Dublin is a vibrant place. We were told 50 percent of the people are under age 30. As we were there just for a short time on our second visit (See September 2011), we hired a bit older than 30 but still vibrant Jim Swan of Roundtree Chauffeur Service. Jim escorted us on that 2011 drive around Ireland. Without him, we never would have found Alie’s and her sister’s family tombstones and farm and would have had more trouble finding a school classmate. His hard work and friendly approach made the trip a pleasure. We came to think of him as a friend as much as a driver, so we were pleased to see him again for our one day stay. three years to the day after we left the last time.
Everyone we met in Belfast had commented on the unusually dry and warm weather they had in September. The emerald isle is green; it is green because it is wet. Dublin was wet and cool, even cold.
We went to a coffee shop for tea and pastry with Jim and his wife Louise who was able to get away from work for a little bit.
Then, as we had seen most of the main Dublin tourist attractions on our previous trip, Jim suggested we visit Malahide Castle.
Malahide was the seat of the Talbot family for nearly eight hundred years. No other Irish castle was occupied by a family longer.
The Vikings settled in the harbor near Malahide in 795 AD. Lord Richard Talbot de Malahide was given the land in the area by Henry II of England in 1174 and built a wooden fortress there. Nothing remains of that structure which was torn down when the central tower of the current building was built about a mile away in the 15th Century.
The family was given a “patent” in 1473 to collect duties on goods coming into the harbor which gave them a good income along with the land and village they owned by this time. A growing family with growing wealth, they just kept adding additions to the old home. For instance, the original 15th
century “Oak Room” paneled in old oak was very dark and dingy getting its light through defensive slits in the castle wall. So they added an extension with a big window. Now on a cloudy day it is just dark.
When Cromwell took control of England, he turned the property over to Miles Corbet, his Chief Barron of Ireland. After the restoration about ten years later, Charles II restored the property to the Talbots. Lady Catherine, resident at the time, had the fortifications pulled down and the property made into a “family home” that wouldn’t be attractive in the future to “foreign invaders.”
They kept adding wings from 1760 to 1830. More recently, Lord Milo Talbot, a botanist, worked hard to restore and improve the landscaping of the 268 acre property including a large walled garden. When Milo
died, the estate descended to his sister Rose. Rose was unable to afford the estate taxes and gave the property to the state in 1975. She retired to the family farms in Tasmania when she lived into her 90s.
A damp fall day was not the best time to see the gardens and woodland trails, but we enjoyed a quick walk around. Outside a Victorian greenhouse is one of Milo’s more obvious improvement, a parterre, plantings that form a pattern. Milo planned it to mimic the paneling in the Oak Room.
Our imagination, however, was caught by the Bell Tower, an old stone tower once thought to be an ancient fortification. More recently, however, it was determined to be a folly, a structure built to
mimic a ruin. It was built to be pigeon coop next to the chicken yard and is only three hundred years old.
We finished our day with a drive out a peninsula north of Dublin to the village of Howth. Jim, somewhat apologetically, pointed out places where the view was better in good weather. He also showed us a pretty little harbor filled with what he called “DGA boats.” Since the downturn in the economy, they “don’t go anywhere.” Fortunately, there are signs of renewed economic growth. Perhaps you will have better weather when you visit – and perhaps there will be GS boats going somewhere.
For more about Dublin, go to September 2011 in the Archives and scroll down to “Really Old Books” and to “Dublin.”