Avondale House refurbishment follows on from the hugely popular launch last year of Beyond the Trees Avondale Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower
Avondale House re-opens with guided tours of the refurbished ground floor rooms including the imposing double storey entrance hall, morning room, dining room, living room, library and the forestry schoolroom
Coillte has opened the newly refurbished Avondale House with guided tours for visitors taking them on a historic journey through the home of Samuel Hayes, it’s first owner, the Parnell family who inhabited the house in the 1800s, and the forestry school which was subsequently set up in the house once it was acquired by the state in 1904.
The newly refurbished Avondale House is an added attraction for visitors to Avondale Forest Park, who can now experience the house tour alongside the magnificent Beyond the Trees Avondale Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower which has already seen over 300,000 people visit Avondale Forest Park since it opened in July 2022. Beyond the Trees Avondale is a collaboration between Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland, bringing a truly unique visitor experience to Ireland’s Ancient East.
This €19m project at Avondale is part of Coillte’s strategy to create more world class visitor destinations and increase recreation spaces nationally, and will encourage international and domestic visitors to stay longer and spend more in Wicklow and the wider Ireland’s Ancient East region, driving economic and employment opportunities for local communities. Over 60 new full and part-time jobs were created to staff the site, the majority of whom are from the locality.
The story of Avondale starts with Samuel Hayes who began construction of the house in 1777. Avondale House has been a home and a school during its lifetime, and many consider it the birthplace of forestry in Ireland. The most famous residents were the Parnell family, all 12 of them, who lived here for a large part of the 1800s. Among that large family was Charles Stewart Parnell, one of Ireland’s greatest statesmen, who practised his speeches from the balcony in the main hall, while his equally politically active sisters critiqued him from the ground floor.
The estate came into the ownership of the Government in 1904 and was home to Ireland’s first forestry school for many years, before Coillte became its custodian when the semi-state forestry company was formed in 1989.
The Avondale House tour takes in the Main Hall, Morning Room, Dining Room, Living Room, Parnell’s Library, and the Forestry School Classroom. Coillte consulted with experts in period furniture and design refurbishment to ensure an experience for visitors that is true to the period. A number of the key pieces of furniture and artefacts on display are fully authentic and original to the house. These include an original Bossi fireplace, paintings and sculptures, Parnell’s Wooten desk, numerous documents and books, and much more. Items on display which are not original have been carefully researched to ensure they are historically accurate.
Samuel Hayes inherited the Avondale estate from his father in 1770 and is centrally important to the story of Avondale because he was so deeply interested in forestry. He planted over 8,000 trees from all over the world in Avondale, which would eventually mature into a magnificent forest, with some of those trees still thriving today.
When Charles Stewart Parnell inherited Avondale, and all its debt, he began developing the sawmills, and also added quarrying and mining to his timber interests. Having to manage the financial difficulties of the estate, which was heavily burdened with debt, shaped the way he thought about landowners and tenants in Ireland. He saw that the system needed to change and during his later political career he focused on fighting for land reform and Irish self-government.
Charles’ two sisters Fanny and Anna were the most politically active among his siblings. Influenced by the strong personality of their mother.
Charles’ political career reached great heights in the 1880s, with an American tour, and becoming leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.
In his personal life he also found a great love with Katharine O’Shea. But with that relationship also came scandal and stress, which ultimately brought about a split in the party, the demise of his popularity, and his untimely death.
In 1904, while Ireland was still a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Avondale was sold to the government, and the Department of Agriculture set up Ireland’s first forestry school. The Great Tree Experiment began in Avondale in 1905. The idea was to see which trees would grow well in Ireland and would then be used to plant the new forests of Ireland. Generations of Irish foresters trained at Avondale and the experimental plots they planted still inform how we manage and care for trees today.
Booking Avondale House Tours
Avondale House tours are available from 10am to 4pm daily. Entry to the Seed Café, Walled Garden and Coillte Pavilion in Avondale is free of charge.
Tickets to visit Avondale House cost €15 per adult and €12 per child. Bookings can be made at https://booking.beyondthetreesavondale.com/Home
Tickets to access the Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower cost €15 per adult, €12 per child (under 3s go free), family tickets are priced at €40 for a family of up to five people, and student and OAP rates are also on offer. Car parking is available on site at a cost of €5 per day.
Coillte, Ireland’s state forestry company, is responsible for managing 440,000 hectares of primarily forested lands. It is the nation’s largest forester and producer of certified wood, a natural, renewable and sustainable resource. Coillte is also the largest provider of outdoor recreation space in Ireland, it enables wind-energy on the estate, processes forestry by-products and undertakes nature rehabilitation projects of scale. Coillte delivers the multiple benefits of forestry, including forests for climate, for nature, for wood and for people. For further information visit www.coillte.ie.
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