Connacht’s Markree Castle has been bought by the Corscadden family, who now have an Irish castle hotel in each of the country’s four provinces.
The family’s niche castle collection (they are affiliated to 29-hotel strong Manor House Hotels) includes Munster’s Ballyseede Castle outside Tralee in Co Kerry, set on 30 acres of pasture and gardens, and they’ve recently completed restoration works on Bellingham Castle in Co Louth, representing Leinster.
Completing the four provinces set is Cabra Castle in Co Cavan representing Ulster. Collectors yearning a sense of ‘completeness’ will appreciate the Corscadden’s feat of owning four castle hotel properties, one located in each Irish province.
Howard Corscadden says the provincial quartet is coincidental. “There aren’t that many castle hotels in Ireland,” he comments. “Cabra is actually quite close to Louth, so it meant we could manage both quite easily. My mother’s family are from Kerry, which attracted us to Ballyseede and the Corscaddens originally came from Sligo, hence the Markree connection.”
Although the purchase price has not been disclosed (it was put on the market last year guiding €3 million), Corscadden says the refurbishment of the Sligo property, estimated at €5m, is likely to be the most expensive part of the transaction.
Markree’s restoration is to be carried out in three phases over three years. Phase 1 is the public areas and some of the hotel’s 30 bedrooms, to be completed before re-opening.
Ireland’s recession has shaken up the hotel sector like never before. It is possible that we will never see such a wave of changing ownerships in ours, or any other, lifetime, it’s suggested.
Indicative of these unique times, this is the first time that Markree Castle has changed hands since it was gifted to the Cooper family by Cromwell in the mid-17th century.
To aid continuity Corscadden says Charles Cooper will work with the family in an advisory capacity, to “safeguard the authenticity of what is one of Ireland’s most historic castles.”
Corscadden continues: “We feel honoured that the Coopers have entrusted us to take care of their ancestral home and its 350 years of history. It is our intention to build on the already strong reputation that Markree Castle enjoys locally, nationally and internationally.”
Situated on the banks of the Unshin River on 225 acres of parkland, Markree has been a popular wedding venue for many years.
The stately interior includes a vestibule, staircase hall, gallery, bar, ornate drawing, dining and ante rooms along with a chapel. The grounds are also home to a flock of rare-breed Wensleydale sheep.