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Kinnitty Castle Hotel

    Kinnitty Castle Hotel
 in BirrHistory: 
    Kinnitty Castle Hotel
 in Birr


The original castle at Kinnitty was built by the O’Carrolls at Glinsk in approximately 350 AD. Around the same time, an Abbey was founded by St. Finian, disciple of St. Brendan of Clonfert, on the site of the present castle. The original castle was taken by the Normans and destroyed by Murtagh O’Brien in 1209.

The Normans rebuilt it in 1213, and soon afterwards, Ely O’Carroll regained control of it. He succeeded in holding this territory until Cromwell came. The Abbey appears to have had just as stormy a history, being destroyed by the Danes in 839 AD. Among the abbots at Kinnitty was St. Colman, son of Aengus, King of Cashel.

The present building was originally built by William O’Carroll on the site of the old Abbey in 1630. The English Forces, as part of the plantation of Offaly, or “Kings County” as it was renamed, confiscated this in 1641. In 1663 Colonel Thomas Winter was granted 2,624 acres by King Charles II for military services rendered. The Winter family sold the building in 1764 to the Bernards of County Carlow. This building was reconstructed as a castellated mansion in 1811 by the famous Pan Brothers at the commission of Lady Catherine Hutchinson, wife of Colonel Thomas Bernard. The building was burned in 1922 by Republican forces and rebuilt by means of a Government grant of £32,000 in 1927. The Bernard family had the Castle rebuilt by 1928 and lived there until 1946 when it was sold to Lord Decies. He, in turn, sold it and the estate to the Government of Ireland on December 12, 1951. The State used the castle as a Forestry Training center from 1955 until it was purchased by the Ryan family in 1994 and it was then transformed into a luxury 37-guestroom hotel.

Standing in the grounds of Kinnitty Castle, at a height of 2.40 metres, is a sandstone cross with a damaged head. The cross was commissioned by St. Colman to commemorate the conversion of his father to Christianity by St. Patrick in Cashel. It is believed to be of the 12th century. The sandstone of which it is made is not of local origin. Similar crosses of Durrow and Tihilly are also of sandstone, the material thought to have come from glacial boulders. The cross originally faced East-West but is now standing North-South. The wall at the entrance to the courtyard and the belfry are all part of the old Abbey.

One panel of the cross represents the Fall of Man, Adam and Eve, the Apple Tree, and the Serpent. This is very common on High Crosses. Another panel with three figures may represent the Arrest of Christ. At the bottom of the shaft on both the North and South sides are the following inscriptions:

  • OR DO RIG MAELSECHNAILL M MAELRUANID. Which translates to: A prayer for King Maelruanaid, a prayer for the King of Ireland.
  • OR DO COLMAN DORO INCROSSAAN RIG HERENN OR DO RIG HERENN. Which translates to: A prayer for Colman, maker of this cross for The High King of Ireland.

The pyramid in Kinnitty is a burial tomb and is located on the foot of Knocknamann at the rear of the Church of Ireland. It was built by one of the Bernard family. He was an architect and an engineer who did military service in Egypt. He was probably so impressed and influenced by the huge pyramids he saw there, that he decided to build an exact replica of one of them, at a much smaller scale, for a last resting place for the Bernard family. Construction began in 1830 and was completed in 1834. It is about 30 feet in height and is thought to be the only one of its kind in Ireland. Steps lead down about 8 feet below ground level, where the coffins were placed. Records show that six coffins have been placed there. The first Bernard to be buried was Margaret Bernard, aged 24, in the year 1842. The last Bernard to be buried there was Ellen Georgina Bernard in 1907.

To view the pyramid, take a left out of the Castle gates down into Kinnitty village. Take the Roscrea road left, turning at Peavoy’s shop. The Church of Ireland is just up on the left hand side of the road. Go in to the churchyard and follow the path around the back of the Church. Go through the iron gates on the right hand side of the graveyard and the pyramid is at the top of the steps.

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2017, dates back to 1209.


International Numbers

Austria 08000706176
Belgium 080081830
France 805542721
Germany 8007241217
Ireland 1800995320
Italy 800979444
Netherlands 08000200956
Norway 80054304
Spain 900814719
Switzerland 0800001798
UK 8009179622
Book by Phone: +1 866 670 3764
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