Farney Castle

Farney Castle Visitor centre

As well as being the Cullen family home, Cyril Cullen Knitwear and porcelain is designed and produced in the converted ‘old stables’ in the castle courtyard. The unique parian/porcelain designs are sold in what was the old dairy at Farney castle, the knitwear boutique is situated in the original kitchen of the castle and a coffee shop is situated in the 15th century round tower.It is the only Round Tower in Ireland occupied as a family home. Tours of the castle are available daily and harp recitals take place in the drawing room by arrangement.

The History of Farney Castle

The first castle was built at Farney in 1185 and this would have been a timbered structure. The present round tower was built in 1495 by Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, and it was part of a defensive system created by the Butlers to protect their land in Tipperary. The Butlers were in Farney Castle for 500 years but in 1536 the castle was confiscated by King Henry VIII of England. He returned the lands again to the Butlers in 1538 when he married Anne Boleyn who was the daughter of James, 3rd Earl of Ormond. Subsequently the castle was occupied for short periods by two other English monarchs namely King James 1st from 1617 – 1625, and King George 1st from 1716 -1721.

In 1649 Cromwell landed in Ireland and shortly after 1650 a Cromwellian soldier named Hulett took over the castle. Then in 1660 Capt. William Armstrong, a Cavalier who supported the Stuarts and who fought against Cromwell, acquired the castle and lands, and there were Armstrongs in the castle for the next 200 years. William Armstrong came from a Scottish Border country family which was famed in the sixteenth century for its ferocity, and in 1677 he purchased large estates in the area including Holy Cross Abbey and Holy Cross lands.

The round tower is 58 ft. high and has five stories. It is unusual in being circular whereas the majority of this sort of tower were square or oblong. It possesses a mural staircase (built within the thickness of the walls) off which it appears that secret rooms still exist undiscovered. The main door was opened up by Cyril Cullen having been closed for 200 years. There is a “murdering hole” over the main door and this enabled the castle defenders to shoot from above at any intruders. The tower castles were built to safeguard the Butler lands during the long periods when the family was away in England.

Cyril Cullen Studios at Farney Castle

Each year,  Cyril creates new designs in a combination of Parian and duck-egg blue porcelain. The unglazed Parian is used to highlight the faces and hands of the figurines and patterns and decorations of the vases. The subtly contrasting duck-egg blue glaze creates a wonderfully delicate result.

‘I have always put extra emphasis on perfecting the features of the figurines. I never wanted to paint the faces but rather let light and shade do the work.’ – Cyril Cullen

Knitwear Designs at Farney Castle

Intent on using natural and organic fibres and yarns, Cyril uses the wool from his rare flock of Jacob sheep. There is no dye used in these unique garments and the fleece of a single sheep can provide dark browns, light browns and greys. Another unique feature of a Cyril Cullen garment is the addition of porcelain buttons with his initials ‘CC’ carved in Celtic script.

Cyril’s beautiful collection of lightweight linen and cotton dresses, tops, skirts and scarves are also showcased in the boutique at Farney Castle. His trademark, handknit frill, features on a number of his complex creations. 

Music by The Cullen Harpers of Farney Castle

Cyril & Margie’s four daughters, Emily, Benita, Tara & Margot -  The Cullen Harpers - are multi-award winning performers and composers. They have performed all over the world and are available individually or as a group for weddings, functions, corporate gatherings and special events. For more information, contact Margot at cullen.margot@gmail.com

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