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.
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
The name Glendalough means ‘the valley of the two lakes’ but this is an understatement for the beauty of the place. The Valley is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park and I’m quite surprised to discover that it is only on the ‘Tentative List’ of early medieval Irish monastic sites for UNESCO World Heritage status. It’s home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland: the early Christian monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century.
When planning my trip to Ireland in May I checked the Library Catalogue to see what was available and found this :
I was quite amazed at the amount, variety and quality of ancient monuments to be found, and visited, all over Ireland.
Newgrange from the approach lane
In order of age the earliest site that I visited, and featuring also at the beginning of the first chapter ‘Ireland Before History: The Stone Age’ is Knowth which, along with its, probably better known, neighbour, Newgrange, is “one of three great burial mounds erected in the ‘sacred landscape’ of the Lower Boyne Valley in Co. Meath.” The two passage-tombs under the great tumulus were probably erected before 2500BC. Around the main mound are several recently reconstructed ‘satellite’ tombs.
Knowth Main Mound
One of the Passage Tombs
I didn’t have time to visit both mounds as I was travelling between Co. Kildare and Co. Fermanagh but I did manage Knowth and will definitely return to see Newgrange, especially now that I know how the system for visiting works! My Heritage Ireland Card gave me free admittance to the site.
“Please note this is a very busy site and it is important to be at the Centre early in the day to ensure a visit to the monuments, as places on the tours are limited each day. There is no direct access to either Newgrange or Knowth. All access is through the Visitor Centre and by guided tour only.”
I had arrived across country and found the approach lanes surprisingly quiet but on arrival in the crowded car park and on joining the queues at the Visitor Centre I discovered that most people and all coaches arrive via the nearby Motorway. There’s plenty to see in the Centre and then time to catch the timed minibus to Knowth where you get a very full guided tour inside and outside the tumulus.
We were able to enter the tomb and to climb to the top for a wonderful view towards Newgrange and also The Hill of Tara the ‘most historic place in all Ireland, having played an important mythical and symbolic role in the country from the Stone Age to the 19th century, including the nominal centre of the ‘High Kingship’ of Ireland.’
The Surface on the Top of Knowth
Newgrange from Knowth
It’s quite amazing that the carved stones around the base of the mound have been preserved across the centuries.
Just one example of the stone carvings!
Quartz from the Wicklow Mountains and Granite from the Mountains of Mourne
I will definitely visit again and get to Newgrange and maybe also the site of the Hill Tara which seems to be very little visited.
One Irish word I came to recognize on my recent trip, although I don’t know how it’s pronounced, was Leabharlann. Needless to say, it means Library.
Colclough Room, former Tintern Abbey Library
And the first Library I came across was no longer in use as such. It was the library at Tintern Abbey. Since restoration this room is now known as the Colclough Room and is used as a gallery to tell the stories of the families who lived here.
To my mind the best place to pick up wifi is at a Public Library and I made a couple of visits to Lismore Public Library and Dungarvan Library on some of the wetter days that I spent at Salterbridge Gatelodge.
Lismore Public Library
On my day out in Cork I popped into the Cork Public Library. There was an interesting display in the foyer : The Best Banned in the Land featuring books banned by the Catholic church in Ireland.
The Cork Library Register of Banned Books
Best Banned Books
Many of the authors were Irish and often the Library had bought copies which were later removed from shelves and returned to booksellers for credit. The exhibition focussed on those Irish authors. The list of “Our Nasty Novelists” included George Bernard Shaw, Edna O’Brien, James Joyce, M J O’Farrell (Molly Keane), and I recognised ‘Persephone’ author Norah Hoult (Persephone Book 59 “There were no windows”)
Norah Hoult – Banned
Edna O’Brien – Banned
Later, on a Walking Tour in Cork, I spotted a new use for an old library
Established over 200 years ago and abandoned after Lucey Marie left Tintern Colclough (pronounced Coke-lee) Walled Garden has undergone a transformation in the past 4 or so years. The original layout has been reinstated using an Ordnance Survey Of Ireland historical map dated 1838. The map showed path structure, bridges, location of vegetable garden and fruit trees. It finally reopened in 2012.
At Tintern Abbey I joined Heritage Ireland and the card admitted me also to the Walled Garden.
The approach from the Abbey is through the former village of Tintern and along a woodland path with a strong smell of garlic and fading bluebells.
The Edge of the Ornamental Garden
The Kitchen Garden
The garden is divided into an Ornamental Garden and a Kitchen Garden.
Rhubarb seems to a popular vegetable for May. The south-facing sheltered garden also supports Mediterranean fruits and efforts are made to garden as ecologically and organically as possible.
Oranges and Lemons
Returning to the Abbey and Car park I followed the longer route over the Battlemented Abbey Bridge and past the ruined church and burial ground.
Ruined Church and Graveyard
Arriving at Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey has been beautifully preserved and restored by Heritage Ireland (Office of Public Works) using only the best quality materials and workmanship.
Tintern Abbey today
The restored abbey
In AD1200 William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke and Earl of Leinster, was threatened with shipwreck off the south coast of Ireland and vowed to found an abbey whenever he should safely land. On reaching safety in Bannow Bay he redeemed his vow and granted 3,500 hectares of land for the foundation of a Cistercian Abbey – hence the name ‘Tintern de Voto’ – Tintern of the Vow. Once established, Tintern was colonized by monks from Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire, Wales.
The 19th century house in the nave
The 19th century house in poor condition was largely removed. The clearing out of the Library above the Lady Chapel was one of the initial steps in the conservation works. Removal of vegetation and the repair of the library roof were the next steps. Most recently the window of the Library (also known as The Colclough (pronounced Coke-lee) Room) has been restored. Much of the timber was salvaged in the repair. Most of the glass has been broken but some has been retained.
Conserving the window of the Colclough Room
The Colclough Room tells the story of Tintern Abbey from after The Dissolution of The Monasteries in 1536 up to 1959 when Lucey Marie Colclough left the property and it passed into state care.
Lucey Colclough (and trusting dog!)
Soon after the Dissolution the lands were passed to one Anthony Colclough from Staffordshire. He had two wives, the first was Protestant and together they had 12 children and the second was Roman Catholic and presented him with a further four children. With a mixed religious ancestry the family was saved from the worst of the atrocities which befell other Anglo-Irish families throughout the coming centuries.
Read About The Rake :