Dublin street art

While on my recent days out in Dublin I came across many different variations of street art, most of them in the Temple Bar area, so join me on my Monday walk this week as I wander the streets, lanes and alleyways on the south side of the River Liffey. Most of the artwork is unfortunately ‘artist unknown’ although the names of some artists are underneath the relevant photos – mouse over or click on the multi-shots for names and/or locations.
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The Tara building, Tara street, Artist – Maser
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Temple Bar Laundry, Aston Quay/Aston Place
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The Icon Factory art gallery/cafe, Aston Place
The Icon Walk is a public art installation showcasing original work by local artists and featuring many Irish icons both past and present ; it’s also a way of brightening up the forgotten lanes and alleyways behind Fleet Street and discouraging senseless graffiti and the discarding of rubbish. Although I wasn’t really interested in photographing the faces of various Irish people, most of whom I’ve never heard of, I did like the multi-coloured murals along one side of Bedford Lane.
At the end of Bedford Lane was an artistic tribute to the famous greyhound from the 19th century, Master McGrath (pronounced Magraa). The smallest of a litter of seven born in 1866 and trained by a well-known Waterford trainer of greyhounds for coursing he performed so badly at his first trial that his trainer ordered for him to be given away. His handler took him on and he went on to win several courses, after which he was given back to his trainer. Master McGrath was the first greyhound to win the Waterloo Cup three times and he became such a celebrity that his owner, the 2nd Baron Lurgan, was asked to take him to meet Queen Victoria and the Royal Family.
Master McGrath’s success was so great that Lord Lurgan was able to build a terrace of houses in Walthamstow, London, with the proceeds from his wins ; the houses still stand, forming part of Shernhall Street, though at one end they are still clearly marked as ‘Master McGrath Terrace’. The dog died of heart disease in early 1873 and an autopsy showed that his heart was twice the size of a normal dog’s heart ; he was buried in the grounds of a house called ‘Solitude’ in Lurgan.
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Bricked-up doorway, Bedford Row
The ESB Central Distributing Station is a large building which wraps around the corner of Fleet Street and Bedford Row. Built in 1926-28 for the Electricity Supply Board it houses an electricity substation and offices ; representative of the design used by the ESB in the early 20th century it’s one of the few buildings of that style in the city and is a significant contributor to the architectural character of the Temple Bar area. The modern artwork extends right along the front of the building but unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent photo of it as there were too many people around to spoil the shots so I had to be content with a side view.
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Side wall of ESB Central Distributing Station, Bedford Row
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Side wall of Auld Dubliner pub, Fleet Street
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Side wall of Japanese noodle bar, Asdill’s Row
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Artist group – Subset
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A pair of very bright shop doors
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Rear of Café Rubis, Crane Lane
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Above the Jam Art Factory, Crown Alley
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Shop front, Fownes Street, artist – KinMx
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Kennedy art shop, Harcourt Street
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Traffic light box, Tara Street
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Building site hoarding, City Quay, artist – Leah Hewson
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Irish Wolfhound, City Quay, artist – James Earley
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Shop front, George’s Quay, artist – Decoy
These are just some examples of Dublin’s street art, there are many more which either I couldn’t find at the time or I didn’t know about until I got home. One which I did find though provided me with so many photos I think it deserves a post of its own which will follow soon. An internet search since I got home has provided me with a map of four different street art walking routes in the city which take in many of the works by named artists, and though I may not have time to do all four walks in one day I fully intend to do at least two of them the next time I’m in Ireland.
I’m linking up this week with Jo’s Monday Walk where she shows us some of the delights of Sao Bras de Alportel in Portugal – do pop over and have a look if you haven’t already done so.

From Roscrea to home

Where I begin to lose the will to live and almost miss my flight…
The morning of my homeward journey arrived bright and sunny with a cloudless blue sky and after an early breakfast I went out to take a few last photos. Across the street from Laura’s house was a pretty corner with a couple of flowers beds and benches and from there I went round to the castle gardens. I’ve only ever been there in winter when any foliage has either been withered or non-existent so I rather hoped that there would still be some colour around the place this time ; there was some but not as much as I hoped as most of the flowers in the borders were already withered and dead, however I got a few photos then made my way back ‘home’ for a quick coffee before saying goodbye to Nellie and Trixie and setting off for the airport.
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A pretty street corner
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Roscrea castle
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The Roscrea street I call ‘home’
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The coach to the airport was at 10.15am and as going through Dublin’s security was an easier process than at Manchester I should have been in plenty of time for my flight at 2pm, but I hadn’t reckoned on the coach driver who seemed to be doing a good impersonation of a snail. Of course the coach was late arriving in Roscrea but I would still be at the airport in time, however even though most of the journey was on the motorway the driver was going much slower than he could have done. At first I wasn’t too worried but as time went on the journey began to get really tedious and I started to realise that I was in danger of missing my flight if this guy didn’t get a move on. I finally got to the airport at 1.20, over half an hour late, and it was a mad dash then to get to the Ryanair gate which was due to close ten minutes later.
With no queue at security I got through straight away but when I checked one of the screens for the gate number I saw the one thing I didn’t want to see – GATE CLOSED. There was nothing I could do except carry on and hope for the best and luckily the gate I needed was one of the nearer ones ; ironically I’d paid extra for priority boarding but when I got there everyone else had already boarded. Fortunately I was still allowed on and once I was settled in my seat I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief – I’d just about made it, but with no thanks at all to that snail of a bus driver.
My mad dash through the airport did produce quite a good photo though. One of the things featured in my ‘111 places’ book was the old airport terminal which can be seen from the ‘skybridge’ leading to and from the pier where most Ryanair planes arrive and depart. I’d noticed the building on previous occasions and thought how attractive it looked but never realised just what it was until I saw it featured in the book, so my dash along the ‘skybridge’ was paused very briefly to snap a quick photo through the glass.
Construction of the terminal was started in 1939 and completed in 1942, with the four-storey structure considered to be Ireland’s first modernist building. After experiencing very quiet years in the early 1940s flights and passenger numbers began to steadily increase over the years until the terminal could no longer cope with the demand, and after various expansions to the airport during the 1950s, 60s and 70s the old building finally became redundant for passenger use, although to this day it’s still used in various ways by airport staff.
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The original 1940s terminal building
My flight took off just a few minutes after 2pm and with clear weather all the way across the Irish sea I was able to get several shots from the plane window. Back at Manchester, and after the interminably long 10-minute walk to the airport station, Murphy’s Law decreed that I would have a 20-minute wait for a train; by the time it came the tedious coach journey earlier on had taken its toll and I just wanted to get home so I was quite relieved when I finally got to my own front door just before 5pm.
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Leaving Dublin – Skerries and Skerries islands
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Liverpool docks
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The Mersey estuary with New Brighton on the left
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Heading for Manchester
Apart from that morning’s coach journey it had been a good holiday and although fairly short it had been just what I needed at a time when I needed it. I’d certainly packed a lot into it and over the days I’d discovered a few places which definitely need revisiting – hopefully some of them before too long.

