Strokestown Park

Top choice in The Midlands

At the end of Strokestown's main avenue, triple Gothic arches lead to Strokestown Park House. The original 120-sq-km estate was granted by King Charles II to Nicholas Mahon for his support in the English Civil War. Nicholas' grandson Thomas commissioned Richard Cassels to build him a Palladian mansion in the early 18th century. The gardens give some idea of the original wealth. Admission to the house is by a 50-minute guided tour, which includes the stable-housed Irish National Famine Museum.

The guided tours also take in a galleried kitchen with original ovens dating from 1740, a schoolroom with an exercise book of neatly written dictation dating from 1934 (and, according to her red pen, deemed disgraceful by the governess), and a toy room complete with 19th-century toys and funhouse mirrors.

Over the centuries, the estate decreased in size along with the family's fortunes. When it was eventually sold in 1979, it had been whittled down to (a still vast) 120 hectares. The estate was bought as a complete lot, so virtually all its remaining contents are intact. The walled garden contains the longest herbaceous border in Ireland, which blooms in a rainbow of colours in summer. Look out too for a folly and a lily pond.

There is a small cafe on-site.

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