. . . It is very seldomly violently cold here, and freezeth but little. There are commonly three or four frosts in one winter, but they are very short, seldom lasting more than three of four days together and with all their very worst, nothing so near so violent as in most other countries. But, how mild they ordinarily be, and how little subject to excessive cold. And as the cold in winter is moderate and tolerable, so is also the heat in summer; which is seldom so great, even in the hottest times of the year as to be greatly troublesome . . .
1726: A Natural History of Ireland in Three Parts by Gerard Boate, Gerard and Thomas Molyneaux
I was attracted to the early 18th century quote by Boate (first paragraph), because it certainly always seemed to be the case that Ireland has the perfect climate: never too cold and never too hot. In these days of global warming, maybe that’s less so than it used to be: we are experiencing long, cold and wet winters (here we are in mid May and we have to keep our fires burning!) and some scorching summer days when it’s exhausting to be out in the sun. Nevertheless, I believe we are fortunate not to suffer too much from unhealthy extremes – as yet.
Today’s post sees us travelling again with our frequent companions Amanda and Peter (above, with Finola). Remember my post from last week? For that expedition we stayed at Kells Bay House, in Co Kerry: Peter and Amanda organised that wonderful trip. We decided we couldn’t leave that sublime place until we had visited the Primaeval Forest there.
. . . Rowland Ponsonby Blennerhassett (1850-1928), grandson of Rowland Blennerhassett, married Mary Beatrice Armstrong from London in 1876 and is recorded as living at Kells. He extended the original Hollymount Cottage and renamed it Kells. They also kept a house at Hans Place, Chelsea, near to the Chelsea Physic Garden. Rowland Ponsonby is widely held responsible for making additions to the garden which still stand today. He established the Ladies Walled Garden adjacent to the front of the house for his wife Lady Mary, planted the Primeval Forest and laid out the pathways through the gardens . . .
The History of Kells Bay House & Gardens Helen M Haugh 2015
One of the principal attractions of the gardens at Kells Bay – and the Primaeval Forest – is a series of sculptures carved from tree fragments, commenced in 2011, by Kerry sculptor Pieter Koning. Here is a striking portrait of that artist by photographer David Molloy:
The Dinosaur sculptures have blended well into the natural landscape over the years: we were delighted with them!
In addition to the Dinosaurs, which are well worth an exploration (I have only shown a few here to tantalise you into a visit!), there is a tree-fern forest planted by Blennerhassett, and spectacularly enhanced by the present owner, Billy Alexander, who has been awarded a Gold Medal at Chelsea Flower Show for his Kells Bay Gardens ‘mirocosm’. There are plenty of landscaping features old and new, and a ‘Sky Walk’ rope bridge, which is quite challenging.
Finola and I are at odds about this species: Gunneramanicata. Finola sees them springing up in the countryside where they ‘don’t belong’ – they originate in South America and are now spreading wildly, particularly here in the west of Ireland. Gunnera is listed on the Third Schedule of the EU Habitats Regulations which makes it an offence under Regulation 49 …to plant, disperse, allow or cause to grow this plant in the Republic of Ireland… So I can see Finola’s viewpoint. But I have always admired them. They grow so fast that you can almost see them getting bigger if you stand and stare for a few minutes. In this context, at Kells Bay House, they are part of an exotic collection dating from the 1800s, and therefore excused (says I).
I hope you will agree that Kells Bay House and Gardens is a ‘must see’ destination. And it’s well worth more than one visit. Include it – as we did – in a tour of landscape, archaeology and Holy Wells. The county of Kerry has so much to offer!
