€10m needed simply to fix landmark castle

It has been conservatively estimated it could cost between €7-10 million to repair years of damage caused to the historic stately pile at Castle Saunderson, without even exploiting the potential of the building.

Establishing a future use for the building could run into further tens of millions of euros, not including the cost of upkeep thereafter.

Castle Saunderson, a detached Tudor Gothic three-storey country house built in 1835, and incorporating fabric of earlier house dating from 1780, is currently identified as one of the Top 10 Most-at-Risk heritage buildings in the country in a list compiled by An Taisce.

The discussion over what it might cost to fix the castle was raised at last week's meeting of Cavan-Belturbet Municipal District, where questions were put to acting director of services for the area, John Donohoe, over the future use of the site.

At present, access to the grounds is managed by the HSE, which is using the International Scout Centre as a Covid testing facility for the county. That lease has been extended until October.

The council has in the past invested in the portion of the grounds it owns, which includes the castle and the nearby Saunderson church and some 20 acres of ground. Along with footpaths and signage, the local authority has also installed a marina, which connects to the Ulster Canal, with further plans in the pipeline.

Mr Donohoe told councillors that estimates to repair the Castle Saunderson building varied, with the most conservative report placing the cost of work at between €7-10 million, and without the "25% cost of construction and inflation".

"It's what to do with it after," said Mr Donohoe posing an additional dilemma for council.

He said the last assessment report was drawn up around four years ago. However, in the now, the council is prepared to "keep chipping" away at investing in the potential of the property, aware that the HSE will eventually leave the site, and recognising the significant amenity potential of the grounds.

It was added at the same meeting that the council acted "very quickly" in relation to upgrade works to the entrance.

Senior engineer for the MD, Paul Mulligan, said what had been done was "a good job", with drainage also installed.

Independent Brendan Fay welcomed the works, while Fianna Fáil's John Paul Feeley reminded the council's executive members that Castle Saunderson remained a "very important" site in terms of the county's history and heritage.

A controlled barrier, similar to one that governs entry to the Cavan Burren Park near Blacklion, is to be installed by Summer. This, it was hoped, would facilitate opening the grounds to more visitors.

Mr Mulligan said before the internal network of roads and new walking routes were developed, the grounds at Castle Saunderson were not accessible. But there is a sense of positivity going forward: "We want to get all our ducks in a row. We've made great progress there."


Click here