Set on a tranquil lake in the quiet of County Leitrim, Lough Rynn Castle is one of Ireland’s best-kept castle secrets. The stunning estate has been carefully restored and converted into a castle hotel outside of the little village of Mohill.
Ideally placed for exploring the best things to do in Leitrim, Lough Rynn's cozy drawing room and postcard-like location hide a turbulent history. Whether you plan to hike around the lake or want to wander through the Victorian walled garden, Lough Rynn Castle offers an unforgettable taste of the less-visited side of Ireland.
History of Lough Rynn Castle
The history of Lough Rynn Castle is delightfully stormy, which adds to the intrigue of visiting the lovely estate. The area was first settled by Druids during prehistoric times when the areas near the lake were used as a burial ground around 1500 B.C.
The first reference to other residents did not take place until the 12th century when the Mac Ragnaill clan built a castle here. The Mac Ragnaills fought off other families until the powerful O’Rourke Clan forced them off their beloved land in the early 16th century.
As powerful as the O’Rourkes were, they brokered a deal to join forces with the Mac Ragnaills to fight off English forces. Even though the two clans united to defend Lough Rynn, they lost their battle against the English in 1540 and ultimately lost their power.
The land first became a plantation and was then purchased by the Clements family, along with 10,000 other acres around Mohill, in 1749. The arrival of the Clements (and earlier creation of County Leitrim) start to shape the history of Lough Rynn Castle as it is known today.
In the early 19th century, work on the house that would become the castle today began in stages under the oversight of the Clements family. In 1854, William Sydney Clements success his father as the 3rd Earl of Leitrim and soon became one of the most notorious landlords in Irish history.
While his home was being built, Clements terrorized his tenants while serving as a Member of Parliament for County Leitrim. When rent was late, he evicted his tenants with little regard for their welfare or future. His behavior finally caught up with him in April 1878, when Clements was assassinated on his way to the town of Milford. The accused assassins were three of the very tenants he is said to have treated so poorly.
The 3rd Earl of Leitrim did not live long enough to see his country estate finished.
The Clements family continued to live at Lough Rynn Castle until 1969 when they finally sold the estate. The lovely stone country home soon fell into disrepair, but it was fortunately restored in the early 2000s.
What to See at Lough Rynn
The Lough Rynn Castle was purchased in 2001 and restored to be converted into a hotel.
The area to the southeast of the castle has been named Druids Hill for the dolman that was built by the settlers who first lived here 3,500 years ago. In the same area, the ruins of a 12th-century castle built by the Mac Ragnaill clan are still visible along the shore of the lake.
There are several trails that lead through the woodlands that surround the castle or wind along the lake. The further you move from the castle, the most likely it is that these can become muddy after the rain, but the easy walkways are otherwise well-maintained.
The most striking feature of the estate, aside from the restored castle, is walled Victorian garden. The garden was abandoned in the 19th century, but its ornamental features have been rebuilt, including a small turret tower that overlooks the water. The upper level of the garden is filled with seasonal herbs, which are used by the Lough Rynn restaurant to create local dishes. On the lower level, the hedges, flowering plants, period shrubs, and fountains, all combine to create an intimate and romantic garden.
How to Visit
Lough Rynn is located about 3 miles outside of the little village of Mohill in County Leitrim. From the village, turn right onto Main Street Lower then take a right at the junction onto Drumlish Road. After about a mile and a half, there will be signs to turn left to Lough Rynn Castle.
The grounds around Lough Rynn Castle are open to the public for walks. If you want to see the interior of the converted castle, you are welcome to step inside the lobby and visit the drawing room. To spend more time inside, order a drink from the bar and settle in to listen to the piano player who regularly provides evening entertainment. There is also an award-winning restaurant for meals throughout the day.
The Victorian walled garden is free for hotel guests to visit and you will be given a code for the gate when you check-in. It is otherwise closed to the general public.
What Else to Do Nearby
A visit to Lough Rynn Castle is one of the best things to do in County Leitrim, though it also sits close to the borders with County Roscommon and County Sligo.
Near the castle is the Glenview Folk Museum, which has more than 6,000 historical items that date back to pre-Famine Ireland. Most impressive is the pub that is stocked exactly as it would have been more than a century ago. The privately managed collection is Leitrim’s only museum.
To see more of the wonderful natural wonders in the area, take a trip out to Glencar Waterfall. The 50-foot tall cascade is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ireland and was featured in the W.B. Yeats’ poem "The Stolen Child."
In Carrick-on-Shannon, visitors can take a Moon River Cruise down the Shannon River. There is a full bar on board, plus tea and snacks available to enjoy while you meander down the river. For something more hands-on, the Lough Allen Adventure Club offers kayaking, windsurfing, and guided hikes in the area.