The Irish National Stud & Gardens

In which I fall foul – again – of the ‘law of Irish distance and directions’ and indulge my love of horses…
Chatting to the two guys in the shed at the bottom of Kildare tower I asked if it was possible to walk from there to the Irish National Stud. I thought it was but I wanted to be sure and they confirmed that yes, I could walk there, it was only a mile – if I took the road opposite the market square, followed it past the Grey Abbey, over the motorway, turned left at the end, next left and the second right would bring me to it. It sounded simple enough but by now being rather dubious about Irish directions and distances I decided to seek confirmation (or otherwise) from the information centre in the market square and a very nice lady in there gave me the exact same directions, telling me it would take me about half an hour.
Now at the speed I walk it does not  take me half an hour to cover just a mile so it sounded like this place was a bit more than that. Also it seemed like I would be doubling back on myself, however off I went and after what felt like forever – 29 minutes to be exact – I reached the entrance to the National Stud. On paying my entrance fee in the visitor centre I was given a couple of information leaflets, one of which had a map showing how to get there, and when I looked at it I realised that instead of following the directions I’d been given and going a long way round I could have walked down a different road which would have taken me straight there. Also there’s a regular free shuttle bus from the shopping village so I needn’t have walked there at all, but no-one had told me that!
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The Irish National Stud was originally founded in 1900 by Colonel William Hall-Walker, a horse-loving Scottish-born businessman from a famous brewing family. After purchasing a farm and other land at Tully on the outskirts of Kildare town he set up a thoroughbred horse breeding facility and quickly became the most successful breeder of his time, enjoying his finest hour when his favourite Tully-bred colt, leased to King Edward Vll, carried the royal colours into the winners enclosure after a famous victory in the 1909 Epsom Derby.
The world-renowned Japanese Gardens were devised by Colonel Hall-Walker and created between 1906 and 1910, being laid out by Japanese master horticulturalist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru. Planned to symbolise the ‘Life of Man’ through trees, plants, rocks, lawns and water the gardens trace the journey of a soul at it goes along the various paths of life from birth to death. The name Minoru means ‘the favourite one’ and this was chosen by the Colonel for his favourite horse, the one which won the 1909 Derby.
In 1915 Colonel Hall-Walker moved to England and gifted the entire Tully property and land to the Crown ; it then became the British National Stud and its success continued under the leadership of Sir Henry Greer, though the Japanese Gardens fell into a period of relative obscurity. In 1943 the newly formed Irish Government took over the land and buildings and in 1945 the Irish National Stud Company was formed, taking over the running of the stud in 1946 ; also that year the Japanese Gardens got a horticultural supervisor to return the gardens to their original splendour. Fast forward to the present day and in 1999, to celebrate the forthcoming Millennium, St. Fiachra’s Garden was designed by an award winning landscape architect to commemorate St. Fiachra, the patron saint of gardeners.
Turning left out of the visitor centre the first thing I came to was a very ‘flower power’ life-sized sculpture of Minoru, the horse which won the 1909 Epsom Derby. This was part of Under stARTers Orders (the capital letters aren’t a typing mistake) an arts charity initiative celebrating the redevelopment of the iconic Curragh Racecourse and raising funds for two charities local to Kildare, the Irish Injured Jockeys and Sensational Kids. A total of 21 resin sculptures were exclusively painted by some of Ireland’s leading equine and contemporary artists and were put on public display at various locations in and around the county, with the opportunity to buy either online or at a live auction in June.
The cost of the admission included a guided tour of the stud and its various facilities and though at first I’d intended just wandering about on my own I realised that there was a tour starting at 2pm so I decided to join it, having just enough time to snatch a handful of photos before going to the meeting point near the Minoru sculpture.
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‘Minoru’ by Liza Kavanagh
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The tour guide was a very friendly and knowledgeable young lady called Sarah and as she walked the group round she gave out lots of really interesting information about the workings of the stud, interspersed with a few amusing comments here and there. Past a sculpture of Invincible Spirit, the current top stallion, and the entrance to the Sun Chariot Yard foaling unit was the museum with the skeleton of the legendary Arkle displayed in the window. Arkle, owned by the then Duchess of Westminster and named after a mountain in Scotland, won 27 of his 35 races including three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup wins, and had the highest Timeform rating ever given to a steeplechaser ; he remains the greatest steeplechaser to have lived anywhere and at any time.
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Sculpture of Invincible Spirit
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Entrance to the Sun Chariot Yard
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Skeleton of Arkle (1957-1970) – the genuine article, not a plastic replica
Past the stallion boxes were the stallion paddocks where I was able to see at close range some of the world’s current best stallions. Depending on popularity a stallion’s breeding fees can range anywhere between the price of a car and the price of a house ; the top stallion is currently Invincible Spirit with stud fees of £120,000 per time, he is father to many champion racehorses and his foals can sell at auction for several hundred thousand pounds each. Past the nursery paddocks were the Living Legends paddocks where previously great racehorses can live out their retirement years, with five horses – Hurricane Fly, Hardy Eustace, Kicking King, Beef Or Salmon and Rite Of Passage – currently in residence.
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Invincible Spirit
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Decorated Knight
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Dragon Pulse
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Living Legends, L-R Hurricane Fly, Rite Of Passage, Kicking King, Beef Or Salmon
Across from the Living Legends paddocks was the extensive St. Fiachra’s Garden and once the tour ended I went back to take a couple of photos before going to the café for a much-needed coffee and a cake treat. With a good selection of cakes and other calorie-laden stuff I was spoilt for choice but eventually decided on a slice of Banoffee Pie, which was highly delicious and also very filling.
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Path through St. Fiachra’s Garden
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A look round the Japanese Gardens was a must and as the café was right next door I didn’t have far to go to get there. To be honest I don’t really subscribe to the Japanese ‘story of life told through a garden’ concept, I like to look round a garden for the garden itself, but all the features were numbered so I followed most of them – although not all in sequence – without referring to the story, the end of which is actually quite sad.
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The Bridge of Life
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The Tea House
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With or without the story the Japanese Gardens were lovely ; it was a shame it was such a grey day as with sunshine and blue sky they would be really stunning. Checking the time when I came out of the gardens I was hoping I would be able to go back to St. Fiachra’s Garden but there was a courtesy bus leaving the car park at 4.15 and I didn’t want to miss it (getting that would save me the walk back into town) so reluctantly I gave up on that idea.
The courtesy bus put me off just inside the shopping village and from there it was only a short walk across a car park to the bus stop for the coach to Roscrea. I arrived back at 6pm to another of Nellie’s lovely meals then later on I went round to Laura’s to spend a final hour with her before tackling the unwanted, although relatively easy, task of packing my things ready for the following day’s journey home. Apart from the needlessly long walk to get to the National Stud my day had been very interesting and successful, and not having had time to see all that the Stud has to offer means I’ll be making a return visit as soon as I get the opportunity.