You know we love the beauty of West Cork, and we can’t resist the odd foray into all our neighbouring parishes. They are perhaps a bit wilder and higher, with markedly remote open spaces. So here’s a little wander on to the Beara Peninsula and beyond: I have raided our archive of photographs to enthuse us – and, hopefully you – to travel those roads in the coming spring. Firstly, have a look at this:
There’s a house down there, nestled under some spectacularly steep fields! This is to remind you that you have to up the scale a bit if you are stepping across the county boundaries. This Kerry landscape is such a contrast to our own seascapes and islands. We have our hills, of course: Mount Gabriel was in the news this week because of the gorse fires which lit up its summit. Such fires are allowed up until the first of March – by longstanding tradition – to clear the land and improve the grazing. It all seems a bit incongruous, though, when governments are planning to outlaw wood-burning stoves because they lead to poor air quality, and we are being advised by the HSE about the adverse health effects of air polluted by smoke and ash. Fire on Mount Gabriel 26 February 2023 – photo by Magnus Burbanks – courtesy Southern Star:
Let’s leave that argument – and the drama – for others to debate, and return to the colour and spectacle of our neighbours. Below are fishing boats tied up in Castletown-Berehaven. You’ll note that ‘Iolair’ is registered in Skibbereen. If this seems strange, remember that our West Cork town on the Ilen River is still the Port Of Registration for all shipping on the south-west coast of Ireland between the jurisdictions of Cork and Limerick. My recent post on the Ilen described Skibbereen as “. . . a settlement served by water . . .” with perhaps up to nine historic quays and a Custom House located within the town in its heyday of commercial vessels working on the river. Present day Shipping registrations are administered by Customs & Excise in Bantry, even though the prefix ‘S’ (for Skibbereen) is still used – a somewhat quirky anomaly: the Custom House in Skibbereen was closed in 1890!
The people of the Beara Peninsula quite likely think of themselves foremost as an entity, rather than a mixture of Corkonians and Kerry people. In Eyries a Seanchaí – or storyteller – is celebrated: Pádraig Ó Murchú. His story is a somewhat sad one, certainly not untypical of many remote areas in Ireland. He was born in Gort Broc (Gortbrack, Co Kerry – north of Kenmare Bay) on 15 February 1873. His parents were Seán Ó Murchú whose wife Máire Harrington. (‘Caobach’) and he had four sisters and two brothers. Five of them, the boys and three of the girls, went to Butte, Montana. Seán died in Gort Broc at the age of 47 when Pádraig himself was a young boy. None of his forebears ever returned home but he would receive a letter every now and then from one of his aunts. Folklorist Martin Verling states that 707 men and 431 women emigrated to Butte from the parish of Aorí between 1870 and 1915. An account of how his great-grandfather, Seán Ó Murchú, settled in Kerry was taken down from Pádraig’s mouth (or Patsy as he was called): Seán was abducted by one of the ‘Cithearnaigh’ (a name given to certain Irish landlords in Beara) in Kerry and sold in France as a slave. When he managed to escape, he landed in Beara.
Commemorating Pádraig Ó Murchú in Eyries
Measles affected Pádraig’s eyesight so badly that he was given a blind pension; ‘flickering’ left him unable to read or write. He spoke English fluently, with Irish his native tongue. Until she died in 1923 his mother lived with him, and it fell to him to tend to her during the decline of old age. He earned his living by farming and fishing and was always in good health, apart from his eyesight. Writer and folklorist Máirtín Verling recorded memories of him from men who were young boys during Pádraig’s old age. Pádraig was part of a culture now vanished, and Verling states “. . . the day Pádraig Ó Murchú was lost as an old man – the habit of storytelling, and the habit of speaking Irish, died together in Béarra . . .”
Map of the Beara Peninsula from the Royal Society of Antiquities of Ireland, T J Westropp 1919. Principal archaeological sites are indicated.
These Beara landscapes are typical of the remote grandeur of the territory. Human settlement has encroached upon it – the patchy forestry plantations above are unnatural and uninspiring – but there are sufficient wild prospects remaining to ensure that the all-embracing beauty can never be eroded. Plenty of living history remains in evidence.
Archaeology, colour and community are all part of the local scenes on the Beara. The tourism industry is undoubtedly thriving, bringing fresh life with it.
