Belle Isle Castle

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Belle Isle Castle
Grid reference: H28953552
Location: 54°16’4"N, 7°33’23"W
Built c. 1700
For: Sir Ralph Gore, Bt
Country house
Condition: Converted to hotel
Owned by: Duke of Abercorn

Belle Isle Castle is castle standing on Belle Isle, the largest of the countless isles within Upper Lough Erne, in the very north-west of the lough, in Fermanagh. The castle's estate stretches over 470-acres across Lisbellaw in that county.[1]

The castle was built as a house in the early 17th century, and has since then been expanded and fully refurbished so as to serve as a popular tourist attraction, hotel and wedding venue.


Belle Isle Castle originated as a sole house that was first built by Sir Ralph Gore, 4th Bt in about 1700, after his grandfather Paul Gore came into possession of Belle Island.[2] Sir Ralph Gore’s grandson, also named Ralph Gore, was born in the house in 1725 and throughout his life further expanded it, adding cottages, a tower, and with the help of designer Thomas Wright, together created the magnificent garden that surrounds the estate and extends to the Lough Erne shore.[2] On Gore’s death in 1801, the now castle was left to his only surviving child, Lady Mary Hardinge, wife of Sir Richard Hardinge.[2]

After Lady Hardinge's death in 1824, and her husband's death two years later, the estate was left to the nephew of Hardinge, Rev Sir Charles Hardinge, 2nd Baronet, of Tonbridge in Kent, who had no interest in owning the castle. In 1830 therefore he sold the estate for £68,000 to Rev John Grey Porter of Kilskeery, whose descendants owned the property up until 1991. During the ownership, the Porter’s worked to further expand the castle, adding various office wings and cottage houses.[2]

In 1991, the heiress of the estate, Miss Lavinia Baird sold it to the James Hamilton, 5th Duke of Abercorn, who purchased the estate for his youngest son, Lord Nicholas Hamilton. The Duke then set about transforming the castle into a fully functioning tourist attraction.[2]


The 'Belle Isle Cookery School' opened in 2004 within the castle, claiming to be the residential cookery school in Ulster.[3]

Also on the grounds are activities available to guests that include shooting, sailing and hiking.[4]


  1. Tours, Tenon. "Belle Isle Castle S/C". Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Belmont, Timothy: 'Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland: Belle Isle Castle'
  3. [ Looking to Cook: Belle Isle Cookery School
  4. Belle Isle