Killymoon Castle 



Killymoon Castle is one of John Nash's earliest castles, built ca 1803 for William Stewart MP, incorporating part of the previous house which was burnt ca 1800.

The original castle was built in 1671 by James Stewart. Stewart’s ancestors had come from Scotland during the plantation to settle in Cookstown, and in 1666 James Stewart 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. 

The second Killymoon Castle was built on a much grander scale than the original; thus, by its completion in 1803, the castle is reputed to have cost £80,000 (equivalent to over £6 million in 2010).


Today's Castle has a romantic silhouette in a splendid location above the Ballinderry River with a back-drop of sweeping woodland and parkland. The principal front is dominated by an almost central battlemented, machicolated round tower and turret; at one end, an octagonal tower with similar features; and at the other end the profile of the square tower in the adjoining front, the base of which is arched to form a porte-cochére.


The latter tower has slender, octagonal corner turrets with cupolas. The windows are pointed, grouped together under segmental hood mouldings, which Nash and his ilk regarded as being Saxon. There is good interior planning with square, circular and octagonal rooms fitted together. The hall has a double staircase and is lit by a Gothic lantern on a plaster, fan-vaulted ceiling. The Library is in the form of a Gothic chapel, with stained-glass windows. 

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; however soon their extravagant lifestyle 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.

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 ten years later, Mervyn Stuart Thomas Moutray JP 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 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.

James Stewart was the eldest son of William Stewart of Killymoon and Eleanor King of Rockingham, County Roscommon. Shortly before embarking on his long parliamentary career, the young James Stewart did the Grand Tour in Europe. A splendid portrait of him (now in the Ulster Museum) was painted in Italy some time in 1767 by Pompeo Batoni.

Stewart succeeded his father as one of the MPs for County Tyrone in 1768, retaining the seat continuously and without a contest for the next thirty-two years in Dublin and a further twelve after 1800 at Westminster. The Stewart of Killymoon Papers are held at the Public Record Office of NI. From Killymoon Castle there are views across the parkland, where few trees remain. 


The grounds were possibly designed by W S Gilpin for the present house. Grass terraces to the south of the house descend to the river and are enlivened by yew trees. Rowan quotes Paxton, "I have visited most of the celebrated country seats in the kingdom and a very large number on the continent, and I have never seen one – for the extent of it - more compact, more perfect in itself, or where the highest natural beauties have been more aided by refined taste and judgement, than Killymoon"

The demesne looks well adorned on the OS map of 1834. Unfortunately the demesne is not as it once was: Ornamental garden buildings are lost; the vistas are over bare farmland to distant woods. Extensive walled gardens, with some glass, are partially kept up. The Gardener’s House is ruinous. 18th century offices that pre-date the present house are extensive. One of three gate lodges survives. The northern part of the estate is now a golf course.. 




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