One of the most architecturally striking buildings in Ulster, the origins of Killyleagh Castle go back to the early 1600s. In 1610 James Hamilton, later Lord Clandeboy, bought the barony of Dufferin (which included Killyleagh) from John White. Soon afterwards he began building a castle at Killyleagh which is still occupied by his descendants today.
The Earl of Abercorn, on a visit to Killyleagh in 1614, found ‘ane vere strong castle, the lyk is not in the northe’. Thomas Raven’s map of 1625 shows that Hamilton’s original castle possessed only one circular tower. The present appearance of the castle is the result of two major alterations, one in 1666 (when a second tower was added to balance the original) and the other c. 1850 under the direction of the famous architect, Sir Charles Lanyon. In the seventeenth century a large deer park was created near the castle.
As the result of an inheritance dispute, the site was divided in two with the castle going to the Hamiltons and the gate-house to the Blackwoods (ancestors of Lord Dufferin).
The adjoining town of Killyleagh includes much of interest. In 1613 Killyleagh was made a corporation which meant that it could return two MPs to the old Irish House of Commons in Dublin. Lord Clandeboy built the parish church in Killyleagh.
The famous naturalist Hans Sloane, whose collection formed the basis of the British Museum, was born in Killyleagh in 1660, the son of Scottish settlers. In Sir Hans Sloane Square in the town there is a statue to the naturalist, a replica of one in London.
Killyleagh Castle, Killyleagh, Downpatrick BT30 9QA
The Castle is in private ownership, but can be viewed from the street.
There are self-catering apartments in the towers.