Wexford People

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LEGENDARY LOFTUS Hall drew unprecedented crowds throughout last weekend when it opened to the public for the first time in almost twenty years.

In what is a major boost for the tourism product already available in the Hook Peninsula, the grounds of Loftus Hall are now open to the public every weekend.

The Quigley Family, who bought the imposing mansion last September, decided to open the grounds to curious members of the public to coincide with the ominous Friday the thirteenth date.

'We were absolutely mobbed,' said Aidan Quigley. ' We purposely didn't advertise because we just wanted to see how it would go. We just put a status on Facebook and said we would have been happy with 100 visitors - roughly 1,000 people took the tour throughout the weekend,' he explained.

People travelled from all over Ireland to tour the grounds and catch an up close glimpse of the mansion. Visitors came especially from Cavan, Cork, Donegal and some tourists were present from Switzerland and Germany.

' The feedback was absolutely brilliant. People are delighted the hall is open and accessible to the public,' said Aidan, adding that he doesn't know what numbers to expect next weekend.

'Judging by the feedback it seems that we should be busy next weekend also,' he added.

Opening the grounds last Friday was just part of the overall plan to reopen the renowned mansion this October 27.

A grand opening charity ball in the mansion's function room will mark the official opening of Loftus Hall. There will be 150 tickets for the ball - 100 for charity and 50 for invited guests. The charity tickets will be given to local charities that book a table of ten guests and give a commitment to raise a minimum of €2,000 for their charity.

' That is generating a lot of interest at the moment,' said Aidan.

Following the ball the house will be opened for guided tours of the ground floor, which is currently being preserved.

'We are not restoring the house at the moment, we are preserving the house in its current condition,' added Aidan, who explained that structural problems with Loftus Hall needed to be addressed and they are now working to preserve the fabric of the house. 'We are preserving the house and hoping to restore it as part of a long term project...It's a challenge but an interesting one - the house has dictated the plans we haven't,' he added.

The Quigley Family from Bannow bought Loftus Hall - which comprises of seven reception rooms, 22 bedrooms and a function room spread across three floors - last September after the property went back on the market in May 2011.

Loftus Hall was built by the Marquis of Ely in 1870 on the ruins of Redmond Hall, which was in existence since 1350 and was purchased by the Loftus Family in the 1600s.

During the 18th century, Charles Tottenham came to live in Loftus Hall and this is how the legend of Loftus Hall came to originate. According to legend a stranger who was looking for accommodation on a stormy night was invited in by the Tottenham's to play cards. During the card game a lady bent over to retrieve a fallen card and was shocked to discover a cloven foot. It is said that the stranger vanished through the ceiling in a puff of smoke.

Loftus Hall was then exorcised by Father Thomas Broaders whose powers worked. He later became Parish Priest of the parishes of the Hook and Ramsgrange for almost 50 years. The building in which the legend is associated was leveled to the ground in 1870 and the present day mansion was erected. The mansion was successfully run as a country hotel by the Devereux family until the late 1980s.

Since the Quigley's acquired Loftus Hall Aidan admits that plenty of activity - explainable and unexplainable - is still occurring at Loftus Hall.

' There are certain rooms you cannot keep light bulbs in, certain places where electrical items just won't work and there's part of the ceiling where we can't patch a hole,' he said.

The guided tours of Loftus Hall are currently operating on Friday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The tour takes 40 minutes during which participants will be given a history of the area, the mansion and of course the legends of Loftus Hall with a twist at the end of the tour.

Admission costs €4 for adults, €3 for an OAP/student, €2 for a child aged over 5, under 5's are free and two adults and two children will cost €10. The coin operated barrier car park costs €2.