LISSADELL estate in Co Sligo was considered a "playground" by locals whose roadways and amenities were open for use by all, the High Court heard yesterday.
Angela Darcy, who bought a property close to the estate in 1984 told the court she, her family and neighbours "often walked through the estate" for "pleasure" and in order to gain access to a nearby beach.
It continued until Lissadell was sold in 2003 and "the gates went up", she said.
Ms Darcy, a native of Dublin, said she was "never alone" when travelling within the estate, and did not consider the routes to be "anything other than public".
She was giving evidence in an action against Sligo County Council by Lissadell owners, barristers, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, over whether there are public rights of way across the historic 410 acre estate.
The couple are seeking orders and declarations that four routes in the estate are not subject to public rights of way.
The council contends such rights do exist, and says public monies were spent in 1954 on certain roadways in the estate.
The court also heard from James Harron (65), a carpenter who grew up about a mile from the historic estate, and spent much of his childhood "in and out" of the estate.
He told the court Lissadell was considered by locals as "a nice place to play".
He added that when his own children were growing up, he regularly returned and drove around the estate, and went to the beach.
Mr Harron said that in "all" his life he had never heard of anyone being told they needed permission to use the roads within the estate, and that the recent closure of routes "was unfair", as they had been in use for many years.
The case continues.