Glenveagh Castle was built by John George Adair, a wealthy land speculator from Co. Laois. He bought large areas of land in Donegal. The castle was built between 1867 and 1873 and is a Scottish-style four storey rectangular keep.
It is surrounded by one of the finest gardens in Ireland, which contrasts with the rugged surroundings of 40,000 acres of mountains, lakes, glens and woods.
Tenants evicted to improve the view
John Adair was a cruel, unpopular landlord in Donegal and Ireland. He evicted 244 tenants from their ‘black houses’ in the Derryveagh Evictions of 1861.
This was allegedly to improve the aesthetic appearance around his castle and grounds, although it is likely Adair had more than just that as motive.
It took 200 police to carry out the evictions over three days – 44 families of 244 people.
Most of these people went to the workhouse in Letterkenny. The Donegal Relief Fund helped some of the young people from the evictions to emigrate to Sydney to start afresh.
Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin among visitors
Henry Plumer McIlhenny of Philadelphia, bought the estate in 1937. He was an Irish American and his grandfather John McIlhenny grew up in Milford a few miles from of Glenveagh.
Hollywood stars Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo stayed at the castle while McIlhenny owned it. He left castle and gardens to the Irish nation in 1981 when the upkeep of the estate became too much.