Kildare round tower and St. Brigid’s Cathedral

In which I climb six near-vertical ladders and look round another church…
After the lovely sunshine and blue sky of the previous couple of days the last full day of the holiday arrived very cloudy and grey but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from going out. My destination this time was Kildare with a couple of places to visit in mind, and I got the 10.15am coach – when it finally came – from Roscrea. It put me off at Kildare shopping village so I thought I may as well have a quick look round while I was there, although the designer shops are all so expensive I would have needed to take out a mortgage if I wanted to buy something.
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The first place I really wanted to visit was Kildare round tower, specifically to climb up the inside to the top. I’d first discovered it on a visit to Kildare a couple of years ago but it was early December then and it was closed for the winter months so I’d put it on my list of places to go back to when I had the opportunity. Walking through the town from the shopping village I came across a building which looked like it had once been three cottages but was now just one place with painted windows and doors at the front. There was nothing to say what it was, and in spite of much Googling I still haven’t found out, but round the side was a colourful enclosed space with a handmade plaque on the wall saying that bit was St. Brigid’s evergreen garden.
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Kildare street art?
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Kildare round tower is situated in the grounds of St. Brigid’s Cathedral ; built in the 12th century on the site of a previous much older tower the walls are over 2ft thick and at 108ft in height it’s Ireland’s second tallest tower and one of only two which can be climbed. The Romanesque doorway, which is situated 13ft above the ground, is constructed of ornately carved dark red sandstone receding in four ‘steps’, while the original conical cap was replaced by castellations in the 18th century. These castellations have crumbled in places over time so there’s now a steel cage round the tower roof to stop anyone falling off.
At the bottom of the steps leading up to the door was a small shed with two very genial Irish guys taking payment for doing the climb and after handing over my 4 euros I set off on my adventure. Now in the last few years I’ve climbed quite a variety of steep staircases, usually spiral ones, but this wasn’t even a staircase ; a series of six almost vertical ladders took me up through the floors, and though four of the ladders seemed to be fairly modern in construction ladders three and five have been in place since 1874. The tower narrowed in width as I got higher up and the bottom of each ladder was almost touching the wall, meaning there was only just enough space for me to squeeze onto the first step. Added to that was the fact that the top two ladders only had a handrail on one side – this definitely wasn’t a climb for anyone with claustrophobia or a fear of heights.
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Photo from 2017 showing the position of the doorway

