The High Court has ruled that public rights of way exist across the grounds of historic Lissadell House in Co Sligo after a court case lasting 58 days and costing up to €6m.

Barristers, Constance Cassidy and Edward Walsh who bought the estate in 2003, took proceedings against Sligo County Council seeking a declaration that four routes through the estate were not subject to any public rights of way.

However, Mr Justice Bryan McMahon ruled that there was evidence that members of the public had used the routes for generations, on foot, on cycles and in motor vehicles and that they had never been told to leave or told that the estate was private property.

He ruled that rights of way were available to the public across the estate during daylight hours.

And he urged the public to exercise their rights in a way sensitive to the rights of Ms Cassidy and Mr Walsh.

The couple bought the estate in 2003 for almost €4m and spent €9.5m restoring the house and the gardens.

However, they said they could not continue to operate it as a tourist amenity if rights of way existed.

This afternoon, they said the gates of the estate would be opened today but their dream for Lissadell House was over.

Edward Walsh said Lissadell was a wonderful place and they tried to do something useful but he said obviously, they had not succeeded.

From the point of view of maintenance, security and insurance he did not see how it could be done and he said hopefully the State would step in.

A spokesman for Sligo County Council said the council was very pleased with the outcome. He said the proceedings were not initiated by the Council and were very gratified by the very comprehensive result in their favour.

He said the Council hoped Lissadell would continue to play a very important part in the Sligo area and wished Mr Walsh and Ms Cassidy all the best.