We hope you will agree that the Beara – whether it’s Cork or Kerry – is deserving of a visit – and a stay: you have to delve deeply into the lifestyle and traditions. Enjoy!
(Above – the work of stained glass artist George Walsh. A visit to the little church in Eyries to take in more of this is a must)
Perhaps this book review is a little late arriving? The book was – after all – published by Brandon of Dingle in 1990: thirty two years ago! The artist, and I, were in our forties then. But – don’t hesitate – although it’s out of print you can find copies readily available on many booksellers’ websites. You can spend a Euro (the postage will cost four times that!) or many Euros: but it’s well worth whatever you have to pay.
Here it is: a modestly sized paperback volume. But it punches well above its weight. It is beautifully written, and exquisitely illustrated. For everyone who is interested in West Cork, Ireland or the art of engraving it’s a must for your bookshelves. And, historically, it’s fascinating: the cover picture, above, shows Tig na nGaedheal (locally known as Brendan’s) – once described as ‘the greatest and most famous sweet shop ever in Skibbereen’. Sadly, Martha Houlihan, who ran it with her husband Brendan, passed away a little while ago and the shop is no longer trading. It’s still a significant feature in the town streetscape (below). Note the figures looking out of the door and window in Brian’s etching – a typical humorous touch.
The book includes nigh on a hundred of Brian’s engravings. This is only a fraction of the huge body of work he has created in his lifetime to date, and he’s never idle. It’s good to know that Uillinn – the West Cork Arts Centre gallery – has a retrospective of Brian’s work in the pipeline. It will be impossible to show more than a fraction of the art he has produced so far, but we certainly look forward to experiencing that selection.
What I personally enjoy about Brian’s works in this book is the atmospherics that they create. Take, for example, The Dark Edge of Europe, above. The breadth of its content is overwhelming: it’s the landscape of West Cork summed up in gradations of grey, with coastline, lanes, settlements, hills and distant mountains, focussed on a foreground which features an ancient hill-fort. A tale of occupation and morphology: an eternal human story. The illustrations in the book are accompanied and amplified by wonderfully crafted written descriptions.
. . . Defining the high spots in the ribs of land, and distributed with apparent regularity all over this landscape, were lush green rings. Single, and occasionally double or triple concentric rings of grassy banks, these features resembled a giant’s game of quoits, forgotten and left to decorate the landscape. The gargantuan quoits are of course the ring forts or fairy rings of the Irish countryside, and outlined the forms taken by the rural farmsteads and dwellings from pre-Christian times down to the sixteenth century. Each ring represented an earthen rampart on high ground, with perhaps a dry moat or further rampart encircling some wattle huts. Simple and utilitarian, this form of dwelling satisfied the political and practical exigencies of the day – or aeon, for that matter. Rural life was lived in the midst of the land, without congregating in towns or villages . . .
The Land of Heart’s Desire: West of West, Brian lalor
Mount Gabriel dominates much of the landscape in our part of West Cork. Brian’s view, above, is titled Mount Gabriel Gorse Fires. The artist ‘discovered’ remote West Cork back in the 1970s. In the book he describes the journey:
. . . The road wound away into the distance, a ribbon of reflected light, and the weaving shapes of the blackthorns threw a black Gothic tracery across the landscape. The immediate surrounding had a silvery sharpness, the precision of a lunar landscape; brightly outlined walls enclosed pools of darkness. We were no longer at the door to West Cork but in its very interior. We had arrived . . .
Well Met By Moonlight: West of West, Brian Lalor
Essential to the intimate knowledge of West Cork’s landscape is the sea – and the coastline which encompasses it. This view is titled Rock Island & Crookhaven. Brian enhances the rendering with a description:
. . . From the heights of Brow Head the outline of Rock Island at the mouth of the harbour resembles a partially submerged submarine, its twin customs-observation buildings the conning towers of this strange naval mammoth. An ill-assorted collection of buildings adhere like barnacles to the back of this submarine: the roofless lighthouse barracks, a defunct fish factory and an abandoned, rambling Victorian mansion suggest an unfavourable location. Wedged in the little cove in front of the mansion is the hulk of an old wooden trawler. A graveyard of vanished days and forgotten hopes . . .
