Celtic Journeys and Antrim Castle Gardens

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.

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Dam Flask Reservoir Circular Walk

Dam Flask Map

After two days of ridge walks and including the climbs up to them it was very pleasant to take things more gently on the Sunday of our Sheffield stay. After a lazy morning and lunch out on the terrace of the Rivelin Park Cafe we drove over to Dam Flask Reservoir, parked on the Dam and headed in a clockwise direction to Low Bradfield.

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In the Steps of the Saints : A Trail of Gower Churches

On a previous visit to South Wales I picked up an older edition of this leaflet. My original copy has no date and listed only 15 churches. The new leaflet now includes 17 the additional 2 being Wernffrwd, St David’s and Penclawdd, St Gwynour. Both in north Gower and neither of which we visited. Quotations, in italics, are taken from my Churches Trail leaflet.

Gower Church Trail

 

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Pugin’s Staffordshire Gems

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812 – 1852) was a prolific architect of the Victorian age. In fact he burned himself out through over work and died at the age of 41 having designed not only the exteriors but also the furnishings and fittings of  countless churches not only in England, but also in Ireland and Australia. He converted to Catholicism and most of his ornate designs are for Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals. There is a long list of his architectural achievements at the end of his Wikipedia entry here. He is most notably connected with the building of the present Palace of Westminster. Continue reading

Ancient Ireland [3] : Lismore

Other features of ancient Ireland are the stones – carvings and standing. We saw the carvings on the stones at Knowth but there are more carved stones scattered across the countryside. Or … maybe not scattered at all but strategically or symbolically placed monuments. There are wells dedicated to saints. There are ancient churches, cathedrals, monasteries and abbeys – the earliest religious foundations.

Some of these ancient sites I came across on my walks.

Lady Louisa’s Walk, Lismore

LL Walk Lismore

[Following description is from here.]

Lady Louisa’s walk is a gentle and picturesque walk which takes you, for the most part, on a woodland walk along the river bank. Continue reading

Wentworth Castle Gardens Revisited

In June 2013 I wrote about my visit to Wentworth Castle Gardens mentioning that I hoped to return to inspect the completed restoration of the Victorian Glasshouse. Yesterday, at last, I managed to get back there and noticed that the trust, the employees, contractors and volunteers had made many further improvements and additions.

Glasshouse

The Fully Restored Victorian Glasshouse

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Libraries Big and Libraries Small [3]

Dublin is a City of Words, a UNESCO City of Literature and a city with some great libraries. On my visits in May I managed to get to two of these. I’m looking forward to future trips when I may visit other literary locations across the city.

Most highly recommended to me was The Chester Beatty Library right in the centre of the city and within the walls of the grounds of Dublin Castle itself.

Dublin Castle 1

Dublin Castle

“For over 800 years Dublin Castle has been at the heart of Irish history. From the founding of the first Celtic settlement in the 1st century A.D. to every Presidential inauguration since the foundation of the state, the site has stood witness to some of the most pivotal events in the country’s history.” So it’s interesting enough just walking through the Castle precincts.

about the cbl

Chester Beatty (1875-1968) was an American mining engineer. He had been an avid collector since childhood – stamps, Chinese snuff bottles, rocks and minerals. During the first decades of the 20th century Beatty moved to Europe and began to collect European and Persian manuscripts and decorated copies of the Qur’an. He took an interest in Japan, the Orient and Egypt. He actually bought a house near the Pyramids.

CB library

He later bought modern editions but had very conservative taste. He preferred books where the text and image formed pleasing compositions. Such as here a Gregynog Press issue of The Fables of Esope, 1931.

content-art-the-fables-of-esope-227x292

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No photography allowed but I found the above pictures here

He loved books for their own sake as opposed to having a love for literature. He was attracted to decorated books/illustrations/iluminations and fine bindings. He didn’t like modern art and avant garde book designers, illustrators and binders are not represented in his collection. His mantra was “quality, quality, quality”. He was probably the last of the great book collectors after J. Pierpoint Morgan and Henry E. Huntington. Beatty also appreciated the 18th and 19th century print cabinets essential to the gentleman’s library.

In 1950 Chester Beatty decided to move to Ireland and he built a library for his art collection on Shrewsbury Road which opened in 1954. Upon his death, the collection was bequeathed to a trust for the benefit of the public and his priceless collection lives on as a celebration of the spirit and generosity of Chester Beatty.

I enjoyed studying the short videos demonstrating print techniques : woodcuts, engraving, etching, lithography and chromolithography. And a trust fund allows the Library to continue buying works today which complement the original collection. It was during my visit to The Chester Beatty Library that I realised that I’m really much more interested in printed books and printing methods than in the beautiful and exquisite manuscripts.

Charles Beatty summed up his life “It has all been a great adventure”.

Dublin Castle 2

The Castle Grounds and Grass Maze

Moving on from the Chester Beatty Library I headed back through the Castle precincts and after a quick lunch in the lovely Avoca store found my way to The National Library of Ireland. A friend, and fellow member of the Leeds Library, recommended to me after a recent visit “YEATS: the life and works of William Butler Yeats” [1865-1939]. It’s an almost permanent exhibition (ongoing since 2006) but it is particularly relevant this year as 2015 is the 150th anniversary of Yeats’s birth.

Yeats

The National Library of Ireland’s collection of Yeats manuscripts is the largest collection of Yeats material in a single institution anywhere in the world. This collection is at the heart of the exhibition which you can visit for yourselves here.

I was particularly interested to discover more about the life of Ireland’s national poet. He came from a family of artists and creatives. He played a huge role in the establishment of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin which he founded along with Lady Augusta Gregory in 1904 with the main aim of promoting Irish writers and artists which is still incorporated in its charter today. He had a great interest in the occult and Celtic mysticism. Many of his poems are about places in Ireland, and elsewhere.

places 1 places 2 places 3

By coincidence during my trip in May HRH The Prince of Wales and his wife The Duchess of Cornwall also visited Ireland and planted a tree at the grave of William Butler Yeats at Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo.

RTE picture of Charles and Camilla

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