Last year, in May, I volunteered at The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest. I had a great time and would have been happy to do it again this year but the dates didn’t fit in with my schedule. When I arrived home last year I found on the door mat a Thank you from Ballymaloe along with a ‘voucher’ to enjoy a day at the school to include a garden visit, lunch and a cookery demonstration. I realised that I could make this fit into my plans and booked for Thursday 9 June. Upon arrival I was given a badge and garden plan and after a cup of tea had a wander around the fascinating grounds surrounding the Cookery School.
Just before my Ireland trip I read the book “Gardens of a Golden Afternoon : The Story of a Partnership, Edwin Lutyens & Gertrude Jekyll; by Jane Brown. Amongst all the house and garden descriptions od collaborations was one combination in Ireland which I knew to be very near my route through Co. Laois. The house no longer exists but Heywood Gardens survived and at the time of Jane writing was under the care of the Salesian Fathers’ Missionary College. Today the Office Public Works maintains the gardens which are now in the grounds of a school.
Earlier this year I read and enjoyed Thomas Pakenham’s ‘The Company of Trees’. Thomas Pakenham wrote the book as a form of diary for the year 2013 mainly about his interest in conserving trees on his estate at Tullynally Castle in Ireland and collecting seeds for further propagation from distant areas in in the world. During that year he travelled to Tibet and China and the Andes. He peppered the diary with other information about the gardens/arboretum at Tullynally and much more personal information besides. In this was it differed from his previous tree books – Meetings with Remarkable Trees; Remarkable Trees of the World; In search of Remarkable Trees; The Remarkable Baobab.
Last September when I met up with my online book group friend sherry in Marion, Massachusetts she presented me with a copy of Elizabeth Bowen‘s ‘The Shelbourne Hotel : an enchanting account […] of the hotel that for more than a century has been at the heart of Irish life’. Tucked inside the book was this postcard (no date, but probably early 20th century) :
On our last day together in Ireland Monique and I were staying at Howth Harbour overlooking Dublin Bay. We had decided to take a walk round the Head following the Bog of Frogs Loop and Purple Arrows. Here is adapted the website description interspersed with my own photos. And here is a map of the route taken. Continue reading
Last year on my final day in southern Ireland I travelled up to County Fermanagh in the north via Bru na Boinne or Newgrange the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in Co. Meath. I approached the site from the west and toddled a long a very quiet road, turned into the car park and was stunned to find it full of cars and coaches. Apparently from the other direction traffic comes directly from the M1 Dublin-Belfast motorway.
The ancient ecclesiastical site of Clonmacnoise, located south of a beautiful bend in the River Shannon in Co. Offaly, is one of the most popular in Ireland. Consequently, a visit on Sunday afternoon proved fairly busy and we only just managed to find a parking space. However, 4pm was a good time to arrive as the crowds were beginning to leave.
River Shannon Below Clonmacnoise
Last year I wrote about the Gate Lodges of Ulster and selected a few that I had come across during my brief, but very enjoyable, stay in the Six Counties. I was due to stay in a further Gate Lodge in Northern Ireland this year but a last minute call from the Irish Landmark Office lead to a change of accommodation, and even country.
It seems this year that my trip to Ireland could be divided into two ‘themes’. We visited several ancient sites and also many gardens.
Approaching Cairn T
Two recent trips followed hot on the heels of each other. I seem to have made several forays into our Celtic fringe so far this year. Two visits to Wales – The Gower and the Ffestiniog Railway and now a couple of weeks in Ireland – North and South – and my second visit to Scotland – Walking The Scottish Borders. I mentioned my forthcoming visit to Ireland last month and referred to the fact that I was opening up My Irish Times again.