Massy's Wood

Massy’s Wood lies within the shadow of Montpelier Hill and is a treasure-trove of natural and built heritage. This area was originally named Killakee, derived from the Irish Coill an Chaoich, meaning the ‘wood of the blind man’. The name Massy’s Wood comes from the Massy Family who owned the estate and lived in Killakee House in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.


Killakee House was built in 1806 by Luke White following his purchase of lands in the area from the Conolly family. He was a wealthy, self-made man who made his fortune as a bookseller and financier. It was rumoured that he won £20,000 in a lottery draw. White served as High Sheriff of Dublin and as a Member of Parliament for Leitrim and also owned Luttrellstown Castle in west Dublin. The splendid Killakee House with its 36 rooms befitted one of the wealthiest businessmen of the time.


His son Colonel Samuel White developed the surrounding 2,900 acre estate to match the lavish building and commissioned Sir Ninian Niven, curator of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, to oversee the work. The work consisted of a terraced lawn with a large fountain in front of the house and walled gardens with curved conservatories on the opposite bank of the Owendoher River. The gardens were adorned with statues and fountains. Upstream there was an icehouse to preserve food and a sawmill. You can still see many of these features along the trails that meander through the wood.


The estate passed to John Thomas Massy, the 6th Baron Massy and a nephew of Colonel White, in 1880. It became known for lavish parties and hunting expeditions when lines of carriages from Dublin were parked on the avenue and an army of servants were employed. Sadly the estate fell into a neglected state as a result of the extravagant lifestyle the 6th Baron, who accumulated significant debts. Killakee House was repossessed by the banks in 1924 and when a buyer could not be found, the house was eventually demolished in the early 1940s.  

Ice House


There is significant natural heritage in Massy’s Wood with a wide variety of trees, including several imported and rare species. These date from the development of the gardens in the nineteenth century and the further addition of forestry in the 1930s and 1940s, when management of the woods passed to the Irish Forestry Service, the precursor to Coillte.  The Director of Forestry in Ireland, a German named Otto Reinard, played a key role in laying out the woods in the 1930s. Among the more unusual trees are the Giant Sequoia, the Coastal Redwood and Monkey Puzzle, while native species of oak, birch, yew and ash can also be admired.


There is a much older story to be discovered, as a wedge tomb is hidden away within the woods. It dates from the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic period, between 2,500 and 2,000 BC. Wedge tombs are so called due to their shape and consist of a long burial gallery which is wider and higher at the front. The tomb would have been covered with capstones and a cairn of smaller stones, though these features no longer survive here. The tomb is one of three of this kind in close proximity within the Dublin Mountains, which contains some of the finest examples of this monument type in Ireland. There are similar tombs at Kilmashogue 3km to the north-east and Ballyedmonduff 6km to the south-east. 

Wedge Tomb


The Military Road runs along the present day R115 road between Montpelier Hill and Massy’s Wood. It was constructed in the first decade of the nineteenth century and extends from Rathfarnham in Dublin to Aughavannagh in the Wicklow Mountains. The road was built in the aftermath of the 1798 Rebellion of the United Irishmen. Remnants of the defeated rebel forces were hiding out in the mountains and the British military thought it necessary to improve access to these remote areas so that future trouble could be contained. The work was carried out under the supervision of Captain Alexander Taylor of the Royal Irish Engineers and was completed in 1809.


In its earliest incarnation, a section of the Military Road passed through what is now Massy’s Wood and was marked as such on Duncan’s map of 1821. The northernmost pathway through Massy’s Wood which runs east from the entrance in the direction of Rockbrook was once part of the Military Road. Sections of the original cobbled road surface can still be discerned in places along this forest path.

Link to Massy's Estate Recreation Site details and map.

Text and Photos: Abarta Heritage



Useful Resources

National Monuments Service

NMS Historic Environment Viewer

South Dublin Libraries Local Studies Resources

South Dublin Historical Mapping

South Dublin County History

South Dublin Libraries SOURCE  - a digital archive of local studies material relating to South Dublin County


[last updated: 24.07.20]

Archaeology Sites in the Dublin Mountains

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