DiCamillo tour to great houses of Ireland, 2019

The Great Houses of Ireland

Bio of the Tour Leader

Curt DiCamillo

Curt is an American architectural historian and a recognized authority on the British country house. He has written and lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad on the subject and has taught classes on British culture and art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Providence Athenaeum, and Beacon Hill Seminars. Curt regularly leads scholarly tours that focus on the architectural and artistic heritage of Britain and its influence around the world. Since 1999 he has maintained an award-winning database on the web, The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses (TheDiCamillo.com). The database seeks to document every English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish country house ever built, standing or demolished, together with a history of the families who lived in the houses, the architects who designed them, and the history of the houses’ collections and gardens.

In recognition of his work, Curt has been presented to the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and The Prince of Wales. He is a member of The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain and is an alumnus of both the Royal Collection Studies program and The Attingham Summer School for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections. Curt is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a member of the Council of the American Museum in Britain.

Curt serves as Curator for Special Collections at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, before which, for nine years, he was Executive Director of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, based in Boston, where he was responsible for raising over $7 million for the Trust (he currently holds the position of Executive Director Emeritus). Previously he worked for 13 years for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A native of the Philadelphia area, Curt grew up in Central Florida with his sister, the award-winning children’s book author Kate DiCamillo.


The Great Houses of Ireland

B = Breakfast | D = Dinner | L = Lunch | R = Reception | T = Tea

Saturday, September 14


Depart the United States no later than today.

Mount Juliet

Mount Juliet | Photo courtesy of Mount Juliet

Day 1

Sunday, September 15

T, R, D

Meet Curt DiCamillo and fellow tour participants at 1:00 PM at The Westbury Hotel on Balfe Street in Dublin, from which we’ll leave by private coach for tea and a private tour at heavenly Borris House in Co. Carlow, the ancestral home of the Kavanagh family.

After Borris we head to Mount Juliet, the sublime country house hotel that will be our home for the next six days. After checking in, there will be time to settle into the luxurious bedrooms, followed by drinks and a welcome dinner at the hotel.

Kilkenny Castle

Day 2

Monday, September 16

B, L, R, D

After breakfast, we begin our first full day together at Kilkenny Castle, the ancient seat of the marquesses and earls of Ormonde. There has been a castle here since the 12th century, when Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, built a wooden structure on the site. After a tour of the castle, we’ll visit St. Canice’s medieval cathedral.

Our next destination is Dangan Cottage, the charming home of Christopher Moore, where we’ll have lunch, followed by a private tour of the house and the delightful gardens.

After Dangan, we’re off to Kilfane Glen and Waterfall for a guided tour of this pristine example of an 18th century romantic-era garden. Dotted with woodland paths, tiny bridges, streams, ancient trees, wild foxglove, and a cottage orné, this sweet garden has remained virtually untouched for 200 years.

We return to Mount Juliet for time to rest and relax, before we head to Ballysallagh House, the home of Kieran and Geralyn White, where we’ll have a tour of the house, followed by drinks and dinner. Considered one of the most perfectly-sized and comfortable country houses in Ireland, Ballysallagh has been restored to pristine condition by the Whites, who purchased the house in 1987.

Dromana Gate by Madelien Knight

Dromana Gate | Photo by Madelien Knight

Day 3

Tuesday, September 17

B, T, L

Our Tuesday starts with a private tour of Dromana House, the home of Villiers-Stuart family, who have been here over 800 years. Dromana is most famous today for its Hindu Gothic style gatehouse, the only one of its kind in Ireland. After the tour of the house and garden we’ll have tea and biscuits hosted by the owner.

Next up is the delightful Tourin House, an Italianate style villa that’s the home of the Jameson family. Yes, that Jameson family – Irish whiskey is their last name! Here we’ll have lunch, followed by a private tour of the house and the superb garden. Situated on the banks of the River Blackwater, with a fine view of the Knockmealdown Mountains, Tourin is surrounded by a 15-acre garden with mature broadleaved trees and a fine collection of shrubs and plants.

We’ll take a short 10-minute coach ride to Lismore Castle, where we’ll have a tour of the castle (not open to the public), the art gallery, and the famous 17th century garden. One of the grandest castles in Ireland, the earliest part of Lismore was built in 1185 by Prince John to guard the river crossing. The site was originally occupied by Lismore Abbey, an important 7th century monastery and seat of learning. In the 18th century the castle came into the ownership of the dukes of Devonshire, who continue to own it today. In 1932 Adele Astaire, the famous sister of Fred Astaire, retired from the stage to marry Lord Charles Arthur Francis Cavendish, second son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire. The newlyweds moved to Ireland, where they lived at Lismore until Lord Charles’s death in 1944.

After Lismore we return to Mount Juliet, where you’ll have the evening and dinner on your own.

