Westport House & Grounds
One of Ireland’s Best Loved Heritage Attractions
Westport House & Grounds, first opened to the public is 1960, is one of Ireland’s best loved heritage attractions. Having been family home to the Browne family for over 300 years, its roots trace back to Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Connaught. As you can imagine - this house has some story to tell.
Designed by the famous architects Richard Cassels James Wyatt and Thomas Ivory in the 18th Century, it is located west of the Shannon and is one of Irelands’ most beautiful historic homes open to the public. It enjoys a superb parkland setting with lake, terraces, wonderful gardens and magnificent views overlooking Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, Clare Island and Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick. It was built and is still privately owned by the Browne family who are direct descendants of the 16th century Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.
Colonel John Browne and his wife Maud Burke built the first Westport House on the site in 1650. Maud Burke was Grace O’Malley’s great-great-granddaughter. In 1730 this original smaller Westport House was replaced by their grandson, another John Browne who later became the 1st Earl of Altamont. The East front of Cassels House as seen today was built with cut limestone from the Farmyard Quarry south of the Estate farmyard (now known as Car Park No.1). It has seen some additions over the years as well as sustained some losses through fire damage but the Browne family has worked tirelessly on the upkeep and maintenance of this heritage gem.
It is important to note that aside from the generous support of the Heritage Council of Ireland in re-roofing the house recently, all of this has all been made possible through the hard-work, passion and commitment of the Browne Family to maintaining this important cultural legacy. The story of this passion and commitment is told throughout the house in guided and self-guide tours, exhibits and reading materials – or you can always ask one of our helpful staff about the various marquesses and colourful characters in the Browne family! Keep your eyes peeled too as it is not unusual to see family members throughout the House & Grounds as they are still very active in the running of the business.
With over 30 rooms open to the public, this house is one of the few historic houses in Ireland affording such access to visitors. There are several architecturally stunning rooms on show complete with original antiques and artwork most of which have a long association with Ireland and are of particular interest to our visitors.
Among the pictures are portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds of the 1st Earl of Altamont; Sir William Beechy of the Rt. Hon. Denis Browne, brother of the 1st Marquess of Sligo and a member of Grattan’s Parliament; Sir William Beechy of Howe Peter, the second Marquess of Sligo who spent four months in an English jail for bribing British seamen in a time of war, to bring his ship, full of antiquities from Greece to Westport. Howe Peter was a friend of George IV and of the poet Byron; and John Singleton Copley of Earl Howe, Admiral of the Fleet, father of the 1st Marchioness of Sligo.
Other Artworks include a magnificent collection of landscapes painted in the locality by James Arthur O’Connor and other artists such as Chalon, Barret, Gibson, Opie, Brooks and Lavery are part of the collection.
There is also a collection of waxwork figures by Gems Display Figures, which are a tribute to the literary, arts and music achievements of – and famous visitors to - the West of Ireland.
Jeremy Altamont commissioned a bronze statue of Grace O’Malley by Michael Cooper ( brother of present Marchioness of Sligo, Lady Altamont ) which stands by the old bridge on the grounds. Inside the house, there’s an alabaster version of the same statue. With no other likenesses of Grace O’Malley in existence, these are of significant interest to visitors.
Please note that while buggies are recommended for use in the extensive grounds, Pirate Adventure Park and campsite, they are unfortunately not permitted in Westport House in an effort to preserve the antique parquet floors. You may park your buggy inside in the ante-library while you tour the House. You might like to bring your own baby carrier or please feel free to borrow one of ours while you’re in the House.
Likewise and very much to our regret, Westport House is not yet wheel-chair accessible. We are working hard to secure the necessaries to put this important access point in place. Please bear with us and thank you for your patience.