Rain showers seem to come and go as we wander through the countryside.
We stopped at Belvedere, the 1740 hunting lodge of “wicked Lord” Rochefort and probably would have spent much more time there had it not been so overcast with occasional showers. Although said to be “charming,” the builder kept his young wife imprisoned for 31 years on a “spurious charge” of adultery. On being set free, her first words were “the evil tyrant is dead.”
He had “two heirs and a spare,” but for the most part, the property passed with little change down the centuries through various cousins. We enjoyed reading about the heirs almost as much as seeing the property.
While the exterior of Belvedere is pretty much of a gray block, the interiors are wonderful. Both the dining room and sitting room are large and filled with light from bow windows on the ends and large windows facing a lake to the front — amazing for a 1740 building. There are elaborate ceilings and a beautiful curved staircase. We also enjoyed the walled gardens created by the second (or was it the third?) Lord including a fun “fairy garden.” He was in constant pursuit of wealthy widows, but never married.
St. Féichín founded a monastery at Fore in 630 where we huddled in the lea of a 10th century ruined wall during a blowing storm. Above is a slightly newer church used until recently. Across the road is a Benedictine Priory started in 1200. At its peak, it held 300 monks and 2000 students.
Seven miracles are attributed to the saint. Jim, our very good guide, said he had asked many farmers but could not identify the black and white cows in the field. Known to some as “panda cows” or “oreo cows,” Alie had seen them before, and through the miracle of Google, we discovered they are rare “Belted Galloway Cows” from southwest Scotland, raised for their marbled beef.
The sun was out in the afternoon as we walked through the market town of Mullingar. Once again, the pub menu was truly international and very good. And unlike the U.S., the town was filled with dozens of small interesting shops — and of course, a cathedral. Every tour needs a church.
REMEMBER: Click on photos to enlarge.