Ownership of Castletown Demesne Lands

Castletown House, a Palladian country house built in 1722 formed the centrepiece of an 800-acre (320 hectare) estate. It was sold to developers in 1965 but is now divided between public and private ownership as per the map below.

Portions of land owned are colour-coded based on ownership as follows:

  • Office of Public Works (green)
  • Kildare Country Council (yellow) 
  • Private developers (blue)

Castletown Demesne Split of Land Ownership between Public and Private Owners

The Office of Public Works (OPW) owns the house, lands to the front of the house down to the River Liffey, and most of the woodlands to the back of the house. Kildare County Council owns a small section of the woodlands but the private developers own the back lawns, the mound field, and property between the house and the back entrance (including the gravel public car park, the Enchanted Wood, and the protected sightline to the Wonderful Barn).

235-acres (95 hectares) of Castletown Demesne were sold by Janus Securities Ltd to developers Killross Properties and Springwood following a closed bid.

The OPW was unsuccessful in its bid to purchase the lands in pursuance of its goal to reunite the demesne lands under public ownership. Ref. the Irish Times on 12th April 2023.

Land Usage Zoning under the Local Area Plan and Impact on Planning Applications

Most of the land in private ownership is zoned as Objective F (Open Space and Amenity) under the Celbridge Local Area Plan 2017 - 2023 but some land close to the M4 interchange is zoned as Objective G (Green Belt). This is illustrated on the Land Use Zoning Objectives Map.

The only acceptable land uses under zonings F and G are as follows:

Acceptable usages of land zoned F and G under the Celbridge Local Area Plan 2017-2023

Source: Pages 73-74 of the Celbridge Local Area Plan 2017 - 2023


  • In January 2024, the landowners submitted a planning application to Kildare Co Co (Planning Reference 2417) for permission to retain the car park for a further period of 5 years, to surface it with tarmac and surround it with post-and-rail fencing, to make changes to the existing access road, to provide lighting, to add gates on the access road at the northern and southern boundaries of the private lands with Castletown House. Kildare County Council requested further information from the applicant to which they responded:
    • #1
      • Request: That the applicant submit a written agreement between the landowners and the OPW that outlines how the car park would operate to ensure that it is ancillary to and solely related to the use of Castletown House.
      • Applicant's Response: Expressed willingness to re-engage with the OPW regarding the granting of a licence for the use of the car park once permission is granted for the proposed works. Suggested that Kildare Co Co might attach a condition to any grant of permission requiring that use of the car park be restricted to visitors to Castletown House and Demesne.  The applicant stressed that the proposed improvement works are a requirement of their insurer and so, the land could not continue to be used as a car park for visitors to Castletown House and Demesne if permission is not granted for these works.
    • #2
      • Request: That the applicant demonstrate how the development which comprises urban type interventions into the landscape integrates positively and enhances the special character and visual setting of the historic landscape associated with Castletown House.
      • Response: The design of the proposed works represent the minimal works necessary to meet basic public health and safety standards and to protect the landowner's interests from unauthorised access and trespassing, are necessary and appropriate and do not affect in any material way 'landscape features, views or prospects' associated with the historic landscape.
  • The Castletown lands are not the subject of any other current planning applications.
  • The Celbridge Local Area Plan 2017 - 2023 (LAP) will remain valid until the new plan is put in place, which is likely to be in 2025.
  • Any proposed development on privately owned lands must go through the proper planning process. Any planning applications will be assessed under the current LAP zoning of F Open Space & Amenity and G Green Belt.
  • Current zoning would NOT allow for houses to be built there.
  • The private landowner made a statement on 15th September 2023 that they have never intended to and will never propose or promote the use of the land at Castletown for housing.
  • Any planning application will be assessed by KCC planners under the current LAP and national policies around protecting the local area with key considerations such as impact on biodiversity also taken into account.
  • Any potential rezoning of lands takes place through the consultation process of drafting a new LAP.
  • Any proposed changes to LAPs made during the drafting process (e.g. changes to zoning) will be voted on for acceptance by the local municipal district. councillors. Currently, for the Celbridge & Leixlip Municipal District there are seven councillors. It is likely that the June 2024 local elections will have taken place (leading to a possible change of councillors) by the time the next LAP goes into consultation.
  • Any activities that could be considered as lobbying should be registered at Groups and individuals should register each time they approach a councillor to suggest changes to current zoning as it is considered lobbying so needs to be declared. Asking questions or requesting information from councillors is not considered lobbying, but it is important that everyone is aware of this.
Closure of Public Car Park at Castletown - September 2023

The car park on the back road to Castletown House is on land owned by the private landowner and is no longer the official public car park for visitors to Castletown House. The OPW had a license agreement for its usage from 2007 but this agreement lapsed and there is no agreement with the current landowner.