Coastline: West of West, Brian Lalor
Ballydehob’s 12-arch bridge – or railway viaduct – must be one of the most profusely illustrated and photographed features of West Cork. The Schull, Ballydehob and Skibbereen tramway was a significant piece of transport infrastructure that ran from 1886 until 1947. It’s a fascinating piece of Victorian engineering, the first 3ft gauge railway line to be built in Ireland. Everything about it was eccentric: here’s one of my RWJ posts setting out the history of the line. Brian has a little anecdote well worth the recounting:
. . . As it is one of the most pleasing architectural features of the local landscape, I drew the Twelve Arch Bridge on many occasions and it reappears in a variety of forms amongst these etchings. One village magnate commissioned me to do a large picture of this monument for his new house. The price was agreed and the picture eventually produced. I had chosen an angle which showed the bridge emerging as it does from thickets of brambles and conifers on either side of the water. Delicate fronds of foliage wound in the foreground of the picture and the subject itself basked in the distance, looking solid and ancient. I was quite pleased with the results. When I presented it to my patron he gazed at it in silence for a long time. Then with a large and calloused hand he ran his index finger across the view a number of times, shaking his head slowly as he did so. ‘No. no good at all, It won’t do,’ he muttered more to himself than me. He had been counting the arches. In my enthusiasm for the atmosphere of the piece the accurately rendered number of the arches had become obscured, those on the extreme edges becoming partially lost in the undergrowth. The commission was rejected. If you are paying for twelve arches you don’t want to be short-changed with ten and two halves!
Coastline: West of West, Brian Lalor
Fastnet. An iconic silhouette – perhaps a fish-eye view? The lighthouse is a ubiquitous element of structure which can be seen from all the waters and islands of Roaring Water Bay. Brian’s words:
. . . Roaring Water Bay encompasses an area of about a hundred square miles of water between Baltimore in the east and Crookhaven in the west. The tortuous coastline of the bay, as of much of the rest of West Cork, is punctuated by small coves, each with an old stone pier or miniature harbour. Up to the mid-nineteenth century these were the arteries of communication and trade and a wide array of lighters, barges, rowboats and yawls plied the coast, ferrying freight around the rim of the land rather than through it. Never far from the safety of land, they darted from port to port with the assurance of safe harbours at frequent intervals to reduce the threat from treacherous seas. Today, however, only the yachtsman holds this perspective on the land; it is a medieval cartographer’s view of the world: good on outlines, vague concerning the interior . . .
Coastline: West of West, Brian Lalor
The eye of the artist searches out ways to tell a story or unfold a scene in graphic simplicity. This is St Brendan Crookhaven: a simple church that is dear to the hearts of mariners, and has long been so.
Stone Circle and Child Sacrifice is a thought-provoking piece. These ancient sites date back thousands of years: there are many here, beyond the West. We wonder at them, and can only guess at the significance they had to their constructors.
. . . The Landscape of the mind, which co-exists, interlocks and overlaps with the geographer’s vision, is an intangible, ephemeral thing. You may encounter it unexpectedly on a moonlit night or on some deserted headland, or perhaps in the dim light of a public bar. In this part of the world, soaked in memories and half-memories of the past, much is implied rather than stated. Like the collective unconscious, the landscape, too, is composed of a multitude of intertwining details. This collection of etchings of West Cork is concerned with those details: with small corners of towns and villages, with oddly-shaped fields and erratic skylines. Each etching is a vignette of landscape, architecture or environment. The pictures are organized around a number of themes yet the material as a whole has such an overall unity that what illustrates one section also has relevance for another. The point which they make is a collective one . . .
