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The Majestic Tullynally Castle and gardens (Paul Moore Photography)

Tullynally Castle, the Most Majestic Estate in Ireland


Tullynally Castle, also known as Pakenham Hall, is a historic castle located in County Westmeath, Ireland. It is one of the largest castles in Ireland and is situated near the town of Castlepollard. The castle is set amidst a large estate that includes beautiful gardens and woodlands, making it a popular tourist attraction from April to September. The home of the Pakenham family for well over 350 years, Tullynally boasts a very long history, filled with a lot of interesting moments. Who are the Pakenhams? And how did this majestic castle develop over time?

Tullynally Castle, the Home of the Pakenhams

Tullynally is the Anglicized form of the castle’s original, Irish name - Tulaigh an Eallaigh – meaning, the Hill of the Swan. The house has a rich history that dates back to the 17th century when it was likely originally built by the Fitzsimons family. It is possible that Tullynally castle arose on the site of a previous, smaller tower house. However, in 1665, Henry Pakenham, a captain in the Parliamentary Dragoons, acquired a lot of land, with Tullynally included, in lieu of pay arrears. This paved the way for the steady rise to prominence of the Pakenham family, and they have owned Tullynally ever since.

A Saxon Family Established in Ireland

The Pakenhams are a family of Saxon origins, even though they have been tied to Ireland through generations. Their name is likely connected to a village of that same name, located in Suffolk, in the east of England. How then, did they end up in the very heart of Ireland? The connection can be traced back to 1576, when Sir Henry Sydney brought his young cousin with him, one Edmund Pakenham, to be his secretary in Dublin. It was the grandson of Edmund, Henry Pakenham, who would go on to acquire the lands in Ireland. The rest, as they say, is history.

Historic items from the family legacy. (Paul Moore Photography)

Historic items from the family legacy. (Paul Moore Photography)

The family was quickly established in the peerage of post-war Ireland. The son of Henry, Thomas, was made a knight in 1693, and became the prime Sergeant-at-law. His grandson, Thomas, is recorded as having  “inherited and was living here comfortably as a fox-hunting squire on an estate worth £2000 a year”.

The family has extensively contributed to the history and culture of Ireland.  (Paul Moore Photography)

The family has extensively contributed to the history and culture of Ireland. (Paul Moore Photography)

A diary, dated to 1737-1738, made by Thomas’ brother, George Edward Pakenham, shows us in great detail how the estate looked like at the time, and how the young noble lived. It is an important insight into the family’s rise to power:

“There was a steward, a butler, a gardener with several helpers, ten men in livery and a pack of hounds, a handsome stable courtyard with stalls for ten hunters and other horses. (Some of the stalls now form the present tearoom). The house was approached via a lawn with an orchard full of fruit trees, whilst on the south slope below the house, an elaborate formal garden of canals and waterfalls had been constructed.”

Sir Thomas Pakenham, ensured that the family would become prosperous and powerful. This is because, in 1740 he married an heiress, Elizabeth Cuffe, great-great niece of Ambrose 2 nd Earl of Longford of the 1 st creation. In 1756, he was created the 1st Baron Longford of the second creation. And the ascent to grandeur continued steadily: Thomas’ grandson, also named Thomas, acquired the grander title of 2nd Earl of Longford, in 1794 on the death of his grandmother, the heiress, who was a countess in her own right.

The front side and entrance of the castle (Paul Moore Photography)

The front side and entrance of the castle (Paul Moore Photography)

Involvement in Irish Society and Politics

With the acquisition of their title as Barons and Earls of Longford, the Pakenham family played their part in Irish society and politics. Before the Act of Union of 1800, they served in both the Irish House of Commons and the Irish house of Lords. Several members of the Pakenham family have also distinguished themselves as Generals and Admirals in the British Army and Navy. The most notable of these was Sir Edward Pakenham.

Portraits of the Barons of Longford on the dining room wall.  (Paul Moore Photography)

Portraits of the Barons of Longford on the dining room wall.  (Paul Moore Photography)

Edward was the son of the 2nd Baron Longford and the brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington, with whom he served in the Peninsular War. During the War of 1812, he was sent out to command the British forces in North America. Sadly, he perished while leading his troops in the Battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815. He remains one of the family’s most well-remembered heroes.

The Pakenhams have contributed to Irish culture and history. They have been patrons of the arts and Tullynally Castle houses a significant collection of art, furniture, and historical artifacts. The castle itself is a testament to their architectural and historical interests.

Georgian and Gothic Architecture

Tullynally Castle's architecture is a fascinating blend of different styles, reflecting the evolution of the castle over the centuries. The castle's architecture primarily encompasses Georgian and Gothic Revival styles.

The main structure of Tullynally (then called Pakenham Hall) was constructed during the Georgian era, which spanned from the early 18th to the early 19th century. Georgian architecture is characterized by symmetry, proportion, and a sense of classical elegance. Some notable Georgian features of Tullynally Castle include the front facade of the castle, which is highly symmetrical, with a central entrance flanked by evenly spaced windows on either side. This creates a sense of balance and harmony in the design. Georgian architecture often incorporates classical elements such as columns, pilasters, and pediments. While Tullynally Castle is not heavily adorned with classical details, it maintains a sense of classical restraint in its design.

