inside the ante-library and feel free to avail of one of our baby carriers at the entrance hall while you tour the House.
Much to our regret, Westport House is not yet wheel-chair accessible although we are working hard to secure the infrastructure to create this important access.