An hour in Adare

In which I find a nice little park, suffer a disappointment and find some lovely stained glass windows…
The last full day of the holiday arrived dull and grey but not wanting to waste it by staying in Roscrea I decided to take myself off to Adare which was, according to various sources of information (and I quote) ”one of Ireland’s prettiest villages with its main street lined with unique thatched cottages” – even on a dull day it sounded like it was worth a look. To get there I had to change buses at Limerick ; the coach from Roscrea to Limerick passed through Nenagh and as there was a shop there I wanted to go back to I decided to break my journey, get what I wanted then continue to Limerick on the next coach. With two different bus companies running between Roscrea and Limerick, and staggered bus times, planning my journey was like planning military manoeuvres and it would have worked out well if everything had gone to that plan but it didn’t.
The first coach arrived twenty minutes late in Roscrea so I only had just enough time to get what I wanted from the shop in Nenagh before the second coach arrived, however I needn’t have rushed after all as that one turned up forty five minutes late. Of course when I got to Limerick my intended bus to Adare had gone ages before so I had to wait fifty minutes for the next one, however I finally got there albeit quite a lot later than I’d wanted to. As it turned out though, arriving late in Adare didn’t really matter as I didn’t stay as long as I’d expected to.
The bus put me off at the entrance to Adare Town Park, it looked like quite an attractive place so I decided to have a look round there first. With lots of trees and lawned areas, a small stream running along one side, a thatched gazebo and plenty of benches it was a very pleasant place to walk round and would probably be very pretty in spring and summer.
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On the way into the village, and just up the road from the park, I’d noticed a row of thatched cottages and as my sources of information had said the main street was lined with them I expected to see many more, but looking down the road all I could see were normal buildings and shop frontages. Across the road from the park was a heritage centre and tourist information place so I went in there to ask, only to be told that the cottages up the road were the ones I was looking for. So much for the main street being ”lined with thatched cottages” – one row and that was it. I felt like saying that whoever produced and printed the information should be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act!
When I went to have a proper look at the cottages I found that most of them had been turned into little businesses ; there was a café, a gift shop, a craft shop, two very small restaurants, a bistro and a couple of holiday cottages. Admittedly they did look quite attractive and no doubt in summer, with gardens full of flowers, would look very pretty, but having expected to see a quaint little village full of them I was rather disappointed to find that those were the only ones.
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Next door to the heritage centre was Holy Trinity Abbey Church, the only Trinitarian Abbey in Ireland. There is no record of the exact date of its foundation but it’s believed to have been established between the years 1230 and 1240. Dissolved in the 1560s the church eventually became a ruin but in 1809 the 2nd Earl of Dunraven restored the building and gave it to the Catholic Church. No major structural changes have taken place since 1884 although there have been several modifications and some development in the years since then, and in summer 2010 a programme of critical repairs was undertaken to preserve the church.
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The sanctuary

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The sanctuary screen
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A section of the sanctuary ceiling
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The Lady Chapel
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From the church a short walk along to the far end of the main street produced just one more thatched cottage set back from the road in a wrap-around garden, then with nothing else to see in the village and the afternoon still dull I decided I may as well get the next bus back to Limerick. I had about half an hour to wait though so I went to look round inside the heritage centre and found a very bright and pleasant looking cafe ; I just had time for coffee and cake so I ordered a slice of Banoffee pie and a latte, and was pleased to see that this time the coffee came in a proper glass mug.
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Coffee and cake at the heritage centre cafe
By the time I got back to Limerick the daylight was fading rapidly. The bus from Adare had taken me to the bus station but the coach back to Roscrea left from Arthur’s Quay park, a good walk through the city centre, and as I had an hour to kill I thought I may as well take my time in going there and get a few evening shots en route. Past Arthur’s Quay the front wall of the Hunt Museum was lit with green lights so I got a shot of the horses against the coloured background then walked along to where I could see the illuminated side of the castle ; I even had time to cross the bridge, walk along the riverside at Clancy’s Strand then re-cross the river at the next bridge, where my final shot was one of the illuminated 1916 war memorial.

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O’Connell Street
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The Hunt Museum
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King John’s Castle and river views

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The 1916 war memorial
Relaxing by the fire later that evening I went through the photos I’d taken while I’d been out. It had been an odd sort of a day and I hadn’t been particularly impressed with Adare ; I’d only been there for just over an hour and that had been enough so I doubted I would ever go back there again, however since getting back home I’ve found out about another couple of places there which, on a nice day, may be worth visiting so who knows? – maybe I’ll make a return visit sometime in the spring or summer months.