New Owners, New Styles

Over the generations, new Earls naturally expanded their estate, going in step with the times and new popular trends. So, in the 19th century, during the Gothic Revival movement, significant alterations were made to the house by the 2nd Earl, in order to give it a more romantic and medieval castle appearance. The addition of crenellations (the notched parapets at the top of the walls) and battlements (defensive wall structures) helped transform the house's silhouette into a more castle-like form. These elements were added for decorative purposes rather than for defense. This was a time when castles no longer served a defensive purpose, and sieges were a thing of the past.

Pointed arches can be seen in the interior of the castle. A characteristic of Gothic style. (Paul Moore Photography)

Pointed arches can be seen in the interior of the castle. A characteristic of Gothic style. (Paul Moore Photography)

Gothic architecture is known for its use of pointed arches, and you can find these arches in various parts of the castle, including doorways and windows. They too provide a distinct “medieval” style. The castle's exterior was also adorned with towers and turrets, which are typical of Gothic Revival design. These elements contribute to the castle's picturesque and romantic appearance, easily transporting every visitor to the dim ages of the medieval past.

A view of Lough Derravaragh and Tullynally castle from afar. (Paul Moore Photography)

A view of Lough Derravaragh and Tullynally castle from afar. (Paul Moore Photography)

Of course, Tullynally Castle's location is an essential part of its architectural appeal. It is situated near the shores of Lough Derravaragh, and the castle's proximity to the lake adds to its visual grandeur. The combination of the castle's architectural features, natural surroundings, and the lake creates a stunning and picturesque setting. What is more, Tullynally Castle is renowned for its extensive and beautifully landscaped gardens, which are as much of an attraction as the castle itself. The gardens are a significant part of the estate and offer visitors a chance to explore a wide variety of horticultural delights.

The extensive and exquisitely landscaped gardens at Tullynally Castle. (Paul Moore Photography)

The extensive and exquisitely landscaped gardens at Tullynally Castle. (Paul Moore Photography)

The Prettiest Castle Gardens in Ireland

Tullynally Castle gardens are renowned throughout Ireland for their remarkable beauty and size. One of the most prominent features of Tullynally's parklands is the walled garden. Walled gardens were historically designed to provide shelter and create a microclimate that allowed for the cultivation of a wide range of plants. The walled garden at Tullynally Castle is a place of enchantment with its well-maintained flowerbeds, fruit trees, and meticulously pruned hedges. It's a delightful spot to take a leisurely stroll and admire the seasonal blooms. It’s just like something from a Victorian novel!

The extensive gardens of Tullynally Castle. (Paul Moore Photography)

The extensive gardens of Tullynally Castle. (Paul Moore Photography)

Also, the estate surrounding the castle includes extensive woodlands and walking paths. These woodlands are home to a diverse array of tree species, and visitors can enjoy peaceful walks amid the lush greenery. There may also be hidden surprises along the way, such as sculptures and art installations. The gardens are open to the public during the summer months, typically from May to September. Visitors can explore the gardens at their own pace, but guided tours are also available, providing insights into the history and horticulture of the estate. Also present on the estate are the unique ornamental lakes, and a special limestone grotto.

Like a scene from a Victorian novel. (Paul Moore Photography)

Like a scene from a Victorian novel. (Paul Moore Photography 

Overall, the gardens at Tullynally Castle are a haven for nature enthusiasts, garden lovers, and anyone seeking a serene and picturesque outdoor experience. The combination of meticulously maintained landscapes, historic plant collections, and the castle's stunning backdrop makes it a must-visit destination for those exploring the Irish countryside.

The History is Still Being Written

Tullynally Castle is a remarkable historical and architectural gem that offers visitors a glimpse into Ireland's past and an opportunity to enjoy its natural beauty through the expansive gardens and grounds.

The Pakenham family still resides here, the 6 th Earl of Longford Edward Pakenham who came to live at Tullynally in 1923 saw himself as an Irish Republican, he and his wife Christine part owned the Gate theatre in Parnel Square, Dublin, he sat in the first Seanad, was a close friend of Eamon De’Valera and he spoke and wrote plays in Irish.  The current owner, Thomas Pakenham rejected his title of the 8 th Earl of Longford and prefers a meritocratic society.  

Today, Tullynally Castle is one the largest inhabited houses in Ireland, with ​​over 100 rooms.

Tullynally Castle Gardens are open to visitors from 1 st April to End September, 11-5pm only.

Access to the castle is by prebooked tour from May to Sept,  Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays only.

Tour times are at 11, 12.30 and 2pm

For further details, visit: to prebook tickets

Top image: The Majestic Tullynally Castle and gardens (Paul Moore Photography)

By Aleksa Vučković


Carson, C. 2009.  Technology and the Big House in Ireland, C. 1800-c. 1930. Cambria Press.

Unknown. Tullynally Castle and Gardens. Westmeath. Available at:

Unknown. 2020.  Tullynally Castle and Gardens, Castlepollard, County Westmeath N91 HV58. Irish Historic Houses. Available at:

Aleksa Vučković's picture


I am a published author of over ten historical fiction novels, and I specialize in Slavic linguistics. Always pursuing my passions for writing, history and literature, I strive to deliver a thrilling and captivating read that touches upon history's most... Read More

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