Kildare Round Tower doorway

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Looking down from the doorway
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Ladder 1
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Ladder 2
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Ladder 3
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Ladder 4
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Ladder 5 with only one handrail
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Ladder 6 – still only one handrail
Eventually I reached the top of the last ladder and emerged onto the roof ; it was a shame it was such a cloudy grey day as the views over Kildare and the surrounding area were excellent and I got several shots as I walked round. I had to watch where I was putting my feet though as there was no guard rail round the top of the ladder ; one wrong step and I could have fallen through the hole to the platform below. The custodians of the tower mustn’t have heard of health and safety! I took my photos without mishap though then set off on the slow and careful climb back down the six ladders.
Kildare tower top
The top of ladder 6 and the tower roof
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Views of  Kildare town from the tower
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Rear of the cathedral from the tower doorway
Back at ground level I had a quick chat to the two guys in the shed then went to have a look in the cathedral. In the entrance was a small collection of medieval sculptural monuments, including the tomb of Bishop Wellesley who died in 1539, and there were many more historical features in the cathedral itself but I was more interested in the stained glass windows. They were all very lovely, as most stained glass windows are, but I particularly liked the modern design dedicated to St. Luke and installed in 1974.
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The High Altar
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Carving on the side of the pulpit steps
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The Bishop’s Throne
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A section of the beautifully tiled floor
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The front of the church
For some strange reason the cathedral closed for lunch at 1pm and as it was getting close to that and it looked very much like I was the only person in the place I thought I’d better go before I got locked in. My next port of call was within walking distance and this was one I was really looking forward to.
To be continued…

A lovely day out, Part 2 – Dromineer

In which I explore a lovely little lakeside village and get thrown out of a quarry for trespassing…
After our visit to Leap Castle Laura drove us 30 miles west to the small village of Dromineer, six miles from Nenagh and on the east shore of Lough Derg. While in Roscrea a couple of years back I’d picked up an information leaflet about Lough Derg ; it was the nearest lake to Roscrea and finding out that Dromineer wasn’t too far from Nenagh I’d explored the possibility of going there last December. It’s not on a bus route though and the only way I could do it without my own transport would be to take a taxi from Nenagh, so that idea was put on hold for sometime in the future. Previous to the start of this holiday though, Michael had mentioned to Laura my wish to go to Dromineer and she said she was quite willing to take me, so a drive out there formed the second part of my day out.
Lough Derg is the third biggest lake in Ireland and the southernmost of the three lakes on the Shannon river, and in the 19th century it was an important artery of the waterways between Dublin port and Limerick. Navigable over its full 24-mile length it’s very popular with cruisers and other pleasure craft as well as for fishing, general sailing and other water sports. Dromineer itself is home to the RNLI’s Lough Derg lifeboat, its station being the first inland lifeboat station in the Republic of Ireland. It’s also home to Nenagh Boat Club, Shannon Sailing Club and the Lough Derg Yacht Club which was founded in 1835 ; Dromineer Quay and Canal Store both date from around 1845.
Overlooking the public marina is the ruined Dromineer Castle which started life in the 13th century as a two-storey hall house built by followers of Thomas Butler Esq, the 7th Earl of Ormond, and tenanted by the Cantwell family. In the late 15th century the building fell into the hands of the O’Kennedys, also of Ormond, and was remodelled into a four-storey tower house/castle, then in the late 16th century it was re-captured by the Butlers and the Cantwell family returned as tenants until the mid 17th century. In 1650 the castle was seized by Cromwell but was eventually returned to the 12th Earl of Ormond, James Butler, and it was occupied until 1688 after which it fell into ruin, finally being sold by the then Earl of Ormond in the late 19th century.
The road through Dromineer village headed towards the lakeside and when I saw the view I had one of those ‘wow’ moments. On the left, a handful of nice-looking bungalows with well-kept gardens while on the right was a white-walled thatched cottage, well-kept grassy areas, a small playground, a marina with several boats moored up and at the bottom of the road the lake itself with a shingle beach – this little place looked beautiful and I couldn’t wait to explore. The lakeside road ended in a large car park close to the private marina of Shannon Sailing Club and that’s where we left the car, so join me on my Monday walk as I stroll round and take in the delights of Dromineer.
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A backwater close to Shannon Sailing Club
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View of Dromineer Castle
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The public marina and Canal Store
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Lough Derg Yacht Club marina
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Of course time spent in a lovely little place like this just wouldn’t be right without having coffee and cake so we made our way round to the Lake Café, sitting at an outside table as we had Laura’s two little dogs with us. The cake we had (with cream) was delicious, and after sitting for a while in the sun we continued our wander. Just along the lane from the café was the little thatched-roof cottage ; approaching from the back I thought at first it was just someone’s home but it turned out to be the studio-cum-craft shop of an Italian/Irish ceramic artist called Marina – a very apt name as the cottage isn’t far from the water. She said we were welcome to look round and during our conversation told us that apart from the plastic garden chairs everything in the garden had been recycled, reused or repainted, which I thought was a great idea. She seemed to be a bit eccentric and the studio was a complete jumble of all sorts of things but looking round there and the garden was a pleasant way to pass a bit of time.
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The Lake Café – the Death By Chocolate with whipped cream was totally divine
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Neddy’s Cottage, artist’s studio
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Organised chaos?
Back at the lakeside we sat for a while on one of the benches, just taking in the view and enjoying the warm sunshine. Further along the grass it looked like a family were having a picnic – I couldn’t see them properly as there was a bush in my line of vision but I did see their cute little dog. It was looking my way so I zoomed in a bit and got a quick shot of it to show my friend Lin as it looked very much like her little dog Oscar.
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With the exploration of Dromineer over we made our way back to the car but it was still only early afternoon, too early to go straight back to Roscrea when we could enjoy more of the good weather, so Laura suggested driving to a quarry where people went scuba diving and which she had been told was good for photo taking. That sounded okay to me so off we went round the country lanes and half an hour later pulled up at the bottom of the rough track leading to the quarry.
We hadn’t walked far when we came to a high steel fence and big double gates with a notice which said NO TRESPASSING ; the gates were open though so I figured out that we may as well take a look as we had gone far enough to get there. The track went up a slope for a couple of hundred yards then levelled out ; there was a large parking area on the right with a couple of portacabins and straight ahead was another sloping track leading a short distance down to the quarry.
The view from the bottom of the track looked great but just as I was about to take the first photo there was a shout from the top of the track and a guy in a wetsuit was standing there, telling us in no uncertain terms that this was PRIVATE PROPERTY and we had to LEAVE NOW! I did shout back that we were only taking photos but he insisted that we leave so I just snatched one shot and we made our way back up the track and headed back to the car ; it was a shame I couldn’t have got any more photos as it really did look nice.
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My only photo of Portroe quarry
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Back at the car we had a few minutes to take in the view over the countryside then we set off back to Roscrea ; Laura had invited me round to hers for a meal so she dropped me at Nellie’s first and I went round an hour or so later. Her friend Nicole had arrived too and as there was a Chinese takeaway right across the road we all decided to get something from there. It was a lovely meal, although there was far more than I could eat, and after spending a very pleasant couple of hours with Laura and Nicole I took myself off back to Nellie’s for a reasonably early night. Thanks to Laura I’d had a really lovely day and my visit to Dromineer had whetted my appetite for seeing more of Lough Derg – hopefully that will be something I can do in the not-too-distant future.