 

A day out in Dublin

In which I take a long walk round Dublin city centre, find more street art than I ever imagined, and have a very unusual coffee….
Since my two visits to Dublin in September an internet search had provided me with maps of four street art walks around the city ; one of these seemed to be a distance out of the centre itself but the other three were definitely doable. Not sure if I would have enough time to do all three in one day before I lost any decent daylight I concentrated on the first two which were both in the same part of the city ; the starting points of each walk were close together but the end points were a distance apart so to save back-tracking I started at the end of one and followed the route in reverse to join up with the start of the second, thus turning two two-and-a-half mile walks into one five mile circuit.
My walk began on the south side of the river at City Quay with a large Irish Wolfhound done by James Earley, the artist who painted the outside of the Blooms Hotel ; I’d actually photographed this one in September but still took another shot of it. Right along the riverside, past the Samuel Beckett Bridge and almost before I ran out of road, a right turn took me up to Hanover Quay on the huge basin of the Grand Canal where I found another work by James Earley, though this one was partially obscured by several leafless young trees. There was another one close by done by Decoy but the bottom half of it had been painted over which rather spoiled it, so I gave that one a miss.
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Artist – James Earley
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Artist – James Earley
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The Grand Canal basin
Past the end of the canal basin a good walk involving two right and two left turns took me to the next piece, a 2-part work on the side of a business premises. Not far from there was Merrion Square followed by St. Stephen’s Green and Iveagh Gardens and as I was going that way anyway I took a look round all three and also photographed some more of the colourful Georgian doors for another post. I was particularly interested in seeing Iveagh Gardens properly as I’d abandoned my visit there in September due to a sudden rain shower.
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Artist – Ominous Omin
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Merrion Square Gardens

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Oscar Wilde’s house
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St. Stephen’s Green
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The cascade, Iveagh Gardens