WELL MET BY MOONLIGHT: WEST OF WEST, BRIAN LALOR
Brian’s book is as much about the human side of West Cork as it is about the natural or supernatural. He illustrates towns – Kinsale, above – and the landscape. For me, this is a very significant little volume: the travels described within it echo my own journeying through this most special of places. Thank you, Brian, for so vividly enhancing my appreciation of West Cork.
Morton’s book – dating from December 1930 – deserves a further look as a view of Ireland from an English perspective back in the early part of the last century (here’s the first part of this review). What was going on, historically, in the young Free State at that time? Firstly, I was surprised to learn that there was a Governor-General (Seanascal Shaorstát Éireann) whose role was to be ‘the British monarch’s representative in Ireland’. While this was largely a ceremonial role (and was paralleled in Canada and Australia at the time), this continuing official link with a King was understandably unpopular. The first holder of the post was former Irish Parliamentary Party MP Timothy Healy, a Bantry man. Healy held the role between 1922 and 1928, and it was taken over by James McNeill, who retained it until 1932 – there’s a British Pathé newsreel on McNeill’s inauguration (below). The last holder of the office was Domhnall Ua Buachalla: In December 1936, when King Edward VIII abdicated, the Irish cabinet took the decision to abolish the governorship-general and emphasise the separation of the country from any sense of British heritage.
Through the 1930s, Ireland projected its image as a newly created modern state, but also consciously presented itself romantically as a pastorally idyllic country with a rich history and esoteric folk culture. This, of course, cast an eye on the potential for attracting tourism, and Morton’s book concentrates on this heritage, particularly in the choice of photographs. He writes on this relationship:
. . . It is one of Ireland’s many misfortunes that the common people of England have never been taught anything about her, have never shown any interest in her and, apart from a small section of well-to-do people, have never travelled in this beautiful island. I would like to hope that this book of mine may help, in no matter how small a way, to encourage English people to spend their holidays in Ireland and make friends with its irresistible inhabitants. Friendship and sympathy between two such warm-hearted and kindly people would be a fitting end to centuries of political misunderstanding . . .
H V Morton – In search of Ireland 1930
From ‘In Search of Ireland’ – above: Two Connemara Girls. Below: Glendalough.
Today, the British obsession with its nationalist roots – which we are calling ‘Brexit’ – threatens all the compromise and hard work which has been expended on positively and peacefully resolving the ‘Irish Question’ over the past few decades. Interestingly, in 1930, H V Morton had something to say about Northern Ireland, which has some uncanny resonances with today’s imminent problems:
. . . It happens that when you are in Donegal you can look south into Northern Ireland, and when you are in either Londonderry, Tyrone or Fermanagh you can look north into Southern Ireland! This is no doubt an excellent joke except to those who have to live in it! It must be exasperating to find yourself barred by a customs barrier from the country town in which you have always enjoyed free trading. But as long as it profits the Free State to build up her enterprise behind a tariff wall, or as long as Northern Ireland remains outside the Free State (which, I am told, will be for ever), this inconvenient and costly boundary with its double line of officials will remain, the only frontier in the British Isles . . .
H V Morton – In search of Ireland 1930
From ‘In Search of Ireland’ – above: Plain of Tipperary. Below: Middle Lake, Killarney.
Having read my way through Morton’s book on Ireland (which I picked up on a stall in Skibbereen market), I am left with very mixed feelings about its author. I am partly influenced, I think, by what I have noted elsewhere about the man and his life. In particular, picking up on his apparent sympathy with the Nazis during the Hitler years, but also becoming aware that he and his second wife, Violet Mary (they married in 1934) emigrated to South Africa after the Second World War, became citizens, and apparently endorsed Apartheid.
Above: the cloth cover of the sixth edition of Morton’s Ireland book, dating to 1934. Below: H V Morton is still a much collected writer.
