Wednesday 27 July 2011
The Hellfire Club Co Dublin
A prominent landmark, the Hellfire Club sits 1257 feet above sea level on the summit of Montpelier Hill in the Dublin mountains. It was built as a hunting lodge in 1725 by William Conolly or the "Speaker Conolly" as he was more commonly known.
The Lodge was constructed from the stones of a prehistoric Cairn or Passage Grave on which the building now sits. The desecration of the grave has led to speculation over the years that misfortune was bound to strike sooner or later. Indeed at one point the roof blew away in a severe storm and this was seen as the work of the Devil.. The roof was replaced with tar and again stones from the Cairn and it has remained intact to this day.
The Lodge got it's alternate name when it is said members of the Irish Hellfire Club held gambling meetings there during the period 1735 to 1741. Wild stories of debauchery, occult activity and even murder followed.
Then there is the oft told tale of the poker game that was interrupted by the arrival of a stranger who joined in the game. When one of the players beside him at the table stooped down to pick up a fallen card from the floor, he noticed the stranger had cloven hooves instead of feet! A fire broke out and the building was gutted inside. Today it remains but a shell of it's former glory.
We arrived at the base of Montpelier Hill early one evening parking in Kilakee car park. This park is open until 9pm April to September and 5pm October to March and thereafter you will have to park on the road outside. There are two routes up the hill to the summit. One is a long but not too steep tarmac track that winds gently up. The much quicker route route is directly up the hill on a hiker's track through the forest. It is a bit steep but you'll be at the top in about 15 minutes.
The Lodge was built in the Palladian design with steps leading to the entrance on the upper floor where there was a hall and two reception rooms. The lower floor housed the kitchen and the servants quarters. The outside stairs is now missing so you enter the ruin by the lower door which is like entering a cave.Within the Lodge it is dim and musty. All the rooms can be accessed up and down as the OPW have added metal stairs.
Some rooms have the remains of fireplaces within. There is an eerie atmosphere about the place, no doubt aided and abetted by the stories over the years. It has been of late the location for some anti-social activity and some say occult gatherings, but this aside we definitely felt uneasy while there. The room at the back on the lower floor with the odd shaped window was the strangest one of all...
Outside, there are fine views over Dublin and just beside the ruin there is a stone mounting block which was once used by hunters at the lodge to aid riders to mount their steeds for the hunt. At the rear of the Lodge you can still see part of the shape of the Cairn as the grassy hill drops about 18 inches.
The Hellfire Club is a must to visit. Whenever we have been there, there has been a few people around, Hikers or sometimes families; a place to scare the kids no doubt!
You can access the Lodge by taking the R115 from the Yellow House Pub in Rathfarnham towards Kilakee. Go straight through the roundabout at Taylor's Lane and take the first turn right onto Scholarstown Rd. A few yards up, turn left onto Stocking Lane and continue until you pass the old Kilakee House. The car park is on the right a little further.