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The next artwork I wanted to find was just a few streets away from Iveagh Gardens. I couldn’t get all of it due to a couple of parked cars being in the way but the line at the bottom actually reads ”So get your head out of your phone”. A very true sentiment when so many people these days walk round with their heads down, eyes glued to their phones and constantly texting or internet surfing as they walk. From there a long zigzag route down towards the Temple Bar area provided me with more street art than I ever thought possible and I took so many photos it’s been really hard deciding which ones to include in this post.
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Artists – Maser in collaboration with Aches
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Artist group – Subset
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Artist unknown
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Artist – Maser
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A digitised image by Aches – more effective if viewed from a distance
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Side wall of The Times Hostel – artist unknown
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Artist unknown
Now although certain individuals may think it’s fun to get a cheap can of spray paint and scrawl amateurish pictures and tags over random bits of blank walls proper works of street art need permission from the council and this permission isn’t always granted. Street art though is a constantly changing medium, murals can often be changed twice in the time it takes to get that permission and headed by the artist group Subset the Grey Area Project was born, a movement to paint murals on walls quicker than the council can paint those same walls grey. Although some of the murals I found may not be completely ‘official’ they certainly brighten things up and look a lot better than blank grey walls.
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Artist group – Subset
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On the back wall of a cash and carry place – artist unknown
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Artist – Eoin Barry
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Artist – unknown
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Liberty Lane – a whole street full of art and graffiti
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The next few murals I wanted to find were all in Temple Bar but as I headed down the main road in that direction I unexpectedly came to the entrance to an indoor shopping arcade. With shops on each side and stalls down the centre it looked quite intriguing but I didn’t want to linger so once I could get a clear view with no-one close by I took a quick shot then continued down the road to Temple Bar and hopefully some coffee and cake.
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George’s Street Arcade
A while ago Queen of Tarts, an Irish cake shop and café, had been recommended to me though I can’t remember now who or where the recommendation came from, so I thought I’d give it a try and found it down the pedestrianised Cows Lane just off the main road. It seemed to be quite a busy place but I found a small vacant table and ordered a latte coffee and a slice of the ‘Queen of Chocolate Fudge’ cake ; it was going to cost more than I would normally pay for something like that but I was on holiday so deserved a treat. Well that’s my excuse anyway!
After the young waiter had taken my order I was quite surprised when he returned a couple of minutes later with a carafe of chilled water and a glass – this was something totally unexpected and I began to feel I should have dressed for the occasion! My coffee and cake arrived not long afterwards and that’s when I got another surprise – instead of the coffee being in the usual type of tall glass mug with a handle it came in a small handle-less glass, the type of thing you would have orange juice in if you had a hotel breakfast. This was weird, and when I looked round to see other people being served drinks in the sort of glass mugs I’d expected my coffee to come in it seemed even weirder.
Wondering if the young waiter had made a mistake I went up to the counter to query it and was told it was usual to serve the coffee like that as that was how the owners liked it to be done. I must admit though, of all the different places I’ve been in over the years I’ve never encountered that  one before. The coffee itself however, although not mad hot, was very nice and the cake was absolutely divine ; I’d actually expected to only get a small slice with a tiny blob of cream but I got a sizeable piece with a good portion of cream, in fact there was so much cake that I couldn’t quite eat it all. Price-wise it hadn’t been too much of a blow-the-budget expense either and although the coffee situation was weird the cake was wonderful so I’d definitely go back there another time.
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Coffee and cake at Queen of Tarts
Back along the main road from the end of Cows Lane was Crampton Court, a courtyard and narrow alley leading between the road and the main street through Temple Bar. In 2014 ‘Love The Lanes’ was a joint initiative between Dublin Council and The Temple Bar Company to allow artists to visually improve some of the lanes around Temple Bar and this alleyway was one of them, being decorated on both sides by various artworks. By the time I emerged from the alleyway the daylight was starting to fade so I got my last four shots as I walked along the main street through Temple Bar then headed back towards the river and the bridge which would take me towards the bus station.
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A collection of strange creatures promoting a youth art initiative
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Artist – unknown
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Artist – unknown
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Portrait of Irish musician B P Fallon by Maser
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Artist – James Earley
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ESB building, Temple Bar – artist(s) unknown
At the far side of the river I noticed that the pyramid rooftops of George’s Quay Plaza were lit with purple lights round the edges and in the fading sunlight they looked quite attractive. On the side wall of the building down below was the outline of what had once been a work of street art ; created by Italian artist Artur Bordalo it was a red squirrel and had been made up of different items of trash, including an old bike, found in and around the city. Unfortunately it fell foul of Dublin council’s drive to build as many new hotels and office blocks in as many derelict or run down parcels of land as possible and it had to be removed, although nothing has been built there yet.
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Sunset over the Liffey
With the sun finally setting over the river I made my way round to the bus station and got the 4.30pm coach back to Roscrea. I hadn’t had time to do the third street art walk but I’d certainly got plenty of photos during my day and I can look forward to doing the other walk another time.