Date Description of Events
 Friday 08/09/2023 The OPW issued a press release advising that the current public car park at Castletown House would be closed permanently by the private landowner on 15th September 2023 at 22:00 and that vehicles seeking to access Castletown House would need to do so via the only OPW-owned vehicular access route to Castletown House, the traditional Lime Avenue access route from Celbridge.
Monday  11/09/2023 Work was due to commence on a temporary visitor car park near the pump house in the meadow between Lime Avenue and the River Liffey to facilitate continued access to Castletown House & Parklands for those who travel by car and bus but peaceful protesters prevented contractors from doing so. A series of engagements with the community began.
Friday 15/09/2023 The OPW abandoned plans to install the temporary visitor car park facilities. Closure of the car park was also deferred pending the outcome of negotiations between the OPW and the landowner. The M4 access road and car park at Castletown House were to remain operational for at least two weeks to facilitate dialogue between the OPW and the owner of the private lands at Castletown Estate.
 Friday 29/09/2023 The OPW issued a press release advising that they were unable to reach an agreement with the private landowner in mediation. As a result, the back entrance from the M4 closed for public access on the evening of 29th September 2023 and a limited amount of parking was to be available for visitors at Castletown House for vehicles accessing via Lime Avenue.

The only vehicular route is now the OPW-owned Lime Avenue where vehicles are in contention with pedestrians, cyclists, and scooters. OPW is encouraging visitors to walk, cycle or use public transport when visiting Castletown House and Parklands.

Locals are holding a peaceful protest at the Celbridge Gate whereby they prevent all but Blue Badge (Disabled Person's Parking Card) holders and pre-agreed essential services from accessing Castletown House via Lime Avenue and ask all others to park up in the village and walk to the house.

Contention for space on Lime Avenue

  • National access to one of Ireland’s most important heritage sites is severely restricted due to the closure of access to Castletown from the M4 (Gays Avenue) - the site is visited by close to 1 million people per annum (1,070,673 in 2021 and 958,921 in 2022) so large numbers will be impacted by this.
    • This was threatened from the evening of Friday 15th September but deferred pending negotiations. Agreement was not reached so the closure came into effect on the evening of Friday 29th September.
  • Lands at Castletown are in the ownership of a private developer who has broadly stated that land uses envisaged include leisure, amenity, recreational, tourism, and employment uses. However, there are few uses consistent with the Open Space and Amenity zoning that are likely to be highly profitable for the private landowner.
    • The impact of any development that might be profitable for the landowner would be unjustified in what has always been a refuge for biodiversity and wildlife.
    • The private landowners have exercised their rights to prevent members of the public from accessing their land thus blocking the public from traversing the backfield between the back lawn of Castletown House and the woodlands, from walking along the protected sightline between Castletown House and the Wonderful Barn, etc.
    • It is feared that the private landowners will not pursue less-profitable projects such as the delivery of greenways (ref. 2022 Greater Dublin Cycle Network), tree planting, etc.
    • The landowners and the OPW are not known to be currently negotiating regarding access to or ownership of the privately owned lands - state bodies such as the OPW require landowners to negotiate on terms that are acceptable and non-prejudicial to the state.
  • No alternatives to Gays Avenue are considered acceptable
    • Celbridge Gate / Lime Avenue
      • Contention for limited space on Lime Avenue between vehicles and vulnerable users (pedestrians, cyclists, and kids on scooters) exposes vulnerable users to increased risk.
      • Large vehicles will be unable to enter through the protected Castletown Gates from Main Street so will need to drive 800m along the residential Castletown Drive after entering the Castletown housing estate from the Castletown Estate North entrance further up the Maynooth Road, again putting vulnerable road users at risk.
      • Increased pressure for parking in Celbridge town centre would jeopardise Town Renewal Plan projects to promote space for people rather than cars including the removal of some on-street parking on Main Street.
    • Batty Langley Lodge
      • The surface of the path from Batty Langley Lodge to Castletown House is unfit for the weight of vehicles
      • Would give rise to the same issues as Lime Avenue in terms of contention for limited space and risk to vulnerable users, albeit to a lower volume
      • Residents of the roadway between the R404 and the Batty Langley Gate (Cois Abhann) do not agree with increased usage of the road - is unsuitable for 2-way traffic and has not been taken in charge by Kildare County Council
    • Woodview
      • Residents of Castletown housing estate do not agree with increased usage of residential streets to support access via the farmyard gate from Woodview
Solutions (including Status of Proposals)

