The name Kilronan comes from the Gaelic ‘Cill Ronain’, meaning Ronan’s Abbey. According to tradition, St. Ronan and his daughter St. Lasair established a church here on the banks of Lough Meelagh in the 6th century. However, it is the building of a home for a famous land-owning family, that has made this part of Roscommon famous the world over. That said, it wasn’t always known as Kilronan Castle.
During the era of Edward I in the late 13th century, there was a family known as the Tenisons. Although they originated from Oxfordshire, their descendents eventually settled in the north of Ireland in the mid-17th century. Down through the ages, they would fight with the Irish Brigade in France, Spain and Portugal and then serve as members of The Irish Guards during the Boer Wars. Although valiant soldiers, generation after generation of Tenison heirs would famously squander their inheritances, only to reimburse themselves by marrying wealthy heiresses.
Marrying into majesty
One such advocate of this technique was Thomas Tenison. Initially an MP for Boyle in 1792, he later became a lieutenant colonel in the Roscommon Militia. In 1803, he married the Lady Frances Anne King, daughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Kingston. As a result, this branch of the family became known as the King-Tenisons. At this stage the King-Tenisons held extensive estates, with over 17, 726 acres to their name in Roscommon alone. Within the year, Colonel King-Tenison and his new bride would demolish their humble house and build a residence fit for a family of their great stature – Castle Tenison.
At the end of a short tree-lined avenue, on the banks of the beautiful Lough Meelagh, their new home consisted of a magnificent three storeys, with three bay-symmetrical castellated blocks and slender corner turrets. The well-proportioned rooms and delicate fan-vaulting plaster work on the stairs and landing made it a spacious and costly modern-built edifice and one worthy of their name.
From extension to destruction
In 1876, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward King-Tenison, the 12th Earl of Kingston, and his wife Lady Louisa, extended the castle to five storeys. They also added a magnificent over-basement baronial tower and battlements. The Earl and Countess of Kingston enjoyed the estate immensely and the quality of the shooting available on their grounds drew people from across Ireland to share in their incredible home.
Unfortunately, the political and social change that was happening in Ireland at that time ensured their stays in their home became less and less frequent. Although fully furnished, the castle was seldom occupied and was eventually closed and sold along with many other great country estates in Ireland at that time. While religious orders and, at one time the Free State Military, ensured the castle remained unoccupied, the contents of the castle were sold by auction in 1939 and the roof was even removed in the 1950s in an attempt to mitigate taxation.
A labour of unrivalled love
By 2004, all that remained was the perimeter walls and a huge challenge for the new owners, the Hanly Group. In 2006, Irish brothers Albert and Alan Hanly undertook a significant restoration project to rejuvenate Kilronan Castle into the luxury castle estate and spa. Combined with the painstaking sourcing and procurement of many antique fixtures and fittings, original paintings of some of the extended members of the Tenison family were also acquired. What’s more, historians and curators were also commissioned to ensure faithful attention to detail including the sensitive selection of interior design and materials from a bygone era. A secluded location, standard-setting craftsmanship, breathtaking views and the perfect blend of old-world elegance and new-world luxury, has turned Kilronan Castle from a forgotten ruin into a truly magical destination once again.