Photo of Johnstown Castle with lake view in front

Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens nominated for prestigious International Tourism Award

November 11th 2020: The majestic Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens, in County Wexford has been nominated for the British Guild of Travel Writer’s International Tourism Awards.

The fairy-tale neo gothic Castle which opened to the public for the first time in its history just last year is the only Irish visitor attraction to secure a nomination in the prestigious British Guild of Travel Writers (‘BGTW’) International Tourism Awards 2020. The BGTW International Tourism Awards (‘ITA’) scheme recognises excellence in tourism projects.

In 2019 Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens was opened featuring a 200-metre servant’s tunnel, a new world-class visitor centre and café plus a playground and stunning lake walks. Situated in 120 acres, the property saw the completion of €7.5m investment by Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine which was overseen by The Irish Heritage Trust. This investment enabled the estate to deliver a stunning destination visitor offering in Ireland’s south-east, enticing international and national visitors.

Following a visit to this historic property, Travel writer, Isabel Conway nominated Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens for their new tourism offering, calling it "a national treasure" and saying it truly merits being nominated for an International Tourism Award.

At Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens, visitors are invited to enjoy a three-in-one experience with tours of the ornate gothic revival castle on offer, a self-guided experience at the Irish Agricultural Museum as well as the Daniel Robertson designed gardens. The lush parklands, which are adorned with three lakes bordered by woodland walks, offer the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the views or explore the abundance of wildlife and nature on offer.

I nominated Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens as a national treasure as at last, it is fully accessible to the public for the first time in its history. This jewel of Ireland's Ancient East has had a roller coaster fascinating history dating back to the arrival of the Normans, offering a snapshot into the privileged lives of the gentry who occupied the sumptuous neo-gothic mansion that evolved from the original turreted building.  No stone was left unturned in this new visitor attraction including the restoration of the castle, to make this a world-class, successful tourist attraction and local amenity including a lovely visitor centre, gift shop and café. The Irish Agricultural Museum in buildings used for soil research over decades explores rural life in Ireland and houses a fascinating collection of 19 permanent exhibitions” said Isabel Conway.

“I felt there is no better example of community spirit pulling together with the Irish Heritage Trust's expertise than this important Irish landmark. I was delighted to nominate Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens for a British Guild of Travel Writers Tourism Award of excellence,” she continued.

Destinations and attractions can only be nominated for these awards based on merit and can only be voted for by international travel writer members of the BGTW. The Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens nomination has gone through a rigorous screening process to make it to the 2020 voting stage.

Commenting on the nomination, Anne O’Donoghue, CEO of The Irish Heritage Trust, an independent not-for-profit which manages and cares for the property said, “We are delighted to be nominated for this international award recognising the huge success to date of Johnstown Castle Estate Museum & Gardens which would not have been possible without the significant involvement of many supporters since our opening. These include the local community, our team of over 120 dedicated volunteers and our 6,000 plus members. Our work at The Irish Heritage Trust is guided by the principles of ‘People, Place and Participation’ because we believe that the greater the number of people who build relationships with special places, the stronger those properties will be into the future”.

The next stage of the awards process is a private guild member voting opportunity to choose a shortlist for the four categories: Best UK and Ireland Tourism Project; Best Europe Tourism Project; Best Wider World Tourism Project and NEW for 2020 – ‘The Armchair Award’ which will be hosted online by very well-known veteran BBC presenter best known for the travel programme ‘Wish You Were Here’ Judith Chalmers.  The winners will then be announced at the awards ceremony, which will be held in London in 2021.


Old drawing of Johnstown Castle, Wexford


The Irish Heritage Trust is delighted to have received two grants from the Heritage Council’s “Community Heritage Grant” for the conservation of two significant archives at its properties, Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum & Gardens, Wexford and Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum, Roscommon. A total of 313 applications were made to the Heritage Council of Ireland for the Community Heritage Grant, and the Trust has been awarded two of the 68 that were successful.

These archive conservation projects are now underway with our dedicated and specialised teams on the ground and we look forward to sharing the progress of this work, as part of the Irish Heritage Trust’s “Conservation in Action” programme. Please check our social media for updates on the work which will be completed before the end of November.

The Irish Agricultural Museum (IAM) Archive at Johnstown Castle, Wexford, was awarded a grant of €15,000 from the Heritage Council of Ireland to improve the preservation, conservation and access to the Archive which is currently inaccessible to visitors.