Progress to Date

  • Continued access to Castletown House for visitors with disabilities - this is being facilitated via Lime Avenue pending reinstatement of access from the M4 and includes disability access permit holders, active age, and other mobility-impaired visitors.
  • The biodiversity meadow has been protected: The OPW originally proposed to install a temporary hardcore road and car park in the meadow between Lime Avenue (access road from Celbridge Gate) and the River Liffey but this would have constituted unauthorised development and negatively impacted upon the hard work already invested in the promotion of biodiversity by OPW groundskeepers.  This can never be considered an acceptable solution
    • Status: The OPW agreed not to pursue this option.
  • General Visitors are prevented from accessing Castletown House via Lime Avenue: On ruling out the temporary car park, the OPW proposed that access for staff, services, and general visitors would be facilitated in the short-term via the 1km long Lime Avenue from the Celbridge Gate to park at the house where there is capacity of about 40 car parking spaces. This volume of cars was not considered acceptable by the community.
    • Status: The OPW agreed not to pursue access for general visitors via Lime Avenue.
  • Working group  established to progress the reuniting of the historic demesne and access issues to Castletown House and Estate


  • In October, the OPW negotiated a protocol with community groups for a temporary solution that would have facilitated access for about 20 vehicles per day on a pedestrian priority Lime Avenue for the management, conservation, and maintenance of Castletown House and Parklands (limited access for OPW employees, contractors, security personnel, and service agents).
    • Summary
      • OPW gate personnel to manage vehicular access at all times from a temporary garden shed type shelter structure at the Celbridge Gate
      • A pedestrian priority focus to be retained on Lime Avenue - with a 10km/h speed limit
      • OPW to communicate daily with a representative of local representative community groups regarding operation of the Protocol (advising of expected vehicular access needs via the Celbridge Gate / Lime Avenue entrance for the following day, review of vehicle movements which have occurred / discussion on any concerns)
      • A representative of community groups may attend near the gate to satisfy themselves that no material changes to the agreed vehicular access protocol occur
      • No photographs or videos of vehicles or their occupants should be captured or vehicle details such as registration numbers
      • OPW will continue its ongoing efforts to progress the reuniting of the historic demesne and access issues to Castletown House and Estate in parallel 
    • Whilst recognising that issues were likely to arise from the operation of this protocol that would require resolution in the context of the proposed Working Group, Celbridge Community Council was one of the four community groups involved in these negotiation and we agreed to the protocol.
    • Status: The negotiated protocol was not accepted by all community groups so it did not become operational.
  • The Save Castletown Committee countered the OPW's proposed protocol with a temporary protocol that would allow access for essential 3rd party contractors and services, but not for OPW staff.
    • Status: This temporary protocol has been operating  somewhat contentiously since October 2023. 
  • On 14th February 2024, the Save Castletown Committee put forward proposals for how vehicular access for staff might be facilitated in response to community feedback captured from a survey in January 2024
    • Status: These proposals are pending discussion at the Working Group (scheduled for 11th March 2024).
  • The landowners submitted a planning application to Kildare Co Co (Planning Reference 2417) for permission to retain the car park for a further period of 5 years, to surface it with tarmac and surround it with post-and-rail fencing, to make changes to the existing access road, to provide lighting, to add gates on the access road at the northern and southern boundaries of the private lands with Castletown House.
    • Status: A decision is due on this on 12/03/2024.

Short-Medium Term

  • Negotiations to arrive at an agreement that
    • Puts the interests of biodiversity, wildlife, the local community, and visitors to Castletown Parklands at the heart of the solution
    • Reinstates access via the M4 access route as quickly as possible and in the interim (pending a better access solution for vehicles)
      • Explore use of other access routes and/ or modes of transporting visitors to keep the pedestrian and cyclist focus on Lime Avenue.
      • Restrict traffic on Lime Avenue to visitors with disabilities (disability access permit holders, active age and other mobility impaired visitors) and to very limited vehicular access for OPW employees, contractors,
        security personnel and service agents required for the management, maintenance and repair of the house and estate
      • Explore parking solutions outside OPW-owned land, including near the Celbridge Gate and the Batty Langley Lodge Gate - it is acceptable for people without mobility issues to walk 1km from parking to Castletown House.

Long-Term Goals:  

  • The state needs to procure all lands currently in private ownership so
    • Visitors have unimpeded access to the car park
    • Castletown Demesne can be reunited and used in its entirety for the intended Open Space and Amenity usage
    • Fit-for-purpose car parking facilities to be provided for visitors
    • Strategic projects such as greenways (2022 Greater Dublin Cycle Network) can proceed
Media Coverage / Press Releases
OPW Updates

The OPW has been sharing updates on the Information on Castletown House and Estate page since October 2023.

These updates include the following: