Russborough House is a magnificent stately home situated in County Wicklow, Ireland. It is one of those places that I have heard a lot about and even driven past many times, but had never visited.
“Russborough is a stunning Palladian mansion overlooking some of the most impressive views in Ireland. Designed in 1741 by Richard Cassels, it took 10 years to build what has been described as “one of the most beautiful houses in Ireland”. (Bruce Arnold, The Irish Times, 1997) With the Wicklow mountains and Blessington lakes just a stone’s throw away the setting is idyllic.
Sir Alfred and Lady Beit bought Russborough in 1952 to house their impressive art collection. They left this historic mansion, its collections and their fascinating life story to the Irish public in 1978.”
We had been planning to go back to Powerscourt Estate without the dogs, so we could tour the house and gardens. I was googling the opening times and one of the hits that came up was Russborough House, which is closer than Powerscourt and has the added bonus of a hedge maze! Being the big kids that we are, the hedge maze was the clincher!
Unfortunately, photography wasn’t permitted inside the house, so you will have to make do with a bunch of shots of us in the hedge maze ‘acting the maggot’ (which is irish slang for messing around!).
Recently, we went for a drive in the Wicklow Mountains and ended up at Powerscourt Waterfall. It is Ireland’s tallest waterfall at a height of 121m.
The waterfall and surrounding lands are part of a large country estate called Powerscourt. There is a large country house and extensive landscaped gardens. We had the Lads with us so unfortunately we couldn’t visit the house and gardens. We will have to go back and see those another time!
We had a very enjoyable afternoon walking with the Lads through this magnificent glacial valley. The waterfall itself was breathtaking and is so much taller than it appears in the photograph. The Lads got into the river at the bottom of the fall and had a paddle. Jimmy actually properly swam for the first time, though I don’t think he was as impressed by his feat as we were!
Should you ever find yourself driving in the Wicklow Mountains, I would thouroughly recommend that you pay a visit to Powerscourt!
Blessington Street Basin is a secret garden right in the heart of Dublin City. Despite having been born and raised in the city, I did not discover this hidden gem until we rented a house in the area.
This park is unusual as it is almost entirely made of water! There is a path around the basin dotted with benches and lined with beautiful raised flower beds. It was renovated throughout 93/94, and officially opened to the public in November 1994.
There is a man-made island in the centre of the reservoir, and this has become an unofficial bird sanctuary. In the summer months, you may be greeted with the peculiar sight of large hay bales floating in the water. According to the park warden, they prevent the water from stagnating and keep the environment fresh and clean for the wildlife.
The basin has had a diverse history. It was built in 1803 and served as a reservoir for the city of Dublin. When the Vartry Reservoir system was completed in the 1860’s, the water from the Blessington Street Basin was no longer needed for the city. Instead, the water was used to supply the distilleries of Jameson and Powers.
Blessington Basin is an oasis of calm in the centre of a bustling metropolitan city. It is situated just ten minutes walk from the Spire of Dublin. It connects to the Royal Canal Linear Park, which in turn connects to walkway along the Grand Canal. While in the area, you could also visit St Michan’s Church (which is famous for it’s mummies) and King’s Inn.
View the rest of the “A Tourist in my Own City” series:
St Michan’s Church was founded in 1095 by Dutch colonists. For 500 years, it was the only parish in Dublin that was north of the River Liffey. The present building dates from around 1685 and was designed by Sir William Robinson (Ireland’s Surveyor General 1670-1700).
Inside the church is a magnificent organ dating from 1724. It is one of the oldest working organs in Ireland. It is also believed to have been the organ that Handel used whilst he was composing his ‘Messiah’.
The most interesting feature of St Michan’s Church lies beneath the ground in the crypt. The vaults are accessed by narrow stone stairway. These stairways are steep and there are no handrails, so unfortunately the tour is not suitable for people with limited mobility. The vault tunnels are lined with limestone and mortar. There are large rooms off the tunnels that contain the coffins of many of Ireland’s historical figures. These coffins are stacked on top of each other, and over time a number of the coffins have burst open to reveal that the bodies inside have been naturally mummified!
Experts are unsure as to what exactly caused the bodies in these particular vaults to mummify. Our tour guide explained that it was likely to be a combination of a number of factors:
high concentration of lime
high methane levels
the vaults lie low and are near to the bed of the River Liffey
There are a number of mummies on display including a 400 year-old nun, a reformed thief and ‘The Crusader’ – a giant of a man whose legs had to be broken in order to fit him in to the coffin. Legend has it, that “shaking the hand of The Crusader” will bring you good fortune and luck. I have done this tour a number of times and only recently finally plucked up the courage to shake his hand. It was a very macabre experience as The Crusader’s spine and internal organs are partially visible. The hand itself felt wooden and was dry and dusty. I can’t say that I noticed any change in my fortunes, but I am glad that I had the courage to do it!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, so these photos are not my own.
View the rest of the “A Tourist in my Own City” series:
I’m a bit behind on my blog posts, so only getting to the Paddy’s Day photos now. Still, better late than never!
We are lucky to live very close to the staging area for some of the acts taking part in the parade. It was such a lovely morning here on the 17th, that I thought I would head down to watch the performers setting up.
I brought Pogo with me as he is very friendly and really loves meeting people. He dressed up in an orange jumper and a green shamrock necklace. I have heard that in some countries it is considered bad luck to wear orange on Paddy’s Day. Here in Ireland, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear orange as it is one of the colours of our country’s flag.
People have often asked me what Paddy’s Day is like in Ireland, and I guess the only thing I can think of to compare it to would be Mardi Gras. There are such festivities all around the country and these last for two or three days.
The staging area near us took up three roads and that was only a small amount of the acts due to be performing in the parade. Pogo made so many new friends and I was lucky to be able to get some really good photos.