Affectionately known as The Wild Atlantic Way, our magnificent castle hotel captures every ounce of Mayo’s reputation as one of Ireland’s finest regions. Drawing together so many of the elements which make Ireland so special, as you uncover our castle’s charming past, you’ll quickly understand why County Mayo, often called Maritime Country, is the home of Irish culture, history and rousing landscapes.
Belleek Castle has been a family home for most of its existence. Built between 1825 and 1831 in a spectacular Neo-Gothic style, the castle still leaves a lasting impression as you sweep up the drive.
Designed by the legendary Irish Victorian architect, John Benjamin Keanes, the architectural features and period décor present across the castle’s manor house are sublime. From turrets to stone columns, ornate vaulted ceilings and intricate wood panelling, the attention to detail is staggering. A luxurious mix of medieval and Victorian features still leave much to be admired.
Prior to 1825, the castle’s original structure is thought to date back to at least the 13th century. Belleek Castle takes its name from a 13th century Tower House Castle which once stood on the banks of the River Moy.
The castle is the ancestral seat of the first Earl of Arran, Sir Arthur Gore and it’s here that the property’s history as Belleek Castle begins. Under the 1966 Act of Settlement the Gore family were gifted 14,000 acres of land in Ballina.
One of Mayo’s most influential families, the Gores expanded the estate over many generations to a whopping 33,000 acres. By this time the Belleek Castle estate stretched all the way to the banks of the Moy Estuary.
When Arthur Gore’s niece, Mary Gore, married Francis Knox in the 1700s, the family adopted the surname of Knox-Gore. Francis Arthur Knox-Gore, Mary and Francis’ grandson, inherited the estate in 1818.
Shortly after his marriage to Sarah, Francis Arthur Knox-Gore commissioned the construction of Belleek Castle. He is also said to have planted around 2 million trees in Belleek Woods where he was laid to rest in 1873. Francis’ grave in the woods is marked by a striking Neo-Gothic monument designed by James Franklin Fuller.
Though Belleek Castle remained in the Knox-Gore family until 1942, rising costs and residences elsewhere meant parts of the original estate were slowly sold off. The challenges posed by the Second World War resulted in the estate being sold in 1942.
Between 1942 and 1961, Belleek Castle changed hands numerous times, passing from the Beckett Family to Mayo County Council.
In 1961, my father, Marshall Doran, decided to purchase the estate. My father was a merchant navy officer. His passion for maritime history is evident in numerous elements of Belleek Castle, most significantly in the staggering Armada Bar.
Featuring huge, 17th century oak baulks from galleons of the Spanish Armada which were shipwrecked along the nearby coast, the Armada Bar adds another layer of local history to the castle’s fascinating narratives.
Indeed, my father’s love of history led to the creation of The Marshall Doran Collection, Belleek Castle’s superb museum which forms part of our castle tour. My father was an avid collector of fossils and medieval armour so the museum contains all sorts of interesting finds.
With the assistance of John Mullen, my father restored Belleek Castle to its former glory, executing much of the work himself.
Today, Belleek Castle remains a family home and top Mayo attraction which we are delighted to share with you.
From the castle’s earliest origins to the Knox-Gore family, Marshall Doran, Jurassic fossils, medieval armour and more, join one of our daily tours to unravel the fantastic history of one of Ireland’s best castles.
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