Parke’s Castle on the shore Lough Gill; and once hosted officers from the Spanish Armada, and was the scene of a family tragedy before falling into disrepair. Today it is one of the finest examples of a plantation castle in Ireland.
The castle before the current one was called Newtown Castle and owned by Sir Brian O’Rourke. During the O’Rourke years, Francisco de Cuellar, a shipwrecked Armada officer was entertained at the castle. De Cuellar wrote of his experience on the run in Ireland, and noted “Although this chief is a savage, he is a good Christian and an enemy of the heretics and is always at war with them.”
O’Rourke was later executed in London in 1591 for high treason. One of the charges put against O’Rourke was for giving aid to the Armada survivors. After his death his son Brian Oge O’Rourke inherited the title and continued his father’s fight against the English.
Newtown Castle in 1791, plates from The Antiquities Of Ireland (Francis Grose)
During the plantation of Leitrim, an English captain and planter, Sir. Roger Parke was awarded the castle and surrounding land. Roger’s son, Robert, married a Roscommon woman, Ann Povey, and they made Newtown Castle their home. Two of their three children died tragically in a boating accident on Lough Gill in 1677, and their surviving daughter, Anne, married Sir Francis Gore and went to live with him in Co. Sligo. The castle was abandoned and fell into disrepair in the years after Robert and Ann died.
Eventually the castle came into State ownership, and was carefully restored in the 1990s with extensive restoration work carried out on the glazing, timber stairs and roof. Today the castle showcases an Irish oak interior, mullioned windows, parapets, and a courtyard that contains the tower house of the original O’Rourke castle. The grounds also feature old stone buildings and a wishing well.