July 5, 2017
Coollattin Estate being restored to former glory.
In its heyday, Coollattin Estate, near the village of Shillelagh, was one of the largest and best known Irish estates. Sir William Fitzwilliam served as Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1571 to 1575 and from 1588 to 1594. He also supervised the execution of the death sentence on Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1620, his grandson William Fitzwilliam was raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Lord Fitzwilliam. As the family home of the Earls of Fitzwilliam, Coollattin estate once covered more than 85,000 acres – one fifth of Co Wicklow – and had thousands of tenants.
Since then the estate has gone through tough times and has been owned by different individuals and companies. Problems for Coollattin Woods began in the early 1970s following the death of Lady Fitzwilliam. Her daughter, Lady Juliette, decided to sell Coollattin Estate. It soon became apparent that the new owners were interested in felling vast areas of the large great oaks in the estate. The oak logs were to be exported all over Europe as high quality veneer wood.
By the late 1980’s the great oak woodlands of Mill Wood, Quails Wood, Shuttles Wood, Drimingal Wood, Ballykelly Wood and Brow Wood were all completely cleared and had been partly replaced with spruce and oak mixtures. Only Tomnafinnogue remained following direct intervention by the then Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey, who was horrified by the destruction of such an important native forest. Tomnafinnogue is now being maintained by Wicklow County Council.
In 2016 the estate was bought by an Irish company which was determined to restore the estate to its former glory. In the first year of ownership An Irish investment company has employed Veon Ltd., Ireland’s leading forest Management Company, to plan the woodland restoration project and oversee all forestry activities in the estate. Veon has consulted on large-scale forest restoration projects in Europe and Asia and is at the forefront of Irish sylvicultural management techniques.
Already Veon has planted over 10,000 Oak trees in Coollattin, replacing Sitka spruce previously planted (Insert photo below). The estate has also invested heavily in the removal of invasive exotics such as laurel and rhododendron. Over the last 12 months Veon has overseen the removal of over 100 acres of invasive exotics which have been removed from the estate to allow broadleaf forest re-establish and thrive as they did many years ago.
The new owners have also employed the services of one of the most renowned landscaping companies in Europe -EP Landscape Architecture, to help bring the estate back to its magnificent setting. Work to repair old bridge structures, roadways and other ancient features are all planned for the estate in the future, while also introducing an arboretum to showcase rare and interesting trees. The future of the estate is finally beginning to look up, with an intensive work programme ahead, Coollattin Estate will be back to the forefront of Irish Estates, where it belongs.