A lovely day out, Part 1 – Leap Castle

In which Laura takes me for a day out and we start by exploring a haunted castle…
Leap Castle (pronounced Lep) is situated deep in the countryside just over six miles or so from Roscrea and over the border from Co. Tipperary into Co. Offaly. Back in December 2016, from a shop in Roscrea, I’d picked up a hand drawn map with written directions to the castle ; some of my regular readers may remember the post I wrote about my long walk to get there and my failure to find the place at the time. It was further away than the directions said and I came to the conclusion that Irish miles are longer than English miles. Following that walk I realised that if I were ever to visit this castle at all then I would have to somehow drive myself there, however Michael’s girlfriend Laura had recently said she was willing to take me there and also to another place I’d previously said I’d like to go to so I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity.
Leap Castle has a very violent and bloody history and is said to be the most haunted castle in Ireland, possibly even Europe. Built sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries by the O’Bannon clan it was eventually taken over by the ruling O’Carroll clan but it was a clan divided by bitter leadership struggles throughout most of the 16th century, with one brother against another. The chapel above the Great Hall became known as the Bloody Chapel after one O’Carroll killed his brother, a priest who was conducting a mass at the time – he died on the altar in front of his family. In one corner of the chapel was a small chamber with a trapdoor in the floor ; prisoners and unfortunates were thrown down there into the dungeon, often landing on sharp spikes, and if that didn’t kill them they were literally forgotten about and left there to die of starvation and their injuries. When the dungeon was cleaned out by much later owners it was reported that three cartloads of skeletons were removed.
In the mid 17th century the castle came into the possession of the Darby family. It had originally been a tower house but in the 18th century was extended by the Darbys who added the north and south wings and gave it a Gothic restyling ; it stayed in the Darby family through the years until 1922 when it was set on fire during the Irish Civil War after which it was left dormant for many years. In 1974 the castle was bought by Australian historian Peter Bartlett, a descendant of the O’Bannons, who undertook extensive repairs and renovations until his death in 1989 ; in 1991 the place was bought by musician Sean Ryan and his wife Anne to be their own private residence and they have continued Peter Bartlett’s restoration work over the years since then.
Of course a place can’t be said to be haunted unless it has a ghost or two and Leap Castle is supposed to have several. Emily and Charlotte were two little girls said to have lived on the estate during the 17th century ; Emily died after falling from the tower and it’s said that there are still sightings of a little girl falling from its great height only to disappear before hitting the ground. The ghost of a woman murdered by the O’Carrolls in the 16th century wanders about wearing very little clothing ; she screams twice before disappearing into thin air. The Governess, also known as the nanny, is often seen alongside Emily and Charlotte, and an old man has been spotted sitting in a comfy chair by the side of the main hall’s grand fireplace.
The Red Lady is tall and slim with long brown hair, she wears a red dress and is always seen carrying a dagger in her raised hand. The story says that she was captured by the O’Carrolls and raped ; she fell pregnant and when the baby was born it was taken from her and killed with a dagger. She was so distraught that she killed herself with the same dagger used to murder her infant, and the one her spirit holds is the very one which killed her baby. The Elemental, otherwise known as ‘it’, is described as being about the size of a sheep with a shadowy half-human face and sunken eyes ; it gives off the smell of a decomposing corpse though its menacing and sinister presence only makes itself known to those who provoke it.
The castle is said to allow visitors from 10am until 5pm and various sources of information, including the written directions I got back in 2016, all said that it was advisable to phone or email to arrange a visit, but even though Laura tried several times to ring there was no answer so we decided to go there anyway on the off-chance that we would be able to go in. At first knocking on the door produced no response and we were about to give up and leave when I suggested trying once more and this time the owner, Sean Ryan, came to the door – and in typical contrary Irish fashion, when I mentioned that we had tried to phone ahead as advised he said he didn’t know why I would have been given that information as we only needed to knock! However, he welcomed us in and led us over to a huge fireplace, which he’d built himself, and we sat in front of a lovely fire while he told us all about the history of the castle and the spirits (he doesn’t call them ghosts) which live there.
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Leap Castle with the unrestored part and ruins on the left
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The main hall where we sat to hear the castle’s story
After our ‘history lesson’ Sean took us through to the back of the hall and showed us the conservatory, a long narrow room looking out over the land below and beyond the castle and filled with a hotchpotch of plants, garden ornaments and various things hanging in various places, then he gave us a torch, showed us where the stairs were, and we were free to explore the upper rooms at our leisure.
Halfway up the first spiral staircase was a cubby hole with a small wooden door set in the wall then at the top of the stairs was the Great Hall with its collection of furniture, artefacts and various objects, some very old, others not so much, which Sean had collected while on his travels. On the floor in a window recess I found a sweet little surprise, though it was Laura who noticed it first – behind the leg of a dining chair was a tiny little bat. Knowing that they are nocturnal I thought it must be asleep, although if it was then it had chosen a very odd place for a snooze, but unfortunately this poor little creature was dead – maybe it had flown in somewhere and couldn’t get out again. Never having seen a bat at close quarters before I picked it up gently and put it on the chair to take a photo then laid it back where we found it ; it was tiny, barely two inches long, and its fur was incredibly soft.
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The conservatory
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Front lawn and drive from first floor landing window
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The Great Hall
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Carving on a dark oak dresser
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The sweet little bat we found
Above the Great Hall was a small mezzanine level and the next flight of stairs had a door leading into it, with four steps down onto the mezzanine itself. Most of the space was taken up by a double bed which I thought was rather odd but Sean told us later that it’s where he puts any family or friends when they come to stay. The spiral staircase, which got narrower as we went further up, took us to the Bloody Chapel, a vast space with a rough floor and which, apart from a tin roof to keep out the worst of the elements, was still unrestored. There was a doorway in one corner with a staircase going down but it was dark so not knowing what I was getting myself into I didn’t risk it. With no windows in the chapel taking photos of the landscape was easy though it would have been a long way to fall if I’d leaned out too far.
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The bed on the mezzanine
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Looking down from the mezzanine
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Stairs to the Bloody Chapel with the door to the mezzanine
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The unrestored Bloody Chapel
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Looking down on the ruins
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View beyond the ruins
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On the way back down the stairs we revisited the Great Hall to see if there was anything we’d missed then continued back to ground level where we handed the torch back to Sean. After another chat, during which he told us that everything in the castle had either been restored, recycled or built by him and his wife, we thanked him for letting us look round, said our goodbyes and left just as some other visitors were arriving. Sean plays the fiddle and the Irish whistle and if we’d asked he would have given us a tune or two but to be honest I’m not really a lover of traditional Irish music.
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Leap Castle was a strange place. Compared to the castle at Limerick which has been professionally restored with each room set out as it would have been in the period, Leap was what I would describe as ‘raw’ – with mis-matched furniture from different periods, artefacts and objects from different countries, it was a restoration which didn’t really reflect any one particular period but strangely it worked. The place was unique, even more so because it was actually someone’s home – and to quote Sean’s words “If we’d wanted to live in a modern bungalow we would have bought a modern bungalow”. I’d really enjoyed my visit to the castle, it was certainly different – and as for any ghosts, I didn’t see, hear or feel anything remotely spooky of all the time I was there, but then I don’t believe in ghosts anyway.