A day out in Limerick

Where I find some colourful horses and lots of street art…
A cold but sunny morning on the second full day of my holiday saw me heading off to Limerick in search of some street art. I’d found a few examples when I was there in September and since then I’d found a website listing several more and their locations so with a list written in my notepad I was now on a mission to find and photograph them. Getting off the coach at Arthur’s Quay park I crossed the grass to get a view of the Shannon river, and though I took a photo from there back in September it looked so nice I just had to get another shot. Sitting on top of a post in the water was a seagull, so still that I thought for a moment someone had somehow put a stuffed toy up there, but eventually it moved so I zoomed in and took a snap ; its red beak and legs told me it could have been a red billed gull, one which also seemed to be still quite young.
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Along the road from Arthur’s Quay was the Hunt Museum, originally an 18th century Customs House designed by an Italian architect. After a major restoration and refurbishment in the mid 1990s the building was established as a museum to house the important and extensive art works and antiquities collected by John and Gertrude Hunt during their lifetime ; more information about the museum can be found here.
Standing outside the museum were two life-size and very colourful horses from the Horse Outside Project, a joint venture between the museum and a community arts initiative. The work on the horses evolved over several months and the colours and images painted on them were inspired by various objects in the museum’s collection, including sacred and religious items.
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Just along from the museum the road took me over the river and I followed it past St. Mary’s Cathedral to St. Mary’s Church where information led me to believe there could be a mural on the opposite corner. There was, a large and very colourful one on a gable end wall with a smaller one on the back yard wall of the butcher’s shop next door, and though the pig needed no explanation I couldn’t really see the significance of the wording. It was rather amateurish compared to others I found and wasn’t on my list but it was worth including it.
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Artist – Betarok75
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Artist unknown
Heading back towards the city centre I came across a narrow street off the main road and set at an angle to another street with a triangle of grass and trees between the two. The houses were double-fronted and the door and window surrounds were all painted different colours making the terrace look quite attractive. There was a car parked outside the far end house and four or five young cats were playing round it, chasing leaves and whatever else they could find. One of the cats looked particularly pretty and while I didn’t want to get too close in case I spooked them all I managed to get a shot of that one.
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Back across the river and in a small courtyard on the side wall of a solicitor’s premises near the bridge I found the first ‘proper’ mural, and though it wasn’t on my list, right across from it on the side wall of a small modern 2-storey office block was another one, presumably done by the same two London artists known as Church of Best Ever. At the far side of the office building, between that and the library building, was a long narrow alley and as I passed the end I spotted some more street art about halfway down ; none of it was on my list so I had no idea of the artist(s). The alley was a dead end, leading to what seemed to be a boat repair business ; a few old dinghies were lined up alongside the wall of the workshop and these had been painted to incorporate them into the art on the wall ; unfortunately I couldn’t get the full mural as a couple of cars were in the way.
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Back past the Hunt Museum and across the ground floor windows, doors, shutters and walls of a disused building was the slogan ”Culture is where we are from” while round the corner was the same slogan but with the word ‘from’ replaced by ‘going’. Back in 2014 Limerick had been Ireland’s first National City of Culture and the slogans were produced in a 2016 bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2020, though the city lost out to Galway. Unfortunately due to the amount of traffic and/or parked cars I couldn’t get either slogan completely but with a lot of patience I managed to get the best bits.
Although I’d made a list of the artworks I wanted to find and the street names of their locations I’d forgotten to print out a street map before I left home so my next port of call was the tourist information office, where I got chatting to a very friendly and helpful lady who gave me a street map and also marked on it the locations of the artworks I wanted to find. I didn’t get the lady’s name but I did tell her about this blog and she made a note of it – so if you’re reading this, whoever you are, then thank you, your help was much appreciated.
Walking up the road from the tourist office my eye was caught by something which appeared to be flying above a narrow lane on my right so I stopped to have a look. There was a pub and bar on the right with seating outside and this ‘thing’ was suspended on chains between the upper floor of the bar and the wall of the building across ; it was a bird of prey, possibly an eagle, though what ever it was supposed to be it looked rather weird and seemed to have no significance to the bar.
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Further up the road I came to the Biodiversity Garden and the next two artworks on my list. The garden was created several years ago from a corner plot of derelict land, to coincide with Limerick being the 2014 National City of Culture ; over 100 small native Irish trees were planted, along with over 35 species of Irish wildflowers and several larger trees in recycled oil barrels decorated by local artists. Now while I have no doubt that the garden initially looked very pretty it certainly doesn’t look like that now ; with overgrown and untidy shrubs, a stack of pallets against one wall, a couple of traffic cones lying on the floor and a hotch-potch of other detritus in various places it looked very unkempt, unloved and abandoned.
The artwork, called Love Me So, is on two adjacent walls in the garden and was painted in 2013 by Dermot McConaghy. One section stands at 30ft x 50ft and the other is 20ft x 30ft, with both pieces taking a total of four days to complete. The larger piece features a woman looking back on herself as a child and the smaller one features that same child. Unfortunately the child’s face was looking a bit worse for wear and both pieces were partially obscured by overgrown trees and shrubs but I managed to get a reasonable shot of each of them.
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Love Me So (1) by Dermot McConaghy
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Love Me So (2) by Dermot McConaghy
Across the road from the Biodiversity Garden was Fox’s Bow arch at the entrance to a narrow back lane leading to the shopping street beyond ; on the side wall of the arch was a mural by Louisa Donnelly but I couldn’t get the whole thing as there was a car parked right in front of it. Unfortunately it had been defaced in a couple of places but seen face on it was the abstract face of a big cat, possibly a tiger. Towards the top of the road the whole frontage of one particular building had been given a makeover with some psychedelic art ; at the time I didn’t know who the artist was but I suspected it could have been Maser as his artwork is very distinctive, and later information told me I was right.