Lisnavagh Estate by Philip Bentley

Lisnavagh Estate | Photo by Philip Bentley

Day 4

Wednesday, September 18

B, R, D

First up today is a visit to Lisnavagh House, the ancestral home of Thomas Benjamin McClintock-Bunbury, 5th Lord Rathdonnell, whose family has been here since 1696. We’ll have a private tour of their “new,” house, built in the Gothic Revival style for William McClintock-Bunbury in 1847.

It’s always delicious to follow a house with a garden, so our next stop, Altamont Gardens, is perfect! Here we’ll have a guided tour of what is considered the jewel in Ireland’s gardening crown. Altamont is an enchanting blend of formal and informal gardens and riverside walks. The estate is noted for its rhododendrons, rare trees, exotic shrubs, the Bog Garden, and the Ice Age Glen, with its canopy of ancient oaks and huge stone outcrops.

After the garden tour, we’re off to the town of Kilkenny, where you’ll have time on your own for lunch and to explore the town. The county seat, Kilkenny is a medieval town noted for its well-preserved churches and its winding lanes peppered with shops selling pottery, paintings, and jewelry.

We arrive back at Mount Juliet, where there will be time for rest and relaxation before we depart for Abbeyleix House, the handsome 18th century home of Sir David Davies, where we’ll have a tour and dinner. Designed by the great James Wyatt, Abbeyleix is set amidst some of the loveliest scenery in the Midlands. The mansion is particularly known for its exceptional parterre and its views overlooking the River Nore.

Altamont Garden's by michelle ronan

Altamont Gardens | Photo by Michelle Ronan

Day 5

Thursday, September 19

B, L, R, D

We begin Thursday with a private tour of Castletown, Ireland’s largest and most important 18th century country house. Incredibly grand, Castletown is famous for its gallery, an 80-foot-long red and gold room decorated in the Pompeian style, and its 1760s print room, the only such room that survives in Ireland.

After a short coach ride, we’ll arrive at Lodge Park, where David and Katharine Bulbulia will host us for a delightful lunch. Lodge Park has a lovely 18th century garden that features topiary, herbaceous borders, and a glorious walkway of sweet peas; however, the garden is most famous for its beech hedges that create different, themed garden rooms, all of which we’ll see on a guided tour with David and Katharine.

Next we’ll hop on the coach for the 11-mile journey to Leixlip Castle, the home of The Hon. Desmond and Penny Guinness, where we’ll have private tour, followed by a glass of wine. Leixlip was built in the 12th century by Adam de Hereford and passed through many owners before Desmond Guinness, son of Diana Mitford, purchased the castle in 1958. The house is filled with paintings, tapestries, Chippendale furniture, Savonnerie carpets, and drawings of the six Mitford sisters by William Acton. But possibly the most interesting (and fun!) piece in the collection is the large 18th century dolls’ house.

After we arrive at Mount Juliet we’ll have time to rejuvenate before we head to a special dinner.

Castletown house Celbridge Kildare Ireland

Castletown House

Day 6

Friday, September 20

B, L, R, D

Our last full day together begins with a private, guided tour of Curraghmore, the ancestral home of the 9th Marquess of Waterford, whose family has been here over 800 years. Filled with an important collection of art and furniture, Curraghmore is considered one of the most important country houses in Ireland. After our tour, Lord and Lady Waterford will host us for lunch, followed by time to see the spectacular Shell House. Made by the Countess of Tyrone in 1754, the walls of the Shell House are covered with exotic and rare shells from the world’s oceans, with little stalactites growing from the ceiling!

After leaving Curraghmore, we head to the city of Waterford, where our destination is the 18th century Bishop’s Palace. Today a museum, the palace’s grand reception rooms are furnished with the best 18th century Irish furniture, paintings, silverware and glassware, including the oldest piece of Waterford glass in the world (the Waterford factory is across the street). One of the highlights of the collection is Ireland’s oldest landscape painting: a 1736 view of Waterford by William van der Hagen. The palace’s director will give us a private tour of these treasures, most of which are linked to Waterford, which, until the 1750s, was Ireland’s second-largest city.

We arrive back at Mount Juliet, where you’ll have the remainder of the afternoon at leisure, before our farewell drinks and dinner at the hotel.

Day 7

Saturday, September 21


Following check-out, we’ll depart by coach to Dublin Airport, for those with afternoon flights. The coach will then continue on to Dublin, where those who are extending their stays will be dropped-off at The Westbury Hotel.

For those participants flying from Dublin today,
please do not book flights departing before 1:00 PM

For questions about reserving space on this tour, please contact us at
HeritageTours@nehgs.org, or call 617-226-1267


This tour is designed by DiCamillo Travel and operated by the New England Historic Genealogical Society