Ultimately, I feel that Morton doesn’t have the depth I’m looking for in any respected scribe on Irish matters. He is, foremost, a journalist – and crafts his words for maximum effect. Perhaps this is unkind, but his views seem to me almost theatrical: taking a romantic stance that will appeal to tourists, he sets a tone that is slightly imbued with a sense of superiority, although he does not hesitate to be critical of the British position as he saw it at the time of writing. I am quoting his last paragraph – ‘saying good-bye to Ireland’ to try to defend my stance, which I fully accept is just a personal viewpoint.
. . . When my feet first trod Irish soil I felt that I had come to a magic country and now, as I said good-bye, I knew it truly as an enchanted island. That minor note which is like a vibration in the air, something that lives in the light and in the water and in the soil, runs through every Irish thing, but, like the cry of a bat, it is too high to be heard. But a man is conscious of it everywhere. Ireland of the Sorrows is no more. The sun sets, and the hill grows dark. I know that in the West at this moment men are raking the ashes of the turf fires. In thousands of little white cabins they are kneeling before the wide hearth, piling up the ashes around the red glow, and in the morning there will be new light. The shadows have fallen over the fields of Meath. The air is grey with night. St Patrick rises up over the mounds of Tara, his hands uplifted. And in the silence and the darkness I listen again for that hidden music. It is not for my ears. I hear nothing but the night wind in the grass; and I say good-bye to Ireland . . .
H V Morton – In search of Ireland 1930
From ‘In Search of Ireland’ – above: Cork South Bridge. Endpiece: Ardmore Round Tower, County Waterford – 12th century.
Don’t be put off by my own standpoint. This book is an important Irish travelogue and sets a scene of a particular time in Irish history (ninety years ago) viewed from a close neighbour’s perspective.
In Search of Ireland was first published in 1930. It’s always interesting to read the accounts of an English traveller in Ireland. I used to be one once, but I’m now – happily – permanently here. And a citizen! I really don’t want to be anywhere else in this turbulent world.
I recently happened upon this book – and was immediately attracted by the cover, and the many photographs it contains, which date mainly from the 1920s. But let’s start off finding out who the author is.
Henry Canova Vollam Morton was born in Lancashire, England, in 1892. He was the son of Joseph Morton, editor of the Birmingham Mail, and followed his father into journalism. Morton served in the First World War and then worked in London, for the Evening Standard and the Daily Express. While with the latter he ‘scooped’ the story of the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb at Luxor in 1923 and reaped celebrity from that event. After this he started writing books, mainly about travel. Between 1925 and his death in 1979 some 55 books were published. His work appealed to a popular audience. The book about him, above – written after his death – suggests another side to this man: he had secretly been a Nazi sympathiser and another writer, Max Hastings, gleaned this entry from Morton’s private diaries of 1941 – “I am appalled to discover how many of Hitler’s theories appeal to me”.
Morton travelled in Ireland during the 1920s and wrote many articles about his journeys, which became the substance of this book. The book’s endpapers (top) present a map showing the route he followed in his car: he appears to have foolishly omitted the best part of Ireland – our own West Cork! The lower photograph (above) is simply captioned ‘Fair Day’ and is credited to a Dublin photographer (Thomas Mason). I cannot identify the location, although it seems a little familiar. In the book it is juxtaposed close to an account of Kenmare.
The upper photograph is titled ‘Market Day in Connemara’, and the lower one is ‘The Claddagh, Galway’. Most of the photographs are accredited to publishers or newspapers: H V Morton only provided a brace of pictures himself. They are below – ‘Cormac’s Chapel, Cashel’ and ‘An Archway in Killarney’:
From the dust-jacket of my nineteenth edition (which was published in 1945):
. . . In this book H V Morton describes a first visit to Ireland – not the tragi-comic Ireland of 19th century fiction, but the new Ireland. His charming book is the record of a motor-car tour right round the island, and in the course of his delightfully haphazard wanderings, he discourses on the Irish landscape, Irish people, Irish history, falls in love with Kerry and Connemara, attends a wake in Mayo, and crosses the hills of Donegal into Northern Ireland . . .