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Artist – Louisa Donnelly
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Artist – Maser
At the top of the road I turned right and right again into the road behind, where I found the next artwork on my list. On the corner of a 3-storey car park building it was painted in 2014 by an Australian artist of Irish parentage, and though the colours may have faded a bit from when it was originally done it’s still a great piece of art and so far has managed to escape being defaced by senseless graffiti.
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The Fishermen by Fintan Magee
Having temporarily run out of street art with that last piece I made my way down the road to take a walk along the riverside in the direction of the docks, though I only went as far as the Shannon Bridge. At the far side of the bridge was a skate park with a sea theme painted on its outside walls, and though the shark wasn’t in the same league as most of the street art I’d seen it amused me enough to take a photo of it.
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Retracing my steps I came to the Seamens’ Memorial, set down off the quayside and with its back to the river. Originally it was in remembrance of the lost seamen of the Shannon estuary and wasn’t specific to wartime casualties, however in 2004 a stone tablet was added to the base of the memorial, listing the names of the Limerick and Clare men who lost their lives on three Irish Merchant Navy ships during WW2 ; this was because the bodies of the men were never recovered and their families wanted them to be remembered in some way.
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The Seamens’ Memorial on Bishop’s Quay
Further along the riverside, where Bishop’s Quay becomes Howley’s Quay, was the Dockers Monument, commissioned by Limerick City Council and erected in 2010. At the time when Limerick’s dockyards were a major source of employment working there was one of the most enduring and difficult ways to earn a living so the life size bronze sculpture by Limerick-born artist Michael Duhan now pays tribute to all those men who served at the docks, with their names on a commemorative plaque beside the monument.
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The Dockers Monument
Heading back in the direction of Arthur’s Quay park I was beginning to feel quite peckish – it was time for coffee and cake, and I couldn’t think of anywhere better than Jack Monday’s Coffee House where I’d had a nice lunch on my day in Limerick in September. Crossing the river at the next road bridge I repeated my September walk along Clancy’s Strand which would bring me out opposite Jack Monday’s. Towards the end of the riverside boardwalk and displayed on a tall pedestal was the Treaty Stone, a large irregular-shaped block of limestone which was once used as a mounting block for horse riders and where the Treaty of Limerick was reputedly signed on October 3rd 1691.
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The Treaty Stone
After indulging in coffee and a slice of gooey chocolate cake I crossed back over the river to find the last artwork on my list ; it was situated on a gable end wall across from the castle although what’s there now isn’t what I was originally looking for. After my visit to Limerick in September I’d found out about a large artwork in that location, though I couldn’t understand how I’d missed seeing it at the time as it was very much ‘in your face’, however the lady in the tourist information place had told me it had been removed in September, obviously just prior to my visit there which would explain why I didn’t see it.
Just along the street from the new artwork was a piece which had only appeared since I was there in September. It was on a side wall set back off the street but so far I’ve been unable to find out who the artist is and what it represents. Further along still my eye was caught by an old advertising sign on the wall above the Cauldron Bar, a premises no bigger than an ordinary terraced house though maybe years ago it was once a little hardware shop. Although not strictly street art I took a photo of the old sign as I like things like that and I remember the brand name from my early childhood.
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Artist unknown
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An old advertising sign from way back
And so to the new artwork across from the castle. Designed and painted by Dublin-based artist Aches it’s dedicated to The Cranberries lead singer, Limerick-born Dolores O’Riordan, who died suddenly almost two years ago at the age of 46. It was created by overlaying three separate images of her performing on stage back in 1993, images chosen to immortalize her as a young woman at the peak of her career. I must admit to not being terribly familiar with any of The Cranberries songs, I only really know Linger, but for the people of Limerick memories of the singer will certainly linger on in this colourful artwork.
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Dolores O’Riordan by Aches
That was to be my last photo of the day, I’d been wandering round Limerick for four hours and though it was still only just after 3pm I didn’t want to be too late in getting a coach to Roscrea as the ride back would take over an hour. I’d found all the artwork on my list and more besides so my day out had been very successful – it was now time to get back to Roscrea and relax in front of the fire.

