Ballinderry overlooks its own miniature park, with some magnificent specimen trees. In Irish, the name Ballinderry (or Bhaile an Doire) means ‘the town-land of the oak trees’ and indeed there we have some very fine examples, although perhaps our finest and most interesting tree is the very large London Plane, just in front of the house. This is quite a rare tree to find in a rural setting and its drooping branches form a vast green tent in summer.
The land is largely rough pasture, which provides grazing for a small flock of sheep. To one side of the house a grass avenue leads to a simple bridge over the Derry Brook, which gives access to a small wood where there are wild flowers, birds, badgers and the occasional fallow deer.
Behind the house is the stable yard with tall gates at both ends and two stable ranges. The smaller block is contemporary with the house while the larger block, of cut stone, dates from the 1850s. Restoration of the larger block is already underway and it will be available for further accommodation later this year.
The tall slender tower of Kilconnell Friary, a mile away across the fields, closes the vista at the end of the avenue. The surroundings are peaceful, yet easily accessible by motorway from Dublin, Galway and Shannon, and the sky is dark at night.
Other Interesting Buildings in the Area
The surrounding area is particularly rich in man-made structures. Iron-age raths, ring-forts and indications of other ancient settlements abound, to the extent that there almost seems to be one in every field.
At Turoe, north of Loughrea, is the famous Turoe stone, covered with wonderfully abstract spiral La Tène decoration and there is another similar stone at Castle Strange, near Athleague in County Roscommon.
The valley of the River Shannon and its tributaries was one of the principal thoroughfares of ancient Ireland, with a particularly rich built heritage.
Clonmacnoise, Inis Cealtra, and Lorrha are important monastic sites from the early Christian period.
There is a delightful miniature Romanesque cathedral at Clonfert, still in regular use, and ruined mediaeval abbeys and friaries at Abbeyknockmoy, Athenry, Claregalway, Clontuskert, Kilconnell, Portumna and Roscommon. St. Nicholas’s church in Galway, also still in regular use, is Ireland’s largest mediaeval church.
The town of Athenry is still partly surrounded by its mediaeval wall while there is a huge, many towered, keep-less castle of 1280 at Roscommon.
Examples of domestic architecture include numerous tower houses, the precursors of the small country house. County Galway had the fourth largest concentration of tower houses in the country, with 1.12 to the square mile. There are particularly fine examples at Ballylee (perhased for £35.00 by the poet, William Butler Yeats and restored for ‘his wife George’), Clonbrock, Derryhiveny (perhaps one of Ireland’s last tower houses) and Pallas.
There are 17th century transitional houses of varying size at Athleague, Glenmore, Glinsk, and Portumna, while the ruin at Eyrecourt was arguably Ireland’s most modern country house of the 1660’s and a milestone in the development of Irish domestic architecture.
Sadly, many of the country houses in the locality are in ruins and those that remain are not usually open to the public, but the dramatic ruins at Dunsandle and Tyrone (famous as the model for Somerville and Ross’s Big House at Inver), the despoiled demesnes at Clonbrock and Woodlawn, and the gates and follies at Lawrencetown, Mount Talbot, Mote Park and Waterston are well worth exploring in detail, as are the mausoleums at Clonbeirne (recently restored by The Follies Trust), Drumacoo and Monivea.
Ballinasloe has some fine stone buildings; Gort is an intact late-18th century town while Loughrea cathedral has a collection of the best 20th century Irish ecclesiastical art.