Frontispiece – In Search of Ireland by H V Morton
This is the first of two posts about H V Morton’s book. Next time around I will quote further from his text to try and give you an insight into this complex man, but also show you more of the illustrations from the book. None of us can resist looking so directly into the past!
From ‘In Search of Ireland’ – above: Connemara Girl
We took a few steps over the border – from Cork County to Kerry Kingdom – to search out some vestiges of architecture which relate to the Orpen family, which claimed it could trace its history back to the sixth century. Probably the best-known member of that clan – certainly in Ireland – was William Orpen (1878 – 1931). Orpen was a ‘naturally talented painter’ who spent much of the First World War as an officially commissioned artist, producing strikingly graphic images of that depraved conflict, including the Battle of the Somme, from direct experience in the trenches.
Upper – Zonnebeke 1918, and lower – Self portrait 1917 by Orpen. William Orpen’s grandfather was Sir Richard Theodore Orpen (1788-1876), Born and brought up in Dublin, this Orpen married Elizabeth Stack in 1819 and they built a large mansion on the site of an earlier castle and medieval monastery beside the meeting of the rivers Obeg and Roughty, in the townland of Ardtully, Co Kerry. In Irish, the name is Ard Tuilithe, meaning ‘high flood’.
The Orpen’s Grand Design project consisted of a 27-roomed two-storey dwelling with a tower, in what can be loosely described as the ‘Baronial’ style. The house was the family’s residence throughout the rest of Sir Richard’s life, and was inherited by one of his sons, Right Reverend Dr Raymond D’Audemar Stack Orpen, who was the last to live there.
It’s useful to compare the first OS 6″ map (top) – which dates from around 1840, prior to the construction of the new house, which was completed in 1847 – with (lower) the OS 25″ version, dating to the late 1800s. the house is clear there, as is the bridge over the rivers, built by an earlier Orpen generation: it bears the date 1786.
That’s the 1847 Ardtully House, above, in its heyday. The illustration is from The County Seats of The Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland (published 1870). Here (below) is an aerial view of the dwelling within its immediate context. Below that is today’s view from the ‘Ardtully Old Bridge’.
The fine bridge once led to the Demesne; now it ignominiously ends in a field gate. The construction of it is worth a close look – there are some fascinating rocks and outcrops used in its foundation.
The house met its end in 1921 – a victim of IRA burnings. It stands, gaunt and crumbling: a symbol of a period in Irish history. It’s fully accessible, and the Kerry landscape is stunning on a wonderful sunny spring day. Well worth a visit.
The ‘Baronial’ style of architecture – sometimes called ‘Scottish Baronial’ is given short shrift by ‘The Irish Aesthete‘:
. . . Its architect unknown, the house is customarily summarised as being in the Scottish Baronial style but this seems more a flag of convenience than an accurate description. In truth Ardtully looks to have been a typically Victorian grab-bag of architectural elements, its most prominent feature being a castellated round tower and turret on the south-east corner. Looking towards the river Roughty, the entrance front features a porch topped by the Orpen coat of arms (now damaged), another attempt by Sir Richard to demonstrate his lineage. Inside the house looks to have contained the usual collection of reception and bedrooms ranged over two storeys, the roofline marked by a succession of stepped gables and dormers . . .
Certainly, the house in its present state doesn’t present much grace. The architectural style was fairly short-lived, and was said to have its origins in France, with references to the Gothic Revival and romanticism. There are further examples extant in Ireland: the nearest (probably) is Blarney House, Co Cork, altogether a more elaborate project, designed and built by Sir Thomas Lanyon of Belfast for the Colthurst family of Ardrum. Surviving today – close to the well-known Blarney Castle, it was also completed in the 1840s.
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