Markree Castle in County Sligo was described by Lord Clark on the BBC television programme Civilisation as “Ireland’s finest castle of its period” & it’s not hard to see why. Take some deep breaths. One, two. One, two. For at the first view of the building’s sheer stone frontage or when you see your bill you may gasp sharply. Fortunately, payment at Markree is a pleasant surprise since the hotel rates are pretty reasonable. Visitors to the castle, particularly Americans, are thrilled to discover that four centuries of Irish history are contained within its walls. Read all about it.The site of the castle is on a prehistoric fortress. A cairn on the estate provides evidence of an ancient settlement. The MacDonagh clan built a fortress at Markree in the early 17th century. The siege wall of this building was uncovered in the basement of the present castle during restoration work.In the 1600s Markree was presented to a Cromwellian solider from Norfolk, Coronet Cooper, as a reward for his part in the Siege of Limerick. Rather neatly, not to say fortunately for her, the widowed O’Brien heiress then in residence agreed to marry him. James II made Markree a manor of 500 acres of parkland with permission to hold court at the castle. Ever since each generation of the Cooper family was involved in politics, representing Sligo for an unbroken period from 1695 to 1930. The name of the estate has evolved over the last four centuries from Marcia, Mercury, Markea, Markrea & finally to Markree.
By the early 1700s Ireland was more peaceful & the fortified dwelling of the MacDonaghs must have seemed highly unfashionable to the refined taste of the Georgian period. Thus, the original 17th century residence was replaced by a three storey block; it had a five bay front with a three bay garden elevation containing one bay on either side of a shallow bow window.The architectural evolution of Markree completed a full circle in the 19th century when the Georgian house that replaced the original fortress was transformed back into a castle in 1802. Joshua Cooper appointed the architect Francis Johnston, whose work includes the rebuilding of Áras an Uachtaráin, the President’s residence in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, & the extension of Royal Hospital Kilmainham, also in Dublin. The existing house was doubled in size to form a massive castle of the early symmetrical kind with a new entrance created in a porte-cochère at the end of a double height projection.However the Gothic treatment of the interiors, as seen in the gallery where the gorbels below the wall posts are bedecked with angels, does not seem to have satisfied Joshua’s nephew & heir, Edward Cooper. He garnished the suite of reception rooms on the garden front in a lively Louis XIV manner with gilded mirrors surrounded by well-fed putti hanging from trailing swags of fruit & flowersArticle Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6305118