 

A couple of hours in Nenagh

A day in which I don’t get to climb a tower but I do experience some Irish logic…
After an uneventful and fairly relaxing journey at the beginning of the month my first full day in Ireland started with the anniversary mass for Michael’s dad and Uncle Jimmy. It was too late afterwards for me to go anywhere which was any great distance away from Roscrea so I decided to go to Nenagh, just a 25-minute bus ride away, to repeat last year’s climb to the top of the castle tower. When I got there however I found that the tower was closed ; I knew there was a couple of days when it wasn’t open but couldn’t remember which days and unfortunately Monday was one of them. Having been up to the top of the tower once though I wasn’t too disappointed at it being closed this time so I decided to have a general wander around instead.
In the grounds of the castle tower an open gate was set in the wall on the far side and when I went through I found myself in a small garden set between the castle’s outer walls and the perimeter walls of both the St. Mary’s churches. Devoid of any colour in the flower beds it was still a pleasant and peaceful little place and would probably be very pretty in the spring and summer months.
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Round the corner from the garden and across the road was the last remaining (disused) block of the old prison built in the 19th century, and the octagonal governor’s house which is now a heritage centre and museum. Guided and self-guided tours can be taken and I would have loved to see the inside of the prison but just like the castle tower the place was closed ; now I may be missing something obvious here but I really can’t understand why many places are closed on Mondays.
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The former prison governor’s house, now Nenagh Heritage Centre
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The last remaining old cell block
Heading out of town I took a walk to Nenagh Town Park, built on a small flood plain surrounded on three sides by the Nenagh river, and opened in October 2014. I’d been there last year and wasn’t terribly impressed as it seemed to be little more than a kids’ adventure playground rather than a proper park, but it was only ten minutes or so from the town and the afternoon, even if somewhat chilly, was quite nice so a there-and-back walk was actually very pleasant and it was nice to get away from civilisation for a short while.

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On my way along the road back into town I cut down a side street to the remains of the Franciscan friary. Founded sometime before 1252 the friars lived there until being expelled by the Cromwellians, though it wasn’t long before they returned. A community stayed in residence until 1766 but even after they left some friars continued to work in the area as parish clergy ; the last Franciscan of Nenagh was a Fr. Patrick Harty who died there in 1817.
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Back on the main shopping street I turned right instead of left towards the shops. Just out of curiosity I wanted to see if there was anything worth seeing if I went out of town in that direction and I hadn’t gone far when I came across a large abandoned and seriously derelict building. There was nothing to say what it was or had been but it was worth a few photos and later information told me that it was an old military barracks. The complex was built in 1832 and occupied by members of the British army for the following ninety years, after which it was handed over to the new Irish State and was used for various purposes over the following years until the early 1980s. In spite of various proposals for preserving the barracks no work was ever carried out and the complex gradually became derelict. In 2009 the Department of Defence offered the property to the local authority but the proposal was turned down and since then most parts of the complex have become dangerous and beyond saving.
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Back in town I window-shopped up the main street until I ran out of shops, and that’s when I experienced some great Irish logic. Among the last few shops in the row was a hair salon with an A-board outside displaying the various prices and also the words ‘No appointment necessary’ and ‘Walk-ins welcome’. Looking through the window I could see there was no-one in there and as I badly needed a cut and restyle I decided to take the opportunity and get it done, however it wasn’t to be. With no customers in the shop, and the stylist just sitting having a coffee, I was told she could only offer me a 3.30 appointment, which would be too late if I wanted to get the 4.15 bus back to Roscrea. Needless to say I didn’t book it, but as I walked back out of the salon I did wonder what happened to ‘No appointments necessary’ and ‘Walk-ins welcome’!
A few yards along the street from the hair salon a right turn took me past another row of shops and on a corner I came to an old bell tower and what had obviously once been the entrance to something. There was a wrought iron gate across the archway but it opened when I tried the latch and I walked through into a small but pleasant cemetery. Many of the headstones were quite old but the more recent ones suggested that this place was still in use. Later information told me that the bell tower, gateway and attached mortuary chapel had been built in 1760, added onto an Anglican Church of Ireland church built forty years previously. The church was in use until 1865 then it was abandoned and eventually dismantled after the congregation moved to a new church ; the inter-denominational burial ground lies where the old church once stood and the bell tower and roofless mortuary chapel are all that’s left of the building itself, although strangely I’ve not yet been able to find out what the church was actually called.
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Those were to be the last shots I took in Nenagh ; no doubt the town had other interesting places to see but there was something I wanted to look for in one of the shops and I didn’t want to be late for the bus or I would be stuck there for another two hours. I arrived back in Roscrea to one of Nellie’s delicious cooked meals and the remains of the trifle from the previous day then spent the evening watching a bit of tv and planning my next day out, with fingers metaphorically crossed that the weather would stay nice for me.

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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Blue : the way I went  –  Yellow : the way I could have gone
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.
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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.