Another overdue trip report. I'll do better, I promise.
This first installment of the log covering our month long trip to Ireland in May 2011 was written by my (14 at the time) daughter.
Right now we're at Carton House - a beautiful royal house converted into a modern hotel. This is one of the palaces my mom and I have read about for months in anticipation of seeing its marvelous rooms. Almost the entire grounds have been groomed into a world-renowned golf course but luckily, the owners decided to preserve the Duchess of Leinster's shell cottage. It wasn't easy to find but with the help of hotel personnel and some diligence, we found it. The interior of the cottage was covered with exquisite shells from all over the world. That was the highlight of the day.
The weather is windy, misting, and in the low fifties for the most part. Apparently, its supposed to get up in the low sixties in this upcoming week! YAY!...wish I'd brought long johns though...
The people are lovely and very friendly to Americans. The scenery is greener and more breathtaking than we ever imagined. The roads (the driving in particular) is...well...interesting... We're back in the land of roundabouts and driving on the other side of the road, with my dad on the other side of the car...pretty weird but we'll get used to it soon hopefully.
Our gps seems to be on countryside mode as it keeps taking us down tightly winding roads.
The food has been delicious - mostly very familiar dishes.
So far, we've visited mostly mansions. Today, we visited Russborough house. In our guided tour, we saw marble fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, and intricate furniture from all over the world. This house, with its famously valuable art and antiquity collection, was robbed three times in the last 40 years (once in the 1970s, once in 2000, and once in 2002). Fortunately, all stolen valuables were retrieved and restored back to the house. Later, due to not being able to adequately protect them, several of the more famous paintings and other artworks were moved to the National Gallery in Dublin.
Later, we saw Glendalough Abbey - an old abbey built in the 6th century. The church and turret still stand among the other ruined buildings. We walked through the old tombstones and found some interesting Irish names. This area was situated in a valley, in the Wicklow Mountains, and was especially lush and green. The road leading to this site wound through the valley with lots of blind hills and corners.
After that, we drove to Maynooth to see Maynooth castle. This is a ruined castle. We stopped for quick pictures and then headed back to the hotel where we saw the Shell Cottage.
Yesterday, we left the airport with our rental car (a comfy, little Ford Focus) and drove directly to Malahide Castle. This castle had the best surviving wood-inlay room in Ireland. The walls were completely covered with dark black wood with beautiful carving and the furniture was equally impressive. The tour led us through a child's nursery filled with toy boats, cars, and rocking horses. The house also had an 18th century bathroom with tub, sink, and chamber pot and a note about the evolving acceptance of washing oneself in that time.
Our next stop was the 6,000 year old megalithic burial site of Newgrange. Set on top of a hill, this circular complex was built with a precise geometric plan. Above the entrance of the uphill passage leading to the above-ground chamber of three tombs, there is a large square window where the sun may enter. Our guide explained and showed to us when we reached the chamber, how the sun could shine through the square above the entrance on the winter solstice, onto the tomb floor - because of how slanted the passageway leading to the tomb was. The chamber with the three tombs and passage was shaped like a cross. According to our guide, each individual tomb may have had a specific theme. The tomb to the right of the entrance may have represented the sun and showed circles, arcs, and lines. The tomb to the left showed many of the same techniques but also included a fern carving - perhaps to demonstrate the Earth. However, the tomb directly facing the entrance had only one Megalithic carving, that of a three spirals in a trinity shape. Apparently, this is the most symbolic Megalithic design representing the afterlife. The decorative entry stone (which originally covered the entrance to the passageway) is covered with this spiral design.
After that, we found our hotel (the same one we are in tonight). In order to save it, Carton House was converted into a hotel and golf course in order to keep up with costs for repairs and maintenance. Fortunately, the old house was left intact and the hotel was added onto it. The rooms were opened to visitor's viewing pleasure, although most of the furniture was removed and the rooms are now used for business meetings and weddings. The Library (with its awesome secret door covered by fake books), the Duke's and Duchess' studies, the bell room (displaying the original bells calling the servants to specific rooms where they were needed), two drawing rooms, the rose parlor, and the Tyrconnel room, among others. One of the hotel staff pointed out that the bell from the Duchess' study rung so much that it was nearly worn through. One of the drawing rooms had a portrait of revolutionary Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the son of the Duchess of Leinster, who was very involved with the Irish revolution. Much later, Carton House was nearly destroyed by IRA men but upon being shown the portrait of the patriot Lord Edward Fitzgerald they left Carton unharmed. Several other mansions connected with British nobility were destroyed.
The Chinese Boudoir (where Queen Victoria slept during her stay at Carton House) was locked but was later opened upon request by a member of the hotel staff. This magnificent room was covered with cobalt blue wall coverings. Ornamenting the blue, were about fifteen Chinese wallpaper cuttings (these varied in size). It was fun to explore the open rooms and get pictures of all we could.
Arriving at our hotel last night (the same one we're in tonight) was a relief as we were all very tired.
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Another overdue trip report. I'll do better, I promise.