Built in 1732, as the home of Church of Ireland Archbishop Theophilus Bolton, Cashel Palace was designed by the eminent architect Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. Lovett Pearce was one of the most celebrated architects of the time, and would go on to design Dublin’s impressive Parliament House – now the Bank of Ireland in College Green.
Palladian in style, Cashel Palace’s handsome red brick facade contrasts with its limestone rear. While the rear façade mirrors the front, the use of different materials makes it exceptionally rare for this period. Carved limestone dressings enhance the house’s symmetry, with the triple-opening Venetian – or Serlian – windows a typical feature of the Palladian style.
If you look closely at the front elevation, you will spot a crowned harp over the entrance. A fire mark issued by the Hibernian Insurance Company of Dublin, they were in business from 1771 to 1839 and were the first company in Ireland to offer fire insurance.
No expense was spared in the Palace’s construction, with dozens of skilled craftsmen hired to complete the ornate and capacious interiors. Thanks to generations of mindful custodians, many of the house’s original features were well preserved. Described as ‘a place of notable hospitality’ in Loveday’s Tour of 1732, it is clear the residents enjoyed the finest comforts of the day.
The large entrance hall retains its original wood panelling, and two imposing fluted Corinthian columns. Off the hall, stands the remarkable staircase, an early Georgian style carved from red pine and featuring hundreds of intricately hand-turned ‘barley sugar’ banisters.
Occupying 25 acres, with an impressive driveway and gardens, a private walkway, ‘The Bishops Walk’ was constructed, to give residents private access to the Rock of Cashel, ancient seat of the Kings of Munster and home to a 13th century Cathedral. Cashel Palace was not impervious to political upheaval, and suffered damage during the turbulent Wolfe Tone Rebellion of 1798. The 1st Earl of Normanton, then Archbishop of Cashel, oversaw the room repairs, with the modifications reflecting the fashionable Regency style of the time.
To the rear of the Palace beautiful gardens were planted, including two ancient mulberry trees. Predating the house, these striking trees stand tall today, planted in 1702 to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Anne.
During the construction and excavation the builders stumbled upon the opening of an ancient well. Perfectly formed and completely intact, the 15-foot well was historically used to provide water to the Main House of the Cashel Palace during the period when the Archbishops occupied the house from the 1730’s to the 1900’s.
Every period house in this time had a land agent who would brew beer for the owners, and it was Richard Guinness, who was the land agent for Archbishop Arthur Price, who used hops from the Palace Garden and water from this well to brew ale for Cashel Palace. His son Arthur Guinness, who was the Archbishop’s godson, was left £100 in his godfather’s will – the same £100 he used to secure the lease on the site of St. James’s Gate brewery in Dublin. This same well can be seen in The Glass Well at our sister property, Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen adjacent to the hotel.
101 years after it was built, the last Archbishop left Cashel Palace. In 1833, under the Church Temporalities Act, the dioceses of Cashel and Emly were merged with Waterford and Lismore. This act saw the then present resident, Archbishop Richard Lawrence, relocate to Waterford, where he and future successors would make their home. Without an Archbishop in residence, Cashel Palace was divided for use by the Dean of Cashel and a Canon of the Church of Ireland.
For more than 200 years, the Palace had found itself at the heart of religious life, hosting many powerful families and their guests. That all changed in 1959, when the Church of Ireland sold Cashel Palace to Lord Brockett, a man of some means. Opened as a luxury hotel in May 1962, Lord Brockett also owned the Wicklow Hotel in Dublin and Benner’s Hotel in Tralee at the time.
Over the years, Cashel Palace hosted many glamorous guests, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Ronald Reagan, Diana Spencer and Prince Joachim of Denmark.
The hotel has enjoyed a long association with the horse-racing community and was once owned by the legendary horse trainer Vincent O’Brien before being sold to local entrepreneurs Pat and Susan Murphy who took stewardship and operated the hotel until its closure in 2014.
Then, in 2016, the iconic house was purchased by the Magnier Family, also owners of Coolmore, the world’s largest and most successful thoroughbred breeding operation. Since then, the house as undergone an incredible transformation which will see it transformed a magnificent five-star Relais & Châteaux property.
The doors of Cashel Palace opened more on 1st March 2022 after a long slumber, ready to welcome guests from across the globe, thus ushering in a new era in the legacy of a building already steeped in such incredible history.