Even those who could not afford a fully Gothic castle would add ad hoc Gothic embellishments – battlements, Gothic stables, crenellated farmyards, even, in one superb case of Gothic envy a gateway so splendid and expensive, that there was no money left for the main house.
This folly par excellence can be found today in Ballysaggartmore, where Arthur Keily’s wife, consumed by envy of her brother-in-law’s sham-Gothic castle Strancally, was driven to embark on this unfortunate building programme. The Keilys lived in their unremarkable house till their death, driving every day past their magnificent gate and lodge.
Another wonderful folly is the Jealous Wall (1760), built by the Earl of Belfield on his estate close to Belvedere House (1740). This sham Gothic ruin was built to blot out the adjacent estate of a brother whom he had quarrelled with. The Earl was regarded as one of the most Gothic of characters in the 18th century for imprisoning his wife in Belvedere House for 21 years following her adultery with another brother (which probably explains his subsequent distaste for his siblings and the building of the Jealous Wall). Here the Great House is not merely the setting for fictional Gothic, but for real-life Gothic.
Swiss Cottage is not strictly speaking a folly, but a relatively small house in the ground of Cahir Castle, Co. Tipperary. Built in 1810 by the Prince Regent’s architect John Nash for the wildly fashionable Lord and Lady Cahir, this is essentially a cottage ornée, built for pleasure, rather like those found in the fairytale village at the Palace of Versailles constructed between 1783 and1784to allow Marie Antoinette to play at shepherdess. Like the cluster of cottages at the Petit Trianon, Swiss Cottage allows for a politicized reading, all the more so because it utilizes the humble form of the peasant cottage, a vernacular architectural form in Ireland, and ‘magicks away’ all the discomforts and hardships traditionally associated with it. Despite the tiny size, it has two separate staircases, one for guests, one for servants, displaying a commitment to preserving the fairytale structure. Swiss Cottage exists as an unreal bubble of architecture, a fake cottage in a landscape peppered with real versions.