Limerick street art

In my recent wanderings around Limerick, and just after I’d come out of the castle, I spotted a couple of small murals painted on the wall of an empty shop. Photographing street art wasn’t something I’d been thinking about on this particular occasion but these were quite sweet in an amateurish way so I snapped a couple of shots and thought no more about it. However not far from St. Mary’s church I saw another mural, a huge one painted on a gable end wall, so having seen that one I decided to see if I could find some more while on my perambulations around the city.
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A shame someone scrawled a black mark on this one
The first large mural I saw was on the gable end wall of a house not far from St. Mary’s Church, with the second one on the side wall of an empty shop premises opposite the main entrance gates to the cathedral – I hadn’t noticed that one earlier as I’d been walking in the opposite direction. The main road past the cathedral gates took me into the town centre and quite by chance I found a large mural of geometric shapes on a wall down an alley off one of the side streets. Presumably whoever did it must have overloaded the paintbrush as there were paint runs down the wall in several places.
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The next one I found covered the whole length of the side wall of a building off one of the main shopping streets. It wasn’t easy to tell at first but in among all the geometric shapes and pink splodges were actually two faces looking in opposite directions. I found the last mural just after I’d seen the Terry Wogan statue on Harvey’s Quay, it was on the door and shutter of a premises which didn’t seem to have a name.
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Mural by Irish artist Maser and New Zealander Askew One
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And so to the brightly painted cottages I’d seen from the far side of the river earlier in the day. Although from a distance they did look like proper cottages they were anything but – yes, they were cottages but they were derelict ones, last inhabited over 40 years ago and left to the elements since then. Back in 2014, as part of a Limerick regeneration programme, 15 volunteers from the King’s Island area where the cottages are situated stripped, cleaned and painted the cottage fronts over the course of a week. It would certainly have brightened up what had previously been an eyesore but now, five years later and obviously lacking attention, the cottages are looking a bit worse for wear – a shame really as they look quite attractive, especially from a distance.
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So there you have it, just a few examples of Limerick’s street art found by chance on my day out in the city. I’ve no doubt there are probably several more murals dotted about the place so my mission now is to do a bit of research to see if I can find out the locations of any more – and hopefully a future visit to the city will produce some more street art photography.

