PURCHASED Built on Muckloon Hill in the 1790s by the Moore family, Moorehall house was destroyed by fire in 1923 during the Civil War. Pic: Darren Moran, Firefly Photography.
Historic house and 80 acres of woodland to be developed into tourism attraction
Mayo County Council has today (Friday) announced that it has acquired Moorehall from Coillte and that it intends to enhance and develop it for the benefit of the people of Mayo.
The property comprises some 80 acres of woodland estate overlooking Lough Carra, including the house, its courtyard and its walled garden. The estate will be developed in collaboration with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, of the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who are strongly supportive of the project.
Of national historic significance, Moorehall was the ancestral home of John Moore, first President of the Republic of Connacht, and of the renowned Moore literary writers. The history of the family and of Moorehall is closely intertwined with significant events in the history of the emerging nation state, including the 1798 French invasion, the Irish literary renaissance of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the Civil War.
The announcement today by Mayo County Council confirming the purchase of Moorehall has been widely welcomed in all corners of the county, but particularly by local councillor, Al Mc Donnell, who has been campaigning for the development of Moorehall all of his political life.
The councillor has been involved in the discussions around the restoration and development of the historic site for more than 20 years, together with local committees who have always believed in the potential of the project.
“I welcome the announcement today of the purchase of Moorehall by Mayo County Council,” said Cllr McDonnell, whose home house is less than a mile from estate.
“Moorehall and estate brings with it significant history including the declaration of John Moore as First President of Connaught (1798) and other notable political and literary figures, including Senator Colonel Maurice and George Henry Moore and the extraordinary literary achievements of George Moore, the well-known novelist considered by many as the greatest English language writer of the early twentieth century.
“Moorehall is located on a splendidly elevated site on the shores of Lough Carra in the renowned Lake District of Mayo/Galway. The decision of Mayo County Council to purchase Moorehall including 78 acres of land from Coillte is a very welcome executive development. It opens doors to the much-needed tourism development in Moorehall and in the South Mayo region.
“The elected members of Mayo County Council must also be applauded for their agreement to include a significant sum in our 2018 budget towards the development of Moorehall. I look forward to seeing the plans and development for this site of significance unfold and am excited by the opportunity to maximise the potential of Moorehall and the South Mayo region into the future.”
Mr Richard Finn, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, described Moorehall as a place of exceptional history, going back many generations.
The Council proposes to develop the estate as a nationally important nature reserve and tourism attraction. As such it forms a key component of the council’s long-term strategy of developing outstanding tourism products and experiences across Mayo.
‘Very exciting initative’
Mr Peter Hynes, Chief Executive said: “The acquisition of Moorehall is a very exciting initiative that has significant potential in the areas of tourism, public amenity and cultural development.
“The development of a strategic partnership between Mayo County Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service addresses a longstanding plan to preserve and develop a very important historic landscape, house and environment. I believe this partnership presents an exceptional opportunity to maximise the potential of Moorehall and the wider Lough Carra area in the years ahead.
“A unique strategic partnership between Mayo County Council and the National Park and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, will ensure that the natural, built and cultural heritage of Moorehall is protected yet developed and managed in a sustainable manner for current and future generations.”
Mr Denis Strong, Divisional Manager, National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said: “Moorehall is an internationally important scientific and nature conservation site.
“We look forward to working with the Council in providing expertise on the management of the natural habitats and, in particular, the protected bat species for which the site is designated a Special area of Conservation.”
A new masterplan for the estate will be developed by both partners in consultation with stakeholders and the local community. It will include the development of a recreational park, conservation measures and restoration of the historic walled garden to coincide with the upcoming national centenary celebrations of the foundation of the state.
Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development said: “I am delighted to be associated with this major announcement on Moorehall, which undoubtedly demonstrates that the Council is focused on developing potential tourism assets throughout the county to foster rural job creation. This project will complement existing tourism attractions in the area, including Ballintubber Abbey, Lough Carra and historic Ballinrobe. This is an excellent example of a tourism project where the benefits can seep into rural villages and towns.
Mr Richard Lowe, Commercial Director of Coillte Land Solutions, said: “Having been approached by Mayo County Council, Coillte are delighted to be facilitating their plans to develop Moorehall as a nationally significant tourism attraction and public amenity area. We warmly support this initiative, which will greatly enhance Ireland’s responsible sustainable tourism offering as well as provide benefits for both the national and regional economy.”
For more on Moorehall's historical, cultural and natural heritage, read 'Ghosts and winged creatures on the shores of Lough Carra', an article by Ciara Moynihan first published in The Mayo News in 2013.