Classiebawn Castle sits isolated and alone, creating a stark impression against the Sligo landscape for those passing.
The land around Mullaghmore
The land on which the castle now sits once belonged to the O’Connor family of Sligo. After an Irish rebellion, the English Parliament confiscated the land and granted it to those who helped supress it. Around 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of land around Mullaghmore was granted to Sir John Temple (1600-1677).
Construction of Classiebawn
The land was handed down to the Henry John Temple, the 3rd Viscount Palmerstown, who was British Prime Minister and British Foreign Secretary. He sought to build a castle on the land and considered building it on nearby Dernish Island, but was put off by the difficulty in building a suitable causeway.
The architect for the project was J. Rawson Carroll, a Dublin based architect who also built the pier and fishermens’ cottages in Mullaghmore village. Yellow brown sandstone was shipped from Donegal. Construction of the castle was completed in 1874.
Temple Family ownership of Classiebawn
The 3rd Viscount Palmerstown died in 1865, before construction was completed and the estate was handed to his stepson William Cowper Temple, later known as the 1st Barron Mount Temple. He died childless in 1888 and passed the estate to Evelyn Ashbury who visited at least once a year. After his death in 1907 the estate was passed to his son, Wilfrid Ashbury, who also spent his summers there.
Wilfrid Ashbury had two daughters, Edwina and Mary. Edwina would become the future Countess Mountbatten of Burma.
The castle was cleared in 1916, quite likely due to the Irish Easter rebellion and independence from Great Britain. It would remain unoccupied until 1950.
The Mountbatten era at Classiebawn
Edwina inherited the house in 1939 when she was married to Louis Mountbatten, the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. They made a number of improvements to the property including getting it connected to mains water and installing electricity. They were frequent visitors to the property and after her death in 1960, spent his summers there until his assassination in 1979 in a boat near the property.
Hugh Tunney’s lease and ownership
In 1975 the Mountbattens were struggling to keep up with the running costs of the castle, and offered it to Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave. He declined the offer due to the expected costs of running and maintaining the castle. Ireland was not a prosperous country at the time.
A local auctioneer advised Mountbatten there was a man looking to lease the castle, a Hugh Tunney from Co. Tyrone. Hugh was a cattle dealer with hotel interests, at one stage owning Dublin’s Gresham Hotel. Hugh agreed to lease the castle for 21 years at £3,000 a year plus the costs of upkeep. As part of the agreement he allowed the Mountbattens to spend the month of August at the castle each year. Mr. Tunney became good friends with the Mountbattens, and they were delighted to have someone who they could trust would take care of Classiebawn.
Mr. Tunney was invited to go fishing with Louis Mountbatten on the day of his assassination, but declined due to business commitments. It was said the assassination weighed heavily on him throughout his life.
In 1991, Mr. Tunney bought the castle and moved his home there. He died in 2011, aged 83, and the castle is owned by his estate.