Northern Ireland

Tully Castle: Anger as castle gardens removed in 'act of vandalism'

How Tully Castle looked before and after the work was done
Image caption How Tully Castle looked before and after the work was done

A government department responsible for the care and upkeep of historic monuments has been accused of carrying out an "act of vandalism" at a castle in County Fermanagh.

Tully Castle on the shore of Lower Lough Erne is a popular tourist attraction.

It was built for Sir John Hume during the Plantation between 1612 and 1615.

The castle was destroyed during the rebellion of 1641 and was the scene of a massacre of Protestant settlers.

Now a formal garden with box hedges, herbs and flowers, which was restored about 20 years ago, has been removed and is to be replaced by grass.

A gate leading to the interior of the castle has also been locked.

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Media captionDisappointment after gardens dug up at Tully Castle in Fermanagh

Local business people have expressed anger at what has happened to the castle, which features in Northern Ireland tourist brochures.

David Bailey, who runs the nearby Blaney Caravan Park, said: "It looked very well for us for marketing this end of Fermanagh and you can see now we're left with nothing."

Farmer Roger Corrigan remembers the castle before the garden was created, giving visitors access to the site.

"A lot of money, a lot of thought, a lot of care, a lot of love from those people was put into doing the thing to the best of their ability and I feel what has been done, without any communication with the local people or the local community, I feel it's an act of vandalism," he said.

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Media captionAerial footage of Tully Castle in Fermanagh - before the garden was dug up

In a statement, the Department for Communities, which is responsible for the upkeep of historic monuments, said it has carried out a range of work at Tully Castle in recent years, to present the site to visitors and provide a venue for community events.

"An ornamental garden was planted within the bawn enclosure around 20 years ago. With the passage of time, the vegetation within the garden had become over-mature and much of it needed to be removed," it said.

"Taking into account the most likely landscaping when the castle was occupied, the department decided that it was most authentic to replace the ornamental garden with lawns.

"The works were completed as a necessary management task and not to save costs."

The spokesperson added: "The site is open to public at all times. The visitors centre and interior of the main building are open 1200-1600 on Sundays during the summer."