The Irish Agricultural Museum Archive is one of Ireland's great, but little known treasures. The archive holds one of the most comprehensive collections of documentary material related to Irish agricultural machinery in Ireland and offers an invaluable representation of Ireland's agricultural history and heritage. The primary threat to the archive is the unsatisfactory environmental conditions and fragile state of the rare estate maps, both of which inhibit their positive public use, research and interpretation.

The grant will support upgrading the archive equipment which will greatly facilitate in safeguarding the collection of 6,000 books, a rare collection of 19th-century estate records, maps, and 1,000 agricultural records for future generations. Paper conservation of seven rare estate maps and architectural plans of the Johnstown Castle estate will be carried out by Dr Pat McBride of The Paper Conservation Studio. A new display case will allow the archive, and newly conserved estate records, to be showcased to the public in the Museum for the first time, and for many years to come.

"We look forward to safeguarding the Irish Agricultural Museum archive collection which will significantly help in preserving this rare collection for future generations. The general public will have access to the archive through temporary displays in the Irish Agricultural Museum and we look forward to creating greater visitor engagement with the archive, both locally and nationally. The project will also build awareness and understanding of Irish agricultural history", says Dr. Emma O'Toole, Collections and Interpretation Manager at the Irish Heritage Trust.

At Strokestown Park, a grant of €8,000 has been awarded for the “Professional conservation of 90 paper leases in the Strokestown Park Archives, as part of the professional cataloguing and preservation of the documents”. The Archive at Strokestown Park is a rare example of an intact Estate Records Collection dating from the late C18th to the mid C20th centuries. In 2019 a professional archivist, Martin Fagan, was appointed to process the collection with the aim of making this resource publicly accessible to researchers.

Conservation work will be carried out by an ICRI accredited conservator, Benjamin van de Wetering of The Ox Bindery. The aim is to make these C18th-C19th leases accessible to the community of historical researchers who will be encouraged to use these newly opened records as a historical source. These will also be interesting for academics, who will extract quantitative data on tenant-occupied land on a typical landed estate prior to the Famine. "This fascinating resource will be of great interest to local or family historians who will find references to tenant names and townlands for a period in Irish history where few census records survive", said Archivist Martin Fagan who is working on the project. "These C18th-C19th leases, used in conjunction with Estate Rentals and 100 previously-conserved leases, will provide researchers with a unique overview of small-scale landholding on the estate prior to the upheaval and depopulation of The Famine", he continued.

The National Famine Museum at Strokestown will open as a new state-of–the-art Museum in late 2021 thanks to funding from Fáilte Ireland and private philanthropy. An example of a conserved lease will be displayed in the new museum. /

This project received funding from the Heritage Council and the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage in 2020.

Poster Irish Famine & Cottier Cabins

Irish Famine and Cottier Cabins Exhibition

The "Irish Famine and Cottier Cabins" virtual exhibition brings together leading experts who explore the lives of some of Ireland's poorest and most vulnerable people during the Great Hunger in the 1840s and the cottier cabins (third and fourth class housing) they inhabited on a North/South basis.

In this series of videos, discover how the cabins' occupants endured the Famine as reflected in their vernacular architecture and sparse furnishings, archaeological remains, folk memory, and visual and literary arts. Learn more about the archaeological excavations and archival records of famine era evictions and emigration from the Strokestown Park Estate, home of the National Famine Museum.

I) the Single Room Cabin from Altahoney townland in the Sperrin Mountains in the Ulster American Folk Park,

II) the Meenagarragh’s Cottier’s House in the Ulster Folk Park

III) An Bothán (recreation of a famine mud cabin) erected on the University College Cork campus, and

IV) the Cabin of the Poor in the Irish Agricultural Museum and Famine Exhibition at Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens, Co. Wexford,  an Irish Heritage Trust property.

The Irish Famine and Cottier Cabins exhibition is hosted by the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, the Irish Agricultural Museum at Johnstown Castle, Estate & Gardens, and the Irish Heritage Trust. It is supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the 2020 Cooperation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme.

Learn more and watch the videos here.


The Irish Heritage Trust is to host the historical exhibition "A Forgotten Polish Hero of the Great Irish Famine: Paul Strzelecki’s Struggle to Save Thousands" at its properties during the summer and autumn 2020.  This exhibition by the Polish Embassy in Dublin explores the fascinating life and achievements of one of the great humanitarians of the 19th century, whose contributions to Irish Famine relief have yet to be widely known and commemorated.  The tour of the exhibition begins at the National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, Roscommon from 1st July to 4th August.  

