Markree Castle is situated just outside Collooney, about 10 kilometres south of Sligo Town, is a small family-run hotel set in 300 acres of secluded land, which is ancestral home of the Cooper family.
The original 14th century castle and surrounding lands were alloted to Cornet Edward Cooper in 1663, after he served under Cromwell when his army defeated the O’Brien Clan. Up until then Markree had been a fortified outpost of the Irish McDonagh Clan, guarding the ford across the river Unsin.
Conor O’Brien died in this battle, and Edward Cooper married his widow Marie Rua (Red Mary). With her two sons they went to live at Dromoland Castle. One son, Donough, was left Dromoland Castle and the other inherited Markree Castle. Charles Cooper, the current owner, is a direct descendant of this son.
In 1830, Colonel Edward Joshua Cooper MP (1798-1863) set up Markree Observatory in the castle grounds, and was described as “undoubtedly the most richly furnished private observatory known” and “is worked with great activity by Mr Cooper himself and by his very able assistant, Mr Andrew Graham” (Royal Astronomical Society, 1851) and for a number of year Cooper‘s telescope was the largest in the world.
The observatory remained active until the death of Edward Henry Cooper MP in 1902, when it was inherited by soldier and politician Bryan Cooper where he resided with his family (except during World War I and when carrying out political duties) from 1903 until his own death in 1930.
In 1936, the Markree Telescope was bought by the Very Reverend Father Cooney SJ Superior of the Irish Jesuits, and brought to the South China Regional Seminary in Hong Kong.
After the Second World War the castle stood empty and derelict until 1988, when it appeared on the front cover of the book The Vanishing Country Houses of Ireland, which prompted Charles and Mary Cooper, the 10th generation of the family to live there, to transform his ancestral castle into a hotel.
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