St. Mary’s Cathedral & St. Mary’s Church, Limerick

While on my recent walk around Limerick I visited both St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church which are only a short distance away from each other ; very confusing to have two St. Mary’s in close proximity but the Cathedral is Church of Ireland (Anglican) while the other church is a Catholic one.
St. Mary’s Cathedral, or to give it its full title The Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin, was founded in 1168 and built on the site of a palace belonging to the last King of Munster ; it’s the oldest building in Limerick still in continuous daily use. The west door is said to have once been the original main entrance to the palace though it’s now only used on ceremonial occasions ; a centuries-old tradition decrees that the bishops of Limerick knock and enter the Cathedral by that door as part of their installation ceremony. The Cathedral tower wasn’t added to the original building until the 14th century ; at 120ft high it contains a peal of eight bells and a stationary service bell which can be rung from the ground floor.
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St. Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary's catherdral west door
The Romanesque west door
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One of the features in the cathedral was a small opening known as the ‘leper’s squint’ in one of the walls of the north transept. In medieval times leprosy was common and believed to be highly contagious so lepers weren’t allowed into churches ; the ‘leper’s squint’ allowed them to see and hear services and receive Communion through the opening without coming into contact with other worshipers. There were so many interesting features in the cathedral that it would have been impossible to photograph them all and read all the information about them in the time I had so as I wandered round I just photographed the ones which intrigued me the most.
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The ‘leper’s squint’
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This cute woodcarving was in the choir stalls

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My final shot, and what I think is the nicest of all the windows
In contrast to the age of the Cathedral St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church is less than 90 years old, having been built between 1930 and 1932 on the site of a previously demolished church built in 1749 ; all that remains of the original church is a font and a plaque at the rear of the present church. While I’d found the interior of the Cathedral to be quite dark and a bit oppressive in many places the interior of this church was a complete contrast ; it was light and bright and had a much more airy feel to it.
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St. Mary’s Catholic Church
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Behind the high altar were six Venetian mosaics, each depicting an unnamed angel and with a verse of the hymn ‘Te Deum’ underneath. Above the mosaics were three stained glass windows depicting the Visitation, the Assumption, and the Annunciation, while on the ground the beautiful designs of the marble floor tiles were certainly worthy of a couple of photos.
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Back outside in the bright sunshine I pondered on the two churches I’d just been in, and while the cathedral had much more historical interest it was the bright and airy church I much preferred. And who knows, I may well pay another visit the next time I go to Limerick.

A day in Limerick

In which I meet a sweet little pony, explore an old castle and encounter a couple of bus drivers with only half a brain between them…
It was another early start for me that day with the 8.40am coach to Limerick at the head of the Shannon estuary. Never having been there before I wasn’t sure where to get off the coach when I got there but ‘Arthur’s Quay’ was named on the timetable as the last stop so I figured out that anything with ‘quay’ in its name had to be near water and I was right. The coach pulled in at one of several stops next to a small and pleasant riverside park and at the far side of the park I got my first view of the River Shannon.
Turning to the left I walked a short distance past what looked like a very short section of a canal and a canal basin and up some steps to a road bridge over the river. Looking across to the far side of the bridge I could see what appeared to be a riverside walk ; there was another road bridge further along the river leading in the direction of the castle so I decided to work my way round in a square. The tide must have been coming in and advancing up the estuary as at one point the river seemed to be flowing back on itself and was a seething mass of white-topped waves.
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View north west from Arthur’s Quay Park
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Shannon Rowing Club premises on the left
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View west towards Riverpoint with Limerick Boat Club on the right
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Riverside walk along Clancy’s Strand
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Looking across to the far end of the next bridge I could see a row of brightly painted cottages, good subjects for a photo or two so I went along to check them out. What I found wasn’t what I thought it was but I’ll save that for another post. A narrow road ran between the cottages and the river so I decided to walk along a short distance to see if there was anything of interest ; the road curved round to the right with a footpath to the left which I followed and came across an area of ‘almost countryside’. A vast green space was bordered on one side by the river and riverside path and across the far side by a pleasant-looking small housing estate while on the grass itself a few tethered ponies were grazing peacefully, presumably owned by someone who lived nearby. Away from the main roads it was very quiet and with the hills in the distance I could really have been right in the countryside.
A distance along the path I came across another tethered pony, a bright chestnut-coloured Shetland who seemed to want to follow me though he could only go as far as the length of his rope. Eventually the path turned to the right and there was another bridge up ahead so not knowing where I would end up I turned round there and retraced my steps. The little pony was still there, he’d knocked his bucket of food over and was snuffling along the path with his nose. He was very friendly and again he wanted to follow me so I stopped to stroke him and noticed part of one of the hedgerow plants stuck in his fringe and in danger of going in his eye – so I spent a good five minutes picking it all out while he stood there patiently and let me. He was such a little sweetheart and I would have loved to bring him home.
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View from the road to the bridge at Thomond Weir
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All the time I’d been walking the weather had been getting better and better ; the clouds were clearing, the sky was becoming a much deeper blue and the warm sunshine was even warmer. By the time I’d got back to the main road I was feeling quite peckish – my early breakfast had worn off so I went back across the bridge to Jack Monday’s Coffee House where I had a nice early lunch on the terrace overlooking the river then retraced my steps again to the castle at the other end of the bridge.
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King John’s Castle, next to the River Shannon, was built at the beginning of the 13th century on the orders of King John, brother of Richard the Lionheart, and is one of the best preserved castles in Europe. Between 2011 and 2013 it underwent a massive redevelopment to improve the visitor facilities and now has a new visitor centre and shop, interactive exhibitions and a café with views of the courtyard and river, with a self-guided tour leading through a modern exhibition to the castle itself.
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The castle courtyard
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St. Munchin’s Church (Church of Ireland) from one of the towers
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River Shannon and Thomond Bridge
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Outside the castle visitor centre, showing Katie Daly’s Heritage Pub
From the castle I had no clear idea of where I was going so I just followed the narrow street from the visitor centre and eventually came to St. Mary’s Cathedral. A short distance from there along a main road was St. Mary’s Catholic Church (very confusing) and these two churches will feature in a following post. Round the corner from the cathedral was a pleasant pedestrianised area leading to the riverside where I found Limerick’s 1916 Commemorative Garden and fountain, then a little way from there I came to Merchants Quay where a handful of colourful dinghies were pulled up on a little beach set back off the river.
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Dinghies at Merchants quay
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From Merchants Quay the main road took me across the River Abbey close to where it joined the Shannon. I was heading into the city centre there and though I wasn’t interested in looking round any shops I thought I’d have a wander round a few of the streets, eventually arriving back at the riverside at the far side of the road bridge where I’d started my walk. Set back in a cobblestone circle was the statue of a man perched on a chair but there didn’t seem to be any indication as to who it was supposed to be ; it was only once I’d got back home that a quick bit of research told me it was a statue of Limerick-born tv and radio presenter Terry Wogan, unveiled in 2017. Well I don’t know who the sculptor was but to my mind it didn’t look much like Terry Wogan at all.
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River Abbey across from George’s Quay
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The Shannon at Harvey’s Quay
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Terry Wogan statue at Harvey’s Quay
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Honan’s Quay and Sarsfield Bridge
Back at the other side of the bridge, and close to Arthur’s Quay Park, I took my final shot of the Shannon. The tide had crept in further in the five hours I’d been exploring and the river was now calm and level with no sign of the turbulent waves I’d seen before. Through the park I went back to the bus stop where I’d got off the coach that morning – and that’s where the fun began, with two bus drivers who didn’t seem to have much of a clue, however it’s a long story so I’ll save that for another post.
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The Shannon with calm water
Eventually I arrived back in Roscrea and to a lovely meal which Nellie had made for me. Apart from the coach journey back, which I’d actually found quite amusing, my day out to Limerick had proved to be very interesting ; it was a nice place, and since being back home I’ve found out there are lots more places there which I can explore so no doubt it will be somewhere else I return to in the future when the opportunity arises.

