One of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland, Killyleagh looks little changed from when Sir James Hamilton made it his base 400 years ago. We can tell this from a highly detailed illustration of the castle commissioned by Hamilton from Thomas Raven. Parts of the castle go back much further, probably to the late 12th century when the great Anglo-Norman invader of Ulster, John de Courcy, built a castle on the site. Sir James bought the Barony of Dufferin, including Killyleagh Castle, from the White family in 1610.
The castle has been added to over the years, with the famous architect Sir Charles Lanyon renovating it in the 1850s. Archibald Hamilton Rowan, a founder member of the Dublin Society of the United Irishmen, inherited the castle in 1805. He had lived in France and America following his escape from gaol in Dublin in 1794 for his support for the United Irishmen. It is now the private home of Gawn Rowan Hamilton, a descendant of Sir James Hamilton, and his family. In the hallway is a portrait of Sir James Hamilton, who also built the nearby parish church.
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