Dromoland Castle Hotel

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On the grounds of Dromoland Castle, encircled by yew trees, stands a temple dedicated to Mercury. The building dates back to the early 18th century, when Sir Edward O’Brien, 2nd Baronet lived on the massive estate. Sir Edward is responsible for majority of the beautiful adornments that have stood the test of time at Dromoland Castle Hotel, including the Lilly Pond, the grotto, the walled gardens, and the Dromoland Turret. From this three story high turret, Sir Edward enjoyed excellent views of his racehorses training in the field below. The Baron is said to have been quite fanatical about horseracing, and was himself a revered racehorse owner and trainer. However, Sir Edward had a terrible penchant for gambling, a bad habit that almost cost the O’Brien clan Dromoland Castle. Reportedly, in 1730, he gambled the entire estate on one race. His champion was the horse Seán Buí, named after the 14th-century Irish poet Seán Buí Mac Bruideadha, who wrote the poem Dlighidh ollamh urraim ríogh in honor of one of Sir Edward’s ancestors, Mathghamhain Maonmhaighe Ó Brien (c. 1300s).


Sir Edward O'Brien, 2nd Baronet; Painting of Sir Edward O'Brien and his horses, painted by Thomas Spencer

Luckily for him, Seán Buí beat off all the competition and Sir Edward managed to hold on to the family estate. According to local folklore, when Seán Buí died, Sir Edward paid homage to the horse by erecting The Temple of Mercury on top of his burial site. The Temple itself features eight Doric columns supporting a lead-covered timber dome. Perched atop is a bronze statue of the Roman deity Mercury with his famous caduceus in hand. The question remains as to why Sir Edward selected Mercury to guard over his beloved champion? Perhaps it is because the temple rests at a crossroads, which are typically associated with the god. Maybe Mercury’s presence is a nod and a wink to Sir Edward’s gambling habits since Mercury was the god of luck and trickery. Or, it may be the god’s role in gently ushering souls to the underworld that inspired this memorial marker. Whatever Sir Edward’s intentions, they will most likely remain a history mystery.



Bronze statue of Mercury


Couple horseback riding

Today, guests can visit the Temple of Mercury on foot or on horseback. Dromoland Castle has excellent horse-riding instructors and provides hats and jodhpur boots for guests. The hotel also works with local equestrian centers to offer alternative riding experiences on Irish farmland and green pastures. Pay homage to Seán Buí and gallop around the gorgeous grounds at Dromoland Castle Hotel.

This has been a Historic Hotels History Mystery
For more fun facts, trivia, and historic highlights, check out our History Mystery pages for Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. Subscribe to our newsletter below and follow us on social media to play along.

Question: On the grounds of Dromoland Castle Hotel, there is a temple dedicated to which deity?

  1. Mercury
  2. Brigid
  3. Odin
  4. Dagda
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