University Church and Dublin doors

Walking along past the south side of St. Stephen’s Green on my second day in Dublin I came across the porch entrance to the Newman University Church, or to give it its full title the Church of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. Sandwiched between two tall houses this church entrance was small, very unusual, and nothing like any church entrance I’ve ever seen before.  Discovering that the church was open I went in to look round, and if I thought the entrance was unusual the interior was even more so.
Founded in 1855 by John Henry Newman (later Cardinal) for the Catholic University of Ireland founded just a few years previously, the church was designed in a Byzantine Revival style due to Newman’s dislike of Gothic architecture, and it was built on what had previously been the gardens of 87 St. Stephen’s Green. The house itself was built in 1730 and after the construction of the church it remained throughout the years as the church presbytery until it was sold in 1988. Above the porch is a suspended belfry which houses a set of electronic chimes ; the original bell is housed in the administration block of the Belfield Campus.
From the porch six steps led down to a long atrium and through a door at the far end I emerged into the ante-church which had an overhead gallery supported by arches, beams and marble columns. At one time iron railings separated this part of the church from the nave but they were removed in 1990 and now surround a couple of small shrines. It would take me all day to write about all the features of this church and how uniquely beautiful everything is so I’ll just say that comprehensive details can be found here and my photos can do the talking.
University Church Dublin
The porch entrance to University Church
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The nave from the ante-church
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The sanctuary
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In the Lady Chapel
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Looking down from the pulpit
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The right hand wall
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The left hand wall
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The Nativity
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The Adoration of the Magi
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The Boy Christ among the Doctors in the Temple
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The nave from the sanctuary
After leaving the church I went to the National Museum then from there I crossed the road to nearby Merrion Square to look for some of Dublin’s colourful Georgian doors. Back in the early 18th century the doors were all of a similar pale neutral colour ; part of the elegance of Georgian architecture is its uniformity and perfect symmetry but eventually many of the doors’ owners decided they wanted to express their individuality by changing the door colours, knockers and fanlights etc.
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This one needs a bit of TLC
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Fast forward to 1970 and an American advertising executive shooting a commercial in Ireland was so struck by the beauty of the doors that he photographed 40 of them. The poster collage he produced was used for a campaign to promote Ireland in the USA but then the posters themselves became a commercial success, selling in their thousands and showing that the classic Georgian doorway was one of Dublin’s treasures. Nowadays, a look in any gift shop with a postcard stand will invariably produce a card showing some of the city’s colourful doors.
As for that beautiful little church, strangely it wasn’t featured in the book so therefore wasn’t on my list of things to find. Discovering it was purely accidental but I’m glad I found it as it truly is an amazing place – and since getting home and finding out more about it it’s now on my list for a definite revisit in the not-too-distant future.