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Lismore has been the home of the Duke of Devonshire since 1748.
Located about mid way between Waterford and Cork cities, 68 kilometres from Waterford City, the castle is set on a hill about the charming heritage town of Lismore, overlooking the Dukes estate of 8,000 acres which extends along the Blackwater Valley and across the rolling wooded hills up to the peak of the Knockmealdown Mountains.
The castle site was originally occupied by Lismore Abbey, an important monastery and seat of learning established in the early 7th century.
In 1589 Lismore, was leased and later acquired by Sir Walter Raleigh, who sold the property during his imprisonment for High Treason in 1602 to another famous adventurer, Richard Boyle, later the 1st Earl of CorkBoyle came to Ireland from England in 1588 with only twenty-seven pounds in capital, and proceeded to amass an extraordinary fortune.
After purchasing Lismore he made it his principal seat and transformed it into a magnificent residence with impressive gabled ranges each side of the court yard.
He also built a castellated outer wall and a gatehouse known as the Riding Gate.
The principal apartments were decorated with fretwork plaster ceilings and hangings of tapestry, embroidered silk and velvet.
The castle was acquired by the Cavandish family in 1753, which held the titles of the 5th Duke of Devonshire.
They carried out improvements at Lismore, notably the bridge across the Blackwater, in 1775, designed by Cork-born architect, Thomas Ivory.
The 6th Duke (1790-1858), commonly known as ‘the Bachelor Duke’, was responsible for the castle’s present appearance.
He began transforming the castle into a fashionable ‘quasi-feudal ultra-regal fortress’ as soon as he succeeded his father in 1811, engaging the architect William Atkinson from 1812 to 1822 to rebuild the castle in the Gothic style, using cut stone shipped over from Derbyshire.
Lismore was always the Bachelor Duke’s favourite residence, but as he grew older his love for the place developed into a passion.
In 1850 he engaged his architect Sir Joseph Paxton, the designer of The Crystal Palace, to carry out improvements and additions to the castle on a magnificent scale – so much so that the present skyline is largely Paxton’s work.
The 12th Duke, who succeeded to the title in 2004, continues to live primarily on the family’s Bolton Abbey estate.
His son, William Burlington, maintains an apartment in the castle and recently converted the derelict west range (2006) into a contemporary art gallery.
For most of the year the family’s private apartments at Lismore are available to rent by groups of up to twenty-three visitors.