No Room at the Inn


Seen from a towpath on the opposite side of the Grand Canal, the old hotel at Robertstown, County Kildare retains its charm. Originally opened in 1801, this hostelry attracted so much business that within three years it had to be extended. But with the advent of railways came a decline in canal business and by 1869 the Royal Irish Constabulary had been granted a lease on the premises. In the last century the building was used for various purposes; from the mid-1960s onwards it was the centrepiece of an annual summer festival in which the Irish Georgian Society became involved. Famously on one occasion a demonstration was given by Desmond Leslie of water-skiing on the canal. What made his activity distinctive was that Leslie was pulled by a horse being ridden at speed along the bank. Now the hotel is empty and falling into dereliction (all window openings are filled with painted boards). A five-year old planning application attached to the main door proposes a four-storey, 44-bedroom extension and sundry other changes but that option now seems unlikely. Although listed as a protected structure, the future does not look good for this important vestige of Irish transport history.


9 comments on “No Room at the Inn

  1. I love this building, only about a mile from my parent’s house. Its a tragedy that its still lying unused, I remember in the 80s/early 90s they used to open it up for book/charity sales. Robertstown in general has such a strange vibe to it, the place must have looked amazing during the early 1800s, the decline of the canals really affected these little villages. I still recall being amazed by some ‘John loves Margaret’ graffiti carved into an old Oak tree beside the building, it was dated 1927 🙂

    • It is especially unfortunate when one realises how recently this building was still in use, and also how relatively close it is to Dublin. And since it dwarfs every other structure in Robertstown, the dereliction is even more striking.

  2. Kelly says:

    How sad. It has such a dignified charm.

  3. Lisa says:

    I live about 1.5km down the canal from the hotel and share the sadness at its slow decline. Mass used to be held in the building in the 80s. It was also used for filming a dancehall scene for an Irish language short film for the opening night of TnaG in 1996. (It was called Draoicht, and starred Gabriel Byrne.

    I was an extra, and my hair was styled in a high beehive. I was irrationally terrified of one of the many bats that lived in the hotel becoming entangled in my new do!
    There were also dark rumours of the devil having appeared in the hotel at some stage in its history, and this was partially blamed for the hotel’s eventual fortunes.

  4. Joe says:

    I am glad to see that the state of the hotel is a concern to other people I think it is a very sad sight to see how it is being allowed to fall to wreck and ruin.It is such a beautiful building and I feel the people of Robertstown need to come together and try find a solution to this situation,it should not be allowed to deteriorate any more than it is.It is an iconic building in a small village,Thank you for high lighting this issue.

  5. Hoof Hearted says:

    Mr O’Byrne, you brought a smile to my face visualizing Desmond. For those who did not witness it the mind tends to boggle at the practicality of such an activity, but I recall him undertaking something similar- not entirely successfully, at Glaslough.

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