The picturesque Killymoon Castle is located c.1 mile south-east of Cookstown County Tyrone, on a incline overlooking the Ballinderry river.
The original castle, built in 1671 by James Stewart, was destroyed by fire in 1801. Stewart’s ancestors had come from Scotland during the plantation to settle in Cookstown, and in 1666 James bought the land lease for the castle site from Alan Cooke - founder of Cookstown
When in 1802 Colonel William Stewart decided to rebuild the castle, he employed one of London’s greatest architects John Nash, to design his castle - Nash later became the personal architect to the Prince Regent. While Killymoon Castle was Nash’s first Irish project, much of London’s finest architecture can be ascribed to him, including most of the route from Piccadilly Circus up Regent Street to Regent’s Park.
The second Killymoon Castle was built on a much grander scale than the original, illustrating the position of Colonel Stewart among the Irish aristocracy. Thus, by its completion in 1803, the castle is reputed to have cost £80 000.
The front entrance of Killymoon Castle.
The castle has a diversity of characteristics distinctive of Nash’s castles. A two storey structure, it is irregular in plan, with the entrance located on the east front. The castle is flanked by towers of which no two are the same. The south front has a large circular tower and to the south-west intersection there is an octagonal tower as roomy as the circular tower but not as high. Nash also incorporated part of the original castle, the Gothic chapel like building as a library at the north west intersection, comprising of a crenellated sandstone structure with square towers. In addition, the drawing-room window consists of a unique six-intersecting arches. Meanwhile the garden door is recessed in a Saxon arch framed by zigzag mouldings.
A back view of Killymoon Castle
The interior provides a dramatic entrance with a narrow flight of stairs leading to the vestibule, beyond which lies the main hall. In keeping with Nash’s style of double return staircases, the main hall has a return stone staircase. The dining room is an oval design while the drawing room is laid out in an elongated octagon fashion, appearing much larger by the use of large mirrors in the short corner walls.
Extensive stables, out-houses and labourers cottages were built on the demesne, and on completion of the residential quarters Colonel Stewart had the 585 acres of the Killymoon demesne enclosed by a wall 10 to 12 feet high. Entrance to the demesne was by way of four stone lodges and avenues at various points along the boundary wall.
The Killymoon estate remained the property of the Stewart family for six generations. But soon their extravagant lifestyle, typical of many of the Irish aristocracy, caused the Stewart family to fall on hard times especially during the years of the Great Famine. Hence, Colonel William’s great-grandson Henry T. Clements sold the Killymoon estate in 1852 for £100 000, less a tanner. In 1857 the castle had again been sold to the Cooper family, and in 1865 Colonel Bolton, an English gentleman purchased the castle. Yet a mere 10 years later Mervyn Stuart Thomas Moutray J. P. became the owner of Killymoon Castle until 1916, when Gerald Macura bought the castle and town of Cookstown for almost £100 000. By 1918 Macura was also in financial difficulties and was compelled to sell off his assets. Hence, in 1922 John Coulter bought the castle and grounds for the princely sum of £100.
Today the castle, which has been kept in impeccable condition, remains the home of the Coulter family. In addition, situated on what was previously some of the castle’s estate lands is an 18 hole golf course.
Killymoon Castle. Issued by Cookstown District Council.
Oram, R. W. & Rankin, P. J. June 1970-71. List of Historic Buildings, Groups of Buildings, Areas of Architectural Importance: In and Near Dungannon and Cookstown. Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.
Rodgers, Mary. 1988. Prospect Of Tyrone. Enniskillen: Watergate Press.
Rowan, Alistair. 1979. The Buildings Of Ireland: North West Ulster. Penguin Books.