New National Park to Boost Tourism

Ireland’s newest national park will be in Co Meath, following the State purchase of a 223-hectare property on the Dowth demesne.

The lands amount to almost one third of the total area of the Unesco World Heritage site in the Boyne Valley and include a Neolithic passage tomb, which was discovered during excavation works to Dowth Hall in 2017.

Other significant archaeological remains on the property include the late Neolithic Dowth henge, two smaller passage tombs, early medieval ring forts and a Bronze Age field system.

The purchase was announced by Minister for Heritage Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage Malcolm Noonan.

Up to now, the State only owned six per cent of the lands on which Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth are situated, with only the passage tombs at Newgrange and Knowth accessible via Brú na Bóinne visitor centre.

The NPWS, the National Monuments Service and the Office of Public Works will work on a master plan for the entire property, which also includes mixed woodlands, wetlands and a demonstration farm extensively researched for sustainable agricultural practices.

“Rarely does the State get the opportunity to acquire lands of such significance. Here in this one place we have over 5,000 years of recorded history,” Darragh O’Brien said.

The demesne, which was owned by the agritech and animal food company Devenish Nutrition since 2013, is believed to have been sold to the State for €11 million. It includes Dowth Hall, an 18th century neoclassical country house, a refurbished late Victorian almshouse, and extensive woodlands.

The property, which will become the state’s seventh national park, is about 50 kilometres from Dublin off the M1 motorway.

While currently in poor repair, Dowth Hall has many original features including rococo stuccowork plaster, marble fireplaces, wooden panelling and large gilded mirrors.

The property was originally owned by the Anglo-Norman Netterville family, who first lived in the medieval tower house which has been altered over the centuries.

The Netterville family built Dowth Hall in 1765. In 1877, the 6th Viscount, John Netterville, built the Victorian almshouse, Netterville Institute. This property – also known as Netterville Manor – was subsumed into the demesne when purchased by Devenish in 2018. It has been used as a research facility and conference space.