“The Irish Heritage Trust is delighted to display this exhibition at the National Famine Museum and at our other historic properties in the summer and autumn; Fota House & Gardens, Cork  (15th August – 4th October) and Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum & Gardens, Wexford, (17th October – 29th November),” said Dr. Emma O’Toole, Collections & Interpretation Manager at the Irish Heritage Trust. The exhibition is in English and entrance is included in the entrance fee to the property.

Count Paul (Paweł) Strzelecki, a world-renowned Polish explorer and scientist, volunteered to work in Ireland to combat raging Famine over a three-year period (1847-49) as the main agent of the British Relief Association (B.R.A). Despite suffering from the effects of typhoid fever he contracted in Ireland, Strzelecki dedicated himself tirelessly to hunger relief. His commitment was widely recognized and praised by his contemporaries, and this exhibition endeavours to bring his achievements and legacy back into the public eye.

The content of the exhibition was commissioned by the Polish Embassy from leading experts in the field – Prof. Peter Gray (Queen’s University Belfast) and Assoc. Prof. Emily Mark-FitzGerald (University College Dublin) – and includes several rarely seen images of Famine relief and charity, drawn from collections of major museums and libraries in Ireland, Britain, Australia and the United States.

In order to alleviate the critical situation of famished Irish families and especially children, Strzelecki developed a visionary and exceptionally effective mode of assistance: feeding starving children directly through the schools. He extended daily food rations to schoolchildren across the most famine-stricken western part of Ireland, while also distributing clothing and promoting basic hygiene. At its peak in 1848, around 200,000 children from all denominations were being fed through the efforts of the B.R.A., many of whom would have otherwise perished from hunger and disease.

For information on other venues and dates visit


Conservation in Action at Johnstown Castle

During July and August 2019, one of our most valued artworks, the portrait of Hamilton Knox Grogan Morgan and his family by the artist E. T. Parris, was conserved by painting conservator, Pearl O’Sullivan. This painting has resided in the castle since its completion in the 1830s and over the years, layers of dust, UV light and gaseous pollutants caused the surface of the painting to become yellowish in colour and the varnish to desaturate, which created a pattern of cracking to appear across the paint surface.

This important piece of artwork was moved from the Dining Room to the Flag Hall, where - over the course of five weeks - discoloured varnish was removed and retouched, which brought the artist’s palette back to the forefront. Visitors to the castle were able to look on and enjoy 'conservation in action' while Pearl conserved the painting by removing layers of surface dirt that had gathered on the painting since it was first created in the mid-nineteenth century.

Pearl painstakingly removed the surface damage, while simultaneously retouching areas that had deteriorated. She then re-varnished the painting using a conservation grade synthetic resin, which will protect the painting, giving it long-lasting stability for up to one hundred years. On completion of this restoration work, during National Heritage Week in August  Pearl gave a talk to members and volunteers, taking them through her discoveries and the different conservation stages involved.

Watch a short clip of the restoration taking place by clicking here 

Photo of Johnstown Castle with lake view in front


We look forward to welcoming you to Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens, Wexford’s greatest surviving country estate, to enjoy the recently restored Gothic Revival Castle which is open for guided tours for the first time. To avoid disappointment please note that Castle tours need to be booked.  The castle tour includes the adjoining 86 metre original servants’ tunnel, believed to be the longest in the country and also opening to the public for the first time. To book, telephone 053 9184671 or click here.

An entirely new ‘3 in 1’ attraction is now open at the castle, museum and gardens. A new visitor centre is open in the castle courtyard including an extensive shop specialising in local products and a 120 seat café with outdoor terrace. No booking is required to enjoy the Ornamental Gardens and Walks or the Irish Agricultural Museum, providing a nostalgic journey through Irish farming and social history.

The Irish Heritage Trust, an independent charity, was announced in 2015 as the successful applicant to work with Teagasc, the Irish Agricultural Museum and the local community to develop a new and exciting visitor experience at Johnstown Castle which includes the famous Daniel Robertson Ornamental Gardens.

The Johnstown visitor experience also offers access to the stunning lower lake area to meander and explore, as well as new parking and entrance arrangements with ample car and coach parking.




Johnstown Castle on RTE Nationwide

We are delighted that RTE Nationwide aired a full programme on Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum and Gardens on Monday 20th May showcasing the new 3in1 attraction and the history of Johnstown Castle and the Irish Agricultural Museum.  Watch here on the RTE Player.

Go to the Johnstown Castle website to book your castle tour to avoid disappointment.