A tennis court in the grounds of a 900-year-old castle in Co Meath has become an unlikely safe haven for three young otters.

The six-month-old pups have taken up residence in the disused court in the Dunsany Estate, less than an hour's drive from Dublin.

The initiative came about after Randal Plunkett, Lord Dunsany, offered a home for animals released from Ireland's first dedicated wildlife hospital in nearby Garlow Cross.

For several years, Mr Plunkett has been rewilding 750 acres of his 1,600-acre estate as a nature reserve.

As part of those efforts, he has allowed Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland staff to release several foxes, hedgehogs and birds of prey on his land.

The old tennis court was repurposed as a secure enclosure for the otters until they are ready to be released in the wild.

One of the 6-month-old pups to have taken up residence in the disused court in the Dunsany Estate

Mr Plunkett said: "Back in the day, the family used to play tennis. But I don't play tennis, so the court fell into disrepair. Our main goal here is not to waste anything - that includes space, old buildings, everything. The converted tennis court is fantastic because we took something that was broken and wasteful, and turned it into something useful.

"This partnership with the wildlife hospital is perfect. They are the frontline and I have a space here, an oasis, that needs residents. It means we can be like a conveyor belt for nature. They take in the animals at an early age, we bring them here and then we rewild them."

Randal Plunkett is rewilding 750 acres of his 1600-acre estate as a nature reserve

WRI volunteers worked with the 7th Meath Scout group to prepare the enclosure for the otters.

Aoife McPartlin from WRI said: "We couldn't have asked for a better neighbour. It's absolutely incredible to have 750 acres of wild estate here for the animals to move into.

"The court was already disused and nicely overgrown, which was great. But we have had try to recreate an otter's environment within that space. We have built an artificial holt, using dog kennels and tunnels. We have a bath which is full of moss and seaweed. And we have lots of pools which we will put fish in, so they can learn to feed.

"It's a really lovely environment for the otters and I think they will be very happy here until they are ready to leave, at 12 months old next March."

The Dunsany Estate is a member of the Rewilding Europe Network

The Dunsany Estate is a member of the Rewilding Europe Network, a group which brings together 73 rewilding initiatives across 27 countries with the aim of making Europe "a wilder place, with more space for wild nature, wildlife and natural processes".

Mr Plunkett said: "While I feel Irish people have been fantastic with our language and history, we haven't been great with our wildlife or environment.

"But I don't believe in blaming. I believe in fixing. And I wasn't going to wait for a government or a consensus to do it."