intrinsic part of Louth's history
nestles peacefully in the scenic Wee County village of Termonfeckin,
an aesthetically pleasing landmark oozing history, character
and purpose. It is a unique, attractive and important place,
with a key role to play in Louths heritage
past, present and future. By Gerry Robinson.
Owned by the ICA (Irish Countrywomans Association)
for half a century now, An Grianán is of immense
historical significance. Its history is interesting - the
genesis of An Grianán in its original form dating
back to over 220 years ago - but the spectacular residence
also has a valuable contribution to make to the Ireland
A charming manor house neatly sandwiched between the long
sandy beaches of the County Louth coast and the Boyne Valley,
the impressive building is home to a centre that is unique
in Ireland, combining a weekend or week-long holiday with
courses in arts, crafts, leisure, personal development or
self-care. These courses cater for individuals or groups
of adults at any age and skill level. And, contrary to collective
misconception, they are open to both women AND men!
The college was the first residential adult education centre
in Ireland, with its roots in the Irish Countrywomens
Association the oldest and largest womens association
in Ireland. The ICA movement was born in 1910 with the foundation
of the Society of the Unite Irishwomen but assumed its present
moniker in 1935 in keeping with the changing political climate.
Still active in every county in Ireland, the ICA has been
to the forefront of womens affairs for almost a century
and has made a singular contribution to the advancement
of women in Ireland over the past nine and a half decades.
Due largely to ICA lobbying, the role of women in Irish
society has been enhanced forever.
The literal translation of An Grianán is the
sunny place. Few buildings are more aptly named. A
beautiful stately home built in the late 18th century, An
Grianán retains the essence of those times in its
primarily Georgian composition. The core of the original
building remains intact. Marvellously and tastefully preserved,
it reflects the splendour of bygone years in its ornate
ceilings and domed central stairway, while the perfectly-manicured
grounds that complete the splendid 58-acre site also allude
to a time long since passed.
The seeds for the An Grianán we know today were sown
in 1952, when Muriel Gahan of the ICA proposed the idea
for a college to Dr Morris, the envoy of the WK Kellogg
Foundation of America. The foundation, which was preparing
to donate its first grant in Ireland, was searching for
a beneficiary that would best fulfil its funds social
and educational purposes. The ICA proposal met these criteria,
the funds were granted, and the ICA purchased what was then
known as Newtown House, in trust for the benefit of the
people of Ireland.
In October 1954 An Grianán was officially opened
by the then President of Ireland, Seán T OKelly.
In 1956, the building was extended and refurbished, with
the addition of a large theatre-style hall, named the Kellogg
Hall. Two years later, the out-buildings and stables were
converted into classrooms and extra accommodation. Further
development work was carried out in 1979 and 1986 when new
buildings were added with more accommodation, classrooms
and a kitchen/dining room complex. A bar licence was granted
An Grianán offers courses in arts, crafts, self care,
personal development and leisure. All courses are open to
both men and women over the age of 16. The course programme
has evolved with the times, enabling the college to facilitate
change and growth for all, to empower through lifelong learning,
development and a culture of mutual support.
Renowned for its hospitality and warm welcome, the facility
is also available (all year round) for week-long holidays
or short breaks, at the weekend or even just for one day.
Many organisations find the space and atmosphere of the
establishment ideal for meetings or conferences.
The original Georgian style stately home was build as Newtown
House circa 1780. All the features of the main rooms are
retained, including a beautiful skylight in the main hallway
which strikes the visitor immediately upon entry. The present-day
offices, conference rooms, library and dining rooms are
all located in the old building and every effort is made
to ensure that the history of the old house is accurately
reflected herein. This is successfully achieved, as there
is a palpable air of history and nostalgia permeating every
part of this charming building.
A new wing was added during the 1970s, replacing the homes
original stables, which were in a state of complete decay
and could not be salvaged.
An Grianán couldnt possibly have a more suitable
setting, located six miles north of Drogheda in the postcard
village of Termonfeckin, an area renowned for scenic beauty,
stunning landscape, tranquillity and of course
One of the ICAs primary objectives has always been
to educate women in new technologies as well as crafts and
to help make rural Ireland a better place. But it is worth
again stressing that An Grianán is in no way exclusive.
Its open to both men and women, with many of the courses
suitable for both sexes.
In keeping with the face of modern Ireland and the huge
demands that press upon peoples times, weekend courses
(which run all year round) are becoming increasingly popular.
Monday-Friday courses remain particularly attractive in
An Grianán is open to groups who wish to have a browse
around the building or stroll through the gardens, and bookings
are also accepted for tea and dinner.
The spectacular property is now wholly owned by the ICA,
a non-profit-making organisation which employs ten full-time
staff members there.
On the site there are five four-star Bord Failte approved
self-catering bungalows, which are available to rent to
the general public. Groups are also availing of An Grianáns
conference and training centre, while Over 55
group holidays are also popular here. Its certainly
an interesting alternative to using a hotel.
An Grianán may have a slightly more commercial hue
today than it had 200 years ago. But such exercises are
necessary to keep this outstanding facility ticking over,
keeping alive a strong link to the Wee Countys proud